by Johann Baptist Mayrhofer (1787 - 1836)
Translation © by Malcolm Wren

Wie Ulfru fischt
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): CAT DUT ENG ENG FRE
[Der]1 Angel zuckt, die Ruthe bebt,
Doch leicht fährt sie heraus.
Ihr eigensinn'gen Nixen gebt
Dem Fischer keinen Schmaus!
Was frommet ihm sein kluger Sinn,
Die [Fischlein]2 baumeln spottend hin -
Er steht am Ufer fest gebannt,
Kann nicht in's Wasser, ihn hält das Land.

Die glatte Fläche kräuselt sich,
Vom Schuppenvolk bewegt,
Das seine Glieder wonniglich
In sichern Fluthen regt.
Forellen zappeln hin und her,
Doch bleibt des Fischers Angel leer,
Sie fühlen, was die Freyheit ist,
Fruchtlos ist Fischers alte List.

Die Erde ist gewaltig schön,
Doch sicher ist sie nicht!
Es senden Stürme Eiseshöh'n;
Der Hagel und der Frost zerbricht
Mit einem Schlage, einem Druck,
Das gold'ne Korn, der Rosen Schmuck -
Den Fischlein [unter's weiche]3 Dach,
Kein Sturm folgt ihnen vom Lande nach.

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with Gedichte von Johann Mayrhofer. Wien. Bey Friedrich Volke. 1824, pages 42-43.

Note provided by Peter Rastl: In Schubert's (and Mayrhofer's, and Goethe's) time there was a distinction between "die Angel" (= door-hinge) and "der Angel" (= fishing tackle). Only in current German both are feminine.

1 Schubert (Peters Edition only): "Die"
2 Schubert: "Fische"
3 Schubert: "unterm weichen"


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , "Com l’Ulfru pesca", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , "Hoe Ulfru vist", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (T. P. (Peter) Perrin) , "How Ulfru fishes", copyright ©, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Malcolm Wren) , "The way that Ulfru fishes", copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Comment Ulfru pêche", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Richard Morris , Peter Rastl [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 24
Word count: 127

The way that Ulfru fishes
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
The line twitches, the rod quivers,
But the fishing line is pulled out easily.
You stubborn water-nymphs are not going to give
This fisherman anything to feast on!
What is the use of his cunning mind?
The fish mockingly slip away - 
He stands on the bank, stuck firm,
He cannot go into the water, the land is holding on to him.

There are ripples on the smooth surface
Caused by the twisting of the scaled beings
As their body parts happily
Move about in the safe flowing waters.
Trouts scud this way and that,
Yet the fisherman's rod remains empty.
They can feel what freedom is,
The fisherman's old ruses bear no fruit.

The Earth is startlingly beautiful
Yet it is not safe!
Ice covered peaks send storms;
Hail and frost destroy
(At a stroke, with a single push)
The golden corn, the jewellery of roses - 
For the little fish under their soft roof
No storm can leave the land and follow them.


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 2018 by Malcolm Wren, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

Based on


This text was added to the website: 2018-03-05
Line count: 24
Word count: 165