by August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767 - 1845)
Translation © by T. P. (Peter) Perrin

Hörst du von den Nachtigallen
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): CAT DUT ENG FRE
Hörst du von den Nachtigallen
Die Gebüsche wiederhallen?
Sieh, es kam der holde Mai.
Jedes buhlt um seine Traute,
Schmelzend sagen alle Laute,
Welche Wonn' im Lieben sey.

Andre, die im Käfig leben,
Hinter ihren Gitterstäben,
Hören draußen den Gesang;
Möchten in die Freyheit eilen,
Frühlingslust und Liebe theilen:
Ach! da hemmt sie enger Zwang.

Und [es]1 drängt sich in die Kehle
Aus der gramzerrißnen Seele
Schmetternd ihres Lieds Gewalt,
Wo es, statt im Wehn der Haine
Mitzuwallen, [von]2 der Steine
Hartem Bau zurücke prallt.

So, im Erdenthal gefangen,
Hört [des]3 Menschen Geist mit Bangen
[Hoher Brüder Harmonie]4;
[Strebt]5 umsonst zu Himmelsheitern
Dieses Daseyn zu erweitern,
Und das nennt er Poesie.

Aber scheint er ihre Rhythmen
Jubelhymnen auch zu widmen,
Wie aus lebenstrunkner Brust:
Dennoch fühlen's zarte Herzen,
Aus der Wurzel tiefer Schmerzen
Stammt die Blüthe seiner Lust.

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Confirmed with August Wilhelm Schlegels poetische Werke. Erster Theil. Heidelberg bey Mohr und Zimmer 1811, pages 264-265; and with A. W. Schlegel's poetische Werke. Zweyter Theil. Neueste Auflage. Wien 1816. Bey B. Ph. Bauer, pages 31-32 (with the title Die gefangenen Sänger).

1 Schubert: "nun"
2 Schubert: "an"
3 Schubert (Alte Gesamtausgabe): "der"
4 Schubert: "Hehrer Brüder Melodie"
5 Schubert: "Sucht"


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) , copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , "De gevangen zangers", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (T. P. (Peter) Perrin) , "The imprisoned singers", copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Les chanteurs captifs", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

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

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 30
Word count: 138

The imprisoned singers
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
Do you hear how the woods
resound with nightingales?
Look, the lovely May has come.
All creatures now woo their chosen;
every lute tenderly speaks
what wonder there is in love.
Others, who spend their lives confined
inside the bars of cages,
hear the music from a distance.
They'd like to make a dash for freedom
to share in the joy of spring and love --
alas, their tight constraints prevent them.
And now, forced into their throats
from their grief-tormented souls,
bursts the power of their song,
where, instead of swirling free
out through the woods, it crashes back
against their hard stone prison walls.
The same way, locked in earth's low places,
man's distressful spirit hears
noblest songs of brotherhood;
vainly yearns to lift this existence
to the height of heaven's bliss --
he calls that yearning Poetry.
But though it seems he dedicates
his verse to celebrating joy,
drunk with life's powers in his chest,
more sympathetic hearts will sense
that deeper, in the roots of pain,
is where his flower of bliss takes shape.


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 2011 by T. P. (Peter) Perrin, (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: 2011-02-12
Line count: 30
Word count: 176