by Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856)
Translation Singable translation by Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 - 1910), as Mark Twain

Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): DUT ENG FIN FRE GRE HUN POR SPA
  Ich weiß nicht, was [soll es]1 bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus [alten]2 Zeiten,
Das [kommt]3 mir nicht aus dem Sinn.

  Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig [fließt]4 der Rhein;
[Der Gipfel des Berges]5 funkelt
Im Abendsonnenschein.

  Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet
Sie kämmt [ihr goldenes]6 Haar.

  Sie kämmt es mit [goldenem]7 Kamme
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
[Gewaltige]8 Melodei.

  Den Schiffer im kleinen [Schiffe]9
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er [schaut]10 nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er [schaut nur hinauf]11 in die Höh'.

  Ich glaube, [die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende]12 Schiffer und Kahn;
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen
Die [Lorelei]13 gethan.

R. Schonthal sets stanza 1

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with: Heinrich Heine’s sämtliche Werke in vier Bänden, herausgegeben von Otto F. Lachmann, Erster Band, Leipzig: Druck und Verlag von Philipp Reclam jun, [1887], pages 116-117.

1 Bronsart, Liszt,: "soll's"
2 Fibich: "uralten"
3 Fibich: "geht"
4 Bürde: "fliesset"
5 Fibich: "Des Berges Gipfel"
6 Bronsart, Kinkel: "ihr goldnes"; Bürde: "das gold'ne"; C. Schumann: "ihr gold'nes"
7 Bronsart: "goldnem"; Liszt, C. Schumann: "gold'nem"
8 Bronsart, Kinkel, Liszt: "Gewalt'ge"
9 Bürde: "Kahne"
10 Fibich: "sieht"
11 Fibich: "sieht nur nach ihr"
12 Kinkel: "am Ende verschlingen / Die Wellen"
13 Bürde: "Loreley"

Authorship

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

Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

  • Also set in English, a translation by Anonymous/Unidentified Artist ; composed by John G. Barnett.
  • Also set in English, a translation by Anonymous/Unidentified Artist ; composed by Theo. H. Northrup.
  • Also set in Italian (Italiano), a translation by Felice Cavallotti (1842 - 1898) ; composed by Giorgio Miceli.

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

  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Walter Meyer) , no title, copyright © 1995, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Emma Lazarus) , appears in Poems and Ballads of Heinrich Heine, first published 1881
  • ENG English [singable] (Arthur Westbrook) , "The Loreley"
  • ENG English [singable] (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) , "The lorelei", appears in A Tramp Abroad, Volume 1, Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, p. 123-4, first published 1880
  • FIN Finnish (Suomi) (Erkki Pullinen) , copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GRE Greek (Ελληνικά) [singable] (Christakis Poumbouris) , copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • HUN Hungarian (Magyar) (Tamás Rédey) , "Lorelei", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • POL Polish (Polski) (Aleksander Kraushar) , no title, appears in Pieśni Heinego, in Powrót, no. 2
  • POR Portuguese (Português) (Margarida Moreno) , "A Loreley", copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • SPA Spanish (Español) (Alfredo García) , "Lorelei", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]

Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Last modified: 2019-10-09 06:01:53
Line count: 24
Word count: 118

The lorelei
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
I cannot divine what it meaneth
  This haunting nameless pain:
A tale of the bygone ages
  Keeps brooding through my brain.

The faint air cools in the gloaming,
  And peaceful flows the Rhine,
The thirsty summits are drinking
  The sunset's flooding wine.

The loveliest maiden is sitting
  High-throned in yon blue air,
Her golden jewels are shining,
  She combs her golden hair;

She combs with a comb that is golden,
  And sings a weird refrain
That steeps in a deadly enchantment
  The listener's ravished brain.

The doomed in his drifting shallop,
  Is tranced with the sad sweet tone,
He sees not the yawning breakers,
  He sees but the maid alone.

The pitiless billows engulf him! --
  So perish sailor and bark;
And this, with her baleful singing,
  Is the Lorelei's gruesome work.

Twain modestly says: "If I were at home, no doubt I could get a translation of this poem, but I am abroad and can't; therefore I will make a translation myself. It may not be a good one, for poetry is out of my line, but it will serve my purpose -- which is, to give the un-German young girl a jingle of words to hang the tune on until she can get hold of a good version, made by some one who is a poet and knows how to convey a poetical thought from one language to another."

Authorship

Based on

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

    [ None yet in the database ]


Researcher for this text: Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]

Text added to the website: 2012-09-02 00:00:00
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:05:02
Line count: 24
Word count: 131