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Lob des hohen Verstandes (1899)

Part of a series or song cycle:

Des Knaben Wunderhorn

Lob des hohen Verstandes

Einstmals in einem tiefen Tal
Kukuk und Nachtigall
Täten ein Wett anschlagen:
Zu singen um das Meisterstück:
„Gewinn es Kunst, gewinn es Glück,
Dank soll er davon tragen.“
Der Kukuk sprach: So dirs gefällt,
Hab ich den Richter wählt,
Und tät gleich den Esel ernennen.
Denn weil er hat zwei Ohren groß,
So kann er hören desto bos,
Und was recht ist, kennen.
Sie flogen vor den Richter bald.
Wie dem die Sache ward erzählt,
Schuf er, sie sollten singen.
Die Nachtigall sang lieblich aus,
Der Esel sprach, du machst mirs kraus.
Du machst mir’s kraus! Ija! Ija!
Ich kanns in Kopf nicht bringen.
Der Kukuk drauf fing an geschwind
Sein Sang durch Terz und Quart und Quint.
Dem Esel gfiels, er sprach nur: Wart!
Dein Urteil will ich sprechen.
Wohl sungen hast du Nachtigall,
Aber Kukuk singst gut Choral,
Und hältst den Takt fein innen;
Das sprech ich nach mein’ hohn Verstand,
Und kost es gleich ein ganzes Land,
So laß ichs dich gewinnen.
Kukuk, Kukuk, Ija!

In Praise of High Intellect

Once upon a time in a deep valley
The cuckoo and the nightingale
Between them made a wager:
Whoever sang the finer song,
Whoever won by skill or luck,
Should carry off the prize.
The cuckoo said: I have, so please you,
Already chosen the judge.
And named the donkey straight away,
Because with his two large ears
He’ll hear much clearer what is bad,
And also know what’s good.
So soon they flew before the judge,
When he was told how matters stood,
He commanded them to sing.
The nightingale sand beautifully,
The donkey said, you’re confusing me.
You’re confusing me. Hee-haw! Hee-haw!
I just can’t understand it.
Whereat the cuckoo quickly sang
His song through thirds and fourths and fifths.
The donkey liked it, merely said: wait,
Wait while I give my verdict.
Nightingale, you sang well,
But you, cuckoo, sing a fine hymn
And keep the strictest measure;
My high intellect pronounces this,
And though it cost a whole country,
I declare you now the winner.
Cuckoo, cuckoo, hee-haw!
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austro-Bohemian late-Romantic composer and conductor.

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