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Der Rattenfänger (1891) no.11

Part of a series or song cycle:


Der Rattenfänger

Ich bin der wohlbekannte Sänger,
Der vielgereiste Rattenfänger,
Den diese altberühmte Stadt
Gewiß besonders nötig hat.
Und wären’s Ratten noch so viele,
Und wären Wiesel mit im Spiele,
Von allen säubr’ ich diesen Ort,
Sie müssen miteinander fort.
Dann ist der gut gelaunte Sänger
Mitunter auch ein Kinderfänger,
Der selbst die wildesten bezwingt,
Wenn er die goldnen Märchen singt.
Und wären Knaben noch so trutzig,
Und wären Mädchen noch so stutzig,
In meine Saiten greif ich ein,
Sie müssen alle hinterdrein.
Dann ist der vielgewandte Sänger
Gelegentlich ein Mädchenfänger;
In keinem Städtchen langt er an,
Wo er’s nicht mancher angetan.
Und wären Mädchen noch so blöde,
Und wären Weiber noch so spröde,
Doch allen wird so liebebang
Bei Zaubersaiten und Gesang.

The Ratcatcher

I am that celebrated singer,
The much-travelled ratcatcher,
Of whom this famous old city
Assuredly has special need.
And however many rats there are,
And even if there were weasels too;
I’ll rid the place of every one,
One and all, they must away.
Then this good-humoured singer
Is a child-catcher too from time to time,
Who can tame even the wildest,
When he sings his golden tales.
And however defiant the boys might be,
And however rebellious the girls,
I only have to pluck my strings,
For them all to follow me.
And then this many-sided singer
Is occasionally a girl-catcher;
He’s never arrived in any town,
Without captivating many.
And however bashful the girls might be,
And however prudish the women,
All of them grow weak with love
At the sound of magic lute and song.
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)


Hugo Philipp Jacob Wolf was an Austrian composer of Slovene origin. He is particularly known for his art song, or Lieder. His Lieder display a concentrated expressive intensity unique to Wolf. 

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Johann Wolfgang Goethe was a German writer and statesman. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him exist. A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August in 1782 after first taking up residence there in November 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement. During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe served as a member of the Duke's privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar's botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace, which in 1998 were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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