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Ja, die Schönst! ich sagt es offen (1878)

Ja, die Schönst! ich sagt es offen

Ja, die Schönst'! ich sagt' es offen,
Und ich war's mir frisch bewusst.
Kühnes Wagen, süsses Hoffen,
Frischer Mut und Wanderlust!
Und nun möcht' ich schier verzagen
Und im Herzeleid vergehn,
Denn nach diesen kurzen Tagen
Ist's um alles schon geschehn.
Lass sie sinken, lass sie fallen,
Lass sie alle stürzen ein,
All die Zinnen, Türm' und Hallen!
Ist die Schönste darum mein?
Sind nicht Riegel, Schlösser, Tore,
Ist nicht alles aufgetan?
Nur dein Herz, o Leonore,
Bleibt verschlossen mir fortan.

Yes, the fairest!

Yes, the fairest! I’ve said it openly,
And have always been aware of it.
Dauntless adventure, sweet hope,
A bold spirit and a thirst for travel!
And now I am near to despair
And overwhelmed with sorrow,
For after these short-lived days
Everything has come to naught.
Let them crumble, let them fall,
Let them all come tumbling down:
Pinnacles, towers and halls!
Would the fairest thereby be mine?
Have not bolts, locks, gates
All been opened up?
Only your heart, Leonora,
Continues to be closed to me.
Translation © 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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August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben  was a German poet. He is best known for writing "Das Lied der Deutschen", its third stanza now being the national anthem of Germany, and a number of popular children's songs, considered part of the Young Germany movement.

Hoffmann was born in Fallersleben in Lower Saxony, then in the duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg.

The son of a merchant and mayor of his native city, he was educated at the classical schools of Helmstedt and Braunschweig, and afterwards at the universities of Göttingen and Bonn. His original intention was to study theology, but he soon devoted himself entirely to literature. In 1823 he was appointed custodian of the university library at Breslau, a post which he held till 1838. He was also made extraordinary professor of the German language and literature at that university in 1830, and ordinary professor in 1835. Hoffmann was deprived of his chair in 1842 in consequence of his Unpolitische Lieder (1840–1841, "Unpolitical Songs"), which gave much offence to the authorities in Prussia.

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