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Der Freund (1888) no.1

Part of a series or song cycle:

Gedichte von Joseph von Eichendorff

Der Freund

Wer auf den Wogen schliefe,
Ein sanft gewiegtes Kind,
Kennt nicht des Lebens Tiefe,
Vor süssem Träumen blind.
Doch wen die Stürme fassen
Zu wildem Tanz und Fest,
Wen hoch auf dunklen Strassen
Die falsche Welt verlässt:
Der lernt sich wacker rühren,
Durch Nacht und Klippen hin -
Lernt der das Steuer führen
Mit sichrem, ernstem Sinn.
Der ist von echtem Kerne,
Erprobt zu Lust und Pein,
Der glaubt an Gott und Sterne,
Der soll mein Schiffmann sein!

The friend

Whoever would sleep on the waves,
A gently cradled child,
Knows not the depths of life,
Blinded by sweet dreams.
But he who, the storms seize
For wild dances and feasts,
Whom, high on dark paths,
The false world abandons:
He learns to bear himself bravely,
Through night and past cliffs,
He learns to steer a course
With sure and serious mind.
He is a man of true worth,
Proven in joy and pain,
He believes in God and the stars,
He shall be my helmsman!
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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Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff was a German poet, novelist, playwright, literary critic, translator, and anthologist. Eichendorff was one of the major writers and critics of Romanticism. Ever since their publication and up to the present day, some of his works have been very popular in Germany.

Eichendorff first became famous for his novella Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (Memoirs of a Good-For-Nothing) and his poems. The Memoirs of a Good-For-Nothing, a typical romantic novella, whose main themes are wanderlust and love. The protagonist, the son of a miller, rejects his father's trade and becomes a gardener at a Viennese palace where he subsequently falls in love with the local duke's daughter. As, with his lowly status, she is unattainable for him, he escapes to Italy - only to return and learn that she is the duke's adopted daughter, and thus within his social reach. With its combination of dream world and realism, Memoirs of a Good-For-Nothing is considered to be a high point of Romantic fiction. One critic stated that "Eichendorff’s 'Good-For-Nothing' is the "personification of love of nature and an obsession with hiking." Thomas Mann called Eichendorff's Good-For-Nothing a combination of "the purity of the folk song and the fairy tale."

Many of Eichendorff's poems were first published as integral parts of his novellas and stories, where they are often performed in song by one of the protagonists. The novella Good-For-Nothing alone contains 54 poems.

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