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O wärst du mein! (1891) Op. 26 no.2

O wärst du mein!

O wärst du mein, es wär’ ein schönres Leben
So aber ist’s Entsagen nur und Trauern,
Nur ein verlornes Grollen und Bedauern;
Ich kann es meinem Schicksal nicht vergeben.
Undank thut wohl und jedes Leid der Erde,
Ja! meine Freund’ in Särgen, Leich’ an Leiche,
Sind ein gelinder Gram, wenn ich’s vergleiche,
Dem Schmerz, daß ich dich nie besitzen werde.

Ah, were you mine!

Ah, were you mine, life would be finer,
Like this, it’s merely denial and grief,
Merely vain rancour and regret;
For this I cannot forgive my fate.
Ingratitude is good and all earthly woe,
Yes! to see my friends in coffins, corpse by corpse,
Is less painful compared to the agony
Of never making you my own.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Richard Georg Strauss was a German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is particularly well-known for his operas, Lieder, and tone poems. 

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Nikolaus Lenau was the nom de plume of Nikolaus Franz Niembsch Edler von Strehlenau, a German-language Austrian poet.

He was born at Schadat, now Lenauheim, Romania, then in Hungary. His father, a Habsburg government official, died in 1807 in Budapest, leaving his children in the care of their mother, who remarried in 1811. In 1819 Nikolaus went to the University of Vienna; he subsequently studied Hungarian law at Pozsony (Bratislava) and then spent the next four years qualifying himself in medicine. Unable to settle down to any profession, he began writing verse. The disposition to sentimental melancholy inherited from his mother, stimulated by disappointments in love and by the prevailing fashion of the romantic school of poetry, descended into gloom after his mother's death in 1829.

Soon afterwards, however, a legacy from his grandmother enabled him to devote himself wholly to poetry. His first published poems appeared in 1827, in Johann Gabriel Seidl's Aurora. In 1831 he moved to Stuttgart, where he published a volume of Gedichte (1832) dedicated to the Swabian poet, Gustav Schwab. He also made the acquaintance of Ludwig Uhland, Justinus Kerner, Karl Mayer and others. His restless spirit longed for change, and he determined to seek peace and freedom in America.

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