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Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen (1901)


Part of a series or song cycle:

Kindertotenlieder


Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen

Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen
Ihr sprühtet mir in manchem Augenblicke.
– O Augen! – Gleichsam, um voll in einem Blicke
Zu drängen eure ganze Macht zusammen.
Doch ahnt’ ich nicht, weil Nebel mich umschwammen,
Gewoben vom verblendenden Geschicke,
Daß sich der Strahl bereits zur Heimkehr schicke,
Dorthin, von wannen alle Strahlen stammen.
Ihr wolltet mir mit eurem Leuchten sagen:
Wir möchten nah dir bleiben gerne!
Doch ist uns das vom Schicksal abgeschlagen.
Sieh’ uns nur an, denn bald sind wir dir ferne!
Was dir nur Augen sind in diesen Tagen:
In künft’gen Nächten sind es dir nur Sterne.

Now I see clearly why you so often

Now I see clearly why you so often
Flashed such dark flames at me.
– O eyes! – To compress, as it were, all your power
Into a single glance.
Yet I could not guess, for mists surrounded me,
Woven by fate to dazzle me,
That your brightness was already making for home,
Towards the place whence all light comes.
With your shining light you were trying to tell me:
We’d dearly love to stay here by your side,
But this our destiny denies us.
Look at us well, for soon we shall be far from you!
What now are merely eyes to you,
In nights to come shall be merely stars.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Composer

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

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Poet

Friedrich Rückert was a German poet, translator, and professor of Oriental languages.

Rückert was born at Schweinfurt and was the eldest son of a lawyer. He was educated at the local Gymnasium and at the universities of Würzburg and Heidelberg. From 1816–1817, he worked on the editorial staff of the Morgenblatt at Stuttgart. Nearly the whole of the year 1818 he spent in Rome, and afterwards he lived for several years at Coburg (1820–1826). Rückert married Luise Wiethaus-Fischer there in 1821. He was appointed a professor of Oriental languages at the University of Erlangen in 1826, and, in 1841, he was called to a similar position in Berlin, where he was also made a privy councillor. In 1849 he resigned his professorship at Berlin, and went to live full-time in his Gut (estate) at Neuses (now a part of Coburg).

When Rückert began his literary career, Germany was engaged in her life-and-death struggle with Napoleon; and in his first volume, Deutsche Gedichte (German Poems), published in 1814 under the pseudonym Freimund Raimar, he gave, particularly in the powerful Geharnischte Sonette (Sonnets in Arms/Harsh Words), vigorous expression to the prevailing sentiment of his countrymen. During 1815 to 1818 appeared Napoleon, eine politische Komödie in drei Stücken (Napoleon, a Political Comedy in Three Parts) of which only two parts were published; and in 1817 Der Kranz der Zeit (The Wreath of Time).

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