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Mit vierzig Jahren (1883) Op. 94

Mit vierzig Jahren

Mit vierzig Jahren ist der Berg erstiegen,
Wir stehen still und schaun zurück;
Dort sehen wir der Kindheit stilles liegen
Und dort der Jugend lautes Glück.
Noch einmal schau, und dann gekräftigt weiter
Erhebe deinen Wanderstab!
Hindehnt ein Bergesrücken sich ein breiter,
Und hier nicht, drüben gehts hinab.
Nicht athmend aufwärts brauchst du mehr zu steigen,
Die Ebene zieht von selbst dich fort;
Dann wird sie sich mit dir unmerklich neigen,
Und eh' du's denkst, bist du im Port.

At forty

At forty the mountain has climbed,
We stand in silence and look back;
There we see childhood's silent joys
And the strident joys of youth.
Take one more look and then, strengthened,
Take up your walking staff!
A broad mountain ridge stretches far away,
And the descent lies not here but the other side.
You no longer need to gasp your way upwards,
The plain draws you on of its own accord;
Imperceptibly, then, it will descend with you,
And before you know, you will be in port.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Composer

Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer, pianist, and conductor of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg into a Lutheran family, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna. 

Brahms has been considered, by his contemporaries and by later writers, as both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Classical masters. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by many. 

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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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