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Johanna Sebus (1821) D728

Johanna Sebus

Der Damm zerreisst, das Feld erbraust,
Die Fluten spülen, die Fläche saust.
„Ich trage dich, Mutter, durch die Flut,
Noch reicht sie nicht hoch, ich wate gut.“
„Auch uns bedenke, bedrängt wie wir sind,
Die Hausgenossin, drei arme Kind!
Die schwache Frau! ... sie eilt davon!“
Sie trägt die Mutter durch’s Wasser schon.
„Zum Bühle da rettet Euch! harret derweil;
Gleich kehr’ ich zurück, uns allen ist Heil.
Zum Bühl ist’s noch trocken und wenige Schritt’;
Doch nehmt auch mir meine Ziege mit!“
Der Damm zerschmilzt, das Feld erbraust.
Die Fluten wühlen, die Fläche saust.
Sie setzt die Mutter auf sichres Land,
Schön Suschen, gleich wieder zur Flut gewandt.
„Wohin? Wohin? Die Breite schwoll;
Des Wassers ist hüben und drüben voll.
Verwegen in’s Tiefe willst du hinein!“ –
„Sie sollen und müssen gerettet sein!“

[To] Johanna Sebus

The dam bursts, the fields roar,
the waters surge in, the plain howls.
‘I’ll carry you, mother, through the flood;
it’s not yet high, I’ll manage to wade.’
‘Think of us, too, in our distress,
the frail woman who lodges with you
and my three poor children ... she’s leaving us!’
Already she is carrying her mother through the water.
‘Get to the hill over there and wait.
I’ll soon be back and we shall all be safe.
It’s still dry on the hill, and it’s only a few steps away;
but take my goat with you.’
The dam crumbles, the fields roar,
the waters seethe, the plain howls.
She sets her mother down on safe ground,
fair Susie, and immediately returns to the flood.
‘Where are you going? The distance has grown;
the water is high on both sides.
Will you be so rash as to plunge into the depths?’
‘They must and shall be rescued!’
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Franz Peter Schubert was an late Classical and early Romantic composer. He produced a vast oeuvre during his short life, composing more the 600 vocal works (largely Lieder), and well as several symphonies, operas, and a large body of piano music. He was uncommonly gifted from a young age, but appreciation of his music was limited during his lifetime. His work became more popular in the decades after his death, and was praised by 19th century composers, including Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, and Liszt.

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Johann Wolfgang Goethe was a German writer and statesman. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him exist. A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August in 1782 after first taking up residence there in November 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement. During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe served as a member of the Duke's privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar's botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace, which in 1998 were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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