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Auf den Tod einer Nachtigall (1816) D399

Auf den Tod einer Nachtigall

Sie ist dahin, die Maienlieder tönte, 
Die Sängerin,
Die durch ihr Lied den ganzen Hain verschönte, 
Sie ist dahin!
Sie, deren Ton mir in die Seele hallte, 
Wenn ich am Bach,
Der durch Gebüsch im Abendgolde wallte 
Auf Blumen lag!
Sie gurgelte, tief aus der vollen Kehle, 
Den Silberschlag:
Der Widerhall in seiner Felsenhöhle 
Schlug leis’ ihn nach.
Die ländlichen Gesang’ und Feldschalmeien 
Erklangen drein;
Es tanzeten die Jungfrau’n ihre Reihen 
Im Abendschein.
Sie horchten dir, bis dumpf die Abendglocke 
Des Dorfes klang,
Und Hesperus, gleich einer goldnen Flocke, 
Aus Wolken drang;
Und gingen dann im Wehn der Maienkühle 
Der Hütte zu,
Mit einer Brust voll zärtlicher Gefühle, 
Voll süsser Ruh.

On the death of a nightingale

She is no more, the songstress 
who warbled May songs,
who adorned the whole grove with her singing. 
She is no more!
She whose notes echoed in my soul, 
when I lay among flowers
by the brook that flowed through the undergrowth 
in the golden light of evening.
From the depths of her full throat 
she poured forth her silver notes;
the echo answered softly 
in the rocky caves.
Rustic melodies and pipers’ tunes 
mingled with her song,
as maidens danced
in the glow of evening.
They listened until the village angelus 
tolled dully,
and the evening star emerged from the clouds 
like a golden snowflake;
then they went to their cottage 
in the cool May breeze,
their hearts full of tender feeling 
and sweet peace.

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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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Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty, was German poet who is considered the most gifted lyric poet of the Göttinger Hain, a group of young poets who saw themselves as heirs of the great lyric poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and whose work was characterized by love of nature and the expression of national feeling.

He was influenced by Johann Uz and Friedrich Klopstock, but his love for the Volkslied and his delight in nature preserved him from the artificiality of Uz and the unworldliness of Klopstock. A strain of melancholy runs through all his lyrics. His ballads are the pioneers of the rich ballad literature on English models, which sprang up in Germany over the next few years.

To many, the opening lines of Hölty's poem Der alte Landmann an seinen Sohn ("he Old Farmer to His Son) are the very embodiment of all Prussian virtues. This poem was set to music by Mozart to a melody adapted from the aria Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen from his 1791 opera The Magic Flute. It was played daily by the carillon of the Potsdam Garrison Church where Frederick the Great was initially buried.

Many of Hölty's poems were set to music by composers including Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms. Several streets and schools in Germany are named after him, including the Hölty-Gymnasium in Wunstorf near Hanover; in 2008, the biennial poetry prize Hölty-Preis was created in his name.

Among the many poems set by Schubert are An den Mond (D193 and D468),  An die Nachtigall (D196), Blumenlied (D431), Frühlingslied (D243 and D398), Klage (D436), Mailied (D129, D199 and D202), Minnelied (D429), Die Nonne (D208), Seligkeit (D433), Totengräberlied (D38 and D44) and Winterlied (D401).

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