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Der Geistertanz (1814) D116

Der Geistertanz

Die bretterne Kammer
Der Toten erbebt,
Wenn zwölfmal den Hammer
Die Mitternacht hebt.
Rasch tanzen um Gräber
Und morsches Gebein
Wir luftigen Schweber
Den sausenden Reih’n.
Was winseln die Hunde
Beim schlafenden Herrn?
Sie wittern die Runde
Der Geister von fern.
Die Raben entflattern
Der wüsten Abtei,
Und flieh’n an den Gattern
Des Kirchhofs vorbei.
Wir gaukeln und scherzen
Hinab und empor
Gleich irrenden Kerzen
Im dunstigen Moor.
O Herz, dessen Zauber
Zur Marter uns ward,
Du ruhst nun in tauber
Verdumpfung erstarrt;
Tief bargst du im düstern
Gemach unser Weh;
Wir Glücklichen flüstern
Dir fröhlich: Ade!

Ghost Dance

The boarded chamber
of the dead trembles
when midnight twelve times
raises the hammer.
Quickly we airy spirits
strike up a whirling dance
around graves
and rotting bones.
Why do the dogs whine
as their masters sleep?
They scent from afar
the spirits’ dance.
Ravens flutter up
from the ruined abbey,
and fly past
the graveyard gates.
Jesting, we flit
up and down,
like will-o’-the-wisps
over the misty moor.
O heart, whose spell
was our torment,
you rest now,
frozen in a numb stupor.
You have buried our grief
deep in the gloomy chamber;
happy we, who whisper you
a cheerful farewell!

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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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Friedrich von Matthisson was a German poet, an early member of the German Romantic movement. His best known poem is probably Adelaide, which was set to music by Beethoven.

He was born at Hohendodeleben near Magdeburg, the son of the village pastor, on the 23rd of January 1761. After studying theology and philology at the university of Halle, he was appointed in 1781 master at the classical school Philanthropinum in Dessau. This once famous seminary was, however, then rapidly decaying in public favor, and in 1784 Matthisson was glad to accept a travelling tutorship. He lived for two years with the Swiss author Bonstetten at Nyon on Lake Geneva.

In 1794 he was appointed reader and traveling companion to Princess Louisa of Anhalt-Dessau (wife of Leopold III, Duke of Anhalt-Dessau). They visited Switzerland, Tyrol, and Italy. For a time, they were joined in their travels by Danish author and salonist Friederike Brun. After Princess Louisa's death in 1811, he entered the service of the king of Württemberg, was ennobled, created counselor of legation, appointed intendant of the court theatre and chief librarian of the royal library at Stuttgart. He resided for a time in Italy. In 1828 he retired and settled at Wörlitz near Dessau, where he died on the 12th of March 1831.

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