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Die Löwenbraut (1840) Op. 31 no.1

Part of a series or song cycle:

Drei Gesänge (Op. 31)

Die Löwenbraut

Mit der Myrte geschmückt und dem Brautgeschmeid,
Des Wärters Tochter, die rosige Maid
Tritt ein in den Zwinger des Löwen; er liegt
Der Herrin zu Füssen, vor der er sich schmiegt.
Der Gewaltige, wild und unbändig zuvor,
Schaut fromm und verständig zur Herrin empor;
Die Jungfrau, zart und wonnereich,
Liebstreichelt ihn sanft und weinet zugleich:
„Wie waren in Tagen, die nicht mehr sind,
Gar treue Gespielen, wie Kind und Kind,
Und hatten uns lieb und hatten uns gern;
Die Tage der Kindheit, sie liegen uns fern.
„Du schütteltest machtvoll, eh’ wir’s geglaubt,
Dein mähnenumwogtes königlich Haupt;
Ich wuchs heran, du siehst es: ich bin
Das Kind nicht mehr mit kindischem Sinn.
„O wär ich das Kind noch und bliebe bei dir,
Mein starkes, getreues, mein redliches Tier;
Ich aber muss folgen, sie taten mir’s an,
Hinaus in die Fremde dem fremden Mann.
„Es fiel ihm ein, dass schön ich sei,
Ich wurde gefreit, es ist nun vorbei:
Der Kranz im Haar, mein guter Gesell,
Und vor Tränen nicht die Blicke mehr hell.
„Verstehst du mich ganz? Schaust grimmig dazu,
Ich bin ja gefasst, sei ruhig auch du;
Dort seh’ ich ihn kommen, dem folgen ich muss,
So geb’ ich denn, Freund, dir den letzten Kuss!“
Und wie ihn die Lippe des Mädchens berührt,
Da hat man den Zwinger erzittern gespürt,
Und wie er am Zwinger den Jüngling erschaut,
Erfasst Entsetzen die bangende Braut.
Er stellt an die Tür sich des Zwingers zur Wacht,
Er schwinget den Schweif, er brüllet mit Macht;
Sie flehend, gebietend und drohend begehrt
Hinaus; er im Zorn den Ausgang wehrt.
Und draussen erhebt sich verworren Geschrei.
Der Jüngling ruft: „Bringt Waffen herbei;
Ich schiess’ ihn nieder, ich treff’ ihn gut!“
Aufbrüllt der Gereizte schäumend vor Wut.
Die Unselige wagt’s sich der Türe zu nahn,
Da fällt er verwandelt die Herrin an:
Die schöne Gestalt, ein grässlicher Raub,
Liegt blutig zerrissen entstellt in dem Staub.
Und wie er vergossen das teure Blut,
Er legt sich zur Leiche mit finsterem Mut,
Er liegt so versunken in Trauer und Schmerz,
Bis tödlich die Kugel ihn trifft in das Herz.

The lions bride

Adorned with myrtle and her bridal jewels,
The keeper’s daughter, the rosy maid,
Steps into the lion’s cage;
At his mistress’s feet the lion, fawning, lies.
The powerful beast, once wild and untamed,
Looks up at his mistress, understanding and meek;
The gentle and radiant girl
Caresses him tenderly, weeping the while:
‘We were in the days that now are past
True playmates, like two children,
And loved and liked each other;
Those days of childhood are long since gone.
‘Before we could believe it, you were shaking
Your mighty, mane-rippling regal head;
I grew up too, as you can see: I am
No longer a child with a childish mind.
‘Were I still that child, and could stay with you,
My strong, faithful, my honest beast!
But I must follow—they have decreed it—
A stranger, far off into foreign lands.
‘He thought me beautiful,
I was wooed, and now it is done:
The wreath, trusty friend, garlands my hair,
And my eyes are now dim with tears.
‘Do you really understand? You look at me wildly,
But I am resigned, and you must be too;
I see him coming whom I must follow,
So I’ll give you, my friend, a final kiss.’
And as the girl’s lips touched his own,
The cage was seen to shake,
And as he glimpsed the young man outside the cage,
The anxious bride was seized with terror.
He stands on guard by the door of the cage,
He lashes his tail and roars with might;
She pleads with him, issuing orders and threats,
To let her out; angrily, he won’t let her pass.
A confused shouting is heard outside.
The young man cries: ‘Bring arms,
I’ll fire at him, I’ll shoot him down!’
Provoked, the growling lion foams with rage.
The luckless girl dares to approach the door,
The changed beast falls on his mistress:
Her fair form, now a fearful prey,
Lies bleeding and mangled in the dust.
And having shed that dear blood,
The lion lies brooding down by the corpse,
Sunk in grief and sunk in sorrow,
Until the fatal bullet strikes his heart.
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Robert Schumann was a German composer and influential music critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. He had been assured by his teacher Friedrich Wieck that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.

Schumann's published compositions were written exclusively for the piano until 1840; he later composed works for piano and orchestra; many Lieder (songs for voice and piano); four symphonies; an opera; and other orchestral, choral, and chamber works. Works such as KinderszenenAlbum für die JugendBlumenstück, the Sonatas and Albumblätter are among his most famous. His writings about music appeared mostly in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music), a Leipzig-based publication which he jointly founded.

In 1840, Schumann married Friedrich Wieck's daughter Clara, against the wishes of her father, following a long and acrimonious legal battle, which found in favor of Clara and Robert. Clara also composed music and had a considerable concert career as a pianist, the earnings from which formed a substantial part of her father's fortune.

Schumann suffered from a lifelong mental disorder, first manifesting itself in 1833 as a severe melancholic depressive episode, which recurred several times alternating with phases of ‘exaltation’ and increasingly also delusional ideas of being poisoned or threatened with metallic items. After a suicide attempt in 1854, Schumann was admitted to amental asylum, at his own request, in Endenich near Bonn. Diagnosed with "psychotic melancholia", Schumann died two years later in 1856 without having recovered from his mental illness.

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Adelbert von Chamisso was a German poet and botanist, author of Peter Schlemihl, a famous story about a man who sold his shadow. He was commonly known in French as Adelbert de Chamisso(t) de Boncourt, a name referring to the family estate at Boncourt.

The son of Louis Marie, Count of Chamisso, by his marriage to Anne Marie Gargam, Chamisso began life as Louis Charles Adélaïde de Chamissot at the château of Boncourt at Ante, in Champagne, France, the ancestral seat of his family. His name appears in several forms, one of the most common being Ludolf Karl Adelbert von Chamisso.

In 1790, the French Revolution drove his parents out of France with their seven children, and they went successively to Liège, the Hague, Wurzburg, and Bayreuth, before settling in Berlin. There, in 1796 the young Chamisso was fortunate in obtaining the post of page-in-waiting to the queen of Prussia, and in 1798 he entered a Prussian infantry regiment as an ensign to train for a career as an army officer.

Shortly thereafter, thanks to the Peace of Tilsit, his family was able to return to France, but Chamisso remained in Prussia and continued his military career. He had little formal education, but while in the Prussian military service in Berlin he assiduously studied natural science for three years. In collaboration with Varnhagen von Ense, in 1803 he founded the Berliner Musenalmanach, the publication in which his first verses appeared. The enterprise was a failure, and, interrupted by the Napoleonic wars, it came to an end in 1806. It brought him, however, to the notice of many of the literary celebrities of the day and established his reputation as a rising poet.

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