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Sag’ an, o lieber Vogel mein (1847) Op. 27 no.1

Part of a series or song cycle:

Lieder und Gesänge, i (Op. 27)

Sag’ an, o lieber Vogel mein

„Sag an, o lieber Vogel mein,
Sag an, wohin die Reise dein?“
Weiss nicht wohin,
Mich treibt der Sinn,
Drum muss der Pfad wohl richtig sein.
„Sag an, o liebster Vogel mir,
Sag, was verspricht die Hoffnung dir?“
Ach, linde Luft
Und süssen Duft,
Und neuen Lenz verspricht sie mir.
„Du hast die schöne Ferne nie
Gesehen, und du glaubst an sie?“
Du frägst mich viel,
Und das ist Spiel,
Die Antwort aber macht mir Müh.
Nun zog in gläubig frommem Sinn
Der Vogel übers Meer dahin,
Und linde Luft
Und süsser Duft
Sie wurden wirklich sein Gewinn.

Tell me, my dear bird

‘Tell me, my dear bird,
Tell me where you journey to?’
I cannot say where,
Instinct guides me,
So it must be the right way.
‘Tell me, O dearest bird,
Tell me, what does hope promise you?’
Ah, gentle breezes,
And sweet scents,
And a new spring it promises.
‘You have never seen the fair distant south,
And yet you believe that it exists?’
You ask many questions—
An easy thing to do—
But I find them hard to answer.
With devout faith the bird now flew
Away across the sea,
And sweet breezes
And sweet scents
Were truly its reward.
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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Christian Friedrich Hebbel, was a German poet and dramatist.

Hebbel was born at Wesselburen in Ditmarschen, Holstein, the son of a bricklayer. He was educated at the Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums. Despite his humble origins, he showed a talent for poetry, resulting in the publication, in the Hamburg Modezeitung, of verses which he had sent to Amalie Schoppe (1791–1858), a popular journalist and author of nursery tales. Through her patronage, he was able to go to the University of Hamburg.

A year later he went to Heidelberg to study law, but gave it up and went on to the University of Munich, where he devoted himself to philosophy, history and literature. In 1839 Hebbel left Munich and walked all the way back to Hamburg, where he resumed his friendship with Elise Lensing, whose self-sacrificing assistance had helped him over the darkest days in Munich. In the same year he wrote his first tragedy, Judith (1840, published 1841), which in the following year was performed in Hamburg and Berlin and made his name known throughout Germany.

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