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Die feindlichen Brüder (1840) Op. 49 no.2

Part of a series or song cycle:

Romanzen und Balladen, ii (Op. 49)

Die feindlichen Brüder

Oben auf des Berges Spitze
Liegt das Schloss in Nacht gehüllt;
Doch im Tale leuchten Blitze,
Helle Schwerter klirren wild.
Das sind Brüder, die dort fechten
Grimmen Zweikampf, wutentbrannt.
Sprich, warum die Brüder rechten
Mit dem Schwerte in der Hand?
Gräfin Lauras Augenfunken
Zündeten den Brüderstreit;
Beide glühen liebestrunken
Für die adlig holde Maid.
Welchem aber von den beiden
Wendet sich ihr Herze zu?
Kein Ergrübeln kann’s entscheiden—
Schwert heraus, entscheide du!
Und sie fechten kühn verwegen,
Hieb’ auf Hiebe niederkracht’s.
Hütet euch, ihr wilden Degen.
Grausig Blendwerk schleichet nachts.
Wehe! Wehe! blut’ge Brüder!
Wehe! Wehe! blut’ges Tal!
Beide Kämpfer stürzen nieder,
Einer in des andern Stahl.—
Viel Jahrhunderte verwehen,
Viel Geschlechter deckt das Grab;
Traurig von des Berges Höhen
Schaut das öde Schloss herab.
Aber nachts, im Talesgrunde,
Wandelt’s heimlich, wunderbar;
Wenn da kommt die zwölfte Stunde,
Kämpfet dort das Brüderpaar.

The warring Brothers

High on the mountain summit
Stands the castle, veiled in night;
But in the valley lightning flashes,
Bright swords fiercely clash.
Brothers are fighting there,
Rage-inflamed, a dreadful duel.
Pray, why are those brothers fighting,
Each of them with sword in hand?
Countess Laura’s sparkling eyes
Kindled the brothers’ quarrel;
Both burn with love and passion
For that sweet and noble maid.
But to which of them
Does her heart incline?
No pondering can resolve it—
Out, then, sword, let you decide!
And bold and rash they do battle,
Blow upon blow crashes down.
Beware, O savage warriors,
Night brings cruel strokes of fortune.
Alack, alack now, bloody brothers!
Alack, alack now, bloody vale!
Both fighters are felled,
Each by the other’s sword.
Many centuries pass,
Many generations die away;
Sadly from the mountain heights
The castle, desolate, looks down.
But at night, deep in the valley,
A secret wonder comes about;
At the first stroke of midnight,
Still the brothers fight it out.
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

If you would like to use our texts and translations, please click here for more information.


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.

Taken from wikipedia. To read the rest of the article, please click here.

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Heine was born of Jewish parents. Much of his early life was influenced by the financial power of his uncle Salomon Heine, a millionaire Hamburg banker, with whom he remained on an awkward footing for many years. After he had been educated in the Düsseldorf Lyceum, an unsuccessful attempt was undertaken to make a businessman of him, first in banking, then in retailing. Eventually, his uncle was prevailed upon to finance a university education, and Heine attended the universities of Bonn, Göttingen, Berlin, and Göttingen again, where he finally took a degree in law with absolutely minimal achievement in 1825. In that same year, in order to open up the possibility of a civil service career, closed to Jews at that time, he converted to Protestantism with little enthusiasm and some resentment. He never practised law, however, nor held a position in government service; and his student years had been primarily devoted not to the studies for which his uncle had been paying but to poetry, literature, and history. 

When the July Revolution of 1830 occurred in France, Heine did not, like many of his liberal and radical contemporaries, race to Paris at once but continued his more or less serious efforts to find some sort of paying position in Germany. In the spring of 1831 he finally went to Paris, where he was to live for the rest of his life. 

Heine’s early years in Paris were his happiest. From an outcast in the society of his own rich uncle, he was transformed into a leading literary personality, and he became acquainted with many of the prominent people of his time.  However his critical and satirical writings brought him into grave difficulties with the German censorship, and, at the end of 1835, the Federal German Diet tried to enforce a nationwide ban on all his works. He was surrounded by police spies, and his voluntary exile became an imposed one. In 1840 Heine wrote a witty but ill-advised book on the late Ludwig Börne (1786–1837), the leader of the German radicals in Paris, in which Heine attempted to defend his own more subtle stand against what he thought of as the shallowness of political activism; but the arrogance and ruthlessness of the book alienated all camps.

Though never destitute, Heine was always out of money; and when his uncle died in 1844, all but disinheriting him, he began, under the eyes of all Europe, a violent struggle for the inheritance, which was settled with the grant of a right of censorship over his writings to his uncle’s family; in this way, apparently, the bulk of Heine’s memoirs was lost to posterity

The worst of his sufferings, however, were caused by his deteriorating health. An apparently venereal disease began to attack one part of his nervous system after another, and from the spring of 1848 he was confined to his “mattress-grave”. His third volume of poems, Romanzero (1851), is full of heartrending laments and bleak glosses on the human condition; many of these poems are now regarded as among his finest. A final collection, Gedichte 1853 und 1854 (Poems 1853 and 1854), is of the same order. After nearly eight years of torment, Heine died and was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery.

Heine's international literary reputation was established with the publication of Buch der Lieder in 1827, a collection of already published poems, several of which were set as Lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and others.

Schwanengesang (Swan song), D 957, is the title of a collection of songs written by Franz Schubert at the end of his life in 1828 and published iin 1829, just a few months after his death. The collection was named by its first publisher Tobias Haslinger, presumably wishing to present it as Schubert's final musical testament to the world. Unlike the earlier Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, it contains settings of three poets, Ludwig Rellstab (1799–1860), Heinrich Heine(1797–1856) and Johann Gabriel Seidl (1804–1875). 

In the original manuscript in Schubert's hand, the first 13 songs were copied in a single sitting, on consecutive manuscript pages, and in the standard performance order. All the song titles are by Schubert, as the poet did not give names to the poems. The six poems by Heine, set as part of D 957, are Der Atlas , Ihr Bild, Das Fishermädchen, Die Stadt. Am Meer  and Der Doppelganger.

Taken from Encyclopedia Britannica (to view the full article, click here), and Wikipedia (to view the full article, click here.)

To read some of his poetry, click here

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