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Texts & Translations: Susanna Phillips


O Virtus Sapientiae (O Strength of Wisdom)

Translation by James Harrington

O virtus Sapientiae,
O strength of Wisdom!

que circuiens circuisti,
who, in circling, circled all,

comprehendendo omnia
encompassing everything

in una via que habet vitam,
in a single path possessing life.

tres alas habens,
Three wings have you:

quarum una in altum volat
one of which flies aloft,

et altera de terra sudat
the second kisses the earth like dew,

et tercia undique volat.
and the third flies in all directions.

Laus tibi sit, sicut te decet, O Sapientia.
Praise be to you, as befits you, O Wisdom.



Die Mainacht (The May Night)

Text by Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty / Translation by Richard Stokes (Oxford)

Wann der silberne Mond durch die Gesträuche blinkt,
When the silvery moon gleams through the bushes,

Und sein schlummerndes Licht über den Rasen streut,
And sheds its slumbering light on the grass,

Und die Nachtigall flötet,
And the nightingale is fluting,

Wandl’ ich traurig von Busch zu Busch.
I wander sadly from bush to bush.

Überhüllet vom Laub, girret ein Taubenpaar
Covered by leaves, a pair of doves

Sein Entzücken mir vor; aber ich wende mich,
Coo to me their ecstasy; but I turn away,

Suche dunklere Schatten,
Seek darker shadows,

Und die einsame Träne rinnt.
And the lonely tear flows down.



Liebst du um Schönheit (If You Love for Beauty)

Text by Friedrich Rückert / Translation by Richard Stokes (Oxford)


Liebst du um Schönheit,
If you love for beauty,

O nicht mich liebe!
O love not me!

Liebe die Sonne,
Love the sun,

Sie trägt ein goldnes Haar.
She has golden hair.

Liebst du um Jugend,
If you love for youth,

O nicht mich liebe!
O love not me!

Liebe den Frühling,
Love the spring

Der jung ist jedes Jahr.
Which is young each year.

Liebst du um Schätze,
If you love for riches,

O nicht mich liebe!
O love not me!

Liebe die Meerfrau,
Love the mermaid

Sie hat viel Perlen klar.
Who has many shining pearls.

Liebst du um Liebe,
If you love for love,

O ja, mich liebe!
Ah yes, love me!

Liebe mich immer,
Love me always,

Dich lieb’ ich immerdar.
I shall love you ever more.



Liebeszauber (Love’s Magic)

Text by Emanuel Geibel / Translation by Richard Stokes (Oxford)


Die Liebe saß als Nachtigall
Love, as a nightingale,

Im Rosenbusch und sang,
Perched on a rosebush and sang;

Es flog der wundersüße Schall
The wondrous sound floated

Den grünen Wald entlang.
Along the green forest.

Und wie er klang, da stieg im Kreis
And as it sounded, there arose a scent

Aus tausend Kelchen Duft,
From a thousand calyxes,

Und alle Wipfel rauschten leis’,
And all the treetops rustled softly,

Und leiser ging die Luft;
And the breeze moved softer still;

Die Bäche schwiegen, die noch kaum
The brooks fell silent, barely

Geplätschert von den Höh’n,
Having babbled from the heights

Die Rehlein standen wie im Traum
The fawns stood as if in a dream

Und lauschten dem Getön.
And listened to the sound.

Und hell und immer heller floß
Brighter, and ever brighter

Der Sonne Glanz herein,
The sun shone on the scene,

Um Blumen, Wald und Schlucht ergoß
And poured its red glow

Sich goldig rother Schein.
Over flowers, forest and glen.

Ich aber zog den Weg entlang
But I made my way along the path

Und hörte auch den Schall –
And also heard the sound.

Ach, was seit jener Stund’ ich sang,
Ah! all that I’ve sung since that hour

War nur sein Wiederhall.
Was merely its echo.



Laue Sommernacht (Mild Summer Night)

Text by Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865-1910) / Translation by Richard Stokes (Oxford)


Laue Sommernacht: am Himmel
Mild summer night: in the sky

Stand kein Stern, im weiten Walde
Not a star, in the deep forest

Suchten wir uns tief im Dunkel,
We sought each other in the dark

Und wir fanden uns.
And found one another.

Fanden uns im weiten Walde
Found one another in the deep wood

In der Nacht, der sternenlosen,
In the night, the starless night,

Hielten staunend uns im Arme
And amazed, we embraced

In der dunklen Nacht.
In the dark night.

War nicht unser ganzes Leben
Our entire life – was it not

So ein Tappen, so ein Suchen?
Such a tentative quest?

Da: In seine Finsternisse
There: into its darkness,

Liebe, fiel Dein Licht.
O Love, fell your light.



In meines Vaters Garten

Text by Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865-1910) / Translation by Richard Stokes (Oxford)

In meines Vaters Garten –
In my father’s garden –

blühe mein Herz, blüh auf –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –

in meines Vaters Garten
In my father’s garden

stand ein schattender Apfelbaum –
grew a shady apple tree –

Süsser Traum –
Sweet dream –

stand ein schattender Apfelbaum.
grew a shady apple tree.


Drei blonde Königstöchter –
Three blond princesses –

blühe mein Herz, blüh auf –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –

drei wunderschöne Mädchen
three wonderfully beautiful girls

schliefen unter dem Apfelbaum –
slept beneath the apple tree –

Süsser Traum –
Sweet dream –

schliefen unter dem Apfelbaum.
slept beneath the apple tree.


Die allerjüngste Feine –
The youngest of the three beauties –

blühe mein Herz, blüh auf –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –

die allerjüngste Feine
the youngest of the three beauties

blinzelte und erwachte kaum –
blinked and hardly awoke –

Süsser Traum –
Sweet dream –

blinzelte und erwachte kaum.
blinked and hardly awoke.


Die zweite fuhr sich übers Haar –
The second ran her hand through her hair –

blühe mein Herz, blüh auf –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –

sah den roten Morgentraum –
Saw the red morning dream –

Süsser Traum –
Sweet dream –


Sie sprach: Hört ihr die Trommel nicht –
She said: ‘Don’t you hear the drums?

blühe mein Herz, blüh auf –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –

Süsser Traum –
Sweet dream –

hell durch den dämmernden Traum?
Brightly through the dawn?


Mein Liebster zieht in den Kampf –
My beloved is going to war

blühe mein Herz, blüh auf –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –

mein Liebster zieht in den Kampf hinaus,
My beloved is going to war,

küsst mir als Sieger des Kleides Saum –
Kisses as victor the hem of my dress

Süsser Traum –
Sweet dream –

küsst mir des Kleides Saum!
Kisses the hem of my dress.


Die dritte sprach und sprach so leis –
The third spoke, and spoke so quietly –

blühe mein Herz, blüh auf –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –

die dritte sprach und sprach so leis:
The third spoke and spoke so quietly:

Ich küsse dem Liebsten des Kleides Saum –
I kiss the hem of my beloved’s coat –

Süsser Traum –
Sweet dream –

ich küsse dem Liebsten des Kleides Saum. –
I kiss the hem of my beloved’s coat.

In meines Vaters Garten –
In my father’s garden –

blühe mein Herz, blüh auf –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –

in meines Vaters Garten
In my father’s garden

steht ein sonniger Apfelbaum –
grew a shady apple tree –

Süsser Traum –
Sweet dream –

steht ein sonniger Apfelbaum!
grew a shady apple tree.



Mignonne: Mignonne allons voir si la rose

Text by Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585) / Translation by Faith J. Cormier for LiederNet

Mignonn’, allon voir si la rose
Sweetheart, let us see if the rose

Qui ce matin avoit declose
that only this morning unfolded

Sa robe de pourpr’ au soleil,
its scarlet dress in the sun

A point perdu, cette vesprée,
has lost, at vesper-time,

Le plis de sa robe pourprée,
the folds of its scarlet dress

Et son teint au vostre pareil.
and its colour, so like yours.

Las, voyés comm’ en peu d’espace,
Alas! See how rapidly,

Mignonn’, ell’ a dessus la place,
Sweetheart, she has let

Las, las, ses beautés laissé cheoir!
her beauty fall all over the place!

Ô vrayement maratre nature,
Nature is truly a cruel stepmother

Puis qu’une telle fleur ne dure,
when such a flower only lasts

Que du matin jusques au soir!
from dawn to dusk!

Donc, si vous me croiés, mignonne:
So if you hear me, Sweetheart,

Tandis que vostr’ age fleuronne
while your age flowers

En sa plus verte nouveauté,
in its greenest newness,

Cueillés, cueillés vostre jeunesse,
gather, gather your youth.

Comm’ à cette fleur, la viellesse
Age will tarnish your beauty

Fera ternir vostre beauté.
as it has faded this flower.



L’amour captive (Captive Love)

Text by Thérèse Maquet (1858-1891) / Translation by James Harrington


Mignonne, à l’amour j’ai lié les ailes;
Sweetheart, I have bound Love’s wings;

Il ne pourra plus prendre son essor
No longer will it be able to take flight

Ni quitter jamais nos deux coeurs fidèles.
Nor ever leave our two faithful hearts.

D’un noeud souple et fin de vos cheveux d’or,
With a soft, fine knot of your golden hair,

Mignonne, à l’amour j’ai lié les ailes!
Sweetheart, I have bound Love’s wings!


Chère, de l’amour si capricieux
Dear, I have yet tamed the fickle desire

J’ai dompté pourtant le désir volage:
of Love so capricious:

Il suit toute loi que dictent vos yeux,
It obeys every law dictated by your eyes,

Et j’ai mis enfin l’amour en servage,
And I finally placed Love in bondage,

Ô chère! l’amour, si capricieux!
O Dear! Love so capricious!


Ma mie, à l’amour j’ai lié les ailes.
My love, I have bound Love’s wings.

Laissez par pitié ses lèvres en feu
Have pity, and let her lips of fire

Effleurer parfois vos lèvres rebelles,
At times brush your own rebellious lips,

A ce doux captif souriez un peu;
To this sweet captive smile a bit;

Ma mie, à l’amour j’ai lié les ailes!
My love, I have bound Love’s wings.



La mer (The sea)

Text by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) / Translation by Richard Stokes (Oxford)


La mer est plus belle
The sea is lovelier

Que les cathédrales,
Than the cathedrals;

Nourrice fidèle,
A faithful wet-nurse

Berceuse de râles,
Lulling those in the grip of death,

La mer qui prie
The sea over which

La Vierge Marie!
The Virgin Mary prays!


Elle a tous les dons
It has all the qualities,

Terribles et doux.
Awesome and sweet.

J’entends ses pardons
I hear its forgiveness

Gronder ses courroux.
Scolding its wrath…

Cette immensité
This immensity

N’a rien d’entêté.
Is without willfulness.

O! si patiente,
Oh, so forbearing,

Même quand méchante!
Even when wicked!

Un souffle ami hante
A friendly breath haunts

La vague, et nous chante:
The wave, and sings to us:

«Vous sans espérance,
“You without hope,

Mourez sans souffrance!»
May you die without pain!”


Et puis sous les cieux
And then beneath the skies,

Qui s’y rient plus clairs,
Reflected there more brightly,

Elle a des airs bleus.
It seems blue,

Roses, gris et verts…
Pink, grey, and green…

Plus belle que tous,
Lovelier than all,

Meilleure que nous!
Better than we!



Souvent un air de verité, from Six chansons françaises, Op. 41

Text by François Marie Arouet (1694-1778) / Translation by Peter Low (for LiederNet)


Souvent un air de verité
Often an air of truth

Se mêle au plus grossier mensonge.
can be found in the crudest lie.

Une nuit dans l’erreur d’un songe,
One night in a deluded dream

Au rang des rois j’étais monté.
I had risen to the rank of kings.

Je vous aimais alors et j’osais vous le dire.
At that time I loved you and dared to tell you so.

Les dieux à mon réveil ne m’ont pas tout ôté:
When I woke, the gods didn’t take it all away:

Je n’ai perdu que mon empire.
I lost only my kingdom.



Haï luli from 6 Mélodies et une havanaise

Text by Xavier de Maistre / Translation by Richard Stokes (Oxford)


Je suis triste, je mʹinquiète,
I am sad, I am anxious,

je ne sais plus que devenir.
I no longer know what’s to become of me.

Mon bon ami devait venir,
My lover was to have come,

et je lʹattends ici seulette.
And I wait for him here alone.

Haï luli! Haï luli!
Hai luli, hai luli,

Où donc peut être mon ami?
How sad it is without my lover!

Je mʹassieds pour filer ma laine,
I sit down to spin my wool,

le fil se casse dans ma main …
The thread snaps in my hand:

Allons, je filerai demain;
Well then! I shall spin tomorrow,

aujour-dʹhui je suis trop en peine!
Today I am too upset.

Haï luli! Haï luli!
Hai luli, hai luli,

Quʹil fait triste sans son ami!
Where can my lover be?

Ah! s’il est vrai qu’il soit volage,
Ah! If it’s true that he’s unfaithful,

sʹil doit un jour mʹabandonner,
And will one day abandon me,

le village nʹa quʹà brûler,
Then let the village burn

et moi-même avec le village!
And me too along with the village!

Haï luli! Haï luli!
Hai luli, hai luli,

A quoi bon vivre sans ami?
What point is there in living without a lover?




Young Love in Spring from Songs of the Seasons

Text by Langston Hughes (1901-1967)


(When Young Spring Comes)
When young spring comes,
With silver rain
One almost
Could be good again.

But then comes summer,
Whir of bees . . .
Crimson poppies . . . anemones;
The old, old god of Love
To please.



Text by Louise C. Wallace (1902-1973)

Night comes, a Madonna clad in scented blue.
Rose red her mouth and deep her eyes,
She lights her stars, and turns to where,
Beneath her silver lamp the moon,
Upon a couch of shadow lies
A dreamy child,
The wearied Day.



Text by Ella Young (1867-1956)

Over the wave-patterned sea-floor
Over the long sunburnt ridge of the world,
I bid the winds seek you.
I bid them cry to you
Night and morning
A name you loved once;
I bid them bring to you
Dreams, and strange imaginings, and sleep.



I Want to Die While You Love Me

Text by Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966)


I want to die while you love me,
While yet you hold me fair,
While laughter lies upon my lips
And lights are in my hair.

I want to die while you love me,
And bear to that still bed,
Your kisses turbulent, unspent
To warm me when I’m dead.

I want to die while you love me
Oh, who would care to live
Till love has nothing more to ask
And nothing more to give?

I want to die while you love me
And never, never see
The glory of this perfect day
Grow dim or cease to be!


The Year’s at the Spring from Three Browning Songs, Op. 44

Text by Robert Browning (1812-1889)


The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven–
All’s right with the world!



Translations by Richard Stokes

© Richard Stokes, author of: The Book of Lieder (Faber); The Complete Songs of Hugo Wolf (Faber); A French Song Companion (Oxford University Press); The Spanish Song Companion (Scarecrow Press); The Penguin Book of English Song (Penguin Classics); and J.S. Bach: The Complete Cantatas (Scarecrow Press).

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