MAIFEST MAY SONG
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe trans. Alan Crosier
Wie herrlich leuchtet mir die Natur,
Wie glänzt die Sonne, wie lacht die Flur!
Es dringen Blüten aus jedem Zweig
Und tausend Stimmen aus dem Gesträuch,
Und Freud und Wonne aus jeder Brust;
O Erdí, o Sonne, o Glück, o Lust!

O Liebí, o Liebe! So golden schön
Wie Morgenwolken auf jenen Höhn!
Du segnest herrlich das frische Feld,
Im Blütendampfe die volle Welt.
O Mädchen, Mädchen, wie lieb ich dich!
Wie blickt dein Auge, wie liebst du mich!

So liebt die Lerche Gesang und Luft,
Und Morgenblumen den Himmelsduft
Wie ich dich liebe mit warmem Blut,
Die du mir Jugend und Freud und Mut
Zu neuen Liedern und Tänzen gibst.
Sei ewig glücklich, wie du mich liebst!
How brightly nature shines for me!
The gleaming sun, the laughing lea!
Bursting from boughs the blossoms spring,
From woods a thousand voices sing,
And every breast brims full with mirth;
O bliss, O joy! O Sun, O Earth!

O Love, my Love! So golden fair -
Like morning hilltop clouds, your hair!
Each pristine field youíve blest and kissed,
And all the World, with flower-bud mist.
Maiden, Maiden, I love you -
And, by your look, you love me too!

So loves the lark, aloft, and sings!
As flowers the fragrant dew that clings,
So love I you: each surge of blood
A torrent of youth, and joyful flood
Swollen with endless dancing and song -
Live happy! As you love me - long!

This famous poem by the twenty-two year old Goethe was set to music by at least nine composers, including Beethoven.
Make that ten, including me. One commentator has written that the poem simply cannot be set to music (!), but I think
the majority is right, on this occasion. (Strangely, Schubert did not ally his own genius to its exuberant Ur-Romantic
effusiveness, though he did set another Mailied, by someone else, three times.) In most versions the lines are split
to make twice as many; I use the version I found first, and Iím glad I did. It works better this way, I think; and
Beethoven appears to agree. The poem (and the translation I hope!) should be read aloud, because much
has been invested in the musical play of alliteration and assonance. Some features of this translation
are influenced by considerations arising from the musical setting: for example, I have been rather free
with the second last and third last lines. Goethe also wrote another Mailied, not so well-known. (AC)

Trans. Copyright © Alan Crosier 2003


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