Thursday, March 13, 2014

[Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen] - Friedrich Rückert

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,
Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,
Sie hat so lange nicht von mir vernommen,
Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben!

Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,
Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,
Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,
Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.

Ich bin gestorber dem Weltgetümmel,
Und ruh' in einem stillen Gebiet!
Ich leb' allein in meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied!

trans. Emily Ezust

I am lost to the world
with which I used to waste so much time,
It has heard nothing from me for so long
that it may very well believe that I am dead!

It is of no consequence to me
Whether it thinks me dead;
I cannot deny it,
for I really am dead to the world.

I am dead to the world's tumult,
And I rest in a quiet realm!
I live alone in my heaven,
In my love and in my song.

I do not often post poetry in translation, because it is often hard to translate poetic sentiment, but I feel that even in translation, this poem retains much of its peaceful nature and beauty.  While it loses the rhyme scheme it has in its native German (which sadly, I do not understand fully, though I can pronounce it adequately enough to appreciate the lovely sounds of the language) it still flows in a suitable manner to be considered poetic.

The idea of being "dead to the world" is very attractive in this poem.  Lost, in a peaceful heavenly realm, in love and song, it sounds like an ideal state of being.  However, one line sticks out to me in particular.  "I live alone in my heaven/Ich leb allein in meinem Himmel."  How does one live alone and yet in love?  Are we to think of a Divine love, or some sort of cosmic transcendent love?  Or is the narrator content to live apart and relish the bittersweet side of love and immortalize it in song?

Song is an appropriate segue, because as ever, I will take this as an excuse to post a wonderful setting.  Gustav Mahler set many of Rückert's poems as songs for voice and small ensemble, and that is how I came to know of this poem.  I fell in love with its flowing lines, the sense of length, and of a beautiful melancholic sense of love and contentment.  It's a sublime setting, sung here in German by the greatest lied interpreter of the 20th century, Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau.  I urge you to enjoy the lovely sounds of the German words, and to dispel the commonly held myth that German is an angry sounding language.


  1. this is a very sad translation, it is not to live alone and love, it is to live onward in my love and in my song. When I am gone my love remains, and that is immortal. And also, it is not so much that I am lost (verloren), this is more like disappeared or not accessible anymore (abhanden), abhanden means " out of hands".
    I could go on, but hope this helps :)

  2. I only manage to translate verse 2 and 3 of it...

    I shall mot give any thoughts,
    If it thinks I do not exist,
    Against it I'm lost for words,
    Since to the world, I'm deceased.

    I've bid my farewell from the world's crowd,
    And taken my refuge in the place of silence,
    In my horizon, I embrace my solitude,
    In my lovr, in my chant.

    I tried to retain the rhyme, that explains my choice of words are a bit too free.