Category Archives: Ludwig Hölty


Ludwig C. Hölty: “The Grave-Digger’s Song”

Excerpt, Specimens of the Choicest Lyrical Productions of the Most Celebrated German Poets, from Klopstock to the Present Time.”  With Biographical and Literary Notes translated in English Verse by Mary Anne Burt.  1856.

grave digger song

Ludwig Hölty: “The Peasant’s Advice”

The Old Peasant’s Advice

To His Son.

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In Virtue’s path life’s journey run,

‘Till halting at the tomb,

Ne’er mayst thou be induced, my son,

From God’s highway to roam!

Then, in green fields, near rivers clear,

Thy pilgrimage will be;

Then, void of shuddering, or fear,

Death wilt thou calmly see.

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Thy scythe, thy plough, each daily task

How light will all appear!

Thou’lt sing, beside thy water-flask,

As though rich wine were there.

All, to the wicked  is severe,

Whate’er his time employ;

The devil guides, through regions drear,

And leaves him, void of joy.

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On him smiles neither cheerful spring,

Nor field of yellow grain;

Fraud e’er impels him on the wing,

Base lucre to obtain.

To him wind, tree, and bower seem

The harbingers of gloom;

He finds, beyond life’s troubled dream,

No peace within the tomb.

,

For when pale wandering spirits roam,

Transformed in a black hound,

Near to his late terrestrial home,

At midnight is he found!

The spinners, gliding stealthily,

With spinning-wheel on arm,

Fly, trembling, like an aspen-tree,

With heart-thrilling alarm.

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Spinners, as wheels turn round and round,

The fearful history tell,

And ardently they wish him bound

Within the vaults of Hell.

Old Hans a child of Satan proved,

Yes, till his dying day!

His neighbor’s land-mark he removed,

Ad stole his land away.

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Now, as a man of fire, he moves,

Ploughing that neighbor’s land,

And measuring, up and down, he roves,

With fiery cord in hand.

He burns with a demoniac light,

Beside the flaming plough;

He ploughs and burns the live-long night,

Till rays of morning glow!

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Till Justice who deceived the poor,

Killed stags, robbed those in need,

Hunts  with black hounds, through wood and moor;

On Satan’s fiery steed.

On knotty staff, he’s now a bear,

With shaggy fur!  He howls;

Sometimes a goat doth he appear,

And through the village prowls!

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The priest who once the dance condemned,

Yet, practices usury,

A spectre, at the shrine, doth bend,

At midnight hour, his knee.

He thumps the pulpit; echoes fly

Thence toward the vault of Heaven!

He counts that money, greedily,

Which Penitence has given.

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The Lordling who the widow lone,

Once basely dispossessed,

To coach, impelled by sigh and groan,

Will ride to Satan’s feast.

Sulphurous garments, vividly

On fire, will round him wind,

A devil will his coachman be,

And imps will stand behind.

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In Virtue’s path life’s journey run,

Till halting at the tomb;

Ne’er mayst thou be induced, my son,

From God’s high-way to roam!

Then children’s children, on thy tomb,

Sweet flowers of Spring will rear,

Those flowers luxuriantly will bloom,

Bedewed by memory’s tear.

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L.H.C. Hölty: “A Winter-Song”

 

A WINTER-SONG

 

Rich wines, flow, flow!

Keen North winds blow,

To rest doth Phoebus sink:

The shaggy bear

Frowns night-blasts near,

Drink, brethren, let us drink!

 

The wood-fire bright

Spreads cheerful light,

Lo!  Sparks, in volumes, fly;

The noble Rhine

Provides us wine:

Quaff, brethren, joyously!

 

The banquet gay

Drives frost away,

And ushers blooming Spring:

Joy’s magic hours

Are crowned with flowers,

While feathered warblers sing.

 

Songs echo round,

Harps sweetly sound,

We rove through valleys fair,

A virgin-train

Glide o’er the plain,

And grapes luxuriant bear.

 

Rush wildly forth,

Blasts from the North,

O’er valleys decked with snow!

Yet, gently pass

That sparkling glass,

Whence purples juices flow!

 

Pain, brown and blue

The haughty shrew,

With supercilioius air!

Yet, Boreas keen,

Shun Hermeline

Who veils her bosom fair!

.

.

 

Ludwig Holty: “Country Life”

heinrich burkel harvest 1839

Heinrich Burkel – “Harvest” – 1839

COUNTRY LIFE

 

Happy the man who has the town escaped!

To him the whistling trees, the murmuring brooks,

The shining pebbles, preach

Virtue’s and wisdom’s lore.

 

The whispering grove a holy temple is

To him, where God draws nigher to his soul;

Each verdant and a shrine,

Whereby he kneels to Heaven.

 

The nightingale on him sings slumber down,

The nightingale rewakes him, fluting sweet,

When shines the lovely red,

Of morning through the trees.

 

Then he admires thee in the plain, O God!

In the ascending pomp of the dawning day,

Thee in thy glorious sun,

The worm, the budding branch.

 

Where coolness gushes, in the waving grass,

Or o’er the flowers streams the fountain, rests:

Inhales the breath of prime,

The gentle airs of eve.

 

His straw-decked thatch, where doves bask in the sun,

And play and hop, invites to sweeter rest

Than golden halls of state

Or beds of down afford.

 

To him the plumy people sporting chirp,

Chatter, and whistle, on his basket perch,

And from his quiet hand

Pick crumbs, or peas, or grains.

 

Oft wanders he alone, and thinks on death;

And in the village churchyard by the graves,

Sits and beholds the cross

Death’s waving garland there.

 

The stone beneath the elders, where a text

Of scripture teaches joyfully to die,

And with his scythe stands Death,

An angel, too, with palms.

 

Happy the man who thus hath ‘scaped the town!

Him did an angel bless when he was born,

The cradle of the boy

With flowers celestial strewed.

.

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Hölty: Delightfully Sound the Birdsongs

by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty (1748-1776)

Holder klingt der Vogelsang

by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) , “Minnelied”, op. 71 (Fünf Gesänge) no. 5 (1877).

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust, from The Lied & Art Song Texts Page.

 

 

Delightfully sound the birdsongs

when the pure angel

who conquered my young heart

wanders through the wood.


Redder bloom the valleys and meadows,

Greener becomes the grass

where the fingers of my lady

Are picking little mayflowers.


Without her, everything is dead.

Blossoms and herbs are wilted;

and no spring sunset

would seem to me as fair and fine.


Darling, lovely woman,

Never wish to flee;

that my heart, as well as this meadow,

might bloom in joy!

Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hoelty 

Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty