A musical interlude

Friday, December 02, 2005
Die Gedanken sind frei,
wer kann sie erraten;
sie fliehen vorbei
wie naechtliche Schatten.
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen,
kein Jaeger erschiessen;
es bleibet dabei:
Die Gedanken sind frei.

Ich denk was ich will,
und was mich begluecket,
Doch alles in der Still,
und wie es sich schicket.
Mein Wunsch und Begehren
kann niemand verwehren,
es bleibet dabei:
Die Gedanken sind frei.

The White Rose [Die Gedanken Sind Frei] has the full words, and a MIDI file for the melody.


Thoughts are free (things)
who can guess them?
They flee past (us)
Like shadows at night
No man can know them
No hunter can shoot them
it therefore remains
Thoughts are free things.

I think what I will,
and what pleases me,
Yes, all thoughts are hidden
and we think them ourselves
My wishes and desires
No man can question
it therefore remains
Thoughts are free things.

This is a pretty literal translation, except I've tried to make some things "feel right" in English. For example, "Die Gedanken sind Frei" would be literally "thoughts are free", since we don't insist on definite articles in English. But "die Gedanken", to me, makes thoughts into palpable objects, round and hard, like a cat's eye marble. So I make it "Thoughts are free things" to keep that "objective" sense. Similarly, some translations would give "no hunter can kill them", which sounds better, but "erschiessen" is shoot, dammit. So this is as good as I can get right now; if anyone has anything better, I'd be happy to see it.


Jamie Irons said...



And my German (learned at Yale, whose school song "Bright College Years" has the same melody, I'm sad to report, as the Prussian number sung by the bad guys at Rick's Bar in Casablanca!) was sufficient to understand the whole thing!



Seneca the Younger said...

I mean to put up a translation later; I got caught by Real Life about halfway.

RogerA said...

Seneca--life always intervenes--but for the record I LOVE this tune
and if my German is any good it starts with "my thoughts are free"

This is why I love the internet--I have enjoyed this tune and song and I think it was in a movie about an escape from a Nazi prison camp--the net does have the answers

Seneca the Younger said...

Roger, you're absolutely right on both. I'll post a translation tonight, I'm quibbling with myself on how to translate a couple things so they "feel" the same in English.

Doug said...
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