Des Menschen Seele Gleicht dem Wasser

Adventures-of-Algy-220217.jpg

Algy flew down to the Sound and perched in a gorse bush already covered in February gold. It was a stormy day, with rapidly alternating phases of darkness and light, and many heavy showers were sweeping in along the Sound from the open ocean. Algy was thinking of some of his friends, who were threatened by dark storm clouds in their own lives, and as he watched the next wave of clouds approach he sang one of his favourite “songs” for them:

Des Menschen Seele
Gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es,
Zum Himmel steigt es,
Und wieder nieder
Ewig wechselnd

The human soul
is like water:
it comes from heaven,
it rises to heaven,
and again it must descend to earth
in an eternal alternation.

Listen to this beautiful recording of Gesang der Geister über den Wassern in a setting by Schubert, performed by the Vienna Vocalists and the String Ensemble of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

[Algy is singing part of Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (The Song of the Spirit over the Waters) by the late 18th/early 19th century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. You can read the full text of the poem in German and English, but Algy feels that the English translation given there does not do full justice to the original.]

Algy flew down to the Sound and perched in a gorse bush already covered in February gold. It was a stormy day, with rapidly alternating phases of darkness and light, and many heavy showers were sweeping in along the Sound from the open ocean. Algy was thinking of some of his friends, who were threatened by dark storm clouds in their own lives, and as he watched the next wave of clouds approach he sang one of his favourite “songs” for them:

Des Menschen Seele
Gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es,
Zum Himmel steigt es,
Und wieder nieder
Ewig wechselnd

The human soul
is like water:
it comes from heaven,
it rises to heaven,
and again it must descend to earth
in an eternal alternation.

Listen to this beautiful recording of Gesang der Geister über den Wassern in a setting by Schubert, performed by the Vienna Vocalists and the String Ensemble of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

[Algy is singing part of Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (The Song of the Spirit over the Waters) by the late 18th/early 19th century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. You can read the full text of the poem in German and English, but Algy feels that the English translation given there does not do full justice to the original.]

Readers of Algy’s books will know that Algy is very fond of frogs. So when he saw a distinctive shape crouching by the edge of a wee pool in the quiet burn, he hurried over to talk to it, but just as he fluttered down to land by the side of the pool, the frog jumped into the clear water and swam away beneath the weeds, being too busy with its own business to stop and chat just then.

Algy perched on the grass at the edge of the water and gazed into the depths, trying to spot his frog friend at the bottom of the pool. As he stared at the new spring growth of weeds, he was reminded of a short poem by Goethe:

A big pond was frozen over;
The little frogs, lost in the deep,
Were not able to croak or hop,
But they promised themselves, half dreaming,
That if they could only find space above,
They would sing like nightingales.
The thawing wind came, the ice melted,
Now they paddled and landed proudly
And sat on the banks, far and wide
And croaked, as they had in former times.

Ein großer Teich war zugefroren;
Die Fröschlein, in der Tiefe verloren,
Durften nicht ferner quaken noch springen,
Versprachen sich aber im halben Traum,
Fänden sie nur da oben Raum,
Wie Nachtigallen wollten sie singen.
Der Tauwind kam, das Eis zerschmolz,
Nun ruderten sie und landeten stolz
Und saßen am Ufer weit und breit
Und quakten wie vor alter Zeit
.

[Algy is quoting the poem Die Frösche (The Frogs) by the early 19th century German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and his own translation from the German 🙂 ]

At times the world seems covered in darkness, and Algy knows that many of his friends are struggling against the darkness at this especially dark time. But light can always conquer darkness, so Algy perched on a rock by the wild ocean, gazing at a pathway of light, and sang some verses by Goethe for his friends.

Des Menschen Seele
Gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es,
Zum Himmel steigt es,
Und wieder nieder
Ewig wechselnd

The human soul
is like water:
it comes from heaven,
it rises to heaven,
and again it must descend to earth
in an eternal alternation.

Listen to this beautiful recording of Gesang der Geister über den Wassern by the Vienna Vocalists and the String Ensemble of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

[Algy is singing Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (The Song of the Spirit over the Waters) by the late 18th/early 19th century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. You can read the full text of the poem in German and English,
but Algy feels that the English translation given there does not do
full justice to the original.]

Algy sat on the rocks by the side of the loch and thought of Stephanie and her family. As the light streamed through the clouds onto the water, he sang this poem by Goethe for her, in its beautiful Lieder setting by Franz Schubert:

          Des Menschen Seele
          Gleicht dem Wasser:
          Vom Himmel kommt es,
          Zum Himmel steigt es,
          Und wieder nieder
          Zur Erde muß es,
          Ewig wechselnd.

          Man’s soul
          Is like water:
          From Heaven it comes,
          To Heaven it rises,
          And down again
          To Earth it must descend,
          Constantly fluctuating.

Listen to this lovely recording of Gesang der Geister über den Wassern by the Vienna Vocalists and the String Ensemble of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

[You can read the full text of the poem in German and English, but Algy feels that the English translation given there does not do full justice to the original, and nor does Algy’s own translation!]