Im Abendrot

UPDATE: A new translation sent to me by Richard Gardner

UPDATE: A contemporary re-imagining of Im Abendrot by Neil Fulwood

I’m collecting translations of the poem ‘Im Abendrot’ by Joseph von Eichendorff, which was the basis of the final work by Richard Strauss of the same title. I’m particularly interested in the second line of the last verse, most often translated as ‘So deep at sunset’ and other possible translations. All suggestions welcome.

We have gone through sorrow and joy
hand in hand;
from wandering we now rest
on the silent land.

Around us, the valleys bow;
the air is growing darker;
two larks soar still
with reverie into the fragrant air.

Come close to me and let them fly about;
soon it will be time to sleep;
let us not lose our way
in this solitude.

O vast, tranquil peace!
so deep at sunset.
How weary we are of wandering –
Is this perhaps death?

At Gloaming
Through want and joy we have walked hand in hand;
We are both resting from out travels now, in the quiet countryside

Around us the valleys fold up, already the air grows dark,
Only two larks still soar wistfully into the balmy sky

Come here and let them fly about; soon it is time for sleep
We must not go astray in this solitude

O spacious, tranquil peace, so profound in the gloaming.
How tired we are of travelling – is this perchance death?

Twilight (Trans. Ivan Grosz)
We have gone through joy and sorrow
Walking hand in hand
Let’s rest from all the wanderings
Here, on this silent land

The valleys slip beneath us
The air is turning dark
Up into the balmy sky
Dreaming soar two larks

Come close to me and let them twirl
It’s almost time to sleep
Be careful not to lose our way
The solitude is deep

Oh broad and peaceful silence
Set in the evening’s dark red glow
Of wandering we are tired
May death be waiting for us now?

Im Abendrot (At Sunset)(translated by Richard Gardner)

Through misery and pleasure,
We wandered hand in hand;
And now we take our leisure,
Above the tranquil land.

Ringed by valleys leaning o’er,
The air to darkness bent;
Just two skylarks upwards soar,
Day-dreaming in the scent.

Come and let them whirl away,
It’s time for us to sleep;
Lest we err and go astray
In solitude this deep.

Vast and silent stillness fired
With sunset red the breadth!
How can we feel so tired?
Can this perhaps be death?

In the Evening (by Neil Fulwood)
Imagine: while driving home,
companionship and laughter left behind,
the village a string of lights
in the rearview mirror, you pull over
and turn the engine off,
then step out of the car and stand
on a verge of hardened soil,
the road unlit and signless at your back,
and look across the land
as dark comes on, the fields dull slabs
of earth which rise and level out
and stretch away. By day you’d see

a wealth of smaller things:
farmhouse chimneys capped with drifts
of smoke, the dotted lines
of boundaries marked by walls of stone;
and further still: a hint
of distant hills a county away,
and almost on the edge of sight,
a scythe of light on coastal water.
But you see it (imagine)
for the final time now, in the evening,
the small details that gave it life
stolen by an horizon brought nearer
by twilight, gathered up,
hidden beneath silence and darkness,
a silence that is absolute,
a darkness that takes the evening
and plucks from you
your valediction: the one name
that never left your heart,
a thing remembered even as it passes.

And the original German by Eichendorff…

Im Abendrot
Wir sind durch Not und Freude
gegangen Hand in Hand;
vom Wandern ruhen wir
nun überm stillen Land.

Rings sich die Täler neigen,
es dunkelt schon die Luft,
zwei Lerchen nur noch steigen
nachträumend in den Duft.

Tritt her und laß sie schwirren,
bald ist es Schlafenszeit,
daß wir uns nicht verirren
in dieser Einsamkeit.

O weiter, stiller Friede!
So tief im Abendrot.
Wie sind wir wandermüde–
Ist dies etwa der Tod?


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

5 thoughts on “Im Abendrot

  1. “So tief im Abendrot” — I find that with translations it’s a lot more useful to have a rough/messy/literal translation as well as the poetic one to fully understand the meaning. (For awhile I was planning to do translations of fantasy stories as my undergrad thesis, so this is a subject near & dear to my heart.)

    The simplest translation of the line is “so deep in sunset”; however, both “tief” and “Abendrot” have other shades of meaning. “tief” most often means “deep”, but it can mean “low”, and it can mean “profound” — even if the poet intended it to mean “deep” and everyone reads it as “deep”, the secondary meaning of “profound” resides subconsciously in their brains.

    “Abendrot” is a fun German compound, and translates literally as “evening-red”; the definition can be “sunset” or “afterglow”.

    If I realize I’m not doing any useful work today, I’ll come back and do a raw/literal work-through of the rest of the poem for you; my disclaimer is I’ve only had one semester of German, so my grammar may be a little bit off in places.


  2. “O weiter, stiller Friede” _could_ mean: “O continue/go on/last/further, silent peace”
    At least, the phrase is ambivalent.

    Here is my translation, I like the above meaning better, although it is probably less likely. I am a native German speaker, but not English. I tried to keep it very literal. I am sure that some things don’t work the way I did them, so let me know.

    We have, through hardship and joy
    gone hand in hand;
    From roaming we rest
    now above the silent land.

    On all hands the valleys slope,
    already darkens the air,
    two larks only still ascend
    reminiscently into the haze.

    Come here and let them swirl,
    soon it is time to sleep,
    that we don’t go astray
    in this solitude.

    O further, silent peace!
    So sound in the evening glow.
    How tired we are from roaming–
    Could this perchance be death?



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