One of the most famous lullabies in the German language is the "Wiegenlied" by Johannes Brahms. Most people know it better as "Guten Abend, gut’ Nacht". Just as the first lines of the lullaby read. In modern times, however, the lyrics of the song are often misinterpreted as creepy or morbid. This is mainly due to the, from today’s linguistic usage, misunderstood first stanza:
Good evening, good night,
studded with nails,
slip under the deck:
Tomorrow morning, if God wills,
you are awakened again.
With Naglein besckt ..
Granted: Children stuck with nails, dependent on God’s will, do not evoke pleasant associations. The interpretation of the "Naglein" as coffin nails is obvious at first sight. But the first stanza of "Gut Abend, gut’ Nacht" sounds more brutal than actually intended. The "Naglein" mentioned in the text is a linguistically obsolete term for cloves, which has almost completely disappeared from modern usage and can only be found occasionally in some dialects.
In Brahms’ time, it was used to protect loved ones from insects and pathogens with the essential oils of cloves. This plant metaphor, no longer anchored in general knowledge, understandably leads to misunderstandings today.
… and if God does not want?
The second often critically interpreted passage deals with the constraint "Tomorrow morning, God willing, you will be awakened again". Here, the author of the text is often accused today of granting God an arbitrary power to let the sleeping person get up again the next day. But against the backdrop of the humble attitude common to the Christian-influenced, medieval period of origin, the supposedly gruesome statement is relativized. Life in general is still in God’s hands with the world view at the time of the creation of "Guten Abend, gut’ Nacht" (Good evening, good night).
Romantic – the story of the first stanza
Not at all morbid, but even very romantic was the first stanza still in the 15. It was read in the nineteenth century: In that time it was not used as a lullaby for children, but as a good-night wish in love letters.
The German writers Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano published the text for the first time in 1808 as a children’s song in the folk song collection "Des Knaben Wunderhorn". In it, it still bears the title "Good night, my child" at first. In July 1868, the German composer Johannes Brahms arranged his "Lullaby" on the basis of this text. From then on, the "Lullaby" with its originally affectionate good-night wish was one of the best-known lullabies in the German-speaking world.
The often forgotten second stanza
The fate of many second stanzas is that they fall into oblivion. The second verse of the famous lullaby is unfortunately no exception.
Good evening, good night,
guarded by angels,
the show in the dream
dir Christkindleins tree.
Sleep now blissfully and sweetly,
look in the dream’s paradise.
This stanza completed the first section of "Guten Abend, gut’ Nacht" and was written by the folk song collector Georg Scherer, who included the song in his collection "Alte und neue Kinderlieder" ("Old and new children’s songs") after Brahms had set it to music in 1849. However, Scherer’s text did not fit Brahms’ melody and so the composer had to find a satisfactory solution for this inconsistency. It was not until 1873 that he combined the first and second verses into a musical unit. In the following year the song was finally published, and is handed down until today in its former form.
(60 Reviews, average: 4,28 of 5)