Hanns Eisler: Music

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Song of the Woman and the Soldier RealAudio Buy
Text: Bertolt Brecht. Sung by Gisela May.

Eisler in Vienna
Käthe Kollwitz's 1924 lithograph "War Never Again" in the collection of the German Historical Museum, Berlin.

Originally the "Song of the Soldier," published in Bertolt Brecht's "Devotions" (1922), this is Eisler's first setting (1928) for a text by the poet and playwright who soon became his closest friend. The poem was later incorporated into Brecht's "Mother Courage" with music composed in 1946 by Paul Dessau.

A shotgun will shoot
and a jacknife will knife.
If you wade in the water 'twill drown you.
Keep away from the ice
if you want my advice,
said the wise woman to the soldier.

But the young soldier,
he loaded his gun
and he reached for his knife
and he started to run:
for marching, for marching
never could hurt him!
From the north to the south
we will march through the land
With knife at side and gun in hand.
That's what the soldiers told the woman.

Woe to him who defies
the advice of the wise!
If you wade in the water 'twill drown you.
Don't ignore what I say
or you'll rue it one day,
said the wise woman to the soldier.

But the young soldier,
his knife at his side,
and his gun in his hand,
he steps into the tide,
for water, for water
never could hurt him.
When the new moon is shining
on shingle roofs white,
we are all coming back, go and pray for that night!
That's what the soldiers told the woman.

Then the wise woman spoke:
you will vanish like smoke
and your glorious deeds will not warm me.
And just watch the smoke fly!
O God don't let him die!
Said the wise woman to the soldier.

But the young soldier,
his knife at his side
and his gun in his hand
is swept out by the tide.
He waded, he waded in the water
and it drowned him.
And the lad who defied
the wise woman's advice
when the new moon shone floated down with the ice.
So what could the soldiers tell the woman?

The wise woman spoke:
he has vanished like smoke
and his glorious deeds did not warm you!
You ignored what I say
and you rue it today!
Said the wise woman to all the soldiers.

Music sample © 1994 edel GmbH. English version by Eric Bentley from "The Brecht-Eisler Song Book" © 1967 Oak Publications.

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