Perambulating the Bounds

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Die Gedanken Sind Frei

Thoughts are free, who can ever guess them?
They just fly by like nocturnal shadows.
No one can know them, no hunter can shoot them,
with powder and lead: Thoughts are free!

I think what I want, and what makes me happy,
but always discreetly, and as it is suitable.
My wish and desire, no one can deny me
and so it will always be: Thoughts are free!

And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
all this would be futile work,
because my thoughts tear all gates
and walls apart. Thoughts are free!

So I will renounce my sorrows forever,
and never again will torment myself with some fancy ideas.
In one's heart, one can always laugh and joke
and think at the same time: Thoughts are free!

I love wine, and my girl even more,
Only I like her best of all.
I'm not alone with my glass of wine,
my girl is with me: Thoughts are free!

This is the text of an old German song from an Yvonne Buchheim video I saw at Cheekwood today. The song’s been banned a few times in its history, most notably during the Third Reich. In the video Buchheim sings it (except for that last verse, which kind of gets off point, but that happens with old songs) surreptitiously on the streets of Tehran. My first thought seeing the video was this is my wife’s theme song.

Maria did some research on it and found some predictably unsavory parties have adopted the song (Larouchies, some sort of right-wing German group). Again, that’ll happen with a song. But she also found this video of Pete Seeger singing it, and if it’s OK with Pete, it’s OK. But go to Cheekwood and hear Buchheim’s version.

It's reassuring, inpsiring to find such profoundly anti-authoritarian words in such an old song. It shows how deeply rooted is the desire for human autonomy.

BTW, Maria and I weren’t the first people in Nashville to decide to blog about this. That honor goes to Jason Kirk.

And another. I think Pete Seeger is singing this translation of the lyrics, which are not as literal as the ones above, but they are pretty much what Buchheim uses as the subtitles for her video:

My Thoughts Are Free

Die Gedanken sind frei
My thoughts freely flower.
Die Gedanken sind frei
My thoughts give me power.
No scholar can map them,
No hunter can trap them,
No man can deny:
Die Gedanken sind frei!

I think as I please,
And this gives me pleasure.
My conscience decrees,
This right I must treasure;
My thoughts will not cater
To duke or dictator,
No man can deny:
Die Gedanken sind frei!

And if tyrants take me
And throw me in prison,
My thoughts will burst free,
Like blossoms in season.
Foundations will crumble,
The structure will tumble,
And free men will cry:
Die Gedanken sind frei!

Neither trouble or pain
Will ever touch me again.
No good comes of fretting,
My hope's in forgetting.
Within myself still
I can think as I will,
But I laugh, do not cry:
Die Gedanken sind frei!


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