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"Was duftet doch der Flieder" Lyrics and Text Translation

Sachs's Aria from Wagner's Opera, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg


Hans Sach, one of the meistersingers in Wagner's opera, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg has heard a song by Walter, a new entrant in the singing contest where the winner wins the hand of the beautiful Eva. Walter, who had no formal training, sang a captivating song, but was ordered to stop singing midway through his song due to all the technical errors and broken rules. However, Hans Sach, who knew that Eva and Walter were already in love, was actually pleased with Walters song. The following day while working in his shoe shop, Hans Sach recalls the melodies from Walter's song.

German Lyrics
Was duftet doch der Flieder
so mild, so stark und voll!
Mir löst es weich die Glieder,
will, dass ich was sagen soll.
Was gilt's, was ich dir sagen kann?
Bin gar ein arm einfältig Mann!
Soll mir die Arbeit nicht schmecken,
gäbst, Freund, lieber mich frei:
tät besser, das Leder zu strecken,.
und liess alle Poeterei!
Und doch, 's will halt nicht gehn:
Ich fühl's und kann's nicht verstehn,
kann's nicht behalten, - doch auch nicht vergessen:
und fass ich es ganz, kann ich's nicht messen!
Doch wie soll ich auch fassen,
was unermesslich mir schien.
Kein' Regel wollte da passen,
und war doch kein Fehler drin.
Es klang so alt, - und war doch so neu,
wie Vogelsang im süssen Mai!
Wer ihn hört
und wahnbetört
sänge dem Vogel nach,
dem brächt es Spott und Schmach:
Lenzes Gebot,
die süsse Not,
die legt es ihm in die Brust:
nun sang er, wie er musst,
und wie er musst, so konnt er's,
das merkt ich ganz besonders.
Dem Vogel, der heut sang,
dem war der Schnabel hold gewachsen;
macht er den Meistern bang,
gar wohl gefiel er doch Hans Sachsen!

English Translation
What scent but that of the lilacs
so gentle, so strong and full!
To me it lifts its soft melodies,
wants me to say something.
What's true, what can I tell you?
I'm but a poor, simple-minded man!
I should experience the work not
give, friend, dear me free:
it would be better to stretch the leather
and let all poetry!
And yet, the song will go just not:
I feel it and can not understand it,
can keep it not, but not forgotten:
and I grasp it all, but I can measure it not!
But how should I take also
what seemed to me immeasurable?
No rule would fit there,
and yet no error did it contain.
It sounded so old - and yet was so new
A birdsong as sweet as May!
Who hears him
and imagines
singing for the bird,
the ridicule and disgrace it brought:
Lenze's bid
Its melodies are not sweet,
it comes forth from his heart:
now he sang, as he must,
and as he must, so could he,
I noted particularly.
The bird that sang tonight,
to hold the beak had grown
he makes the Mastersingers mad,
but I, Hans Sachs, liked it the best.

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