I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Pro or anti?

Here's a dilemma: should I sing Who is Sylvia? in English or German?

For Brexiteers it's a no-brainer. Having been told via the word of God (ie, The Daily Mail) the song was by Shakespeare who, despite a foreign-sounding name, came from the Midlands, it's gotta be like we all speak, innit?

However the setting is by Schubert. Admittedly he was an EU native and therefore to be isolated, yet his setting not only fits the German translation but also the original English. Which is quite clever. And Schubert died young and therefore deserves Brexit's tendency to be maudlin.

Words or music? The choice cannot be resolved and Richard Strauss (alas, another non-Brit) wrote an opera called Capriccio to prove the point.

As a treacherous reactionary Remoaner I'm happy to sing both.

Who is Sylvia?

An Sylvia

But in doing so, despite rusty German, I saw there were textual differences. So I asked my great friend and super-linguist Rouchswalve (whose impossible-to-pronounce blogonym I shorten to RW (zS) - the bracketed letters standing for "zu schwer" or, in Brexit, "too difficult") to re-translate the German. Here it is and as a tribute to her skills and friendliness I shall break my normal 300-word limit for Tone Deaf posts.

Who is Sylvia, O say,
That fields of nature should praise her
Beautiful and tender I watch her approach
Proven by heaven’s grace and traces
That all are devoted to her.

Is she beautiful and good too?
Like gentle childhood, charm refreshes
To her eye rushes Cupid
Where he heals his blindness
And whiles in sweet peace.

For Sylvia, sound, O tune
For lovely Sylvia’s honour
She exceeds every charm by far
Which earth can grant
For her, garlands and chords of strings!


  1. O! I like both versions the way you sing them. Your deep voice gives me delightful chills up and down my spine ... but, if I utilize the chill-meter, I have to admit I get more chills when you sing the song in German. You're right, the "Darum ..." line is most excellent.

    (Applauding wildly) Da capo, lieber Robbie! Da capo!

  2. RW (zS): Both versions are sung very "straight" without the slightest hint of interpretation and/or individuality. I was hag-ridden about staying in tune but even after at least twenty goes per version this has not happened. As is often the case with my recordings it's the initial lines that tend to flatten most. It is just possible that the software may be partly to blame: during playback the continuous sound trace is visibly "clipped" at certain overloaded points and this may be evidence of distortion.

    I too prefer the German version but for purely for selfish reasons. "Wass ist" (pronounced "Warss ist") is easier to sing than "Who" which should incorporate a swelling effect (slight increase/decrease in volume) to prevent me sounding like an owl.

    Thank you for your very kind comments. Your reference to my deep voice almost tempts me to post my version of Mozart's "Oh Isis Und Osiris" aria which is for a bass singer and which features some truly deep notes, notably accompanying the German word "Grabe". Almost tempts me. Being able to sing this piece at all, even badly, is personally important and I'd be horribly vulnerable to having my musical liver pecked out.

    I thought you did very well with the re-translation; I find it highly instructive. Again, many thanks.

  3. Yes, the colouring of vowels is one of the beautiful things about singing a song.

    I'm happy I was able to help with the translation. I struggled a bit with the line in the first part: That all are devoted to her. Wondering still if 'That all is devoted to her' might be better ...

  4. Sounding like an owl! Ha!

    Is that "whiles" as in "whiles away the time"?

  5. RW (zS): My main aim with both versions of Sylvia was to try and sing them in tune. I have other much simpler songs (eg, the famous Welsh traditional: All Through The Night) which allow me to experiment with colouring, crescendi and diminuendi.

    Devoted. It's your call: both work for me although "all is" has a wider scope, covering everything (eg, trees, mountains, rivers, etc) "All are" relates mainly to people, I think. "Swains" in WS's original line was ignored by von Bauernfeld so there's no help there.

    Marly: I couldn't be sure. But since I never worry about poetic detail I can't understand I was inclined to leave it be. Your query caused me to check the spelling but "while" is correct. "Wile" means to lure or trick

  6. I think Schiller's ""An die Freude"" anthem, sung to the theme from Beethoven's 9th is one of the most inspiring of pieces. It was a good choice for the anthem for Europe, which needed to come together after centuries of blasting each other to bits.

    Possibly contrary to your opinion of me, I enjoy "Europe", it's just the politicians that get in the way.

  7. Avus: All politicians? WSC, Atlee, Helmut Schmidt, CdG, Aung san suu kyi, Mandela, FDR, Olaf Palme, Nicola Sturgeon. Some of my heroes there.

    Perhaps you'd prefer a benign despot. Or a malign one. How about ISIS - they get things done?

    It's an ode by the way. The words that is. Are you sure you agree with the sentiment: "Diesen Kuss den ganzen Welt."

  8. And why not? Give me a bit of mistletoe for an excuse and I will kiss anyone - even you, at Christmas. ( a warning never to invite me to tea!)

    Not all politicians; I would join in your list of heros, bar one, who I am too much of a gentleman to name.

  9. Avus: I would be delighted to welcome you, but not for tea. That would require us to clean the mouse-droppings out of the teapot and to test the six-year-old teabags for toxicity. Other than that it would be strong coffee from the new Krups Nespresso system (probably my tenth coffee-creating device since moving to Hereford), a mature red from Cahors, an old-vine Zinfandel from California, or a medium-range white Burgundy.

    Keep a sharp eye open for my movements an hour after your arrival. If I go into the kitchen and briefly disappear under the stairs that will be a signal that the conversation is going well and the next bottle will prove the point.

    So it's thumbs-down to Nicola Sturgeon. How predictable. Have you ever considered that you sub-consciously fear women who know their own mind.

  10. I don't know, I was quite taken by Margaret Thatcher for a while (until she went mad). Since then I have been wary.