Das Lied des Trinkers


Das Lied des Trinkers - (2012)    

Rainer Maria Rilke

for bass or baritone and piano


Es war nicht in mir. Es ging aus und ein.
Da wollt ich es halten. Da hielt es der Wein.
(Ich weiß nicht mehr was es war.)
Dann hielt er mir jenes und hielt mir dies
bis ich mich ganz auf ihn verließ.
Ich Narr.

Jetzt bin ich in seinem Spiel und er streut
mich verächtlich herum und verliert mich noch heut
an dieses Vieh, an den Tod.
Wenn der mich, schmutzige Karte, gewinnt,
so kratzt er mit mir seinen grauen Grind
und wirft mich fort in den Kot.

4 pages, circa 2' 30"

Rainer Maria Rilke


The song of the drunkard

It just wasn't in me. It came and then it went.
I wanted to hold back. The wine did not.
(I am forgetting what exactly it was.)
Then it gave me this and then that,
Until I was abandoned.
I, the fool.
Now I'm in its game, and it tosses
Me about and loses me today
Like cattle are lost to their slaughter.
As death has won me, its filthy pawn,
It scratches its bleak scabs with me
And tosses me into the mire.


paraphrase by gb



This dark picture of drunkenness is found in Rilke's Das Buch der Bilder, his book of pictures in prose poems. In two strophes, the setting takes the first as its relative major of the key signature. As with addictions, there remains a dichotomy between those arguing it as human behavior and those arguing it to be a human disease. When one ignores one's choices which lead to addictions, often a rosy explanation is offered in excuse to the self, and the darker picture is painted of the consequence of choices as disease. A waltz feeling "in one" coupled with the relative major of A flat carries this lighter feeling and therefore rationale.



With the second strophe, memory is erased by harsh reality, and for this the key signature now evidences its minor key's harmonies and cramped chromaticism. The outburst at the last moment rephrased the opening waltz feeling now beginning on C minor and leading to a fortissimo cadence in the tonic minor of F as the vocal line cries out that rationalization, "Es war nicht in mir."



The score for Das Lied des Trinkers is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.


Das Lied des Trinkers