Eginhard und Emma


Eginhard und Emma - (2013)    

Wilhelm Busch

for medium voice and piano


Carolus Magnus kroch ins Bett,
Weil er sehr gern geschlafen hätt'.

Jedoch vom Sachsenkriege her
Plagt ihn ein Rheumatismus sehr.

Die Nacht ist lang, das Bein tut weh;
Carolus übt das Abc.

»Autsch, autsch!« Da reißt's ihn aber wieder;
Carolus wirft die Tafel nieder.

Er schellt: – Der alte Friedrich rennt.
«Frottier er mich! Potz sapperment!«

Der Friedrich spricht: »Hab's gleich gedacht!
Es schneit ja schon die halbe Nacht!

»Was?!« schreit der Kaiser. »Teufel auch!«
Und tritt dem Friedrich vor den Bauch.

Der alte Friedrich schleicht beiseit;
Der Kaiser schaut, wie's draußen schneit.

Was sieht er da, vor Schreck erstarrt?
Die Emma trägt den Eginhard.

Er ruft die Wache gleich herbei
Und spricht: »Jetzt fangt mir diese zwei!«

Die Wache nimmt den Eginhard
Beim Kragen mit der Hellebard'.

Und als man sie dem Kaiser bringt,
Da steht er würdevoll und winkt.

Sie knien und sind vor Tränen stumm;
Der Kaiser dreht sich gar nicht um.

Jetzt aber wird er mild und weich
Und spricht gerührt: »Da habt ihr euch!«

Ente gut, alles gut!

6 pages, circa 5' 45"


 A Shrovetide Tale

Soft into bed creeps great Charlemagne
Intent on some sleep, so often in vain.

Saxon Wars had cost him too dear;
His rheumatism had grown more severe.

The night groans long and leg cramps seize,
As Charlemagne writes out his ABCs.

"Ouch, ouch!" The cramps crush again;
The emperor overturns a table; and then

He rings for Old Frederick who runs to his liege.
«Rub these old bones, my pains to besiege! "

Old Frederick observes, "It's rheumatism alright!
It's been snowing most steady throughout this cold night!"

"What?" shouts the emperor, "the devil, you say!"
He approaches Old Fredrick with a look of dismay.

At the window Old Frederick steps then aside;
The emperor gazes at the snowfall outside.

What sees he there, as he stiffens affright?
Emma carries Eginhard through the palest moonlight.

He commands his marshals who watch through the night,
Saying: "Bring me these two, before they take flight!"

The guards collar Eginhard and make their arrest
As he dangles from a halberd, distraught and distressed.

When before the emperor both are then brought,
Charlemagne seems most engrossed with some thought.

They kneel and weep tears mute with remorse;
The emperor's face turns away, but perforce

In tempered and temperate mercy-filled words
He speaks: "Each shall have the other, these two lovebirds."

Roast duck for the feast, a good ending at least!


rhymed paraphrase by the composer

Copyright © 2013  Gary Bachlund


 The 12th century tale of Emma and Eginhard has been often retold, in sagas as in an opera by Telemann, and the long poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow which ends with the lines "...the good Emperor rose up from his throne, / And taking her white hand within his own / Placed it in Eginhard's, and said: "My son / This is the gift thy constant zeal hath won; / Thus I repay the royal debt I owe, / And cover up the footprints in the snow." How different an ending that the tragic tales of medieval courtly love. Busch's compact retelling is accompanied by his cartoons, one for each couplet. For other settings of Busch's texts, click here.


The setting references the musica enchiriadis of the Middle Ages (in organum at the unison and at the twelfth) to set the musical scene, and then episodic development carries the text along to its final and humorously abrupt recap which reminds that the Shrovetide feast preceded the more somber days of Lent.



The score for Eginhard und Emma 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.


Eginhard und Emma