Errare humanum est


Errare humanum est - (2013)    

Joachim Ringelnatz

for medium voice and piano


Quitschfidel, mit roter Nase,
Seh ich Kunze gehn.
Warum bleibt er plötzlich mitten auf der Straße
Warum runzelt er die Brauen?
Warum mag er so entsetzlich
Schmerzlich himmelaufwärts schauen?
Warum wird er plötzlich
Oh, nun weiß ich was – – –
Er erblickt mich, winkt. – Fatal!
»Servus, armer Kunze! – eilt! – ein andermal!«

Kalte, falsche, rücksichtslose
Freunde hat die Unterhose.

2 paces, circa 1' 40"


To err is human

Our buddy boy, with reddened nose,
Let's see just where he staggering goes.
Why does he stand in the street? To pose?
Perhaps that last nightcap overflows?
Why does he knit his brow so hard?
Why does he seem so pained
the lonely night to regard?
Why is he grown so suddenly pale?
Oh, yes, I know the tale ---
He sees me, waving. -- the embarrassment!
"Hey, Buddy boy! -- In a hurry! -- Hell-bent!
Cold and false, one sneeringly snorts:
"Some friends of yours have swiped your shorts."


rhymed paraphrase of the composer



A bi-tonal coloring sits harmonically "here and there," major seven chords outlined in opposing motion. The vocal line mediates somewhat. This is a simple setting of similar gestures moving into other tonal centers and back again, with a center section to create a minimal ABA form. An accelerando at the end without ritard "rips off" this cynical look at life.  The nickname Kunze comes from the expression, Hinz und Kunz, comparable to Tim, Dick and Harry. To err is indeed most human in Ringelnatz' rhyme, the title coming from the Latin proverb, "Errare humanum est, sed in errare perseverare diabolicum," attributed to Seneca. "To err is human, but to persist in error is diabolical." One knows from experience unproductive behaviors are often repeated, whatever the motivation.



The score for Errare humanum est 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.


Errare humanum est