Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen

Rückert-Lieder

Gustav Mahler

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,
Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,
Sie hat so lange nichts von mir vernommen,
Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben!
Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,
Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,
Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,
Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.
Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel,
Und ruh’ in einem stillen Gebiet!
Ich leb’ allein in meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied!

I am lost to the world

With which I used to waste much time;

It has for so long known nothing of me,

It may well believe that I am dead.

Nor am I at all concerned

If it should think that I am dead.

Nor can I deny it,

For truly I am dead to the world.

I am dead to the world’s tumult

And rest in a quiet realm!

I live alone in my heaven,

In my love, in my song!

Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

Mahler’s personal identification with Rückert was profound. When he wrote ‘Only when I experience do I compose, and only when I compose do I experience’ he was echoing Rückert’s own statement that ‘I never think without poetizing and never poetize without thinking’. And in these songs he has finally abandoned the stock characters of the Wunderhorn, with their generalized if intense emotional expression, for a poetic world that could express his own feelings with uncanny accuracy and sensitivity. Thus of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen he wrote ‘It is my very self’, and there is no doubt that in this song he created if not his all-out masterpiece, certainly one of the greatest and most profoundly spiritual songs in the German language. The mood of the song is one of rapt withdrawal from the concerns of the world – one may imagine how the middle-aged symphonic composer and director of the Vienna State Opera must often have longed for such a retreat.


from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2004