Paris, July 1914

by

William Copper

 

Chorus SA with piano accompaniment

 

This poem by Ranier Maria Rilke, "Mann muss sterben weil man sie kennt", is a free restatment of a portion of the Prisse Papyrus, perhaps the oldest book in the world, and is about one of the oldest forces in the world: the growth of passion in youth.

The setting is for a full c'-g" soprano range plus a more limited alto or cambiata range (a-bb'). An English translation is provided, but it is intended that the song be sung in German. The style is a kind of posed-cabaret, where the singer pretends to know the forces of which he/she sings -- but the pretense covers an uncomfortable, scary, growing reality.

The title of the full poem is the first line. The song title is taken from the poet's dating of the poem: it seems to be a reflection of an era as well as a timeless statement of a human truth.



         Paris, July 1914

    "Man muß sterben weil man sie kennt."  Sterben
    an der unsäglichen Blüte des Lächelns. Sterben
    an ihren leichten Händen.  Sterben
    an Frauen.

    Singe der Jüngling die tödlichen,
    wenn sie ihm hoch durch den Herzraum
    wandeln. 

    "Man muß sterben weil man sie kennt."  Sterben
    an der unsäglichen Blüte des Lächelns. Sterben
    an ihren leichten Händen.  Sterben
    an Frauen.

        Ach, wie sie fremd sind! 
   
             excerpt from "Man muß sterben weil man sie kennt." 
                by Ranier Maria Rilke  (Paris, July 1914)

    Translation 

         "One must die for one has known them."  Die
        of the unsayable blossom of their smile.  Die
               of their careless hands.  Die
                        of women.

             Sing, youth, of those deadly ones
            as they high through your heartspace   
                      go strolling. 
              
         "One must die for one has known them."  Die
        of the unsayable blossom of their smile.  Die
               of their careless hands.  Die
                        of women.

                 Ah, how strange they are! 

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