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If you're a fan of the "The Sound of Music," then you probably have the words to "Edelweiss" memorized. But if you only know the song in English, it's time to learn how to sing it in German.
"Edelweiss" is more than just a sweet song from a classic musical. It's also a good example of how songs are translated into different languages. Though it was written in English for a 1959 American musical set in Austria that was adapted as a movie in 1965, German lyrics weren't written until later.
It might surprise you to learn that the translation isn't exact; in fact, it's not even close, except in the general sentiment. Before we get into the translation, here's some background on the song.
'Edelweiss' Isn't German or Austrian
The first thing you should know about "Edelweiss" is that it's not an Austrian or German song. The only thing German about it is its title and the alpine flower itself.
The song was written and composed by two Americans: Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics). Hammerstein had a German heritage-his grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein I, was born in what is now Poland to a German-speaking Jewish family-but the song is strictly American.
In the film, Captain von Trapp (played by Christopher Plummer) sings an emotional version of "Edelweiss," a resounding, memorable rendition that may have contributed to the false idea that it's the Austrian national anthem.
The second thing to know about "Edelweiss" is that it, like "The Sound of Music," is virtually unknown in Austria. Although Salzburg, Austria, bills itself as "The 'Sound of Music' City," customers for "The Sound of Music" tours include very few Austrians or Germans.
Edelweiß der Liedtext ('Edelweiss' Lyrics)
Music by Richard Rogers
English Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein
Musical: "The Sound of Music"
"Edelweiss" is a very simple song no matter which language you choose to sing it in. It's a great way to practice your German with a tune that you probably already know. Both the German and English lyrics are below.
Notice how each language uses the song's rhythm and has the same or nearly the same number of syllables per line. Both sets of lyrics have a romantic feel, not only in the meaning of the words but also in how they sound.
|German Lyrics||English Lyrics||Direct Translation|
|Edelweiß, Edelweiß,||Edelweiss, Edelweiss,||Edelweiss, Edelweiss|
|Du grüßt mich jeden Morgen,||Every morning you greet me||You greet me every morning,|
|Sehe ich dich,||Small and white,||I see you,|
|Freue ich mich,||clean and bright||I am looking,|
|Und vergess' meine Sorgen.||You look happy to meet me.||And I forget my worries.|
|Schmücke das Heimatland,||Blossom of snow||Decorate the home country,|
|Schön und weiß,||may you bloom and grow,||Beautiful and white,|
|Blühest wie die Sterne.||Bloom and grow forever.||Flourishing like the stars.|
|Edelweiß, Edelweiß,||Edelweiss, Edelweis,||Edelweiss, Edelweiss,|
|Ach, ich hab dich so gerne.||Bless my homeland forever.||Oh, I love you so much.|
An Example of How Songs Are Translated
In translating songs, how they sound and flow with the music is more important than an exact transliteration of the words. That's why the German translation is significantly different from Hammerstein's English lyrics.
We don't know who wrote the German lyrics for "Edelweiss," yet he or she did a good job of retaining the meaning of Hammerstein's song. It's interesting to compare all three versions side by side so we can see how musical translations work.