Schach ist wie die Liebe – Allein macht es weniger Spaß

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The Gotha Lovers, ca. 1480, by the Master of the Housebook

Around much of Europe – and certainly in the English-speaking world – today is a day on which people, especially lovers, demonstrate their affection for each other by giving each other gifts: often flowers, chocolates or sweets and cards. Yet in the German-speaking countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Valentine’s Day isn’t celebrated nearly as much as in the USA or the UK – it’s a much more muted affair, at least in the commercial sense, with less ‘in your face’ advertising.

In the Anglophone world, Valentine’s Day has been associated with matters of the heart since the 14th century and the practice of sending handwritten Valentine’s notes turned to the exchange of mass-produced cards sometime in the 19th century. But in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the profane and commercial aspects of the day didn’t really take off until after the Second World War, when many British and especially American soldiers were stationed there and introduced the practice of giving a card and roses or chocolates. In 1950, the first Valentinsball (‘Valentine’s Day Ball’) was held in Nuremberg – and similar balls have been held all over Germany ever since. Stefan Zweig‘s comment that ‘Schach ist wie die Liebe – Allein macht es weniger Spaß’ (Chess is like love – it’s less fun alone) certainly seems to hold a grain of truth, at least for the love part.

French may be the classic choice, but German is the language of love as well, or at least of talking about love! And if any day calls for some poetry, then it’s Valentine’s Day. So we asked around: what’s your favourite love poem in German and why is it good (or bad)? Here are three poems that were offered by our contributors – have a go at reading them and see what they say. But the important question is really: Was ist Dein Lieblingsliebesgedicht auf Deutsch?

 

Ist Lieb ein Feuer / und kann das Eisen schmiegen /
bin ich voll Feuer / und voller Liebespein /
wovon mag doch der Liebsten Herze sein?
wann’s eisern wär’ / so würd’ es mir erliegen /
wann’s gülden wär’ / so würd’ ich’s können biegen
durch meine Glut; soll’s aber fleischern sein /
so schließ ich fort: Es ist ein fleischern Stein:
doch kann mich nicht ein Stein / wie sie / betrügen.
Ist’s dann wie Frost / wie kalter Schnee und Eis /
wie presst sie dann aus mir den Liebesschweiß?
Mich deucht: Ihr Herz ist wie die Lorbeerblätter /
die nicht berührt ein starker Donnerkeil /
sie / sie verlacht / Cupido / deine Pfeil;
und ist befreit vor deinem Donnerwetter.

Carl_Spitzweg_Der abgefangene Liebesbrief.jpg
Carl Spitzweg, Der abgefangene Liebesbrief , ca. 1860

This sonnet is by Sibylle Schwarz, a teenage poet of the 17th century (she died when she was 17!) – she was a poetry prodigy. I particularly like this poem because Schwarz plays with the then current fashion for petrarchic motifs and characteristics in love poetry; she examines these very motifs in a petrarchic way and finds them all wanting. All fail to really express what love is – and in the end, the female object of the lyric voice’s desire is triumphantly untouched by love anyway and certainly by the poetry. So the girl, quite contrary to the way things ought to go in the 17th century, is not ensnared and trapped by Cupid.

Madeleine, Stuttgart

Die zwei blauen Augen
von meinem Schatz,
Die haben mich in die
weite Welt geschickt.
Da mußt ich Abschied nehmen vom allerliebsten Platz!
O Augen blau,
warum habt ihr mich angeblickt?
Nun hab’ ich ewig Leid und Grämen!

peter_von_cornelius_-_faust_bietet_gretchen_den_arm
Doomed lovers Faust and Gretchen. Peter von Cornelius, Faust offers his arm to Gretchen, ca. 1811

Ich bin ausgegangen
in stiller Nacht
wohl über die dunkle Heide.
Hat mir niemand Ade gesagt
Ade!:
Mein Gesell’ war Lieb und Leide!

Auf der Straße stand ein Lindenbaum,
Da hab’ ich zum ersten Mal
im Schlaf geruht!
Unter dem Lindenbaum,
Der hat seine Blüten
über mich geschneit,
Da wußt’ ich nicht, wie das Leben tut,
War alles, alles wieder gut!
Alles! Alles, Lieb und Leid
Und Welt und Traum!

Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (known in English as Songs of a Wayfarer) is a cycle of four songs composed around 1884. It’s a rather macabre and slightly sardonic reflection on the theme of lost or rejected love, after Mahler‘s own unhappy love affair. In fact, it’s a bit of an anti-love song and perhaps shows that Mahler was a better composer than he was a poet (but maybe that’s also why I like it!).

Alex, London

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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Liebespaar (Der Kuss), 1930

Wie furchtbar auch die Flamme war,
In der man einst zusammenbrannte,
Am Ende bleibt ein wenig Glut.
Auch uns geschieht das Altbekannte.

Daß es nicht Asche ist, die letzte Spur von Feuer,
Zeigt unser Tagwerk. Und wie teuer
Die kleine Wärme ist, hab ich erfahren
In diesem schlimmsten Jahr
Von allen meinen Jahren.
Wenn wieder so ein Winter wird
Und auf mich so ein Schnee fällt,
Rettet nur diese Wärme mich
Vom Tod. Was hält
Mich sonst? Von unserer Liebe bleibt: daß
Wir uns hatten. Kein Gras
Wird auf uns sein, kein Stein,
Solange diese Glut glimmt.

Solange Glut ist,
Kann auch Feuer sein …

My favourite German love poem is Liebe (Love) by Eva Strittmatter, a very modern writer who died recently, in 2011. I adore her ability to put all the various kinds of love that can be experienced within a lifetime into a deceptively simple narrative. This doesn’t diminish it at all but allows her to play with all love’s ambivalences.

Susanne, Oxford

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Teddy Bear Austausch – A German Exchange with a difference!

At the Oxford German Network we work not only with secondary schools, but also with primary schools where German is taught.  One of our local schools has been making great use of some of the fantastic opportunities that the UK-German Connection provides for younger learners and their teachers.  The UK-German Connection is an organisation “dedicated to increasing contacts and understanding between young people in the UK and Germany”.  Why not take a look at their voyage kids website, aimed at primary pupils, or the voyage for older pupils.  But first, a tale of teddy bears and teacher travels…

SS Philip and James’ School, Oxford (often called Phil and Jim’s for short) has been developing a link with Brakenhoffschule, a primary school in Westerstede, near Bremen in northern Germany.

The link was made possible through projects organised by the UK-German Connection. The first of these was the ‘host a teacher’ initiative. Earlier in the year a teacher from Brakenhoffschule spent two weeks at Phil and Jim’s, helping with German teaching and finding out about the school. This was a fantastic opportunity for the school and of course the German teacher was able to take back a lot of new experiences to share with their own pupils. Since the visit the two schools have kept in contact and children in Year 5 have written penpal letters.

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Alex, the German bear (left), meets the new resident bears at Phil and Jim’s

Recently the children in Year 3 had a very special visitor from Berlin, again as part of a UK-German Connection project. His name is Alex … and he is a Teddybear! His visit was part of the Bears Project, and involved Ben, an English Teddybear, visiting Phil and Jim’s partner school in Germany.  On the ‘Bears’ webpage you can find out lots more about how to participate, and see all of the British and German schools that the bears have already visited! It’s safe to safe to say that Ben received a very warm welcome in Germany, and the Brakenhoffschule pupils even prepared some welcome signs before his arrival – his visit is currently highlighted on the school’s homepage! (Scroll midway down…)

All the children and both teachers agreed that the visits were a big success, with the bears teaching the children more about their language and culture. The bears even have their own blog on the Voyage kids website!

Nicola Deboys, Oxford German Network

Linguamania at the Museum

Consider this phrase: Creative Multi-lingualism. So many things right with every single part of this!  It’s also the name of a new, exciting, and high-profile project between six top UK and US universities, led by our very own, ever-enthusiastic language champion, Katrin Kohl.

Linguamania – going mad for languages

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Harry Potter and the ‘Rosetta Stone’ – students rewrite a children’s classic

Creative Multilingualism kicked off in style with Linguamania – another great name! On 27 January, the venerable Ashmolean Museum in Oxford pulled out all the stops – and even the disco lights! – for this packed “Live Friday” event, celebrating all things language with music, theatre, taster sessions, and interactive art. Language-lovers of all ages enjoyed writing a new, multilingual Harry Potter chapter, laughed as Ovid’s Apollo chased Daphne to Benny Hill music, and hummed-and-drummed away to Samba rhythms, before writing their own name in Elvish. Yes, Elvish! Should you ever have moaned that “young people just don’t care about languages these days” – well, Linguamania would have persuaded you otherwise in a second. Local schools arrived by the busload, and students took naturally to getting creative around languages. Some even felt a touch of poetic inspiration: “Learning a language is like a rollercoaster, because it’s fun – especially with friends!”, says a Year 9 student. His friend chips in: “A foreign language is the key to a whole new world!”

Languages – ticking all the boxes?

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Multilingual metaphors are discussed at the conference

How to get other young people on board with the idea that languages are a massively useful skill was a recurring theme the following day during the partner conference, Languages and Creativity. The state of languages in UK schools caused debate on-(and particularly off-)podium. “Languages are taught so badly in our schools,” some complained. “These days it’s all just about ticking boxes!” Not everybody agreed: “Let’s not blame exams, or teachers, or kids. The hard work, dedication, creativity, and enthusiasm that goes on in language teaching (and learning!) in our schools is truly awesome. Yes, we need to highlight this fact, and yes, we need to foster languages – but mainly we need to support each other in our common goal.” On one thing, though, we’re definitely all on the same page: Languages – ticking all the boxes!

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Pig oder Schwein, das ist die Frage! Multilingual metaphor in action!

To find out more about Creative Multilingualism, and to follow the project on Twitter and Facebook, go to http://www.creativeml.ox.ac.uk/

Heike Krüsemann, OGP Coordinator

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