The text of Das Lied von der Erde
underwent extensive evolution before ending up in its final form in
Mahler's song-symphony. The original Chinese poems were
first independently translated into French by Judith Gautier
and Le Marquis D'Hervey-Saint-Denys. The French version was then
translated by Hans Heilman into German. Hans Bethge then loosely
"imitated" (hence the term"Nachdichtungen, which
means "Paraphase poems") Heilman's translation to create his
own anthology. Out of this German collection by Bethge, Die
chinesische Flöte - Nachdichtungen chinesischer Lyrik, Mahler
picked seven that at the time seemed appropriate for the setting of Das
Lied von der Erde. He made further changes to adapt the text to
his gigantic symphonic songs. This article seeks to catalog the
literary editions involved in this process - from the original Chinese
poems, to the final version penned by Mahler himself.
The syntactical differences between Chinese and the European languages
involved have made the translation process a rather challenging task,
and have therefore generated a lot of errors and misleading
representations. This aspect of literary alteration has been discussed
at length in another article titled "Tracking the Literary
Metamorphosis of Das Lied von der Erde." These errors and
misrepresentations have made the effort of tracing the identity of the
original Chinese poems an even more daunting task. One such example is
the poem titled "Porcelain pavilion", on which the Third
movement (von der Jugend) is based. Much effort has been invested in
identifying the Chinese version to no avail until very recently.
However, the original poem has now been identified. This
matter will be further discussed in the later section.
I thank Prof. Henry-Louis de La Grange for sharing his French volume:
"Gustav Mahler: Le Génie Foudroyé", this
information has been instrumental for this catalog. The full
copyrights to Hans Bethge's German translation is owned by YinYang
Media Verlag1. I am grateful for the generous permission
by the publisher for us to make these critical poems accessible here.
No special encoding software is required to
view the Chinese characters.
This article is divided according to the movements in Das Lied von
der Erde, as shown in the navigation buttons across each subsequent
page. Under each title, the section is then arranged in the following