Treasure Island

Walther von der Vogelweide

(1170 - 1230 / Germany)

Alas! Where Have All The Years Gone


Alas! Where have all the years gone?
Did I dream my life, or is it real?
What I always thought - was that something?
Then I've slept and don't know it…
Now I'm awake, and I no longer know
What used to be familiar as my own hands:
People and places, where I was raised from childhood,
They are strangers to me, as if it were all lies.
Those who were my playmates are old and indolent.
Meadows are farmed, forests are felled,
If it were not for the water, which flows as ever before,
ah, then I'd believe that my misfortune is truly great.
Many no longer even greet me, who once knew me well.
The world is full of ingratitude everywhere.
When I think of the many glorious days,
They disappear, like ripples in the water -
Forever more - alas!

Oh, how little these young people amount to!
They once were so cheerful and light-hearted,
Now they know only worries: why do they do this?
When I look at the world around me, it is never happy,
Dancing and singing disappear into worries.
Never has a Christian man seen such miserable times.
See, such poor jewelry the women wear,
And the proud knights, what rude clothing they wear!
Unfriendly letters come to us from Rome:
Sorrow is allowed, but joy is kept from us.
That grieves me deeply (we lived so well before),
that I should trade my laughs for cries.
Even the wild birds lament:
What wonder, when I've lost all my friends?
What do I say, a foolish man in my poor wrath?
Whoever seeks luck in this world, loses it in the next world.

O weh, how we're poisoned with sweet things!
I see the bitter gall swimming in the honey.
The world is beautiful on the surface - white, green, and red.
But inside there are blacker colors, dark like Death.
But even those led astray still have hope of salvation
Though your sins are great, confession is easy.
Think on that, knight, because it concerns you.
You wear the bright helm and the hard armor,
You carry the strong shield and the holy sword.
God wills that even I would be worthy of this victory.
Then even I, a man with nothing, can earn rich wages.
But I don't mean property, or the gold of princes:
I want (very much) to carry that crown eternally,
with such glory as a soldier can earn with his spear.
I could begin the lucky journey over the sea,
Then I would sing 'How good!' and never more 'Alas!'
Never more 'Alas!'

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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