Der Gute Fuerst, Gardi 18 (about 1795)
Author: Mark S Zimmer
"Among several unidentified song sketches in the so-called Kafka Album in London (BL: Add. Ms. 29801) is a full melody sketch in E flat (f. 133r), with the final five bars designated for a chorus. Using this clue, it was possible to find a poem which fits the musical metre perfectly in one of the many contemporary almanacs, much favoured by composers as the source of song texts.
"Goeckingk's poem appeared in the Hamburg Musenalmanach for 1787, which he edited jointly with Johann Heinrich Voss at that period. It was published under the pseudonym '-tt-', used by Goeckingk for fourteen of his numerous contributions to the Hamburg publication between 1777 and 1787. All Goeckingk's contributions are listed by Gerhard Hay in Die Beitraeger des Voss'schen Musenalmanachs (Hildesheim 1975). Hay suggests several reasons for the use of pseudonyms or 'Chiffren': poets, notably editors, did not want to be accused of contributing too much; some poets in professional positions did not want to reveal their identities; many poets contributed to several competing journals and courted anonymity to avoid giving offence to other editors; editors wished to give the artificial impression of a larger number of contributors; finally, readers enjoyed trying to solve the riddles posed by such pseudonyms.
"To these reasons might be added dicretion in the present instance, as the poem could be interpreted as a song of protest against tyrannical rules. It may be that the poem was simply addressed as a sincere tribute to an enlightened ruler, on the lines of the Lobkowitz Cantata, but it seems equally probable that the poem is satirical. The 'good prince' of the title is a model of what princes should be, and in enumerating everything which the benevolent ruler is not, Goeckingk is attacking the abuses of too many petty despots, at a time when Germany was still carved up into numerous secular and ecclesiastical principalities.
"The interpretation of the poem as satire justifies its adaptation to this lilting music, which swings along in compound time in the manner of a drinking song rather than a panegyric. Songs with chorus are a distinct genre among Beetho ven's songs, and this melody has most affinity with the Punschlied." ©2007 Paul Reid; reprinted with permission.
The evidence of the watermarks of the paper points to a date about 1795. Supplied here is an mp3 of Paul Reid's harmonization of the melody sketch, as well as a MIDI file of the original melody line as found in the Kafka Miscellany.
Der Gute Fuerst
Die Liebe nicht, und nicht der Wein,
Draengt unser Lied hervor.
Des guten Fuersten Lob allein
Hebt unsre Brust empor.
O moegt' er doch unsterblich sein!
Das sing uns nach, o Chor!
Chor. O moegt' er doch unsterblich sein,
Der keinen Tag verlor!
Er kraenkt der Menschheit Rechte nicht,
Spricht dem Gesez night Hohn;
Vertraege sind ihm kein Gedicht,
Bleicht gleich die Zeit sie schoen;
Der Schmeichler Skorpion-Gezuecht
Umkriecht nicht seinen Thron.
Chor. O Muster jeder Fuerstenpflicht!
Sitz lang' auf deinem Thron!
Auf unsern Fruehlingsfeldern rangt
Sein WIld nicht frech herum;
Die schlanken vollen Halme tanzt
Sein Hirsch und Reh nicht krumm;
Was wir gesaet, was wir gepflanzt,
Wuehlt nicht sein Eber um.
Chor. O kehre, Tod, so spaet du kannst,
Erst seine Fackel um.
Er brennt nicht unsre Hab' und Gut
In Feuerwerken auf;
Nicht auf Maitreffen-Gunst beruht
Der Preis im Wettelauf;
Auch traegt er unser deutsches Blut
Den Britten nicht zu Kauf.
Chor. Drum steige hoch, wie Aetnas Glut,
Sein Lob zum Himmel auf.
Kein gierger Lotto-Paechter frisst
Des armen Mannes Brod;
Kein Guenstling und Monopolist
Erstellt sich ein Verbot,
Das seines Handels Leben ist
Und unsers Handels Tod.
Chor. Den Fuersten, wenn du billig bist,
Nimmst du zuletzt, o Tod!
Er nimmt nicht neunen erst die Haut
Und schenkt dem eilften Schuh;
Wenn er uns Daemm' un Bruecken baut,
Und Krueppel bringt zur Ruh',
Und stattet aus des Armen Braut:
Wer giebt ihm was dazu?
Chor. Drum fragen wir auch alle laut:
Wo is ein Fuerst wie du?
Sei Jude, Freigeist ode Christ:
Bei ihm gilt nur die That!
Sei fremd: Er wirbt dich nicht mit List
Als Mietling fuer den Staat;
Wer nicht Soldat sein will, der ist
Bei ihm auch nicht Soldat.
Chor. Wohl dir, dass du kein Koenig bist!
Wohl unserm kleinem Staat!
The Good Prince
It is not love, nor wine,
Which urges us to sing.
The praise of our good prince alone
Is what swells our lungs.
Oh, that he might be immortal!
Sing that in echo, oh chorus!
Chorus: Oh, that he might be immortal!
He who wasted not a single day!
He does not offend against human rights,
Does not mock the law;
Treaties are not a mere fiction to him,
Even if they should fade with time;
The scorpion race of sycophants
Does not crawl around his throne.
Chorus: O pattern of every princely obligation!
May you reign long on your throne!
His game does not range impudently
Around our springtime fields;
His stags and deer do not flatten
The tender ripe ears of corn as they prance.
His boars do not grub up
What we have sown or planted.
Chorus: O lower your torch, o death,
As late as you possibly can.
He does not burn our property
In firework displays;
Competition prizes are awarded
Fairly and without favour;
Nor does he sell our German bloodstock
To the British.
Chorus: Therefore, let his praise rise heavenwards
Like the fires of Mount Etna.
No greedy lottery concessionary
Gobbles up the poor man's bread;
No favourite and monopolist
Is allowed to draw up a decree
Which means life for his own business
But spells the death of outs.
Chorus: If you are fair, o death,
You will take our prince last.
He does not rob nine people naked,
Just to give the eleventh one shoes;
When he builds us dams and bridges,
And comforts cripples,
And decks out the poor man's bride;
Who offers him anything in return?
Chorus: And so we all ask aloud:
Where is another prince like you?
Whether Jew, Freethinker or Christian:
Only deeds count with him!
Be you a stranger: he will not cunningly
Recruit you as a state mercenary;
Whoever does not want to be a soldier
Will not be a soldier in his state.
Chorus: It is well for you that you are not a king!
It is well for our little state!
Translation by Paul Reid