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“Du bist mein, ich bin dein” translating a love poem

with 30 comments

June 2, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

A booklet of these love poems just became available in Scholardarity. Click here: Love Poems for Your Valentine

My son, Mark, gave me a book of German poetry and I’ve been reading the Old High and Middle High German poetry for hours today.

I’ve struggled translating a simple German love poem that is very old, i.e., from the time of the Middle High German Period, (c.1050-1450 A.D.). The fact that it’s so simple makes it really hard to translate. Its simplicity could only be recapitulated in a comparable English idiom, that is composed completely free of the German idiom. But here I’ve tried to stay close to the German:

You are mine, I am yours.

You can be sure it’s true.

Into my heart, I’ve gotten you,

Locked its lock,

Lost the key,

So you’ll never get back out, you see.

Perhaps?

I love you, you love me.

We’re in each other’s hearts, you see.

So let’s lock our locks,

Throw away the key,

So we belong to each other eternally.

Here’s the Love Poem transposed into New High German:

Du bist mein, ich bin dein.

Des sollst du gewiss sein.

Du bist verschlossen

in meinem Herzen;

Verloren ist das Schlüsselein.

Du musst immer drinne sein.[1]

A booklet of these love poems just became available in Scholardarity. Click here: Love Poems for Your Valentine

If you like this poem, see four more: “Were this Whole World Mine.”

And also see three more: More German Love Poems.

I just revised this poem of  a troubadour, Der von Kurenberg: Late Last Night I stood on a Battlement.


[1] From the Heath Anthology of German Poetry, edited by August Closs and T. Pugh Williams, (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, Undated, 1950?), page 73. Note that I just changed “beschlossen” to “verschlossen,” because I know the meaning of the MHG word changed from “locked” to “decided.” I liked the old German word so much, it has taken me until now (8/9/12) to change it.

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Written by peterkrey

June 4, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Posted in In German, My Poems

30 Responses

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  1. I was reading you translation and was very excited that I finally found a translation of a medieval love poem that was understandable. But your NHG translation appears to be cut short and I am wondering what the rest of the poem is in NHG (I could be wrong too.)

    I have been looking for a German love poem from anywhere between the 12th and 14th century that I could use for a Valentines Day gift I have in mind : ) This one is perfect…

    Elizabeth Williams

    January 17, 2009 at 6:18 pm

  2. Dear Carolyn, January 30, 2009

    I like the idea that you are translating it into older English. That does get it closer to the Middle High German that I translated it from. I also like the way you can also rhyme “mine” and “thine” that way. That will also make it possible later to rhyme “art” and “heart.”

    I think the cadence of your last lines is somewhat rough. By that I mean the last lines do not flow. If you put “Sure” first?

    Sure of this thou must be
    Locked thou art within mine heart
    Wherein thou ever wilt be.

    This is yours:

    Thou art mine!
    I am thine!
    Of this sure thou must be
    Thou art locked within my heart
    Lost forever is the key
    Within must thou ever be

    How would this sound?
    I’m trying to get even closer to the original:

    Thou art mine, I am thine!
    Certain of this thou must be.
    Locked thou art
    within mine heart
    Wherein thou must ever be.

    Look at the Middle High German:

    Dû bist mîn, ih bin dîn:
    Des solt dû gewis sîn.
    dû bist beslozzen
    in mînem herzen;
    verlorn ist daz sluzzelîn
    dû muost immer drinne sîn.

    Have you seen it that way?
    I’ll put mine in after yours in the comment,
    so others can see our work. This little poem has had 15,674 hits! (Feb. 10, ’12)
    Only my mother’s funeral used to beat it!

    Thanks so much for visiting my site!

    peter krey

    peterkrey

    January 30, 2009 at 6:55 pm

  3. I just translated it into older English using thou.

    Thou art mine!
    I am thine!
    Of this sure thou must be
    Thou art locked within my heart
    Lost forever is the key
    Within must thou ever be

    What do you think? Your translations are a little… free… for me. But pretty, nonetheless. I guess I’m a pretty literal translator.

    Carolyn

    carolyn

    January 30, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    • Dear Carolyn, May 20, 2009

      I want to revise this poem one more time:

      Thou art mine, I am thine!
      Certain of this, thou must be.
      Locked thou art
      within mine heart.
      Lost is the key,
      Thou must therein forever be.

      What do you think?

      peterkrey

      peterkrey

      May 20, 2009 at 7:18 am

      • Oh, my gosh. That was great. I love that Shakespeare kind of talk, I forgot what century it was. :)

        Sara

        June 19, 2009 at 4:45 pm

  4. This is a translation I got out of a novel called the Gargoyle. In the novel it is written in Dutch and English rather than German but after checking with my German Father-in-law, I got a German translation very similar to your middle-high German translation. Here is the English translation:

    You are mine, I am yours,
    You may be sure of this.
    You’ve been locked inside my heart,
    The key has been thrown away,
    Within it, you must always stay.

    Laura

    May 19, 2009 at 2:06 am

    • Dear Laura,

      Thanks for your comment. Can you imagine, this little poem on my website has 1,677 hits already? I imagine it was already translated into Dutch as well as German.

      I while back when I Googled “Ich bin dein, du bist mein” I even found that it had been put to music and it had an author, whose name I had never heard. I’ll try to look it up again when I have time.

      Your translation has one line that does not rhyme (ending with “this”) making a reader have to stop. Some of the other rhymes are also apt, however.

      Have you read “Were this whole world mine” and some of the others coming from medieval times?
      I’d love your reactions and critique.

      peterkrey

      peterkrey

      May 19, 2009 at 7:34 am

  5. I really like this poem i dont really know why i just do…my friend knows german and occasionlly he teaches me something and now i can show him that i found a poem i really like in that language which i find to be kind of a romantic language some how….

    Brittney

    August 31, 2009 at 2:14 am

  6. The context of the poem is that was apparently written by a monk to a nun. There’s another level of complexity to it in that ‘locked heart’ reflects their physical incarceration.

    The line

    Du musst immer drinne sein

    Is literal – not allegorical,

    I asked him for a reference:
    On Sat, Oct 2, 2010 at 1:36 AM, Andrew wrote:

    Hi Peter

    The poem was in a BBC TV course in German about 15 years ago (I can’t locate the textbook that went with it). I clearly remember that the book ascribed the poem as being written by a monk to a nun.

    It’s a very simple, very beautiful poem, and comes much clearer into focus if you have the monk to nun context.

    The original was recovered from notes (hidden amongst Latin) that were found in a German Monastery. So the monk to nun attribution is very plausible.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesang

    I’ll try to find the textbook and get their translation.

    Andrew

    Albanaich

    September 15, 2010 at 5:34 am

  7. [...] Du bist mein, ich bin dein. [...]

  8. In highschool over 5 years ago we were to recite this poem daily. I still remember it to this day.

    The translation we were taught was

    I am yours
    You are mine,
    Of that we can be certain.
    You are locked away
    In my heart.
    The little key to it is lost.
    You must stay there forever.

    Shawn

    February 20, 2011 at 9:18 am

  9. I recited this poem to my wife when we were attending Rice University. We were married in 1963 and today is our 48th anniversary. She asked if I could find it on the web and through the miracle of Google I found it on your site. Very nice.

    Mike Kramer

    May 31, 2011 at 11:07 pm

  10. I believe that the third line is “Du bist verschlossen,” not berschlossen.

    Tad

    October 11, 2011 at 2:02 am

    • Excuse me, not “beschlossen.”

      Tad

      October 11, 2011 at 2:04 am

      • dear Tad,

        I just looked it up and in the Middle High German it’s “beschlossen.” You’re right that today the word would be “verschlossen.” Old German is very different from modern High German.

        My translation of the poem into modern German should be “verschlossen.” But when put in that word, it seems to ruin the poem. One just needs to make a note, that an old meaning of the word “beschlossen” is necessary to keep in mind.

        Thanks for your comments!

        peter krey

        peterkrey

        October 18, 2011 at 7:23 am

  11. [...] And for a real favorite, see “Du Bist Mein, ich Bin Dein” [...]

  12. jk lady gaga didnt post that it was me caleb again messing around

    lady gaga;)

    February 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    • My name is really Rafael Velazco from Coalinga Middle School in California.

      lady gaga:)

      February 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  13. lady gaga is the best at speaking German.
    .

    caleb bedrosian

    February 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm

  14. hey, this web site is the best, because i’m German and people make fun of me because i speak different languages not just English, but French, German, Italian, Dutch,and other languages besides those and that’s all.

    lady gaga:)

    February 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  15. [...] And for a real favorite, see “Du Bist Mein, ich Bin Dein” [...]

  16. [...] for a real favorite, see “Du Bist Mein, ich Bin Dein” Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  17. [...] And for a real favorite with over 19,000 hits, see “Du Bist Mein, ich Bin Dein” [...]

  18. I really like this poetry “you’re mine I am yours.” It’s truly lovely.

    shehk

    September 25, 2012 at 10:09 am

  19. [...] “Du bist mein, ich bin dein” translating a love poem [...]

    • 52 years ago my boyfriend was studying German and he taught me this poem. We were married in1968 and have five children, it certainly is “Du bist mein, ich bin dein. I have always loved this truly romantic poem.

      Heather McCann

      November 20, 2013 at 8:34 am

      • Similar story here. Back in 1960 or so I was studying German in university and I found it. I recited it to the girl whom I would marry in 1963. She can still recite it to me.

        For those who need help with translations from/to many languages have a look at http://www.bing.com/translator

        Mike & Re Kramer

        November 20, 2013 at 9:45 am

  20. Last line- there you must forever stay. That’s what my German teacher told me way back I high school when I asked her to help me translate this poem. It is absolutely beautiful.

    Jessica

    January 23, 2013 at 9:17 pm

  21. just visited the site for the first time & found this lovely poem which suits the current situation of my love life…..please can i get the complete translation of this poetry that is shown in english….as well m specialising in german :-) german is fun & would like to make you my 1st friend from deutcheland….would you be???

    Neha

    August 16, 2013 at 10:16 am

  22. […] “Du bist mein, ich bin dein” translating a love poem […]


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