Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jewish Echoes in German Folk Rock

I was looking for folk rock from northern Europe and was amazed to find a German folk rock group from the 1970's. In addition to a song called "The Schlemihl, I found a song called the Blind Man and the Lame Man. There is a Midrash (Jewish Talmudic narrative) with the same name. Both tell the story of a blind and the lame man who pool their strengths to get around.

The Jewish version has them getting a job guarding a vinyard and stealing, each saying that neither could steal alone and that they were both therefore innocent. The judge (G-d) put them back together and judged them together. The story is a metaphor for the interdependence of the body and the soul. Putting the lame man back on the blind man's shoulders is a metaphor for the resurrection and final judgement.

The German version stresses the idea that individuals have strengths and weaknesses and that by pooling our strengths, we can achieve more than would be possible as individuals. It stresses that this is better than viewing each other with a begrudging eye.

The only thing I disliked about the original German was the term Gotter, which translates as "gods" I willfully mistranslated Gotter as "heaven" If I would tell my children the story I would refer to G-d given strengths. Since this was a folk tale, I suspect it was often told in this manner.

With this qualification, I must say that I find both explanations to be satisfying. There are many talmudic stories that can be seen on different levels. It is often the interpretation that is as interesting as the narrative.

The musical quality of this video is very good. The formula employed with success by English folk rock groups like Fairport Convention and Pentangle of a female lead vocalist and a band works well for Ougenweide, the group in this video.

I hope you, my readers will enjoy this music video. I apologise for my crude translation , which does some injustice to the original.

Der Blinde und der Lahme

Komposition: Olaf Casalich
Text: Christian Fürchtegott Gellert um 1800
Vor ungefähr muß einen Blinden Once upon a time a blind man
ein Lahmer auf der Straße finden, looked for a lame man on the street
und jener hofft schon freudenvoll, he eagerly hoped that
daß ihn der andre leiten soll. that the lame man would lead him

»Dir«, spricht der Lahme, »beizustehen? You ! He said to the lame man
ich armer Mann kann selbst nicht gehen, It is a pity, I can't get around myself
doch scheint's, daß du zu einer Last But it looks like you have the strength
noch sehr gesunde Schultern hast. and also strong shoulders

Entschließe dich, mich fortzutragen, Promise to carry me
so wil ich dir die Stege sagen: and I will guide you
so wird dein starker Fuß mein Bein, your strong legs will then be mine
mein helles Auge deines sein.« and my good eyes will be yours

Der Lahme hängt mit seinen Krücken The lame man with his crutches
sich auf des Blinden breiten Rücken. rode on the blind man;s strong shoulders
Vereint wirkt also dieses Paar, together they were able to do
was einzeln keinem möglich war. what each alone could not accomplish.

Du hast das nicht was andre haben, You do not have what others do
und andern mangeln deine Gaben; and others lack your gifts
aus dieser Unvollkommenheit from this defect
entspringet die Geselligkeit. comes friendship

Wenn jenem nicht die Gabe fehlte, If someone does not lack the gift
die die Natur für mich erwählte, with which nature has endowed me
so würd' er nur für sich allein then he will think only of himself
und nicht für mich bekümmert sein. and not be concerned with me.

Beschwer' die Götter nicht mit Klagen! Do not trouble heaven
Der Vorteil, den sie dir versagen the advantage that eludes you
und jenem schenken, wird gemein and be begrudging to others
wir dürfen nur gesellig sein. we only need to be good neighbours


P.S. By accident, I uploaded "Der Fuchs und der Rabe (The fox and the raven). Rather than delete it and upload Der Blinde und der Lahme, (the blind man and the lame man), I left Der Fuchs und der Rabe on this post, although without translation

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