Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ach, du Lieber Augustin!

How silly of me!  I should have known that the one time I read only one translation, that would be the time that a real talking point would sneak by me.

While searching out the next story in chronological order in my Haugaard edition, I caught a glimpse of the ending of The Swineherd, not having read this translation of it before; you might recall.  What grabbed me right away was a conspicuous couplet in the center of the page:

"Ach, du lieber Augustin,
Alles is weg, weg, weg."

Conspicuous, of course, as it was written in a foreign language.  The version of The Swineherd I'd read was entirely translated to English.  Right away I sensed that these lines did NOT translate to "A jolly old sow once lived in a sty / Three little piggies has she…"  (yes, it was probably the proper noun, "Augustin," that tipped me off).

So, I typed the lines into Google and got my answer.  The original is actually a Viennese, plague-era folk song, Oh, du Lieber Augustin, and is about a bard who is nearly buried alive among the dead.  Nothing about pigs.  Wikipedia even includes a footnote referencing Andersen's use of a (modified) version of the song in The Swineherd.  It roughly translates to something like," Oh, dear Augustin / All is lost."  Of course, this fits the story as well, as the princess indeed loses everything in her greed and shallowness.  The use of this song rather than the one about the sow adds depth and the bitterness Andersen can't seem to resist to the tale.

And to think, I even used it in my caption!  I'll be more careful next time - which, if you're wondering, will be The Buckwheat.

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