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Lilli Marleen (A German Song)

By Thomas Keyes
Mar. 23, 2005

One of the most famous German songs of all is “Lilli Marleen”, named for the name of the girl being sung to, and this would probably be “Lily Marlene” in English. However, the version of the song that appeared in the US was called “Lily of the Lamplight”. “Lily of the Lamplight” is not a translation so much as it is a rewrite on more or less the same theme. The song was first composed by Hans Leip in 1915. Tommie Connor wrote the English lyrics in 1944.

I have added my own literal translation, which is not fitted to the melody at all, intended just to provide an understanding of the German lyrics. My translation is below the original German, and the lyrics of “Lily of the Lamplight” follow my translation. I personally have known the German lyrics of this song for only about 2 years, but I’ve been familiar with the melody almost since it first came out in the US.

The melody can be heard in an instrumental version at the following URL:

http://ingeb.org/Lieder/vorderk2.mid

A delightful vocal version, sung by Marlene Dietrich, with trivial variations in the lyrics, can be heard at the following URL. At that site, just click on “REAL” and then “Reproduce”:

http://www.universalteacher.org.uk/ww2/sounds/dietrich.MP3

LILLI MARLEEN (Original German Lyrics)

Vor der Kaserne,
Vor dem grossen Tor,
Stand eine Laterne
Und steht sie noch davor,
So woll’n wir uns da wiederseh’n,
Wenn wir bei der Laterne steh’n,
Wie einst, Lilli Marleen,
Wie einst, Lilli Marleen.

Unsere beide Schatten
Sah’n wie einer aus,
Dass wir so lieb uns hatten.
Das sah man gleich daraus.
Und alle Leute soll’n es seh’n,
Wenn wir bei der Laterne steh’n,
Wie einst, Lilli Marleen,
Wie einst, Lilli Marleen.

Schon rief der Posten,
“Sie blasen Zapfenstreich.
Das kann drei Tage kosten.”
“Kam’rad, ich komm sogleich.”
Da sagten wir, “Auf Wiederseh’n”,
Wie gerne wollt ich mit dir geh’n,
Mit dir Lilli Marleen,
Mit dir Lilli Marleen.

Deine Schritte kennt sie,
Deinen zieren Gang.
Alle Abend brennt sie,
Doch mich vergass sie lang,
Und sollte mir ein Leids gescheh’n,
Wer wird by der Laterne steh’n,
Mit dir, Lilli Marleen,
Mit dir, Lilli Marleen?

Aus dem stillen Raume,
Aus der Erde Grund,
Hebt mich wie im Traume
Dein verliebter Mund.
Wenn sich die späten Nebel drehn,
Werd’ ich bei der Laterne steh’n,
Wie einst, Lilli Marleen,
Wie einst, Lilli Marleen.

LILLI MARLEEN (Translation of the Original German)

In front of the barracks,
In front of the main gate,
Stood a lamppost,
And if it still is standing out front,
Then we’ll see each other there again,
As before, Lilli Marleen,
As before, Lilli Marleen.

Our two shadows
Looked like one,
That we held each other so fondly
Someone would think we were one.
And everybody will see it
When we stand by the lamppost,
As before, Lilli Marleen,
As before, Lilli Marleen.

Already the guard was crying,
“They’re blowing taps.
That could cost you three days.”
“Comrade, I’m coming right away.”
There we said farewell,
But I would rather have gone with you,
With you, Lilli Marleen,
With you, Lilli Marleen.

She knows your pace,
Your special stride.
Every evening she is burning,
Though she forgot me long ago.
And if a mishap should befall me,
Who would stand by the lamppost,
With you, Lilli Marleen,
With you, Lilli Marleen?

From out of silent space,
From out the lands of Earth,
Your beloved lips uplift me
As if in a dream.
When the nocturnal mists swirl,
I will be standing by the lamppost,
As before, Lilli Marleen,
As before, Lilli Marleen.

LILY OF THE LAMPLIGHT

Underneath the lantern,
By the barrack gate,
Darling, I remember
The way you used to wait.
’Twas there that you whispered tenderly
That you loved me,
You'd always be,
My Lily of the Lamplight,
My own Lily Marlene.

Time would come for roll call,
Time for us to part.
Darling, I'd caress you
And press you to my heart,
And there 'neath that far-off lantern light,
I'd hold you tight ,
We'd kiss good night,
My Lily of the Lamplight,
My own Lily Marlene.

Orders came for sailing
Somewhere over there.
“All confined to barracks,”
Was more than I could bear.
I knew you were waiting in the street.
I heard your feet,
But could not meet,
My Lily of the Lamplight,
My own Lily Marlene

Resting in our billets,
Just behind the lines,
Even tho' we're parted,
Your lips are close to mine.
You wait where that lantern softly gleams.
Your sweet face seems
To haunt my dreams,
My Lily of the Lamplight,
My own Lily Marlene

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About the author Thomas Keyes: I have written two books: A SOJOURN IN ASIA (non-fiction) and A TALE OF UNG (fiction), neither published so far.

I have studied languages for years and traveled extensively on five continents.

Email: udikeyes@yahoo.com


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