Galgenlieder (transl. Gallows Songs) is a collection of poems by Christian Morgenstern. Following ten years of writing work, it was first published in March 1905 by Bruno Cassirer.

Poems edit

  • Titelansage
  • Motto. Dem Kinde Im Manne
  • Versuch Einer Einleitung
  • Wie Die Galgenlieder Entstanden
  • Lass Die Molekuele Rasen
  • Bundeslied Der Galgenbrueder
  • Galgenbruders Lied an Sophie, Die Henkersmaid
  • Nein!
  • Das Gebet
  • Das Grosse Lalula
  • Der Zwoelf-Elf
  • Das Mondschaf
  • Lunovis
  • Der Rabe Ralf
  • Fisches Nachtgesang
  • Galgenbruders Fruehlingslied
  • Das Hemmed
  • Das Problem
  • Neue Bildungen, Der Natur Vorgeschlagen
  • Die Trichter
  • Der Tanz
  • Das Knie
  • Der Seufzer
  • Bim, Bam, Bum
  • Das Aesthetische Wiesel
  • Der Schaukelstuhl Auf Der Verlassenen Terrasse
  • Die Beichte Des Wurms
  • Das Weiblein Mit Der Kunkel
  • Die Mitternachtsmaus
  • Himmel Und Erde
  • Der Walfafisch Oder Das ueberwasser
  • Mondendinge
  • Die Schildkroete
  • Der Hecht
  • Der Nachtschelm Und Das Siebenschwein
  • Die Beiden Esel
  • Der Steinochs
  • Tapetenblume
  • Das Wasser
  • Die Luft
  • Wer Denn?
  • Der Lattenzaun
  • Die Beiden Flaschen
  • Das Lied Vom Blonden Korken
  • Der Wuerfel
  • Kronpraetendenten
  • Die Weste
  • Philanthropisch
  • Der Mond
  • Die Westkuesten
  • Unter Zeiten
  • Unter Schwarzkuenstlern
  • Der Traum Der Magd
  • Zaezilie
  • Das Nasobem
  • Anto-Logie
  • Die Hysterix
  • Die Probe
  • Im Jahre 19000
  • Der Gaul
  • Der Heroische Pudel
  • Das Huhn, Moewenlied
  • Igel Und Agel
  • Der Werwolf
  • Die Fingur
  • Das Fest Des Wuestlings
  • Km 21
  • Geiss Und Schleiche
  • Der Purzelbaum
  • Die Zwei Wurzeln
  • Das Geburtslied Oder Die Zeichen
  • Galgenkindes Wiegenlied
  • Wie Sich Das Galgenkind Die Montasnamen Merkt
  • Galgenberg

English translations edit

  • The Gallows Songs. Christian Morgenstern's Galgenlieder, translated by Max Knight (University of California Press, 1964).
  • Gallows Songs, translated by W.D. Snodgrass and Lore Segal (Michigan Press, 1967).
  • Songs from the Gallows: Galgenlieder, translated by Walter Arndt (Yale University Press, 1993).
  • Lullabies, Lyrics and Gallows Songs, translated by Anthea Bell with illustrations by Lisbeth Zwerger (North South Books, 1995).
  • A number of these poems were translated into English by Jerome Lettvin with explanations of Morgensterns wordplay methods and their relationship to Lewis Carroll's methods. These were published in a journal called The Fat Abbot in the Fall Winter 1962 edition, along with an essay illuminating subtle characteristics of the originals.

Selected translations edit


To get this research undertook
I bought a needle and the BOOK,

and with the BOOK an old and hairy
faintly starving dromedary.

N.A.M., to help this thesis,
gave, on loan, a standard Croesus.

When the Croesus, missal-guided
went to Heaven's gate and tried it,

Peter spoke - "The Gospel proves
a camel through a needle moves

Sooner than we may admit
a Rich man." (Christ, J., opus cit).

Testing to confirm the Word,
I loosed our camel, hunger-spurred,

and motivated by a lure
of buns behind the aperture,

The subject, in a single try,
squeezed grunting through the needle's eye;

a graceless act. The camel crammed
and Croesus muttered, "I'll be damned."


One night, a werewolf, having dined,
left his wife to clean the cave
and visited a scholar's grave
asking, "How am I declined?"

Whatever way the case was pressed
the ghost could not decline his guest,
but told the wolf (who'd been well-bred
and crossed his paws before the dead),

"The Iswolf, so we may commence,
the Waswolf, simple past in tense,
the Beenwolf, perfect; so construed,
the Werewolf is subjunctive mood."

The werewolf's teeth with thanks were bright,
but, mitigating his delight,
there rose the thought, how could one be
hypostasized contingency?

The ghost observed that few could live,
if werewolves were indicative;
whereat his guest perceived the role
of Individual in the Whole.

Condition contrary to fact,
a single werewolf Being lacked
but in his conjugation showed
the full existence, a la mode.


Once there was a picket fence
of interstitial excellence.

An architect much liked its look;
protected by the dark he took

the interspaces from the slats
and built a set of modern flats.

The fence looked nothing as it should,
since nothing twixt its pickets stood.

This artefact soon fated it,
the senate confiscated it,

and marked the architect to go
to Arctic - or Antarctico.


When Anthony addressed the fishes
a simple shark became religious,
adored the Host, denounced the Aryan,
and turned, save Fridays, vegetarian.

Seeds and weeds he bolted whole
with faith as firm as amphibole,
till vitals issued, overloaded,
lapsed Pelagian and exploded.

So littoral this revelation
fish schools died of inspiration.
The Saint, recalled to bless the lowly,
said only: "Holy! Holy! Holy!"


The Moonsheep cropped the Furthest Clearing,
Awaiting patiently the Shearing.
The Moonsheep.

The Moonsheep munched some grass and then
Turned leisurely back to its Pen.
The Moonsheep.

Asleep, the Moonsheep dreamt he was
The Universal Final Cause.
The Moonsheep.

Morning came. The sheep was dead.
His Corpse was white, the Sun was red.
The Moonsheep.


After many "if"s and "but"s,
emendations, notes, and cuts,

they bring their theory, complete,
to lay, for Science, at his feet.

But Science, sad to say it, he
seldom heeds the laity -

abstractedly he flips his hand,
mutters "metaphysic" and

bends himself again to start
another curve on another chart.

"Come," says Pitts, "his line is laid;
the only points he'll miss, we've made."


When I sit, I sitting, tend
to sit a seat with sense so fine
that I can feel my sit-soul blend
insensibly with seat's design.

Seeking no support the while
it assesses stools for style,
leaving what the structure means
for blind behinds of Philistines.

Zwei Trichter wandeln durch die Nacht.
Durch ihres Rumpfs verengten Schacht
fließt weißes Mondlicht
still und heiter
auf ihren
u. s.

Through darkest night two funnels go;
and in their narrow necks below
moonbeams gather to cast
the better a
light upon

Visual poems edit

"Fisches Nachtgesang" ("Fish's Night Song") consists only of patterns of macrons and breves printed to suggest fish scales or ripples.[1]

The Night Song of the Fish[2]

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by Christian Morgenstern

Musical settings edit

  • Galgenlieder, six songs by Hanns Eisler 1917
  • Galgenlieder a 5, cycle of 14 songs by Sofia Gubaidulina (b.1931)
  • Galgenlieder, 10 songs for mezzo and trio by Anders Brødsgaard (b.1955)
  • Galgenlieder, Op. 129, 8 songs for soprano' harp and tuba by Jan Koetsier (1911-2006)
  • Galgenlieder, chamber composition by Jacqueline Fontyn (b.1930)
  • Galgenlieder, five song cycle by Siegfried Strohbach for male choir a cappella.
  • Galgenlieder, five songs "Mondendinge" ; "Der Hecht" ; "Die Mitternachtsmaus" ; "Das Wasser" ; "Galgenkindes Wiegenlied", by Vincent Bouchot (b.1966)

References edit

  1. ^ Gillian Lathey - Translating Children's Literature -2015 Page 108 131762131X "Bell's translation of other poems in the collection ranges from non-intervention in "Fisches Nachtgesang" ("Fish's Night Song"), which consists entirely of patterns of dashes and brackets turned sideways to replicate waves and bubbles made in ...
  2. ^ "Fisches_Nachtgesang".