Sag' mir das Wort, das so gern ich gehört,
It is a sentimental tearjerker with a simple and catchy tune, that kind of tune that one remembers after the first listening and that even the most unmusical music-fan could whistle or hum. Erk also had done some research. He explicitly named T. H. Bayly as the author and correctly called it an "English song". But that was quite uncommon. Most German editors failed to give credit to Bayly and claimed it was an Irish Folk song.
This is for example the case with a version arranged for male choirs that can be found in a collection called Männerchor-Album. 144 der beliebtesten Männerchöre by Josef Schwartz (Köln, , pp. 214-5). The text is the same as in Erk's songbooks but there is no mention of Mr. Bayly, it is simply called "Irisches Volkslied":
The song is also identified that way in Josef Kürschner's Frau Musika. Ein Buch für frohe und ernste Stunden (Berlin & Leipzig, , p. 343), an opulent coffee-table book for domestic music-making. But interestingly the editor used another set of lyrics with only two verses:
"Lang ist's her" was also quite common in songbooks for schools. Simon Breu's Deutsches Jugendliederbuch (here 2nd ed., 1909, No. 85, p. 74, at the Internet Archive) may serve as an example:
Interestingly we can find here still another set of words. It is not a love ditty anymore but instead about remembering childhood and mother. Perhaps this was more suitable for school-children. Professor Breu was also not particularly sure about the song's origin. He called it "Irische Volksweise" from around 1855 and strangely named - besides T. H. Bayly - the famous English soprano Clara Novello (1818-1908) as a possible author.
Why did this song become so popular and why was it labelled as a "Volkslied"?. Especially during the 19th century music fans in Germany were really fascinated - not to say obsessed - with foreign songs from all possible countries. Again a look into Hofmeisters Monatsberichte or into the popular songbooks from that time suffices. There were also many special collections, like Bardale. Sammlung auserlesener Volkslieder der verschiedenen Völker der Erde mit deutschem Texte und Begleitung des Pianoforte und der Guitarre by Eduard Baumstark and Wilhelm von Zuccalmaglio (1829, at BStb-DS), O. L. B. Wolff's Braga. Sammlung Deutscher, Österreichischer, Schweizerischer [etc] Volkslieder mit ihren ursprünglichen Melodien (1835, at Google Books), Friedrich Silcher's very influential Ausländische Volksmelodien (1835-41, at the Internet Archive) or - from the 1890s - Victorie Gervinus' Volksliederbuch with 80 songs from 16 different countries (1896, at the Internet Archive). Of course this was at least partly Herder's legacy. His Stimmen der Völker in Liedern had served as model and inspiration.
British imports were especially popular. One must for example remember that during the 19th century both Thomas Moore and - since the 1830s - Robert Burns became household names in Germany. Their works were widely known and easily available in translations. And generally there was also a great interest in Irish and Scottish music, or what was regarded as such. Five songs used to be particularly widespread and can be found in numerous songbooks. In fact it is difficult to find songbooks from between 1850/60 and 1930 that did not include at least one or two of them.
First there was "Robin Adair". I have already written at length about this song (see on this site: "Treu und herzinniglich, Robin Adair" - A British Tune In Germany) and that actually inspired me to further, more in-depth research into this interesting topic. Then came Robert Burns' "My Heart's in the Highlands" (see my blog for the different texts about "Mein Herz ist im Hochland"), Thomas Moore's "'Tis The Last Rose Of Summer" (see in my blog: "Des Sommers letzte Rose" - Thomas Moore's "'Tis The Last Rose Of Summer" in Germany), "Home, Sweet Home" by Bishop & Payne and last, but not least, T. H. Bayly's "Long, Long Ago". They were all labeled as "Volkslieder".
Now I won't discuss here the ideological background of this concept (but see on this site: Herder's Cuckoo's Egg - Some Notes About The Term "Volkslied", Ch. 3 of my text about "Robin Adair"). What's more interesting for me is the practical use of the term "Volkslied". In this respect it is important to understand it not in the narrow, ethnological sense that is common today - especially in academic circles - but as a much more wider genre that could include any song that fit stylistically, no matter who had written it, no matter if the author was known or not. In fact this was a commercial category that could be used for every "simple" song in the "popular style".
"Volkslieder" were also a corpus of popular songs promoted from "above", by well-meaning, pedagogically inclined music educators and editors, who tried to save the people from unsuitable real "Folk songs" as well as the unhealthy popular music and therefore set out to create a new, more appropriate repertoire of songs. They had their own ideas of what the people should sing. What was included in their songbooks was always carefully selected and cleaned up. For example Ludwig Erk - both a collector of Folk songs and editor of song collections - once noted that he would only use at best one third of the pieces he had collected "in the field" for a Volksgesangbuch (see Schade, p. 37). He very explicitly distinguished between the songs of the "Volk" and songs for the "Volk". "Authenticity" was less important than style and appropriateness of content.
These two working definitions - "Volkslieder" as a commercial category and as the "songs for the people" - should help to understand very well what was published under this name. And these were legitimate definitions. There is no need to complain about the lack of ethnological "authenticity".
The following text is an attempt to unravel the history of "Lang ist's her" in Germany. When and by whom was it introduced first? Why was it often sold as an "Irish Folk song"? Who sang it? How many different sets of lyrics were used? In what kind of contemporary media can we find the song? But at first it is necessary to find out a little bit about the songwriter, Thomas H. Bayly and the English original version of "Long, long ago".
Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797-1839; see Smith 1885, at wikisource, Scott 2001, Chapter 1d, at VictorianWeb) was a very successful playwright - he wrote nearly 40 pieces for the stage -, poet and songwriter. In fact he may have been the most popular songwriter of the 19th century besides Thomas Moore. Bayly wrote the words to many songs and worked with all notable composers of that era, like Bishop, Wade and Stevenson, but also composed a considerable amount of the tunes himself. Apparently not everyone was convinced of his abilities as a tune-smith. One critic once wrote that "Mr. Bayly is a pretty song writer, but we would recommend him not to trust to his own musical skill" (in: The Athenaeum, June 16, 1832, No. 242 p. 389, at Google Books). But that sounds to me a little bit unfair. He didn't write necessarily for the critics and the professional singers. The tunes' "melodic compass is generally small, which undoubtedly recommended them to amateur singers of limited technique" (Scott 2001, Chapter 1d, at Victorian Web).
Much to my surprise the original sheet music editions of his songs have not yet been digitized in Britain. At least I couldn't find any. That is very disappointing. Of course the lyrics were also reprinted regularly on broadside sheets and these are easily available (see Broadside Ballads Online). But Bayly's songs were equally popular in the USA. Many of the American editions can be found at the Levy Sheet Music Collection, for example Gaily, The Troubadour", "The Soldier's Tear" (music by A. Lee),"The Pilot" (music by S. Nelson), "Isle of Beauty Fare Thee Well!" and "I'd Be A Butterfly". His song lyrics and poems were also regularly compiled in books like Fifty Lyrical Ballads (1829, at the Internet Archive), Musings And Prosings (1833, at the Internet Archive), Songs And Ballads (1837, at Google Books). Some years after Bayly's death both the well known critic Rufus W. Grisworlds - in the USA - and his wife - in England - put together representative collections of his works that are also now easily available:
Grisworlds also wrote in his introductory notes (here p. viii) what may have been the best contemporary appreciation of Bayly's abilities as a songwriter:
"[His songs] are simple, natural, graceful and tender - descriptive of the feelings of all, in a language which all can appreciate and understand [...] Bayly was certainly not one of the first poets of his time [...] and if he had essayed any thing of a more ambitious character than the simple ballad. doubtless he would have failed; but by her who dallies with a coronet and the maiden at her spinning-wheel, by the soldier, the student and the cottage Damon, his melodies are sung with equal feeling and admiration. Many have written 'songs', exquisitely beautiful as poems, which are never sung; and other, like Dibdin, have produced songs for particular classes; but Bayly touches the universal heart. He is never mawkish, never obscure, and rarely meretricious; his verse is singularly harmonious; every word seems chosen for its musical sound; and his modulation is unequalled".
But not everybody did agree. A more critical appraisal was offered by Henry F. Redall in his Songs That Never Die (New York, 1894, p. 208):
"The reputation of Haynes Bayly has great tenacity of life. He had real tenderness, which he displayed in such songs as 'Long, Long Ago' and 'O, no, we never mention her", and considerable wit and humor, but his sentiment was too often mere sentimentalism, his love lackadaisical, and his melancholy very genteel and effeminate" - wearing white kid gloves and wiping its eyes, in which there were no tears, with highly perfumed cambric pocket-handkerchief [...]"
"Long, Long Ago" was - and still is - surely Bayly's most successful and most popular song:
Tell me the tales that to me were so dear,
This song also happened to be one of his last works and was first published only three months before his untimely death on April 22, 1839 at the age of 41. The sheet music was announced - besides two songs by Moore - by Cramer, Addison & Beale in ads in the Musical World as "a new ballad by Haynes Bayly, Esq." on February 14 (p. 108), February 28 (p. 140) and March 7 (p. 155, all at Google Books).
But only shortly later, on May 2 (pp. 8-10), the magazine had to publish the obituary. By all accounts the song was immensely successful in England and remained available for a very long time. But "Long, Long Ago" became even more popular in the USA. Already in 1839 and 1840) it was reprinted - surely illegally - in magazines and newspapers like the New York Mirror (August 24, 1839, p. 72), The Evergreen (Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1840, p. 278) and The New Yorker (October 2, 1840, p. 48, at Google Books):
And of course American publishers didn't hesitate to offer their own editions of the sheet music, for example Fiot and Willig in Philadelphia as well as Atwill in New York and Benteen in Baltimore, to mention only those that can be found in the Levy Sheet Music Collection. It was also included in many songbooks, for example in one called My Own Song Book. A Well Selected Collection of The Most Popular Sentimental, Patriotic And Humorous Songs (1840, pp. 44-5, at the Internet Archive):
Before and after the end of the century the song appeared in representative nostalgia collections like Helen K. Johnson's Our Familiar Songs (New York, 1889, pp. 3-4), Henry Redall's Songs That Never Die (1894, p. 231) and the appropriately titled Songs The Whole World Sings, a collection of "songs which are dear to the hearts of young and old in every nation" (1915, p. 79). The tune was so well known that other writers made use of it, for example abolitionists, revivalists and a radical labor poet:
In fact both in Britain and North America "Long, Long Ago" became a popular standard and "evergreen" that is known even until today.
In Germany "Long, Long Ago" was - as noted above - often regarded and sold as an "Irish tune" or "Irish Folk song". But this is highly improbable and there is simply no evidence for such a claim. In England and the USA the song was always correctly credited to Mr. Bayly and as far as I know a possible Irish origin for the tune has never even be discussed there. As will be shown later this was an invention by German music publishers.
But interestingly it looks as if the melody of this song was in fact not a completely original work. Apparently Bayly found some inspiration not in Ireland but in a popular German opera. Hans Gaartz in his book Die Opern Heinrich Marschners (1912, p. 42, available at Google Books) noted the similarity of one piece in Der Templer und die Jüdin (1829) - which is based on Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe - to "the Irish folk tune 'Lang, lang ist's her'". This is song No. 3, "Lied mit Chor" in the piano score of original edition of this opera (p. 29, available at Urmel, ThULb Jena). It was performed by Friar Tuck, the hermit monk:
Of course this is not completely identical to Bayly's tune but the relationship should be obvious. What they both have in common is especially the characteristic ascending melody line in the first couple of bars. Gaartz was clearly not familiar with the real history of "Long, long ago" and insinuates somewhat that Marschner could have been inspired by this alleged "Irish folk tune". But in fact it must have been the other way round because Bayly's song only appeared 10 years after the opera.
I think there is good reason to assume that Bayly was in fact familiar with this piece. Marschner's works were known in Britain, the piano score of Der Templer und die Jüdin was also published in London by Johannig and Whatmore. Not at least as a professional songwriter and playwright he was well advised to stay informed about all popular and successful operas. What I can't say is if this was a kind of unconscious assimilation of a worthwhile musical idea or a deliberate borrowing of this particular melodic motif. I rather think it may have been the latter. For me it looks as if Bayly tried to create a simplified and much more catchy variant of Marschner's original tune.
I must admit I can't understand why to my knowledge nobody in Germany with the exception of Gaartz has noted the similarity of these two tunes. Der Templer und die Jüdin was a very successful and popular opera and all the musical experts were surely familiar with it. Not at least it is somewhat absurd that "Lang ist's her" was regularly sold as an Irish song while in fact it had been inspired by and derived from a tune by a German composer. But this was not an uncommon phenomenon. The same happened to "Home, Sweet Home" by Henry Bishop and J. H. Payne which was also immensely popular in Germany. Often enough Bishop's tune happened to be identified as "Irische Volksweise" but it is highly likely that it was also inspired by a melody written by a German composer, in this case J. A. P. Schulz (see Underwood 1977).
Now it seems that Mr. Bayly was familiar with German music but by all accounts German music fans were not particularly familiar with his work. It is not that he was a complete unknown. Some of his poems and song lyrics were reprinted in anthologies of British poetry like O. L. B. Wolff's Hausschatz Englischer Poesie (1846, pp. 352-355) and Karl Elze's Englischer Liederschatz (1851, pp. 178, 189, 191, 244 and more, biographical notes, p. 402, both at Google Books). And both of them wrote some nice things about him:
"Am Zahlreichsten und Verbreitetsten jedoch sind seine [...] Lieder, die sich durch reiche Phantasie, warmes Gefühl, glücklichen Humor, und gefällige Form höchst vorteilhaft auszeichnen und in ganz England überall gesungen werden." (Wolff, p. 352)
"Nächst Thomas Moore ist er der vorzüglichste und beliebteste englische Liederdichter (song-writer) unseres Jahrhunderts." (Elze, p. 402)
But there were very few translations of his works. Helga Eßmann lists in her bibliography of translated British and American literature in German anthologies (Stuttgart 2000, p. 54) only 24 adaptations of 12 songs, among them Georg Pertz in his Verwandte Klänge (1860, pp. 107-113). Perhaps there were some more in magazines and newspapers but all in all that was really not much compared to what was available by Burns and Moore (see Eßmann, pp. 60-66, 116-124). None of the notable translators like Ferdinand Freiligrath, Wilhelm Gerhard or Philipp Kaufmann tried their hand at anything from Bayly's pen.
Only a handful of his songs were published in Germany. Not a single time his name was mentioned in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten, not even in connection with "Long, long ago", but that had another reason. A search for individual songs brings only very few results."The Widow" - with music by G. A. Hodson - was published in 1838 by Bote & Bock in their series Britannia. Choice of the most favorite English Romances and Songs (see Hofmeister XIX, December 1838, p. 189) There were some instrumental versions of "Gaily, The Troubadour", one in the early '50s and another one in 1880 (see Hofmeister XIX, November 1851, p. 214, November 1880, p. 323). What looks like it could have been a translation of "The Pilot" was published during the 1890s in arrangements for male choirs (by Max Spicker and Max Oesten, see f. ex. Hofmeister XIX, September 1893, p. 335, Mai 1894, p. 213).
But all in all German music publishers, editors and composers were very reluctant. Not even the great success of "Lang ist's her" encouraged them to offer some more of Bayly's works and there were no attempts to introduce his songs to the German audiences in a more systematic way. I must admit that this is a little bit difficult to understand. There was at that time really a great interest in British songs. Burns' and Moore's works were exceedingly popular in Germany and other writers like Felicia Hemans were also widely known. Bayly's songs would have fit very well into the "Volkslied"-genre and I don't doubt that the German music fans would have appreciated them. But in the end only "Long, long ago" became part of the music culture in Germany.
At first it is necessary to look into Hofmeisters Monatsberichte. This is an indispensable research tool for all questions regarding the publication of music prints in Germany during the 19th century and today it is very easy to use with the help of the excellent database Hofmeister XIX. The song was first listed in November 1859 (p. 189):
This edition was also announced in an advert by publisher Schuberth in Signale für die musikalische Welt the month before (No. 43, 20.10.1859, p. 469, at the Internet Archive) but here only as "Volkslied, Irisches", without any mention of the title or the first line. Two more editions of sheet music were published the following year:
Schlesinger's version was also listed in a catalog of new publications 1859-1862 ([p. 3], at Google Books) as No. 14 of a series called Auswahl englischer Gesänge für 1 Singstimme with the title "'Lang ist es her' - Long ago". The one by Bote & Bock can be found in an advert in the Neue Berliner Musikzeitung (17. 10. 1860, p. 336) as "Volkslied. Irisches. Long, Long ago 'Sag' mir das Wort'".
These are three editions of sheet music published 1859 and 1860 and they were clearly the first. It is noticeable that in all three cases the song was identified as an "irisches Volkslied". But at least Schlesinger and Bote & Bock were apparently not completely sure about its origins. They also called it an "English song". There is no mention of Bayly, who was at that point dead for two decades and barely known in Germany. But the name of the song's real author couldn't have been too difficult to find out. This looks to me more like a deliberate falsification, not only because something like an international copyright didn't exist at that time. It was also much more promising to call such a song an "Irisches Volkslied". One must remember that Thomas Moore's "'Tis The Last Rose of Summer" had been a great hit 10 years ago and was still immensely popular. The German versions of "Robin Adair" and even "Home, Sweet Home" were also often sold as an Irish song. This was a much more viable commercial category. But this dubious practice did serious harm to Bayly's reputation in Germany and should be regarded as an outrageous posthumous expropriation.
Nonetheless these three earliest sheet music editions need to be investigated. Unfortunately it is often a great problem that many of these publications haven't survived or at best there are only very few extant copies available that are sometimes difficult to find. In fact neither the folklorists nor the musicologists have cared much about this particular genre, "Volkslieder" published as sheet music. This was in some way a kind of popular music for the educated classes and must have been quite successful, at least least judging from the great number of relevant publications. Nearly every publisher had a series with a title like Volkslieder-Album or something similar. Imported foreign popular songs could easily be included in this genre.
Thankfully there are extant copies of two of the three music prints as well as a later edition of the third. But I will discuss them in the following chapter. But first there is another question: was a German version of "Long, long ago" perhaps published in a songbook before these music prints became available? This shouldn't be excluded. But songbooks are an ever bigger practical problem. There were so many of them published, often in different, revised editions and especially those from this era have in many cases only survived in very few copies that are - just like the above-mentioned sheet music - scattered over many libraries .
Until now there has not yet been an attempt at some kind of systematical approach regarding this genre, what is called in German Gebrauchsliederbücher. Nor is there any kind of concordance that can show us what songs can be found in which books. Hofmeisters Monatsberichte can only tell us what songbooks were published but not their content. Here it is necessary to check these song collections themselves and from my experience it is always possible to find an even earlier version of a song. In case of "Heut muss geschieden sein", a German text for the tune of "Robin Adair", I had to set back the earliest publication date several times and I am still not completely sure (see "Treu und herzinniglich, Robin Adair" - A British Tune In Germany", chapter 6).
What helps a little bit is the fact that more and more of these songbooks get digitized even though for my liking these efforts still leave a lot to be desired. But thankfully in many cases at least the table of contents of many of these collections have been scanned and included in the library catalogs. This is the case for example with a part of the collections of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek and the Zentrum für populäre Musik und Kultur, the former Volksliedarchiv in Freiburg. The catalog of the latter offered at least one result (V 3/3741 at SWBplus). In fact this song was already published early in 1860 by the indefatigable Ludwig Erk in one booklet of a series of songbooks with arrangements for male choirs with the title Volksklänge. The introductory remark by the editor is dated as from February 16th that year and we can see that this particular booklet - it is No. 7 of the whole series or the first of Vol. 2, whereby Nos. 1 - 6 are regarded as Vol. 1 - included a song with the first line "Sag mir das Wort, das so gern ich gehört".
At this point we have what looks like the four earliest German publications of "Long, long ago": Schuberth's sheet music late in 1859, Erk's songbook early in 1860 and then the two music prints by Schlesinger and Bote & Bock later that year. It may come as some kind of surprise that the song came to Germany only two decades after the original was published. But that was not uncommon. Other songs also needed considerable time before German music fans took notice of them. John Braham's "Robin Adair" became a great success in Britain in 1811 but the tune was introduced in Germany 15 years later by Boieldieu's opera La Dame Blanche and only since then translated versions began to appear. Thomas Moore's "'Tis The Last Rose of Summer" had to wait 22 years, "Home, Sweet Home" over 30 years and Robert Burns' "My Hearts In The Highlands" four decades. It was not like today when the latest British hits are thrown on the German market simultaneously.
Now is the time to discuss these early German versions of "Long, long ago". Thankfully there are at least two extant copies of the sheet music published by Schuberth in Hamburg, one at the SUB Bremen (02.b.6547), the other at the Muwi Heidelberg (N1203). As usual both are listed in the catalogs with incorrect publication dates, 1845 respectively "um 1854". One should never rely on these kind of datings from library catalogs. More often than not they are simply misleading and wrong. It is better to look at first into Hofmeisters Monatsberichte or search for adverts in contemporaneous magazines.
I was glad to receive a copy from Heidelberg (pdf). The complete title is:
This actual copy may have been sold some years later. The list of available songs of this series on the first page also includes a version of "Long, long ago" for two voices that was listed in the Monatsberichte only in June 1864 (p. 122). But the plate number of this edition - 473 - suggests that it was in fact first printed around 1860 (see the list at IMSLP, Schuberth & Co., here Hamburg: Fritz Schuberth). Interestingly the piano arrangement is very similar to the one of the English and American prints. That makes me wonder if the editor was familiar with those. But on the other hand the English text used here is not the original one but an abbreviated variant consisting only of two verses with some repetitions that I haven't yet found in any other non-German editions . The German text is a simple translation:
Sag' mir das Wort, das dereinst mich hat bethört,
Of course there is no mention of T. H. Bayly and the song was sold as "Irisches Volkslied". But strangely it is credited to someone else, to Josef Eschborn (1796-1881), a German composer and conductor, at that time Kapellmeister in Hamburg (see Schweitzer 1968, pp. 48-50). But it is not clear in what capacity he was involved in production of this sheet music edition. Perhaps he wrote the arrangement. But that can't have been much work. In fact there are more questions than answers. We don't know the translator, we don't know the reason for the publication of the song exactly at that point.
Ludwig Erk's version of this song must have been prepared at around the same time as Eschborn's although it was published shortly later:
This was only one of the numerous publications by this immensely industrious scholar, arranger and editor, a part of his life-long efforts to create a modern repertoire both domestic music making and the at time ubiquitous choral societies. Here we find arrangements for male choirs. The first six booklets were published between 1851 and 1856 and this little collection looks like an attemptto reanimate this series and start a second volume (see Erk, Chronologisches Verzeichnis, p. 10, at BStB-DS). But apparently it wasn't a particularly big success. No further booklets were published. This happened to be the last one even though Erk noted in his introductory remarks that "the 8th booklet will soon follow".
Here Erk used the text that would later - in the 70s - also be included in his Liederschatz and the Volkslieder-Album, the one I have quoted above in the introduction: a more or less adequate translation of Bayly's original lyrics. By all accounts he was in fact the first to introduce this particular version:
Already at that time Erk had done some research. But for some reason the song is only called "Englisches Volkslied" and there is no mention of Bayly. Apparently it took himsome more years to find out about the original author. More interesting is his note about the translation:
"Nach dem Englischen: Tell me the tales that to me were so dear, - Aus Übersetzungen von R. Fiege u. W. Weitling, 1858"
For reasons unknown to me he would later - in the Liederschatz - drop Fiege's name and only mention "Wilhelm Weidling (1858)". But nonetheless I haven't been able to identify his sources. "R. Fiege" may have been the journalist and music critic Rudolf Fiege (1830-1912, see the obituary in Neue Musik-Zeitung 33, 1912, p. 487, at Google Books). Weidling or Weitling is unknown to me. Later he was occasionally mistaken for the well known socialist Wilhelm Weitling (1808-1871) who had fled from Germany after the 1848 revolution and was living in New York City at that time (s. Wikipedia). But that seems highly improbable to me. My best guess at the moment is that the two translations by these "mysterious" writers had been published in some as yet unidentified newspapers or magazines. Otherwise not much more is known. Until now my search for original publication places of Fiege's and Weitling's works has not yielded any results.
Schuberth's sheet music and Erk's booklet offered the earliest German versions of "Long, long ago". Two more would follow later in 1860: sheet music by publishers Schlesinger and Bote & Bock. Apparently there is no extant copy of Schlesinger's original publication of this song. But thankfully we have a later edition:
In the library catalog this copy is dated as from the 1890s and that may be correct, at least judging from the publications listed on the last page. But the plate number - 6377 - suggests that it was first printed in the 1870s (compare the list at IMSLP, Schlesinger, 3.1). But there is good reason to assume that this version is identical to the original one from 1860. From my experience it is highly unlikely that they have published different variants over the years. It was more common to recycle the same version over and over again. In this case we can see that the song could be incorporated into different series: at first as part of one called Auswahl englischer Gesänge für 1 Singstimme and later into a Volkslieder-Album. But it also shows how long a song like this remained available, here at least until the end of the century.
On the other the publisher Schlesinger surely didn't invest much time and effort in this publication. The German text is the same as Erk's and was without doubt "borrowed" from that book - but of course without acknowledgment - and the English lyrics are identical to Schuberth's. Whoever put this together had no access to the original English sheet music but simply took what was available in Germany. At least there is a new piano arrangement but also a very simple one that couldn't have been too difficult to write.
Britannia was an interesting and long-running series offering British popular songs with German translations. The first number came out in 1838: as already mentioned it was "The Widow" by G. A. Hodson and Thomas H. Bayly (see Hofmeister, December 1838, p. 189), one of the very few songs by Bayly published in Germany. Later songs like "Jenny Jones" by John Parry, "The Corsairs Farewell" by George Linley, "Rule Britannia", "God Save The Queen" and "Kathleen Mavourneen" would follow. Interestingly in the early volumes of this series the original authors were credited. But "Long, long ago" was also only sold as "Irisches Volkslied". There is no mention of Bayly. That's no wonder because it is a straight copy of Schlesinger's edition: both the arrangement and the lyrics are identical. Apparently Bote & Bock have simply reprinted their rival's publication under their own name without any acknowledgment and surely without permission.
We can see that after these four publications Thomas Bayly's "Long, long ago" was more or less established in Germany but not as an English popular song but as a anonymous "Volkslied" from Ireland At this point there were two translations, one with two verses and the other with three. The original English lyrics hadn't yet become available. Instead an abbreviated variant of only two verses was used.
These early publications must have been sold very well because other music publishers quickly jumped on the bandwagon. The song was regarded as an anonymous "Volkslied", and, as we know, a "Volkslied" belongs to everyone, especially to every publisher. A look into volume 6 of Hofmeister's Handbuch der musikalischen Literatur - listing all musical works published between 1860 and 1867 - shows that at least 13 publishing companies from Germany and Austria brought out their own sheet music editions of "Lang ist's her" (pp. 524, 525, 526, at Google Books): Arnold in Alberfeld, Horn, Trautwein, Weinholtz and Weiss in Berlin, Weinholtz in Braunschweig, Nagel in Hannover, Heinrichshofen in Magdeburg, Schott in Mainz, André in Offenbach, Spina in Wien as well as Schloss and Weber in Köln.
Unfortunately it seems that there are no extant copies of most of these prints. I have checked the library catalogs and found only very few of them. As already mentioned this is a serious problem for research in this field. In this case it is easily possible that some of these editions have introduced new German lyrics that later found their way into songbooks. But the loss of a considerable amount of these original prints can make it difficult to find the first publication place of a particular set of words and the editors of songbooks very often refrained from naming their sources.
Publisher Trautwein from Berlin brought out his edition of this song in 1864 (see Hofmeister XIX, April 1864, p. 83). Apparently this sheet music has not survived. At least to my knowledge there is no extant copy. But exactly at the same time this company also published a book with the title Volkslieder-Album. Eine Sammlung ausgewählter Volkslieder für eine Singstimme. This was a collection of popular songs of the genre including a version of "Lang ist's her" (No. 30, p. 36). One may assume that it was the same that was also published as sheet music.:
The piano accompaniment is identical to Schuberth's - that helped save the arranger's fee - but there is different German text that is not particularly close to the two other already available at that time.
Weißt du wohl noch, was du einst mir gesagt,
So it seems that this publisher actually used new lyrics to make his edition look not too similar to other versions available at that time. But I would also not exclude the possibility that they have simply copied it from another earlier sheet music print that I have not yet seen. It would also be interesting to know who has created this text, but here again the translator's name was kept as some kind of secret so it looks like an anonymous "Folk song".
Besides these vocal arrangements with accompaniment the publishers also hastened to produce instrumental versions for all kinds of instruments, especially the piano. These were not pieces for the virtuosi and the professionals but for the growing number of amateur players. We can for example take another look into Hofmeister's Handbuch, this time volume 7 with all the publications of the years 1868 to 1873. Here a considerable amount of arrangements and adaptations of "Lang ist's her" are listed (see pp. 26, 36, 65 etc, at the Internet Archive): rondos, rondinos, Fantasien, waltzes, improvisations and the more by composers like d'Avenel, Biehl, Cramer, Oesten. I won't list them all here. These names are barely known today but at that time they were all very busy serving this promising market with more or less success.
One may only mention the ubiquitous Diederich Krug (1821-1870) who alone filled five pages in this volume of the Handbuch and who of course made use of this tune. He wrote what he called a Kleine Salon-Fantasie im leichten Style for a series called Der jugendliche Pianist (dto., p. 247). Another nice example from some years later is simple arrangement by the equally popular Louis Köhler in a collection of piano pieces with the title Melodien-Album. Beliebte Melodien für Pianoforte zu 4 Händen: (Leipzig, ca. 1873, No. 24, p. 14, at the Internet Archive)
"Lang ist's her" had become one of the many popular tunes that were endlessly recycled for these kind of musical works. One may assume that no piano player could avoid it and countless young beginners had to learn it. The song remained available for the rest of the century, both in vocal and instrumental versions. For example the year 1892 saw the publication of arrangements for Zither, for vocals and piano as well as one for male choir, the latter by Franz Abt (see Hofmeister, 1892, pp. 80, 88, 466).
But interestingly there were no attempts to write new tunes for this song. It never became part of the Lieder-tradition like for example "Mein Herz ist im Hochland", the German adaptation of Burns' "My Heart's in the Highlands". That text was set to new music by numerous composers. Even editors of "Volkslied"-collections could never really decide which melody to use and tried out at least half a dozen different ones (see assorted articles in my blog). But in that case the core of the song was the text, the translations by Freiligrath, Gerhard and others that had caught the people's attention. The original tune had never made it to Germany.
"Long ago" came to Germany as a song, not as a text in a collection of translations like "Mein Herz ist im Hochland". Its core was the catchy tune combined with the simple refrain line. But it was easily possible to write new words around this core and in fact some more lyrical variants would appear later. But the tune and the refrain always remained intact because they gave the song its identity
Sheet music was intended for a comparatively small, but growing target group: the more educated and more solvent music fans and amateur musicians, those who could afford these publications and who were able to read musical notation. But this was still a minority. We also have to take into account another important media that was directed at the less educated and less solvent classes. For them the music prints were surely a little bit too expensive. Not at least many of them may have not learned to read musical notation. They became familiar with tunes by listening.
The so-called Liedflugschriften, broadsides or little booklets with a couple of songs - Liederhefte - were cheaply printed and then sold in great numbers (see Holzapfel 2005, the best overview). What they offered were usually only the lyrics of all kinds of different songs. They represented the real commercial popular music of the less educated and less affluent parts of the population. There was of course a certain overlap with what was published as sheet music. The well-known popular songs, "Volkslieder" old and new as well as current hits were quickly adopted by the producers of these sheets and booklets and they helped spread these songs among the "folk".
I am used to work with broadsides from Britain and the USA of which a considerable number have been digitized. They are easily available for example at Broadside Ballads Online (Bodleian Libraries, Oxford), English Broadside Ballad Archive (University of Santa Barbara, California) and America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets (Library of Congress). In Germany there is at the moment a project under way to digitize the 19th century Liedflugschriften (VD Lied digital, see the blog of the Staatsbibliothek Berlin). Apparently there is not yet a central website but many of the relevant holdings of the Zentrum für populäre Kultur und Musik (ZPKM) in Freiburg - the former Volksliedarchiv - are already available and can be found and accessed with the help of their library catalog. Of course what they have is only a small part of what has been published at that time but nonetheless it is a very valuable resource.
"Lang ist's her" can be found in some of these song booklets. The earliest extant edition seems to have been one by publisher Trowitsch from Berlin:
Here the three verses originally published by Ludwig Erk in his Volksklänge and then recycled by publishers Schlesinger and Bote & Bock in their sheet music editions were used. In fact there is even a reference to the latter's publication:
"Dieses Lied erschien für Gesang und Pianoforte im Verlage von Bote u. Bock in Berlin".
This was very unusual and one may assume that Trowitsch has used it with permission. But of course there is no mention of Erk, the originator of this set of words, and instead this publisher preferred to label it again as "Irisches Volkslied".
The other songs in this little booklet show nicely that the compilers of these kind of Liedflugschriften had their own idea of the term "new". Half of the pieces included here were already very old at that time. "Kriegers Abschied (Leb' wohl, mein Bräutchen schön)" was a standard by Albert Methfessel, first published nearly 50 years ago (in: Sechs Deutsche Kriegslieder, Rudolstadt, 1813, p. 10, at Google Books). Christian Samuel Schier, the writer of "Das Leben ein Traum (Am Rosenhügel hob ich mich empor)", had died in 1825. The only new songs were No. 1, "Berliner Witze" and No. 4, "Ein Engel Gottes". The latter can also be found in other publications from this time and seems to have been quite popular for some years (see f. ex. ZPKM, V1/1135-2, 1864-205, 1864; V1/1135-3, 1867-61, 1867).
"Lang ist's her" was regularly printed in Liedflugschriften during the 60s and 70s. The ZPKM has a great collection of booklets by publisher Kahlbrock from Hamburg and we can find the song in around a dozen of their publications from that time, for example in one from 1864 that also includes the German version of Thomas Moore's "The Last Rose of Summer":
Interestingly this publisher didn't use Erk's translation but instead a text with four verses of which the first two were more or less identical to the one from Schuberth's sheet music, with only some minor errors and variations:
Sag' mir das Wort, das dereinst mich hat bethört,
But the other two verses were new. I haven't seen them anywhere else although I wouldn't exclude the possibility that they were borrowed from another - otherwise lost - sheet music edition. But it seems more likely to me that the publisher simply had hired some anonymous amateur street poet to create these additional verses. Or perhaps he had even written them himself. "Lang ist's her" is a song that makes the production of new lyrics quite easy: only the refrain is necessary, otherwise it is not that difficult to write some more lines in a similar vein as long as they keep rhyming.
Kahlbrock's other editions published in the course of the next 10 or 12 years had even seven verses and the three additional ones also look a little bit amateurish:
Weiß du noch wie du mich glücklich hast gemacht?
They can be found for example in these song booklets:
These were the typical mixed bags with some old and some new songs, everything the publisher hoped to sell to the to his customers. The long version of "Lang ist's her" even found its way to the products of other printers, for example as an additional song on a broadside about a murder story published by Schell in Heilbronn ca. 1872 (ZPKM, Bl 7787, c. 1872). Not at least there were also some completely new lyrics that used the tune but otherwise was completely different, for example one called "Des Schleswig-Holsteiners Heimweh": only the refrain line remained (in: No. 1, in: Vier Lieder, J. Kahlbrock Wwe., Hamburg, [c. 1870], ZPKM, V1/1135-4, 1870-95):
Als noch der Heimath Luft mich umfing,
By all accounts "Lang ist's her" was widely known in Germany at that time. The well educated music fans were served by the sheet music publishers while the "folk" could learn different versions of the lyrics from these kind of song booklets. It is easy to understand why towards the turn of the century even "the farmhand and the peasant girl" knew this particular song so well (see again Fleischer 1899, p. 6, at the Internet Archive). But - as we have seen - the original author was completely forgotten and it was sold as an "Volkslied" from Ireland.
It took some time until "Lang ist's her" found its way into songbooks, the most important media for the dissemination of new songs. Of course it was available in Erk's Volksklänge but his colleagues and rivals preferred to wait some time. For some reason this piece was not even included in Franz Ludwig Schubert's Concordia. Anthologie classischer Volkslieder (available at Sibley Music Library) and August Härtel's Liederlexikon (available at the Internet Archive), two important encyclopedic collections of popular songs originally published in the early 1860s. Only in 1865 it appeared first in a songbook:
Stein (1824 - 1902, see Carus-Verlag online), composer, arranger and Königlicher Musikdirektor, worked as a music teacher, organist and cantor in the town of Wittenberg. His book shows nicely what was sung in a well educated household. Here we can find arias from popular operas, songs by Weber, Schubert and Mendelssohn and also a considerable amount of so-called "Volkslieder" like Silcher's "Loreley". A particular emphasis was on imported foreign songs, especially from Britain. In fact he was the first to offer the five most popular British "hits" in one book: besides "Lang ist's her" we can also find here German versions of "Robin Adair, "Home, Sweet Home", "Last Rose of Summer" and "My Heart's in the Highland", the latter even with a new tune by Stein himself (No 41, p. 80).
For "Lang ist's her" he didn't invest that much time and simply reprinted a straight copy of Trautwein's version. The piano part and the lyrics are identical but he also included an instrumental intro and the English text, both á la Schuberth's sheet music. There is no evidence that he used the song and arrangement with the publisher's permission. It may seem odd that a respected musician and teacher like Carl Stein simply "borrowed" this piece wholesale from an earlier music print with any reference to his source. But, as already noted above, this was common practice at that time, especially when it came to songs regarded as "Volkslieder". In fact everybody stole from everybody and musical piracy was an integral part of the business.
Only since the late 60s and early 70s this song appeared more often in popular songbooks and it slowly but surely became a standard. I found it in four collections published between 1869 and 1875:
The Liederschatz by publisher Peters was a precursor of Ludwig Erk's famous collection of the same name that would be published in the late 70s. Title, layout and concept are the same and most of the songs would also be included there. It is not known who put together this original edition. I don't think it was Erk because I am sure he wouldn't have liked to remain anonymous and his editorial handwriting was quite different.
Interestingly we find here another text for "Lang ist's her". Its provenance is unclear. It is possibly that it was borrowed from an earlier, otherwise lost edition of sheet music. Or perhaps the publisher had commissioned a new translation to avoid legal complications. I know of no earlier occurrence of this variant. Later it would become one of the most often used texts for this piece:
Sag' mir das Wort, dem so gern ich hab' gelauscht,
The original edition included no information about the song's origin while the revised edition from the early 70s at least noted: "Ursprünglich englisches Lied: 'Long, long ago'".
Rebbeling's book is a collection of mostly simple piano arrangements of 100 popular "Volkslieder" for the amateur player. He used the text from Peters' Liederschatz, but only the first verse.
Much more interesting is Meyer's Volks-Liederbuch, one of the best songbooks from that era. I couldn't find any biographical information about this editor. But one may assume that he was a music teacher. In the 50s someone with the same name had published a songbook for schools, the Liederbuch für Schul- und Volksgesang (see Hofmeister, Januar 1854, p. 486 etc). Interestingly Meyer claims in his preface that most "Volkslieder" are not suitable for school children. That was a quite uncommon opinion at that time. He thought this genre was more appropriate for adults and preferred choirs of adult singers as the "place of its care" ["die Stätte seiner Pflege"].
In fact this collection offered four-part arrangements for Männergesangvereine. Around a third of the 283 songs included here are adaptations of foreign "Volkslieder und Nationalgesänge", especially from Britain. It seems that he particularly liked Burns and Moore who are well represented here. Meyer used the translations and the library of Hermann Kestner, at that time one of the foremost experts for British songs. Some years ago Kestner - together with composer and arranger Eduard Hille - had compiled and edited an excellent series with the title Ausländische Volkslieder consisting of booklets with Irish, Scottish and Welsh songs, also in four-part arrangements (see Schottische Volkslieder, Heft 3, 1868, at the Internet Archive).
Meyer's Volks-Liederbuch reflects the German fascination with foreign "Volkslieder during that era and it is no wonder that he included "Lang ist's her" - here called "Lang, lange her" -, a recent addition to this genre. Of course it is also described here as an "Irish" song.
Thankfully Meyer didn't recycle here any of the earlier German texts. Instead he used his own translation. As far as I know this variant hasn't been reprinted anywhere else :
Sag mir die Worte, die einst mir so werth,
Other editors preferred to use one of the already existing texts. This was the case with Müller von der Werra's Allgemeines Reichs-Commersbuch. Here we find once again the variant from the Liederschatz, of course without any acknowledgement of the source:
Commercium books were clearly a lucrative endeavor. These were usually weighty but handy tomes with hundreds of songs of all kinds. This one has 650 pages and it makes me once again wonder of the students really used to sing all the time. "Volkslieder" made up a considerable amount of the repertoire promoted by these publications and they had the advantage that they usually could be reprinted for free, no matter where the editor found them. And in turn they helped disseminate these songs further. The standard collection at that time was Schauenberg's Allgemeines Deutsches Commersbuch, published in regularly revised and extended editions since 1858. Here this song was apparently only included since the 1880s. I only found it in the 25th edition (1883, No. 362, p. 389, at the Internet Archive) and they used the same version, but for some reason without any information about provenance and source.
We can see that since the 1870s "Lang ist's her" became a standard that was spread by all available media: sheet music, Liedflugschriften and songbooks. And in fact it would remain a standard for the next 70 or 80 years. Songbook editors tended to copy and steal from each other and therefore a song like this was of course regularly recycled and reprinted. But nonetheless this long life-span also reflects its continuing popularity. It is also important to note that these collections listed above were intended for three promising and influential target groups: amateur singers and instrumentalists, choirs - especially the ubiquitous and immensely popular Männergesangvereine - and students, many of whom later became multiplicators like teachers or clergymen. Of course it would be interesting to know how often this song was on fact performed - at home or in public concerts - but here we lack statistical data. But at least the song's ongoing availability suggests that it was sung and played regularly over a long time.
The above mentioned musical target groups - no matter how influential they were - may still be seen as minorities. They were usually from among educated parts of the population. But there was also a genre of songbooks that was produced for - one may say - "everybody", namely for school children. Song collections for the use in schools may have been the most effective means of disseminating songs and the so-called "Volkslieder" were a significant part of this repertoire. Its editors often showed a surprising tolerance. At that time adaptations of imported foreign songs were always welcome and the school-children also sang German versions of old classics by for example Burns and Moore as well as old popular hits like "Robin Adair" or "Home, Sweet Home". This only changed - slowly but surely - after the first world war when these kind of songs were purged from the school songbooks one after another and at best ghettoized in extra chapters.
Of course we have to distinguish between different kinds of schools. Some songbooks were only intended for institutions of higher learning like the Gymnasium and they usually offered a more sophisticated repertoire. Collections for Volkschulen included a much less ambitious program and not that much foreign songs. But "Lang ist's her", the old popular hit masked as a "Volkslied" from Ireland, easily found its way to children of all classes. As far as I can see the song began to appear in songbooks for schools in the 1870s. I haven't found it in collections from the previous decade. The four earliest publications seem to have been:
It is not clear who was the first to use the song. Tschirch's collection first appeared in 1871, but with only 50 pieces. I haven't seen it yet so I can't say if "Lang ist's her" was already included at that time. The first edition of Damm's Liederbuch was published in the early 70s, with the same number of songs, but I don’t know at the moment if the content saw changes in the meantime.
Wilhelm Tschirch (18818-1892, see Eitner in ADB 38, 1894, pp. 721-2, at BStB-DS), composer, arranger, teacher, choirmaster, at that time Kapellmeister, cantor and Musikdirektor in Gera, had already used the song a couple of years ago. During the late 60s he wrote a piano version, a Fantasie über das irische Volkslied: Lang' lang ist's her - published under his pseudonym Alexander Czersky - and an arrangement for male choirs (see Hofmeister, December 1867, p. 198, Januar 1868, p. 12). It is no wonder that he also included it in his little collection for schools.
Interestingly he used the text from Schuberth's sheet music, as usual without any reference to his source. But he surely was also familiar with other versions. Later in his Liederquell, a coffee table book with arrangements for voice and piano first published in 1884, we can find Ludwig Erk's three verses (p. 92, in a revised edition, Leipzig, c. 1900). In fact every editor had a couple of texts to select from.
Gustav Damm was a pseudonym of Theodor Steingräber (1830-1904). He had written a very successful instruction book for the piano - first published in 1868 - and in the 70s he started a publishing house (information from Edition Steingräber - History). Even though music for the piano made up the greatest part of his program he also tried out other genres. His Liederbuch für Schulen became very popular and remained on the market until the 1920s when a 35th edition with 188 songs was published.
Like Tschirch he included a simple arrangement for two voices but used a different text. It's only one verse and looks like a somewhat mutilated and not perfectly coherent variant of the version from the original Liederschatz combined with some fragmentary lines from the Schuberth-text:
Sag' mir das Wort, dem so gern ich hab' gelauscht,
Much more noteworthy is the text we can find in Volckmar's and Zanger's songbook.
Wilhelm Volckmar (1812-1887) and Gustav Zanger (1848-?) worked at that time as music teachers at the seminary in the town of Homberg but were also very busy as composers, arrangers, editors and instrumentalists. Quite a lot of their works are listed in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten. This collection was called Deutsche Lieder für Schule, Haus und Leben but it also included adaptations of other imported foreign songs, for example Moore's "Letzte Rose" and Burns' "Mein Herz ist im Hochland". Interestingly these editors turned "Lang ist's her" to a song about homecoming. Perhaps they thought such a topic was more appropriate for the children than a nostalgic love song:
Singt mir das Lied, das so gern ich gehört,
This sounds a little unpolished but nonetheless works well. Nostalgia for home - Heimat - was one of the most favourite topics of German songs. There is no writer's credit but there is good reason to assume that it may have been one of the editors who had tested his abilities as a poet and then preferred to remain unnamed to keep up the illusion that it was an anonymous "Volkslied". This particular variant was later also used in other collections, for example in the Liederbuch [...] für mehrklassige Schulen by Fricke & Maas (18. Aufl., 1896, No. 36, p. 82) and Jäger's Karlsruher Liederbuch (Heft 2, 5. Aufl., 1903, No. 63, p. 67). In the latter even the arrangement was reprinted, surely without permission. This shows once again that the editors of these kind of songbooks often simply plundered their competitors and predecessors' works. They needed to keep their costs down and the books had to be as inexpensive as possible so the schools and the pupils could afford them.
Karl Seitz (1844-1905), teacher in the town of Hof, was another industrious editor and arranger who also tried to secure himself a slice of this lucrative cake. Some years ago he had already published a Liederbuch für Schule und Leben (see Hofmeister, Juni 1879, p. 185) as well as a collection with the title Lieder-Perlen deutscher Tonkunst (see Heft 1, 1881, available at the Internet Archive). Vom Fels zum Meer is a handy little book with a very practical layout especially for boys, "für deutsche Knaben". Seitz of course included many of the popular "Volkslied"-standards. But unlike Volckmar and Zanger he didn't mind the boys singing a nostalgic love song and used the version of "Lang ist's her" from the original Liederschatz. At least the arrangement seems to be his own:
As mentioned above the same text was also used in the commercium books. In fact the pupils learned and sang it in school and those of them who went to university afterwards found exactly the same version in the songbooks for students.
Later other new lyrics would appear in collections for the use in schools. In the introduction I mentioned one that can be found for example in Simon Breu's Jugendliederbuch (here 2nd ed., 1909, No. 85, p. 74, at the Internet Archive). It was called "Erinnerung an die Kindheit" ("Memories of childhood"):
Als einst im Maien die Nachtigall schlug,
As far as I could find out this variant first appeared in:
The first edition of this collection was published circa 1890. But the text is some years older and may have also been used in earlier publications that I am not aware of at the moment. It is usually credited to Rosalie Koch (1811-1880) from Silesia, a popular author of literature for juveniles, especially girls. I haven't yet found the original source, it could have been one of her books or maybe a magazine or a newspaper. This is a very sentimental tearjerker, but stylistically a little bit better than the other texts used for this song. This variant was then regularly included in songbooks for schools since the 1890s, for example in Lanzendörfer's Liederbuch für Töchterschulen (3. Aufl., 1902, Nr. 39, p. 23) - here with exactly the same vocal arrangement - , Manderscheid's Frauenchöre für den Gesangsunterricht an Lehrerinnenseminarien und höheren Mädchenschulen (Düsseldorf 1902, No. 113, pp. 199-200) and the Volksliederbuch für Volksschulen by Grässner & Kropf (Heft 3, 14th ed., c. 1910, No. 95, p. 75):
Another ode to mother also won a certain popularity among editors of school songbooks. In fact this is for the most part simply the text from Trautwein's Volkslieder-Album. Only the first half of the first verse has been changed to turn the into a nostalgic reminiscence of childhood:
O wie so schön und herzinnig einst klang
It is not clear who had doctored the text. But as far as I can see it appeared first in:
Barner's collection for girls' schools was first published in 1879. Judging from the reprinted prefaces of the earlier editions it looks as there haven't been too much changes in the song selection and this piece may have been included from the start. But I haven't been able to check it out.
The Liedersammlung by Weeber and Krauss first came out in 1852 (see an early edition at the Internet Archive). It was one of the most interesting school collections of that era. The editors - one a clergyman and the other one a music teacher and composer - were among the first to include modern "Volkslieder" in greater numbers. It seems to me that they were particularly dependent on Silcher's popular collections and also knew Ludwig Erk's school songbooks very well. They also offered an interesting selection of adaptations of foreign songs, for example German versions of "Robin Adair" - with a new text ("Heut muß geschieden sein") - Burns' "My Heart's in the Highlands" as well as Moore's "Last Rose of Summer" and "Here sleeps the bard". But of course there was no "Lang ist's her" because it had not yet been introduced in Germany.
Nearly two decades after the death of Weeber and Krauss the publisher hired another experienced musician and teacher for a revised edition. The new version of booklet No. 3 first came out in 1892. Here the song was included, not with any of the standard texts but with this dubious variant. Perhaps editor Breuninger thought it more suitable for the children. But at least he found out the original songwriter's name. It was one of the very few German publications where Mr. Bayly was named as the author.
This version appeared later in other books. For example it was posthumously added to Lieder-Perlen by Karl Seitz (No. 25, pp. 130-1, in a new edition, c. 1906, at the Internet Archive). and I have seen it in some more songbooks for all kinds of schools, also in posthumous editions of Ludwig Erk's immensely popular Liederkranz (see for example DNB 1916 A 1192-2, TOC).
As we can see it was no problem to turn a love song into a song about childhood and mother. As long as it was about nostalgia - for mother or for the Heimat - it more or less worked. But it doesn't mean that every editor of school songbooks used these new versions. Others apparently saw no problem in a nostalgic love song and included one of the older standard texts, for example Moritz Vogel in his Liederbuch für höhere Mädchenschulen (2. Aufl., 1895, No. 100, pp. 149-50) and Robert Linnarz, Auswahl von Chorgesängen für Oberklassen höherer Mädchenschulen (Vol. 2, 2. Aufl., 1908, No. 60, pp. 99-100, both at the Internet Archive):
Both reanimated the original text from Trautwein's Volkslieder-Album which also remained in use for a very long time. Perhaps it depended on what variant the editors had learned in their youth. One should also note that In Linnarz' collection the song is well embedded between all the other adaptations of popular British standards like "Des Sommers letzte Rose", "Mein Herz ist im Hochland", "Robin Adair", "Süße Heimat" and even a German version of "Faithful Johnie".
At this point "Lang ist's her" had become part of a basic repertoire of songs that was shoveled from one collection to the next. It was completely germanized and the claim that it was an Irish folk song served as a kind of exotic touch but also made it look better: a "Volkslied" was always more acceptable than a simple popular song. There were a handful of different texts available while the tune remained the same. The song's regular inclusion in songbooks reflected its popularity but on the other hand of course also prolonged its life-span.
Of course not everybody liked this nostalgic ditty. Folk song scholar Franz-Magnus Böhme - in his Volksthümliche Lieder der Deutschen (1895, p. 555) - called it quite condescendingly a "Gassenhauer that follows us everywhere". For him the song was simply "banal und aufdringlich". But others did like it and that also secured its continuing popularity. Interestingly there are a couple of references to the song in literature and poetry that at least help us understand what it may have meant to the people at that time.
Already in 1866 Eduard Mörike (1804-1875) wrote a poem for the daughter of an old friend when she got married: "'Lang, lang ist's her'". The title is set in quotation marks. It was published a year later in the 4th edition of his Gedichte (pp. 359-61 at Internet Archive):
Four years ago he had heard the young lady and a friend sing "jenes herrliche 'Lang, lang ist's her'" and that apparently left a lasting impression (Horn 2004, p. 3, see also Begemann 1999). At her wedding he recalled this "old love song from the North" and her performance:
Es gibt ein altes Liebeslied, von Norden kommt's,
This is a touching poem about remembering the past. The poet thinks back to the old days when he and the girl's father were young and in turn he advises the bride to sing this timeless "old ditty" for her husband on later wedding anniversaries: no matter how the times change, constant love and faithfulness will remain. Here the song serves as a symbolic link between past, present and future.
"Lang ist's her" also later played an important role in a novel for young people by popular writer Gustav Falke (1853-1916, see Wikipedia). Herr Purtaller und seine Tochter. Eine Erzählung für die Jugend was first published in 1913 (a later edition, Stuttgart 1926, is available at the Internet Archive)
Herr Purtaller is a widower and single father, in fact a poor fellow who ekes out a living as a private tutor for French and English, although he can't even speak the latter. His wife - once a singer at the Hofoper, not in Berlin but "in Zwickau" (p. 30) - had just died from illness and he is left with his daughter. But she has a good voice and he wants her to become a professional singer. That is his great dream and fantasy. "Lang ist's her" appears in this story as a kind of leitmotif. When the daughter sings this song, it brings them to tears (pp. 33-4). It was "the favourite song of her mother", the first song that the girl could sing when she was a little child (p. 30). It is a relic from the past that points to a better future. But it becomes clear that this dream will never come true. At least at the end her music teacher falls in love with her and they get engaged. Shortly later she sings this "song of her childhood" one last time for her father when he is lying in his dying bed (pp. 117-8). This depicts the exact moment when the its spell is broken and the past is gone. There is another girl in this story for whom this song doesn't mean that much. She likes it because it is easy to play on the piano. But she has never been touched by the song - "aber gerührt hatte es sie nie" - and can't understand why it could make anybody burst into tears (p. 28).
One more reference to "Lang ist's her" can be found in the poem "Regen" by Klabund, that was published in 1927 in a collection with the title Die Harfenjule. Neue Zeit-, Streit- und Leidgedichte (pp. 52-3, at the Internet Archive):
Klabund (i. e. Alfred Henschke, 1890-1928, see Wikipedia) was a versatile, many-sided writer: a dramatist, poet, novelist, translator and editor. He created numerous works during his short life including songs and texts for cabarets. Die Harfenjule was one of his last publications. It is a little booklet of 64 pages and looks exactly like one of the old Liedflugschriften, like these song booklets I have discussed in a preceding chapter. The title is a tribute to a legendary late Berlin street singer and harpist of the same name (see Wikipedia) and in the first text (p. 3) he refers to her as "des Sommers letzte Schwalbe" ("The last swallow of summer"), an ironic dig at the famous song by Thomas Moore that was so popular in Germany. The second text here, "Deutsches Volkslied" (pp. 3-4), is a hilarious parody of this genre: a collage of lines from numerous songs that are reassembled to a new text. And it even works! Other pieces in this booklet are the kind of rough and tough urban street poetry that could only be be written in Berlin in the 1920s. "Regen", a dark and depressive poem in two parts, demonstrates a more cynical approach to nostalgia:
Der Regen läuft an den Häusern entlang
Here it is the man with the wooden leg in the backyard who sings this song. And the old aunt has to sell her rusty piano and plays one last time "the song of her youth". "Lang ist's her" is relegated to the world of the poor and destitute, those who may have seen better days but for whom this song serves as a last link to the past.
The references to the song in these literary works clearly suggest that it was more than only an annoying Gassenhauer, as Böhme has claimed. Even a poet like Mörike felt genuinely touched by this simple piece. This kind of closeness to many people's personal experiences and the part it played in their lives - as exemplified by Falke and Klabund - surely helped to secure its long survival. Both of them also depict "Lang ist's her" as a song from the past. But at that time it's life-span was still not yet over. In fact after the turn of the century it was still printed and reprinted over and over again and remained a standard for several more decades. A complete bibliography would be a quite extensive undertaking. Therefore I will limit myself to a couple of examples.
We can find the song for example in Walther Werckmeister's Wandervogel Liederborn für die deutsche Jugend (Halle 1910, No. 156, pp. 101-2). At that time many young people enjoyed hiking. But of course it wasn't enough to put on the walking shoes and go out. They had to invent a new ideology and start a movement as well as a couple of organizations that were constantly at odds with each other. Last but not least they needed new songbooks. That meant new business opportunities for publishers and music experts who could recycle all the old stuff from the last century one more time. In fact Werckmeister's collection was, as the title says, one of the new songbooks for the famous Wandervogel-movement. Of course a considerable part of the repertoire included here was borrowed from earlier publications and "Lang ist's her" happened to be one of the many old standards that came to be used again. Here Ludwig Erk's version was reprinted but it was still called "Irisches Volkslied".
The same variant also appeared in Hermann Böse's Volkslieder für Haus und Wanderung (Berlin, 1914, No. 64, pp. 53-4). This was a songbook for the working-class youth, published by the social democratic party. Here we find again much of the same repertoire and even such an unrevolutionary song like "Lang ist's her" was sung in these circles. Strangely editor Böse also claimed that famous soprano Clara Novello had written the song. This was of course wrong. As far as I know Böhme in his Volksthümliche Lieder der Deutschen (1895, pp. 554-5) had been the first to publish this piece of disinformation and then it was occasionally repeated uncritically by other songbook editors.
I will close this chapter with three songbooks for guitar players. Here we can see once again the different variants of the lyrics that existed side by side at that time:
Blume was one of the few to name Bayly as the song's author but interestingly he used a text that I haven't seen elsewhere ("Sag' mir das Wort, das dereinst mich hat beglückt [...]"). Scherrer in his collection for students reprinted the lyrics first published in the original Liederschatz. I assume he had learned it from one of the older commercium books like Müller von der Werra's Allgemeines Reichs-Commersbuch or Schauenberg's Allgemeines Deutsches Commersbuch. For reasons unknown to me the song is here attributed to "M.C. Clarke.Novello". Klaass once again reprinted Erk's three verses but like many others he forgot to mention Mr. Bayly.
I don't want to forget to mention here that the new recording industry also made use of the song. For example in 1930 it was included on a record with the title Aus Großmütterchens Jugendzeit (Liebe, alte Lieder), performed here by a dance orchestra (SLUB Dresden, Fon-TKA-B(SNP-B 14243)). At this time "Lang ist's her" had been an "old song" for so many decades, in fact since its introduction 70 years ago. But that was an integral part of the song's appeal. In Germany it was never "new", it was always "old".
Now that we have reached the 1930s it is time to recapitulate the most important points so far and draw some conclusions. The song was introduced in Germany in 1859/60, 20 years after its original publication in England. But it is still not clear why it appeared exactly at that time. We can find the earliest versions in three editions of sheet music as well as one songbook, the latter by an innovative editor, Ludwig Erk, who usually did not plunder his rivals' or precursors' works but instead was busy shaping a new, modern repertoire for choral singing. Interestingly there were already at this point two different German texts available: one a translation of an abbreviated English version of unknown provenance, the other one - in Erk's book - a more or less correct adaptation of Bayly's original words.
These publications must have been quite successful. Other publishers jumped on the bandwagon and brought out their own editions of the song. The lyrics were also published on broadsides and song booklets, the so-called Liedflugschriften and from the late 60s onwards "Lang ist's her" began to appear in songbooks for the general public, either in arrangements for choirs or in more or less simple settings for voice and piano. Since the 70s the song also found its way into collections for the use in schools. In fact this piece was exclusively disseminated by printed matter and it reached all social classes, not only the well educated amateur musicians but also those who could neither read music nor afford expensive sheet music.
Musical piracy used to be the most favorite means of disseminating a song like this. First there was the deliberate expropriation of the original songwriter by selling it as "Irisches Volkslied". Of course it would not have been that difficult to find out about Mr. Bayly. Ludwig Erk - one of the few real scholars in that field - did but his finding was ignored most of the time. Besides that we have also seen enough examples of how editors and publishers borrowed the song - sometimes even including the arrangement - from other publications without acknowledging the source. But everything labeled as "Volkslied" was regarded as an easy prey and a cheap addition - it "belonged" to everyone and therefore could be recycled endlessly.
What's interesting is the appearance of different sets of lyrics. The tune and the refrain can be seen as the song's key ingredients that remained stable. But new words could be added, especially to make it suitable for different target-groups. This was clearly the case with the versions in schoolbooks: many pupils learned "Lang ist's her" not as a love song but as a nostalgic reminiscence of childhood and mother.
But what's even more interesting is that some of these new texts appeared somewhat out of nowhere, without any reference to its writer. This was not uncommon at that time. I know it for example from "Mein Herz ist im Hochland", the German adaptation of Robert Burns' "My Heart's in the Highlands". In that case the text remained the same most of the time. But for whichever reason at least half a dozen different tunes came to be in use with this song and for most of them we don't know the composer: they also appeared "out of nowhere" and there is a good reason to assume that the editors had written these melodies themselves and then passed them off as anonymous "folk-tunes". I wouldn't be surprised if this was also the case with some of the texts used for "Lang ist's her". It is more than obvious that this way of systematically concealing the sources and the editors' own efforts look like a deliberate attempt at "simulating" what is now called the "folk process". This is a problem that would be worth a more thorough discussion. Especially in case of these imported foreign songs most of the variant forms are clearly the result of the editors' and publishers' work.
But on the other hand "Lang ist's her" was in fact widely known and very popular among the "folk". It was even occasionally collected by Folklorists (see the list in Holzapfel 2006, p. 6) but that is far from being representative. If they had wanted to, they would have recorded that piece much more often. The collectors were not interested in these kind of songs, they usually wanted "real folk-songs". But the border drawn between what was called "Volkslieder" and what was regarded as "volkstümliche Lieder" happened to be a very porous one, it was more of an artificial distinction. The people never cared much where a song was from.
One question remains. Why was the song so popular for so long? In this respect, there is a lack of empirical data. We only have some anecdotal and literary evidence. But at least the poems by Mörike and Klabund as well as Falke's novel show us how the song could be perceived and understood and what it could mean to the people, at least some of them. If it really had been only a Gassenhauer then it wouldn't have survived for so long. High-brow condescension á la Professor Böhme isn't enough and doesn't help to understand a song's popularity and durability.
As a last note I will add that in 1930 the song's history was not yet over. "Lang ist's her" survived the 30s and 40s and from after the war until today the song was regularly printed, sold in different arrangements and also recorded by popular singers. It was known as an old "Volkslied" and as a simple tune for instrumentalists. A look into library catalogs will bring up enough examples. I have to say I can't remember hearing it in my youth but the song must have been there. And today? Today is the era of the Internet where everything is made available again. We can find numerous different versions online - I have posted a lot of them myself here - and "Lang ist's her" keeps on living as "old song" and I assume that many people still know the tune.
I wish to thank the following libraries for supplying me with some much needed scans:
a) Online Resources
b) Other Literature
Comments: Please send a mail to info[at]justanothertune.com
By Jürgen Kloss