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> June Tabor > Songs > Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib?

Das Lied vom Weib des Nazi-Soldaten / The Wife of the Soldier

[words Bertolt Brecht, music by Kurt Weill and Patrick John O'Hara Scott]

Bertolt Brecht wrote Das Lied vom Weib des Nazi-Soldaten and the song's English version The Wife of the Soldier in 1943 for his play Schweyk im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Schwejk in the Second World War). It is a sequel to the 1923 novel The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek.

This poem was set to music by Mischa Spoliansky and by Kurt Weill during the war for propaganda purposes. Brecht planned, along with the latter, an anti-Nazi musical about Hašek's literary figure of the “good soldier Schwejk”, in which the song was to be integrated didactically. This plan for a theater play at first did not progress much beyond the German libretto version (Schwejk), until Hanns Eisler completed the music after Brecht's death and prepared the piece for a performance in Europe.

[Nils Grosch: Vom Weib des Nazisoldaten: Musik, Propaganda und Aufführung eines Brecht-Songs, in Song and Popular Culture, 2005].

Martin Carthy recorded The Wife of the Soldier with Dave Swarbrick for their 1967 album Byker Hill, using a tune by flute player Johnny Scott. This track was re-released on their compilation Selections and in 2001 on The Carthy Chronicles. Martin Carthy commented in the first album's sleeve notes:

The Wife of the Soldier was written by Bertolt Brecht and comes from his play [Schwejk in the Second World War]. This is a shortened version which I first heard recited by Isla Cameron to music by jazz flautist/saxist Johnny Scott when we were doing Hallelujah for ABC TV a couple of years ago. The music that Johnny wrote and played stuck in my head until Dave and I decided to record it at a moment's notice (without asking his permission—I hope he doesn't mind).

After Carthy had re-joined Steeleye Span—he and John Kirkpatrick replaced Bob Johnson and Peter Knight in 1977—they recorded this song for Steeleye Span's tenth album, Storm Force Ten. A live recording from the 1995 War Child charity concert is on Steeleye Span's 2 CD set The Journey.

Barbara Dickson sang The Wife of the Soldier on her 2 CD album For the Record / In Concert.

June Tabor, Kristien Dehollander of Yprès, and Shoshana Kalisch of Galanta, New York, sang Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib? on the 1993 CD We Died in Hell—They Called it Passchendaele.

Jon Boden sang The Wife of the Soldier as the March 6, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day, giving Marting Carthy as his source.

Lyrics

Das Lied vom Weib des Nazi-Soldaten Martin Carthy sings The Wife of the Soldier

Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib
Aus der alten Hauptstadt Prag?
Aus Prag bekam sie die Stöckelschuh.
Einen Gruß und dazu die Stöckelschuh
Das bekam sie aus der Stadt Prag.

What did the wife of the soldier get
From the ancient city of Prague?
From Prague she got the linen shirt.
It matched her skirt did the linen shirt
That she got from the city of Prague.

Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib
Aus Warschau am Weichselstrand?
Aus Warschau bekam sie das leinene Hemd
So bunt und so fremd, ein polnisches Hemd!
Das bekam sie vom Weichselstrand.

Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib
Aus Oslo über dem Sund?
Aus Oslo bekam sie das Kräglein aus Pelz.
Hoffentlich gefällt‘s, das Kräglein aus Pelz!
Das bekam sie aus Oslo am Sund.

Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib
Aus dem reichen Rotterdam?
Aus Rotterdam bekam sie den Hut.
Und er steht ihr gut, der holländische Hut.
Den bekam sie aus Rotterdam.

Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib
Aus Brüssel im belgischen Land?
Aus Brüssel bekam sie die seltenen Spitzen.
Ach, das zu besitzen, so seltene Spitzen!
Sie bekam sie aus belgischem Land.

What did the wife of the soldier get
From Brussels, the Belgian town?
From Brussels she got the delicate lace.
Oh the charm and the grace of the delicate lace
That she got from the Belgian town.

Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib
Aus der Lichterstadt Paris?
Aus Paris bekam sie das seidene Kleid.
Zu der Nachbarin Neid das seidene Kleid
Das bekam sie aus Paris.

What did the wife of the soldier get
From Paris, the City of Light?
From Paris she got the silken dress.
Oh to possess the silken dress
That she got from the City of Light.

Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib
Aus dem libyschen Tripolis?
Aus Tripolis bekam sie das Kettchen.
Das Amulettchen am kupfernen Kettchen
Das bekam sie aus Tripolis.

What did the wife of the soldier get
From Libya's desert sands?
From Libya, the little charm.
Around her arm she wore the charm
That she got from the desert sands.

Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib
Aus dem weiten Russenland?
Aus Rußland bekam sie den Witwenschleier.
Zu der Totenfeier den Witwenschleier
Das bekam sie aus Rußland.

What did the wife of the soldier get
From Russia's distant steppes?
From Russia she got the widow's veil.
And the end of the tale is the widow's veil
That she got from the distant steppes.

Acknowledgements and Links

Transcribed from Martin Carthy's singing by Garry Gillard.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Wife of a Soldier (Bertolt Brecht).