> The Young Tradition > Songs > The Hungry Child

The Hungry Child (Das irdische Leben)

[trad., Judith Piepe]

Das irdische Leben is from the German poem collection by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1806/1808), where oral tradition was given as source. Judith Piepe translated the poem into English and called it The Procrastination Song.

The Young Tradition sang it as The Hungry Child in 1967 on their second album, So Cheerfully Round. Heather Wood commented in the album liner notes:

We have a friend called Judith Piepe. She once came into collision with a Folk Drag, who knew All About The English Tradition and could tell a traditional song any day. So Judith wrote him a couple, which he averred were rural gems from the seventeen hundreds. When she told him the truth he went away and hasn't been heard from since. Splendid. So, we thought, was one of the songs. Judith calls it The Procrastination Song; we prefer to call it The Hungry Child.

Sound Tradition sang Hungry Child in 2017 on their CD Well Met, My Friend. They noted:

The lyrics are a translation from a German folk song first published in 1808 and described at that time as coming from ‘oral tradition’ Our version is based on the singing of The Young Tradition. We've experimented with different endings, but this is a bleak song whichever way you look at it.

Lyrics

Das irdische Leben The Young Tradition sing The Hungry Child

A young child to its mother ran
And then it started crying,
“Mother, I'm hungry, mother dear,
Give me bread or I'll be dying.”
“Wait my child, wait my child,
Tomorrow we'll be ploughing.”

“Mutter, ach Mutter, es hungert mich.
Gib mir Brot, sonst sterbe ich!”
“Warte nur, warte nur, mein liebes Kind!
Morgen wollen wir ernten geschwind!”
Und als das Korn geerntet war,
Rief das Kind noch immerdar:

Now when the field it had been ploughed
The young child started crying,
“Mother, I'm hungry, mother dear,
Give me bread or I'll be dying.”
“Wait my child, wait my child,
Tomorrow we'll be sowing.”

“Mutter, ach Mutter, es hungert mich.
Gib mir Brot, sonst sterbe ich!”
“Warte nur, warte nur, mein liebes Kind!
Morgen wollen wir dreschen geschwind!”
Und als das Korn gedroschen war,
Rief das Kind noch immerdar:

Now when the field it had been reaped
The young child started crying,
“Mother, I'm hungry, mother dear,
Give me bread or I'll be dying.”
“Wait my child, wait my child,
Tomorrow we'll be threshing.”

Now when the wheat it had been threshed
The young child started crying,
“Mother, I'm hungry, mother dear,
Give me bread or I'll be dying.”
“Wait my child, wait my child,
Tomorrow we'll be grinding.”

“Mutter, ach Mutter, es hungert mich.
Gib mir Brot, sonst sterbe ich!”
“Warte nur, warte nur, mein liebes Kind!
Morgen wollen wir backen geschwind!”
Und als das Brot gebacken war,
Lag das Kind auf der Totenbahr'.

Now when the wheat it had been ground
The young child started crying,
“Mother, I'm hungry, mother dear,
Give me bread or I'll be dying.”
“Wait my child, wait my child,
We'll be baking.”
Now when the bread was warm in the oven
The child lay in his coffin.

Acknowledgements

For more information see the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: The Hungry Child.