The Shepherd on the Rock

"The Shepherd on the Rock" (German: Der Hirt auf dem Felsen), D. 965, is a Lied for soprano, clarinet, and piano by Franz Schubert. It was composed in 1828 during the final months of his life.


Of the seven verses, the first four and the last came from the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, while verses five and six were written by Karl August Varnhagen von Ense.[1]


The Lied was written as a belated response to a request from the operatic soprano Pauline Anna Milder-Hauptmann, a friend of Schubert. She had requested a showpiece that would allow her to express a wide range of feelings. It was published a year and a half after Schubert's death. Milder sang it for the first time at the House of the Blackheads in Riga on 10 February 1830.[2]


The Lied is multi-sectional with the clarinet and the voice equally challenged. The first section is warm as the lonely shepherd, high on the mountaintop, listens to the echoes rising from below. The second section becomes quite dark as the shepherd expresses his all encompassing grief and loneliness. The third and last section is a sign of hope as the shepherd anticipates the coming of spring and with it rebirth.

Complete text

Wilhelm Müller – "Der Berghirt"

Wenn auf dem höchsten Fels ich steh',
In's tiefe Tal hernieder seh',
Und singe.

Fern aus dem tiefen dunkeln Tal
Schwingt sich empor der Widerhall
Der Klüfte.

Je weiter meine Stimme dringt,
Je heller sie mir wieder klingt
Von unten.

Mein Liebchen wohnt so weit von mir,
Drum sehn' ich mich so heiß nach ihr

When, from the highest rock up here,
I look deep down into the valley,
And sing,

Far from the valley dark and deep
Echoes rush through, upward and back to me,
The chasm.

The farther that my voice resounds,
So much the brighter it echoes
From under.

My sweetheart dwells so far from me,
I long hotly to be with her
Over there.

Varnhagen – "Nächtlicher Schall"

In tiefem Gram verzehr ich mich,
Mir ist die Freude hin,
Auf Erden mir die Hoffnung wich,
Ich hier so einsam bin.

So sehnend klang im Wald das Lied,
So sehnend klang es durch die Nacht,
Die Herzen es zum Himmel zieht
Mit wunderbarer Macht.

I am consumed in misery,
Happiness is far from me,
Hope has on earth eluded me,
I am so lonesome here.

So longingly did sound the song,
So longingly through wood and night,
Towards heaven it draws all hearts
With amazing strength.

Wilhelm Müller – "Liebesgedanken"

Der Frühling will kommen,
Der Frühling, meine Freud',
Nun mach' ich mich fertig
Zum Wandern bereit

The Springtime will come,
The Springtime, my happiness,
Now must I make ready
To wander forth.


  1. T. G. Waidelich: "Der letzte Hauch im Lied entflieht, im Lied das Herz entweicht! – Varnhagens 'Nächtlicher Schall' als letzter Baustein zum 'Hirt auf dem Felsen'." In: Schubert: Perspektiven 8 (2010), p. 237–243.
  2. "Anna Milder-Hauptmann and 'Der Hirt auf dem Felsen'". In: Schubert 200, Heidelberg 1997, pp. 165–167.


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