Monday, July 18, 2011


Charm Against Headache

Eric Sams, The Songs of Hugo Wolf (1961; rpt. London: Faber and Faber, 1992), p.279, translates lyrics set to music by Wolf in his Spanisches Liederbuch (Spanish Songbook):
Little head, little head, do not whimper; hold up bravely, hold up cheerfully, put two steady props under you, wholesomely carpentered from patience. Hope shines, however bad things may become and vex you. But you mustn't take anything too grievously to heart, least of all any fairy-story that might make your hair stand on end. God, and the giant Christopher, forfend that. [God, and the giant Christopher, forfend that.]
Here is Paul Heyse's German translation of the Spanish, as set to music by Hugo Wolf:
Köpfchen, Köpfchen, nicht gewimmert,
Halt' dich wacker, halt' dich munter,
Stütz‘ zwei gute Säulchen unter,
Heilsam aus Geduld gezimmert!
Hoffnung schimmert,
Wie sich’s auch verschlimmert
Und dich kümmert.
Musst mit Grämen
Dir nichts zu herzen nehmen,
Ja kein Märchen,
Dass zu Berg dir stehn die Härchen;
Da sei Gott davor
Und der Riese Christophor!
The original Spanish is by Cervantes, from his La Gitanilla (The Little Gypsy Girl). Sams ad loc.:
In Cervantes the words are spoken by the heroine Preciosa: but the German title Preciosas Sprüchlein gegen Kopfweh, her prescription against headache, given in the source book and reproduced in Wolf's score, seems to be Heyse's own invention. In fact the Cervantes story makes no mention of any headache. Preciosa repeats these lines laughingly to her lover who has fallen into a swoon on hearing that she has other admirers.
It's not entirely accurate to say that "the Cervantes story makes no mention of any headache." Here is part of the episode from Cervantes in N. MacColl's translation:
The father of Andres bade her leave him in writing the words which she had said to Don Juan, as he wished to know them in any case. She said that she would repeat them most willingly, and that the company should understand that, although they seemed trifling, they had especial virtue in preserving from a heart attack and giddiness of the head, and that the words were:

Little head, little head,
Stay thyself, stay,
Do not give way;
Build thyself up a fort
Of blessed patience;
Seek for the firm support
Given by confidence.
Do not incline thine ear
To foolish dreamings.
Thou wilt yet learn to see
Marvellous seemings;
These unto God refer
And to Saint Christopher.

'Let them repeat the half of these words and make half a dozen times the sign of the cross upon the heart of any person who suffers from giddiness in the head,' said Preciosa, 'and he will remain as sound as an apple.'
Here is the Spanish:
El padre de Andrés le dijo que le dejase por escrito las palabras que había dicho a don Juan, que las quería saber en todo caso. Ella dijo que las diría de muy buena gana, y que entendiesen que, aunque parecían cosa de burla, tenían gracia especial para preservar el mal de corazón y los vaguidos de cabeza, y que las palabras eran:

Cabecita, cabecita,
Tente en ti, no te resbales,
Y apareja dos puntales
De la paciencia bendita.
La bonita
No te inclines
A pensamientos ruines;
Verás cosas
Que toquen en milagrosas,
Dios delante
Y San Cristóbal gigante.

— Con la mitad destas palabras que le digan, y con seis cruces que le hagan sobre el corazón a la persona que tuviere vaguidos de cabeza — dijo Preciosa —, quedará como una manzana.
At any rate, it's a delightful little song, and I'll try repeating it the next time I have a headache.

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