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An English Adaptation of Mephistopheles' Song of the Flea from FAUST

There was a king once reigning
Who carried a great, big flea—
And far from him complaining,
The flea filled the king with glee!
For to him that flea was dearer
Than even his only son,
And to make his preference clearer,
Raised it higher than anyone!

In ermine, silk and satin
The flea was soon arrayed;
Of sable was is hat in,
His frock coat, fine brocade.
Since he was the King’s most favored,
And created a Baron too,
Soon all his relatives savored
Their importance as favorites do!

Then all the Lords and Ladies
Were plagued with bites and welts—
They thought they were in Hades,
So itchy were their pelts!
And they didn’t dare to scratch them
Or flick the fleas away—
We too don’t dare dispatch them
When the mighty bite us that way!


[No, we won’t dare to dispatch 'em
When the mighty bite that way—
Indeed we don’t dare to dispatch 'em
When the mighty bite that way,
Indeed we don’t dare to dispatch 'em
When the mighty bite that way,
Bite --us -- that -- way!]

December 7, 2019
 
From Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's great drama Faust, sung by the tempter Mephistopheles.   

The verse was memorably set to music by Ludwig van Beethoven [Op.75 no. 3, 1809]:  there is a fine version on YouTube [just audio really] of this song combined and preceded by another Beethoven song ("Der Zufriedene"), sung by Nicolai Gedda with Jan Eyron on piano; the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz1V7psPzgE
(The Song of the Flea begins at 1:18).
Another YouTube is of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yut0tZftU10
 A third features Ryan Bailey Williams, a student at the University of Arkansas, in  recital, [and he's quite funny]:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCIknU4Xz2A

[Modest Mussorgsky wrote a version of the song, but freely translated into Russian, so it didn't follow the rhythm of the German original.] 

Later still, Dmitri Shostakovich orchestrated Beethoven's setting, using a Russian text adaptation conforming to the original line structure. THIS IS THE VERSION WHOSE YOUTUBE VIDEO IS LINKED ABOVE.  Shostakovich's instrumentation brings out the piquancy and burlesque of Beethoven's brilliant accompaniment.  

 The link to this orchestration is:
https://search.aol.com/aol/video;_ylt=AwrE19wgt.1dJCMAwVJpCWVH;_ylu=X3oDMTB0N2Noc21lBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNwaXZz?q=mephistopheles+song+of+the+flea&s_it=searchtabs&v_t=nscp-isp#id=2&vid=a56c9158678b04eef890d10ded7b694d&action=view
      


Copyright © J P Marmaro

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