Still life with a convolvulus and a ladybird - James HollandStill life with a convolvulus and a ladybug (detail) - J. Holland
This week, the post is dedicated to those of you who, either prefer short posts or don't like winter. To the former, because you've earned it with your patience during the last three weeks, when I expanded my posts a bit too much. Today, I'll be brief to compensate. To those who don't like winter, because in full December, we’ll make up our own spring.

It's springtime, don't you feel the sun’s warmth on your skin? And the light so bright? Can you see that child with a ladybug on his hands? The ladybug, the cutest bug. So rounded, with its bright red and its seven black spots. Mother Nature treats some better than others and the ladybug, besides being cute, is prized by everybody; Among other reasons, because it eats the aphids in our roses. As it happens with successful people, some try to imitate it; Please be aware of that bug that appears like a ladybug but is slightly more elongated, orangish-red with only six spots because it will eat... your roses! Sorry for the gardening digression, but when you're a true urbanite it's so easy to say "look, what a cute bug!" and to be left without roses!

Let’s go back to that child with a ladybird on his hands. At first, he looks excited; trying to calm down the ladybird (which seems very calm, by the way) by saying, he won't harm it, he just wants to see its wings. The ladybug is not interested in flying; the boy who can’t get it by hook, tries it by crook: he warns the bug its home is on fire, and baby ladybugs are endangered because the wicked spider keeps them trapped in its web. The ladybug stays still (it might not have offspring…) so the boy suggests going to the house next door to visit the children who live there. Eventually, will the ladybird fly, or else?

This story comes from Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Robert Schumann chose it to write his Lied Marienwürmchen (Ladybug), included in Liederabend für die Jugend, op. 79, we talked briefly about it some time ago when we listen to Frühlingslied. Schumann wrote that cycle dedicated to his children in 1849 and he ordered the twenty-eight songs from easiest to hardest. Marienwürmchen, which is the thirteenth song of the cycle, is a strophic, apparently traditional song, as most of them, and it's also a song that fits the charming category.

I’d like to recommend a few more auditions related to that ladybug. One of them is a song we heard some time ago, The beetle from Mussorgsky, where a boy told his nurse about his unexpected encounter with the bug and him having a hard time. Schumann's song reminded me of that other song because, each in his own style, both reflect the expressive telling of children. The other recommendation is a lied that Brahms wrote with the same poem from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the n. 13 of his Volkskinderlieder, written in 1858; I’ll share it with you as a bonus track. Our versions are those of Ann Murray and Graham Johnson (Schumann's song) and Antonia Bourvé and Tobias Hartlieb (Brahms's song)

The spring we made up to talk about the ladybug is fading; we'll make up a new one in January, when we'll talk about the butterfly, the last of our list of buggy songs.
Marienwürmchen (R. Schumann)
Marienwürmchen (J. Brahms)

Marienwürmchen, setze dich
Auf meine Hand, auf meine Hand,
Ich tu’ dir nichts zuleide.
Es soll dir nichts zuleid geschehn,
Will nur deine bunte Flügel sehn,
Bunte Flügel meine Freude.

Marienwürmchen, fliege weg,
Dein Häuschen brennt, die Kinder schrein
So sehre, wie so sehre.
Die böse Spinne spinnt sie ein,
Marienwürmchen, flieg hinein,
Deine Kinder schreien sehre.

Marienwürmchen, fliege hin
Zu Nachbars Kind, zu Nachbars Kind,
Sie tun dir nichts zuleide.
Es soll dir da kein Leid geschehn,
Sie wollen deine bunten Flügel sehn,
Und grüß sie alle beide.

Ladybird, sit
 on my hand -
 I will do you no harm.
 No harm shall come to you;
 I only wish to see your colorful wings:
 your colorful wings are my joy.
 Ladybird, fly away,
 your house is burning, your children are crying
 so much, so much.
 The evil spider is spinning her web around them;
 Ladybird, fly home,
 your children are crying so.
 Ladybird, fly
  to the neighbor's children,
 They will do you no harm.
 No harm will come to you:
 they only wish to see your colorful wings,
 and greet them both for me.

(translation © Emily Ezust)


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