About this work
Johann Mayrhofer's Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren (Song of a Boatman to the Dioscuri) is based on the Greek myth of the Dioscuri, the twin brothers Castor and Polydeuces -- twin stars of the constellation Gemini who were said to be heavenly guardians of sailors. His three-verse poem of four lines each is a prayer to the Dioscuri to keep the narrator safe until he returns to land. Schubert's setting of Mayrhofer's poem (D. 360) from 1822 turns his prayer into a modified strophic hymn. The song starts with a spacious set of rolled chords deep in the piano, setting the music in motion. The voice enters with a melody for the first verse which is both intimate and immense, the very image of a man alone on the vastness of the sea. The second verse is more massive and monumental with a vocal melody which begins bravely but shrinks at the immensity of the water. In the third and final verse the piano accompaniment billows and surges beneath a melody very much like the melody from the opening verse.
A song which joins Schubert's water music with his pantheism, the Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren is as sublime a hymn as Schubert ever wrote.