Guten morgen, leute!
Today, I’m bringing you my analysis of “On My Own” / “Nur für mich” [Only for Me] from LES MISÉRABLES. Of all of the analyses that I’ve done this week, this is the one that I’ve probably been most looking forward to! Overall, “Nur für mich” provides a translation that I really, really adore and I can’t wait to share it with y’all and do a quick analysis of it all! Klar, los geht’s!
“On my own Pretending he’s beside me All alone I walk with him till morning Without him I feel his arms around me And when I lose my way I close my eyes And he has found me.”
Here, we get some scene-setting from Éponine. She tells us where she is. She tells us a little about these things she imagines in her head.
“Nür für mich, im Stillen ist er bei mir. Ganz allein durchwachen wir die Nächte. Dann fühl ich, sein ferner Arm berührt mich. Und wenn ich mich verlauf, schließ ich die Augen Und er führt mich.” [Only for me, in silence he is with me. All alone, we wake in the nights. Then I feel his distant arm touch me. And when I walk, I close my eyes and he leads me.]
In the German version, it’s much the same. A little bit different things that she’s imagining. I think that the fact that Éponine says “schließ ich die Augen und er führt mich” [I close my eyes and he leads me] is pretty interesting. Maybe this speaks to how much Marius has changed the way she lives her life?
“In the rain the pavement shines like silver All the lights are misty in the river In the darkness, the trees are full of starlight And all I see is him and me forever and forever.”
A little bit more scene-setting. Except, the scene that Éponine describes is the scene that she sees in her mind. It’s the world that she wishes could be. It’s the way in which she imagines that she would see the world if Marius did love her.
“Regen fällt, die Straße fließt wie Silber. Nebel steigt, im Fluß verweh’n die Lichter. Dunkle Bäume, die Zweige schwer von Sternen. Und alles, was ich seh, sind unsere ewigen Gesichter.” [Rain falls, the road flows like silver. Fog rises, the lights flutter in the river. Dark trees, the braches heavy with stars. And all I see is our eternal faces.]
Here, the translation is pretty faithful and the same sort of thing is going on. However, I think that the German version’s a little more poetic in some ways? I don’t know. Maybe that’s just me? Just something I noticed in the way that some things were phrased.
“And I know it’s only in my mind That I’m talking to myself and not to him And although I know that he is blind Still I say, there’s a way for us.”
And here, we get Éponine’s awakening from this dream world. She’s harshly thrown back into reality and she knows that Marius does not really love her and that he’s not there with her at all. What I do find interesting, though, is that, at the end of the stanza, Éponine says “Still I say there’s a way for us.” Which is quite a bit different from what she says in the German version.
“Doch , ich weiß, es kann ja nie geschehen, Denn ich red nur mit mir selbst und nicht mit ihm. Ja, ich weiß, er hat mich übersehen, Ganz egal, ich muss zu ihm stehen.” [But I know it never can be. Because I am talking to myself and not to him. Yes, I know he overlooked me. Doesn’t matter, I have to stand beside him.]
As mentioned in my quick analysis of the stanza in English, I brought out that in the English version, Éponine holds some sort of hope that somehow, Marius could still possibly fall in love with her. In the German version, she doesn’t seem to believe that at all. She outright says “I know it never can be” when she says “ich weiß, es kann ja nie geschehen.” However, she does say that it doesn’t matter that Marius will never love her. She’ll go on standing beside him no matter what.
“I love him But when the night is over He is gone The river’s just a river Without him The world around me changes The trees are bare and everywhere The streets are full of strangers.”
And here, we really get to see a glimpse of what Éponine’s world without Marius is like. As much as Marius is the focal point of Éponine’s story, without understanding her life outside of her love for Marius, her love for Marius makes little to no sense. Marius is the only person who does not treat her like a stranger. He’s the only person who treats her with genuine kindness.
“Ich lieb ihn, doch geht die Nacht vorüber, Ist er fort. Der dunkle Fluß wird trüber. Er fehlt mir, die Welt verliert die Farben, Die Bäume kanhl, die Menschen fahl, Die Straßen voller Narben.” [I love him, but the night passes and he is gone. The dark river is dim. I lack him, the world loses all its colors. The trees that blew [through] people. The streets [are] full of scars.]
I think it’s really interesting that here, Éponine says “Die Straßen voller Narben” [The streets [are] full of scars]. For those of us well-acquainted with most aspects of LES MIZ, we know that Éponine’s been made to steal for her parents and that her parents (or at least her father) has affiliations with a violent street gang called the Patron-Minette. It is also implied in the book that she has some sort of relationship with Montparnasse [highly likely arranged and not one of choice]. Perhaps the streets being “full of scars” speaks to the abuse that she’s suffered on the streets?
“I love him But every day I’m learning All my life I’ve only been pretending Without me His world will go on turning A world that’s full of happiness That I have never known.”
I think that the most important part of this stanza is the ending: “A world that’s full of happiness that I have never known.” It offers perfect contrast of Marius and Éponine’s life and talks a little more of her life outside of Marius.
“Ich lieb ihn, doch täglich muss ich sehen, Wie er lebt, als hät’s mich nie gegeben. Sein Leben wird ohne mich vergehen. Die Welt ist voller Seligkeit und ich darf nicht hinein.” [I love him, but every day I must see how he lives as if I had never been. His life will continue on with out me. The world is full of salvation and I cannot enter in.]
We get kind of the same thing as the English version from the German version. However, we see that Éponine feels that not only will he continue on with life without her, but she also feels that he can just carry on as if never having met her. And maybe it’s just me but something about that is super heartwrenching. Does she not even think that he views her even as a friend, then? But, at the end, we get quite a different translation. “The world if full of salvation and I cannot enter in” is expressed in the words “Die Welt ist voller Seligkeit und ich darf nicht hinen.” And here, I think we also get more of Éponine’s backstory—her life as a thief. She feels that one of the greatest differences between herself and Marius is not just their lifestyles but their abilities to be redeemed as people morally.
“I love him I love him I love him But only on my own.”
Here, we get the clear message that while Éponine loves Marius, Marius does not love her in return. She loves him on her own.
“Ich lieb ihn , ich lieb ihn , ich lieb ihn Doch nur für mich allein.” [I love him, I love him, I love him. But only for myself.]
Whereas the English version says “But only on my own”, the German version says “But only for myself” in the words “Doch nur für mich allein.” I think it’s interesting to look at this difference. In the English version, it’s just a standard case of unrequited love. She loves him, he doesn’t love her. However, the German version delves deeper than that. In saying that she only loves him for herself, I think that she’s saying that she loves him because he’s the only good thing in her life. She loves him, perhaps in a way that she sees as being selfish—of course, it’s not, but perhaps she sees it that way? She loves him because he provides a way of escaping from the troubles of her life.
And that’s been my analysis of “On My Own” / “Nur für mich”! Hopefully that was interesting! What do you think about the two different translations?
Vielen dank und tschüss!