This simple song is said to date back to 1679 in Vienna, Austria - Marx Augustin was a cheery, popular balladeer and bag-piper of the time, reviving people’s spirits in that dark year of another outbreak of the Pest, the Black Death, He was also an accomplished drinker. One night, he was found lying in the gutter, drunk, but mistaken for dead, a Schnapsleiche, ‘a schnaps corpse’, someone so dead drunk they’re taken for dead.
And he was actually taken for dead! The Siechknechte, 'sick-menial-workers', the convicts assigned to collect the plague corpses, found him, threw him and his presumably infected bagpipe onto the cart with all the rest, and hauled him off to the mass grave. Bagpipes were at that time still common across Europe and not yet identified with Scotland.
They pitched him in with the other bodies, and next morning he awoke among the bodies, and couldn’t climb out of the pit- so he set to playing his bagpipe, deciding he’d die the way he lived. Instead, people heard him and pulled him out.
The fountain outside the neighboring church is named for him, the Augustinbrunnen, Augustin’s fountain. It had a bronze statue of him for a long while, but wars hunger for metal, and the original, like so many other bronzes across the millennia, got melted down. Some wit scribbled on the base „Der schwarzen Pest bin ich entronnen, die braune hat mich mitgenommen,“
‘I escaped the Black Plague, but the brown'n [the Nazi plague] did me in’, or,
Sure, the Black Plague spared my life / The brown’n [the Nazi plague] stilled my fife.'
Augustin's song is still popular and a symbol of humor that can survive all obstacles.
Not how you want to wake from your Rausch or buzz!
Now to hear it, courtesy of the Wiener Knabenchor, the Boys Choir of Vienna:
Here are the words, in German and English versions:
O, du lieber Augustin, Augustin, Augustin,
O, you dear, dear Augustin, Augustin, Augustin, O, du lieber Augustin, alles ist hin.
O, you dear, dear Augustin, I just can't win! Geld ist weg, Mäd'l ist weg,
Money's gone, gal is gone, Alles hin, Augustin.
I just can't win, Augustin! O, du lieber Augustin,
O, you dear Augustin, Alles ist hin.
I just can't win! (literally, ‘everything gone!’) Rock ist weg, Stock ist weg,
Coat is gone, staff is gone, Augustin liegt im Dreck,
Augustin lies in the mud. O, du lieber Augustin,
O, you dear, dear Augustin, Alles ist hin.
I just can't win Und selbst das reiche Wien,
Even rich old Vienna town Hin ist's wie Augustin;
Done in, like Augustin; Weint mit mir im gleichen Sinn,
Shed your tears with thoughts akin, Alles ist hin!
I just can't win! Jeder Tag war ein Fest,
Every day was a fest, Und was jetzt? Pest, die Pest!
Now we just have the pest! Nur ein groß' Leichenfest,
Just a great corpse's fest, Das ist der Rest.
That is the rest. Augustin, Augustin,
Augustin, Augustin, Leg' nur ins Grab dich hin!
Lie down in your grave! O, du lieber Augustin,
O, you dear, dear Augustin, Alles ist hin!
I just can't win!
Augustin loses his girlfriend, his money, his clothes, all Vienna’s been taken away by the plague, but Augustin keeps singing for the Vienese. They even have to tell him to lie down in this grave- he didn’t stay in it the first time!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ P.S. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you enjoyed this cheerful old tune, here are a few more versions of it
Here are a few more renditions,
with an oom-pa-pa band
or with a marked Austrian accent- only fitting for Viennese Augustin
And in this one, you can see what’s happening to Augustin, as he loses things one by one. And doesn't let it get him down.
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