Perhaps one of the most popular war-time songs ever written, Lili Marlene began as the poem of a young German soldier named Hans Liep in 1916, written a few months before he was sent to fight on the Russian front. "Das Lied eines jungen Soldaten auf der Wacht", "The Song of a Young Sentry on Watch", a soldier's plaintive memory of his girl and their meeting underneath the lamplight, was finally published in 1937, in a collection of Liep's poetry:

Vor der Kaserne
Vor dem großen Tor
Stand eine Laterne
Und steht sie noch davor
So woll'n wir uns da wieder seh'n
Bei der Laterne wollen wir steh'n
|: Wie einst Lili Marleen. :|

Unsere beide Schatten
Sah'n wie einer aus
Daß wir so lieb uns hatten
Das sah man gleich daraus
Und alle Leute soll'n es seh'n
Wenn wir bei der Laterne steh'n
|: Wie einst Lili Marleen. :|

Schon rief der Posten,
Sie blasen Zapfenstreich
Das kann drei Tage kosten
Kam'rad, ich komm sogleich
Da sagten wir auf Wiedersehen
Wie gerne wollt ich mit dir geh'n
|: Mit dir Lili Marleen. :|

Deine Schritte kennt sie,
Deinen zieren Gang
Alle Abend brennt sie,
Doch mich vergaß sie lang
Und sollte mir ein Leids gescheh'n
Wer wird bei der Laterne stehen
|: Mit dir Lili Marleen? :|

Aus dem stillen Raume,
Aus der Erde Grund
Hebt mich wie im Traume
Dein verliebter Mund
Wenn sich die späten Nebel drehn
Werd' ich bei der Laterne steh'n
|: Wie einst Lili Marleen. :|

But less than a year after its publication, Liep's poem had already been set to music, by the German composer Norbert Schultze. Initially, its reception was luke-warm, at best; most stations even refused to play it. But by 1940, the song was heard throughout the pubs and cabarets of Germany, sung by stars like Marlene Dietrich and Lale Andersen. Like We'll Meet Again in Britain, the song was carried across the continents by soldiers on the march, from the Russian borders to the sands of the Afrika Corps. Ironically, it was considered unwholesome and offensive by the Nazi party, which banned its playing in 1942. Whether because of a universal sentiment or maybe just its catching melody, Lili Marlene soon caught on in England, translated by Tommie Connor in 1944, and popularized among the Allied Forces by Vera Lynn the following year:

Underneath the lantern,
By the barrack gate
Darling I remember
The way you used to wait
T'was there that you whispered tenderly,
That you loved me,
You'd always be,
My Lilli of the Lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene

Time would come for roll call,
Time for us to part,
Darling I'd caress you
And press you to my heart,
And there 'neath that far-off lantern light,
I'd hold you tight ,
We'd kiss good night,
My Lilli of the Lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene

Orders came for sailing,
Somewhere over there
All confined to barracks
was more than I could bear
I knew you were waiting in the street
I heard your feet,
But could not meet,
My Lilly of the Lamplight,
my own Lilly Marlene

Resting in our billets,
Just behind the lines
Even tho' we're parted,
Your lips are close to mine
You wait where that lantern softly gleams,
Your sweet face seems
To haunt my dreams
My Lilly of the Lamplight,
My own Lilly Marlene

Even the United States took up the tune, bringing an anonymously sung recording of the English translation to the top charts in 1944. Still the most popular war-time song ever recorded, Lili Marlene has since been translated into over 48 languages worldwide; and in the spirit of the true pedant, I'll give you one more, by Meredith Minter Dixon:

Extra hiberna
In decumana,
Trita'rat laterna;
Manebit vetusta,
Conveniemus hoc rursus;
Infra laternam stabimus,
Olim Lili Marleen.
Olim Lili Marleen.

Duae umbrae nobis
Una facta sunt.
Amavimus inter nos
Et omnes viderunt.
Omnes videbunt hac rursus;
Infra laternam stabimus,
Olim Lili Marleen.
Olim Lili Marleen.

Tum vigil dixit
Ut strepuisse vi.
Igitur ad castra
Reveniendum mi.
Ergo te iussi valere.
Malui tecum comitare,
Tecum Lili Marleen.
Tecum Lili Marleen.

Cognoverat vestrum
Incessum passumque.
Vesper' exspectabat
Diu oblita mei.
Occiso me, quis stabit tum,
Infra laternam sic tecum,
Tecum Lili Marleen?
Tecum Lili Marleen?

In hebeti die,
Vita quieta,
Memoria teneo
Quam dulci' oscula.
Nebula noctis venio.
Infra laternam solus sto.
Olim Lili Marleen.
Olim Lili Marleen


Most information taken from http://ingeb.org/garb/lmarleen.html, where you can also download mp3s of various recordings.

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