Thoughts are Free

Around the 1780s, these words began appearing on handbills around Germany and spread quickly among students and intellectuals. Although the song was on a list of forbidden songs, it gained prominence as an anthem of the German March Revolution of 1848. The lyrics and melody are still well-known today in Germany and the phrase has passed into idiomatic German usage.

Pete Seeger sang a version of Die Gedanken Sind Frei at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964.

I first heard Die Gedanken Sind Frei in the 1971 made-for-TV movie Escape of the Birdmen (or The Birdmen), starring Doug McClure, Rene Auberjonois, Richard Basehart, Chuck Connors and Tom Skerritt. In the movie, POWs in a high security German prison taunted their Nazi captors by singing this song.

Here is a passable English rendition of one verse:

I think as I please,
And this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees,
This right I must treasure;
My thoughts will not cater
To duke or dictator,
No one can deny --
Die Gedanken sind frei

German lyrics side by side with funky Google translation. "Begluecket" is apparently untranslatable:

Die Gedanken sind frei,		My Thoughts are free, 
Wer kann sie erraten,		Invaluable, 
Sie fliehen vorbei,		They fly past,
Wie nächtliche Schatten.		Like nocturnal shadows. 
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen,	No one can know them,
Kein Jäger sie schießen		No hunter can shoot them 
es bleibt dabei:			It is plain to see: 
Die Gedanken sind frei!		My thoughts are free! 

Ich denke was ich will		I think what I want 
Und was mich beglücket,		And what humors me,
Doch alles in der Still',		In the silence,
Und wie es sich schickt.		They come to me. 
Mein Wunsch, mein Begehren	         My desire, my desiring 
Kann niemand verwehren,		Cannot be denied, 
Es bleibt dabei:			It's obvious that 
Die Gedanken sind frei!		My thoughts are free! 

Und sperrt man mich ein		If I were imprisoned
In finsteren Kerker,		In the darkest dungeon, 
das alles sind			It would only be
rein vergebliche Werke.		A futile effort. 
Denn meine Gedanken		Because my thoughts 
Zerreißen die Schranken		Tear through barriers 
Und Mauern entzwei,		And smash walls, 
Die Gedanken sind frei!		My thoughts are free! 

Drum will ich auf immer 		I keep the tempo 
Den Sorgen entsagen		Renounce any concerns 
Und will dich auch nimmer		And never bother
Mit Grillen mehr plagen.		With distractions. 
Man kann ja im Herzen		In my heart 
Stets lachen und scherzen		It's always smiles and fun
Und denken dabei:			Never forget: 
Die Gedanken sind frei!		My thoughts are free! 

Ich liebe den Wein,		I love wine, 
mein Mädchen vor allen,		my girl before all,
sie tut allein 			Their company 
am besten gefallen.		Favors me best. 
Ich bin nicht alleine		I am not alone 
bei meinem Glas Weine:		with my glass of wine: 
mein Mädchen dabei,		my girl nearby, 
die Gedanken sind frei!		My thoughts are free!


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