Herr Bleibe–German Evening Song

Herr Bleibe

Original German: Herr bleibe bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, und der Tag hat sich geneiget.

Transliterate: Lord, stay with us, for it wants to become evening, and the day has bowed down.

Translation: Oh Lord, abide with us, for it is almost evening, and the day is near its end.

(Translation provided by informant)


“It was an evening round song that we sang as long as I can remember. My mother was from Stüttgart. I assume the song is Schweibish (a German dialect from the south of the country). We would sing it home with as a family. My Mutti, my mother, also taught it to a local children’s choir at a Saturday morning German school. They couldn’t read music, but they could memorize it quickly when she sang it to them enough. She taught it to pass on the language and keep the culture going. Because it was a round, it was easy to teach the children the music and keep the language alive. When you first learned it, you called it… I don’t remember, but you obviously didn’t know what the words meant. You had just learned it by rote. You always thought of it as a lullaby, because that’s when I could sing it to you. It’s based on the gospel, I’m not sure which one, on the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. They invite a stranger to spend an evening with them. When they break bread with him that evening, they realize that it’s Jesus.”


My informant was born in Germany, but moved to Canada when she was two months old. Her mother taught her this song when she was very young, and she in turn taught me. I believe the location is a large reason this song has been passed on. My grandmother, who has never spoken very good English and still identifies herself as German, was out of place in Canada when they first moved there. Just like her reasoning for teaching the children in the Saturday morning choir, I believe she taught this song to my mother, aunt and uncles to keep them aware of their culture and language, even though they were no longer in Germany My mother, though not a citizen of the United States, has now lived in America for over thirty years. She taught me this song for the same reason her mother taught it to her. Separated from the connection she had to her family and her German heritage, she wanted to preserve that culture and pass it on to her children. She mentions teaching it to me before I even spoke German, causing me to memorize the words without knowing what they were. Because it is a short song and, as a round, designed to be repeated until the participants decide they no longer want to sing it, it is very quickly and easily learned. This makes it ideal to teach children, because they can memorize it without much difficulty.