“Die Gedanken sind frei” is a German song about the freedom of thought. The original lyricist and the composer are unknown, though the most popular version was rendered by Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1842.
The idea represented in the title—that thoughts are free—was expressed as early as in antiquity and became prominent again in the Middle Ages, when Walther von der Vogelweide (c.1170–1230) wrote: joch sint iedoch gedanke frî (“yet still thoughts are free”). In the 12th century, Austrian minnesinger Dietmar von Aist (presumably) had composed the song Gedanke die sint ledic vrî (“only thoughts are free”). About 1229, Freidank wrote: diu bant mac nieman vinden, diu mîne gedanke binden. (“this band may no one twine, that will my thoughts confine”).
The song was important to certain anti-Nazi resistance movements in Germany.
1. Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
They fly by like nocturnal shadows.
No man can know them, no hunter can shoot them
with powder and lead: Thoughts are free!
2. I think what I want, and what delights me,
still always reticent, and as it is suitable.
My wish and desire, no one can deny me
and so it will always be: Thoughts are free!
3. And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
all these are futile works,
because my thoughts tear all gates
and walls apart: Thoughts are free!
4. So I will renounce my sorrows forever,
and never again will torture myself with whimsies.
In one’s heart, one can always laugh and joke
and think at the same time: Thoughts are free!
5. I love wine, and my girl even more,
Only her I like best of all.
I’m not alone with my glass of wine,
my girl is with me: Thoughts are free!