Oh du lieber Augustin
In 1679, Vienna was struck by the Great Plague and Augustin was a ballad singer and bagpiper, who toured the city's inns entertaining people. The Viennese loved Augustin because of his charming humour in bitter times, and they called him "Lieber Augustin" (Dear Augustin).
According to legend, once he was drunk and on his way home he fell in the gutter and went to sleep. He was mistaken for a dead man by the gravediggers patrolling the city for dead bodies. They picked him up and dumped him, along with his bagpipes which they presumed were infected, into a pit filled with bodies of plague victims outside the city walls. Next day when Augustin woke up, he was unable to get out of the deep mass grave. He was shocked and after a while he started to play his bag pipes, because he wanted to die the same way he lived. Finally people heard him and he was rescued from this dreadful place. Luckily he remained healthy despite having slept with the infected dead bodies and Augustin became a symbol of hope for Viennese people.
The story, already rendered by the preacher Abraham a Sancta Clara (1644–1709), lives on in the song, which is still popular in Austria. The tune is nearly identical to that of "Did You Ever See a Lassie?", although "Oh du lieber Augustin" is longer and more melancholy than that song.
Harmonised version for brass instruments
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O, du lieber Augustin, Augustin, Augustin,
O, you dear Augustin, Augustin, Augustin,
Use in other musical works
During the classical era the song was a popular theme for variations. E.g. the composer Paul Wranitzky featured it in orchestral variations, in variations for xylophone, strings, trumpet and drums, and as the trio to the menuetto of his Symphony op 33 no 3. Johann Nepomuk Hummel wrote S 47, WoO 2 - Variations for orchestra on "O du lieber Augustin" in C major. The clarinettist and composer Anton Stadler used it in his first Caprice for solo clarinet.
The tune appears quoted (recognisably, but in a dissonant context) in the midst of the 2nd movement of Arnold Schoenberg's 2nd Quartet, written a month before the height of Schoenberg's marital crisis. An additional significance attaches to the quotation in view of the quartet being the work in which Schoenberg decisively abandons the traditional key-system and embraces consistent atonality.
A Scots song, "Did You Ever See a Lassie?" is set to the same tune:
Did ye ever see a lassie, a lassie, a lassie
Did ye ever see a lassie gae this way and that?
Gae this way and that way, gae this way and that way,
Did ye ever see a lassie gae this way and that?"
Use in popular culture
The Johns Hopkins University band plays the song whenever the Blue Jays lacrosse team scores a twentieth goal against an opponent. The tradition was started by the school's longtime Bavarian-born band leader, Conrad "Gebby" Gebelein. Scoring at least twenty goals was a regular occurrence for the Blue Jays during the 1950s and 1960s.
The song has been adapted as Irish scouting campfire song with the title "Fish and chips and vinegar".
The tune is often used as background music in animated cartoons whenever a German character is introduced. It can be heard in a comedic, almost taunting version to mark the appearance of Hitler in 1940s World War II propaganda cartoons like Blitz Wolf (1942), The Ducktators (1943), Tokio Jokio (1943) and Russian Rhapsody (1944).
This song is featured during "Disorder in the Court," a Three Stooges short film. Moe swallows a harmonica, and emits different notes depending on where Larry and Curly touch him. They use this to their advantage and begin playing the song.
In the animated show Animaniacs the song is also often played in the background when German, Swiss or Austrian characters are introduced. In a similar way, Alouette would be used when introducing French persons or places.
Tom Lehrer quoted the melody in his song "Wernher von Braun" which famously satirized the alleged amorality of rocket scientist Wernher von Braun whose work was used both by the Nazis and the United States as deathbringing weapons.
In the TV series War and Remembrance, it was sung by German soldiers on the trains on their way to Auschwitz.
The English children's song The More We Get Together is also sung to the same tune.
In the 1960 John Wayne film "North To Alaska", directed by Henry Hathaway and Wayne, the song is heard instrumentally during the logger's picnic being attended by Wayne's character "Sam McCord", and Capucine's character "Angel".
In the TV series Hogan's Heroes, the song is sung in more than one episode - most notably sung by Sergeant Schultz (while drunk) in "Happiness is a Warm Sergeant," and by Colonel Klink (in the shower) in "Easy Come, Easy Go."
There is a scene in Walerian Borowczyk's Polish film "The Story of Sin" (1975) in which the heroine and his crime partners visited a nightclub. On the stage a fat female singer and a middle-aged male singer perform this song. This is a parodic forecast of a later crime: the criminals want to rob and kill the innocent worshipper of the heroine.
- Copland, Aaron & Slatkin, Leonard (2011). What to Listen for in Music,[page needed]. ISBN 978-0-451-53176-6.
- "The Lore of Victory: JHU Lacrosse Quiz". Johns Hopkins University. Johns Hopkins Magazine. Retrieved June 4, 2009.
- "Fish And Chips And Vinegar - Scout Song No. 238 of 807". Scoutorama.com. 2002-10-11. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- "Ach Du Lieber Augustine". Kristinhall.org. 2003-08-31. Retrieved 2013-02-15.