What Hindemith is saying can be deduced from the texts of his chosen melodies. The first movement is based on Zwischen Berg und tiefem Tal ("Between the mountain and the deep valley"), a song which tells how the lover (Hindemith) must leave his beloved (Germany) - the appearances of the song becoming gradually more determined - and take the "free road" that lies between the mountain and the valley. The second movement describes how the lonely, disconsolate lover (viola and harp) picks up two posies from under a wintry lime tree and sends them to his beloved as a keepsake. Nun laube, Lindlein, laube! (“Grow green, lime tree") is treated like a chorale. The movement's central scherzo is a fugal working of Der Gutzgauch auf dem Zaune sass ("The cuckoo sat on the fence"). Hindemith here casts himself as a cuckoo (he was regarded by the Nazis as a treacherous upstart, an intruder in the national music scene), first perched dripping in the rain and then flying off splendidly in the sunshine. In the final movement, the cuckoo, or ugly duckling, has turned into a swan. Der Schwanendreher is as peculiar a title in German as in English translation: "The man who wrings the swans' necks". This dance-song is about the poultry keeper in noble estates, one of whose jobs is to fatten the swans and prepare them for the table. He is offered a wife, the cook (Germany), but she thinks he is impotent and he's not interested in her anyway. He's alright; he doesn't care. With this sardonic, self-deprecating, parodoxical song Hindemith shakes the dust from his feet and sings his swan-song to Germany.