Usually grouped with Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, Vol. 2, these songs have the same basic features and characteristics.
Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz (On the ramparts of Strassburg) is the first of the great military songs which culminate a decade later in Revelge and Der Tamboursg'sell. To depict the deserter facing execution Mahler composed a slow and powerful military funeral march full of orchestral effects. We can hear the horn calls, the drums and the fanfares typical of a military band. Mahler fully developed his ability to incorporate these popular effects into a work of great tragic irony in this song. The text is strophic (a collection of verses with the same poetic rhythm), but is not set strictly (that is, with the same music for each verse).
Mahler depicts the delightfully phony pathos of the cuckoo's death in Ablösung im Sommer (Relief in Summer). The stylized bird calls, present in many earlier songs, are now no longer ornamental, but incorporated into the thematic substance itself. The song is a through-composed art song, lacking many of the popular elements of the others in this set. Mahler used this song as the basis for the Scherzo of his Third Symphony.
Scheiden und Meiden (Farewell and Forgo) is another depiction of lovers saying farewell. The rhythm of the galloping horses is depicted continually throughout the accompaniment. Here Mahler combined strophic (repetitive) and through-composed (non-repetitive) techniques by retaining the same accompaniment for the second verse while altering the melody.
Nicht wiedersehen! (Never to Meet again!) is one of Mahler's greatest songs. A slow, funeral-march-like rhythm depicts the lover's grief at finding his beloved dead upon his return. The alternation of major and minor modes is a feature here that eventually becomes one of Mahler's favorite devices.
In a completely opposite mood is Selbstgefühl (Self-assurance). Full of mock-ironic humor and charm, the song most closely resembles Hans und Grethe, but shows far more sophistication and subtlety. Freely composed, the only unifying factor is the continuity of the rhythm of the piano. The mood of the piece is reflected perfectly in Mahler's tempo marking "In verdriesslichen Ton" (vexatiously).