The year 1813 was a time of liberation for Beethoven, owing to the then-recent defeat of Napoleon, which he celebrated in several works including Wellington's Victory. But this quiet, mournful song, also comes from this period (actually, shortly after the composition of Wellington's Victory), and its entirely different nature might be taken as evidence of the composer's considerable versatility--or, perhaps, as his retreat from the public celebration and bombast in the larger work. He also wrote another song that same year, Der Gesang der Nachtigal (The Song of the Nightingale), on texts by J. G. Herder, and may have worked on the second version of An die Geliebte, not to be confused with the better-known An die ferne Geliebte.
At any rate, Beethoven wrote the music to Der Bardengeist on texts by Franz Rudolph Herrmann (1787-1823). This song is strophic in style and consists of eight five-line stanzas. The music can fit on one page, as it consists of only nineteen bars, the vocal part of only ten. Beethoven marked the score Mässig langsam (moderately slow) and provides soft, warm accompaniment. While the composer here obviously makes no attempt at anything grandiose or powerfully dramatic, he does effectively capture the mood of Herrmann's sweetly melancholy text.
Der Bardengeist was first published in Vienna in 1813.