Am See (By the Lake) (D. 124) of December 7, 1814, was the first poem Schubert set by Johann Mayrhofer. Mayrhofer was a poet and civil servent, a man of great learning and erudition who loved classical culture but who was also a man of his time and even something of a quiet revolutionary. Introduced to the slightly older poet by a mutual friend, Schubert and Mayrhofer became extremely close friends and even lived together for several years. Schubert would ultimtely set 47 of Mayrhofer's poems, finding in Mayrhofer's sensibility a kindred spirit.
Am See is far from the best of Schubert's Mayrhofer songs. A long, ballad-like poem in ten verses, Am See tells the story of a nobleman who sacrifices his life in order to save the lives of some of his subjects lost in a flood. Schubert responded by setting the poem as one of his household operas, that is, as a song that uses a wide range of musical devices to narrate the story. The first two verses are a brief art song, the third and fourth verses are a dramatic recitative, the fifth verse is an intimate song, the sixth through ninth verses are set as unmeasured recitatives even more dramatic than the earlier recitative, and the tenth and concluding verse is another tender song. Only in the final verse does Schubert seem to find his way to the heart of Mayrhofer: the sweet grief and tragic pessimism that were the poet's forte. In his later Mayrhofer settings, Schubert would explore this vein thoroughly, leaving behind the dramatic recitatives of his youth.