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Manual Five Lieder, Op. 15, No. 4: Dem Herzen ähnlich wenn es lang (As when the bosom long in vain)

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The forces of nature take the position of gods whom they confess to. Religious images and words with spiritual connotations permeate the whole poem: The speaker blesses his journey. His companion praises the chaste earth. They confess to higher forces. They hear sounds in the pure air and see the sky fill up with shapes of celestial beings. Thus, the meeting with the other becomes a moment of revelation to the speaker that affects several of his senses.

Together, they hear sounds in a landscape that was previously described as silent, and they see shapes that make the cold winter night appear more sublime than a night in May. The accumulation of consecutive clauses vv. Nevertheless, only the first verse is written in present tense, while verses two to twelve are in past tense.

Despite these extraordinary experiences of ecstatic joy in the past, there is only a small glimmer of hope in the present. Die blume die ich mir am fenster hege. Verwahrt vorm froste in der grauen scherbe. Erinnerung aus meinem sinn zu merzen. Die blasse blume mit dem kranken herzen. Was soll sie nur zur bitternis mir taugen? Nun heb ich wieder meine leeren augen. The flower that I tend in my window.

Kept safe from frost in the grey shard. Just grieves me despite my good care. And hangs its head as if dying slowly. To weed out the memory of its earlier. Flowering fate from my mind. I choose sharp-edged weapons and I snap. The faint flower with the sick heart. What should it only be good for my bitterness? I wish it would disappear from the window. Now I raise again my empty eyes. And into the empty night the empty hands.

Blomsten som jeg heger i mitt vindu. Blomstrende skjebne fra mitt sinn. Den blasse blomsten med det syke hjertet. Hvorfor skal den bare bringe bitterhet? Og ut i den tomme natten de tomme hender. He prefers to break it rather than to watch it wither slowly and be constantly reminded of better days.

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The poem consists of three stanzas with alternate rhymes. Like the surrounding poems, it is written in regular iambic pentameter. The first stanza sets the scene and describes the relationship between the speaker and the flower. The good care the flower receives is brought out in several ways. The flower has the best place in the room, namely the window.

It grows in a grey piece of porcelain or ceramic where it is kept safe from frost. Oddly, the flower grows in a shard, whose broken state and grey colour suggest the care it receives is not as good as the speaker claims. Perhaps, he has nothing else to put the flower into. According to him, the enclosed flower, as topos of captivity, marks the border between inside and outside. Its death is a sign for the incompatibility of the beauty of nature and the beauty of art. The speaker has high expectations of the flower.

Hanging its head and appearing to be sick, the flower grieves him instead of rewarding him for his care. He further explains that the image of death is overlaid by a religious context that can be understood as self-fashioning of the poet. The flower hangs its head as if slowly dying like Jesus on the cross. Hence, he takes a sharp tool, probably a knife, to break it. Thus, the speaker tries to take control and prevail over his object of desire. Lentz elaborates further that this act of desperation is also a subtle kind of suicide of the speaker and the poet respectively, as the flower is also a symbol for poetry.

George ended their friendship immediately when he learned about her relationship with the poet Richard Dehmel. The last stanza begins with a rhetorical question. The speaker sees no point in keeping the flower if it only causes him sorrow. Previously, the flower was cared for in the window and protected against frost.

Now, the speaker wants it to be gone from the window. Now, he has nothing left. His empty eyes show a lack of emotions. He seems not to be bothered by what he did. However, he raises his empty hands, perhaps in a gesture of remorse or pleading. Nun lass mich kurz noch da ich bald enteile. Vor dir wie vor dem grossen schmerze beten. Zu raschem abschied musst du dich bequemen. Denn auf dem weiher barst die starre rinde, Your spell broke when blue breezes wafted.

Now let me briefly yet for I will soon hasten away. Pray in front of you like in front of the great pain.

A quick farewell you have to deign,. For on the pond burst the rigid bark,. It seems to me that I will find buds tomorrow,. I must not take you with me into spring. Be foran deg som foran den store smerten. Det forekommer meg at jeg skal finne knopper i morgen,. Spring is approaching, and the speaker will go on without the other. The poem consists of two stanzas, each containing four verses in enclosed rhymes that might represent a last embrace of the two characters. The speaker feels suddenly free from her influence and becomes now completely aware that they are not kindred souls as previously hoped.

The representation of spring as blue breezes of air is not a new idea. At first glance, this image seems to be ambiguous, as it contains allusions to both death and hope. Several interpretations seem possible. Or, the image might depict the journey of life the speaker will continue that ultimately leads to death and salvation.

It is, however, also possible to understand the verse in a solely positive way. The warm breezes of spring turn everything green that was previously frozen and dead, even the plants that grow on top of graves. Thus, both parts of the image convey the idea of resurrection, something that is impossible for the speaker to experience if he does not leave the harshness of winter.

He is in a hurry to leave his companion and to move on. The monosyllabicity of the third verse underlines his haste. One could argue that this last prayer is a gesture of farewell, with which the speaker leaves both his companion and his sorrow and pessimism behind. Morwitz , on the other hand, believes that with this prayer, the speaker tries to tear his companion away from the harshness and sorrow of winter towards a new hope, which she is not able to share. To preserve himself and his art, he has to part with her.

In the second stanza, he tells her that she must resign herself to a quick farewell as spring is approaching fast. The speed of the arrival of spring is conveyed through two interwoven images: The ice on the pond burst and is compared to hard bark, which immediately leads to the next image of growing buds. The poem ends with the speaker telling the other he is not allowed to take her with him to spring. He still seems to feel attached to her, yet higher forces, the differences between them, do not permit a continuation of their relationship.

Erwachen aus dem tiefsten traumes-schoosse :. Als ich von langer spiegelung betroffen. Mich neigte auf die lippen die erblichen. Seid nur aus dank den euch geweihten offen — Dass dem noch zweifelnden die sinne wichen. Awakening from the deepest womb of dreams:. When I, affected by long mirroring.

Leant down on the lips that blanched. Be open only out of thanks to those dedicated to you —. And the touched ones then in such ardour. Gave the answer against highest hope. That the senses drained from the one still doubting. O trickling of blissful minutes! Da jeg, rammet av lang speiling. Slik at den tvilende mistet sansene. O sildring av salige minutter!

Their content, however, differs from the rest of the group and does not seem to relate to Ida Coblenz. Morwitz could not determine to whom these five poems refer. The first of them describes the addressee as a young woman with blond hair. At first glance, the whole poem, which is written in iambic pentameter with feminine endings, seems to consist of fragments of thoughts and actions. Due to George's use of lower case letters, some phrases appear grammatically ambiguous and are therefore difficult to understand.

Existing translations are rather free and diverge from each other. Due to the colon at the end, the first line seems like the title of the poem, which is just headed with the number IV. The verse could summarise or give the context for what is about to happen. It is not uncommon for someone to awake from deep dreams, either in the sense of deep sleep or captivating dreams. The verse seems to express that, on the one hand, the person who woke up became alive and conscious and that nothing before the awakening mattered.

On the other hand, a feeling of security and comfort associated with the womb is lost at that moment. In the second verse, the actual plot starts. The speaker is affected by his long contemplation of the other person. Morwitz infers that, until now, the speaker has viewed the woman only as a mirror of himself without recognising her true self.

The fourth and fifth verse are again taken out of the plot. The speaker addresses someone or something, probably the other person's lips, in an almost incantatory way. He tells them they should only tolerate those full of compassion. The position of the adverb implies that gratefulness should be the only reason for the other to react. One could argue that the fourth and fifth verse hint at some kind of test the speaker has to pass as he asks the lips to be open only to those who are worthy.

In the sixth to eighth verse, the plot continues. The speaker appears to be worthy, as the reaction he gets exceeds his highest hopes. The three verses are apparently a continuation of the third verse but are rather difficult to understand in detail due to George's use of lower case letters and his sparse use of punctuation.

Several interpretations seem possible at first, but only one fits into the context of the third verse. According to Morwitz, the speaker judges himself to be unworthy of the woman because he previously only saw himself in her. She, however, does not accept this judgement, and in a silent answer, her lips meet his.

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The speaker and the other person, his mirroring image, seem to exchange places in the middle of the poem. While the other's lips were pale, and as one might imagine cold, in the beginning, they now answer with heat to the speaker. In addition, the speaker's senses fail suddenly v. A reversal of roles is also conveyed in the last verse which speaks of the trickle of blissful minutes and thus hints at death.

Hence, it is the opposite of the first verse, which conveys the idea of birth. Dem bist du kind, dem freund. Ich seh in dir den Gott Den schauernd ich erkannt Dem meine andacht gilt. Du kamst am lezten tag. Da ich von harren siech Mich in die nacht verlor:. Du an dem strahl mir kund Der durch mein dunkel floss, Am tritte der die saat. To one you are child, to one friend. I see in you the God.

Whom shudderingly I recognized. To whom my devotion is directed. You came at the last day. When I infirm from waiting. When I tired of prayer. Lost myself into the night:. You known to me through the beam. That flowed through my darkness,. Through the step that let the seed. Blossom at once. For ham er du barn, for ham venn. Jeg ser i deg Guden. Som jeg gysende ble var. Som min andakt er rettet mot.

Da jeg syk av ventingen. Fortapte meg i natten:. The number seven appears to be a primary structuring principle of the whole volume. Unlike previous poetry collections like Das Jahr der Seele , which consists of three parts, Der siebente Ring contains seven cycles, and the number of poems and pages of each cycle is a multiple of seven. In February , George met Maximilian Kronberger, a handsome schoolboy and aspiring poet, who died of meningitis a little over two years later.

The simple form might convey his humbleness towards Maximin, to whom he ascribes divine power, or the creative crisis from which Maximin redeemed him. The first verse describes how others perceive Maximin: To some, he is a child, to others a friend. In contrast to other people, the speaker recognises a god in Maximin. Having started this way, the reader might then be inclined to stress corresponding syllables in the second verse. It seems to imply that the speaker does not ask his newfound god for anything. His redeemer came on the last possible day, when he, sick of waiting and tired of prayer, got lost in the darkness of the night.

Maximin came first when there was no more hope. George employs two metaphors in the third stanza to convey the life-changing effect Maximin had on him, the first of which continues the idea of getting lost in the night from the second stanza. Maximin is celebrated as the bringer of light in the darkness v.

The choice of the second image is interesting as well. Although the metaphor of Maximin as the bringer of fertility is consistent with his divine powers, the idea that steps can cause seeds to blossom seems rather unusual. Following Martus' line of thought, one might assume that both metaphors hint at terms of poetry. He is revealed as metrical foot and flow of melody. Der tod um dich ist die ehre.

Wenn einen die Finstren erlasen:. So schreit ICH die traurige stufe. Die nacht wirft mich hin auf den rasen. Gib antwort dem flehenden rufe Bezeuge und preise mein wunder Und harre noch unten im leben! Just wait until I tell you this:. That I beg for — desire you.

The day without you is sin,. Death for you is honour. When the dark ones selected one:. Then I tread the sad step. The night throws me down on the lawn. Give answer to the pleading call…. You rise from the ground as healthy! Bear witness to and praise my miracle. And remain still down there alive! SORG I. Dagen uten deg er synden,. Gi svar til det tryglende ropet …. Du reis deg fra grunnen som sunn! Bevitne og pris mitt mirakel.

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Og vent fortsatt nede i livet! It consists of three stanzas of four lines in amphibrachic trimeter. As the speaker declares in the second verse, he does not want to live without him. The third and fourth verse state the speaker's reasons for wanting to join Maximin in death: Living without him is a sin; dying for or instead of him would be an honour.

The comparison to sin seems to imply guilt. The speaker would be sinning if he did continue with his normal life. The speaker states if someone was selected to go there, he, the speaker, would take that sad step himself. However, his wish is not granted. In the seventh verse, the personified night throws him down on the grass and does not allow him to take that step, so he begs even more desperately than before to receive an answer from Maximin.

The ellipsis at the end of the eighth verse indicates that he is too distraught to say any more. Due to the direct speech and the enclosed rhyme, the last stanza stands out from the rest of the poem. At first glance, two different readings seem possible. In this case, the ellipsis would be just a moment for him to collect himself before he begs for a final time. While he would ascend to heaven, Maximin would lift from the ground as well, but only to continue living on earth. With the exchange of places, also the roles of the two would be swapped. In this reading, the speaker asks Maximin to witness and praise his miracle in the last two verses.

However, this reading would be inconsistent with the previously established parameters of the relationship between the speaker and Maximin. Morwitz argues for a second and more likely reading, where the direct speech of the third stanza contains words that Maximin uttered or could have uttered while he was still alive. Das lockere saatgefilde lechzet krank Da es nach hartem froste schon die lauern Sei mir nun fruchtend bad und linder trank Von deiner nackten brust das blumige schauern Dein hauch dein weinen deines mundes feuchte.

The loose sowing field thirsts sickly. As after hard frost it already felt the balmier. Be now fruitful bath to me and dulcet drink. From your naked breast the flowery showers. The scent of your lightly tangled skein. Fra ditt nakne bryst den blomstrende skjelvingen. Duften av din lett flokete lokk. The poem, like many by George, has no individual title.

It consists of eight mostly iambic pentameters. Although George did not divide the poem into stanzas, its content and strict rhyme scheme imply a division into two parts: The first four verses depict a field in early spring that has been ploughed but not yet seeded. While the first part provides a view from the outside, the speaker takes the place of the field in the last four verses.

The first verse describes the loosened field as sick and thirsty. The personification of the field and the vivid images in the second to fourth verse enhance its suffering from the harsh winter and convey its craving for new life. Transferred to a person, the image of the thirsting field describes someone with an essential need and desire for something after previous bad experiences. According to Morwitz , it portrays the poet himself, who hopes to gain new creative energy from his new friendship with Boehringer after the death of Maximin. The second part of the poem conveys the field's longing in direct speech.

The image changes gradually from the craving for water to the yearning for a lover. In the fifth verse, the speaker asks the other to be the much-needed rain. In the sixth verse, the images start to get mixed. The flowery showers might still refer to rain. Dies ist ein lied. Ein leichtbeschwingtes. Nur dir allein. This is a song. For you alone:. Of childish imagination. Of pious tears. Through morning gardens it sounds. A lightly elated one. Only for you. May it be a song. That moves. Dette er en sang.

Om barnslig innbilning. Den klinger gjennom morgenhager. En lett oppstemt en. Bare til deg alene. The first Lied consists of nine verses of different length and metre. Although George did not divide the poem into stanzas, a division into four smaller units of meaning is possible. The first and the last part embrace the two rhyming couplets of the third to sixth verse. The first and eighth verse on the one hand and the second and seventh verse on the other hand end with identical rhymes that underline the connection between the first and the last part.

Both parts convey the same content: The speaker has created this little song with the sole intention to move the addressee. His sincerity is expressed through the shortness and regularity of these five verses that contain four syllables each. The middle part further elaborates on the song by telling first what it is about vv.

The pious tears in the fourth verse might be a sign of strong emotion. They seem to be slightly exaggerated in the context of this simple poem. Here, the paradox of the song describing itself and therefore not managing to do so is perhaps most apparent. According to the fifth verse, the song wafts, maybe on a warm breeze, through a garden in the morning. One can imagine that everything has just awakened and is clean from the dew. Besides innocence and purity, the image also conveys a certain urgency. The addressee and his feelings for him or her are so important that the speaker wants to sing his song first in the morning.

In the sixth verse, the song is described as gently buoyant, something which is also conveyed by the longer words of the middle section. In addition, the shortening of the second verse of the rhyming couplet makes it appear like an echo or as if someone was humming a melody and cut off parts of it the second time. The poem as a whole seems to express the emotions of someone who has developed a strong affection for someone else.

He does not understand what he feels or knows what the other feels, yet enjoys it and tries to share it. Im windes-weben War meine frage. Was du gegeben. Aus nasser nacht. Ein glanz entfacht —. Nun muss ich gar. Um dein aug und haar. Alle tage. In sehnen leben. My question was. Only reverie. Only a smile was. What you gave. Out of wet night. A sparkle ignited —. Now May is pressing,. Now I even have to. For your eye and hair. Live longingly. I vindens veving. Bare et smil var. Det du gav.

En glans tent —. Alle dager. Leve i lengsel. It consists of twelve short verses of only four or five syllables each and can be divided into three parts. According to Morwitz , the first part vv. Enjambments connect the verses of each sentence. As stated in the first sentence vv.

The speaker's words are perceived as just a fantasy as they were probably soft and hesitantly spoken and could not be heard in the wind. The vowels of the first verse are very light. They get darker in the second verse, perhaps to show a hint of resignation or sadness at the realisation of a missed opportunity. The second sentence vv. The rhyme of the first and fifth verse could be seen as an embracing gesture that connects question and answer, speaker and addressee.

The second part consists of the two central verses Reflecting on the past, he reaches a point of realisation, where the memory of what happened in the first part transforms into the image of a sudden glow that illuminates a rainy spring night. The last part vv. While the innocent budding love of the past was fulfilment in itself, now, at a later stage, which is compared to May, love has become a never-ending longing to be close to the beloved.

The eleventh verse implies that the speaker does not expect the other to return his feelings. Possibly, he might not even see the other again. An baches ranft Ein vogel pfeift. Ein leuchten streift. Und zuckt und bleicht. Das feld ist brach,.

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Der baum noch grau. Blumen streut vielleicht. Der lenz uns nach. At the edge of the brook. The only early ones. The hazels bloom. A bird whistles. In cool meadow. A glow brushes. Warms us gently. And flickers and fades. The field is fallow,. The tree still grey. Spring strews perhaps. Flowers after us. Ved bekkens bredd. De eneste tidlige,. Haslene blomstrer. En fugl plystrer.

Et lys streifer. Varmer oss mildt. Og flakker og blekner. Blomster etter oss. Like the previous poem, the third Lied from Der siebente Ring expresses the emotions of a person symbolically through a spring landscape. However, as Morwitz argues, the described scene hints at an earlier time than May, which was mentioned in the second Lied.

Morwitz infers that George deliberately avoided a chronological order of the poems. The third Lied consists of twelve mostly iambic verses. With few exceptions, each of them contains four syllables. The poem describes nature at the very beginning of spring. It is so early that only hazels bloom next to a brook vv. According to Gomringer , the word indicates a ragged bank that is situated on the opposite side of the flat inner bank of a bending stream.

The contrasting elements of the changing landscape are also conveyed through the vowel colours. The fourth and fifth verse address another sense. A bird can be heard in a cool meadow. Although this pleasant image is another sign of the approaching spring, it also illustrates that winter has not quite ended yet, as the bird only whistles but does not sing. Morwitz suggests it belongs to the family Charadriidae.

It is noteworthy that only one bird is mentioned. As Gomringer points out, up to the fifth verse, eye, ear and skin perception have mostly registered sensations that suggest early days, loneliness and coldness. This changes in the next sentence vv. Unlike the previous Lieder, this one seems to depict a relationship that, albeit being in its very early stages, might turn out not be one-sided.

However, the gleam of the light does not last. The description of nature continues with harsh, negative images in the two following verses. The field is fallow and the tree leafless.


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The field is fallow, but that might also mean it will soon be ready for new seeds. The falling gesture, which continues into the last verse as a result of the enjambment, mirrors the image of strewing flowers. This balance is mirrored in the symmetry of the poem. The metre is stable apart from the beginning v. The rhymes, on the other hand, intertwine without any symmetry, and yet they are completely balanced as six rhyming pairs are spread over twelve verses. They have just felt a little gleam of light, perhaps an idea of affection, but are unsure if anything will bloom out of it. Im morgen-taun Trittst du hervor.

Den kirschenflor. Mit mir zu schaun,. Duft einzuziehn. Des rasenbeetes. Fern fliegt der staub. Durch die natur. Noch nichts gediehn. Von frucht und laub —. In the morning dew. You step forth. To watch the cherry bloom. With me,. To draw in the scent. Of the grass bed. The dust flies afar. Throughout nature.

Nothing yet thriving. Of fruit and foliage —. All around just blossom. From the south it blows. I morgenduggen. Trer du fram. Med meg,. Fra gressbedet. Gjennom naturen. Rundt omkring bare blomster. The fourth Lied from Der siebente Ring describes a later time in spring than the two previous poems. Two lovers enjoy the cherry blossom and the smell of the grass together while the longed-for summer is still far away.

The twelve verses of the poem are written in iambic dimeter. The feminine endings of the sixth and twelfth verse divide the poem into two halves of equal length and metre. The rhyme scheme, on the other hand, indicates a division into three parts, as one quatrain of enclosed rhyme is followed by two quatrains with garbled rhymes.

Both ways of dividing the poem formally are consistent with its content. The first six verses describe how the other person comes to watch and enjoy the cherry blossom together with the speaker while the second half elaborates on the state of nature at that moment. However, a division into three parts is possible as well. The first quatrain introduces the situation. In the early morning, the other steps towards the speaker to look at the cherry blossom with him. The other steps forth as if he or she was hidden or standing somewhere behind the speaker.

Now, the beloved actively seeks out a place next to the speaker. Since all verses end with stressed syllables the iambic flow throughout the quatrain is never disrupted. It conveys the harmonic mood that characterises the relationship. The fifth and sixth verse, which continue the first sentence of the poem, address another sense by adding the smell of grass.

Whereas the cherry tree symbolises love, eroticism and fertility, the meaning of the grass bed is less obvious. The seventh verse describes how dust or pollen flies everywhere. Although the eighth verse could continue the previous sentence, grammatically it belongs to the last part of the poem, which emphasises how far away summer is. Apart from the cherry flowers, nothing has grown yet. Neither fruits nor leaves have fully developed. However, there is hope as a warm wind blows from the south v. Though George avoided a chronological order of the Lieder, this poem seems to be a continuation of the third Lied.

The relationship between the speaker and his beloved, which is again represented by seasons and nature, has grown. Although there are no fruits on the trees yet, spring has finally come, and the two people appear closer together than before. Kahl reckt der baum.

Im winterdunst. Sein frierend leben, Lass deinen traum. Auf stiller reise. Vor ihm sich heben! Er dehnt die arme —. Bedenk ihn oft. Mit dieser gunst Dass er im harme. Dass er im eise. Baldly the tree raises. In the winter mist. Its freezing life,. Let your dream. On silent journey. Rise in front of it! It stretches its arms —. Bestow on it often. This favour. So that in its grief. So that in the ice. It still hopes for spring! Treet strekker bart. I vinterdisen. Sitt frysende liv,. Reise seg foran det! Vis det ofte. Denne gunsten. Slik at det i sorgen. Slik at det i isen. The fifth Lied from Der siebente Ring is set in winter.

Like the previous poem, it consists of twelve verses in iambic dimeter. It describes a tree that raises its leafless branches and waits for spring. It can be divided into four parts of equal length. The winter mist takes away all light and warmth and causes it to feel cold. As both tercets have a similar rhyme scheme and metre, they obviously belong together and even seem to be connected as cause and effect. The second half of the poem begins with another description of the tree, which rephrases the first verse in a way that attributes further human characteristics to it.

This description is followed by the appeal to bestow the previously mentioned favour often on the tree. The dash at the end of the seventh verse seems to indicate another relationship of cause and effect. Despite grieving and being covered in ice, the tree should be supported in its hope for spring. Both the tenth and eleventh verse convey the speaker's urgency again as they accumulate negative aspects of the tree's current situation that are further emphasised by the parallelism of the clauses, before resolving into the final verse. Like the other Lieder that describe different kinds of relationships between two people through images of nature and seasons, also this poem can be understood symbolically.

In contrast to the previous poems, here, the speaker does not seem to be a part of the landscape he describes. Despite addressing someone else, he never alludes to himself. For this reason, the tree becomes the protagonist of the poem. It might stand for a lonely and bitter person, perhaps someone with a recent unsuccessful relationship, who needs the support of another person to break the ice and overcome the bitterness. The upward movements throughout the poem convey a longing for companionship and better times. Welt der gestalten lang lebewohl! Mitten beginnt beim marmornen male.

Langsame quelle blumige spiele,. Korn um korn auf silberne schale. Ahnendes schweigen bannt die hier wohnen. Traumfittich rausche! Traumharfe kling! World of forms, farewell for a long time! Open up, forest full of snow-white trunks! Only up in the blue the crests bear. Foliage and fruits: gold carnelian.

In the middle at the marble mark. A slow spring starts its flowery play,. It trickles gently from the hollow as if. Grain upon grain fell on a silver bowl. Shivery coolness closes a ring,. Twilight of the morning clouds in the crowns,. Foreboding silence transfixes those who dwell here. Dream wing rustle! Dream harp sound! Skikkelsers verden lenge farvel! I midten ved merket av marmor begynner. En treg kilde blomstrende spill,. That the persona charges right into the proceedings without any piano introduction is youthful erotic impetuosity incarnate.

In two sources, one an autograph manuscript, one printed, Beethoven provides us with slightly different endings to the strophe, the second with its own built-in echo. This little song belongs to a sub-category of 18th- and 19th-century poetry in which a young woman, seduced and abandoned, warns the reader against incurring—or causing—a similar fate.

Kidnapped when very young, she is rescued from her harsh life in an acrobatic troupe by the title character Wilhelm Meister and falls in love with him. For a composer who seems to have contemplated suicide when deafness encroached, one would expect him to respond with particular intensity to the poem Vom Tode , and so he did, setting the song in sepulchral minor mode and employing a degree of chromaticism and dissonance not found in the other Gellert songs. This is a memento mori, an enjoinder to remember our mortality; hollow sonorities in mid-song and a tolling death-knell in the low bass at the end would make anyone think death-haunted thoughts.

The set ends with a surprise in the form of Busslied , a much longer, more elaborate concluding Lied in two parts. Three of the texts one is set twice come from the works of the great librettist Pietro Metastasio the pseudonym of Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, whose texts were set to music by Handel, Mozart, and a host of other composers.

Both Beethoven and Schubert would study composition for a time with Antonio Salieri, and both would set Metastasio to music under his tutelage. Because the lover addresses this plaint to his heart, saying that he can hear its wild beating, Beethoven devises a stylized figure in the right part that is evocative both of a palpitating heart and sobs or gasps of lamentation. Here, Beethoven devises exquisitely rustling breezes and streams in the piano; against this backdrop, the singers both announce that Nature sings of love and that each hearer will know from experience whether it brings delight or sorrow.

Composers often revisit a text already set, sometimes to tweak details, sometimes to alter the entire conception of the song, and Beethoven too engages in the exercise; one would hardly expect otherwise from this perfectionist composer. With Sehnsucht , WoO, its four versions spanning a period from before March to circa , we return to Mignon and Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre for one of the most famous poems in world literature.

Fate brings father and daughter together in Germany—but they do not know their close kinship with one another. When Schubert came to set the same text, he too would make the gravitational force of this harmony an element of poetic expression for the tragic figures of Mignon and the Harper. Das Geheimnis. Liebe und Wahrheit , WoO, first published in a Viennese almanach in , is a setting of a poem by Ignaz Heinrich Freiherr von Wessenberg , a liberal Catholic churchman who advocated a German national church and incurred papal displeasure for it.

Here, the poet asks the Muse for the whereabouts of the flower that never fades and the star that shines forever, and the Muse bids him search within for those enduring treasures. No wonder Beethoven was drawn to this poem: could he have read it personally as signifying the inner treasure of musical creativity? Hearing this saucy exercise in mutual seduction, one can and should ascribe lubricious meanings to the rising sequence in the piano introduction and the long-drawn-out conclusion.

In questa tomba oscura , WoO, is the result of a musical challenge issued in , when composers were invited to set this poem by Giuseppe Carpani , an Italian poet resident in Vienna. With the eight songs of Op 52, composed in the early s, we return to the domain of strophic song and to poetic subjects whose attraction for this composer we can easily discern.

Not for her the usual feminine tint of rose petals symbolic of love that fades or the white of innocence, soon besmirched by envy and defamation: she, and Beethoven, preferred truth. The affair does Goethe little credit—she was crushed by it—but the poem is wonderful, a variation on the antique genre of the spring song in order to celebrate the immediacy of contact between the feeling heart and the object of its emotion.

At the end of each strophic expression of longing and loss in her voice, we hear a melisma expressive of desire in the postlude. Urian, who suffers beatings, extreme heat and cold, bizarre sustenance that pitcher of blubber , and inhospitable landscapes in Urians Reise um die Welt , only to discover that people are just the same everywhere. The chorus of listeners, who for thirteen verses have encouraged his serial tales of Mexico, America, China, Africa and elsewhere take exception to his concluding moral and declare the proceedings at an end.

Several very famous singers have insisted that the listener does not need the words, their artistry is such that the meaning is fully conveyed. However, our appreciation of a song sung in our own language is quite different; the words add a vital dimension which we would not wish to be without.