Song and Story

A poem, a piece of music, is a fruit — it holds the seeds of new life. In this series, we open the fruit, that the seeds be revealed.

My new book: Reflections on the Water: One and Many in Myth and Music

  1. In a Foreign Land: Schumann’s op. 39, #1
  2. Intermezzo: Schumann’s op. 39, #2
  3. Colloquy in the Wood: Schumann’s op. 39, #3
  4. The Quiet Woman: Schumann’s op. 39, #4
  5. Moon Night: Schumann’s op. 39, #5
  6. Beautiful Landscape in a Foreign Country: Schumann’s op. 39, #6
  7. In a Castle: Schumann’s op. 39, #7
  8. Far from Home: Schumann’s op. 39, #8
  9. Sorrow: Schumann’s op. 39, #9
  10. Twilight: Schumann’s op. 39, #10
  11. In the Forest: Schumann’s op. 39, #11
  12. Spring Night: Schumann’s op. 39, #12
  13. Don’t Peek at my Songs!: Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, #1
  14. Reveille: no. 11 of Mahler’s Lieder aus Des Knaben Wunderhor
  15. A gentle fragrance: Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, #2
  16. Lost to the World: Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, #3
  17. At Midnight: Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, #4
  18. If You Love For Beauty’s Sake: Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, #5
  19. Song to Mary: Luise Reichardt’s Marienlied
  20. Stop off with me: Schubert’s Du bist die Ruh’
  21. To the Other Shore: Novalis’ Hinüber wall’ ich, set by Luise Reichardt
  22. When the Roses Bloom: Luise Reichardt’s Heimweh
  23. Drenched by Dew: Brahms’ Sapphische Ode
  24. Nearness of the Beloved: Schubert’s Nähe des Geliebten
  25. The Past is Not Gone: Schubert’s Der Doppelgänger
  26. A Doorway to Reality: Schubert’s An die MusikThe Minstrel-Boy
  27. Untouchable: Kurt Weill’s Moritat
  28. Kurt Weill’s Wie lange noch?, a parable of evil
  29. Sonnenuntergang (Hölderlin / Cornelius
  30. Schubert’s Gute Nacht

1. In a Foreign Land

From my homeland, behind the red bolts of lightning,

Come the clouds.

But Father and Mother are long dead; 

No one there knows me any longer.

How soon, ah, how soon will come that time 

When I too will rest in peace, 

And above me will rustle the lonely forest,

And no one here know me any longer.

(trans. Ishmael Wallace)

In this poem, which Schumann set to music as the first song in his Liederkreis op. 39, Eichendorff has captured the situation of many:

I’m in the shadow of heavy clouds, the air full of tension. A storm is coming, a storm borne on the wind from a place I left long ago — the place of Father and Mother, of belonging, of legitimate authority.

I long to go back, but I don’t know anyone who lives there: on Facebook, a friend refers to “legitimate news outlets”; in my experience there are no such. If the papers cannot be my guide, what can?

Better than the chatter of journalists is the rustling of trees; the trees have roots. A tree is Tradition reaching up to Heaven.

But I am a wanderer on earth — I have no roots. Is death the only way out?

The answer is not in the poem (it’s only the first of the cycle!) I must look in the heart — there the Tree is growing, the Tree of Life.

In der Fremde

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Aus der Heimat hinter den Blitzen rot

Da kommen die Wolken her,

Aber Vater und Mutter sind lange tot,

Es kennt mich dort keiner mehr.

Wie bald, wie bald kommt die stille Zeit,

Da ruhe ich auch, und über mir

Rauschet die schöne Waldeinsamkeit,

Und keiner mehr kennt mich auch hier.

2. Intermezzo

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Your wondrous, blessed image
Is in my heart’s depths,
It looks at me so freshly and happily,

My heart, withdrawn inside itself, sings
An old, beautiful song,
That soars into the air
And eagerly hurries toward you.

(translation by Ishmael Wallace)

The first song in Schumann’s op. 39 had posed the problem of loss of roots. If “Father and Mother are long dead”, what can be my guide?

The second song gives an answer: that being in my heart Who says yes to God — who answers Him, “Let it be with me according to Thy Will”.

As Goethe writes at the end of Faust, “Die Ewigweibliche zieht uns hinan” (the Eternal-Feminine conveys us onward).

In my heart is an abyss. Out of the abyss emerges a girl’s face, fresh and happy. Though the world is astray, in that face is innocence and hope.

The heart, a turtle in its shell, withdraws to contemplate the blessed image. In that contemplation a song arises — a song not of revolution, but of attunement to the primordial.

As Novalis writes:


Ich sehe dich in tausend Bildern,
Maria, lieblich ausgedrückt,
Doch keins von allen kann dich schildern,
Wie meine Seele dich erblickt.

Ich weiß nur, daß der Welt Getümmel
Seitdem mir wie ein Traum verweht,
Und ein unnennbar süßer Himmel
Mir ewig im Gemüte steht.

Song to Mary

I see you in a thousand images,
Mary, depicted in a lovely way,
But none of them can represent you
As my soul saw you.

I know only, that the world’s tumult
Since then has, like a dream, melted away,
And an inexpressibly sweet Heaven
Eternally is in my soul.

(translation by Ishmael Wallace)

The Eternal-Feminine leads me to the true Self, the Christ.

As Hermann Hesse writes at the end of Demian:

…whenever I find the key at times, and descend all the way into myself, where the images of destiny slumber in the dark mirror, I need only lean over the black mirror to see my own image, which now looks exactly like Him, Him, my friend and guide.

(translation by Stanley Appelbaum)


Dein Bildnis wunderselig
Hab’ ich im Herzensgrund,
Das sieht so frisch und fröhlich
Mich an zu jeder Stund’.

Mein Herz still in sich singet
Ein altes, schönes Lied,
Das in die Luft sich schwinget
Und zu dir eilig zieht.

3. Colloquy in the Wood

It’s already late, it’s already cold,

Why are you riding alone through the wood?

The wood is long, you are alone,

You lovely bride, I’ll lead you home!

“Great are the deceit and cunning of men,

For pain, my heart is broken.

The hunting horn strays here and there,

O flee! You do not know who I am.”

So richly adorned are horse and woman,

So wondrously beautiful the young body…

Now I know you — God protect me!

You are the witch Lorelei.

“You know me well—from its high rock

My castle looks, silent, into the Rhine.

It is already late, it’s already cold,

You never again will leave this wood!”

(trans. Ishmael Wallace)

The second song of Schumann’s op. 39 told of the Eternal Feminine, that being who leads us to the true Self. The Eternal Feminine is She within us Who says Yes to Heaven.

But in us as well is that feminine being who ignores Heaven, who pretends that Earth is all there is. This being is the subject of Schumann’s third song.

Marie-Louise von Franz, the great Jungian analyst, points out we often meet her when we have ignored femininity.

She may also turn up as a protest at our insufficient connection with Heaven; deep down, a longing is present in her to find that connection through us, and it enrages her that we are weak.

If a knight meets her, he is in a quandary. He is sworn to protect all women; his sense is he must “believe” her.

He may, as a knight whose forte is not feeling but action, confuse her anger and pain with real depth.

And he may also be seduced by his desire for power — “So richly adorned are horse and woman, / So wondrously beautiful the young body…”: if he is her protector, it may lead to a job, a well-paying job with an NGO!

He may encounter her, not as a woman, but as despair… a drug… an ideology. Whatever the form, it removes him from contact with life, from his destiny.

Like the knight in Keats’ La Belle Dame sans Merci, he will loiter alone, pale and feverish.

A beautiful novel about her is George MacDonald’s Lilith. In it, she is, at last, redeemed.


Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Es ist schon spät, es ist schon kalt,

Was reit’st du einsam durch den Wald?

Der Wald ist lang, du bist allein,

Du schöne Braut! Ich führ’ dich heim!

„Groß ist der Männer Trug und List,

Vor Schmerz mein Herz gebrochen ist,

Wohl irrt das Waldhorn her und hin,

O flieh! Du weißt nicht, wer ich bin.“

So reich geschmückt ist Roß und Weib,

So wunderschön der junge Leib,

Jetzt kenn’ ich dich—Gott steh’ mir bei!

Du bist die Hexe Loreley.

„Du kennst mich wohl—von hohem Stein

Schaut still mein Schloß tief in den Rhein.

Es ist schon spät, es ist schon kalt,

Kommst nimmermehr aus diesem Wald!“

4. The Quiet Woman

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

No one knows, none can surmise

How well it is with me.

If only one should know, just one,

No other ever should.

So still is not the snow outside;

Nor are the stars in the heights

So still and silent

As my own thoughts.

I wish I were a little bird,

And flew across the sea,

Across the sea and further,

Until I were in heaven!

(trans. Ishmael Wallace)

Mind and body are still, but the Spirit flies. Though the limbs are still, the blood is dancing; though the thoughts are quiet, the Thought which moves the stars is awake.

It is winter; the seeds are hidden in the earth. I’m not tempted to “tell my story” — only One need know what is in my heart.

I muse on my love. It’s the moment of the New Moon, the Maiden; an image is that of the High Priestess in the Tarot cards. The time will come of the Full Moon, the Queen, and the Waning Moon, the Crone — but for now, all is promise, Annunciation.

The music also muses; it dwells on a note outside the scale, the raised Re or flattened Mi — in the original, A sharp or B flat.

In measure 1, it is A sharp; in measure 5, A sharp; in measure 6 (piano part), B flat; in measures 12 to 15, B flat; in 25 and 29, A sharp; in 30, B flat. As A sharp, it suspends the music in maidenhood; as B flat, it moves down toward fulfillment.

Die Stille

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Es weiß und räth es doch Keiner,

Wie mir so wohl ist, so wohl!

Ach, wüßt’ es nur Einer, nur Einer,

Kein Mensch es sonst wissen soll!

So still ist’s nicht draußen im Schnee,

So stumm und verschwiegen sind

Die Sterne nicht in der Höh’,

Als meine Gedanken sind…

Ich wünscht’, ich wär’ ein Vöglein

Und zöge über das Meer,

Wohl über das Meer und weiter,

Bis daß ich im Himmel wär’!

5. Moon Night

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

It was as though Heaven

Had gently kissed Earth,

So she in blossoms’ shimmer

Could only dream of him.

The breeze went through the fields,

The grain gently waved,

The forests softly rustled,

So starry was the night.

And my soul

Spread wide her wings,

Flew through the quiet land

As though flying home.

(trans. Ishmael Wallace)

The basic theme of Schumann’s Eichendorff Liederkreis is longing for home. In the first song, “In a Foreign Land”, we heard,

“From my homeland, behind the red bolts of lightning, 

Come the clouds. 

But Father and Mother are long dead; 

No one there knows me any longer.”

In the second, my song “soars into the air / And eagerly hurries toward” the woman I love.

In the third, I am lost in the forest of delusion.

In the fourth,

“I wish I were a little bird,

And flew across the sea,

Across the sea and further,

Until I were in heaven.”

In Moon Night, the fifth, Home comes to us; Heaven descends to Earth in a gentle kiss. Earth does not always remember Heaven, but now she can dream of nothing else.

The Spirit blows, and field and forest respond. 

My soul spreads out her wings as though the dream of the fourth song were to be fulfilled. 

But the marriage of Heaven and Earth is not yet complete.

In the music, Heaven’s descent to Earth is imaged by the movement from scale degree 6 to 5 (La to Sol in fixed-Do solfège; in the original key, C sharp to B). 

C sharp is the second note of the piano part, descending to B in measure 3. The voice enters on C sharp; it resolves to B in measure 9 (that the melody floats up to F sharp to delay this is one of the great beauties of the song). 

This pattern is repeated for lines 3 — 4, 5 — 6, and 7 — 8. 

In lines 9 —10, it changes, to express the tension in the wings’ spread (measures 44 — 52). The melody moves from B to C sharp. 

With lines 11 — 12, the melody begins, as before, on C sharp, and resolves to B. The music comes to a cadence, but when the voice arrives on the tonic, for the last word, “home”, the bass has not yet arrived. Not yet…  


Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Es war, als hätt’ der Himmel,

Die Erde still geküßt,

Daß sie im Blütenschimmer

Von ihm nur träumen müßt’.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder,

Die Ähren wogten sacht,

Es rauschten leis die Wälder,

So sternklar war die Nacht.

Und meine Seele spannte

Weit ihre Flügel aus,

Flog durch die stillen Lande,

Als flöge sie nach Haus.

6. Beautiful Landscape in a Foreign Country

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

The tree-tops rustle and tremble

As if at this moment

The ancient gods were circling

The half-sunken walls.

Here, beneath the myrtles,

In sunset’s hidden splendor,

What are you riddling to me

As in dreams, night of phantasms?

The stars are shining to me

With the ardent gaze of love;

The vastness speaks, drunken, 

Of a blessedness to come!

(translated by Ishmael Wallace)

Schöne Fremde

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Es rauschen die Wipfel und schauern,

Als machten zu dieser Stund’

Um die halb versunkenen Mauern

Die alten Götter die Rund’.

Hier hinter den Myrtenbäumen

In heimlich dämmernder Pracht,

Was sprichst du wirr, wie in Träumen,

Zu mir, phantastische Nacht?

Es funkeln auf mich alle Sterne

Mit glühendem Liebesblick,

Es redet trunken die Ferne

Wie von künftigem großen Glück!

In his Sketch of a Phenomenology and a Metaphysic of Hope (1942), Gabriel Marcel observes “… hope is essentially the availability of a soul”, its openness to what is beyond I and Mine. 

Hope is “communion”; as communion, in ultimate terms with God, hope has not only to do with the future: “…Hope always implies the superlogical connection between a return and something completely new… as before, but differently and better than before”.

It is this hope and this communion which we see in Beautiful Landscape… The vastness of space, the night and stars, speak of a coming blessedness — and this is connected with the presence of the old gods. The experience of paganism is not rejected, but redeemed.

The hidden presence of the past brings to mind a poem by Kipling, The Way Through the Woods:

They shut the road through the woods

Seventy years ago.

Weather and rain have undone it again,

And now you would never know

There once was a road through the woods

Before they planted the trees.

It is underneath the coppice and heath,

And the thin anemones.

Only the keeper sees

That where the ring-dove broods,

And the badgers roll at ease,

There once was a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods

Of a summer evening late,

When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools

Where the otter whistles his mate,

(They fear not men in the woods,

Because they see so few)

You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet

And the swish of a skirt in the dew,

Steadily catering through

The misty solitudes,

As though they perfectly knew

The old lost road through the woods.

But there is no road through the woods.

There is no road… can this be true?

The brutality of Kipling’s assertion gives me the sense he does not want me to believe it.

I wonder… is it a fact that there is no way through?

Or only a closing off of the soul?

7. In a Castle

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

On his watch above, the old knight

Has gone to sleep. 

Above him, showers of rain pass by; 

Through his guardpost grate, the forest stirs.

Beard and hair all grown together, 

Chest and ruff turned to stone,

He’s sat many hundred years

Up there in his quiet cell.

Outside, it’s still and peaceful,

They all have gone down to the valley.

Birds of the forest sing alone

In the empty window arches.

A wedding party down below

Goes by on the sunlit Rhine.

Musicians play a lively tune,

And the lovely bride — weeps.

(translated by Ishmael Wallace)

The one whose right arm is devoted to service, to defending the weak, to watching over castle and valley, is asleep — and has been asleep for hundreds of years. He does not see the lovely bride weep.

I think of the first song in the Eichendorff Liederkreis:

From my homeland, behind the red bolts of lightning, 

Come the clouds. 

But Father and Mother are long dead; 

No one there knows me any longer.

I think of Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossa, who sleeps in a cave in the Kyffhäuser mountains ‘til the time has come to restore the German nation. A German in Eichendorff’s time would have thought often, “When will the Kaiser wake?”

In the modern world, which undermines authority, the hunger for Father is like starvation.

In the music, this gulf between Father and child, knight and bride, is expressed clearly. When the song begins, we hear the tonality as E minor. By measure 21, the conception we had must be revised. The song is in A minor; the E minor of the beginning was not tonic, but dominant. 

A dominant is a field of tension; it wants to resolve to the tonic. But in this case, as a dominant in minor (E minor, not E major), it seems content to exist in its own realm. We hear this when the opening music returns in bar 22. The knight is in his space of E minor and does not notice the weeping bride.  

Auf einer Burg

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Eingeschlafen auf der Lauer

Oben ist der alte Ritter;

Drüben gehen Regenschauer,

Und der Wald rauscht durch das Gitter.

Eingewachsen Bart und Haare,

Und versteinert Brust und Krause,

Sitzt er viele hundert Jahre

Oben in der stillen Klause.

Draußen ist es still und friedlich,

Alle sind in’s Tal gezogen,

Waldesvögel einsam singen

In den leeren Fensterbogen.

Eine Hochzeit fährt da unten

Auf dem Rhein im Sonnenscheine,

Musikanten spielen munter,

Und die schöne Braut, die weinet.

8. Far from Home

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

In the woods, the little streams

Murmur here and there.

In the woods, in the murmur,

I don’t know where I am.

The nightingales call out

Here in the lonely wood

As though they wanted to tell me

Of the lovely days of old.

In the shimmer of the moonbeams

I seem to see below

The castle in the valley —

And yet, it’s so far from here!

As though, in the garden

Full of roses, white and red,

My dearest waited for me —

Yet she is long dead.

“I don’t know where I am”. The boundaries of Time and Space are loosened. The voices of Nature attempt to tell of a loveliness that was lost. 

I see the castle and garden, the sacred place where the Rose of love is blooming. And yet, the mind tells me, that place is far away, the Rose long dead.

This castle, this garden, are where I begin and where I end. As T. S. Eliot writes, in Four Quartets,

…the end of our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time. 

A castle, a garden, are girt round with walls so only some can enter. The “little castle in the soul” (Meister Eckhart) is where God is born; He is born to a virgin, a “walled garden”, but a virgin who, as Eckhart says, must become a wife — not only pure, like the white rose, but full, like the red.

William Morris wrote of this place:

A Garden By the Sea

I know a little garden-close,

Set thick with lily and red rose,

Where I would wander if I might

From dewy morn to dewy night,

And have one with me wandering.

And though within it no birds sing,

And though no pillared house is there,

And though the apple-boughs are bare

Of fruit and blossom, would to God

Her feet upon the green grass trod,

And I beheld them as before.

There comes a murmur from the shore,

And in the close two fair-streams are,

Drawn from the purple hills afar,

Drawn down unto the restless sea:

Dark hills whose heath-bloom feeds no bee,

Dark shore no ship has ever seen,

Tormented by the billows green

Whose murmur comes unceasingly

Unto the place for which I cry.

For which I cry both day and night,

For which I let slip all delight,

Whereby I grow both deaf and blind,

Careless to win, unskilled to find,

And quick to lose what all men seek.

Yet tottering as I am and weak,

Still have I left a little breath

To seek within the jaws of death

An entrance to that happy place,

To seek the unforgotten face,

Once seen, once kissed, once reft from me

Anigh the murmuring of the sea.

In der Fremde

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Ich hör’ die Bächlein rauschen

Im Walde her und hin,

Im Walde, in dem Rauschen

Ich weiß nicht, wo ich bin.

Die Nachtigallen schlagen

Hier in der Einsamkeit,

Als wollten sie was sagen

Von der alten, schönen Zeit.

Die Mondesschimmer fliegen,

Als säh’ ich unter mir

Das Schloß im Tale liegen,

Und ist doch so weit von hier!

Als müßte in dem Garten

Voll Rosen weiß und rot,

Meine Liebste auf mich warten,

Und ist doch so lange tot.

9. Sorrow

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

I can certainly sometimes sing

As though I were happy,

But in secret, pent-up tears

Struggle out to free the heart.

Nightingales send out,

When the Spring breezes play,

The song of longing

From the tomb of their dungeon.

And all hearts give ear,

And all are cheered,

But none feel the pain,

The song’s deep passion.

(translation by Ishmael Wallace)

Outside are Spring breezes and the cheerful, bourgeois “normies”; but in the tomb of the heart, imprisoned, are tears of sorrow and the song of longing.

At the heart of things is a loss; as Gerard de Nerval writes, in his Sonnet, El Desdichado,

“My only Star is dead, and my star-strewn lute

Bears the Black Sun of Melancholy.”

(trans. Ishmael Wallace)

The artist is Orpheus, who seeks “within the jaws of death” (William Morris) his lost love.

That Meaning which once was among us, the “clouds of glory” (Wordsworth) we once could see, is in the tomb.

The holy kingdom of Agartha has sunk into the Earth’s core.

But from the tomb emerges a song of longing; from the heart come tears. The normies hear the song and enjoy its beauty, but do not understand its meaning.

The nightingale sings of pain that cannot be spoken. In Ovid, the nightingale is a woman whose tongue has been cut out.

In the previous song,

The nightingales call out

Here in the lonely wood

As though they wanted to tell me

Of the lovely days of old.

While all that appears is communication, a message from Being, if I don’t know this, I will miss the message.

At times, I may ignore a message on purpose:

When the page Cherubino, in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, sings a love song to the Countess, her response is to praise his singing!


Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Ich kann wohl manchmal singen,

Als ob ich fröhlich sei,

Doch heimlich Tränen dringen,

Da wird das Herz mir frei.

Es lassen Nachtigallen,

Spielt draußen Frühlingsluft,

Der Sehnsucht Lied erschallen

Aus ihres Kerkers Gruft.

Da lauschen alle Herzen,

Und alles ist erfreut,

Doch keiner fühlt die Schmerzen,

Im Lied das tiefe Leid.

10. Twilight

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Twilight is about to spread its wings.

A shudder goes through the trees.

Clouds pass by like heavy dreams.

What does this dread want to tell me?

If you have a deer you love the most,

Don’t let her graze alone.

Hunters in the wood blow their horns,

Voices go back and forth.

If you have a friend here below,

Don’t trust him at this hour.

Though in eye and mouth he may be friendly,

He intends war in treacherous peace.

What today goes under, weary,

Tomorrow rises, newly born.

Much gets lost in the night —

Be on your guard, alert, awake!


Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Dämmrung will die Flügel spreiten,

Schaurig rühren sich die Bäume,

Wolken ziehn wie schwere Träume—

Was will dieses Graun bedeuten?

Hast ein Reh du lieb vor andern,

Laß es nicht alleine grasen,

Jäger ziehn im Wald und blasen,

Stimmen hin und wieder wandern.

Hast du einen Freund hienieden,

Trau ihm nicht zu dieser Stunde,

Freundlich wohl mit Aug’ und Munde,

Sinnt er Krieg im tück’schen Frieden.

Was heut gehet müde unter,

Hebt sich morgen neugeboren.

Manches geht in Nacht verloren—

Hüte dich, sei wach und munter!

What goes under will rise again — the light of legitimate authority will once more shine — but in between is anarchy. Dostoevsky writes, “If there is no God — then everything is permitted”.

In this interregnum, there’s dread. Dread tells me that in the wood, the place of dreams, hunters are looking for the innocent.

To be a Romantic is to know the sun has set and to watch for morning, what Heidegger calls “another beginning”. As Hölderlin writes,

To the Sun God

Where are you? Drunk, my soul grows dim

From all your delight; for only now

I watched, how, exhausted by his travels,

The enchanting young god

Bathed his hair in golden clouds,

And now my eyes fill with the sight of him;

Though already he’s far from here, well along his way

To the pious folk who revere him.


I love you, Earth, who joins me in mourning him,

And our sadness turns to sleep like the grief

Of children, and, as the winds flutter

And whisper in the strings of the lyre


Until the master’s fingers unlock a purer sound,

Fog and dreams play all around us

Until the loved one returns,

Igniting in us love and spirit.


(Source: Selected Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin. Translated by Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover. 2008. Omnidawn Publishing: Richmond, California. Pg. 71.)

An dem Sonnengott

Wo bist du? trunken dämmert die Seele mir

Von aller deiner Wonne; denn eben ists,

Daß ich gesehn, wie, müde seiner

Fahrt, der entzückende Götterjüngling

Die jungen Locken badet’ im Goldgewölk;

Und jetzt noch blickt mein Auge von selbst nach ihm;

Doch fern ist er zu frommen Völkern,

Die ihn noch ehren, hinweggegangen.

Dich lieb ich, Erde! trauerst du doch mit mir!

Und unsre Trauer wandelt, wie Kinderschmerz,

In Schlummer sich, und wie die Winde

Flattern und flüstern im Saitenspiele,

Bis ihm des Meisters Finger den schönern Ton

Entlockt, so spielen Nebel und Träum um uns,

Bis der Geliebte wiederkömmt und

Leben und Geist sich in uns entzündet.

11. In the Forest

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

A wedding passes by the mountain,

I hear the birds singing,

The Hunt bursts out, the horn resounds —

It was a lively hunt!

And suddenly, all has died away.

Night covers the earth.

Only a rustling from distant mountains…

And it shudders in my heart’s depths.

(translated by Ishmael Wallace)

The poet observes from the forest, the forest that covers the slopes — a place above and apart. Below is the life of humanity, a wedding its central event (birth — marriage — death).

The hunt is desire, that longing and chasing which is such a part of existence (in the second song, Colloquy in the Wood, and the tenth, Twilight, it suggests seduction). The poet is carried away by the hunt — but suddenly, it’s all over. The light has given way to darkness.

The poet sees that the drama of life is short. In the silence, there is only a rustle from the uplands, the distant heights of the spirit.

In the depths of his heart, “it” shudders (the German is literally, “it shudders me”; as Jung perceived, the psyche is objective).

In the Christian Holy Week, Good Friday is the time when it appears that Death has triumphed. The Christ is dead on the Cross; the Divine Light has been absorbed by earth. As a priest said to me, “After Good Friday service, what can you do except go to a movie?”

You can only wait… for the next song.

Im Walde 

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Es zog eine Hochzeit den Berg entlang,

Ich hörte die Vögel schlagen,

Da blitzten viel Reiter, das Waldhorn klang,

Das war ein lustiges Jagen!

Und eh’ ich’s gedacht, war alles verhallt,

Die Nacht bedecket die Runde;

Nur von den Bergen noch rauschet der Wald

Und mich schauert’s im Herzensgrunde.

12. Spring Night

Spring Night

Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Above the garden, on the air

Came the cries of birds of passage.

It speaks of Spring fragrance —

Underneath my feet are flowers.

I want to shout, to weep;

I feel it cannot be.

The wonders of the ages

Shine out again in the moon.

And the moon, the stars say it,

And in its dream, the meadow,

And the nightingales chant it:

She is yours, she is yours!

The word in line 3 I have translated as “speaks of” is “bedeutet”; “Bedeutung” is significance, what something tells us. In Eichendorff nothing does not speak; the moon speaks, the stars, the birds, and even the meadow in its slumber.

They say the Spring is coming; the wonders of the past which modernity abolished, coming back; the woman the poet loves, now his: not three different statements, but one.

In Cabala, the Divine Presence is a Lady. Her Face is turned away from the Father, but on the Sabbath, she turns back to face and love Him.

In Western esoteric tradition, the Divine Wisdom, Sophia, has gone into hiding in the Earth’s core, but one day will come back.

What seemed lost forever, as we narrowed our focus to the quantifiable, is still there in the heart of things.

In Greek myth, Persephone is trapped in the land of Death all winter long, but in Spring, she returns.

When I first heard Schumann’s Eichendorff Liederkreis, performed by Dawn Upshaw and Richard Goode, I came away with a memory of golden light; it came from the opening of this song. The doubling in octaves of the upper three voices of the piano part is what gives this effect.

As the graph I link to below indicates, the first movement in the structural middleground of the song is in measure 6, for the word “bedeutet”.

At the word “Frühlingsdüfte” (Spring fragrance), alto and bass each have notes which connect back to the first harmony of the song, but also lead decisively onward. In the alto, C double sharp connects back to the C sharp of the opening, and leads on to D sharp. The D sharp returns to C sharp in measure 9.

The movement, C sharp, C double sharp, D sharp, C sharp, is repeated in each verse on higher structural levels, but also directly on the surface in measure 25 for the words: “Sie ist Deine, sie ist Dein!” (She is yours!)

At the opening, the birds of passage are heard in the piano. Their melody — A sharp, G sharp, F sharp, E natural, D sharp — has a meaning: it’s the five-note phrase which, in Schumann, speaks of the woman he loved, Clara Wieck (as in the opening of his Fantasie, op. 17, or in the Albumblatt I from Bunte Blätter, op. 99, the theme of Brahms’ Variations op. 9 — Brahms also loved her).


Joseph, Freiherr von Eichendorff

Überm Garten durch die Lüfte

Hört’ ich Wandervögel zieh’n,

Das bedeutet Frühlingsdüfte,

Unten fängt’s schon an zu blühn.

Jauchzen möcht’ ich, möchte weinen,

Ist mir’s doch, als könnt’s nicht sein!

Alte Wunder wieder scheinen

Mit dem Mondesglanz herein.

Und der Mond, die Sterne sagen’s,

Und im Traume rauscht’s der Hain

Und die Nachtigallen schlagen’s:

Sie ist Deine, sie ist Dein!

At the Pinterest link below is a graph of Frühlingsnacht’s middleground structure.

13. Don’t Peek!

Don’t Peek at My Songs!

Friedrich Rückert

Don’t peek at my songs!

I cast down my eyes

As though caught in the act.

I may not trust myself

To watch their growth.

Your curiosity is a betrayal.

Bees, when they build their cells,

Allow no one to watch.

They themselves must avert their eyes.

When the rich honeycombs

Are brought to daylight,

Then, you will be first to taste!

(translated by Ishmael Wallace)

Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder 

Friedrich Rückert

Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!

Meine Augen schlag’ ich nieder,

Wie ertappt auf böser Tat.

Selber darf ich nicht getrauen,

Ihrem Wachsen zuzuschauen.

Deine Neugier ist Verrat!

Bienen, wenn sie Zellen bauen,

Lassen auch nicht zu sich schauen,

Schauen selbst auch nicht zu.

Wenn die reichen Honigwaben

Sie zu Tag gefördert haben,

Dann vor allen nasche du!

“Don’t peek!” This command, like “Don’t touch!” is a sign of the Sacred. The Sacred is not a thing for the ego to appropriate. In the Garden of Eden, a Tree with an Apple, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil — this is a good model of the Sacred.

The world of free trade does not understand the Sacred; it requires transparency. A woman veiled is scandalous.

But the choice is not of transparency or opacity; it’s of one light and another. As Heidegger writes, “The light of the public darkens everything”. The light of a lab is shone on a separate object, an object divorced from observer and world, but the light of awareness includes.

To not look does not mean to not know; it means to not know as separate. As the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel puts it, a problem is outside me, but a mystery envelops me.

The songs are growing; they are living beings, not contraptions. Their growth is not a project of the ego. As Goethe wrote, plants strive toward higher worlds; this striving is not something I do, but something that takes place in me. Not “cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am), but “es denkt in mir” (It thinks in me).

To treat a living being as an object, to make a mystery a problem, is a betrayal, a denial of our intimacy. 

A growth is happening; as Rilke was to write later, “We are the bees of the invisible”. In us the world is becoming Spirit. That it is bees who are making this honey is right, for bees are a collective intelligence. Jordan Hall has a model of two games, Game A and Game B. Game A is a game played by human beings who are separate; Game B is collective intelligence. As Hall sees it, Game A is the norm, and Game B, the future; my own sense is that Game A as the norm is quite recent — the Pyramids, Notre Dame de Paris, could not have been made by Game A.

A marriage is a third being that hovers above husband and wife, as the Tarot shows in its card, The Lovers. This third being is Game B. But a marriage can always fall into Game A, a contract.

A composer told me long ago, a piece involves so many choices! One must choose each note, the dynamic level… This view of composing is under the harsh light of the Enlightenment, the theory of a social contract. In it, the notes are out in front of me, and I choose them. 

Another view is that of Schoenberg, who “said he had never written a note that did not course through every vessel and fibre of his being” (Beckwith, 1997).

In music, as in life, growth is a response to irritation. An oyster makes a pearl to protect itself from a grain of sand. In this song, the irritants are the first two chromatic notes, G sharp and D flat. 

G sharp comes in the ‘cellos and clarinets in measure 4, as part of a neighbor figure, A — G sharp — A. In measures 11 — 29, this figure is repeated as part of the structural middleground: the A in voice and violins gives way to the A flat in bar 18, an enharmonic equivalent to G sharp; this A flat returns to A in measure 29. 

The middleground progression is then echoed on the foreground, as the voice sings A — G sharp — A in measure 29. In measure 33 (2nd violins, flutes and oboes), A flat reappears, as part of a passing motion from F to A natural; its resolution to A natural makes clear the link between A flat and G sharp.

The D flat comes in measure 5, in violins, flutes, and oboes, as a neighbor to C; it’s a contrast to the D natural of measure 2 (flutes and oboes), which also was a neighbor to C. The D natural reflects the openheartedness of the poet; the D flat, his evasiveness. 

In measure 8, the voice enters with a diatonic melody; its rising fourth, C — D — E — F, could not be more open. In measure 15, at the words, “As though caught in the act”, this fourth is inverted; the melody descends, F — E — D, and then is caught on a lower neighbor to the D, C sharp. Instead of resolving to D natural, it moves to D flat, the enharmonic equivalent of C sharp. This turning aside perfectly captures the moment of embarrassment! 

Please see the Pinterest link below for my graph of Blicke nicht…:

14. Reveille

In the morning between three and four,

we soldiers must march

up and down the alley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

my sweetheart looks down from her window!

Oh, brother, now I’ve been shot,

the bullet has struck me hard,

carry me to my billet,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

it isn’t far from here!

Oh, brother, I can’t carry you,

the enemy has beaten us,

may the dear God help you!

Trallali, trallaley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

I must march on until death!

Oh, brothers, oh, brothers,

you go on past me

as if I were finished!

Trallali, trallaley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

you’re treading too near me!

I must beat my drum,

I must beat my drum,

trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,

or I am lost!

trallali, trallaley, trallala.

My brothers, thickly strewn,

lie as if mown down.

Up and down he beats the drum,

he wakes his silent brothers,

trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,

they fight and strike their enemy,

trallali, trallaley, trallalerallala,

terror strikes the enemy!

Up and down he beats the drum,

there they are again before their billets,

trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley.

In the alley’s morning light.

They draw up before his sweetheart’s house,

trallali, trallaley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

they draw up before his sweetheart’s house, trallali.

In the morning there stand the skeletons,

in rank and file, they stand like tombstones,

in rank, in rank and file.

The drummer stands in front,

so she can see him.

Trallali, trallaley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

so she can see him!

(trans. Ishmael Wallace)

This poem contains five basic ideas, which form a story.

  1. The purpose of life is beauty, order; this beauty is drawn into existence by the eyes of my sweetheart.
  2. There is an enemy.
  3. What has come together, falls apart. “May the dear God help you — I cannot!”
  4. I must beat my drum.
  5. The sound of music awakens the dead and restores order. The bones are united, once more in rank and file.

In the moment of crisis, I must beat my drum. I must do the duty which is mine. This invokes the cosmic Music, the Music that binds all together in beauty and order, for the eyes of my sweetheart. 

1.The eyes of the beloved are beyond life and death. They shine in the darkness of night.

In the depths of nihilism, a young man sees a woman, and begins his journey.

Alice Teller on Twitter: “Men are mad, magnificent creatures who build and protect civilizations to impress women. When women quit appreciating that, men quit doing it”.

2. Life is the victory of order over chaos. Chaos is part of the story, but it must be overcome.

If I think that “enemy” is too dualistic and I’m not at war with anyone, it is likely I’m fighting under the table, and not honorably.

3. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”(W. B. Yeats, The Second Coming). When the unit breaks, the sparks of light are scattered, what can I do?

4. To beat the drum is to invoke the Whole, to call the Divine Name.

5. The Divine Name unites the scattered bones. On the archetypal level, the broken is reunited, the dead are risen in bodies of glory; but on the earth plane, they are still dry bones. We’ve had only a taste.

Transcendent performances of Revelge:

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone, George Szell, conductor; London Symphony Orchestra 

Siegfried Jerusalem, heldentenor, Siegfried Mauser, piano


Des Morgens zwischen drei’n und vieren,

da müssen wir Soldaten marschieren

das Gäßlein auf und ab,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

mein Schätzel sieht herab!

Ach Bruder, jetzt bin ich geschossen,

die Kugel hat mich schwere, schwer getroffen,

trag’ mich in mein Quartier,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

es ist nicht weit von hier!

Ach Bruder, ich kann dich nicht tragen,

die Feinde haben uns geschlagen!

Helf’ dir der liebe Gott!

Trallali, trallaley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera!

Ich muß, ich muß marschieren bis in’ Tod!

Ach Brüder, ach Brüder,

ihr geht ja mir vorüber,

als wär’s mit mir vorbei!

Trallali, trallaley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera!

Ihr tretet mir zu nah!

Ich muß wohl meine Trommel rühren,

ich muß meine Trommel wohl rühren,

trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,

sonst werd’ ich mich verlieren,

trallali, trallaley, trallala.

Die Brüder, dick gesät,

sie liegen wie gemäht.

Er schlägt die Trommel auf und nieder,

er wecket seine stillen Brüder,

trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,

sie schlagen und sie schlagen

ihren Feind, Feind, Feind,

trallali, trallaley, trallalerallala,

ein Schrecken schlägt den Feind!

Er schlägt die Trommel auf und nieder,

da sind sie vor dem Nachtquartier schon wieder,

trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley.

In’s Gäßlein hell hinaus, hell hinaus!

Sie zieh’n vor Schätzleins Haus.

Trallali, trallaley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

sie ziehen vor Schätzeleins Haus, trallali.

Des Morgens stehen da die Gebeine

in Reih’ und Glied, sie steh’n wie Leichensteine

in Reih’, in Reih’ und Glied.

Die Trommel steht voran,

daß sie ihn sehen kann.

Trallali, trallaley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

daß sie ihn sehen kann!

15. A gentle fragrance

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft

Friedrich Rückert

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft!

Im Zimmer stand

Ein Zweig der Linde,

Ein Angebinde

Von lieber Hand.

Wie lieblich war der Lindenduft!

Wie lieblich ist der Lindenduft!

Das Lindenreis

Brachst du gelinde;

Ich atme leis

Im Duft der Linde

Der Liebe linden Duft.

I breathed in a gentle scent

I breathed in a gentle scent.

In the room

Stood a bough of linden,

The gift

Of a beloved hand.

How lovely was the linden scent!

How lovely is the linden scent!

You gently broke

The linden spray;

In the scent of linden

I softly breathe

The gentle scent of Love.

(translated by Ishmael Wallace)

In the scent of a linden bough the lady he loves has given him, the poet breathes the fragrance of Love. 

The sound “linde” in German can mean “gentle, mild”, or linden tree; this double meaning is woven throughout the poem.

In the first stanza, the experience is remembered, and the lady in third person; in the second, it is present, and she addressed directly. This change gives the sense of rapturous presence, of having stepped outside time.

The scent of linden evokes the lady’s love — but also the love of a greater Lady. For the tree has been, since prehistoric times, a tree of the Goddess. 

In the linden, two of Her aspects are brought together: sexuality and marriage (in Greece, Aphrodite and Hera; in Rome, Venus and Juno; in Germany, Freya and Frigga). With marriage is associated law and contract.

In ancient Rome, a young couple would place linden boughs on the altar of their house, that the love they shared be blessed by wisdom. Beneath the linden, the German tribes held councils.

In the Middle Ages, the linden was still the place of truth; beneath its shade couples made their vows and verdicts were delivered. In German cities, a linden is at the center. 

The linden is also belonging. In Schubert’s Winterreise (Winter Journey), a young man leaves a house where he’d hoped to belong; as he goes, he passes by a linden (Das Lindenbaum, song no. 5). The branches’ rustling calls out to him: “Come here to me, companion! Here you will find peace!”

In Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), he stops and goes to sleep beneath it. “Beneath the linden tree / Which snowed over me its blossoms / I knew not what Life does, / All was good again, … / Love and passion and world and dream!” The Goddess is not only life, but death.

At the end of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Hans Castorp enters belonging and the unity of life and death by exchanging his sanatorium in the Alps for the battlefield. As he walks through the hell of World War One, he sings Das Lindenbaum.

In the aftermath of the war, the song Solang’ noch “Untern Linden” (Walter Kollo / Rideamus, Herman Haller and Willi Wolff) proclaimed, “So long as the ancient trees on the Boulevard Unter den Linden still bloom, nothing can overcome us”. They had stood since 1647.

A tree is connection — the connection of Earth and Heaven. In the scent of linden, it is this we touch…

16. Lost to the World: Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, #3

I’ve allowed the world to lose me

Friedrich Rückert

I’ve allowed the world to lose me,

The world with which I wasted so much time.

For so long they’ve not had word of me,

They may well think that I have died!

It does not make a difference to me

If they believe I’m dead;

I can’t say anything to deny it,

For in truth I am dead to the world.

I’ve died to the world’s tumult,

And rest in a quiet realm.

I live alone in my Heaven,

In my love, in my song.

(translation by Ishmael Wallace)

A soul that, as an arrow, has gone to its goal is that which speaks in Rückert’s poem. It’s gone its way, with eyes for its love only.

Lost to the world… what is the world?

Earth and Sky belong together. If Earth forgets Sky, she becomes the world. In Hinduism, the world is called Maya, a magic trick. As Sri Aurobindo writes, “The mind creates or accepts false values of things, and takes the symbol for the essential reality. This is cosmic ignorance and illusion…” The Gospel of John says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him”.

But shouldn’t I help the world?

Amor and Psyche is a story of the love between God and the soul. This love is opposed by the Goddess Venus, an aspect of Maya.

When Psyche (soul) descends to the underworld, on a mission from the Goddess, a “far-seeing tower” gives her advice. “…Thou shalt meet a lame ass bearing wood and with him a lame driver who will ask thee to hand him a few twigs that have fallen from the load. But do thou say never a word, but pass on thy way in silence…as thou crossest the sluggish river, a dead man that is floating on the surface will pray thee, raising his rotting hands, to take him into thy boat. But be thou not moved with pity for him, for it is not lawful…For all these snares and many others spring from Venus’ crafty designs on thee…” (The Metamorphoses or Golden Ass of Apuleius of Madaura, trans. H.E. Butler) 

The Goddess entraps the soul by means of its compassion. The desire to nurse what is broken enfolds us in the walls of the Matrix. 

But the poet, in his quiet Heaven, is a source of life-giving nectar for all.

In the opening melody (English horn), the gap between C and E flat, the 6th and 8th scale degrees in E flat major, evokes China, and thus the quiet retreat of a Chinese scholar. (The music of China is based on a pentatonic scale without half steps; thus scale degree 7 is infrequent). The music wants to fill this gap, and, in measure 4 does so, but in an inner voice (see figure 1 on the Pinterest link below).

This gap also evokes the gap between poet and world. When the poet, in line 8, admits, “in truth, I am dead to the world”, the relief of this acknowledgement is expressed in a movement to C major; C, which had been a problem, is now a tonic (see figure 2).

The final stanza (“I have died to the world’s tumult”) is prepared by a release of tension: the gap between C and E flat is filled in in the melody (see figure 3).

The song’s ending, with C to B flat in the English horn, is the sinking back of the soul into Heaven (figure 4). There is no more need to reach across the gap.


Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen

Friedrich Rückert

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,

Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,

Sie hat so lange nichts von mir vernommen,

Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben!

Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,

Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,

Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,

Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.

Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel,

Und ruh’ in einem stillen Gebiet!

Ich leb’ allein in meinem Himmel,

In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied!

(Christa Ludwig; Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer)

17. At Midnight: Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, #4

At Midnight

Friedrich Rückert

At midnight

I kept watch

And looked up to heaven;

No star in the throng

Smiled to me

At midnight.

At midnight

I sent my thought

Forth into dark expanses.

No golden thought

Brought me comfort

At midnight.

At midnight

I took account

Of the beats of my heart;

A single pulse of pain

Was set alight

At midnight.

At midnight

I fought the battle

Of human suffering.

I could not decide it

With my own strength

At midnight.

At midnight

I gave my strength

Into your hands.

Lord, over Death and Life

You kept watch

At midnight!

(trans. Ishmael Wallace)

Midnight is the absence of light. The midnight of the spirit is the absence of God. I fight the battle alone.

In Hindu astrology, the Divine Center is Vishnunabhi, and our Sun revolves around It. That world age when the Sun in its orbit is furthest from the Center is the Kali Yuga. In the Kali Yuga, man knows only external appearance.

The spirit’s orbit away from God is described by Rudolf Steiner in a lecture from 1922: “Mankind unfolded its intellectual life in the course of many centuries. This intellectual life gradually led it away from spirituality. The intellect itself is spirit, but its content is no longer a spiritual content. Indeed, the intellect is spiritual, but it seeks as its content external Nature, the external life of Nature.”

Dr. Steiner believed that the Kali Yuga had ended in 1900. As dark as the world around us is, he may have been right, for though we look primarily at external appearances, we do not believe that what we see is real. The sense is widespread that we live in a simulation. In this atmosphere of unreality it cannot be said that materialism has won.

As lost as we are now, we wander in the open. In the late 19th century, the walls of materialism were closing in. As DuBois-Reymond wrote, (1874), “The whole process of the universe might be represented by one mathematical formula”. 

A human being was not, apparently, a child of God, but of an ape — or, further back, a protoplasmic globule.

In that night, Rückert fights the battle. He can not win, for the ego is not the Center, but he CAN surrender. He can give the power into God’s hand. The Center is God. At the darkest point, God keeps watch.

The feeling here is that of Meredith’s poem:

Lucifer in Starlight

George Meredith (1883)

On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose. 

Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend 

Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened, 

Where sinners hugged their spectre of repose. 

Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those. 

And now upon his western wing he leaned, 

Now his huge bulk o’er Afric’s sands careened, 

Now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows. 

Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars 

With memory of the old revolt from Awe, 

He reached a middle height, and at the stars, 

Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank. 

Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank, 

The army of unalterable law. 

In the nineteenth century, according to Dr. Steiner, a war took place in heaven. The Dragon was defeated, and the spirits of materialism cast out from heaven onto Earth. A poison, which had infected the body, is now expressed on the surface.

In these two poems we have accounts of that battle.

Um Mitternacht

Friedrich Rückert

Um Mitternacht

Hab’ ich gewacht

Und aufgeblickt zum Himmel;

Kein Stern vom Sterngewimmel

Hat mir gelacht

Um Mitternacht.

Um Mitternacht

Hab’ ich gedacht

Hinaus in dunkle Schranken.

Es hat kein Lichtgedanken

Mir Trost gebracht

Um Mitternacht.

Um Mitternacht

Nahm ich in acht

Die Schläge meines Herzens;

Ein einz’ger Puls des Schmerzes

War angefacht

Um Mitternacht.

Um Mitternacht

Kämpft’ ich die Schlacht,

O Menschheit, deiner Leiden;

Nicht konnt’ ich sie entscheiden

Mit meiner Macht

Um Mitternacht.

Um Mitternacht

Hab’ ich die Macht

In deine Hand gegeben!

Herr! über Tod und Leben

Du hältst die Wacht

Um Mitternacht!

18. If You Love For Beauty’s Sake: Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, #5

If You Love For Beauty’s Sake

Friedrich Rückert

If you love for beauty’s sake,

Don’t love me!

Love the Sun,

Her golden hair…

If you love for youth’s sake,

Don’t love me!

Love the Spring,

It’s young each year.

If you love for gifts,

Don’t love me!

Love the mermaid,

Her pearls are clear.

If you love for love,

Yes, love me!

Love me forever —

I’ll always love you.

(translated by Ishmael Wallace)

 A sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning has a similar theme:

Sonnet #14 of Sonnets from the Portuguese

If thou must love me, let it be for nought

Except for love’s sake only. Do not say

“I love her for her smile—her look—her way

Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought

That falls in well with mine, and certes brought

A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—

For these things in themselves, Belovëd, may

Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,

May be unwrought so. Neither love me for

Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,—

A creature might forget to weep, who bore

Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!

But love me for love’s sake, that evermore

Thou may’st love on, through love’s eternity.

In our thinking, we often abstract a part from the whole, and file it away for future use. A melody, for example, we may consider as pitches, durations, and dynamic intensities, taken separately. A person becomes a set of characteristics.

Picasso often said, “There is no such thing as love, only proofs of love”. In this Cubist vision, the whole is gone, and parts alone remain.

But in these poems, love is not a set of behaviors evoked by a set of characteristics; it’s a living being in whom my love and yours are joined.

An amazing truth is that, though Love is not a matter of beauty, youth, or wealth, the Sun’s golden hair, the freshness of Spring, and the mermaid’s pearls are all images of Love.

In Mahler’s setting, the music for “beauty” (Schönheit) comes back again and again, as though Mahler could not stop marveling at Love’s beauty. 

This is the sighing figure, C to B flat, in measure 4, with A flat to G as its counterpoint (please see the graph linked above). It comes again in measure 6, with the voices inverted. In measures 10 and 11, we hear it in minor, C flat to B flat. In measure 12, A flat to G is in the upper voice. In bar 18 the original returns; in bar 20, its inversion. In bar 24, the upper voice has C to B flat; in bars 25 and 26, A flat to G. The voice’s melisma in bar 29 begins with A flat to G, doubled in the piano a third higher, C to B flat, and the last two notes in the inner voices are this same figure.

In the first stanza, measures 1 — 8, the voice soars from a structural inner voice, B flat, to the main structural upper voice note, G, and then sinks down again to B flat. 

This rising and falling sixth is complemented by a third descending from B flat to G (bars 1 — 4). This descending third, B flat, A natural, A flat, G, is given a counterpoint in the tenor, bars 1 — 3, which creates the sonority in measure 2 of an A major chord above a B flat pedal. This melting sonority, with C sharp in the tenor, recurs (bars 8 and 22), until at last, in bar 24, the C sharp is countered by its enharmonic double, D flat, which helps bring about the end.

The rising sixth (bars 1 — 6) is an arpeggiation: B flat, E flat (measure 5), G (measure 6). In measure 5, the E flat is not only a stage in this arpeggiation, but also the beginning of a movement into the structural inner voice, E flat, D, C, B flat. E flat to D is an echo of the C to B flat in the previous measure. As with C to B flat, a 6/4 chord is resolving to a 5/3. But, unlike the B flat in measure 4, the D is not the end of a motion: it’s a passing tone. That, one one hand, the gesture C to B flat is being echoed, and on the other, the meaning is not the same, gives the moment enormous charm.

The structural upper voice descends from G (scale degree 3) to F (scale degree 2) in measure 14, but does not continue on to scale degree 1, E flat; the descent is interrupted and begun again. In measure 28, G again descends to F, at the words, “Liebe much immer” (Love me always); it reaches E flat in the final measure, but first, a descending third sprouts from the F: F, E flat, D. This allows the return of C to B flat, A flat to G in measure 29, over the middle note of the third, E flat.

The last note of the voice, in measure 31, is an unresolved appoggiatura C; that it does not resolve to B flat is an emblem of Love’s limitlessness. 

Liebst du um Schönheit

Friedrich Rückert

Liebst du um Schönheit,

O nicht mich liebe!

Liebe die Sonne,

Sie trägt ein goldnes Haar.

Liebst du um Jugend,

O nicht mich liebe!

Liebe den Frühling,

Der jung ist jedes Jahr.

Liebst du um Schätze,

O nicht mich liebe!

Liebe die Meerfrau,

Sie hat viel Perlen klar.

Liebst du um Liebe,

O ja, mich liebe!

Liebe mich immer,

Dich lieb’ ich immerdar.

19. Song to Mary: Luise Reichardt’s Marienlied

In the songs of Luise Reichardt (1779 — 1826), we are at the place where the Lied and the German Romantic tradition begin, close to the Urbild (primordial image) of each. 

Her songs are close to folksong, meant to be sung at home; the piano parts are very simple, and easily arranged for guitar. The texts are sometimes from folksong, sometimes from the great poets of the early Romantic movement, many of whom she knew personally: Goethe, Tieck, Novalis, Clemens Maria Brentano, and Achim von Arnim all were guests at her father’s house at Giebichenstein, near Halle. 

In Novalis’ Fairy Tale, from the novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen, a scribe, unimaginative and literalminded, has taken over the house of his employers and killed the mother. He must be overcome by the little girl, Fable. The attempt to overcome the scribe is the essence of Romanticism. 

Romanticism finds Fable in folksong (the collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn, dedicated to Luise Reichardt’s father, was a deep influence on poetry for a hundred years) and in mysticism (a great influence on all Romantics was the teaching of Swedenborg that “everything in the physical world corresponds to something spiritual” (Sacred Scripture 20:1) — Nature was a book that spoke of God). 

The great event of Novalis’ life was the aftermath of his fiancée’s death. At her grave, in the darkness of despair, he saw two eyes shining — a light in the darkness; not the harsh light of Enlightenment philosophy, but the light of wisdom. His Hymns to the Night describe a turning away from what he calls Day — the prosy literalness of the scribe — towards the dark. We must die to be reborn:

Down into the womb of Earth,

Away from the realms of light —

The raging stab of pain

Is a happy sign of departure.

In the narrow boat we come

Quickly to Heaven’s shore.

(from Hymnen an die Nacht, 6, translated by Ishmael Wallace)

Luise Reinhardt set several poems by Novalis. Marienlied — Song to Mary — was set also by Schubert, Reger, Schoeck, and Josef Marx; it’s about an inner vision of the Blessed Virgin.

Though all these are beautiful, hers is the most intimate.

I see you in a thousand images,

Mary, beautifully depicted,

But none of them can represent you

As my soul saw you.

I know only, that the world’s tumult

Since then has, like a dream, melted away,

And an inexpressibly sweet Heaven

Eternally is in my soul.

(translation by Ishmael Wallace)

In Luise Reichardt’s setting, the smallest details have enormous power. 

The openness of the beginning, “I see you in a thousand images”, is expressed in a melody, typical of Mozart, that moves from scale degrees 3 to 5, in Eb Major, G — Ab — Bb. 

The turn inward in line 3, “But none of them can represent you”, is expressed by a change to this: the melody now is G —A natural — Bb. Through a dark passage, the music reaches the brightness of inner vision, expressed by a cadence in the dominant.

The lack of knowing in line 5, “I know only”, its musing wonderment, is expressed by a turn to the subdominant, which in line 6 with “melting away”, resolves to the dominant. This melting away of distractions is beautifully realized in the voice; the tension of a series of repeated C’s, building up uncertainty about where the line will go, dissolves into 16ths. 

Tonality is a cosmos. The dominant is Heaven, sweet and bright; what leads to the dominant — the supertonic, subdominant, and mediant (ii, IV, and iii) — is the “womb of Earth”, the “narrow boat”, the Night. That Luise Reichardt’s music is so simple gives space for tonality itself to speak. 

A recording of Marienlied by Ishmael Wallace, bass voice and piano:

Novalis’ text: 

Ich sehe dich in tausend Bildern,

Maria, lieblich ausgedrückt,

Doch keins von allen kann dich schildern,

Wie meine Seele dich erblickt.

Ich weiß nur, daß der Welt Getümmel

Seitdem mir wie ein Traum verweht

Und ein unnennbar süßer Himmel

Mir ewig im Gemüthe steht.

20. Stop off with me: Schubert’s Du bist die Ruh’

From Rückert’s Östlichen Rosen (Eastern Roses), Kehr ein bei mir, set to music by Schubert as Du bist die Ruh’, expresses, in the language of human love, an experience of mystical openness to God, as in the poetry of Rumi or Hafiz. 

Stop off with me [Rückert’s title from his Complete Works]

You are Rest,

And gentle Peace;

Longing is You,

And That which stills it.

The Peace and Rest the poet addresses are embodied in the vowels of the beginning, the long U of Du and Ruh’. The sound Ruh’ also brings to mind a Hebrew word, Ruach, a word which means Wind, Breath, and also Spirit. The Soul speaks to the Spirit; her longing for Him is a sign of His presence. As the Sufis say, “God is Love, Lover, and Beloved”. 

I consecrate,

Full of joy and pain,

My eye and heart

As a dwelling for You.

The poet’s eye and heart will be the house of God. As Heidegger writes, “Man is the shepherd of Being”.

Stop off with me [as at a guesthouse or caravanserai]

And softly close

Behind You

The gates.

The Spirit is on His way; He blows as he lists; but in this silent night, let the lovers be undisturbed.

Drive out from my heart

Other pain.

Let my heart be full

Of Your joy.

“Other” pain is the pain not caused by God.

These eyes’ tent

Alone lit up

By Your light —

Fill it wholly!

Schubert beautifully expresses the descent of the Spirit, its entry into the dwelling prepared for it. A tonal piece has a basic pattern, in which the upper voice descends to make a cadence. In this song, the basic descent is scale degree 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (sol, fa, mi, re, do; in the original key, B flat, A flat, G, F, E flat). The melody hovers on 5 for the first 21 bars; it descends to 4 on the words “eye and heart” (Aug’ und Herz, measure 22), then to 3, 2, and 1 in the next measures — a perfect match of words and music, as the eye and heart are the very dwelling into which the Spirit descends. 

This descent is the more dramatic as Schubert contrasts the A flat with A natural; in the measures before the descent to A flat, we hear A natural, pointing upwards to B flat. 

Schubert repeats the pattern in stanzas 3 and 4, with a descent to scale degree 4 at “of your joy” (von deiner Lust, measure 45). 

For stanza 5, Schubert changes the melody; in only seven measures, the melody reaches A flat. This descending second, B flat to A flat, is expressed as an ascending seventh. The music moves through the darkness of a C flat major harmony to the brightness of established diatonicism at the words “lit up” (erhellt, measure 60).

This C flat is first heard in the piano interludes. They alternate major and minor, suggesting the doubleness the poet feels — joy and pain. 

Kehr’ ein bei mir

Du bist die Ruh’,

Der Friede mild,

Die Sehnsucht du,

Und was sie stillt.

Ich weihe dir

Voll Lust und Schmerz

Zur Wohnung hier

Mein Aug’ und Herz.

Kehr’ ein bei mir,

Und schließe du

Still hinter dir

Die Pforten zu!

Treib andern Schmerz

Aus dieser Brust!

Voll sei dies Herz

Von deiner Lust;

Dies Augenzelt

Von deinem Glanz

O füll’ es ganz.

Allein erhellt,

21. To the Other Shore: Novalis’ Hinüber wall’ ich, set by Luise Reichardt


(from Hymns to the Night)

I go across on pilgrimage,

And all my pains

At last become the stab

Of pleasure.

In a little longer,

I am free,

And lie, drunken,

In my love’s lap.

Eternal life

Surges powerfully in me;

I look from above

Down at you.

On that mound

Your light goes out —

A Shadow brings 

Your cooling wreath.

Oh, draw me, Beloved,

Forcefully on,

That I may sleep

And love.

I feel the rejuvenating

Flood of death;

My blood is transmuted

To balsam and ether.

By day I live

In faith and courage;

By night I die

In sacred fire.

Novalis (Georg Phillipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, 1772 — 1801) is the greatest poet of early German Romanticism. But, to us moderns, whose existence on earth is eked out from one pleasure to the next, without reference to another world, he’s a scandal, for we know that, at one level, his love of Night is love of death. Novalis died as a very young man, of tuberculosis, and welcomed death, believing it would bring him together with his fiancee, Sophie, who had died four years before, of the same disease. 

I don’t wish to deny the connection of Night and Death in Novalis, but to offer an additional layer to its interpretation.

Night is that which Enlightenment philosophy knows not of. The Enlightenment sees itself as the overcoming of dark superstition by the light of reason. In Mozart’s opera, the Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night is jealous and malevolent; her daughter, and the young man who loves her, are drawn away from the Queen’s sphere, and initiated by priests of the Sun. This is the basic story of the Enlightenment; the powers of fanaticism and obscurantism are overcome by reason and tolerance… 

But Novalis sees another story. In the Fairy Tale from his novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen, the mother is not evil; the household Scribe leads a revolt against his employers, and burns her at the stake. But after his defeat by the child Fable, the mother’s ashes are mixed into a drink which everyone receives.

The mother is Mother Church, at her heart the Virgin Mary. Novalis is not a Catholic — he grew up in the Moravian Church — and he does not call for a restoration of the Christendom of the Middle Ages; but he does await the reemergence of its essence.

As he writes in Christendom or Europe, the stirrings of Romanticism in his time show ”…to the historical eye…the sweetest embrace of a young surprised church and loving God,…the inner reception of a new messiah…a new golden age with dark infinite eyes…”–Christendom.pdf

Luise Reichardt’s setting, performed by Ishmael Wallace, bass voice and piano:

22. When the Roses Bloom: Luise Reichardt’s Heimweh


When the roses bloom,

Hope, dear heart,

This burning pain

Will be still.

That fever which all winter

Appeared beyond cure


When the roses bloom.

When the roses bloom,

Heart dull with pain,

Be glad! We then may draw

Towards Heaven.

Eternally well,

You will shine anew,

A heavenly being,

When the roses bloom.

(stanzas 1 — 3 of a poem by Friedrich Gottlob Wetzel, 1779–1819; the title is Louise Reichardt’s)

Lord Buddha, in his Fire Sermon, observes,

 “The All is aflame…Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion. Aflame, I say, with birth, aging, and death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, and despairs.

Seeing thus, the instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted…”

The heart is aflame; it burns with pain, with a fever which appears beyond cure. The Winter is a time of absence; the plants are hidden in the earth. I look around me and see nowhere the Spirit. 

But in the Spring, when roses bloom, the fever will subside. As the Sun draws nearer, my fever will cool. 

What is the bloom of roses? An opening to Light. As the Blessed Virgin says, “Let it be…”, accepting the birth of God in her, so the rose opens. 

In Dante’s Paradiso, the highest sphere of Heaven is a rose. 

The Lotus is the Rose of the East. “Om mani padme hum”, “The Jewel is in the Lotus”, is the proclamation that, in this world of birth and death, is Divine Light.

For the fire of passion can be the Rose of Love:

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flames are in-folded 

Into the crowned knot of fire 

And the fire and the rose are one. 

—T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Luise Reichardt’s setting:


(stanzas 1 — 3 of a poem by Friedrich Gottlob Wetzel, 1779–1819; the title is Louise Reichardt’s)

Wenn die Rosen blühen,
Hoffe, liebes Herz,
Still und kühl verglühen
Wird der heiße Schmerz,
Was den Winter über
Oft unheilbar schien,
Es entweicht das Fieber,
Wenn die Rosen blühn.

Wenn die Rosen blühen,
Mattgequältes Herz,
Freue dich, wir ziehen
Dann wohl himmelwärts.
Ewig dann geneesen,
Wirst du neu erglüh’n;
Wirst ein Himmlisch Wesen,
Wenn die Rosen blüh’n.

23. Drenched by Dew: Brahms’ Sapphische Ode

Ode in Sapphic Meter

Hans Schmidt (1854 — 1923)

Roses I plucked by night from the dark hedge

Gave out a sweeter fragrance than ever by day;

But the boughs I troubled richly strewed

Dew which drenched me.

The kisses also I plucked by night from your lips —

Their fragrance charmed me as never before:

But you, moved in soul like the roses,

Were dewed by tears.

A 7th century Japanese poem has the same image:

When I gathered flowers

For my girl

From the top of the plum tree

The lower branches

Drenched me with dew.

(Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, c. 653 – 655 – c. 707 – 710, from the Man’yōshū)

In night, flowers, water, we feel the presence of She Who receives the Divine Image — the Sea that holds the Star’s image, the Pool in Whom Narcissus can see his own reflection. As the Poimandres, first book of the Corpus Hermeticum, puts it,

…[W]hen [Nature] saw that Form of beauty which can never satiate… she smiled with love; for it was as though she had seen the image of Man’s fairest form upon her Water, his shadow on her Earth.

He in turn beholding the form like to himself, existing in her, in her Water, loved it and willed to live in it;…

And Nature took the object of her love and wound herself completely around him, and they were intermingled, for they were lovers.

(Poemandres, the Shepherd of Men, Corpus Hermeticum #1, translated by G.R.S. Mead)

The marriage of God and Nature, Spirit and water, is the subject of this poem. The Divine spark in us often hopes to avoid being touched by Nature; like Harry Haller, in the novel Steppenwolf, we tell ourselves, if I don’t like it, I can always leave (by suicide). But a true marriage is unconditional — I enter fully into it. As Caesar crossed the Rubicon, his army pointed toward Rome, so the Spirit enters into life, by the baptism of dew and tears.

Sapphische Ode

Hans Schmidt (1854 — 1923)

Rosen brach ich nachts mir am dunklen Hage;

Süßer hauchten Duft sie als je am Tage;

Doch verstreuten reich die bewegten Äste

Tau, der mich näßte.

Auch der Küsse Duft mich wie nie berückte,

Die ich nachts vom Strauch deiner Lippen pflückte:

Doch auch dir, bewegt im Gemüt gleich jenen,

Tauten die Tränen.

24. Nearness of the Beloved: Schubert’s Nähe des Geliebten

Nearness of the Beloved

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I think of you, when the sun’s shimmer

Beams out to me from the sea.

I think of you, when the moon’s glitter

Paints the streams.

I see you, when, on the distant road,

The dust goes up;

In the dead of night, when, on the narrow bridge,

The traveller trembles.

I hear you, when with a muted roar,

The wave rises. 

I go often to the grove to listen

When all is hushed.

I am with you, though you be ever so far.

You’re near to me.

The sun goes down, soon the stars will shine to me.

If only you were here!

(translated by Ishmael Wallace)

The sun’s light, reflected from the waves, goes out to me (“to me”, in German, “mir”, is a common phrase in the poem, for all that is shines forth to me, as a message of love).

The sun’s light, reflected by the moon, is reflected by pools of water. 

As Paul writes (1 Corinthians, 13:12, King James Version), “We see as in a glass [a mirror] darkly”; we see the Beloved, the Creator, reflected in all around us, but long to meet face to face.

This longing is a common theme in Lieder. Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, To the Distant Beloved, is the first Liederkreis, song cycle. 

Schubert’s Sei mir gegrüsst (Accept my greeting), on a poem by Rückert, begins, “You who have been torn away from me and my kisses”; near the end is a moment of union: “One breath of love blots out space and time”. 

In Nearness of the Beloved, the singer moves ever closer to the Beloved: from thinking of, to seeing, to hearing, to being. 

In thinking of and and seeing, there is the sense of space (the road is far away where the dust rises); but in hearing, not so much. In hearing, sometimes “…you are / The music / While the music lasts” (T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets). And being is naked. 

But then goes up the cry, “If only you were here!” 

Nähe des Geliebten

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ich denke dein, wenn mir der Sonne Schimmer

Vom Meere strahlt;

Ich denke dein, wenn sich des Mondes Flimmer

In Quellen malt.

Ich sehe dich, wenn auf dem fernen Wege

Der Staub sich hebt;

In tiefer Nacht, wenn auf dem schmalen Stege

Der Wandrer bebt.

Ich höre dich, wenn dort mit dumpfem Rauschen

Die Welle steigt.

Im stillen Hain da geh ich oft zu lauschen,

Wenn alles schweigt.

Ich bin bei dir, du seist auch noch so ferne.

Du bist mir nah!

Die Sonne sinkt, bald leuchten mir die Sterne.

O wärst du da!

25. The Past Is Not Gone: Schubert’s Der Doppelgänger

From a song, a poem, a light shines forth. In these essays, we open up to that light.

The Double

Heinrich Heine (1797 — 1856)

Still is the night, the alleys rest.

In this house lived my sweetheart (mein Schatz, “my treasure”).

She has long since left the town, (it was long ago that something parted us; I think it is safely past)

But the house still stands on the same square (the house is there, the house I loved because it was hers; a house on the square —the solid house of a solid family).

Not only the house, but A man also stands there, and stares upward (starren, “to stare”, is like starr, “rigid”)

And wrings his hands beneath the onslaught of pain (Schmerzensgewalt, “force of pain”).

It horrifies me when I see his face,

The moon shows me my own form. 

In the uncanny light of the moon, I see myself.

I’ve often heard “You cannot go back”, but a part of what I am did not leave. He still is there, acting out his agony. The past is not gone; it was only in shadow.

Impersonator (Doppelgänger, “double-goer”), pallid fellow (his face pale with love’s grief),

Why do you ape (like a monkey, imitate) the love-sorrow 

Which tortured me on this spot (mich gequält; compare Old High German quęllen(from *qualljan), “to torture to death”) 

So many a night in old times? 

I do not acknowledge that this is me. I have split him off. 

In Japanese Noh plays, a man may meet the ghost of someone he killed in battle. When the ghost forgives, it can find release. In this poem, there is no release. But in the music, there is; the song ends on a major chord. 

Der Doppelgänger

Heinrich Heine (1797 — 1856)

Still ist die Nacht, es ruhen die Gassen,

In diesem Hause wohnte mein Schatz;

Sie hat schon längst die Stadt verlassen,

Doch steht noch das Haus auf demselben Platz.

Da steht auch ein Mensch und starrt in die Höhe,

Und ringt die Hände, vor Schmerzens Gewalt;

Mir graust es, wenn ich sein Antlitz sehe –

Der Mond zeigt mir meine eigne Gestalt.

Du Doppelgänger! du bleicher Geselle!

Was äffst du nach mein Liebesleid,

Das mich gequält auf dieser Stelle,

So manche Nacht, in alter Zeit? 

26. A Doorway to Reality: Schubert’s An die Musik

To Music

(words by Franz von Schober, music by Franz Schubert)

Beloved art,

In how many grey hours (times when the colour seemed to have left life)

When I was caught inside Life’s wild orbit, (it seemed that life had no goal, but only turned in a circle)

Have you kindled my heart to love’s warmth,

Transported me to a better world? (In the fire of love which Music ignites, my spirit ascends to a realm beyond the circle).

Often, a sigh, escaped from your harp (an Aeolian harp, its strings moved by a breath of wind — and by analogy, the Spirit) 

A sweet, holy chord from you,

Has opened up the Heaven of better times — (deep down, we know that once, things were better)

Beloved art, I thank you for that! 

A heart, imprisoned by futility, by the endless circling of Samsara, is set free by music, transmuted as though in an alchemist’s fire, and brought back to its eternal home.

Music is a doorway to Reality. 

In the song, the music is a counterpoint to the words. The music speaks of friendship — in the conversation between voice and bass (the bass like a sea monster emerging from the deep to challenge the voice) and in the parallel thirds which are everywhere: tenths between soprano and bass in measures 7 — 9, thirds between alto and tenor in measures 10 — 13, tenths between soprano and bass in measures 14 —15 and 17, thirds between alto and tenor in measure 19, thirds between alto and soprano in measures 20 — 22, tenths between tenor and bass in measure 20, sixths between tenor and bass in measure 21.

For “transported…to a better world”, (measure 15), the music moves to a IV chord (in the original key of D major, a chord of G). In the second half of bar 17, this IV moves up to sharp IV (G sharp) and on to the dominant — but first, the bass makes a detour up a third to B for the word “transported” (entrückt)!  

An die Musik

Franz von Schober

Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden,

Wo mich des Lebens wilder Kreis umstrickt, 

Hast du mein Herz zu warmer Lieb entzunden, 

Hast mich in eine bessre Welt entrückt!

Oft hat ein Seufzer, deiner Harf entflossen, 

Ein süsser, heiliger Akkord von dir

Den Himmel bessrer Zeiten mir erschlossen, 

Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir dafür!

27. The Minstrel-Boy

Words: Thomas Moore (1779 — 1852) from Irish Melodies; Music: The Moreen, old Irish song

The Minstrel-Boy to the war is gone, 

In the ranks of death you’ll find him; 

His father’s sword he has girded on, 

And his wild harp slung behind him. 

“Land of song!” said the warrior-bard, 

“Though all the world betrays thee, 

One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard, 

One faithful harp shall praise thee!” 

The Minstrel fell! — but the foeman’s chain 

Could not bring his proud soul under; 

The harp he loved ne’er spoke again, 

For he tore its chords asunder; 

And said, “No chains shall sully thee, 

Thou soul of love and bravery! 

Thy songs were made for the pure and free, 

They shall never sound in slavery.”

The Minstrel-Boy is poet, musician, and warrior in one. In this, he touches an archetype; the Greek god Apollo is god not only of archery but music and poetry. Music and war are aspects of heroic life.

He’s joined “the ranks of death”, an ordering of men above which Death broods; he goes to war wearing “his father’s sword” — no longer an individual, but the representative of generations. His harp is “wild” because it gives voice to Nature: a harp is touched directly by the fingers (unlike a piano string), and may be sounded by a breeze. 

The harp is a heart: the heart of a nation. The nation exists in the songs of poets. It is like the Christ: not of the world; abandoned by all… But the Minstrel-Boy will stay by its side. This battle is not about utility, but principle. 

The boy falls; he lies dead on the earth, unmoving. But his “proud soul” is free. His soul, in a way a musician will understand, WAS his harp, and he takes the harp with him into death. 

A soul that is ruled by the external is not “pure”. It’s better to flee —even to flee the body — than to live beneath an alien chain.

The song of the soul must not be caught by the world.

28. Untouchable: Kurt Weill’s Moritat

Song and Story is a resource for singers, coaches, and all those who long for meaning. In this essay, we explore Moritat, the first number of Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), words by Bertolt Brecht, music by Kurt Weill.

The Ballad of Mack the Knife

And the shark, he has teeth

And wears them in his face

And Macheath, he has a knife

But the knife, one does not see.

On a lovely fine Sunday [“blauen Sonntag”, Sunday with blue sky]

Lies a dead man on the Strand

And a man goes ‘round the corner

Whom they call Mack the Knife.

And Schmuel Meyer still is missing

Like many a rich man

And Mack has his money

But nothing can be proved.

Jenny Towler was found

With a knife in her breast

And on the wharf walks Mack

Who knows nothing about it.

And the big fire in Soho

Seven children and a greybeard —

In the throng Mack the Knife, who

Is not questioned and knows nothing.

And the young widow

Whose name everyone knows

Woke up and was raped —

Mack, how much did you charge her?

[In the world of this opera, being raped by a gangster so famous gives one a certain cachet.]

Macheath is a gangster whom the law cannot touch. One might think of Jeffrey Epstein. He is being protected by an old buddy, the Chief of Police. While gangsters do pay off police, and did in Brecht’s Germany, this is not Brecht’s point; he intends us to question our belief in the rule of law, and see that in actuality, we are ruled, not by law, but by people. The pull of power distorts the field of law.

The contrast between appearance and reality is huge. Macheath appears completely innocent, yet his deeds are brutal. The brutal words are sung to a melody of aching beauty. It’s good to sing the melody in a way that brings out its beauty.

The melody lingers on A, the 6th note of the scale; this note is dissonant, and longs to resolve to G, the 5th, but only does so briefly, in bar 9. The A is back in bar 10, but an inner voice C leapfrogs above it, led into by two non harmonic notes, B and D; at this moment, the bass moves to A. The effect of the bass taking up the A is of the music at last confronting a problem; together with the the rise of the voice, it gives the sense of being carried away by passion.

Though the bass moves from A through D to G, the dominant (bars 10 — 14), the A and C in the upper voices do not resolve (in bar 15, the B in the voice is a passing tone connecting C and A, not a resolution).

In the inner voice, E (the third scale degree), moves down to D in bar 12, but this does not lead to C as we expect; instead the motion is interrupted, and the inner voice returns to E (bar 16). Thus the music remains in unsatisfied longing.

Notes on diction: Weill’s great interpreter, Lotte Lenya, was Viennese, so in her recording the the vowels of Messer are “ɛ eː”. It’s not necessary to follow her in this; the hochdeutsch pronunciation is “ɛ œ”.

The first vowel in Mackie is “ɛ”; the vowel in Strand, the same. It should not be “æ”. Strand is the name of a street in Westminster, so the consonants should be as in English (the Strand is a major street, so that Macheath kills on it is a sign of brazenness).

Die Moritat von Mackie Messer

Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne

Und die trägt er im Gesicht

Und Macheath, der hat ein Messer

Doch das Messer sieht man nicht.

An ‘nem schönen blauen Sonntag

Liegt ein toter Mann am Strand

Und ein Mensch geht um die Ecke

Den man Mackie Messer nennt.

Und Schmul Meier bleibt verschwunden

Und so mancher reiche Mann

Und sein Geld hat Mackie Messer

Dem man nichts beweisen kann.

Jenny Towler ward gefunden

Mit ‘nem Messer in der Brust

Und am Kai geht Mackie Messer

Der von allem nicht gewußt.

Und das große Feuer in Soho

Sieben Kinder und ein Greis –

In der Menge Mackie Messer, den

Man nichts fragt und der nichts weiß.

Und die minderjähr’ge Witwe

Deren Namen jeder weiß

Wachte auf und war geschändet –

Mackie, welches war dein Preis?

29. Kurt Weill’s Wie lange noch?, a parable of evil

A vampire cannot cross a threshold unless invited. Wie lange noch?, How much longer?, is a song about evil — how, once let in, it can possess one. What takes place in the music is a perfect reflection of the story: it begins in one key and ends in another; this movement is prepared for by what creeps in at the outset. 

What is more amazing is that Weill took the music from an earlier song, Je ne t’aime pas; his main alteration was to the end, to keep it in the new key, and thus confirm the singer’s captivity.

I grant it you, there was a night

When I willingly gave myself to you.

You took me and drove me out of my mind.

I thought, I could not live without you.

You’ve promised me the blue of heaven,

And I have cherished you as a father.

You have martyred me, broken me.

I’d have laid the world at your feet.

Look at me!

When will that day come on which I say to you: It’s over!

When will it come, that day I dread?

How much longer?

I’ve believed you, as though insane

From all your discourse, your vows.

Whatever you wanted, I did;

Where you wanted to go, I let myself be led.

You’ve promised me the blue of heaven,

And I’ve not dared to cry.

But you’ve broken your word, your vows.

I’ve been silent and blamed myself.

Look at me!

When will that day come on which I say to you: It’s over!

When will it come, that day I dread?

How much longer?

(words by Walter Mehring, translated by Ishmael Wallace)

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The song begins in F minor, but ends in D minor; this expresses the singer’s fall.

In the first measures, two events prepare this:

in bar 7, the bass A natural, part of an arpeggiation from C (bar 5) to F (bar 9). The A is borrowed from F major; the harmony above it, with Db and G (the Db a neighbor tone to C), is enharmonically the same as A7, a dominant seventh in D minor. The word in the voice is “willig”, “willingly”. It was a willing action which invited evil in.

In bar 3, on the word “gesteh’n”, “admit to”, as part of a descending third from C (bar 1, upper voice) to Ab (bar 9, tenor), the movement of C down to Cb. The sound C to Cb, enharmonically C to B natural, returns in bars 22 to 23 to signal a movement to D minor. 

At the beginning, C, scale degree 5 in F major, is the main note in the upper voice. From this, the vocal melody arpeggiates up through the tonic chord to Ab in bar 3 (the shift of harmony to Db7 when it reaches Ab is one of the song’s great beauties).

Scale degree 5 emerges above the Ab in bar 10. In bars 10 to 15, it’s expanded by a neighbor motion (to Db, bar 13, returning to C in bar 15). Below it, the Ab is also expanded by motion to a neighbor (Bb, in bar 13); but it returns, not to Ab, but A natural! The mode has shifted to major. This expresses surrender to desire: “I believed I could not live without you”. 

At bar 17, the music reaches a cadence in F major. In the alto, C moves to its upper neighbor, D. In bars 20 and 21, the D resolves to C, but in bars 18 and 19, it is treated as part of the harmony, as a note that need not be resolved. This harmony of the “added sixth” occurs often in pop music and in some 20th century classical music, but is not part of the common practice; it gives a sense of indulgence, of candyland, for “You promised me the blue of heaven”, but also prepares further degradation: the modulation to D minor, completed in bar 26.

In this modulation, a high F, first heard in bar 12, becomes the main note of the upper voice, scale degree 3 in D minor. From the F (bar 22), in a descending third, the melody dips into the inner voice, moving to E (bar 23) and D (bar 26). 

From the E in bar 23, another third branches off: E, D, C# (bars 23 to 25). This last is doubled a sixth lower in the bass (G, F, implied E in bars 23 to 25), but melody and bass don’t move together; instead, the G, F and implied E of the bass are on downbeats and the E, D, C# of the melody, on third beats. This creates a beautiful series of 7 to 6 suspensions.

In bars 22 to 23, the movement C to B natural in the melody, an echo of the C to Cb in bars 1 to 3, is the first sign that we are leaving F major. In what happens next, Weill shows that his heart is with the classical tradition; he understands that balance needs to be restored. In the space between A and D, scale degrees 5 and 8 in D minor, the movement C to B natural has been important; we need to emphasise that the main sixth scale degree is not B natural, but B flat. 

In the rest of the song, this is done: from the upper voice D in bar 26, there is a descending fourth, C, Bb, A (bars 31 to 33); this is led up to by a chromatic motion in bars 26 to 31, A, Bb, B natural, C. In bars 34 to 35, the descending fourth is echoed: implied D, C, Bb, A. In the bass, bars 33 to 37, Bb leads to A, and in the soprano, bars 36 to 37. In the first ending (bars 38 to 42), a B natural in the bass is corrected to B flat.

In the next-to-last bar, B natural appears in the bass, as a threat to stability, and is corrected by B flat.

In the classical tradition, unity is important; the unity of a work of art reflects the unity of Reality. That Wie lange noch? begins in one key and ends in another is not classical, but that no moment does not belong to the story is classicism itself. Wie lange noch? is not a series of effects, but the life of a soul.

30. Sonnenuntergang (Hölderlin / Cornelius)


Where are you? Drunk on all your joys,

My soul goes into night; for a moment ago 

I listened, as, full of golden

Tones, the lovely Sun Youth

Played his song of evening on a heavenly lyre;

It resounded all around the woods and hills.

But he’s gone far away, to pious

Peoples who still give him honor.

(translation by Ishmael Wallace)


Wo bist du? trunken dämmert die Seele mir

Von all deinen Wonnen; denn eben ist’s,

Daß ich gelauscht, wie goldner Töne

Voll der entzückende Sonnenjüngling

Sein Abendlied auf himmlischer Leier spielt’;

Es tönten rings die Wälder und Hügel nach.

 Doch fern ist er zu frommen Völkern,

 Die ihn noch ehren, hinweggegangen.

A moment ago the hills and woods resounded with the song of Apollo, God of music and light. But the Sun has set; the God is far away, with those who still give honor to God.

The tones were golden, the heavens were a lyre, but now the sky is dark, and the night air, cold.

To be a Romantic is to know the Sun has set, and watch for morning. 

In Cornelius’ music, we hear the God’s song resound, as ideas are repeated in different transpositions. In contrast to the expansiveness of the God’s song, the ending (“But he’s gone…”) is simple, concentrated, and devastating.  

In the third word, “You”, on the note B flat, we hear the surging forth of the God’s presence. B flat is the first note to not belong to the tonic triad. The story of the song becomes the surging up of B flat (in bars 19 and 39) and its sinking back (bars 25 and 41). (Please see the graphs below!)

In bars 39 to 41, we hear this sinking down in the voice. “But he’s gone far away to pious…” (Doch fern is er, zu frommen…”) is set: B flat — (ornamental G sharp) — A natural — A flat; in this slide down from B flat to A flat, the Sun sets.

The music gives a sense of great space: the whole sky is a lyre! It’s a painting on a broad canvas. The canvas is full of figures, but all belong to a single, vast space. 

Within the basic space of D flat, the bass moves from D flat to A flat (bar 25); beginning again on D flat (bar 43), it moves through G flat and A flat, home. 

In counterpoint, F moves to E flat (bar 25); beginning again on F (bar 43), it moves through E flat to D flat.

Above this is suspended an A flat. It is this A flat which moves up to B flat in bar 19 for the apparition of Apollo, and back in bar 25, repeating this in bars 39 to 41.

This upper voice B flat is supported by B flat in the bass; the cadence in B major in bar 11, at the word “joys” (“Wonnen”), is part of a movement down in the bass from D flat through C flat (bar 11, enharmonically B natural), to B flat (bar 19).

Notes for the singer: 

In a tenor voice, the F sharp on “Wonnen”, (bar 11), uses a different resonator than the earlier notes. The color will change; that is Cornelius’ intent. The vowel is “ɔ”; it helps to hear, at the top of the sound, an “œ”. 

When in a low register, as in bars 15, 28, and 35, sing with all the space required for the higher tones (the vowels at the top of the soft palate). 

31. Schubert’s Gute Nacht

Gute Nacht is the first song in Schubert’s cycle, Winterreise, Winter Journey.

Good Night

A stranger, I came,

A stranger, I go.

The May-time was gracious,

With many a pretty posy.

The girl spoke of love,

The mother, even marriage; 

Now the world is dark,

The way veiled in snow.

The hour of my departure

Is not mine to choose. 

I must grope in this darkness

For my own way.

For companion, a shadow

Cast by the Moon,

I search the white moors

For wild things’ tracks.

Why should I wait

To be tossed out?

Let stray dogs howl

Outside their house!

Love likes to wander —

God has made it so —

From one to another;

My darling, good night!

It would be a shame

To disturb your dreams —

You must not hear my step.

I gently close the doors.

In going out, I’ll write

On the gate, “Good night”,

So you may see I’d thought

Of you.

(by Wilhelm Müller, translation by Ishmael Wallace)

A human life, according to St. Bede, is like the flight of a sparrow through a noble hall; it flies into the warmth from the cold of winter, and out again. As Gabriel Marcel points out, something in us rebels when we fill out an ID card; we know “This is not me”. I am a stranger. 

But I long to be known. And according to an Islamic hadith, this is God’s purpose also: “I was a hidden treasure, and wished to be known”. Another longing is to belong.

A young man has lived in a house, and hoped to belong, but does not. In society, there are two paths, voice and exit. If I the society and I agree on what is most important, I can use voice; if not, I must slip away. 

In the next song, we find that the daughter is “a wealthy bride.” They have found a better match for her. So I am in the way. It’s not good to wait to be tossed out; abandoned dogs will howl outside the house of their former master, but a human being should go.

In the cycle of all things, childhood is spring, adulthood is the height of summer, maturity is autumn and harvest, while winter is death. At this point, I have reached death, the cycle’s end. 

I cannot see what to do. The Way, the Dharma, is veiled. Instead, I look for the tracks of wild animals.

In the light of the deceptive Moon, my only companion is the Shadow, that aspect of myself which normally is hidden.

Gute Nacht

Fremd bin ich eingezogen,

Fremd zieh’ ich wieder aus.

Der Mai war mir gewogen

Mit manchem Blumenstrauß.

Das Mädchen sprach von Liebe,

Die Mutter gar von Eh’, –

Nun ist die Welt so trübe,

Der Weg gehüllt in Schnee.

Ich kann zu meiner Reisen

Nicht wählen mit der Zeit,

Muß selbst den Weg mir weisen

In dieser Dunkelheit.

Es zieht ein Mondenschatten

Als mein Gefährte mit,

Und auf den weißen Matten

Such’ ich des Wildes Tritt.

Was soll ich länger weilen,

Daß man mich trieb hinaus?

Laß irre Hunde heulen

Vor ihres Herren Haus;

Die Liebe liebt das Wandern –

Gott hat sie so gemacht –

Von einem zu dem andern.

Fein Liebchen, gute Nacht!

Will dich im Traum nicht stören,

Wär schad’ um deine Ruh’,

Sollst meinen Tritt nicht hören –

Sacht, sacht die Türe zu!

Ich schreibe nur im Gehen

An’s Tor noch gute Nacht,

Damit du mögest sehen,

An dich hab’ ich gedacht.

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