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Mitten im Schimmer der spiegelnden Wellen
Gleitet, wie Schwäne, der wankende Kahn:
Ach, auf der Freude sanftschimmernden Wellen
Gleitet die Seele dahin wie der Kahn;
Denn von dem Himmel herab auf die Wellen
Tanzet das Abendrot rund um den Kahn.
Über den Wipfeln des westlichen Haines
Winket uns freundlich der rötliche Schein;
Unter den Zweigen des östlichen Haines
Säuselt der Kalmus im rötlichen Schein;
Freude des Himmels und Ruhe des Haines
Atmet die Seel im errötenden Schein.
Ach, es entschwindet mit tauigem Flügel
Mir auf den wiegenden Wellen die Zeit;
Morgen entschwinde mit schimmerndem Flügel
Wieder wie gestern und heute die Zeit,
Bis ich auf höherem strahlendem Flügel
Selber entschwinde der wechselnden Zeit.
In the midst of the shimmer of the reflecting waves
Glides, swan-like, the rocking boat;
Oh on joy of these softly shimmering waves
Glides the soul along like the boat;
Then from Heavens down onto the waves
Dances the dusk all around the boat.
Over the treetops of the western grove
Waves happily toss in the reddish glow;
Under the branches of the eastern grove
The rushes murmur in the reddish gleam;
Joy of Heaven and the peace of the grove
Beathes the soul in the reddening glow.
Oh, time disappears on a dewy wing
for me, on the rocking waves;
Tomorrow, will disappear on shimmering wings
Time again as yesterday and today,
Until I, on a higher radiant wing,
Myself disappear taken by the passing time.
–Leopold Graf zu Stolberg, Lied Auf dem Wasser zu singen, für meine Agnes (1782) (S.H. transl.)
Count Stolberg was a Danish diplomat, poet and classicist, a significant star in the system that marked the transition from classicism to romanticism in late eighteenth century Middle Europe, and a man with one foot firmly planted in each camp. His poetry has been preserved largely because of Franz Schubert’s affection for it, and this Lied is surely one of Schubert’s most accomplished. He starts with a long sustained A flat minor, which warms up to an A flat major–it seems to be the movement between two different worlds, physically and emotionally. One is the red light of the day’s last glimmerings, and the other the dark afterworld that follows it. Schubert’s composition carefully marks the theme of the poem, the “shimmering” of the water, the “rocking” of the boat–note how skillfully Schubert does this, as he springs up an octave and then back down, mimicking the movement of the waves, with a quick punctuation suggesting the movement of a rudder, perhaps? But in doing this he is not just tracking the natural rhythm of the waves, but also the technique that Stolberg chose for the same purpose: note that his poem can be examined as a series of couplets, each with a line and a counter-line which contain language and images which are similar–but never quite the same. Specific words link the couplets, like a thread run through them. But the pairing technique is striking. Again, the movement of the waves, up and down. The poem suggests a state of approaching somnolence, perhaps of a dream. The world is seen in an eerily reddish light. It is a fading light. Darkness will soon close about and the image, wondrous, beautiful, soon will be lost to nightfall. The total effect of the song mirrors that of the poem. It is a curious series of juxtapositions and pairings–introspective and carefree, warmhearted and loving, straining to seize a moment of beauty and warmth, yet aware of the approach of darkness and death. Romanticist ideas have been suffused in a classical medium.
Listen to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sing Franz Schubert’s setting of this song, op. 72 (D. 774)(1823)
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.
Estimated temperature of Hell, according to two Spanish physicists ‘ interpretation of the Bible:
The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.
A TSA agent in Seattle was arrested for taking up-skirt photos of women in the airport, a Maryland police officer was arrested for taking up-skirt photos of an off-duty colleague, and the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that taking up-skirt photos is legal in the state.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”