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In des Sees Wogenspiele
Fallen durch den Sonnenschein
Sterne, ach, gar viele, viele,
Flammend leuchtend stets hinein.
Wenn der Mensch zum See geworden,
In der Seele Wogenspiele
Fallen aus des Himmels Pforten
Sterne, ach, gar viele, viele.
In the swelling of the lake’s waves,
Through the sunshine fall
Stars, oh, so many, many,
Flaming brightly down upon us.
When humankind and the lake are one,
In the soul’s swelling waves,
There will fall from Heaven’s gates
Stars, oh, so many, many.
–Franz Seraph Ritter von Bruchmann, Am See (ca. 1822)(S.H. transl.)
Franz von Bruchmann, the son of a successful merchant who moved from Cologne to Vienna at some point during the Napoleonic era, was a contemporary of Franz Schubert’s, and probably attended secondary school together with him. He was a typical figure of the early Romantic movement, inspired by nature, strongly influenced by Goethe and then the Schlegel brothers and Schelling. He seems to have renounced his family’s Catholicism around the time he was composing this poem, instead turning to the pantheistic views of the Schlegels. This poem shows that, highlighting the relationship between man and nature, especially in the line “wenn der Mensch zum See geworden,” literally, “when the human has become the sea.” Bruchmann was not known as a poet, but he was an enthusiastic sponsor of Schubert, hosting musical evenings (Schubertiade) at his home in Vienna.
This Lied is a prominent example of Schubert’s ability to produce wonders from unassuming and naïve poetical material. His music is exceptionally simple, and all the same hypnotic. It beautifully evokes the sound of waves lapping at the lakeside and Schubert brilliantly uses the singer’s human voice to present the soul “flammend leuchtend” (“flaming brightly”), just as the piano is used to emulate the waves, preserving the simply dichotomy of the poetic concept. It seems that Schubert has also tinkered a bit with the conclusion of the poem, adding an extra “viele” for emphasis, but he uses this in a very clever way in the musical composition, drifting off into a infinite world of dreams.
Listen to Ian Bostridge perform Franz Schubert’s setting of the poem:
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”