Saturday, November 28, 2015

Clara and Robert Schumann at home c. 1840


(Women's Life and Love)

A Cycle of Eight Songs by 



Since first seeing him,
I think I am blind,
Wherever I look,
Him only I see;
As in a waking dream
His image hovers before me,
Rising out of deepest darkness
Ever more brightly.

All else is dark and pale
Around me,
My sisters’ games
I no more long to share,
I would rather weep
Quietly in my room;
Since first seeing him,
I think I am blind.


He, the most wonderful of all,
How gentle and loving he is!
Sweet lips, bright eyes,
A clear mind and firm resolve.

Just as there in the deep-blue distance
That star gleams bright and brilliant,
So does he shine in my sky,
Bright and brilliant, distant and sublime.
Wander, wander on your way,
Just to gaze on your radiance,
Just to gaze on in humility,
To be but blissful and sad!
Do not heed my silent prayer,
Uttered for your happiness alone,
You shall never know me, lowly as I am,
You noble star of splendour!
Only the worthiest woman of all
May your choice elate,
And I shall bless that exalted one
Many thousands of times.
Then shall I rejoice and weep,
Blissful, blissful shall I be,
Even if my heart should break,
Break, O heart, what does it matter?


I cannot grasp it, believe it,
A dream has beguiled me;
How, from all women, could he
Have exalted and favoured poor me?

He said, I thought,
‘I am yours for ever’,
I was, I thought, still dreaming,
After all, it can never be.
O let me, dreaming, die,
Cradled on his breast;
Let me savour blissful death
In tears of endless joy.


You ring on my finger,
My golden little ring,
I press you devoutly to my lips,
To my heart.

I had finished dreaming
Childhood’s peaceful dream,
I found myself alone, forlorn
In boundless desolation.
You ring on my finger,
You first taught me,
Opened my eyes
To life’s deep eternal worth.
I shall serve him, live for him,
Belong to him wholly,
Yield to him and find
Myself transfigured in his light.
You ring on my finger,
My golden little ring,
I press you devoutly to my lips,
To my heart.


Help me, my sisters,
With my bridal attire,
Serve me today in my joy,
Busily braid
About my brow
The wreath of blossoming myrtle.

When with contentment
And joy in my heart
I lay in my beloved’s arms,
He still called,
With longing heart,
Impatiently for this day.
Help me, my sisters,
Help me banish
A foolish fearfulness;
So that I with bright eyes
May receive him,
The source of all my joy.
Have you, my love,
Really entered my life,
Do you, O sun, give me your glow?
Let me in reverence,
Let me in humility
Bow before my lord.
Scatter flowers, O sisters,
Scatter flowers before him,
Bring him budding roses.
But you, sisters,
I greet with sadness,
As I joyfully take leave of you.


Sweet friend, you look
At me in wonder,
You cannot understand
How I can weep;
Let the unfamiliar beauty
Of these moist pearls
Tremble joyfully bright
In my eyes!

How anxious my heart is,
How full of bliss!
If only I knew
How to say it in words;
Come and hide your face
Here against my breast,
For me to whisper you
All my joy.
Do you now understand the tears
That I can weep,
Should you not see them,
Beloved husband?
Stay by my heart,
Feel how it beats,
That I may press you
Closer and closer.
Here by my bed
There is room for the cradle,
Silently hiding
My blissful dream;
The morning shall come
When the dream awakens,
And your likeness
Laughs up at me.


On my heart, at my breast,
You my delight, my joy!

Happiness is love, love is happiness,
I’ve always said and say so still.
I thought myself rapturous,
But now am delirious with joy.
Only she who suckles, only she who loves
The child that she nourishes;
Only a mother knows
What it means to love and be happy.
Ah, how I pity the man
Who cannot feel a mother’s bliss!
You dear, dear angel, you,
You look at me and you smile!
On my heart, at my breast,
You my delight, my joy!


Now you have caused me my first pain,
But it struck hard,
You sleep, you harsh and pitiless man,
The sleep of death.

The deserted one stares ahead,
The world is void.
I have loved and I have lived,
And now my life is done.
Silently I withdraw into myself,
The veil falls,
There I have you and my lost happiness,
You, my world!

~ § ~

Poet Adelbert von Chamisso (1781-1838)

English translation of Chamisso's German text by Richard Stokes 


  1. There's just something special about a vocal performance accompanied by a simple piano that makes the experience of listening to it so satisfying. It's not the words, I don't speak German, just the sounds, and the obvious "emotion" in the singer's voice.

    1. That is exactly right, Thersites. In great music of this kind the words serve as an inspiration for the music, but the music, when written on this high a plane, BECOMES the words, and as I said below, illuminates, intensifies, transfigures, and ultimately transcends the text. The unique harmonies and figurations in the piano accompaniment greatly magnify, enrich and intensify the text so that the combined sounds of voice and accompaniment convey the essence of the text better then the words, themselves, which in German lieder are often prosaic when read strictly on their own.

  2. May Clara and Robert have been reunited on the other side! His mental illness was the tragedy of their earthly life.

    1. We should never allow ourselves to be defined by our afflictions, AOW, but only by whatever good we've been able to accomplish in spite of them.

  3. Interesting the words were written by a man. Was he giving voice to the feelings women of that time expressed, or was this a man's idealized version of what htey though women were supposed to be thinking and feeling?

    1. A commonly asked question in our cynical, hardbitten, degenerate modern age.

      The answer may be found in the tender, exquisite beauty of Schumann's music, itself, which illuminates, expands and transcends Adelbert von Chamisso's poetry, and the way Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Julius Drake perform the work with tremendous affection, empathy and an almost uncanny depth of feeling.



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