The Death of a Mad Composer
A Symphony in Five Movements
Movement III: Andante cantabile
The madman remembered the unfortunate incident when Alwin gave up violin - or tried to… There could not be a more extreme offense to Wieck than for his children to refuse to be his musical resources, and his scorn was a wonder to behold. The only restraint the beast practiced, was to withhold from ruining the boy’s financial assets while beating him black and blue in places that would not show in public, and kicking him mercilessly in the backside and shins.
The horror S felt at this egregious abuse led him to spend considerable time studying the criminal laws governing assault in Saxony, and whether there was any recourse, lest a way could be found to free the oppressed children from the tyranny of a true, and truly aggressive, madman. Undaunted by the challenge facing him, and believing in Good (an unfortunate trait instilled by his mother), he thought he might actually introduce a mitigating element into the Wieck household, since he was also still learning much from the Madman (Wieck, that is) about style and technique on the piano, and the Madman had not held back in introducing him to those other promising youths who had made such an impression upon him as musicians and composers… and one of them was Felix.
His first question for the famous youth was, “what is your impression of Wieck?”
And Felix smiled mysteriously. “He is not as important as who he knows, my friend. Use him for who he knows, not who he is.”
“Use him?” S found his term curious, and wanted to ask further. Once the two had met, they found themselves more and more in one another’s company, and it was Felix who suggested that he keep an eye on the girl. “But she is impossible!” S objected. “Whenever alone in a room with her she can’t keep her hands on the piano…” And Felix laughed.
“So what is wrong with that? One grows up sometime, don’t you fancy girls at all?” Which caused S to think, deeply, about what it was that disturbed him so much about the little pianistin… the profound contradictions of an outwardly sweet, pleasing character, but the frown attendant upon her focus on a difficult piece of music spoke volumes for the hidden depths of her passions… passions that might one day erupt into something purely as horrible and ugly as Wieck screaming in sadistic delight, and thrashing his sons with his cane. Because when he did these things, she sat in full view, perfectly properly at the piano, not playing, but hands in position, with a slight, mocking smile, as though she savored in some way the misfortunes of her brothers, and this alarmed him. S, for his part, fearing Wieck, would excuse himself whenever these horrors would take place, since he had no desire to witness them, or watch the girl’s paradoxically calm gloating. But this, too, was explained by Felix at a night they spent at his favorite weingarten.
“What would you do if say - you yourself, sensitive and delicate (as girls are), were in the hands of a malevolent force, and knew you could not resist it, nor could anyone raise a hand to resist it for you?”
“I would fight!” He shook his head.
“Think, Lieber. She is not a man. Wieck’s sons resist him because in time they will grow beyond his power, when they become men, and they are testing it constantly. She will never grow beyond his power, unless she marries.”
“Then she should marry.”
Felix smiled. “Yes. Preferably someone of whom Wieck approves. Then she would be given away by him and achieve her escape. If he allows it, then all will be resolved.”
“Someone whom Wieck approves… He approves of so few!”
“He certainly would never approve of me, Lieber.” Felix crossed his legs, leaned back, and stretched. The wine was catching up to him, and he was growing sleepy. “I have the status and reputation, but I am not of the correct race for his dynasty. And I am not sure I would survive a marriage to one of his productions in any case. I am myself, too delicate. Any blow could end me. But you are made of sterner stuff.”
“You think I should marry Wieck’s daughter?” he cried, distressed. I don’t ever want to marry!”
“Oh you must, though. You will never become known as a composer, if you don’t marry. No one will accept you. I must, you must, we all must. In time…I’ll postpone it as long as possible, until it starts diminishing my prospects. Since she already knows you, it would be easy. And since she is a pianist, she could enlarge your reputation for your piano works, or you could play four hands piano pieces with her.”
S was angry with Felix for weeks after that conversation, but his words returned, again and again. “You will never become known as a composer if you do not marry…” and the talent of the little pianistin, her forlorn courage in the face of the Madman Wieck… how could he forsake this? Why must this be his role to play? Why could he not just be Wieck’s student?
After much thought, he confronted Felix with these musings, fortified by many more bottles of weissherbst, at their usual place of meeting, and demanded reply, since he was so deeply offended by the notion that it was necessary for him to marry, and that Felix would think that he should marry the pianistin.
This is how his argument went: “First of all, she is a child.”
“Children grow up.”
“Secondly, her family is abominable to the point of criminality. How would I endure that?”
“Wieck is a well-known man. This empire does not as yet frown, as you do, upon the cruelty that fathers visit upon their sons. He does not beat her, does he?”
“How can I know?”
“That would be abominable, surely. But there could be a way you could find out… seek her confidence. Draw her away from him for a time… perhaps take a walk with her. See if she will confide something to you.”
“And if she does?”
“Then you can intervene with the father, convince him to do the right thing, or force him.”
“I am not a jurist, Felix. I have no legal status in this country…”
“Not yet. Seek your diploma then - you will gain credibility with the state in this. You will have power over Wieck.”
“Power over Wieck… no one has power over Wieck!” S railed. His own whining was bothering him, and he had already lost the point of the argument he desired to make so succinctly to Felix. “You speak as though it is my life goal to rescue one little pianistin from her father’s oppression.”
“And if you do? Is not the world better for it? And cost you so little?”
“I don’t know what it will cost! Perhaps everything!”
“Perhaps nothing.” Felix gulped a large draft of wine, then. “You do not know. You shall have to marry in any case. You are much too lovely to not have a wife to prove yourself , and soon … No one would trust you unmarried, particularly not instructing their sons.”
If S had not been so unsteady on his feet and so numbed by wine he might have struck him… and then saw the long, slow smile that crept across Felix’s face. “How dare you…”
“There is no use of denials,” he said simply, and refilled his glass. “I am less vulnerable, since everyone expects less of us.”
“Not you. Us. I will always be a Jew to them, regardless of my baptism. I will marry because I must, but I will delay it until the day when I am refused work. For the moment I survive on sheer brilliance… But your brilliance does not obscure your nature quite as well, Lieber. Do not mind me… it is always uncomfortable the first time such a truth is spoken. It will grow easier with time, and with acceptance…”
For Felix did accept him, and completely… not in the way his mother had, or with the admiration or fawning that his fellow students had, but as an equal, though he did not consider himself the equal of such a facile, brilliant composer… and even so, Felix in turn bowed to Schubert and Beethoven, now severely mourned throughout the empire by all of them, which had led to much drinking among the entire circle of musicians and composers.
There would be no more new works by either, and they feared that all light had dimmed. They mourned the two great Lights, and throughout Leipzig, throughout Saxony, throughout all of the empire, they played the greatest gems of both composers nightly in the theaters. They loved, to the strains of the beloved andantes, and love filled S to the brim as despair had done before… until there was nothing he felt more than love, and must in turn share it…
And returned him twice weekly to the piano bench in Wieck’s music room, and the insistent and insistently flirtatious pianistin who, sensing an expansiveness in his usual reserve (following a night of unrestrained music, wine and debauchery with Felix) she sailed into the room, adorned with hair ribbons that looked like butterflies attached to her curls, and rubbed them into his face very deliberately as she embraced him, and he did not resist coldly as he usually did, but patted her gently, tenderly, at which she pressed her advantage and plucked at his collar.
“My dear, my dear,” he mumbled…. “what would your father think at such behavior…”
“He would think that I am an ambitious musician…” she breathed, her voice sultry, and then she kissed him hungrily.
“You are that,” he replied, but he did not frown as he usually did. “You are quite dressed today!” he complimented her, and she preened, standing back to pose for him.
“I did my hair as butterflies because father has given me the Papillons to learn and now I am ready to play it for you. All with his approval!”
S, despite himself, was stunned. “Wieck gave you the Papillons? And you have it studied already?”
“I have perfected it!” she bragged. “But I must wait for Papa before I present it properly.”
S sat down, still unsteady from his sleepless night… he certainly was not ready for the young pianistin to make a recital - he thought he was to present an arrangement of one of Paganini’s Études which he had practiced, at least a little… but maybe now he could avoid the stringent attention of the ever-frowning mad impresario, who would be distracted entirely by the performance of his favorite, the soon to be Lauded and Medalled, debauched by the eye of every music lover while her fingers sailed over the endless quavering butterflies of his composition… Starting today, his name would literally and actually, become Fame, and he would have to retire the name of Defender that he had adopted in school. There might be still be one he could defend…
He was both amazed and pleased at the lightness of her technique on the thousand butterfly quavers - it was not as beautiful as he himself played it, but it was only opus 2, after all… S turned the pages for her, though she seemed to have committed it entirely to memory - amazingly … Wieck said nothing, as usual, frowning impassively through the performance, which did not waver. She was used to his silent, cold regard. He suggested that they walk, and the impresario retired, doubtless to find the incompetent, lazy Alwin, or Josef, who was better at hiding, and even better at avoiding practicing the piano…
She pulled him hard by the arm to the outbuilding where he had often see her play when she was not at the piano. “Come to my secret place, Herr F… or may I call you --”
“If you can say it -”
“Florestan! see I can say it. Why do you not use your name?” she demanded, still pulling on his arm, her hard fingers digging into the back of his hand as she dragged him, half-unwilling, into the shed that had probably once served as a stable for a single horse. And in the shadowy half-light she reached up - a full head shorter than he, and strained toward him.
“Because it is an ugly name, an English name,” he answered honestly. “And it means Fame. I wish not to be known for something so shallow.”
“So use your second name!” she argued, nibbling at his collar once again, like a horse snuffling in a grain bag. He brushed at the tickling hair against his neck, almost absently, and then his eyes focused upon her face.
“I don’t have a second name. I had to make one up.”
“Florestan?” That is not a German name either, I don’t think. It sounds Italian.”
“Spanish, actually. But that is not the name I made up - the name I made up is - you don’t want to hear all of this.”
Showing mercy at last, he picked her up at the waist and drew her up to eye level. “You are too full of questions Miss Wieck,” he said, and she pasted him with a wet kiss, full on the lips - and he drew back, an involuntary response that made him wince as he realized how offensive his recoil would be to such a young girl.
“Oh!” she cried. “How rude!” And bursting into tears, she threw herself on the floor in a storm of weeping. For a long, long moment, S stood, miserable in his silence, trying to recall that next piece of advice from Felix he had not followed, but could not remember it.
Kneeling, he said, in a small voice, “You play piano beautifully.” And she rounded on him, eyes bright and red, sodden with tears, and shouted in a piercing wail,
“You think my nose is too big! My father said so!” This was the first time S found himself praying to God to keep himself from laughing out loud. The second time was with the Baronin Fraulein von F. in her father’s library. For he had a vague, but definite fear, that if he laughed at Miss Wieck now, she might grow angry enough to kill him. When his prayer was done, he put a soft hand over the now-mussed curls that lay in disarray over her bowed head, and caressed them gently… but could not resist assessing, as she had suggested with such force, just how big her nose was… she had Wieck’s nose, that was certain, perhaps with growth it would become less prominent, or if she rolled bigger curls… despite this, she was darkly, composedly handsome, and would be very striking in black, at a grand shining pianoforte… he could see it already, four hands piano at the Konservatorium…
“And you are also very beautiful…” he added, ritardando. “I was simply startled. I haven’t any experience of such talented pianistins and kissing you know…” He lied easily… such lies were easy for S to justify, since he had not actually ever kissed, or been kissed by, a twelve year old pianist before, and he found it markedly revolting, like being assaulted by the wet smack of his little cousin Heide at Christmas…she had also adored him in this mad, unreasonable way, and he had no compunction about placing her back on her feet and swatting her out the door and back to her mother…. but there was no swatting Miss Wieck. Much, much too dangerous.
The following night S sent a note to Wieck with his apologies, and took the latest possible carriage (after spending the evening closeted with Felix one final time), and went directly to Frankfurt. He did not return to Leipzig for eight months.
10 October 1855
Now, I am intrigued. What is the importance of this Liszt, if as Johannes says, it did not achieve anything of success? Why does it occupy so much of my ears? This, I must study.
I expected, with closed eyes, with a stilled heart, with all the conviction of knowing that one’s death comes, that Ha Risoluto would once again darken the door, and he comes indeed! If for no other reason than to appear to earn his Psychiater’s wage. And as to why he comes: He has received letter from the Lauded One, and this time there is no time or place for play, for she is in deadly earnest now, adagio
I have resolved within myself, with the pain of the most exquisite enduring, that nothing will move me, and nothing will prompt me to speak, nor allow Florestan that privilege, for he has no reason to overrule me. I expect, also, that Herr Psychiater (for I must distance myself from my musical metaphor at this moment to see him as the physician he claims to be, perhaps, even, that more nastily dangerous of creatures, a Scientist!) will do his psychological utmost, in his lack of Hippocrasy, to pry from me the secrets of my soul, and the truth of my fractured orchestration, the disorganization of my string section.
“Florestan?” I do not open my eyes. I am inert. I wait. Poco a poco.
“Herr S?” I open them and focus gradually, Catatonically, upon the Psychiater.
“Good morning, Herr Doktor.” (So you have another letter from my wife.) He has another letter from my wife. He proceeds through niceties and pleasantries while in his hand, gripped sweating, is the missive from that which threatens him surely and completely as it threatens me. How similar all history is, I remind myself, remembering now the bright yet threatening moments of the early days in Leipzig when I knew, if I made myself vulnerable to it, that I would fall victim to the absolutism of the rule of Wieck. And here I lay, entirely submissive to it, enduring the next blow as it falls. As does Herr Doktor with all his power and prestige. He also cannot withstand it.
And at length, the moment of his revelation comes but ritardando, when Ha Risoluto has failed to move Florestan from his position of silent theory as a Hyde Persona, nor dislodged Eusebius from his place as a role in a story, for they are merely the fifth and sixth themes in the Carnaval. Why does he not ask me whether I am also Paganini, or Chopin? Or Pantalon? He does not study, this Scientist, and I owe him nothing. So I remain resolute. He is not a student of music. Why does he not ask me, who is Estrella, and who, Coquette? he does not know, they are all of them, dedications.
I am bitter today, bitter, silent, withdrawn, and there is no love in me, no light, no compassion for his suffering, for my own, for anyone’s, because I have been dealt a blow too great, and this, he cannot relieve through any medical art. The blow I know will end me.
And he at length, oh poco a poco is a tragic endurance, Ha! Relieve me from the tedium of waiting for my end! Relieve me, Hohenheim, and let me go to my reward. Do not embrace me in my pain, for it is in this realization that my own resolution comes! speaks of it. And she
Insists that we are keeping you against your will, and has had her lawyers draw up a writ. And I must frown and leap from bed and carry on!
Does not wish to burden you in your despair, however… she is the cause of my despair. Fame, fame has ruined me. Fashion has undone me, and vanity, destroyed me. I knew the truth then, and had I lopped off the hand entire, perhaps she would have found me a less likely prospect, then I could be the single handed composer, half-destroyed, like Oedipus… lame.
I never had a preference for which hand to write in, but certainly one cannot play left hand at the piano all of one’s career, nor make love easily. I sicken from my ruminations. Could she not find in Johannes, perhaps, a more worthy object? He is young, and as yet full of life, not yet creased with care or overcome. But she has this problem of immorality you see, that must be legitimized, and I am the holder of the lease upon her womb merely.
Shall I tell Ha, and thus undo all I have come to value? No. Florestan would dearly like the moment of revelation, but it is not for me to say, and if I sicken from Fame itself and Laudedness, how much sicker would I become from such unholy fame? No, no, and no. Pause
“And I need to ask you some things about Frau S and your knowledge of her, Herr S. For I am not prepared to endure the financial pressure she seems about to unleash upon my poor and poorly funded establishment, just to keep one patient in quietude and protection against his family members.” I turn my imploring eyes to him.
“Cannot Lamier assist you in this? I have granted her no authority with respect to me. In this the laws of this state and the laws governing our matrimonial obligation are clear, are they not?” My God, it is Raro! the lawyer at last, has arrived to assist, and I let him, within the bounds of my own silence.
Ha shakes his head. “This is not my field, Herr S. It is far more your field than anything - did you not take a diploma in the law?”
He has studied my history then. “There is nothing she can do but torment you with letters… she has not come, has she?” Despite my inertness, I feel the pounding of Eusebius’s failing heart. The trickle of fear I felt the day she first laid her hands upon my second composition, I felt those hands grasp me, and no matter how far I fled, they did not relinquish their grip.
“She has not come. But it is not for lack of intent, but as I understand it, she has been unable to schedule a trip to visit me and intimidate me in person.”
Ah, Ha! you feel it too. Strong words. I wait, and he continues.
“I must say that for a diminuitive person, she is most aggressive. And for a woman, quite decidedly so.” Ha now waits, using my own technique against me. I sigh, wordlessly.
“I feel I need some information here, Herr S.” (Or is it, Florestan) oh Florestan would give you some information!
and the madman remembered…
The trip overnight to Heidelberg, after he had gone to the theater. For he was to meet Charles and P there. P was of age, and much impressed with S, in more than a personal way, in a much more musical way, and he felt he must advise him on this matter of the young pianistin, his conduct with her father, and the dilemma he found himself in. Perhaps T could also help, and so he had charged Lamier with gathering the League together, their informal drinking party at this stage, so that they could ruminate on the place of Social Contact in Art.
Too bad Felix could not join them - but Felix, unlike so many composers in youth, already had work, and money, and a direction in life. He could not afford to take a week away to visit with S in Heidelberg with his schoolmates. He had left that all behind him in his own abbreviated, Mozartianly successful youth. P began his advisement as follows: “The solution, my boy, is to find some well padded, wealthy Viennese girl, marry her, give her some children, then run away from her, back here. She will be too important in society to chase you or to declare you an unfit husband, and the few visits you make back to Österreich to satisfy her occasional need for another child will content her that she has married well. You would have to endure, of course, being cuckolded from time to time.”
S frowned at P’s proposal. “None of this answers what to do about the girl. This girl.”
Lamier was very quiet, and by his silence, attracted the more attention. But before S got a chance to query him, T spoke up. “I agree with P you should go to Wien. You should at least have a go at the social milieu, get some new inspiration, publish some new pieces. There is another pianistin, not quite so youthful, who is marriageable, and her father is rich. I saw her when I went to Esterházy with…” he bowed his head.
“That was the time you went with Schubert,” P declared. T blushed. “You never fail to bring that up. You think you are quite the superior one, debauching with the aristocracy.” S raised a hand. There was often tension between T and P, his two friends, in part because he had known T longer, but had more present affection for P, and he hated it when the two of them tussled with one another before him. But T had a point, regardless of his name-dropping tendencies.
“Let T finish what he is saying!” S groused. “He is not trying to impress us all with being groped by the seedy old Count. How many of us would like to be in his shoes, today?” P and T glared at each other, and Lamier laughed quietly.
“I would,” he said in a low voice, and everyone burst out laughing, breaking the tension of the moment, and Charles rose and went out to the kitchen for more wine, while T told about meeting the young Baronin Fraulein von F the previous fall, and the fact that he had learned she was interested in retaining an instructor who had some compositional abilities. “And of all of us, Skulander, you are the prettiest, as well as the most talented in composition, at least for piano. P here is much too old…”
“And I am holding out for a Viennese. No Bohemian prinzessin for me, thank you.” P got up and staggered back with his violin. “Now we have done with the mundane, and now enter the realm of the spiritual…” he announced, and raising his violin, he stood, and struck the opening notes of his latest composition.
Charles returned with the wine and took a place next to the now-still Skulander, brushing away the length of hair from his ear and whispering, “I have aught to say about your question, when we have done here…” and S silenced him with a nod, closing his eyes. The subject was not yet done. After the other members had left, and S was left bleary-eyed from the too-heavy rotwein, and too much of P.’s annoying pizzicatos (he must say something to him about that) he was left in half-darkness with the quiet, but loudly-thinking Charles, still sitting cross-legged beside him. “And so…?” the lawyer asked in the quiet darkness.
“And so, I am never quite so miserable as when I do not know what to do.” He began to weep, at first quietly, and then with more violence, and Charles did little more for the next few minutes than dab his face with his handkerchief and hold him. After a while, he turned his sorrowful eyes upward and beseeched his quiet friend, “what do I do? Tell me.”
“You are not in this world to rescue small girls from their horrible fathers,” he replied. “You are in the world to lead us into a realm of pure music. All of us…” he stretched his hand to encompass the now-empty room. “There are very few qualified to do that, but you have the requisite soul, the inner light, and the vision…”
“How can you speak of beautiful things when I feel so utterly wretched?” S cried.
“It is the wretchedness that comes from not doing what you are here to do…” he replied with definiteness, and rose, crossing the room, and seized one of the now-empty music stools and pulled it up, assuming a prosecutor’s stance. “Whenever you are distracted by things that such souls are drawn to - whether it is suffering of another, or of a great political cause, or what your mother (the word was capitalized in his mouth) attempts to make you do - you grow miserable. I have seen this again and again. You were never so unhappy as when you were in school with Thibeaux. What do you think it would be like catering to the sick whims of someone like Wieck? Isn’t that why you came back in the first place?”
“But Felix says, the world is a better place for saving such a one as she, and that it would cost nothing.”
“Felix. What does Felix know - Felix has a roof over his head, he has a job, he has everything he needs. He has never known want, and has never had to make the choice about what he had to sell to live.”
“Neither have you!” S retorted, defensive. Charles narrowed his eyes and looked long at S.
“I am not the subject here, Skul. You are. I can see you will brook no argument regarding Felix, however. You must love him very much.” And S reddened.
“That is not --” he objected.
“I at least admit the nature of my passions. I suppose he tells you that you must marry a girl to cover the embarrassing fact of your liaison with him, too, lest his position be threatened.” Lamier’s eyes were shining, his expression, livid. He was, in his own way, as passionate as Felix, and S felt buffeted by the tide of his unloosed emotion from across the room.
“That is not why!” S cried, his voice cracking.
“Of course that is why. Think, Skul. I have never imposed myself upon you, nor have I ever asked you to do anything purely for me. I would like to think I care more about you than to ask you to do anything that will serve me socially. I am glad just to be around you. I make my own way, and I pay the price for my peculiarities. Without the utmost of discretion, my position too would be ended. And without my own sources of money. You have higher purposes than to serve the pleasure of another composer, even if he is a great composer. You too, are a great composer. Why serve him?”
“You think that is what this is?” S thought then, with no small embarrassment, about the almost obsessive quality of his relationship with Felix, its exclusivity. It was unlike any previous liaison, and was more intense, and much more physical. “I love him!”
Charles sighed. “Yes. You will have many loves, Skul. You will love them all. When the passion fades, you will still love them. He is no different. You are still young yet, you will learn this in time. But to the point - just because Felix thinks that you should marry this girl, should you marry her?”
“What he says makes sense.”
“It only makes sense if he wants to keep you near him in Leipzig and easily accessible to him, and safely married.”
“You are jealous!” He instantly regretted his accusation, but it seemed that was all Charles was saying.
“This has nothing to do with how I feel about you and Felix. This goes to motivation. If I were jealous, would I endure your being fawned over by P, and sit through an entire evening listening to him sigh and stare - and play with your hair? I wouldn’t bear it. You have much to learn about jealousy, Skul.”
“Oh I have?” he retorted. Enraged by Charles’s attitude, exhausted by his own emotions, he slumped in the chair, and his friend rose and crossed the room. “You are outrageous to me now,” he cried.
“I see that,” Lamier replied, sadly. “I am sorry. But I am speaking the truth.” He put his hand on S’s shoulder, and briefly squeezed it. “I wish I could say something that comforted you.”
He raised his eyes to the slight form of the lawyer before him. “Then do!”
“I love you. That is why I have to tell you the truth. That is the thing of greatest value I can give to one I love.”
S sobbed, and said nothing coherent for the rest of the night. When he woke, he was alone in bed in Lamier’s spare room, undressed, and Lamier was not about. He had a furious headache, which he doused with water and coffee, and a black mood settled on him. Dawn was approaching - he could not have slept more than two hours, his usual sleeplessness unrelieved by wine.
He rose, unsteadily, and went to the window, and contemplated whether the drop were adequate to destroy him. No, probably not. And messy. Rivers were not quite as messy, and can always be construed as accidents - he had some small reputation to preserve, and the life of his mother to consider - his messy suicide would destroy her. And Lamier - how could he suicide from Lamier’s window?
Did he have enough energy to get to the river before the sun rose? No, probably not. He threw himself back into the bed, eyes burning, mind screaming, and grew overwhelmed by the enormity of the task facing him - the task of killing himself.
12 October 1855
This is the part I cannot bear, Hohenheim. The waiting… the endless pain and anticipation, wherein I nearly rose from my bed, to block all of the light of the waning season with the bedsheets, upsetting the delicate peace I had negotiated with Schneider my keeper, and alarming my now newly-disgruntled angel, who took it all quite personally that I chose to invent some wild inconvenience known as Agony and left nothing functioning in my corpse for her to savor when hungry.
For her hunger, as with most of her sex, was her master, and I its object. But why? Had she a craving for madmen only? what of R, ensconced behind the kitchen who rarely wandered but only to take the morning air? What of the newly reinstalled Wolf, who had taken up residence opposite me, that D had lately vacated after he killed himself (by throwing himself through an open window to the parquet below.) I learned all of this of course, from the garrulous Wolf. Franz! I cannot call him that name, since I realize too late that I associated the name, paradoxically, with two: both Schubert and the Great One, Liszt, so often in my thoughts today, and during the nights, the piercing hollow tones of his Faustian scales played on clarinet, blatted on horns.
Wolf has been warned, quite sternly, not to torment the Componist with his tendency to spill lemonade, or penning secret notes. Despite this, I rather believe that Ha has reinstalled Wolf somewhat on my behalf, knowing that I had befriended him, and how tentative my present hold is upon life, despite the additional assistance of Charles. Perhaps he also fears that I would be tempted, without other occupation, to reestablish less healthy relations with one or more of my former associates, say, J or T, who have all sent alarmed letters after learning through the Lauded One of my incapacity and my supposedly illegal confinement. Charles informed me after the fact that he had responded in my behalf, emphasizing the delicate medical nature of my disease, etc. and I breathe out gratitude to him upon his regular daily visit.
He has, lo! Got a copy of the Wagner article to fulfill your request, as well as a reading score of the Liszt symphonic movements which he had borrowed back from Johannes, and I consume these items with a madman’s intent, foregoing walks to the garden in the company of the overexcitable and persistent Wolf, whose regard in some way, despite all, comforts me. He is no doubt assisting in defending Ha with his expenditures against the lawsuits of the Lauded Virtuosa and the grief-stricken family of D, who are in mourning over the loss of a mysterious sum of thousands of thaler which they have blamed upon the Direktor.
Johannes has gone, to another concert engagement. In my apathy, I have not written him. I care not for anything, and the uselessness of my petty existence chokes the breath from me. And to my creeping horror - Ha has under the threat of writ, renewed his Scientific Investigation into the nature of my soul, its eusebiusness, its florestanity, but he knows nothing of its rarity, its asches, its dichteriniana. Raro has reappeared and quite openly, to heckle poor Eusebius for his pious desire to end. For I cannot feel aught by the darkness within… all music obscured by this, I can tell by the mirror of Charles’s face that he recognizes this selfsame malady, for it is the same as the night of our discussion of Miss Wieck and Felix, that fateful night in Heidelberg in his rooms, where he later found me, drowned in tears and silent agony, when all music fled, and the abyss once again loomed.
We would not have remained friends and colleagues to this day if he had not been the great soul that he is, though I resented him fiercely for many years. He came back from his office, to find me inert, much as I am now most days, and after that previous night of comforting and allaying fears, and wiping the tears from my face with the utmost tenderness… there was another element ruling in him that day, which drove me from him for some period of time. It was for this reason, I was denied his important counsel, and I lived without it rather than submit to the truth he portrayed - the truth I learn from you that determined the waste of this existence. It is for this reason I pay such close attention to Lamier now, for he has always been a stalwart friend, not as deeply loved as Johannes - I must admit - , certainly not as passionately sought as Felix, and not as deeply sung from my soul as so many others I worshipped along the indulgent path of my life. Yet there he remains, as composed as when we were youths; as steadfast as he was the day he and I we were first engaged upon our lives and our loves in Heidelberg. Ah, Heidelberg,
If I could ride to Heidelberg,
A youth again
Full of life, to bring my love to her…
It was not she! It was never she! Just as it is not this harp, nor this angel, but some play of shadows where I seek something which is, at last, ineffable, unattainable. Oh Charles, how could I have mistrusted you so utterly! I have been so unfair to him; and that thought, as I regret from a position of greater knowledge I now hold, Hohenheim, makes me bleed with pain…
Upon his arrival this day, I turned my tear-streaked face to his own reserved, composed one (he is so young, still, it seems, though he is older than I by some years) and try, stupidly, to make my apologies. And he stares at me, “Skulander, whatever are you apologizing to me for?”
For - for, for, for refusing to accept you? That is not it. For ruining my life when you were there to point me aright? Do I admit this now? Yes, I do, and he lays a cool hand upon my own.
“It is very easy to see a truth in others; and very difficult to see one in yourself. I was impetuous then, and did not see the depth of your pain. I should have taken my first impulse and remained quiet. I would not have been deprived of your company for so long had I done so, and perhaps things might not have gone so badly for you, then. And for me. Perhaps.”
He shook his head, and I could see the doubt in him - he was moved, and it distressed me, for him to see the profound distress in him. This, Hohenheim, is why I wish my death would hasten! Look at the pain others endure for my sake, and for what unreasonable cause! And just as though he had taken my thoughts from my mind, he said “do you suffer greatly now? Is there much pain?”
Ah, there is ever pain! And today, the day is obliterated with weeping. I sit, alone with Charles, and I weep, for his question provokes all of the pain of the great mistake that is my life, my departure from Heidelberg, and the end of the goodness that I might have given to the world; the beginning of my descent into the underworld of Fame. And his cool and steady hand does not depart from me.
The madman remembered his return to Leipzig to Wieck’s house … and all of the excesses that ensued. The long hours of practice, as the lamps burned, and he played his own setting to the impossible Paganini arrangement ten times, twenty times, and then would start over again if he stumbled but once, until he had it ten times perfectly, and then again, until it was ten times perfect at speed, and alone in the house (as far as he knew, for Wieck had gone again to Dresden with the Virtuosa on her concert engagement and left him to practice without guidance.) He played on Wieck’s piano in the music room, which was, naturally, the newest and most up to date, (for her) from his store, and it was as perfect as could be, so the fault lay in his hands.
And so he tried it again, and again, obsessively. He hardly noticed when Frau F (that other F) came into the music room to light the lamps which helped his hands not at all, because he was beyond noticing the positions, he concentrated entirely upon the attack, and again, and his wrists began a deep ache as though aflame. So he was not so alone in the house, and looked up briefly, on the twentieth iteration of the perfect run, and doing so distracted himself ever so slightly so that he stumbled, then banged all fingers down on the keys in a major S, and then a run of F scales, and the little tune, that had obsessively struck him when he saw this woman, no longer a girl but certainly fresh - cleanly ironed for a putzfrau, of the most exceptional cleanliness, which of course nearly always impressed him, since he never seemed to affect to get his hands completely clean from all of the ink. It must be the bleach that makes women who clean, so spotless. And Frau F. looked up at the sudden cessation of his fingers on the runs, smiling, mysterious - oh, he knew that look -
And to his very great surprise, she drew his eyes with her own, and as she turned away, she bent back the strap on her shoulder and pulled it down, ever so subtly but definitely, and revealed retreating her bare white shoulder, tossed him another smile of unmistakable intent, and left the room. He looked down at his deficient hands, particularly his F, and banged it unceremoniously on the F, and performed a ruthless scale on D major, as if that would teach his hand to play. And began the Paganini again, with greater ruthlessness, while below the surface of his anxious, driven concentration, another tune began to play…
He sat for another two hours, driven to the goal of his practice, and no other sound was heard in the house, nor did Frau F reappear to wonder what had happened to her invitation. And when he had done it 20 times perfectly at speed (it took all of two more hours), he rose, bone-weary, hands burning, wrists throbbing, and made his way down the hall. When he reached his door, he turned, at the slight sound of a doorknob turning, and retraced his steps toward the other end of the hallway. Outside the door of F, there was wedged into the latch a red ribbon, and he pulled on it, curious now. The latch released, and he pushed with one of the deficient fingers at the door which gave in to the room, still lighted from within, and a slight gasp greeted him.
“I thought you would never stop… why do you do that?” she asked him without greeting, seated on the bed, half-undressed.
“Do what?” he blushed at the sight of so much white flesh so suddenly in view.
“Practice so many hours - doesn’t it drive you mad? The little girl doesn’t practice like that!”
“Yes, well - I am mad. Everyone says so, so I might as well act mad. And I am not as good a pianist as she is.”
“Of course you are! Much better!” she was indignant. “And I should know because I hear her go on all the time about it.”
“Oh?” he took another step into the room.
“But that is not why you are here.” She rose, confident, the thin shift revealing more of her than it concealed. There was this fascinating fluidity to her movement as she approached him, and without a single effort of plucking, she drew the schal from his neck in a motion, and curled a soft! oh how incredibly soft - hand around his neck and pulled his head down into an even softer and more passionate kiss. That, that! - he thought - is how kissing is done… and he stumbled not at all on his way to her bed.
As he lay alone much later, the rest of him as weary as his hands had been before, he wondered if he had consented make love to F because of his own desire, or because she had told him that he was a better pianist than the little virtuosa.
13 October 1855
wish to know, he said, interrupting my intently Catatonic reverie… whether you hear voices speak to you, and call those by another name…
voices? I reply - the only voices I hear are of imaginary trombones, insistently non-melodic horns, and piercing violent clarinets all gemischt with violins that can hardly be heard above them - this is my curse, for having included too many of those infernals in the Second…
what has this to do with the voices?
voices? the voice of the cello as it cuts into my contemplation -
the voice of the viola as it touches my hand and wipes the beads of lingering sweat from my fevered forehead
the voice of the harp as it inquires, ever, inquires
the voice of the contrabass telling me it is time to get up and change out of this ragged, greying dressing gown - but why? WHY BOTHER? Why get up at all? For I have concluded the theory of this composition now, and it is all waste… I have truly failed, Hohenheim! Here, before I am even cold in the grave, before my room is let by the efficient Piano to the next piece of waste that is the next paying madman to seek asylum, they have done away with the cycle of fifths in favor of the mixolydian dramatic tones of antiquity, and put it into the modern orchestra -- and to what effect? I cannot capitalize now, in the Es-clef, and all is waste, quavers disharmonic
and scales and endless motoric babbling, this is not damnation, this is Babylon -- and Legion, its soloist. How could Liszt have gone so far into the experimentation of tone, and left structure behind him, to devote himself to some sort of mathematic? Did he lose his mind, like me, and unrestrained by Fashion or by good taste, takes a turn of his own at damnation? Beyond it all, a tune as infectious as the motive center of the Études grips me, it is the tune of Frau F, the widow putzfrau of the Wieck household, and I dream waking, of her, and am disgusted at the desire that pools around me, in the depth of my fashionable depravity.
Onward, to consider a man not worth consideration - the light of Düsseldorf, the bane of all things good, German, and tasteful. I speak, of course, of Wagner. I could not actually attend one of the performances of his work, Felix’s performance of Tannhäuser excepted. I did not dare; because one did not want me to actually come out and say what I thought… fortunate for me that I had given up editing and reviewing music before Popularity truly struck its pose and became a bane in the north… there was still a bastion of taste rippling out from the final breath of Beethoven in Wien, and I must stay south, as south as possible, in the shadow of Schubert and Beethoven, or this is how I reasoned… how could an entire public be duped so utterly by the mean-spiritedness of him?
Oh I met him… and he did his utmost to ingratiate himself, first with Felix, and then with me, and when the slightest descriptive commentary in my magazine, by anyone, was heard to be made, my mail would be full of anonymous retorts all in the same hand… his - if he desired himself so much he should make a copy, a veritable Siegfried of narcissistic joy, and make love to it! He did not need my endorsement, and truth to tell, just as Felix could not - I could not endorse him, and so the Zeitschrift remained silent about him, during my term there, of commentaries upon the quality of his operas. The letter, published again anonymously, in his indubitable raving hand - they call me mad? - or I should say his essay, insufferable and unconscionable, could only have been written by the man who blamed Felix for losing a manuscript that he probably lost himself in a fit of syphilitic tremors, if only to blame someone of a Jewish background for his lack of universal praise.
Praise has its costs, Wagner, and you may in the end pay them, in this life or another. It was put to me, “Are you cool on the prodigious ambition of Wagner and his lyric leitmotif?” I had to bite back that horrendous and impolite nervous laugh that has brought at least one woman to the brink of murder, more than once… are you cool, Florestan? Are you cold? Are you appalled? I was appalled when I read that article in the light of day today, after the actions in the streets, the picketing, the near-riot in Hamburg, when the truly mad left the only theoretically mad to contemplate what had become of Art.
And now that Wolf has arrived, I can confide to him some of what I have writ, and so I sketch for him to memorize the alphabetic system I have perfected, and instruct him to first memorize it, and then destroy it… lest it fall into less worthy hands and those who admire me unabashedly and can serve the purpose of this writing.
I have had to trust him, in lieu of the Piano, in lieu of the angel who must labor for the Piano…. there is little time, and I can no longer confide in Johannes in your absence, Hohenheim, nor convey to him what I learn about the Sound of the Future, or of my own fortunes as they unravel. Charles, with his other excellences at Latin, has no ability to read invented musical language, but Wolf was instructed by none other than Hummel (before he descended into his dotage) and was briefly drooled over by P, as many students of the violin are… and Schneider comes while I am sitting in the library. I have dressed myself entirely for a change, and am bent over the piano with Wolf, explaining to him what looks innocuously like music, and Schneider examines the staves laid out with their letter keys, and looks away quickly as if to say he saw nothing.
“Pardon me,” Florestan says archly in English, and then continues on in German, “must one give up privacy when one gives up sanity?”
“My apologies, Herr Doktor Professor…” he bows slightly, obsequiously - Oh his sarcasm is a wonder of Florestanian invention! and I must endure it… for the sake of the future of Music…. “I am a very great admirer of yours, and the possibility that you have written something new which you are sharing with your colleague captured my curiosity.”
Colleague? Colleagues in madness? Or does he know more which he has noted down for the later telling?
“It is of poor quality, since I am now mad,” Florestan snapped. “So if you could leave me to my madman’s despair as I share it with another who is too mad to notice its abominable quality, I would thank you not to look further!” His voice was ice, staccato, forte - almost threateningly basso! today, and I must put him in a lower register. Florestan is sometimes not to be denied!
He bows again ever so slightly, and as I turn back to Wolf at the piano bench, and catch Schneider’s gaze from the corner of my eye - a wonder to behold! I find him gazing at me, and I know that look. A look both avid and contemptuous, both desirous and condemnatory… oh Schneider, how well I know this look, for it is the look Wieck cast upon me when I came to him in Leipzig that following autumn - and it is a matter of universal import that I did not recognize myself as the commodity I was to him, and saw only that he had the grail I sought - executory excellence, and the proof in the young virtuosa.
She (the Tiere) was in childhood, not so naturally talented, as exceedingly schooled, and with tremendous assiduousness! I believed, that If I could match both her ambition and her exposure to Wieck, then I too could do as facilely as she, and with better interpretation (being a composer and poet, with a poet’s lyricism and a composer’s discretion …)
I surprise myself, as I examine my own destruction, my own damnation. Was it more that I found in the Lauded one a true competitor, that I ended up in her arms? That if I could not excel beyond it, I must marry it, and therefore, abandoning my own goal in favor of obtaining it in the form of a wife? Or was it my horror, instilled by Felix, that I would be marginalized by my tendency to dally in my student days, with my colleagues, rather than to spend what little allowance I had on prostitutes as the philosophy students did?
The poets slept with everyone, the law students slept with the poets and musicians, and the musicians slept with whomever appreciated them most… and the others slept mostly with whomever they could afford to buy, along the Neckarkreis. A monumental waste of money, considering the importance of sex in the overall acquisition of knowledge and development of virtuostic abilities. And so, during my time in Heidelberg, and to a lesser extent in Leipzig (due to my attention to both Felix and the housemaid F) I wasted no money on prostitutes, but slept with the law students, musicians, and poets, who appreciated me most. And could not except Frau F from this company, since she, despite her own more modest profession, had aspirations as both a poetess and musician, which is why she sought a position in the Wieck household, since she believed it possible that she could advance her education in some small way with access to instruments and the possibility of lessons.
The second night I spent in her bed, during the time Wieck and virtuosa were away, and the boys had retreated to their mother (permanently, apparently), and the newly-installed Frau Wieck had returned to Berlin to her own family for the duration (being pregnant and unwilling to endure it alone), she whispered shyly to me that she had somewhat to show me - had she not shown me every inch already? Apparently not, since she drew out the most beautifully hand lettered sheets, and on them, the most finely wrought stanzas.
“This,” she said, “is a copy of the poem by Heine, have you read him? I adore Heine’s work... he writes of the love for women so passionately!”
“You are so like a flower,” I replied, plucking gently at her blooms, and she brushed my hand away to return to the text before realizing that I had begun to recite one of Heine’s poems. Ah, Hohenheim! Is this what you meant by wasting one’s life, or is this what you meant by inspiring others? For did I fall into her arms because she flattered my music, or she into mine, to inspire hers?
She proceeded, undeterred by the legato phrasing and improved arpeggio fluidity of my practiced (and practicing) piano technique, and said,
“And this,” with breathless finality ” - is my own. My God, dusting Wieck’s piano room is a Sappho! I thought to myself, and inspiration struck me even as she began to yield, her ivory to my attack, and I paused to read it. In excellent German, I might add, influenced heavily by Göthe, but no matter - I would have preferred more influence by Heine, but perhaps his directness is hard to imitate, much as Burns’s is… it is easy to be wordy, and hard to be simple, particularly in this tongue which is neither simple nor hard but both…
Your eye has met my own
And yielding to its warm desire
My love has found its home…
Deine Auge meiner hat geschauen
Und hat die Wärmer Lust erhalten
Und Heimat hat meine Liebe gefunden
she recited, breathlessly. So moved was I by the phrasing of Frau F (Claudia), I suddenly recall her name - that I can still remember these three opening lines, spoken as they were into my open ear in a moment of the most exquisite pleasure, and I could think of anything more beautiful than the sensuous alto of her words upon my composer’s ear as she yielded to my warm desire… it was rather more than warm… we could edit that later, and did… but the original text remains, between the introduction of our passion and its development in the second movement of the improvised trio that was my sudden three night assignation with Claudia F, one of the first symbols I drew upon for my major C.
This next page I separate from the others, since I have aught to say about Wolf, who has taken up his worship of my person in an embarrassing way, and I am reminded of how I must have seemed to Moscheles the night I met him after his concert in Frankfurt. Did I have that look of unrestrained excitement, the awe I see and cringe from in this youth? Wolf indeed is a talented pianist, and I am moved by his desire to perform for the Componist, but there is something prurient in this, something that is not right.
Ah Florestan, in age, and in the contemplation of death, you find your conscience? Where was that conscience when he first came to you? you did not hestitate… Raro, impinging powerfully upon the now less empassioned, somewhat more righteous Florestan who, faced with the prospect of being followed around from room to room, waited on hand and foot by such a devoted (and I must say marvellously attractive) pianist, I am reminded that Schneider also watches, and what is HIS intent? Perhaps I have misconstrued him, and he is not sent by Wieck to be my destroyer. So I ask him, when he is about my toilet, as my angel devotes herself strictly now to medical matters such as the dryness of my hands, the passing and return of my fever, and the taking my temperature and feeding me of detestable raw milk, her damaged shoulder still impeding her,
“Do you also play an instrument?” And he was transformed, avid, and the two would be brothers under the skin. Schneider, now!
“You promise not to punch me if I say yes?” he replies, with no small degree of hurt. Punch him? What am I in his eyes, what have I done?
Florestan eyes him warily, attempting to reassess. “You were a piece of furniture that happened to stand in the path of my exit from my bed, Schneider - I assure you I wish you no ill-will.”
And he softens. “Then since you have listened to Wolf play perhaps you might do me an equal honor?” Ah, the cracking of his voice, the despair of barely-restrained hope! I think I have misconstrued him, in my fear of Wieck and his musical army. Does Wieck even care, so long as I do not publish anything in a newspaper that is read by his customers, as long as I do not cancel my intention of purchasing from him the gift for the youngest one, a toy piano made entirely of beechwood, from my diminishing accounts? All gifts to my children must be paid for at full price, and I insist it must not be otherwise - for I will take nothing of a gift from that man.
“Of course, of course,” I murmur, and shake his too cloying hands from my collar. I know how to dress, I just can’t stand without shaking!
So the morning is not taken up with the writing of my memoir or alternatively, with the analysis of why the clarinets drown out both the violas and the violins in Liszt’s poor effort, but rather in the listening to Schneider, who halfway through stumbling over the 5th symphonic etude blushes redly (Wolf sits in cold judgement at my side,) and states with complete frustration, “I have not yet warmed up…” and the Componist tries to look away, anywhere but upon the keys, and anywhere but into the past, to the hours and hours of warming up, and the last night of those three I spent in the bed of Claudia F.
The importance of this first F, to me, was, I must say, one in which I realized that while I was quite interested in the baser pursuits of lust, certainly (or at least Florestan was), that there was something of art occurring as well, for she showed me in those long impassioned evenings, all that she had written of poetry, and it was to my poet’s eye, good! perhaps limited in theme, it was the dawn of the Romantic age then, how soon that dawn has passed! Oh, I wish that I had at hand the lovely things she wrote, for she wrote many of them about me, and sometimes I have need of knowing that I am loved…not simply desired. And for whatever reason, the young widow did for that period of time, love me…
She would do the oddest little things for me, unasked, such as pressing my shirts (not included in the labor she was paid to do for Wieck), bringing me little snacks of food and making the coffee as strong as I liked it, for when I rose much too early in the day, she would be there… this continued long into my residence with Wieck, with or without assignation in her bedroom; Like my romance with Felix, sex was a confirmation of love, an outlet for the overflow of artistic passions, a means of expression, a gift. And for this, I wrote unnumbered songs, little lieder (not very good) that I used as études for the later songs I wrote when I had finished my long study of Schubert’s more perfect accomplishments. But she liked them, and I wrote them out in copies for her, and one of them did make it into the opus… ‘You are so like a flower’ which, were I able to sing it, I might have sung it for her. But unable, I had to have my piano technique do what my voice could not.
That third morning Wieck and Company returned with the little cranky and bedraggled virtuosa, grimy for once, from her long carriage ride from Dresden overnight. I was found crisp and pressed, with her coffee in my hand, pleasantly pinked from a night of unrestrained passion, deliciously new music thrilling my veins, completely happy, and the little monster strode up to me on the bench and said “How dare you play my piano!” and kicked me as hard as she could in the shins. I should have left then, and never returned.
14 October 1855
The weather turns nasty, and rainy, and I have a spate of good health that can only be attributed to doings in the library…. and the attention of my two - and sometimes three and four - admirers… though I do little but listen to them either bang on the piano or treat it more gently, depending upon whether it is Schneider (banging) or Wolf (treating it more gently), and I nod off in relaxation at the reminiscence which now seems to haunt every drifting moment of less-than-wakefulness, the memory of the lieder I composed for Claudia F…. the Chiarina.
Ah how wrong they were that I had dedicated to the Tiere all of those songs that year! It was my regret for the loss of the beautiful, and the devastating realization that I was trapped, as surely and literally as Johannes is now trapped, and which causes me so much of reminiscence. For the Lauded One could not force me with her kicking shoes, and she could not strangle me with her hard pianistin claws, but she at length succeeded with me, and it were, Faustianly, through sensuality, those senses to which Florestan is ever susceptible even to this day. It was the indomitable power of her desire to consume me, that took me as lesser attempts did not; as well as her incessant flattery, and promises of greatness.
Despite her entrapment in Wieck’s service, she exerted tremendous influence upon him, and as she fixed upon me as her intended acquisition, so she exerted her influence upon him to acquire me. So acquire me, he did. And when she had me where she desired to have me, I told her a flattering, disgraceful lie, that all I had written of the Davisbündler I imagined that the Chiarina was she! and ascribed to the egoistic Clara all that had been thought and said by the selfless Claudia… alas! the Faustian moment came for me, and I was lost by it.
How do I defend myself? By saying that I felt I must make the unhappy and tormented child, happy once again? That I missed my sister and must have another after her tragic and irreplaceable loss? Perhaps this was it, in part. For that was, more than the examinations in Heidelberg, one of the reasons for the return of my soul to the abyss. I saw in the virtuosa that child, my Emelia, struck down without mercy…! alas, I weep, Hohenheim, thinking about the losses, and the paradoxical feeling of being drawn to and trapped by the desire of the girl.
And Schneider once again insists upon attempting to play for me something too complicated for him and I say, with less intention to convince than to distract, “my favorite work for piano is the F-moll impromptu by Schubert - do you know it?” and he disappears for an entire afternoon to find the music! Thus freeing me from his too-intense regard to the unexpected arrival of a Charles at a dead run, it would seem, not waiting for a carriage, but rather running up the street, and I spy him from the window as I am listening to Wolf try another go at the piano reduction of that 2nd movement of the Liszt. Horrible piece - why - why does he bother! and so I excuse myself to meet Charles, walking down the stairs under my own power for the first time in unnumbered weeks, it seems, since my angel descended… and he is white with pallor.
“We must speak in private,” he says, his lips tight, and I am alarmed beyond all reason.
“My Eugenie!” I cry, instantly in despair.
“No - no” he grips my shoulders. “The children are all sound and healthy, I saw them yesterday.” I relax in his grasp, momentarily.
“Then - ? She…”
“Privately” he insists, grimly, and we retire, I, once again trailing behind the tails of a man with a purpose. Once upstairs, he takes out as if from nowhere, his pipe. Pipe? he knows better than to do that in my presence! and I open a window rather than comment, and he sets it down in response. “Sorry, I am rather distressed, and I must smoke when distressed.”
“Filthy habit, and you should have given it up when I did.”
“Can I have your attention?” he snapped. “You were told that B was on a concert engagement?”
“No - I assumed he was.”
“And Clara?” I shrugged.
“Has something happened to Johannes?” I grow alarmed once again, though my conscious mind has not yet registered that because I had not as yet sensed a death, I should have no fear.
“Yes, you could say that, Skulander. He must have taken leave of himself - he has accompanied your wife abroad.”
“Abroad? What do you mean abroad?”
I blanched. “To what end?” But I knew. I knew. Before he opened his mouth to tell me the tale I knew must ensue - if he knew it… I knew it already, for such a thing would have happened to my eldest had I not prevented it by marriage to her… she was that determined. I went over completely, and do not remember my head striking the floor, for I fainted dead away. Some hours later, upon opening my eyes, the first face I saw was his, with that selfsame, grim, determined, utterly defeated look.
“They have gone?” I gasped. “What of the - the child?”
“Child?” Charles cocked his head, a perfect imitation of me if man had ever sought to imitate - it was my most characteristic mannerism, and I held my breath. “I already told you that the children are…”
“Did they take Felix with them?” I implored him, hands shaking, plucking on his sleeve.
“No, I saw Felix last night. With the servants. With his aunt.” I must have once again portrayed that horror-filled visage, for he grasped me bodily. “What? What is it? What child!” He could not know! How could he not know?
“It was a sudden departure, I must only conclude that they -”
“Johannes is not Liszt for God’s sake!” Florestan cries. “He doesn’t just impregnate a married woman and run off with her!”
Charles sat back in his chair as though I had spit in his face, stunned. “Im -”
“You are saying ---“ I nodded with agitated finality. “Then what has he gone and done?” I knew, but I could not say, lest in the saying, I accomplish it.
“This only can I tell you, Charles… that not a week ago he admitted as much to me, that he had had her, and that she was pregnant from him. And that if I loved him, and wished to help him, that I would consent to see her, to provide a convenient explanation for what could not have happened, since I have not seen her at all these hundred days…”
“And you refused.” He was aghast, white as chalk. As though I were to blame for the desperate act that ensued!
“Of course I refused! I will not conceal a cuckold in my home! Not twice.”
“Twice!” he cries. He put his head in his hands, pantomiming what I could not, due to incapacity, as I lay nearly inert now, struck down by the blow of Calumny. Charles does not depart from me, even though I swoon, and am lost to consciousness… and distantly, I hear Wolf struggling to make sense of the Faust theme - oh Wolf, cease! there is no sense in it!
My angel ministers to me, her arm now free of its sling, and only plastered at the shoulder, and she mops my brow, and whispers to me. “I will not let her near you, never fear my beautiful Componist, never…” and further along…
the theme of the fall of the angel, mixed together, fuguelike, with the lied of Claudia F, my Chiarina…
The madman hears…
the voice of Eusebius, reciting the poem, and noting down the melody as he sits with her in the library, in another brief interlude of passion in the blissful absence of the Wiecks, father and daughter… She reaches for him with those soft, imploring hands, and draws him toward her, to silence the murmuring and to distract him at last from the obsessive work…
‘the song can wait…’
But the song cannot not wait and he brushes her away, to finish the phrasing, just so, and she retreats to the sofa, where she looses herself from her clothing and occupies herself with her own desires - he closes his eyes, to keep his mind on the work, on the page which fades out of his sight from time to time, for she is blooming before the sun. Even as he hears the sound of her blooming in his crashing mind, provoking his soaring emotions, the pages drift askew, onto the floor…
you are maddening…
she does this to tempt him, and he does not resist but for a few salutary moments, at which he throws down the pen, and blots the drops of inspiration that drip from his fingers, upon her petals… she reaches up and takes the ever more practiced hands (eight hours a day, they burn, they ache, they…) and places them upon her breasts and holds him by the hands, arresting his prelude…
Another melody is formed then, one a duet of viola and violin, rather than of piano and voice, though the voice is audible here and there: the sudden breath of the violin before the coda, the run up to the high Fffffff….. It is over quickly but not, because that is but an impromptu before a longer, more leisurely work, of greater duration, held in more privacy, with more practice, and much more restraint.
The review, then:
The Faust Symphonic Movements: Teil 1 and 2 in Draft
Liszt cannot hope to create sound-pictures with orchestral arrangements as a brush. Sounds are not music! Music is composed sound, sustained, harmonic, melodic, interplay - it is the essence of the source of thought, of inspiration, and of meditation. Sound cannot be the smallest coherent element of music - nor is the single note, nor the pitch of it. For to go to this level of detail, the dismantling of sound, is to destroy the inspiration itself, that which is evoked by the vibration of the harmonies, the coincidence of the sounds themselves. As with words, one cannot take individual letters and make from them, coherent literature, one must start from the word. Therefore to create dissonance, is to pluck the thing so that it begins to unravel. But the laws of composition require resolution! Relationship, for one can only go so far in achieving the dissonant, or sustaining it, for it cannot be sustained beyond the endurance of the ear, and the ear is a fixed thing, and must be trained to what it hears. And not only this, but the tones themselves, their keys, and their intervals, have an interior meaning, which cannot be ignored, nor slighted.
A good piece of music is faintly memorable to the average ear, pleasantly evoked upon reacquaintance. Its recapitulations reinforce the structure that is upbuilt. All of these things, of course, he knows, having composed on the basis of traditional folk music for so many years… But our reviewer asks why this, and why now? What influence has he fallen under, and what aesthetic goal is it to achieve? For I have only ever known two goals that Liszt desired to attain: the goal of supreme virtuostic speed with ten fingers, while simultaneously preening; And of being able to copulate while at the piano.
This sound experiment is to impress someone, to be sure, but whom? and how? How could something so utterly unimaginable in its aesthetic lack, impress anyone? Sheer novelty? I can imagine, for the moment, the Agoult woman, bored, pouting and pregnant, saying “Franz, can’t you write something other than those abominably pretty dances? Write something dark and consuming, something horrific and evil!” And so he trots out the now-overworked Faust poem.. overworked when I worked it over, too… and determines he can make something evil from it! compositionally too! but I have dwelt too long on this… what does it mean?
And in my stupor following the sad revelation that the Tiere has abandoned the children, and fled with Johannes to Britain for a nefarious operation, I have my third vision of the Sound of the Future…
I see a furious, loud orchestra, full - replete! overbrimming! with horns! with harps! ninety pieces I count, for I am in the Parkett of an enormous theater, facing the center stage, with properly dressed, disciplined people at audience about me, a full house. Four! harps! Unbelievably. And dozens of strings, six contrabasses! Oh what a piece will be played! - will it be Beethoven’s ninth, which I despaired of hearing before my confinement? It cannot be, there is no chorus.
Felix of course, has conducted it, conducted it as no other could, with his eyes. Oh, I wish I had seen that! As he had done with my Second, and Third, and the Fourth, which I did see… the last, Felix alas. But this is not a composition by Beethoven, clearly, and as the opening notes are struck… there is a little theme - undeveloped! And, yet another, like a short barrage of gunfire, all quite well done, but - gone! Another barrage, carried first by violin and then picked up by the laboring violas - they should never play so low… and then the horns, blatting! a grand work, a veritable cacophony of harmony, too many harmonies to blend into a coherence… a series of symphonic ideas, unrelated… and it continues!
Where is the andante? where is the cessation? it does not cease! Know these Future Composers no end to their movements? I might expire from it! Though I find within much to fascinate me, I watch the violinists grow bit by bit more weary, their sharp elbows gradually bow, from the ceaseless sawing…. and I thought I had something to learn about creating silences in the pauses…
You see, Johannes, what comes of too much pounding away ? Your lover might appreciate such, but not your first violins! And here, it is carried to an absurd extreme, the horns are wearing out their embrasures, the oboes their reeds, and still it must continue! I see the surroundings, a conservatory of some kind, and a patient audience, who says nothing and hears even less…
I am slain by the massive trumpet calls, the incredible expenditure of salary on something that is merely a list of sketches for later development. Musical ideas must be developed, they cannot be sauteed and served in par-boil! and yet, one or two of these, I could develop… It is rich in ideas, and poor in presentation… your lover, alas… if you only knew, Johannes, and I cannot tell you! Never, never tell you, for you might jump in the river right behind me.
Eusebius reciting the poem, the madman hears….
She is so like the flowers of spring, and the music blooms from her beauty, from her softness, from her white body in a way that the desperately grasped passions in the attics and lodgings with friends, acquaintances, and admirers had never yet done… this is what is meant by passion! He realizes as it grasps him and throws him down in a totality of sensation that robs him of his eloquence…
The tone of her sighs, the soughing rhythm of her excitement, the susurration of her breath as it assaults his ears - it is electrifying, riotous, maddening, like the suffusion of blossoms on a cherry tree beside his window - suddenly aflower with blooms and likewise with butterflies and humming birds, all springing sudden, bursting with energy to grow, to bring forth, to ripen…
Ripen she did, his Spring, and in a fit of complete stupidity, thought not to mention it to her lover, but rather let it become apparent in a gradual way. Did she fear he would no longer love her, if she was found pregnant, that she would burden the young virtuoso with her impending need, and a now-heavy obligation? He could not discern, for she did not. She said nothing to him, until it was too late for him to make a decision one way or another, whether to marry her. But there could be no doubt in his mind, when it became apparent, what he must do. He must claim the child, it is his obligation to it, marry her and be done! His mother would want him to do the right thing, as crushed as her pride might be that he had ruined himself so young with too indiscreet a choice - it was his choice to make! and to marry a beautiful widow, fruitful in passion and in poetry, what could this be but right?
And so, when it become so obvious that he could not avoid knowing it and speaking of it, they took a long walk by the river road that he had walked so many times when he remembered his lost Emelia, with a pang, and the new love that blossomed in her womb, his own. “Do you know, and could you tell, from your dreams, whether it be a boy or a girl?”
“I believe it is a girl, my love,” she replied unhesitatingly.
“Then she should be named something - something of spring, something of joy, that is the joy in us. And I will give it my name, if you will let me…”
He took her hand, tenderly, and somehow, the sight of that small, delicate hand in his own now-tough and callused one, overly-practiced, caused a sharp pang of grief in him. He heard her gasp - had she not believed he would do this, the honorable thing? This hand, held so tenderly, pledged to him? Would she refuse him, even in extremity, even in necessity? His heart hammered hard, timpanic… oh adagio, he counseled himself. This is a moment for love to be prolonged, as miracles come to us, in Spring. For whatever irrational reason, he seemed intent that the child be named with a V, so he plied her first with the more accessible names, “Violetta” (too much like a flower!) and “Vivian” (too English - or too French - whatever that meant) “Verna” (too Italian) “Veronika” - possible… Then she asked him, in a moment of quietude, when they did little but touch their hands together and speak this way, as the sound of the springtime erupted around them in their stillness, “What is wrong with your mother’s name? would that not please her?”
“Johanna?” he recoiled, barely suppressing his horror at the idea. He thought of the babe already as Veronika. It was a strong, sturdy and German name, with not too many musical notes to tempt him to overindulgent musical figures, just the E and the A, ubiquitously normal. He was tempted to write to his mother on the matter of names, but since Claudia had not yet consented to him, and his future remained uncertain, a spate of lessons between long absences of the master impresario and his bedraggled and cranky virtuosa who warned him away from “her” instrument whenever he was near it.
He dared not ask Wieck permission to use the piano, (it had been granted once already) but making a question of it may result in a negative answer in the present, and so he did not ask. He had his permission - he merely needed to practice discretion in its use. And then what to do if Wieck grew dissatisfied with his new encumbered situation, his possibly straightened finances, and the prospect that he could lose his maidservant and his student in the selfsame event?
Circumstances intervened; Felix fell ill during a concert in Berlin and he was called for, as his closest associate, to look after him and accompany him back to Leipzig to see his own physician; and he left immediately, with a brief kiss for his intended. It was three days before he was able to return with the now-heavily dressed conductor, wasted somewhat from a sudden onset of fever… and a great fear had descended upon him, that the ‘single blow’ he had mentioned at one time that might end him - had fallen.
A single blow could be a bout of severe influenza, bad water, of an outbreak of plague once again, as in the years of his early youth, that cut down so many of his class in school. This memory plagued him again. He was ever robust! But not Emilia, and not Ferdinand. The accumulated losses from illness, that had accrued over the years, struck him with the force of memory, as he attended his beloved friend, who on the long, slow ride back, shivered and slept and said little, refused tea and most of the time, even wine. But by the time they had arrived, by a slow carriage, a very fine liveried one provided by the Gewandthaus and his patrons there, who grew as concerned as S - Felix was already showing signs of definite recovery. It was exhaustion merely. But he was right about the delicacy of his health. When S learned how little sleep Felix routinely took, he was appalled - it was even less than his own, and he was famous for his iron constitution!
Within hours of having Felix situated in his home again, and the heat properly adjusted, and his manservant recalled to attend him (as well as his doctor), S returned to his lodgings at Wieck to find the maestro returned, the child at her (non musical) lessons with her Lehrerin, and Claudia F, nowhere to be found.
And he dared not inquire. He knew where she lived, and at a discreet hour he slipped out of Wieck’s, to her home just off the Hauptstraße. There, he found a horror which would justify all fears he had suffered for the previous week. She lay abed, in sheets stained luridly with blood, the stench of old blood and suffering assaulted him as nothing ever had! He wept as he knelt beside her, chafing her cold hands. Still quite alive, but not quite well. She had fallen on the stairs, she said, and upon falling, had a great pain and afterward, came a bleeding which would not staunch. The doctor had been and gone (but had not cleaned anything in sight,) and gave her the grim news - that the infant had been lost in the accident, and that the bleeding would slow and stop if she would stay abed.
S rushed out immediately, and dragged back with him those of his stalwart colleagues and sensitive poetical and musical friends who could be trusted, and set her tiny home to rights, and he himself, nursed her, fed her, held her. Sat with her through the night, as the pain of their mutual loss, the death of Veronika, astonishing in its suddenness and finality, drew them together in an acute, unspoken paroxysm of grief. It was not until the following week, when she was again up and about, sitting normally, and apparently recovered from pain, that he inquired of her position with Wieck, for she had said nothing about her position since she fell ill.
“Oh, I cannot return there..” she said, shaking her head with definiteness.
“Oh, Herr Maestro Wieck, when he learned of the cause of my illness, dismissed me.”
“How will you live?”
She smiled wanly. “One can always live, somehow. It was not very well paid, as you might know. He paid me only as much as you paid him.” And he knew how little that was!
He was aghast at the penuriousness of the man! Cruelty and penury in the same package! Oh, Florestan, if you only suspected! but there are some horrors that cannot be imagined, and thus are the innocent. S was innocent then, and naïve (comparatively naïve, that is) spared the imagining of the unbelievable; not so unimaginable, for did not Göthe write of this?
He returned, in his thoughts to Faust, which he had read several years previous, appalled at the dark imagination of the Great One, that he would write of deviltry in such mundane and unscrupulous ways - killing the child of one’s lover, if only by accident. It smacked of the very darkest of the Shakespearean tragedy, “Titus Andronicus” perhaps, or “Lear.” He had read them all. And “Faust” though there was something darkly forboding about Faust that even Shakespeare did not plumb! - the malevolence of the demons, their rank, haughty familiarity with all the forms of lust that man is heir to. Even the lowly in Shakespeare maintained a lofty pentameter!
Oh, if only he had known then. Veronika, the word that summed up, in streaks blood and pain, the loss that the love of springtime had brought to them. And he did not withhold himself - by impulse, he went directly from her to Wieck, who seemed unconcerned and unwilling to grant privacy for this interview, which disturbed his regular schedule of listening to the virtuosa play, counting his money, or visiting his piano shop to make sure his employees were not cheating him by selling things at too low a price. And so S held forth to Wieck, nervously, before the open door, and said “How can you dismiss the woman when she has done nothing to deserve it? And after such a cruel accident and loss?”
“How I run my household is up to me, boy,” he said, derision dripping from his voice. “You are here to learn piano, and learn it, you shall. But I would thank you to keep your hands on the keys and out from under the dresses of my employees, lest an unfortunate letter be sent to your guardian about certain irregularities in your performance here.” S blushed furiously, cowed by the sudden and malevolent threat rising in the man.
“Irregularities?” he cried, not heeding the warning tone that should have caused him to cease in his cause.
“Yes. Whatever ones I wish to cite, whether real or not!” he pronounced. “And if you have a mind to put yourself between the knees of my daughter be watchful I do not break my cane across your back. She is not yours, you are not worthy of her. And shall never be.” His words were calculated to shame and enrage, and they did both. For he could not object to one accusation without confirming the other, and the utter baseness of Wieck’s opinion, galled him. He was also afraid: because he had no doubt that, sufficiently aroused, Wieck would forgo the modest sum he was receiving for S’s instruction to aim one good blow at him for any imagined insult. That was the nature of him, the monster who gave rise to the beast which ended Eusebius.
And to add outrage to his already shocked sensibilities, he stumbled back to his rooms only to overhear on the way, in the loudest and most indiscreet tones,
“The little bitch-whore got everything she deserved, and now her unborn bastard has been returned to the limbo from which it came,” - This, in the voice of the little virtuosa! she must be repeating what she had heard from Wieck, or from her stepmother, freshly returned from her confinement with a pink-headed, unshorn, dark-haired infant, the newest addition to the Wieck dynasty.
This woman, the new Frau Wieck, had the most annoying habit of nursing the child in the front parlor, blouse open to the world and to the distracted eyes of any young virtuoso who happened to board there. One day as he made his way tortuously through the library, avoiding the music room where the girl was once again practicing, and out to visit his love, and thence to listen to another rehearsal of the Great Symphony being practiced by Felix’s orchestra, he came suddenly upon the young mother in the parlor once again, the infant noisily feeding at her breast, and she looked up at him, dark eyes inscrutable, and withdrew the nipple from its mouth purposefully, and held it out, gazing at him haughtily, daring.
“Thirsty?” she asked, her voice barely audible.
He dashed out of the house as though pursued
to find his Spring, fled… without explanation. He flew from her door, to the neighbor below, Urteil, who came at last from his frantic knocking, to hand him a note
the possible reasons for the constant pain, Herr S , if you could distract yourself long enough from the view outside the window
long enough to
WHEN WILL JOHANNES COME! he shrieks, and that is the last he hears before the sad, unrelenting melody that returns to him, Spring,
The unrelenting round of notes, C A D A
resolve into one piercing high Aaaaa that blends with the vibration in his throat and the sound is suddenly choked off by a bout of coughing, and wiping his face, the hand of his angel, alarmed beyond reason, eyes wide as saucers (she is a nurse after all - the sight of blood out of the throat of a consumptive should not alarm her quite so much, he thinks)
thence to Spring, he flees, to the sound of the abominable, flees back from the brink of cacophony, his breath unheard over the shriek of the tortured violins turned far too high - impossibly high, they squeak horrific twitters and twitches… and it would seem they poke him sharply with their needle-like bows - these violinists, and he wakes briefly to see with stark clarity the point of a needle as it now withdraws from the meat of his thigh -
Ha has done it now! and injected him with some brew to stop the screaming, to end the drip of lifeblood from the unseen place of his wounding
Where even now, she bleeds, his Spring, his beloved
the hot drug pierces his keening pain with sudden slow hushes
Sostenuto, molto maestoso
and under its expert direction, he is hushed, poco a poco, deceleraaaaaaaaaaaando
to a lower, lessening moan of pain more remembered than felt,
then much later
to a restless, dream-filled sleep, accompanied by intermittent gasps and moans
the madman remembers,
waking in the white, impossibly clean bedclothes in Felix’s guest room, and the sharp hot tang of coffee filling his nostrils -
“So you should have taken a drink!” Felix argues, pouring a cup for S in the doorway, as S finishes his story of the jungfrau and the breast, and the milk. As always, Felix is fully dressed by the crack of dawn, his hair perfect, his cuffs tied, and completely happy and at ease. None would ever suspect that he had quitted his bed after barely two hours of rest, following a night of nonstop drinking culminating in a less than complete and best-forgotten moment of passion. S felt every bruise, every glass, every hour of that weary night as he gazed miserably up at Felix’s bright smile. “Here! Coffee. You’ll feel better. I felt the way you do now, a bit earlier.”
Whereby his voice seemed to lose all that remained of its terror and descended into whispering…. pianissimo, viola, descending
the loud shriek of the Liszt ceased at last, dissolving into a delicate, well-composed dance, a frolic perhaps, which caught at him playfully - interesting, why Johannes, it sounds like you! if you ever succeeded in regaining your soul after it was pillaged by the Lauded One. She had Metronomic Precision! he whispers into the listening ear of his angel.
She had Attack! she had Staccato! She was everything the Maestro had drilled into her, at one remove from actual fatherhood. She could do no wrong, in the sight of others, and was never quite perfect, in his. There was always one more try, to get it just so - Wieck did not drill S so inhumanly. He seemed to care less about attack, and more about phrasing, with S…
“Now when you wrote this section, you did not pedal enough to cause the overlap of tones as I see it -“ he presumes at Composition! And the girl, just in the budding moment marking the final stage of innocent girlhood, sang out,
“That is what I thought, Papa - Herr Florestan has not enough Pedal (she spat out the P) for it to sound more full…”
Yes they were thin pieces, Wieck would say, like amaretti, easily broken, brittle to the hand of the pianist, he should make them more robust. “But you will change them for Papa!” she added, coyly, batting her lashes, vaulting, ungainly, onto the bench beside him, laying her coiffed head upon his arm, gripping him. “You can’t say no to Papa…”
I can and shall! he cried, but in silence
not so silently, apparently, for his angel, drifting off into slumber after midnight watching over him, started and said,
“Shall what?” Uschi’s hands, not quite as delicate and white as Claudia F’s, flutter like the introduction of Opus 2, up onto the bedclothes to touch his face and dab at imagined perspiration.
“There is ever pain! I shall ever refuse!” the madman whispered fiercely, his head fairly bursting now from the pressure within it, and she called Schneider from bed, to wake Ha Risoluto for another injection, and he comes swiftly - no dressing gown, here, but fully dressed in office formality, as though he never slept, and the injection comes swiftly and shocks him first with its stab - in the vein at his elbow this time, and shortly his neck begins the characteristic throb and the silence and darkness take on a phantasmagoric quality
a synesthesia of sounds and thoughts
r it a rd a ndo…
into the contrabass
and Charles finds him thus, drooling, pale, incoherent, and feverish…. do not! if you want to add pedal to the piece then do so off the page! Do not inflict your Fuller Attack and Concert Sound Quality upon me! and upon my Opus 2!
The bark of a dog wakes him to a devastating alertness, and he reaches in blindness for the warm white solidity of his Spring. his Claudia - she is gone, alas
alas, they took her to the sisters, where she died only days later, of bleeding. And never saw his Spring again.
Charles takes his arm, and it pinches, and S looks up at him, at the pinching, confused, as the man, frowning, inspects the sound left by the syringe… “can’t the man even give a shot correctly, you bruise like an old woman, Skul.”
“What? what? what?” the madman whispers, thrashing his head from side to side, whereupon dizziness ensues.
some days later
I await knowledge of the date, it appears to be sometime late morning. At first I whispered to Charles, do not let him give me another injection, whereupon, he whispered back, ‘do you think you could keep from screaming if he refrains?’ and I believe I nodded, or perhaps only dreamed I did, my eyes full of the tears at the loss of Spring, and promise, with all of the power of the lost, broken Florestan who has collapsed at the loss of his love and brightness - I can keep from screaming, for as long as it takes to keep him from bringing that syringe back.
and why is it that you scream, Herr S
has Johannes come
is there pain? /there is ever pain/
it is a dance, of two themes
He watches the two themes dance together.
This first, the dance of the falsely happy, ever dark-clouded virtuosa, who has been given a respite from all of her concerts, and takes a holiday with her mother, and begs - Begs! Papa to send Herr Florestan on the holiday with her whereupon Herr Florestan is prematurely outraged that in the only time he has had available to take a lesson from Wieck, that Wieck would even consider sending him off to some sort of sickening domestic moment with Frau Bargiel (the former Frau Wieck,) and the boys (whom he could stand to miss for a while longer), but Wieck frowns at the girl, and realizes perhaps for the first time, that she is trying to provoke her father. This is a new thing in her, and S can tell by the clouds on the Maestro’s normally grim countenance, that he does not like this new contrariness in his prize virtuosa.
So, the trip for the virtuosa is not made in the company of Herr Florestan, who has some dances to write, and some songs he has to finish, as a testament to his lost love…. his lost Veronika, which in some way, compels him to observe the virtuosa more closely, and with more attention to his own reactions to her.
Is it that he is jealous, so completely jealous of her youth and fame, her hard facility with her hands, her magnificent speed of reading, that he cannot be charitable? And perhaps also true, that he found himself unable to speak up and ask Wieck for the time he needed, for the attention to his own technique - for particularly after the Frau F incident, he felt incompetent, disregarded, and completely rejected, both as a student and as a composer, ultimately, as a man, by the great maestro, who was growing greater by the week, as S became lesser, and lesser.
For she, she! was ever in his eyes, and S, no matter what he wrote, or how hard he practiced, barely got a cursory glance or a grunt from the Maestro, who said from time to time one minor correction
“Your attack is too soft” or “don’t play like a damned pansy” (where he got the term S did not know, it being a new idiom.) He half-feared another overt threat lingering on the man’s lips. He did not want to have the Concert Attack! he wanted beauty, he wanted softness, he wanted….. Suss.
that quality that fairly dripped from Felix’s bow when he wielded a violin, that sound, that crept maestoso from the pen of Schubert, who could write nothing that was other than suss, that fabulous, infectious impromptu in F moll -
The second theme, the dance of death. Why do they not simply let me go, he whispered, for Ha had given him yet another injection! but promised that if he could keep from screaming, then he could consider giving him the draughts, but only if he would drink them and not vomit them up for Schneider to clean up, and S pleaded with him, drawing his riddled, bruised arm from beneath the bedsheet - ‘please don’t stab me anymore, Herr Direktor, I will obey -‘
Poor choice of words, Skul, Charles broke into his theme with his own refrain, his own music then, oh cello, where is the cello when I need him, when will Johannes come
when will the dance of death
Upon her return to Leipzig the virtuosa, now fully recovered from her exhausting but nonetheless rewarding tour, in which she received an award from the Emperor of Österreich, the little girl who could play at the drop of a sceptre, where she played something more relaxing than piano with her brothers in the hills and valleys and baths of the Rheinland, when she arrived at the grey house in Leipzig, she leapt, it seemed, throwing her entire body into the arms of the unsuspecting and ever-more-distracted Florestan. He, momentarily free of his crushing jealousy of her monopoly upon Wieck’s attention, found she had grown quite a bit! And that! was no wet smack she planted on him then. The child had grown, and out of the sight of her gruff guardian, secretly and insistently, insinuated herself sensuously into his embrace, demanding response, whereupon he recalled the Spring, and found some echo of that pleasure in the scented, coiffed, and utterly ebullient, not-to-be-denied virtuosa who pretended that he loved her, and pretended, also, they would resume their romance, now that she had returned.
And why not? After all, it would annoy the old man.
17 October 1855
I have determined the date once again, and have reasserted my use of the Es-clef as the main notation of the text of my letters. I have spent the past days in years of reverie, conflating my romantic emotions about Felix, about Charles, about Claudia Ffffff, and Baronin Fraulein von Fffff, with the young virtuosa, before the flower of her innocence was wilted into the shame I now endure…
So many memories, crowding out the blood in my brain, that I must write some of them down. Curiously however, I do not seem to recall the dates properly, for it would seem I was first at Leipzig and then at Jura, and then at Heidelberg and afterward at Leipzig, or perhaps it was both in different terms, at different times, after which, quite mysteriously I found myself with the ostentatious title of Herr Doktor which I refused to use, since I did not earn it. Perhaps it was Florestan who did that all while Eusebius slept, indolent.
I could not coherently piece together much of any history except in terms of opus numbers, which held my reality together as stitches in a poorly fastened quilt, sewn in a fit of petulance by the virtuosa Miss Wieck. She was true to her promise, that as long as I wrote in longer instances of satisfactory pedal to create a more Full Concert Sound for her talents, and devoted myself to outrageously complicating otherwise simply and direct left hand figures to show off her brilliant left hand Technique to those who drooled nightly at her elbow in the finer chamber halls of Berlin and Wien and Prague, and once, even Esterházy - then she would be certain that the unknown Florestan became Known, and then, Well Known. And then, was invited to Wien and cut a figure with some new cycles of poetical piano characterizations of known and less known figures, our best-beloved P, of course, and Chopin, whose playing in the concert hall could not be more different, nor more breathtakingly fresh, than the young Virtuosa.
Chopin. He had not only Attack but Virtuosity, and I envied and loved him in the same moment - his hands upon my composition were a new kind of passion for me, but then there approached me in Jena, the young and breathtaking Alma M (thank goodness no profoundly intriguing musical letters in there, no less an F!) So I achieved in a short period my own kind of - Fame. I could not measure up in virtuosity, and so did not seek for engagements, although Felix was always more than willing to arrange some more local (to him) chamber concerts, since he was now Extremely Important and Ever More Sought After.
Why do I rehearse all of what is known, and done, and gone? Ah, because of the mystery, the mystery of my F, and the mystery of how I came to fall fatally into the clutches of the Tiere, for before this movement ends on its sad, lamenting note, Doloroso, I must plumb that secret, for it haunts, it stabs,
Stabbing is on the mind, as I cringe from every shadow in the doorway. Ha has done this to me, made a pincushion and a morphia addict of me in the same moment, inflicting more pain so as to relieve it later, making me into a whispering, sweaty wreck! I fear his returns!
And I am not in command of myself. This very morning I found myself in full embrace of my angel as she seemed at first to grasp me to lift me up sitting, in some sort of medical hold, and for the longest time I remained convinced that she was making love to me, and responded in kind, whereupon she gasped and broke away from me, struggling, blushing redly, and cried, “Herr S, please, I do not want to lose my position, even for you -“ and the illusion that my Spring had once again burst forth, faded into the mists of the past. But her lips trembled with a wild, unloosed passion that my caresses had stoked, and I grew once again, ashamed.
I meant no harm, but there is that within that can no longer be contained, shaken loose by the powerful disinhibition of Morphia, and it shakes me apart, appassionato, but slowly - ever so slowly - for we have come to
l e n t o now
Lento, lento violin
Draw my taught emotion in
Then pluck a lone viola string
To keep its tone encouraging…
I wrote that poem, Hohenheim, on the 21st of February, in…. that year, the year, the year in Jura - 1834, ah the year - on the day of Händel’s birthday, when I went to hear every rehearsal of the Water Music which was being done for the visit of the Emperor on the occasion of Händel’s birthday, and Eusebius
was found undressed with someone’s married sister. It does not help one’s conscience to admit later, that he knew, he knew she had already been betrothed, but in her regret, the young Alma M (why do I confess these things, what is it about this clef that compels such cleansing of the soul)
Lento violin, I thought of the willowy Fraulein - Frau! M as a light woodwind, with the lightest of sounds, for her voice was so light as to whisper itself, or perhaps, pipe. I thought of her, thin like the thinnest bough of a tree, she bent to me, the desire in her was like an unquenchable flame. She burned me through in an afternoon, and though we did not meet again following the clandestine assignation in Jura - oh that endless afternoon, the brief time in her arms waked me, Hohenheim, to a depth of undiscovered romance within myself that had not yet found expression; and truth to tell, had not yet been awakened by the sweet promise of the Spring. I had only begun to feel what was within me, and first, with the trembling kiss of one whose desire seemed boundless,
she burned me entirely and left no asches… ral…len…tan do
Did she love me, or did she love the newly anointed Herr Doktor Komponist ?
I cannot live that year again! of such hopes, of such delusions, for had I convinced myself that I could feel no greater depth of both joy and sorrow, love and pain, attachment and grief ?
but the joy I felt in music did not flee me then as it had before, until later, when upon returning, like a pilgrim, to Leipzig, to the shrine that was Wieck’s music room, with attainment!
I strode in, as the newly-diplomed Herr Doktor, relieved at first that the Frau was not disrobed and displaying her nutritional supplies for the stray virtuosos … (someone may have mentioned it to the maestro, it occurred to me later) and -
The calumny! from that moment, my enemy he became, forever, and the virtuosa, the object of my fiercest desire to protect. I did not immediately connect the Alma M and the Miss Wieck events - however, it is plain to me now that it was something within the young and vulnerable Alma, something Romantic, something of fragility that spoke to me, which awakened in me something I had not yet admitted,
But the calumnious! There she sat at piano, stock straight, and - the outrage! the old man, bent over the edge of the piano, lips upon her own, and his hand where no father’s should ever be on a daughter! I stopped, aghast, in the doorway, for I had not as yet made sound upon the rug in the hall, and withdrew, heart completely arrested by what I had seen - what had I seen?
When Johannes comes again, I am not in this world, nor do I notice it, nor has anyone, nor even Lamier! -- chosen to honor my desperately repeated request to see the elusive Professor B upon his late-arriving return
some meetings ensued to which I was not privy
some new malevolent, wasp-countenanced Herr Doktor - he is a Herr Professor Doktor Doktor apparently, has come to examine me, and says little, touches less, and hmmmmms and nods and says there is no harm in the wine, stop sticking him, it does him no good, less good than the medicine could possibly be doing… there is a point of diminishing return… all this directed at Ha Riso but he gazes distractedly, directly into my eyes,
yes they are much too dilated, all of this also creates disorientation, and if the patient is already profoundly disoriented, how can it help him?
and later - apparently out of my hearing (I have extraordinary range of hearing, I am told, for I heard that day - I heard that day) are you trying to send him to his death? how much morphia did you put in him - his eyes are like saucers! You are killing him
no no I heard that day
I invoke the Power of the Wellspring to transport me back to the words I heard that day - my memory is prodigious, not like that of Felix for music, but my memory for dialogues
just one more piece of sugar for my sweet
Horrified, I withdrew first to the parlor, whereupon I could not sit, then out to the porch, where I dare not be seen and hailed by a passerby, thence to the street where I heard the once-innocuous words, bizarre in my ear
you are killing him
Felix’s comment to me returned in force when he asked whether Wieck beat the girl: that would be abominable, surely…
No no Felix, it is far worse than that! the mad young Frau in the parlor, her bizarre offer to me, what madness lay there, in full display, for me to ignore? How had all of this madness slipped past the periphery of my vision, when I was consumed with my own pursuit of virtuosity, there? I was appalled. I am appalled, I am there, for the power of the Wellspring has been multiplied by the power of the divine Morpheus to create a phantasmagoric reliving of the entire moment of my fall from grace, which ended this life’s true purpose for me in a moment, in the spring of 1834
And all will and imagination, it seemed, then became focused upon removing the hand of the beast from coveting the body of the one I loved beyond all reason, and without a single shred of sensibility, the one who awakened in me late, in that peculiar moment, the
Is this what is meant by the power of the wellspring, Hohenheim? for the passion and obsession waked in me, like unquenchable flame! unrestrainable desire! the moment I stood on Wieck’s doorstep, hating him with every fiber of my being for defiling her so blithely, and so openly, and in such casual fashion that his student might wander in from the street and see it happen!
He would turn to me and say with that selfsame derision, ‘whether real or not’
And he did! when I demanded her hand
And he laughed! the Madman Wieck! in derision, ennobled by his confidence in his own wealth, his own fame, and his own worldly power (Faust!) that he was immune from justice, and he was safe from me. And he was right. In time I realized I did not win her heart, but only her corpse. Whatever remained was consumed by the Tiere that gradually ate her soul from within, and destroyed my love, moment by moment, A,by A, by A
18 October 1855
Charles at last, scrutinizing the notes handed him by Ha Ritardando, pays me the compliment of addressing me in something other than a stage whisper, and says,
“Skul, are you back from your dreams?”
the sound of the pain dripping from within my mind
the fading vision
of a woman more naked than clothed, surrounded moreover by leering, desirous men, against whom she rubs her undulating body while ululating wildly. It is something far more daring than the sexual dance of the Tarantella or the Tango. It is a solo dance of needy exhibition. There is something primitive and basic about it, yet it does not lure, not even as much as the barely smelt whiff of bleach mingled with starch on the uniform of my angel, as she brushes against my arm carelessly, to touch my face once again in that cautious way - will I break, now? will I break, that is what her hand says to me - and I shut out with my own hands the vision of the Singers of the Future, these starved, hungry, and rutting bodies that seem to bear so little in common with music - is this what Wagner hastens us to? that the flight of the Valkyrie will end in a smelly orgy in a small, smoky beer hall filled with probing lights?
I weep ‘are you back from your dreams?’ and ask once again, plaintively
“Charles will you at least tell me what is going on?” And he does, at last, at last. That Johannes returned, quite unsuspicious of the intelligence gathered about his departure, and Lamier, honest and upright as he is, asked him point blank about the nature of his relationship with Frau S and his trip abroad, since it concerned him on behalf of his Client. I am comforted and strengthened by my status as a Client, I feel somewhat renewed in Importance for some odd reason. Johannes did not reply with any degree of satisfaction and demanded - !!! to see me.
Since when does Johannes demand anything? I felt no small shock at this. And Lamier says,
“Direktor Doktor felt it important, and he had my full agreement, Skul, that you should not be confronted further with your health so exceedingly delicate. But that I should attempt to determine the conditions at home, and how best to protect your interests. Subject, of course, to your approval. But it was quite - quite! (he stressed) impossible to allow Johannes in to see you, when you were so heavily drugged and unwell. Your attitude to him is obviously, quite strained. I hope you understand.”
I shake my head, I have never known Lamier to make such sweeping decisions without compelling reason.
“Was I very sick then?” And the pain-filled eyes of my friend look back at me.
“We were truly unsure whether you would return to us, Lieber.”
“What did you say?” I sat up, still unsteady, gasping and still breathless from the arms of Morpheus, and leaned heavily against him.
“I said we were truly -”
“No - what did you call me”
I said “Sk - ”
“You called me Lieber.”
He squeezed my hand then, an unspoken endearment. “Yes, I did… it saddens me to see you suffer, I want you to know how much I care for you.” His eyes shone, and his hand was warm upon my own.
Oh Charles, how I made you suffer! Over the useless, over the unhealed, over my own ignorance. Perhaps you were one of the few who truly loved me, rather than merely desired me.
And did I say this aloud? I could not tell.
“If you truly care for me, will you bring Johannes now? I have aught to say to him.” And he nodded, sadly. And the following day, as Johannes had already retired for the evening ,comes, and not alone, and I do not ask to see him alone, I leave these details to my warders, my protectors.
“Johannes, I have been utterly distraught.”
“Yes,” he is seated, eyes downcast, a beaten man, exhausted, overwrought. “I am sorry. I should have written, or at least come.”
“I am not distraught because of your absence. Well - not any longer, in any case. I am distraught because I no longer understand what you are doing in my home, and with my family.” He casts a look of sheer horror and pain back at me, then. But I cannot withhold - I have been loosed! by the desperations of my impending death. “And neither does my lawyer, neither does my doctor, understand. Have they made this clear to you?”
His eyes fall down toward the floor once again. “I am sorry,” he says, his voice small and broken.
“Why did you go to Britain, Johannes?” I ask him, taking on my lawyer persona once again, and he casts his eyes here and there, a trapped thing - not quite a rabbit today, more like a smaller rodent, thin, thinner than I have seen him, thinner than I have grown in my infirmity.
“Because - she asked me to, Robert.” He dares, he does dare. I do not reply. I close my eyes. It is this, then. HE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND, Eusebius; he means no good.
“And the child?”
“The child? Felix?” No, not Felix.
“Leave me now, Johannes. I do not want to see you again,” Florestan says succinctly. “Go away please. Do not return.”
He stands! He flaps! He is suddenly transformed from rodent to bird!
“You expect me to speak openly in front of these -”
“-my only trustworthy caretakers?” Florestan sneers by reply, finishing his sentence. “Are you still here? Did I not ask you to go?” This time, I close my eyes, and invoking the power once again over time, I will a great passage of time and find myself
In one of those smoky beer halls, and it is past the time when Johannes has come and gone, and the world has forgotten him in the fogs and frosts of a Paris of the future. It is a Paris without Heine, and without Napoleon. A Paris, without God - I can feel His absence. The theaters are boarded up, and great twisted crosses, Merkabahs, are displayed on posters and flags everywhere. It is a city under siege, but by whom? Are these German eagles? Those are German uniforms, but no - not the ones I recognize, not the dandyish suits of the Prussian regulars, nor even of the constabulary of Zwickau or of Leipzig… these are some smart, tightly-trussed and precise, Soldiers of the Future - is there any rhyme to these visions?
And I hear - oh God! I hear the sound of the introducio to the Carnaval! issuing from a tinny piano in a bar, It is the Rive Gauche, it is an alleyways of the artist quarter…. and I see there, listening distractedly to the piano, two men. The one, slender, dark, handsome, cigarillo falling to ash in his still fingers… and the other, fierce, pop-eyed and avid -- talking, talking, ever talking - they look like some latter-day, futuristic Schiller listening to Göthe hold forth, a more pop-eyed Göthe, and less portly, but nonetheless… The dynamic is there, and as the smartly dressed German Soldat leans forward to toss another thaler - wait, that is not a thaler - into the pianist’s cup, with his barely nodded thanks (the Sphinxes now, too untuned, that piano, to pedal the Sphinxes properly) but it is over soon, and he stops to sip from the proferred beer…
it is a Paris under siege, but these men, they eye the Soldat narrowly. They are French - he is German. At last, Germany occupies France! a refreshing change, but a frightening one - is the Future full also of war, of sieges, and of further German-speaking empires? It seems, in some odd way, I am dragged by the very form of my own compositions, opus by opus, through Time… and I wake again, briefly
Johannes has gone, and Charles remains. And I say to him,
“Charles? do you believe that I am sane now?”
He nodded. “I have no doubt of it. In pain, and ill, but doubtless, sane, as you ever have been.” I smiled at that, thinking of the morning he pried me out from under his bed and I would not stop shrieking.
“As ever have been… maybe I never have been.”
He shrugged. “It hardly matters to the facts that are at hand, Skul, but I have answered your question.”
I nodded in reply. “Then I have something quite insane to say to you, but please trust me. Will you refuse Johannes from seeing me for a week, at the minimum? Despite what I may say? I have somewhat to do, I have a little trip to make, but it is not a trip made by carriage. It is a trip within. It will take a week. I could not bear to see anyone but you, or Herr Direktor, or these others… but not Johannes, and better not T or any of the other of the League.”
He consented, without question. That is what I love about you, Charles! You understand these ineffabilities! He leaves me, shortly thereafter, and I am free to descend once again into the Abyss, where I may freely contemplate the facts of my demise, and its Cause.
And I left them then, Hohenheim, with the new skill I had developed in transcending time, which I had practiced during the period in which I was in the grip of Morphia. From my journey into the past, I went thence with equal facility into visions of deep, abiding horror. Places unspeakably bleak, which made my minor A seem trite, and the loss of my Spring, bathetic; my loneliness, my pain, and my search for ending, so many times sought! Irelevant.
After that day I had returned from Jura filled with hope and renewed energy, to be more than Well Known -- To be Important, and to write Important, Beautiful Things!
Even this paled into insignificant self-absorption, the bane of my existence, as I examined the true dimensions of the Abyss, as it yawned before me in this Future, when I will be blissfully freed from my existence, to join my friends and colleagues who had passed before me. It was the theater of the future
Filled with grim-faced, fresh-scrubbed people, Germans all it seemed, filing quietly, hushed (it seemed) in to their seats. With barely a smile upon their faces, dressed universally in black morning coats, and the women, in subdued yet daring dresses, slashed to the knee in length - I found myself staring at these knees, unheard of! and amazing - that which once was revealed only in the bedroom, exposed by the hundreds in public has such a disorienting effect. And yet, one by one (two by two) curiously alluring. now to the concert itself - reassuringly the orchestra all in formal dress, as I recognize them
My God -- what is this, I watch the conductor, a veritable Kreisler in his antics, nearly bops the tenor on the head with his wildly flailing baton! But the orchestra is well rehearsed and disciplined, and every eye of every member of that chorus, watches those flailing arms for that one gesture, stab or flourish that means ‘you’ and the discipline! I wander among the audience, unseen. I realize that I am ephemeral here, and examine the conductor at close quarter. He sweats, he mumbles to himself, unconsciously he touches himself here and there, a sort of personal reassurance
Where is Felix when he is most needed, I wonder - they have ruined the art of conducting
But the performance is not what is so bleak! It is the composition, for amongst all of this greatly serious effort, and such perfect entrances by so many voices - all of them classically practiced, but to what end? this opera, what is it? is it an opera? I cannot tell, by structure - it appears to be
Rude, and ruder speech, pantomimes of phallic arousals and copulations, I am distressed, physically, and cannot speak
and then, the music changes
And it is another smoky room, in another dirty beer hall, and it is my beloved Heidelberg again, the well travelled Stadtmitte, overtopped by the now-illuminated Schloß, hardly different in other respects, and my heart beats hard… Each time I had thrown myself in the river (in my youth) it was with the Schloß in sight, and the last thing I believed I would see. And I wander in, drawn by - something, some sounds emerge, though muffled, and as I ope the door, the beast of whatever is emanating from there, pounces. It is some artless lied which all within, ignore - Why corrupt the very air with it, then? I am driven away from the smell of good schnitzel by the smell of the lied. No one seems to notice. Elsewhere…
What has happened? Why are all of these taverns filled with smoke, with dusty air, with red light? Is this some peculiarity of the ghost realm, that I see everywhere, smoke, as in the lowest fogs or the heaviest coal fires? But does not smell of coal but of wood smoke, of tobacco, and of something else, sweetish, unidentifiable, but I flee. elsewhere
I find the street, and the building, and ascend the stair I know well - the mark of the selfsame boots lie on the stair, unpainted, as I remember them, and I realize with deep sadness and some trepidation, that I am now once again in the past, my own past, and I remember with stark clarity
Lamier’s rooms overlooking the Schloßpark, near the Museum; and I tried the door; it was ever ajar when he was home. Locked. So I turned, and went to his office, my heart heavy, knowing, heavily knowing that there was nowhere to turn this day. And likewise, his office, locked. Hastily, taking the pen I ever carried from my waistcoat I scribbled him a note and left it jammed into the latch, and turned quickly - without thought, down the Neckarkreis, at an increasing pace of agitation. How did I get to Heidelberg? I could not recall. Where was the memory of the trip from Leipzig? I did not know. Was it locked somewhere in the secrets kept by Florestan - he kept so many secrets, mostly about women, but he kept other secrets too. And there was that within Florestan then which desired to go to Heidelberg, the place of my hope and equal despair, that hastened me from Leipzig as if pursued, and went directly to Lamier, though I had no idea whether or not he was even in the city. Perhaps it did not matter, perhaps it was the Schloß that mattered, or the university, or the Neckar, for who could stand restful before the Donau, as it thundered mightily between its banks? I could not…
As I strode, blindly, between the buildings, past that hotel where I had drunk so happily and played those pieces, ah, opus 3, opus 4 - with every sweeter recollection I grew more dark, and I was stopped, suddenly, but the thickening of a crowd around me which prevented me from walking onward, and I began to move away, around, when my collar was seized by a crying woman “are you the doctor?” she wailed.
“What?” I drew myself up, appalled, and stared into her face - she was bereft, hair wildly streaming, and hardly dressed! her blouse loose around her shoulders, feet bare - she looked as if she had just come from her bed.
“The doctor! Come!” she dragged me, yielding, through the press of people, to a small area that had been cleared, right up against the stone embankment, mere inches from the swelling river, where a small child lay, face whiter than chalk, her clothes blackly sodden, hair pasted to its - her? head. A girl, no more than twelve years of age. “She does not move!” she wailed and her hands, hard with the desperation of grief, closed on my arms and pulled at me, and I knelt before the girl. To her, I was a doctor. A Doktor Komponist, not a Doktor Medizin! Curse the title laid whimsically upon me for my Opus 21! for someone must have said something.
What was I to do? I could not tell her aught but look at the still, lifeless form before me, and reach out with whatever sensibilities a composer might bring to bear upon the cold, dying and lifeless - and I knew then, since I too had been dragged from a river insensible, months previous, and had been told, in excruciating detail, all that they had done to me to revive me… and stripped my coat off and placed it over her cold corpse, and turned her on her side and pounded her back with my practiced, now callused hands, until a brown stream of water ran from her nose and mouth. Two strapping youths came forward then to assist, one of them with a sturdy army greatcoat, and placed it over her still bare legs, and pulled off her shoes and chafed her feet.
Was there hope? Did I think? Did I know? Then a great gout of water came out of her mouth, spurred on from the steady rhythmic staccato I had begun on her shoulders. And after that, a cough such as the final paroxysm of consumption, and a sigh like that of an angel’s despair, and the girl’s eyelids fluttered. The crowd of silent people murmured then, their hope a whisper that rose into a single speech, and the girl began to cough again in earnest. I stopped pounding her back, and her hand gripped mine and she opened her eyes…
The blackness of despair lifted from me, as it lifted too from the woman whose hands - curse them - still clutched, but this time in urgent emotionalism. The girl cried out a single word,
“Papa!” and buried her mud-streaked face in my shirt, and would not let me go. She was once again ruthlessly, powerfully alive, still gasping, and coughing, and ruined my suit entirely with smelly river muck.
I had forgotten the purpose for my coming - It was lost. Another secret. Like so many of Florestan’s secrets.
Another morning comes.
I rise, shakily, and obligingly my angel brings me all the wine I desire. Charles comes within the hour, as he has requested to be notified by carriage whenever I stir and sit up. I write, while he watches, silently observing me; and he stays, because my pain is considerably less. I tell him of all I remembered of this trip to Heidelberg.
“I remember, that I had done one good thing, in four different modes,” I tell him, and tears spring from my eyes. “I wrote one good poem, I wrote one good lied, I composed one good piano concert, and I saved one girl from death.”
“Just - one.” And I wept in his arms.
Just - one.
26 October 1855
The moral in this vision is obvious, Hohenheim. I should have been content to save one worthy child from an undeserved and early death through no greater sacrifice than my own common sense offered at an opportune moment. I did not earn the right to save two. Therein lay my great mistake. That I could somehow determine through my own righteousness, what should be done for her, regardless of what is right to do; or its cost to me. Lamier knew - but how did he know? This I wish I understood better, and so I must ask him, when I am less emotional about it than I am now. And then I also must ask, what right have I to pass judgement on Johannes? or moreover, what right has Florestan, knowing this as well as I do? Feeling as I do now, the painful regret that I erred, from the moment of its very indignant beginning, where I sought to take from Wieck his prize? Due only to my own outraged pride, and my horror at his iniquity, and my hatred of him. How could I not know?
how did you know
On to more mundane things, while I have returned this day to record all I had seen in my travels through time. I hear, with this new prodigy of the ears (perhaps, it is the blood that drips from out my brain, that strengthens my hearing so immensely), a whispered conversation. It is my admirer Wolf, speaking in that selfsame avid whisper, and he is admiring something else today! I find myself amused at first, and then delighted - for this settles perhaps one of my lingering fears. Upon his return to my asylum, that it would no longer give me asylum from those who admired me overmuch, or desired me excessively, for these are complications my impending death cannot endure.
The sad, pleading eyes of my friends are too horrifying a mirror for my pain, without causing additional pain to those who see me as a symbol or as something to be acquired or preserved. Johannes is already much too obsessed with my preservation, to accept my death. He appears utterly unable to accept it; as though it were his own death. And I strain to hear reply to Wolf’s whispered entreaty, from the object of his attentions! and it is drowned out by the renewal, at distance, of Schneider’s approach to opus 54 - oh leave it alone, Schneider! I am not flattered… and lo! my angel then comes, to bring soup, and more wine, my sweet, more wine, it is a gentler soporific than any Ha has stabbed me with to date, and with it she brings a small cup with the horrid liquid in it
is there pain? there is ever pain
it is a dance of two themes
dripping from my blood in rhyme
it is the clock that ticks the ending
of my days
it is march of death
returning me from time
for in the realm of timelessness I never feel this crush of agony, nor hear the persistent tone of A
I know what I must do, if energy permits, before my re-entrance into the slipstream between the past and future
and that is to ask my angel to bring Wolf, with music paper and ink, and he comes - sofort! and kneels by the bed - what is this? and takes my hand -
careful of that F, Wolf, it is vindictive
“Oh thank you for asking for me, I was so worried and they would not let me in to see you… Uschi told me that… ”
“Uschi is it?” my eyebrows go up. ah ha
He blushes and withdraws to a proper seat to compose himself. So it is not adoration he feels for me, in the prurient sense, but some awe of composers that has drawn him, since his admiration, and one could hope - his passion - has found another target, “How can I help you Herr Doktor?”
“I do not use that title, it is made up. Can you hold a pen for me? There is a theme I wish to record,” I tell him, and this by way of exercising what little ability I have to dictate music, for there are some variations on the theme of the angel, and perhaps Wolf can be better employed in arranging them, than in picking away at Opus 54, or worse, Opus 63, which troubles me greatly sometimes in dreams.… He has to be put to a new task. And so Wolf, dutifully, scribbles down some slow dictation, interrupted by impatient moments when I pluck the page from his hand and read it, and frown
and then further…
until a pitiful handful of 50 bars sits on the page and wonder when I ever believed myself to be a composer
and warmed by the task of serving as my scribe, Wolf, when he senses I have done, puts the sheets aside, reverently, and folds his hands, and says,
“Herr Doktor, there is something I must ask you, if I may…”
Inwardly, I groan, not only because he has not dispensed with the appellation, but because I cannot endure another Lemonade Incident, and he wrings his hands, because I am not forthcoming with encouragement. I am sure I have turned rather pale, and moving the bedsheet a bit aside, my arm is unfortunately exposed, riddled with lurid bruises, and he seizes it in his fingers, like a piccolo, delicately, gasping "my God, what have they done to you”
“Morphia,” I reply.
“Then there is pain?”
there is ever pain, Wolf
“What is it you wished to ask me?” Florestan persists, annoyed, because the breath of the boy is too close, cloying, full of emotion and sympathy… oh what does he want of me
“I wished to know what you think of Frau Vetter…”
“Uschi then?” I smile, and the moment of anxiety, of Florestanian tension,
“I think she is a lovely girl, devoted to her career, and attentive to her family. And she makes a delicious asparagus soup. Are you interested?” He nods, fervently.
“Why ask me?”
“Because!” he pouts. “Because it seemed that you…”
I waved my weak hand in his direction.
“Franz, I am a dead man. I will not see Spring again. It matters not what fantasies of love pass through my fevered mind in my last moments, and if I see a pretty face and sigh.”
I had thought to reassure him! And instead! he is on his knees again - what a horrible habit, to be a Catholic, and always be dropping on one’s knees. It is worse than always dropping one’s baton. And he has his prayer beads! and begins to intone the Ave Maria in Latin, in that sonorous tenor, despite all urging I give him to the contrary
pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death
ora pro nobis
and the Schubert setting comes back to me in force, as the boy’s curly head is bowed at my arm, he is praying at my bedside, I feel like a corpse already, annihilated in the dust, oh Schubert
After ten, or twenty iterations of this incantation he raises his weeping eyes,
This is not right,” he says. “I wanted to have your blessing, for I am going to ask Frau Vetter to marry me… but how can I?”
“You should!” Florestan blusters, “my death will ensue in any case. Does she know of -”
“Oh of my affairs, yes. A thing of youth, as you said,” and he brightened. "After all, you married!"
I said little more, and had little feigning to do, to register my impatience with a theme now exhausted of its variations. The cello sawed on to its conclusion, oh Wolf, I hope you can restore her to the guileless state I found her in… feeling grateful that he did not sense that I had any claim on the girl, or upon himself, Florestan’s moments of passion notwithstanding,
did I say anything? was there anything to say? I cannot now recall, but attempt to reassure him that my love is with them both.
and the madman remembered….
The offer that came by return carriage from Leipzig, to lead the programme with Felix at the Gewandthaus, the promise of steady work, and unlimited access to the best professional orchestra, as well as its chamber ensembles, and assorted musicians to try his compositions, as well as the name of a new and motivated publisher… and he left Heidelberg as soon as he arrived, filled with as much trepidation as joy, and composed on the journey back a long, involved, and emotional letter to the virtuosa, whom he addressed for the first time as Chiarina. He included with it some new variations on the Études he had written during the winter, with a promise that he would soon be in the city once again after a short trip to Heidelberg, with no further explanation of his reason for leaving Leipzig. (he had escaped cleanly that horrible day.)
His reunion with Felix was a torrent of unburdening, a long bout of self indulgence, with endless wine, and a long stagger through the new compositions both had made since they had last met before his months in Jura. They stayed long at the theater, so as not to wake up Felix’s neighbors, and during that period S moved into his apartments with him, which were big enough for twice as many people in palatial comfort, and as might be expected, now that Felix had become Most Important of All. He was ecstatic with S’s change of heart regarding Miss Wieck, skeptical about his account of the ignominious grope at the piano. It was Felix’s belief that he should at earliest opportunity, clarify what had actually occurred, from the girl’s perspective, since that was all-important to any future serious intention toward her. This directness of approach horrified Eusebius, and he would not do it.
If she had been defiled by her father and it was a fact, then there was little that could be done except to make an accusation to the authorities - and there could be no hope of any familial alliance - not with S’s future and reputation in the balance. All of this he discussed at length with Felix, and in time, with the ever-faithful but coolly distant - objective? Lamier, who came at his request, but not before it was resolved in S’s mind what his intentions would be: to confront Wieck with both his accusation, and his request, regardless of cost, and to ask for the hand of his daughter. Regardless of his answer. For Wieck’s iniquity was his own responsibility.
Felix insisted that he consider the cost of incurring Wieck’s ire. “He is an important man in this town, Lieber,” he said. “He is important in Saxony, and in music. And his daughter is becoming more important by the day.”
“And what is important?” he snapped back, irritated by the quality of the late evening stores of house wine at the Schwarzen Ochsen. It was time to find another venue, with better quality vintners - perhaps the Goldenen Rosen…. he must discuss this with Felix.
“Important, Lieber, is what motivates people to do things, to spend money, to make decisions. As a public person - and composers and musicians are the most public of public people, moreso even than kings and princes, for all we do is to and for the public - need to constantly be aware of what is important, to take it into account.”
“And - bow to it? Accede to what is important, even if it is wrong or houses a lie?” S was incensed by the casual morality that Felix’s words seemed to imply. But the conductor was shaking his head.
“No, of course not. But account for it - yes. To direct it, even better. Like when I did my exploration of the organ works of Bach, and discovered much that had never been published. When I presented them, people heard them - I became an agent of change. I changed the public’s mind! And that became Important, because I willed it! Now Bach is known, and played, and appreciated! I did that, Lieber. I directed it. That is what you need to do. If you wish to have a say in what happens at the Gewandthaus, if you want to determine the future course in Music, then you must do this. Find out what it is that motivates others, direct them, give them things - not simply what they want, but that are good for them, and make it Important! You have to decide, also, whether that is worth offending Wieck.”
It was a long speech for Felix, for he rarely spoke so long, without stopping to consider a new theme and jot it down, or to sit in silent contemplation of the music or conversation about him. That is what S found so compatible in Felix - that despite his inexhaustible restless energy, he did not spend it all in endless chatter or meaningless banter and posturing. When he had something to say - he said it, plainly. When he did not speak, he listened, whether to those around him or within his own meditation, it was impossible to determine, since he seemed at all times perfectly relaxed and composed, even when S knew he had to be utterly intoxicated, it never showed except in a slight slowing of his speech, a losing of focus in the eyes, and eventually, a sudden moment of unconsciousness which lasted, it seemed, no more than two hours before he once again resurfaced, sunnily, to the sensible world.
and her letters, when they came…
Full of the pain of separation from him. She was on an extended tour that would last several weeks. In that time S found himself introduced at the theater to a youthful pianist, one Severina (an Italian), another S?? he wondered, who took a greatly serious interest in the phrasing of his variations. He copied out another manuscript for her to practice, and it was good! He had anticipated, every time they met in the practice room at the theater, that she would find some pretext to pluck his collar or stroke his cheek or pull a strap of her dress over her shoulder. But he found to his chagrin, and no small intrigue, that she was both a serious and disinterested musician, and showed absolutely no prurient interest in him at all. Despite his newly-expressed devotion to Chiarina, his new romantic interest, the scent of some indefinable (Italian…) perfume lingered long in his nostrils after these lessons, and he felt no less the excitement in Severina’s hands upon his composition, than of Chopin’s, and Severina had the advantage of being both alluring and female.
Upon their third meeting for lessons, S found himself staring, unaccountably, at the girl’s - hands, while she executed some difficult chords, and she flattened her fingers down on the keys. “Must you do that?” she said, staring directly across the top of the music into his eyes.
“Do - what?”
“Drill me with your gaze,” she replied, her voice as hard as a whip.
“Yes, so am I.” She rose, then. “I am afraid I must go. Herr S, you are a very excellent composer. But I am afraid your eyes ask rather more than I can answer.” And before he could sit and re-compose, the slight figure of the fascinating (and marvellously talented) Severina S - had fled, and afterward, sent a letter of explanation, restating her intention of performing his Études in sequence, but that she could not attend any more instructions at Gewandthaus and hoped that he, S, would find her lack of attendance no barrier to his permission and approval for her performances. He was abashed, and questioned himself deeply about the meaning of this incident - and the matter of drilling with his gaze. He needed to be more mindful of his conduct in future, particularly with young ladies ---
27 October, 1855
The leopard has revealed his spots to my watchful ears - ah, the horrible metaphor, yet he is spotted! I wake from a laudanum-provoked sleep, far too early, to hear the rustle of paper near the foot of my bed. This I remember! Was it not Schneider? -
and it is Schneider
In the half-light of failing evening, he comes, and is at my desk! and I see him in the shadows. He has picked up the papers that Wolf let lie, and examines them in some detail, and I can hear a half-hummed attempt at the notes - too hard for you by half, Schneider, he passes on from it
To my chagrin! he picks up next the manuscript in question! And to my amazement! takes out a sheaf of papers from his own coat, looks around him fervently (but only at the door, not at the bed, where I lie, and see all in my inertitude, in my silent drunkenness - or so he thinks! I am no more drunk than Felix at his most sober. I watch for the better part of an hour as he copies down every squiggle, every accent, and every bar
He is not innocent, Eusebius, Florestan warns. And what holds me from crying out in accusation? Because
Florestan has a better plan
a Risoluto, Piano, Pianissimo Plan
In yet another set of clefs, as yet unused, the Saturn, Mars and Mercury clefs, modified to look passably like obscure horn and woodwind parts, so I mark them “Fagott” and “Horn1” and “Horn2” on each voice
opus 21, #1 moderato
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,
and there was no longer any sea.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
#3, accelerando, molto vivace
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4, risoluto, piano
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Es-clef coda: This should keep poor Schneider busy transcribing, and when he gets to Wieck, the old man will take one look at it and say
“Trash! Idiocy!" (I see him ranting, in my mind’s eye),
and it did sound, when played in the key of C (no meter signature was truly possible, though much of it would go into ¾, as he had nominally portrayed #1), like a mournful chromatic dirge, though no less melodic than the Faust themes of Liszt..
Oh the madman remembered….
The rant of the Truly Mad, when he came to dinner at Wieck that night, starched and ironed, full of the resolution of his Herr Doktor Komponist personality, full of the reckless courage lent him by Felix, and the righteousness granted him by Charles, and motivated by the powerful desire of the young Chiarina (redux,) as he thought of her by then as the only one, since his Spring had by then fled, and from it emerged the themes and etudes for the First Symphony. (You live in this music, my love, and Veronika lives on in my heart),
or so he told himself
It was too much pain, and too much anguish, to admit to himself, all of the toll of his losses, his brother, his sisters, the innocents cut down in youth, the schoolmates… the little Laura whom he would tease in the schule, and afterward they would hold hands and kiss on the way back to the Rueckgasse where he walked her home, she died of some obscure pneumonia, suddenly, all of a week one winter, and she was gone before he had a chance to grieve
where were those innocent kisses now
He took every loss and turned it into a focused passion, and that passion lighted on one much more handsome and winsome form, more still, more proper, more restrained - at least, in public
He had the ability to do this, had Eusebius, to determine what was right, and good, and noble, and to turn that into a form of passion
It helped immensely that she was so alluring, so young, and so full of life and music, for that convinced Florestan that despite her streaks of cruelty, and the unforgiveable attack upon his shins when he played her pianoforte, and other such ignoble deeds, that she was not only attractive but erotically so, and he was never quite so discriminating when it came down to one or another attraction in the female sex.
As his mother oft-recited, ‘Make sure she is passably pure, and clean, well dressed, of a good family, and God help us, not Catholic.” This was her great objection to several other girls who had caught his eye during his student years: she could not bear the idea of his making some association or intimacy with one of THEM (she said it in capitals.) There was that within his mother that was profoundly snobbish, and he could not simply say, “these people are abhorrent to my mother, therefore they do not exist.” Because truth to tell (and he said this to her face), he did not consider any one class of people abhorrent by nature.
He did not personally care for the brightly blond, or the quite dark and Mediterranean, but somewhere in between. The brunette, he found immensely alluring. That was a matter of taste, not of judgement, however, and Catholics did not fall into a category he could readily see as ‘abhorrent’ and so he discarded this attitude as snobbery or religious intolerance in her. Though he himself did not truly understand or appreciate their many personal rituals, such as the wearing of crosses, or the grasping of prayer beads, or the falling on one’s knees in a fit of public humility (humiliation, more like,) when in the throes of grief or other extreme passion; he did not see any flaw or failing in their desire to erect monuments, denkmale or crosses in their yards and cemeteries. So what? he would say to her.
Why does that have to be condemned as idolatry? Isn’t the devotion to one’s income, future prospects, investments, also a form of idolatry? The worship of ‘fine literature’ or its poets and dramatists? For he knew that his mother, in her too-early widowhood, had developed a rather unholy passion for the poet Schiller, whose death she still mourned in his early youth; and whose likeness she kept prominently displayed by her bed. Now Schiller was, for his time, a most astonishingly handsome and heroic figure, and he would not fault his mother, in her lack of companionship, for having something of a romance in her heart, particularly since he was of noble German heritage and of the same nation as herself - Württemburg. And to please his mother, he took some of her favorite poems of Schiller and worked them in to his lieder, but they were not finished before her death… he had them, he had them! but they were never quite ready for her, and by then it was too late. Too late, another loss, but he had not perfected the Lied, then!
they were childish things
she did not like childish things in him, she wanted maturity, she wanted
and so he concentrated himself, then, putting the Eusebius of his devotion and idealism, and the Florestan of his passionate concupiscence, and they made an agreement upon the proposal to Wieck
He had never seen the Madman turn such an ugly shade of blue. His wattles shook. He had wattles by then, how the firm-breasted (still! after all those feedings!) jungfrau who served him as his new wife could tolerate such a visage in the bedroom, escaped imagination. And how - Chiarina could endure his disgusting attentions, or even - welcome them? Did she need Wieck’s approval that badly that it would be on any terms, even those of iniquity? But she was not in the room. Such discussions occur between men, or he hoped he was viewed as a man despite being routinely referred to as “Boy.” He was no boy, no longer! Herr Doktor Komponist, with a dozen opi in publication, with a steady position and income, and with his inheritance and estate in Saxony, intact, and with no guardianship encumbering him longer, for he had (with some dithering) Proven Himself. And with considerable help, concealed whatever excesses he Florestanily had displayed more publicly in Heidelberg, more successfully in Wien and Leipzig, under the watchful and ever-proper tutelage of Felix, and alternatively, under the ever more guarded and positively paranoiac secrecy of Lamier, who had a deeper set of secrets to conceal from the likes of Wieck and Company of Leipzig and now Weimar, as he climbed to the pinnacle of professional success on the back of his sturdy, hard-handed daughter, strengthened by his new, fresh-faced wife who bore his children without complaint (from what S could see) and wore the finery he had purchased (for concerts only!) and reserved only for public use, for the Chiarina did not dress this way in the home.
And as before, when he had turned, Gorgonlike, to stone in the hallway, standing transfixed by the malevolent stare of the old Maestro as he lost his breath and turned progressively more blue, then green with the suggestion of a marriage to his Chiarina, his words of courage felt like sawdust in his throat.
“I have my own means and estate, and our affection has grown over the course of long correspondence and professional association…” It all sounded so pompous, for he remembered every word of the entire idiotic speech, until the point where it was unceremoniously broken off -
“Not possible. I told you once, Boy -“ at this he shook a finger, “that you would not find your way between the knees of my daughter. I will tell you now, she is not yours. And you shall not have her.”
And as before, Oh Florestan may be fully-blamed for this outburst that left him open to be slain so facilely by the Maestro!
And the Beast turned, physically, fluidly, as though turning on a well-oiled piano stool, though he was standing by his desk then, and he seemed to pounce and seize him, even while standing still!
“Because you, sir!” he pointed with his cane, using the “sir” as a rank insult, “Are no gentleman. You consort with low men, and with Jews. You play piano in public taverns. You drink like a highwayman. And your father was a madman.”
He was stung, most of all, by this last. His father! and - oh Florestan
“What do you mean, a madman?” You might well have said “what do you mean ‘like a highwayman’?” for as before, ever, ever! he was the same, to question one of Wieck’s compound accusation was to admit to the other, and vice versa. There was no way to win, in argument with him, and his flourishing cane.
And Wieck did go on, and said in the most insulting, cruel, and intolerant way, that S’s father was not struck down by sudden fever, vanishing overnight into his coffin, as S had thought, when he was away in Heidelberg, but had thrown himself in the Zwickauer Mulde! in a fit of despair. The blow of this intelligence - it could not be a falsehood to his own sense of conviction -- stopped him, and Wieck read that look of credulity on his face like a banner on the Zeitung:
“And you will end up just like him, mark my words, and leave my poor girl and her children alone, hungry, and abandoned, as your father left you! That I will not endure!” He made the semi-final flourish of the movement, Staccato, triple-forte! and S ran from the room, both enraged and ashamed. To topple headlong into the young Chiarina, crouched over and listening at the drawing room door, and they went down together into the crumpled rug. He picked himself up, and helped her to her feet. By then, he was weeping, and she touched the tears that fell onto his lapel, with horror, as though they were drops of blood.
“He said -”
she gasped -
“No.” Then he completed his escape from the house, and did not stop until he was in his rooms (for by now, he had established his own residence, as befitting a Man of Means and Substance, no longer hanging on the coattails of the Most Important and Sought After Felix)
His impotent rage must make an example. Something symbolic of Wieck. And he went into his living room, where his new (Wieck and Company) pianoforte stood - fully paid for from his new means, small but effective, with not such a large echo chamber as to drive the neighbors out, even when he practiced long hours, (pianissimo.) He sat down at it, and brought the hinged door down upon his F with the full force of his rage, enough to make him yelp. But he was not yet done
For there was no visible evidence of the destruction as yet, despite the pain
He reached up over it to a precariously situated cabinet, containing all of the objects from the estate he had not yet unpacked, searching. Searching for something, and as he pulled impatiently upon the latch the cabinet came down upon him, whacking him solidly in the midst of nose and forehead, where it chipped a front tooth, and then smashing down on top of the pianoforte, whose cover once again closed, snapping like a crocodile’s mouth, once again on his outstretched and already damaged hand. He heard it crunch.
That was all that the moment required. One good crunch. The agony that grew from that crunch built slowly, adagio, legato, accelerando, over the next several hours, and he did nothing to staunch the swelling. He was done, and quite done, with Wieck, with his virtuosity, with his endless hours of practice. To be called a madman, a highwayman, and a drunkard. To be refused out of hand, regardless of his accomplishments - and more than this, to be denied the object of his desire. Chiarina could not, being a child, simply leave her home and come to him, so he did not have to be concerned with unexpected company
Felix always sent a visiting card if he were expected, and Lamier always sent a letter and made an appointment
So, he was alone, to stand a vigil, (to lie one down,) with only a single bottle of halb-trocken, to see him through the night of the destruction of his career as a pianist.
and no one disturbed him
and not a sound came from the new pianoforte
but only one long, low moan, in tenor, Aaaaaaaaaaaa
for when my F was full destroyed
And when my C was lost
Then W was there to slay
And fuller paid my cost
He wept, long, through the wine, and long after the wine, and long before the music once again lured him to the piano, by his undamaged hand, (kicking over the cabinet enroute, where lay the undisturbed urn with the ashes of his father)
asches to asches,
He jumped in the river, he died ignominiously, and Wieck knew! Why did no one tell him? Did they fear that the madness would escape his father, and light in him?
What would his mother do if she knew he had already attempted it, and that lacking the heroic actions of strangers, he would have succeeded? It would kill her… That, and the death of Schiller, would surely end her
This, this he could not do. He stayed abed, with the throbbing, now purpled and stiff fingers crumpled in a heap on the pillow, and moaned slightly from time to time
Some time much later, a knock came at the door, slight and hesitant, at first. Protectively, he covered his damaged F hastily, and called for whomever it was, to enter, his curiosity and now deeply aching loneliness, getting the better of him. It was Felix.
“You didn’t answer when I sent my card!” he began without preamble, as he entered the room. “What? Sick? drinking? without me?”
S smiled weakly through the haze of pain. “I ran out of wine yesterday, sometime.”
“You missed the rehearsal, I brought out your orchestral piece!”
“You didn’t! Without me!”
“I sent my card!”
S shook his head. “No one came.”
“That is why I’ve come now. I knew something was amiss. Now what have you done, abed at seven in the evening?” Felix sat on the edge of the bed and took him by the shoulders.
“Ow!” S said inadvertently.
“Your face is bruised!” he looked around and then rose in alarm, seeking around him. “Something has happened!”
“Yes, something has happened. Wieck refused my suit.”
“And he came to your house and beat you?” Felix was at once, profoundly agitated. S had never seen him so distraught.
“Calm down, no he didn’t come. I did the beating.” Fresh tears oozed from his eyes.
“Because you were refused?” He was unbelieving. “And you tried to hurt yourself again?”
“I didn’t try. I succeeded.” He kept his F hidden. “And not because he refused me; but because of what he said in the refusing… he said, my father was a madman, and threw himself in the Mulde, and that is how he died.” S closed his eyes, the strain of putting together those few sentences was almost more than he could bear. “And his reasons for refusal, cruel, Felix. He is the cruelest man I have ever yet met. And she is in his hands.”
Felix came to him once again, leaned over and once again shook him by his shoulders, but more gently, and once again, inadvertently, S raised a hand to fend him off, and it was the hand…
And he saw, and he gasped.
“My God,” he whispered, “what in heaven’s name have you done?”
That day, S saw Felix weep, for the first time, in earnest. It was a black, black day; and it was not for a very long time, while they stayed together, before either of them remembered once again that Felix had come to tell him that he had led the first rehearsal of the first movement of “Spring.” And while they commiserated over the ruin of his F, around them, spring began, just as earnestly.
So began the Spring…
There were no more lessons, there were no more recitals at Wieck. However, after the brief interruption following the Severina incident, he heard a positive review on the Études from her performances in Dresden and Hamburg, and she sent him a letter announcing that she would be playing next in Frankfurt, and would he go? she had aught to say to him
What would she say? Or could she say, that was not in the letter? That she had changed her mind? That she was sorry? That she … he would never know, unless he went, and he would never rest, until he knew, and there was nothing to be done about Chiarina now, and his letters came back to him, unopened.
He had, with the return of the first letter, a slight relief, since he regretted the emotional outpouring of it, and an even greater relief when the second was returned, since he regretted mentioning his F in that one… and afterwards he was glad that she had not seen them or read them, nor had anyone since his seal remained fixed on them. He later burned them, because he could not stand the posing of the still-unanswered question
And why not go to Frankfurt? But Felix could not go with him. And neither could T. Not that he would… T was notoriously jealous of any female friend S had, and this was unfortunate. Because S had more than he could handle of female admirers, now that he had become Important, and he ignored how their gazes lingered, now, but T did not and every glance, and every sigh, and every turned head in a concert, regardless of how closely he attended S , unnerved him. And he could not ask T to go with him to Frankfurt because he would be infuriated and jealous that S would actually go to see a Woman! not a pianistin, not a performance of his work, but a Woman. Capitalized.
29 October 1855
It is, unaccountably Sunday, and I have somewhat more to write of Johannes, who comes once again (too soon by half, by half-notes, by quavering.) But first of all, of the plots of Schneider foiled by my perfect memory of the New Testament, and of all I have seen of the Bleak World of the Future, for this must be truth, it is too bizarre to be fiction…
I have a vision of a café of some sort, a restaurant, in a great modern city, where the windows are not laid in casements, but set as huge sheets of glass, as in some sort of museum or symposium, exposing its diners to the open stares of people in the street - most unnerving, and I sit amongst a group of men, all of them with tiny cigarillos dangling from their mouths, this more than a careless affectation, a positive drug inducement, for they draw upon them as the most devoted opium-inhaler does, compulsively tamp them out and light others… and before them, musical scores such as I had not seen, for the Ohrenklang obviously - charts.
These are Ohrenklang composers all, heavy-lidded with drink in a way that Felix could never be, eyes dulled with all of the drink and smoke, in a room full of red light, eating distractedly from time to time from a hard crust of an English toast. And they argue! amongst themselves. Who ever thought to compose music, in a café, as in a Parliament committee? Unheard of! And unproductive too, for the chief among them - he must be the one who sings, for his voice is dark and smooth - grows peeved with the others and shoots glances at them, downing his coffee and his beer one behind the other, calls for the barmaid to bring him a whiskey - prodigies of consumption! He is thinner than Johannes at his most extreme boniness, as if that were possible - he is skeletal, this Ohrenklang composer, and he leaps to his feet in a jerk of motion.
I am a ghost here, and I am drawn to follow him back to his lair, an empty place with white walls stained a dull yellow from tobacco smoke, with a small table, a large Flügel (ha ha! it seems I was mistaken), and a mass of the echo-chamber boxes, such as I had seen before. And he goes to the piano, and I think to myself, now I shall hear what an Ohrenklang composer can do with my own instrument, in the Future,
To my amazement he picks up from the top of the instrument a syringe, and a candle, and a spoon, and sits down on the piano bench, lighting the candle from his cigarillo, and does some little business with the spoon over the candle, much as I do when I am burning my manuscript, inserting the tip of the syringe into the burning liquid, drawing it, and injecting it into his elbow! Oh I know that vein! I shudder from the recognition of similarity. So they do to themselves what I abhor is done to me, even for screaming and agony! the horrid sensation! - it remains horrible, and I cannot imagine, in my worst dream, why anyone would ever voluntarily take the morphia journey. He relaxes, he places his head on the body of the piano for a short time, and then brings down his hands, all ten fingers, piano positions have not changed much, if at all, from my music to his own…
Into the most remarkably curious chord - an error? no, the unresolved diminished ninth chords, derived, derived, and still more derived and transformed, from an F major upward to the G, adding the ninth, I know these progressions but I have never seen them used except fancifully, in some fragmentary bit from Schubert before his death - Schubert knew this secret of transforming the augmented and a diminished, and make them sound not so much disharmonious as…. moving… transforming…. shifting even as they strike the ear, and they shift, and they shift again, the morphia addict, augmenting his progressions by ninths
Behind this, then, the sound of the bleating of another instrument, and then… the unmistakable sound of Wolf in the library, what is he trying to play now - oh Schneider has returned with the impromptu and several other manuscripts from Schubert and is trying out that ambitious piece, the Fantasy for Piano…. I chuckle to myself, Schneider has no hope with that one! no less Schubert, I hope he breaks his F on those bars!
Another vision of the horrible Future, it is surely then, near the end…
A small stage, where men in horrific, sleek leather outfits, attired as snakes are, skins tightly drawn across their bodies, reminiscent of statues made all in bronze. They appear to be bronzed, sleek, well proportioned, but over their heads are executioner’s masks, matted braids of hair appropriate to drudges from the dungeons of the dark centuries behind us, and they hold their own style of modernized, sleek Ohrenklangs, with percussion instruments besides.
When they reach their places, they stand, transfixed, before the phallic horns that conduct their amplified voices, a sort of instantaneous echo-chamber that transports their every sound to the boxes laid about them - and a long, piercing howl emerges, a solid wall of howling such as I experience only in the extremes of my Anxiety in A. The howling goes on, crescendo, to volumes never heard outside of the Pit itself, and there is no tonality, there is no center, there is no coherence, there is nothing beyond a staggering yowl - unmodulated, of the worst piercing tones that could be produced by anything made in this world, at ear-cracking volume. They sing not - they shout! Already at volume so ear-confounding, that it would drown thunder in its echoes - they shout further, incoherently, something that might be English but could not be understood in these conditions
More obscenely, these touch themselves, rhythmically, hands when not otherwise grasping the horns, lightly stroking their chests, their genitals, their own faces, as though their bodies cry out so desperately for intimacy that they cannot help themselves, from moment to moment…
and I know from seeing this, that all music is utterly lost, and gone, and that hell has been loosed, for these are not men
these are demons
I waken briefly from this horror to another. A vision of a landscape of smoking ruin, a desert landscape, barren in the extreme, with nothing relieving its ongoing monotony except the occasional dried, dead piece of vegetation. It is what I imagine the Sahara to look like, from travelogues, sand in each direction. Yet as I turn to the third direction, I see distantly, a tower, a gantry rather, and upon it, some enormous burden, suspended. Below, at some distance, a small outbuilding, and I see men walking into it. As the wind is rising, whatever is being held on the tower, is let fall, and halfway to the ground, it explodes into a flaming fireball, and shoots outward, as a cannon shot does when its Greek fire lights all in its path and ignites dry wood, sawdust and oil all at once to cause a ship to break to pieces. Yet the tower is not brought down. Instead, it is temporarily obscured by the fire, which sweeps outward along the ground, toward me, and forms a crater with its blast, before my eyes, and a huge orange sphere is formed, which expands into a completely symmetrical column of dread orange-dark light, blinding in its duskiness, and then it expands yet again, and raises a great dust cloud, full of light and awful heat, of unimaginable power, which finally consumes all in its path, and crumples like tissue the tower that had spawned it, and its hot blast and dust, at length reached me and blew me away into dust
r it ar d ando....
pianissimo.... ha pianissimo ritardando comes
and checks my eyes, and checks my arms, and the places where he has wounded me
Don’t wound me Ha…
I cringe away from his touch, and he pats my hand, absently, “shhh, shhh it will be all right, Herr S, I won’t give you any more injections. Do not fear.”
Fear! You do not know what I fear, Ha! Florestan cries,
Have I said it aloud? and tells me, ‘I come because of your friend Herr Professor B. I wish to know if you feel well enough to see him? He understands your condition, I believe, but I will allow you to decide yourself if you will see him.’
“Has it been a week?” I cry, looking for the corpse of my other protector, Lamier. It hasn’t been a week!
He shakes his head, “No, it has not been a week.”
“Then no! I am still witnessing the Sound of the Future, and touring its Sights,” Florestan argues, stridently. “Please make him go!”
“Calmly, Herr S. This is not -“ Ha begins
“Make him go, I say, or I will send for Lamier. You cannot subject me to that man at this time, lest you be responsible for some great harm to your patient!” I held up my F - by now, he should know what that gesture signified! If not from Johannes then from Lamier.
“That is what I expected you to say,” he sighed. And he sighed, burdened by his grim duty of informing the penitent that he would not be shriven, today. At least, not by Eusebius the Confessor.
“And how is the pain?”
“There is ever pain”
“Yes, but are the draughts helping at all…” he says doubtfully, his eyebrows come together, much too slowly… I realize, much too late, that Ha is very worried about me. He looks into the wounded, sunken sockets of my eyes, blind from pain and visions, and knows that he looks at Death. I am death, still breathing, in his hospital, and he would rather have me choose and be either alive, or a corpse, not this ambiguous betweenness. Yet, this choice, I do not make.
“I do not know,” I reply. “Perhaps… do not stick me again, Ha… I have a vision to pursue…”
He sits! Oh no, I have places I must see, these dreadful fireballs, these horrific concerts held by demons in the Underworld. I fear this is the place I must go and live, hereafter, and therefore have much to learn, so that I may endure it!
“I have a theory I wish to share with you, Herr S if you are in a state in which you are willing to talk.” I stare at him, eyes wild.
State? State to talk? I lay inert, unable to even breathe without losing control of my mouth and dribbling spittle all over my collar! State to talk? Certainly, Ha, if you are the one doing the talking…
“I have had lengthy conversations with both your lawyer and your friend B. I asked them if there was some misfortune in your youth which would constitute a great break in your life, or a choice in your career, and was told something about the injury you suffered before your marriage.”
“In….jury?” I mumble, withdrawing the guilty F from its place on the coverlet and drawing it back.
“Yes,” he says, looking pointedly where it would have been a moment ago. He had not missed the movement, not in the least. “Something about an injury to your hand, that made you decide to change to composing full time, and forego your intended career as a concert pianist.”
“What did they say?” I whispered.
“Herr Professor B said that it was a self-inflicted wound, and that you confessed this to him just recently.”
“Said that it was not pertinent to your care, and said little else. He is quite protective of you. I am interested to know, that besides the two known instances in which you have attempted to drown yourself, have you ever sought to mutilate yourself deliberately? Such as injuring your hand so seriously that it forced you to change your career?”
I stared at him. If confronted, Florestan philosophized, avoid. Or better - ask questions. He asked blithely,
“Do you ever question the veracity of those you interview?”
“If you mean Herr Professor B, I have some doubts about him, most definitely of late.”
“He lies badly,” Florestan pressed onward. “I did not tell him that I had injured myself. He may have inferred it from my account of the accident.”
“It was an accident then?” the Piano’s eyebrows rose. “Perhaps a fortuitous one?”
Florestan staunched his anger at Piano’s rather incisive question, and I realized, he does not believe me.
“Then I take it you are now questioning the veracity of one you interview,” Florestan at length replied, the whisper in his voice barely rising to a tone of ire. “How can this matter, now?”
“It matters, because this goes toward understanding the motives of those around you, Herr S. Such as their motive to attempt to protect you, or to conceal information about you.”
Motives, Ha speaks of motives.
“Motives for what?” I am deeply confused, and frightened. “If this is a means of getting me to see Johannes right now, this I cannot do!” I try to heave myself up to a more responsible position, say, sitting…. but that does not appear possible at this time. Ha, sensing the helplessly fish-like flopping I am doing, offers a hand and props a pillow up behind my head. Now at least I can see him at a proper angle, and object more strenuously.
Ha is shaking his head, decelerando, and I swoon with the energy it takes to hold myself more upright, and sense impending unconsciousness no, no, he is saying, that he is - gently, gently, leise….
trying to understand more fully the source of my breakdown after hearing the news of the trip that Johannes made in the company of my wife -
oh Ha… there are things that must not be said
and I do, indeed, lose consciousness at that moment
came to see you to explain
and the madman sees the grizzled head of Felix’s Jewish doctor clucking over his hand and as he frowns, looks up into S’s eyes.
“You are still a youth…” he said. “This may hurt some, but is necessary to determine the nature of the injury” and without hesitating he grasped the mangled appendage with both hands and felt, scientifically, along the bones and tendons and joints, and it hurt, a great deal, but not as much as the original crunch did; and not enough to do more than make his eyes tear, and a cause a slight whimper to escape from him. The doctor’s hands were despite this quite gentle. He harumphed.
“That swelling will pass,” he said. “Did you put it into ice or anything afterward?” S shook his head. “Whyever not? Were you out on a hike in the Bergland?” He shook his head yet again, and caught a look from Felix, staring at him. Don’t blame me this way, Felix, he silently implored him.
Clucking, more clucking. “Well then, there is something I can give you for pain, and you should go the expense of a block of ice and treat it regularly when it swells, and I should see you again in a few days to see how it heals. If you are with him, then you must be a musician. What do you play?”
“I am not a musician. I am a composer.” Felix’s head came up then.
“I asked you what you play.”
“I see. It is possible. If violin, it would probably be impossible, too much sustained work with the muscles between the fingers, and eventually the rheumatism will set in. Sooner, rather than later.”
“Are you saying he could play again?” Felix leapt up and S could feel the pressure of his friend’s hand upon his shoulder. The gesture was noted by the physician, and he turned to him.
“Was this some petty argument, like that little floutist and the broken windowpane, Felix? You have to learn to let your lovers down more easily. You can’t expect me to patch them back together when they throw themselves out windows or break their fingers.” He had released S’s hand. “Yes, he might play again. It could take a year, with some exercise on the fingers to keep the tendons subtle while the damage heals - the musculature is good, and starting from a well exercised limb is a great advantage. It is hard to say though, it depends. Would you rather I say no, it is impossible, and your career is ended, young man?”
A look of silent pleading went from S to the doctor. “Well then, Felix, your lovely friend will never play for you again. Now you had better kiss and make up. Is that all? Is there much pain?”
There is ever pain
It is a dance of two malignant themes
The E and F have danced their death
And the doctor, ever-accommodating, and without any more allusions to the presumption of his relationship with Felix, wrote him a note which he was able to send to Wieck to release him from his financial obligation to continue to pay for his lessons, which was the point of the visit, after all. This letter, which both formalized and finalized his resignation from the world of performing artists. And he sent a letter with it, this time reviewed in full by Felix, explaining his misfortune with a more plausible story about injuring a finger using a muscle stretching device that T had brought around some weeks before and had used to gain additional notes on his octave on the right hand. T had stubby fingers, and always preferred the left hand for four-hands, since it involved less reach. A plausible story, and like most good lies, it had the advantage of being half true. At least, with the fall of the cabinet on his hand, he need not admit to any that what he was seeking within there was something with which to strike the hand off completely, his father’s sword, and in the desperation of that moment, he had no doubt he would have done it.
No, Ha, if it were not for the intervention of fate, and my own rank clumsiness, I would have struck the hand off, leaving no doubt as to the state of my mind - oh yes, it was an accident!
So it was, with the least obtrusive bandaging he could manage, to hold the thing steady and not let it bump about in the carriage, that he set out, alone, for Frankfurt, and the concert being held there in the Messe for the playing of several of his new piano works. One of these was his opus 21, with recent variations he provided only to those who had worked with him on the first major themes. He would publish the rest, perhaps posthumously, leaving them in the hands of the few he felt worthy to receive them. He was feeling quite haughty and self-righteous in his pain, as he arrived in Frankfurt, and it might have shown, except for one haunting little incident that occurred as he arrived at the theater, dressed in a brand new suit for the evening.
A young child - it must have been a girl - grasping her mother’s hand, was pushed forward by the movement of the crowd and she looked up at S as he was alighting and adjusting his hat. “Look, Mama,” she said, her voice clear and loud above the noise of the carriages and the sounds of the city, and pointed directly at him. At first, he thought he had been recognized, and took a shallow breath.
“Why is that lady all dressed up as a man?” she queried. S gasped, in spite of himself, and undoubtedly colored. The evening was quite warm. The woman pulled her daughter’s pointing arm down as if to unmake the moment by sheer muscular force.
“I am terribly sorry, terribly sorry,” she cried to S, and she bustled away, dragging the little girl with her, into the crowded street. He had not recovered sufficiently from the walk to the theater to regain the sense of haughty self-possession that had contained him on the trip west, and felt utterly shattered by the time he was greeted at the Messe. There, he was recognized, and with warmth, and a murmur traveled from mouth to mouth. And if it was about how feminine he looked in his new suit and hat, no one said so. The evening passed without further embarrassment, and he was conducted to the stage after the performance to thank the young virtuosa for a brilliant performance. And it was brilliant. He waited, as the final stragglers handed her their offerings of a rose, a daffodil, in one case a bouquet of redolent hyacinth, at which she blushed prettily, and she fixed her gaze upon S who stood nearby, having received his own share of congratulations.
“You look quite smart tonight,” she remarked warmly, and he fought back his reply that apparently he looked like a lady, and returned the compliment with his thanks for her performance.
“About our last lesson…” she said forthrightly, color still high from the flush of the performance, and its apparent stunning success and applause. “I wish to explain.”
“I was very pleased with tonight,” he replied by misdirection, a new humility replacing his previous - when was it he felt haughty now?
“Thank you. That means more than these…” she gestured toward the flowers. “In any case - ” she rose from the piano, and they proceeded outward, from the stage to the exit. “I wished to apologize for my abrupt departure. There is something I should tell you, that you might be unaware of. I recently became engaged.” Florestan listened, for the moment when he was meant to respond. “And having made the decision, I was not comfortable remaining your student when -” she broke off.
“I am sorry,” he replied.
“No you don’t understand!” she said, her frustration loosening her tongue at last. “It was not because of you! It was because of me! I was regretting my decision, and knew I could not reverse it! I couldn’t sit there at the piano and see you, and think of him…” She grasped his hand - or tried to, and he drew it back in time, and she spied the plaster and drew back. “Oh my, I am sorry. Is there much pain?” there is ever pain
“You -” he began to reply, her hand, unable to grasp his own, reached up to touch his shoulder, lightly.
“You didn’t know?” a long sigh escaped her. “I am not as obvious as I thought.” she laughed, a small, bitter sound. “So much for the social graces. And your hand, what has happened to your hand?”
He gestured with his good hand. “An accident moving a cabinet. The doctor says it will be a year.”
“A year!” she gasped.
“I would have a greater need of musicians at the school, since I cannot now perform my own works..” Florestan said smoothly. “Perhaps one of surpassing sweetness in execution,”
“I have broken my engagement,” she said, standing still and peering at him closely. “But before I agree to what you ask, there is something I must do.”
In the shadow of the Messe, out of sight of little girls and jealous colleagues, the Italian virtuosa, who overtopped him by an eyebrow, seized him in both of her undoubtedly stinging, aching hands, and kissed him passionately. And when she released him (much later) she said, breathlessly, “I will do it.”
there is ever pain
but there is sometimes a salve
and the salve was the divine Fraulein S, for that year, in which, while he passed letters by messenger and by post to the concerts where the now
Lauded Virtuosa, his Chiarina, achieved success after success, playing he knew not what (sometimes his work, sometimes not) he worked with
her, and she was, with the passion of both youth and virtuosity, devoted to bringing out what he had written into the music
there was nothing like the beauty of a woman’s hands on a piano, he rhapsodized, and for that year, despite all of the urgings of his colleagues, he did not complete “Spring” in order to make a symphonic mark upon the world, but instead, devoted himself to a long list of piano works, and doubled his opus within a year, all in one genre: the piano. At the end of that intoxicating year, he and Fraulein S became secretly engaged.
Suss. He listens to the piano being played by Schneider in the library, and wonders if Wolf has the requisite ability to teach Schneider how not to do that to a trill on a piano, he thought, idly
and is ha still here? why? he looks up to see the doctor nodding over his newspaper. He is waiting for me to waken…
“Herr Doktor?” he squeaked. And Ha jumped, startled, in a moment of what appeared to be sheer terror, the kind of terror S thought was reserved only for himself. “Are you waiting for me to wake? I am awake.”
“So I see,” he grumbled. “I was just taking a little nap.”
“Have you sent Johannes away? He hasn’t been waiting all of this time.”
“He does not wait here, Herr S , I told him that you would be available at the end of this week, and he has chosen to remain in Bonn.”
S nodded, confirming. “Thank you.”
“Can you tell me what were you dreaming about?”
“Herr Direktor, I was not dreaming. I was traveling.”
“And where did you travel?”
“Nowhere. When. I travel into the future and the past. The future is merely glimpses, but the past sometimes lasts for hours.”
Ha seemed satisfied with that. “And to what, or when, in the past did you travel?”
“You asked me,” Florestan made by way of crisp reply, “about the accident to my hand. I traveled to that time. It was, the summer if 1834. If I am not mistaken. After Jura.”
“Jura? Is that what you call your study of the law?”
“What?” I stare at Ha. Is he babbling nonsense? “Jura - Jura” then I laugh out loud. “OH! Jena.”
“Perhaps the result of the morphine…” he mumbles, and makes a note on his ever-convenient notepad.
And I cannot wait for Ha to leave me, so that I can check back in the transcriptions to find out whether I had substituted all E’s for U’s and all N’s for R’s. Most important; or whether this was some subtle metaphor for the change of my life from Law to Music, starting with my Concert and culminating with the award at Jena - Jura! I have a moment of utterly silly amusement in an otherwise grim
Ha speaks across my ruminations once again and says “about your injury, and Herr Professor B…”
that again? what more is there to say?
did you learn anything on your journey into the past…
And he has got it! After only a few practices, Wolf has got the impromptu mastered, what a feat! the boy is a genius! I struggle to gain a sitting position. “Listen to that…” and I close my eyes, transported by the allegro of the minor F impromptu, ignoring Ha and his questions completely. “Suss.”
She was Suss on his composition, he wrote quiet pieces for her, dedications, he wrote the difficult ones for Chiarina, who would spend hours, (or so she wrote) mastering the fingerings - he imagined her tenting up her left hand to strike a four-note chord in the black keys - precise, Staccato! This was not his Italian.
He gave the quiet pieces to the Italian, and sat with her by the hour as she played them, over and over, the movement of her fluid hands, dedicated not to plucking at him but at exploring, touching, caressing the beauty of the pianoforte, the beauty that was his to give, fresh from the hands of his inspiration, and he composed at speed, now, with an end in sight, and that end, to watch and to hear what a resistless instrument could do with his inspirations, her caressing hands drawing music from his soul through the piano, one who never asked for revisions…
He did not attend Chiarina’s concerts for that year, and she sent him invitations to all of them, and passionate letters, offering herself to him, and praising his Sonata, begging him for another, longer, with harder passages, so as to better impress her audiences…
alas, alas… if the world were so simple
As Florestan had his passion waked and fast fulfilled, so Eusebius had his duty frustrated and delayed, eternally, delayed
With every letter he received from the Chiarina, his replies became more detailed, and more involved, chattily dedicating himself to her as a fiction… and when he received the letter from her, reminding him of their vows to each other, Florestan was tempted, sorely, to tell her he had found another love, another future
The Italian never pressed him, though they planned a trip to Milan, to see her parents and to ask, formally, for their blessing.
the madman wrote…
I woke this evening, startled, to watch once again as Schneider, rifling the papers of his latest letter, discovers what was left for him (for the rest I bequeathed to the confidential hands of Wolf), the 3rd and 4th verses of the 21st chapter of John, passably notated, and pleasantly quavering. If he was looking for dynamic, he would find it in the 4th verse!
He laughed, one might even say nastily, at the sound emanating distantly from the library (even with the doors closed, he can hear the banging of Schneider’s hands on the piano, as he tries in sullen desperation, to play it the gospel of John, in the Mercury Clef!)
“It sounds so chromatic!” he commented to himself, immensely cheered, on the solitary island of his agony, by the success of his Schwank. “It sounds… like - Liszt!” he exclaimed, and attempted, after a fashion, to rise from his bed, but was still too weak, and managed only to sit up in time to see a shadow pass his threshold and coalesce into definite being.
“Hohenheim!” he exclaimed.
“In the flesh,” he replied amiably, and took a seat quite near the madman’s bed. “You fare poorly I see.”
“I am trying to die as quickly as possible. But I’m holding on, unfortunately.”
“Yes, so I see. Do you eat at all?”
“Get them to give you gelatin, then you won’t fall apart so rapidly. And it will strengthen you against the incipient weakness.”
“Don’t ask about pain…” the madman raised his F at his guest.
“No need, no need. You face is eloquent testimony. One need not dwell on it. However, there is aught I can do for you in that quarter,” and the Count took out a small flask. “Drink, drink it all down, now.”
The madman for a moment offered a suspicious look, and the Count remained holding the flask before him, then he took it, and as instructed, drank. Almost as soon as it was down, he could feel a change take place, a barely perceptible lessening of the keening sound that seemed to vibrate throughout his head and chest.
“Yes, yes I think so. What is in that?”
“Something I cooked up myself. I’ll give the ingredients to Doktor Rallentando ”
“Oh yes,” the Count smiled. “You are really quite a remarkable person, Eusebius. The future has much to gain from your reemergence there. Do not despair.”
Oh yes, he did feel better. “Is it normal, Hohenheim,” he asked, reaching out his now famously-damaged hand, “to find oneself for a moment in the future, and then for hours, in the past?” The Count nodded.
“Yes, this is rather normal. Remember, though, that time is largely created by our minds. Therefore, what you see as ‘the past’ may have been something you believe has already occurred, and may not yet have actually happened to you.”
Strengthened by the mysterious draught which had indeed fortified him, the madman sat bolt upright. “What did you say?”
“You wrote of a trip to Frankfurt, and of alighting from a carriage. Just a day or two ago. And that a small child - you were not entirely certain it was a little girl - pointed at you and said you were a lady. Do you remember?”
“How could I forget?” he groused, both embarrassed and indignant all over again. “It was an exceedingly poignant public embarrassment. And after all the money I had spent on that suit.”
“And it was at that time that you re-acquainted yourself with a young pianist from Italy who was your student, and to whom you became engaged.”
He nodded, now impatient. “All of this is known.”
“All of this is not in the past, Eusebius. The seams between past and future, this life, and others, as well as their possible alternatives, may blend from time to time. For every time you touch the past, it changes, influenced by your knowledge of it, and your awarenesses and insights into the future.”
Suddenly, a devastating thought struck the madman. “Wait. Are you saying that my sojourns are in some way influencing the past? That it is changing, by the act of reliving it?”
The Count nodded slowly. “Oh, yes. You did not think you were merely sitting and watching a drama in a theater, did you? When did Friedrich Wieck die?”
“In - in, it was two summers ago.”
“So it is. Now.”
“Whatever do you mean?” he thundered, losing his composure, gripping the man’s arm as though to demand clarity from the feel of his sleeve.
“Recently, Wieck had outlived you, and you had died leaving an outstanding order for a piano for Eugenie for her fourth birthday. And do you not recall having a conversation with Johannes about the success of a symphony not yet completed?”
He nodded, gulping, the sweet, fascinating taste of the draught still on his tongue. “Of course. I am mad, not senile.”
“You are neither mad nor senile. It is my unfortunate method of discourse, to make points by asking questions.”
“So you are Socrates.”
He smiled. “At one time, perhaps… a Socrates after a fashion. In any case, you do know that you can become unhinged from the flow of time, often at will. And as you do, the history of the world you know, changes. As it should. As it must. This is your service to us, Eusebius. This is the cost of our help to you, in removing you from your present misfortune. For you see, in the manner you perceive, that it is not in the past, but rather in a possible future, you will arrive in Frankfurt at a concert. And a child of indeterminate sex, will grasp its mother’s hand and point at you. And you will see a lovely performance by an Italian virtuoso, who has invited you to attend to hear a composition you wrote. Whether it is past, or future, matters little from the perspective of this point. And whether you will marry the Italian, or not, still remains in doubt.”
“In doubt? There is no doubt!”
“I think otherwise.”
“I married - I married the Tiere!”
“You are unmarrying her as we speak.”
“Unmarrying her….” he whispered, and before his eyes, the Count’s sleeve disintegrated in his grasp, and the figure in the chair grew into a shadow, and then a hollow nothingness, and he was gone.
He lay back on the pillow, eyes full of the visions of which he had been reminded, all that had been provoked by the words of the Count, resounding with the power of the draught which had now taken hold. Then, as though transported by the most powerful of the new engines being built for the Eisenbahn, he found himself propelled into a future unimaginably different, unbelievably bleak and at once, beautiful.
It seemed, I went back to the Parises, and Frankfurts, and Milans of the future, the unnamed cities of my unwritten future
Before me is displayed the prospect of an enormous modern plaza… the sun, broiling as in the hottest summer, but humid. I have never before felt such heat! I am overdressed here, and seek something to shed, in this heat, but doing so would expose my arms to the dreadful sun. I have no hat, and should have one, and my hair is much too long for this climate. It is unlike my other visions, for it is not the ghost realm! Starkly sensory! Curse you Hohenheim for disappearing so quickly! I had aught to ask about the ghost realm and its qualities. Certainly I am not a physical being here, since I must have been already reduced to atoms in that other uncanny desert blast, yet here I am! Alive to meet another day of hammering in Endenich within my skull, only now, it is quite at distance, and I am actually able for an hour or two, to rest
But regarding this landscape. Beyond, I see great birdlike machines ascend and descend quite nearby, and I know that I am seeing what was long foretold by da Vinci - machines that are borne in the air, and great tropical plants arranged in terraria, with lizards blinking beneath their glass cases. It is another desertlike environ, similar in most ways to that horrific desert I had seen before, but different, for everywhere there are fountains babbling. It is a cityscape carved in desert, watered into fruitfulness. I am fascinated, despite the bearing down of the heat.
I come to a line where I wait to give in my ticket to the woman. “It is so incredibly hot!” I say to her, and she nodded, confirming. She said,
“We who live here don’t fear death, because we already live in hell. It can’t be hotter there than it is here.” And I nodded, believing it. Yes, a city like a sauna filled with hot rocks, and no snowy outdoors to retreat to. I have only arrived, and already I am a mass of sweat and prickling clothes, and can think of nothing beyond the task of acquiring a drink -
thirsty? she asked, and proferred me a drink.
Abbeverato, I sit, and watch as the Eisenbahn makes its labored way toward the mountains. Caffee macchiato. I sigh - I have arrived at last, in Italy, and shake the memory and the dust of the journey under the Alps (under them!) from my sleeves. I finally sit in comfort, in an open air café, while the waitress, understanding my English perfectly (apparently it is much more spoken than German, so I adapt easily enough,) and venture from time to time my unpracticed Italian - prego, prego, Signorina…frio!
I am waiting for my intended to meet me. The Eisenbahn from Basel was unaccountably early; and there is a certain annoyance in my anticipation, for she, in her propriety, would be unhappy to know that I wait like a common tourist, in her own city, with no one to greet me. Appearances are important to the Italians, and the more northern they are, the more proper their adherence to the forms and rituals of social life. Such as the use of the correct fork, and dining at a particular hour, in a particular order. And she had warned me quite specifically; to take no wine while eating, because wine is for clearing the palate between courses. I found this all incredibly tedious. However, having dined under more extreme circumstances with Felix’s friends and relatives, and with the daughters of the Esterházys (introduced to me by Fraulein von F), I believe I was equal to the task, or at least, would give a passable performance. For a German.
And she comes. Stately in her height, accompanied by -- what is this, an uncle, a father, a cousin? a chaperone, how Imperial. And proper too, for I take her hand, and the frown of the Uncle/Cousin/Father is upon me, and she introduces me to Signor Z. The Kapellmeister! What is this? I blush with embarrassment, and try to remember, was there something I assumed, in this? I strain to recall the metaphors she used in her letters. For I see she is in every way, squired by him as though by her fiance, and that fiance is not me, it is this Z.
I grow cold, within, and spend all remaining effort in managing politeness through her bright patter. I follow them to their waiting carriage, and curiously, Z holds the door first for the lady, and then - for me? and I sense his breath close by my ear as we embark, and do not dare lift my head.
“Florestano?” she queries, at length noting my distraction and moodiness. “You say nothing, what do you think if Milano so far? I will bring you to see the Pozzi, and then to the theater where Tatziano will show you his latest Oratorio.” She did not ask questions - she made pronouncements. All was organized, according to her detailed plans, and she brooked no revisions. He found himself seething with resentment, did Florestano, wondering, as he had on the interminable journey, when the shaking of the carriage would cease sufficiently for him to take out his pen and annotate the tenor part of his
Oratorio did she say? Damn the girl if she did not interest him in things other than - her hands, lovely and long, which now lay passively in her linen-draped lap as she gazed, poised and calm, out the window on sights she had seen a thousand times but looked at apparently with fresh amazement, and had no glances for him, her polite words notwithstanding. He was merely an audience, now, having been won.
And they went to the theater, and Z, with a wonderfully bright tenor voice, sang the piece he was most proud of having composed, while she accompanied him in a piano reduction of the work, which had originally been written for chamber orchestra. The bandages had been removed, but an ugly greyness covered the back of the hand, and while he did the exercises required by Felix’s doctor and Krankenschwesterin who oversaw the rehabilitation of his hand, he did not return to using that hand on the piano,except at home nor did he offer to play here, but listened, quietly. Z was not an inspired writer of lieder, but the attempt was a worthy one - he was burdened by the styles of the Italian masters, with their old themes reworked into something not quite original. Which of course, is the ongoing bane of the Italian school - lack of invention. Between Vivaldi and Scarlatti they had done all, and there was nothing new to invent. But Z’s voice was excellent, and as ever, he found it difficult to resist the girl’s technique upon the piano. As he finished his performance, the Kapellmeister’s voice fell silent, and he fixed a penetrating gaze upon Florestan sitting, audience fashion, in the first row as he himself stood on the cleared stage, Florestan felt an uncanny feeling upon the back of his neck, as though someone had brushed it with a hand.
are you thirsty
Later, at Z’s house -- he had an entire house, he must be incredibly wealthy -- she explained that he had offered to provide lodging for S (at no cost, of course, a personal favor to “the Family”), and she left, then! with no invitation to dinner! and he sat in the living room of some indeterminately quasi-noble, moderately well-dressed Italian Kapellmeister, who lost no time upon her departure, and offered him tobacco (which he accepted, for the first time ever) and wine, which he accepted with slightly more enthusiasm. He put down the pipe after the first taste, coughing rather more than he would have wished.
“The lady has suggested I ask you to write some vocal works. Had you considered it?” The Kapellmeister took a long drag from the pipe, savoring its taste in his mouth as though it were the wine, and then doused the smoke with a large draft from his glass.
“Actually yes, I had. I am working on an Oratorio, in fact. It has an obscure libretto to it, so it is not well known, at least, not in Saxony.” The man nodded, listening.
“So you are all music then, and no play?” Z smiled then, and the touch of a hand was once again upon Florestano’s neck. “I was led to believe otherwise. You enjoy wine? I have a great deal of wine.”
Z had a great deal of wine. And soon Florestan had a great deal of wine, too. There was a tenor to consider, after all. And much later, after the wine had largely ceased, there were loud sounds and crashing and at length, silence.
are you thirsty? the pressure of a cup against his lips wakes him from his journey away from Endenich, and the hand of his angel steadies his neck, and she holds him by main force, upright to take a drink, it takes most of her strength… it is that sweetish stuff
“What is in this?”
“It is a medicine that Herr Direktor has had made, it is supposed to restore you. Don’t worry it is safe…”
“Is there wine?” he asked, his voice echoing far away … does he speak English, or German? he cannot hear the text of what he is saying…
“Not now, Herr S , this will make you better. Drink it all down.” And his vision, fading, is lost in the concentration of taking what is held to his lips. Forever later, he swallows it. And then returns to the present.
Lying on the shores of deepest,
I am kept from Heaven
By the breathing of my corpse
All my music has now fled
All my world is now confined, abed,
a trio of my last,
My long-forgotten lies
I am the pen that dries,
The ink, blotted on these dark and demoned hands,
This my final vision
Is my purpose in the void,
Oh eloquent, then not
Then memory of emptiness,
Of failure, and of rot
I will be long in dying death
Then be long forgot.
Death is come,
My hand is broken,
And my last misfortune, come,
Come, hard death
Let oblivion and light,
To hell or heaven, hasten,
Come, hard death
Lest the courage of the world
Restrengthen me to fight…
I cannot stay
So you must come.
Eusebius, feast of All Saints,
1 November, 1855
So you tell me, and I must accept, for I have never better word than yours, that what I see of Severina von L. is all of the future then? There is a way to determine this, and so I will myself in complete concentration, upon the present moment, and my angel attends me, saying
he wakes, look, it is amazing
she speaks in a whisper so soft, it would seem, that all of the music that has broken my ears, from Ohrenklang howling of the demons in the theater has now left me, leaving an endless, unbroken plain of peace. I regain the feeling in my limbs, gradually, and waken to realize that I am not sweaty, but rather dry, and hot, and this is most worrisome, because it means I am sick in a new and strange way. A way that is unto death, perhaps. A fever so hot and so dry that I cannot even now, sweat from it.
And there is wine - apparently they have done as the weasel-visaged Herr Doktor Doktor suggested, and stopped the injections, and have ceased attempting to cure me by withholding wine, and added Hohenheim’s drink to my treatments. For I wake, and I am here, fully conscious, holding a glass (though trembling) in my hand. With the assistance of the pure Kraft of German Gesundheit, Schneider, I am helped up to my feet, for something must ensue at last from drinking, and the shooting pains in my back remind me that I must up for some time, and should fear sleep a bit, in order to recover. This is my occupation, at length after standing, and walking, and a brief constitutional to the library, where Wolf…
Oh the dear boy! He stays here to help Ha’s accounts, and courts the now pinkly blushing Frau Engel Uschi von Vetter. I feel a sense of joy in my heart as I witness the affection for him she displays! When she sees the knowing expression on my face, as I listen to him play my favorite piece of Schubert’s (there is nothing like the hands of a woman upon a piano, and Wolf may count as one, as far as I am concerned - he has the tenderness of a female, and the musculature and reach of a male, the incomparable combination),
sweetly modulating from the first to the second key, ahhhh, Suss, I have gone from the curious future into the even more curious present, and am once again among my children, where I can listen in joy to them play around me. And they are content to be with me, in the limited capacity I can be.
“Herr S,” my angel speaks, taking her protective post quite close to me as I sit at audience, fist curled beneath my trembling chin, feet braced against the floor against the inevitable unconsciousness that fast ensues when I am thus so weak, “Do you find that listening to music you enjoy, restores you?”
“Listening to pianists who can play, restores me, Uschi,” I reply, and I wonder again, suddenly - what language am I speaking? If she can understand it, it must be German. I strain to recall the forms of the words of the text… in Italy, I spoke Italian and English. The only reality to me now is the sound of the piano, and Wolf playing with exactitude… he hesitates, he stops, he stops he…. (I sigh, as he resumes from the long, overlong pause - he puts too much drama into it, I say nothing)
What was it that I said to Z? What was it that happened in his library, in the waning hours of the night? I could not recall, but it was so late
and I was so drunk
I am alarmed, Hohenheim, by the powerful forces of Lethe in this future. Is that because I am not remembering them, but rather viewing them as through a distant lens? Are they as yet, uncreated, or only probable? And if I looked in the mirror, who would I see? Florestano, or some less likely countenance? Oh God, I cannot tell you how these questions plague me! If you also transcend time, Count, hear my plea, and explain this to me! What part of me, was me? What makes me, myself? Florestan? Eusebius? The elusive Dorothea, my unspeaking sweetness? They are my F, and my E, my C and my A - but what makes the center of me, the core of me, the Self?
“And is he a very good pianist?” Uschi presses me.
“Yes he is. I enjoy listening to him.” I turn my head and watch immediately to my left, as Schneider, feigning to guard me from falling, standing at my elbow, his eyes fixed on the executory quality of Wolf’s playing of the Impromptu. I sense there is something more helpful than jealousy in him today, for he must transcend jealousy to find his own ability… this is always true. And I put my finger upon my lips to silence her for the remainder of the piece, which I could hear four more times before I would wish to hear something else. Then the small audience applauds, and Wolf beams and takes the hand of his beloved. She has been informed that all is well, and that I bear them nothing but good will, it would seem
“It is said,” I turned to Schneider, “that Schubert’s abilities on the piano were very great, but that he was unable to play some of his own pieces. They were too difficult for him.” Schneider registered a look of shock.
“How could that be?”
“I myself have never played most of my more difficult work; I could not. The piano is an extremely difficult instrument. Wolf is an excellent pianist. You are a good one. I am a poor one.” I laughed at my self-criticism, but it was the mere truth.
“I, a better pianist than you?” Schneider was shaking his head, backing away.
“Give Schneider a turn,” I say, raising what is left of my conductor’s hand. “And play something you can play.” And so it was Schneider’s turn, after which, they all sought to know what it was in Wolf’s playing that made him better at it, and so I explain, and show them the difference in the way he held his wrist.
“Our Franz here,” I explain, holding his hand and flexing the wrist, “has had a good teacher, who has shown him how to use his wrist. Most people think about the fingers, but for the piano the entire body is involved, and most particularly, the back, and the wrist. Schneider will now need to be untaught the rigidity of his wrist, so that he can achieve the tone from the piano that our better-trained pianist has learned from the beginning.”
“You should teach him!” Uschi declared. Schneider sat then at the piano and bounced his hand against the chord in his piece (something less ambitious in the Impromptus), and then Wolf corrected it.
“I have just done,” I replied, a bit indignant, and she glared at me. “I am here to die, Uschi, not to teach piano.”
“You will not die!” she cried, and threw a hand over her eyes, and put down her head, and the mood of the lesson was broken by her outburst.
“I am already fast approaching death,” I reply simply. “But don’t worry, I will return.” All heads turned toward me then, and all faces, rapt.
“You will what?”
“Return,” I said, now quietly, daunted by their collective regard. I realized then that humour was called for, and I strained to find a joke to alleviate the moment.
“You believe your soul will return?” my angel replied. “To where? And when?”
“And you had better soften your wrist by then, Schneider. Because I expect you to be able to play Opus 54 by then! That should be plenty of time.”
and he did…
My God, Hohenheim, I have had an object lesson on the indivisibility of time! For - just as I tottered to my room for a rest, the future impended, and I saw, seated at a quite sleek, most excellently polished piano of immense size, unmistakably Schneider, but changed. Not so much older, but different… and behind him a Großes Orchester of 32 pieces - the exactly correct size. He is in concert dress, thinner by far than he is in his German Gesundheit aspect, hair grizzled around his head, but still young, and vital, as he is today - this cannot be today, this must be the future… and I sit, quietly in the third row of a great, round theater (it is Köln, I think - though I do not know), in comfortably upholstered seats, with the program before me, and I do not see the name Schneider anywhere, but he is the soloist… and he strikes the opening of Opus 54, the orchestral version, after which, I am transported utterly, and am bathed in beauty, because it is the piece as I had written it to be played (a bit fast, at that), but he is equal to it. He has been practicing since my death! I hope the elderly men who sit attentively listening at either side do not see the tears slip from my eyes, for they will not understand, that it is not for sadness that I weep,
but for Suss...
If I have this power of insight into time, then certainly… I try to invoke the night that Signorina von E left me in the hands of the Italian Kapellmeister, and - nothing. I could infer what occurred, but could not see, or truly know, except in small fragments…
and more fragments, and more visions, and more, a tinkle of glass breaking, a low laugh, a loud cry, the coda of the piano’s solo finale
And he comes! and I am confused by the conflation of the vision and the reality, and his face appears to swim before me and I say “Schneider?” and he asks me, do I wish to have more wine, and of course I do… and gelatine, and strawberries, if they have any left from Spain… (and they do not, it is too late in the season), but they have what is left of the pears from Anjou.
“I will do as you suggest, and practice,” he says to me, breathlessly, as he pours for me.
“Yes, Schneider. I know you will. It is a difficult instrument. I could not master it.”
“But you -”
“I am meant for another destiny, Schneider. You have your own.”
He nods, sadly. “Then you will die…?”
“Only for a little while,” I say, as though to comfort. And he takes to his knees! My God, another Catholic? and puts his head on my hand. I am so uncomfortable I could cry aloud! what is this falling on knees? I am now a priest? Have I taken on the robes somehow, inexplicably? Explain this, Hohenheim! Why do these youths act so abjectly with me? “What are you doing?” I ask, as politely as possible, and regret it instantly
He turns his weeping eyes up to me, he is consumed with grief! even as Johannes, even as… Johannes…
“I will devote every moment of it to living up to your expectation, Herr Doktor,” he says, with a broken sincerity that makes my eyes sting. “I will not forget any moment of the time I have spent in your presence, it is a privilege to serve you, and to be corrected by you.”
“Oh God,” I say - aloud? “I know you will do well,” I try to say more compassionately. “I am confident of it.”
He weeps a bit further, and I can feel the sharp edges of his cheek cutting into my F. This is a violent weeping, for he weeps about that which cannot be my death… and too soon I discover - alas! I do not wish to know this!
“Oh Professor I feel so horrible!”
no, Schneider, do not say it
and despite myself, Florestan digs his relentlessly scornful fingers into the back of the boy’s neck and I have to force him to release them, and once again Schneider looks up and regards me with abject humility and grief
“I have done something -”
“it is not - I am not proud of”
please god no
“but it is too late to”
I am begging you
“get them back”
do not tell me it is Wieck you stole for
“because I came here on a pretext”
Yes I know, I know, it is all right, say nothing more
it is a dance
of two themes
shrilling out the violinic horror
of the highest, thinnest note
that represents my screams
and I scream
and screamed, and it echoed, down the hallway of the townhouse of Z, the Kapellmeister, as he achieved the penultimate moment of sexual satisfaction in the woman he had seduced by drink, and with that, pierced her in a way that only man can do when so focused upon his own pleasure and release he cannot see what he injures, until after it is broken and bruised to a point beyond repair
transported utterly in the moment when Schneider looks up at me to make his confession to Eusebius, who is not presently available, back to the moment I had requested from the memory of Time, to a position of the most abject humiliation
The young woman, Dorothea, travelling alone, meets her companion in Milan, not suspecting that she has been tricked into an assignation gone very, very wrong, and ends as a sordid rape in a nobleman’s library, followed hard by a labyrinthine escape to the nearest church where she lay, huddled, broken, and bleeding (no less from the rape than from the cracked lip she received while fighting back,) beneath the pew farthest from the entrance, waiting for the priest to come in for matins, shivering uncontrollably, weeping from time to time, crying out weakly, as the spirit wills.
For Florestano has fled, and the Oratorio, lost
ha risoluto comes, piano, pianissimo, creeps again into the room, where Schneider waits quietly, watching, just the trace of tears on his face as he regards my corpse lying supine
what had he confessed? I was not there -
Herr S, is there pain?
there is ever pain
It is a dance of two themes
of then - which one awaits? Which, the present, and which, the future, and what? What what what
Hohenheim please! have mercy upon me and tell me - who I am
do you wish to have a
do not stab me ha! I have been stabbed and ruined, virginity broken by the arrogance of Music and of lies, of wine and seduction, I bleed
Now I must know, and reach a trembling hand, and am shocked by the moment of dissonance one sustains as the third finger moves from the Ha to the B and the right hand holds the chord, and realize
I am neither virgin, nor female
then who am I?
Herr S, do you wish to
Do not stab me HA! I scream in his face, and he composedly wipes off my horror with his kerchief. Have I not been stabbed enough? And I hold out for him my arms, both, tortured,
may I die now? Will you let me? Please! I shout at him, at full Florestanian volume
The girl in the church, found by the priest, a small, effeminate man in a long very brown robe, is carried out, and brought to the hospital, where she stays for an indeterminate time
and there the vision ends
at last, at last.
I am broken by it. I am shattered by it. If I die, now, here shall I have to live through THAT?
And I reach for my pen, and raise it, to bring it down on a particular vein…
Ha decides caution is best, and with the help of Schneider removes all things sharp from the room, and puts pillows around me so that if I thrash more, I will not break anything more. And ties me to the bed, as gently as possible, and I spent most of the evening screaming incoherently, until my voice breaks and I continue to scream, whispering, triple pianissimo, in the oboe range.
The pain is daunting, and horrible, but not as daunting and horrible as the injections. He forces another drink upon me, of this the same sweetness, but cut heavily with laudanum. As my throat cracks dry, I fall eventually to a heaving silence, and thence to a trembling silence. In the morning, when they wake, they unbind me, and let me out, to sit.
And I hear an argument, with my uncanny hearing, Hohenheim. Which I will write about tomorrow, since they are tying me up again now just in case the night goes again as it had before
I do not object. Because I believe with as much conviction as Ha does now, that I will use any means to stab out my own faculties, if I am allowed near them, for they had seized the pen from me at a most opportune moment. They take my pen again now, and I must go.
ever more pianissimo
I have stopped screaming, because it hurts
but on to the conversation I heard when silence ensued,
Silence once again. Uschi watches me close by to make sure I do not pierce a vein with the pen, to let my life escape me. I am suitably occupied, and from time to time, she takes her eyes away
the laudanum has made me sleepy but it does not stab me, and your drink has restored me somewhat, though the pain hammers my head unmercifully, timpanic, relentless, allegro, I am far, far calmer now
their conversation now
Piano and Schneider, in a tense moment in the hall where I cannot hear (being a madman, and Beethovianly deaf, apparently) this brain death causes supernatural hearing, because I hear ever pin, dropping, every
did you say to provoke that? and are you utterly irresponsible to be acting so unprofessionally ? do you you have any idea how ill he is
word they speak - on in that vein for a while where murmuring and cries of protest intermingle
must know now, exactly what was said
(and so I learn, what he said, not from my own witness, but from his confession) that he had taken the music that Herr S had written and copied it down and brought it to Frau S)
My God! It is not Wieck! It is the Tiere! She has destroyed me yet again! No wonder I went off, I reason sadly. Oh Schneider, it is no wonder you weep.
The worst part, he sobs, is that when he gave her the pieces, she looked at them for only a moment, and tore them into bits! and threw them in the fire!
and where was she
at the hotel, with Herr Professor
Johannes! Ah…. my reasoning mind and faculties work quite well right now, though I sob a bit in imitation of Schneider.
Now. Now! As soon as I recover from my sojourn abroad in the world of Time, I shall have aught to say to Johannes. My angel goes to Ha Piano and tells him (and tells me, by way of that loud whisper in the hallway) he is much calmer, you should give him more of that drink
and will you let the Count in to see him?
The Count! Come, Hohenheim
for I play a dance of two themes
and must select one when this movement ends
The madman saw, with his eyes this time, the more solid figure of the Count as he entered the room and sat by the bedside.
“You fare poorly still? Or again?”
“Again. I am plagued with questions,” he implored him, not gesturing, since his hands were tied together. He shrugged his expression of helplessness and bondage.
“As I see.” The Count removed the restraints then, and in a courteous gesture, helped S to his feet. “There’s no need for this drama. Come. Sit. Have wine.” With a sense of nothing less than Christ-like restoration, S stood and walked, though gingerly, to his seat. He sat himself like a gentleman once again, though clad only in his mashed dressing gown. He smoothed it ineffectually as he sat.
“Your questions, yes. Let us to them immediately. No - you do not have to endure what you saw in your vision. It is a choice. It was a warning of a possibility.”
“Then - the future for me is feminine? The Italian you spoke of”
“I did not say who the Italian was.”
“You used the feminine nominative!” he objected, quarrelesomely. “Wait - you said it is not necessary?”
“Then these things are possible, but not destined.”
He nodded. “Possible. It is shown to you as a warning of the power of your own creativity as it may once again reflect in the life and actions of someone who is extremely selfish. If you are not careful. You have the Wellspring at your command - you must at all times beware of its potential for creating whatever you are able to imagine.”
“My God” he repeated. “My God. Then Z -“
“Is an extremely selfish person who sought through force to capture you. And hold, by conquest.”
“You had a choice. At the station. You did not have to go.”
“And going, you did not have to stay.”
“And staying, you did not have to drink. All choices.” The Count lifted his glass, pointedly. “Just as now, you do not have to feel pain.”
“What?” what what
what is time
what is pain
it is a theme, in which the body attempts to accommodate something thrust upon it and cannot endure
it is a reaction
Your body is dying, he explained. You will need a new one, a better one, upon your return. We will provide it with certain improvements that were lacking in this one. You are not outfitted for this mind, for the Wellspring, it was opened too soon, we were not prepared for Schubert to -
“Schubert? What has Schubert to do with me?”
“Oh. Schubert was supposed to be the focal point of the Wellspring until you were ready. He died too soon. You took it on too soon, and you were already too fragile. And it broke you. In three, apparently. Let me see. Well, three and perhaps the shadows, the shades, of two other selves… The remainder of the music shall have to wait for the End… so much to do.” He fussed a bit.
“Speak so I understand you!” the madman railed.
“Open your ears so you can hear me,” he countered haughtily. “I can’t just sit here chatting with you for the remainder of Time. There are things to do. I have other patients.”
Patience? did he say patience?
The madman stares at the empty chair, his now-empty wine glass in his hand, and he is utterly restored from pain. Utterly, completely, and empty of pain. He stands. He walks about. He reaches out his F and stretches it - and there is no ache. He moves his neck. And does many other experiments in fine body movement that have heretofore been either impossible, annoying, or paralyzing. All - gone.
He creeps, suddenly overcome with a fit of new stealth, back to the disorganized bed, which he is now moved to attempt to straighten, (but does not) I will receive more cooperation if they do not believe I am recovered, he reasons…. Gingerly, puts himself back to bed (there is no pain of any kind), and feigns his agony now, so recently forgotten, with a slight creasing between the brows, for when Ha Pianissimo creeps back to him, and says
“Herr S?” in the smallest whisper. “Are you with us?”
“I do not know,” Florestan cannot resist whispering back, conspiratorially. “What is your position on the political attitude to Jews in the opera “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” of Wagner?
“What?” A moment of sheer pleasure enjoyed by Florestan, in witnessing the shock and confusion of the Psychiater, upon hearing this most unlikely utterance from the madman.
“The - Meistersinger?”
Florestan restrains a laugh, because that would mean he is feeling better, and one cannot have that. Instead, Eusebius presses his advantage, “Can you ask Lamier to come?”
Ha’s face registers some deep, private concern. “He will not return at least for another day, he has sent word, to let you know this, when you have awakened. He is occupied on some matters in your behalf.”
My Julien! Eusebius cries! silently. No, no, it is Ludwig. He knows, it is Ludwig now. He is distracted, utterly, and finds it difficult to conceal his miraculous return to health from Ha, desirous as he now is of leaping up and bounding out the door to return to his home, and set things to rights. But this, he cannot do. But walk to the garden, perhaps.
Sit with Lamier, perhaps.
Journey into the future…
And he has aught he would say if Herr S feels strong enough to discuss this…
Eusebius eyes the Psychiater, and the return of Ha to his previous mission of discerning the Jekyll and Hydeness of his situation,
“Was there a time when you did not use these alternative names to identify yourself, or the parts of yourself?”
“What - parts?” Florestan whispered, again feigning a sudden waning strength, and fades to whispering at the end of the word.
“The different roles your characters play.”
“I invented them,” Florestan replied, querulous. “Of course there was a time before I invented them.”
“Can you tell me at what time these were invented, by you?”
Florestan contemplated, if he were to name a time…
First there was Liebchen, then there was Skulander, then there was Bellerophon (which name he adopted after the unfortunate matter of his schoolmaster’s wife,) but his mother, not being well read in the classics, do not inquire as to his use of the name…
Then he posed as Lord Byron’s young German cousin Konrad. Byron had no young German cousin, but one of his schoolmates was so convinced that he wrote to Byron asking for money, causing a small scandal when Byron actually replied with a strong invective-filled rejection in English - thus Freiherr Konrad Gordon met his early demise in a duel and he returned to his nominal self, though adopting his mother’s name whenever convenient, and when he did not want to be known as a native of Saxony.
For this adoption of her name, he was for a long time was simply referred to as “Der Schnabel” - if he could not be Gottfried Christoph Friedrich then he could be Schnabel, but he settled back upon Skulander during his entire sojourn in Heidelberg. Florestan, he guessed, came in 1826 - it was after his first bout of despair upon hearing that Beethoven was nigh unto death, and he had already wasted his summer holidays in Bayern meeting Heine and Richter. He should have gone to Wien then, before Schubert died! Yes, that is when Florestan came.
But - what of Eusebius? that was… later? yes, after the death of Schubert and also of August. Anxiety in August: his protector had left him, and leapt into the Mulde in his despair. Did he despair due to the passage of time? Did he despair because he was not as alluring as Schiller? Many many were the times Johanna had made that point, in front of Liebchen, that her husband was many times uglier than Schiller, and that if she had been better born, she might have been the wife of the greatest poet who ever lived. Did he despair because… how could he tell?
Could Eusebius discern the despairs of Florestan, even now?
and the question that I mean to ask you, Herr S, he continued, annoyingly cutting across the madman’s intensifying reverie, in his freedom from agony. His reverie took full hold of him then -
what what what
is whether this tendency to change from one character to another had to do with the traumatic death of your
Anxiety in August
I did not know my father was a suicide! he whispered, but Ha Piano did not hear him. I did not imitate his suicide, it is a family thing. We are madmen all, and so shall my sons be also mad - Ludwig?
Where is Ludwig? I know
he is gone
He must see Lamier, and enough of this talk. Florestan sat up, brimming with purpose. “I know you believe this to be of great import, Herr Direktor, but I am afraid I do not. I must have a report of the whereabouts and health of my children. Lamier comes with that intelligence daily, and he has not come for several days. This, I must know, or the anxiety will cause me greater pain.”
Ha, realizing a reasonable request when he heard one, replied with courtesy.
“I will attend to it at once. May we resume our discussion later, as your health permits?” Florestan waved him out, impatiently, and Eusebius dutifully took up his pen under the warden’s watchful eye.
Much, much to write. Letters. Letters to Heine, a letter to Duke M, the husband of Alma M, whose trust he had violated so many years past, who must receive an apology for being cuckolded by a madman. And Johannes…. he must write Johannes…
My rescuer and protector! I bow to you, and thank you! Apparently I must be a Catholic as well, since I received my blessing and healing on the feast of All Saints. Now, I write in a more brief summary, since so much has happened. Indeed, I had yet another vision, for my strengthened state allowed me to freely access Time while comfortably seated in my chair, and while I am quite still, my angel perceives that all goes better with me - listening to hours and hours of shrieking and weeping cannot have been good for her future joy.
in which the young (intact) composer, Dorothea, arrives in - Milan, again? via the Eisenbahn, and this time, it is not through a tunnel. She approaches from Rome, and I am no longer confused about ‘who’ and ‘when’ and ‘what.’ It is very clear now from the vision that the I that I am, is definitely and most particularly feminine, which explains the solicitousness of the woman in the café, and the frown I missed earlier when the - von E? How did I miss this? von E?
This is not truly the same woman I had taught in Leipzig, and then met later in Frankfurt! It is another version! As Schneider was not the Schneider of the present moment but of some future moment - this is a Severina L now remanifested as - what is her name, Dolores? Dolores von E. That appears to be almost correct, as I struggle to analyse the vision now more familiarly and more attentively, and more detailed… and she arrives at the station in the company of the sulking Kapellmeister and says
“Let us go, and see the pozzi, and I say, I am very sorry, was there a misunderstanding? and take the girl aside pointedly, and we have a heated argument regarding Z, which lasts for a bit too long to be polite, and the girl is adamant! That she has known Z for many years, a friend of her family, and that it could do no harm to provide rooms for me with him in his house in town, after all…
I refuse, with the power of prescience, and with a heavy heart, knowing that my friendship with a close companion as at an end, I return to the station, receive a glare from the sulky Signorina and yet another insulting glare from the Kapellmeister, untouched, and shaken, return to Rome. I confirmed, in every way, with a power beyond that of dreams, that with one’s imagination and observation, futures are changed, and this must also be, why I am no longer in the pain - due to your suggestion that it is caused internally, and that by a change in my - what, my Geist? the subtler energies of Self, that I am free of the wracking sobs (and intermittent screaming) that had continued unabated for so many weeks, and reaches its peak whenever the Tiere or her servants have provoked me, or when visions come.
Other visions ensue, without pause, attacca! for I am once again in a theater, and my God! It is not a theater, it is the library! this library! It is emptied of today’s furnishings, and its interior wall has been removed, and the far walls have all been outfitted with shelves. It is a library of a different kind now, and a Flügel stands at one end, and it is full of chairs, arranged as a theater, and patrons file in, reverently, quietly murmuring; less formally dressed, and I move among them, notes in my hand, and I sit.
A man looks up as I sit a row behind the Flügel (I will see all that the pianist plays, and can read the score from here with these glasses - I am wearing glasses?) And it would seem, he recognizes me, and he nods and smiles. He recognizes me. It is Ha’s library, given over to a concert hall - how prescient we are to conduct these little salons in Ha’s library, for we have begun something that apparently will continue long after my corpse is dust…
The concert begins with a bit of a discussion by the violinist, and they are talking about - me! How embarrassing. I sit quietly, composedly, as though I am apprehending one of those painstakingly distant conversations about me in the hallway. I can hear nothing. I am Beethoven again - hearing nothing, hearing everything at the same time, what is truly important, as the violinist is explaining the importance of the opus 121 and the deliberate placing of the violin ahead of the piano in the designation of the work - then they did not change that, the Tiere did not change that in her false pursuit of classicism.
At the end of the concert (passable, the piano was better than Wolf, not as good as Chopin or the Tiere, but an adequate interpretation, though he was left in the dust by the violin several times, the pair had clearly practiced, and often…) I clapped politely, and as the audience drifted away, appreciatively quiet, I went to the shelves lining the walls, where a huge collection of books - all on composers, stood, and there was an entire wall! of Wagner, scores, biographies, pictures… my God, the man never did stop.
Someone should have poisoned him! as they poisoned me. But perhaps it is not possible to poison that which is already entirely dead. And I skip, judiciously, the S’s (I do not want to know so specifically how I fared! Well enough, considering that this library appears to be a shrine to me in some way,) and am stopped at the far wall by a myriad of works regarding Johannes, his music, and his life, full of daguerreotypes and later, clearer pictures that are not paintings - have they perfected the daguerreotype then? how interesting! And too bad. They might have got a good likeness of me instead of these abominable ones, I won’t soon be truly recognized here, and I select the one that talks of his early life - and within, daguerreotypes of each of my children. There it lies, confirmed, that Felix was not - is not, my son - and a picture of him before his death! and I gasp. It is the image of Johannes today. How can this be…all of my sons, fathered and cuckolded… dead, with the exception of
And if I were not trapped in the Future, I would have leapt from my seat at that moment, but I am trapped there, and lay a now-cold hand upon the page where it quotes the letter from the Tiere, ‘It is better that the Lord take him than he write such abominable music’ - Ludwig! she writes of him this way! And the biographer cruelly records that she committed him, shortly before his majority, to the madhouse at Colditz! where he languished! this cannot be! for another twenty-three years - is this, Hohenheim, simply a possible destined future? and I read the date on the book - it is - it is - it the year 1990? Nine years before the End? No, that is the merely the publisher’s mark. What year is this? and I look at the programme… yes, it is after the End.
Then you are as good as your word, H, and once again I bow to you, for you promised I would return to live to see past the End. And now I know, why, as my gorge rises, that I am suddenly obsessed with the safety of one particular son. For the others are already by this reading, committed to dust - they are either not my blood, or not meant for this world, and so their madness or lack thereof, is no longer relevant to the vision. This, I was meant to see, and to read.
Abominable music. I shall give her abominable music!
poco a poco
the madman wrote, quickly, decisively, and with increasing resolve… perhaps, I should not refer to myself as mad,
since as the Count had declared, he was neither senile, nor mad, but Scorned, broken into pieces, is that not madness? What is it, if not?
And what of Ludwig, what had become of the boy, and why, why should he grieve so bitterly for him? but Herr Piano Forte Refresco - he has Italian on the mind now, Italians, everywhere he looks, within and without his dreams, oh Rosetti, Rossini, and Respighi
Wait - Respighi is not yet born - what day is it, what year? Is it the time of the End? The horror of the moment in the Library, the daguerreotypes, the plaque on the wall, Stirbehaus… this is the place where you have died, Eusebius. This, the place where you have died.
He is remarkably free, comfortable in his body, for the first time in memory - how long had he been in pain? How many years did those headaches plague him, when he had not noticed anything but the repetition of the A?
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, it seemed to go on
a dance of letters, of chords, of shrieking
and of lies, of lies, of lies
“And it is clear to me that not only have you disregarded my requests, as I lay dying, ignoring blithely the wishes of a dying man who has no choice in his dependencies, but have put my children directly in the way of harm to them, without regard for my desire that they not be harmed! do you understand, Johannes (he continued), what it means, to lay helpless, screaming in agony, and that agony augmented beyond telling, by the certain knowledge that one’s family is being neglected, through no doing of his own? how could I trust you again? how could I look you in the eye, again?
There is nothing I can do about the fact that I love, and regard you, but trust, I could not. My fear and anxiety, concerning especially my eldest son, this night, is extreme, and while you may read these words and curl your lip and say ‘he has no reason’ - think about my reason, Johannes. Think about my reason. I have asked Herr Richard to attend to these matters, which are entirely outside the realm of his duties, or my own treatment from him - because of your rank failure to assist me. My lawyer is fully occupied and unable to do this additional duty for me. I have no one to turn to. My sisters are in the grave; my brother has not spoken to me since the death of my father. My best friend, Heine, lies dying in France, even as I. Even as I. You, my latest, and dearest friend, who has come to my side, have proven also to be my bitterest enemy. How can this be? Is this some horrid destiny, Faustian in nature? Yes, it is a Faustian outcome, to find oneself destroyed by those he loves.”
The madman reads what he has written, which looks so vulnerably plain, in German, rather than in the round chromatic anonymity of the S-clef…
Yes, it is a Faustian outcome…but in this case, the fair Gertrude, in failing to find the protection of her father, finds instead a rescue in corridors of Time…
They will not understand, Johannes may never understand, until he finds himself also in a curious, constrained future, hemmed in by a new, artistic poverty, perhaps holding in his horny palms the smooth, horrid power of an Ohrenklang, a morphia needle dangling from his elbow…
I do not wish him ill…
and a vision overcomes him once again
3 November 1855
I await the return of Lamier who apparently is imminent, and then, if I am not too tired (no I am not too tired, I am passably well enough to hear Wolf play yet another of Schubert’s confections, which warms me and stokes me to the depth of Eusebius’s private passion)
I speak of Schubert’s perfection only to God, Hohenheim - for what dripped from his pen is of beauty entire, and sweetness, and such such sweetness, such Susss…
I could sleep within its folds, and never stir again,
not so much laudanum, please Ha, I ask him, and he raises his eyebrows at me, then you are better? no I am sleepier
I have never (he says to the angel in the hallway, as Beethoven listens), had a patient refuse laudanum, I thought he suffered from vices, but this is not one of them
I wish not to sleep - is that such a freedom from vice? Laudanum and Rothschild do not mix. And back to the Jekyll and Hyde Thema…. alas
and so you returned to Z upon your father’s death
yes he was drowned
drowned? yes is that significant
and then you were - Florestan?
have you forgotten my name again?
it is a dance of letters F e s a
E s e b s
do you see this - not
a s c h e s b !
it seems self evident to me
and Ha becomes frustrated with me
please, Herr S , we have already discussed your exceeding cleverness, this is not helping
it is a dance
and letters correspond to notes
and notes correspond to names
and names correspond to notes
Florestan smiles a slow smile. “You truly think there is something tremendously wrong with me, don’t you.” He made no question of it. Ha lowered his eyes, first, then regarded me fully and frankly. He is an honest man, is Ha.
“Herr, S, you wish me to be utterly frank with you, and so I shall. I can see this, and respect it. You have just spent a matter of days screaming unremittingly. Did you not find that unusual in some way?”
“I was in pain.”
“Have you felt this in the past?” He professionalized to cover his bridling at Florestan’s quick response.
“Yes, if I must be also quite frank.”
“When was the first time you were in pain and spent a period of time screaming?”
“I was, hm… it was in 1826.”
“And did you relate this to anything in particular?”
“Of course. Pain.”
“And what was the source of this pain?”
“Let me see, this was February. The death of Beethoven.”
Ha makes a concise note. And the period that it lasted? A day and a night, Ha. And the next time? June, the following year, I believe… the death of Schubert. yes, we heard of it a day later. And this time? two days, two nights. I loved Schubert more. So this has happened before - oh yes, yes many times… and your father? when you returned to Z for
returned to Z…
ha hahahahaha I began to laugh then,
from the irony of Time… Z
returned to Z.
from Asches to Zwickau.
from A to Herr Kapellmeister Z.
the power of the Wellspring is certainly not simply a matter of manipulation of letters. It cannot be that simplistic that one builds an alphabet of notes?? is that not what music is?
and what is so funny Ha groused then, because I was having a private moment of personal revelation beyond anything I could share with him, intellect, English and all I am sorry Haaaaaaeeerr Direktor, something struck me funny then
the death of your father - of course not - my brother’s sister died and my younger sister, too, within those three years, make sure you write all that down too
how did that affect you? well… people do die, it was not as though it was the death of Schubert or something… and why did you think that
because of the Wellspring the well
A long, long quiet moment, a veritable endless pause - Wolf should not extend those pauses, they cause a bit of frustration,
always always had trouble with the pauses - quiet, I can do, pauses I cannot, and the lingering pauses of the latest impromptu causes me to fret
and so I inflict upon Ha that which he cannot endure, which we share
a lingering pause
before the Intermezzo
before the coda’s opening
we are not at the coda yet, Hohenheim. We are at Inter
and I am ashamed to admit, that I gave Ha quite the game of evasion, or rather, Florestan did
and then of course there is the Meister Raro
the elusive, sloe-eyed Dorothea
my sweet, she is nothing like the Tiere, she is forthright, she is beauty, she is (not demure) but certainly of beauty and boundless magnanimity to me, and never, ever withholds from me
oh Liebe, Liebe, I whisper in the night
liebe…fairer by far than spring
Eventually, Ha’s frustration gets the better of him and he terminates our interview. He is a man who knows the limits of his temper! (as I do not.) Hats off, a man with self understanding, born to be a Psychiater. I wonder, does he regret accepting me into his asylum? Undoubtedly. Perhaps he did it for Art.
And Johannes now,
Where to send the letter? ah, Schneider comes, and do not tell Ha
such intrigues are only called for under desperate circumstances, for has not Ha himself, for whatever ignorant reason - his own naiveté, perhaps? Not understood the extent to which Johannes conspires against me with the Tiere… he will see a copy of the letter soon enough
I lay my (falsely exaggerated) trembling hand upon the head of Schneider, who bows it in a newfound humility - I am curious that following his confession in the hallway to Ha, and those angry, whispered words, that he was not also discharged? as Herr Doktor B had been…
Is there such complexity in these travels across time that everyone bears multiple faces to the world, and so often, a change from one sex to its opposite, for ever is my vision and auditions by Schubert appeared to me as the loveliest, most cherubic, most delicately feminine of angels…the very Muse of Music, I thought of him - her
and therein lies another mystery
but back to my letter, and Schneider, and my hand upon his head,
Heavily do I commission him, and reverently do I seal the letter on each seam with candlewax, and the seal which only Johannes would recognize as mine, a code not known to the Tiere (unless he has told it to her,) and have taken the precaution also of translating it to French to slow her down - she has no French - so if she tears it open in a rage of curiosity, there is no reason for her to suspect it is from the mysterious correspondent von Heine which I have used heretofore, when Heine agreed to a code for our correspondences during the time the politicians in France became wary. I laugh aloud, ‘von Heine’ - from Heine’s place, Paris - the Paris of the mind
the seal I use
and share the jest with myself only…
Schneider is to give it to him personally and say it arrived from Paris. But will the Schwank be understood?... and will the Tiere know?… it remains to be seen.
It grows exceeding difficult, Hohenheim, to conceal the return of bloom to my face, and as well, the gnawing return of appetite. Wolf helps in this regard, and shares with me something of his dinner, in stealth, while I feign abstinence but for wine
And the vision, Hohenheim, of another future, remarkable in the extreme, by its ordinariness, and paradoxical peculiarity, another concert, informal… held in a sort of biergarten, crowded with youths, and the occasional female companion… too few women, and the face I now know so well, and recognize - how could I not? the sulking Italian, Z, in a slightly more reserved, modern, how shall I say, English? guise, slightly rounder in face, modern in dress, much as these youth, but thin to an extreme, like the Ohrenklang composer from - New York - this is all Amerika then…a Milan of another kind, a Milan of the mind. It is a future of horns and of bläser, as I had long, long feared
In this vision I take stock of my self, my being, and once again, am in feminine form, in the flower of first womanhood, in company with Z, many years my senior, much older yet than I was when I first courted the Tiere, his arm tightly wrapped around my shoulder, toying possessively with my hair, grasping with his hungry absent hand, my shoulder, and wanders to caress me openly, even as these horn players bleat and blatt out a profoundly rhythmic --augmented! half-demented! extremely rhythmic, and this, I like, particularly the lead - what is that, I ask him,
a tenor sax he replies, sulkily, his voice is rich, deep, much as Herr Dr. B - perhaps voices remain, and his hand grips and draws me in and I say
ow, not so hard Robert and I squirm away, to meet the reproach of his eyes, warm, brown, angry - is this so very different than that other Milan, yes, because, even as I resist him, there is that hot sensation of desire, I so well know, the desire that comes with stress and conflict, that is sparked from the possessive hands that linger where they wont
so sit down and listen and don’t cause a scene, you are ruining it all for me! he hisses, and pulls me down into the seat, where I am alternatively consumed with both rage and sensation, assaulted by the sensuality of the music and the swaying of the man with the horn, holding it as he would the body of a woman before him, and a few heads turn from the sensation of a scuffle, and my hair comes lose and flies about me
this is so very strange
and later, elsewhere,
the murmured groans and whispers, the sound of music now, a different kind of music, that drowns out the more private sounds that could be lovemaking, or could be murder, and I see as though from great distance, what should never be witnessed by others, before the vision fades
what has this to do with music
slain by sensation?
the uproar of the sheer impact of chords upon the blood? for they provoked him, and provoked, he was inspired, and thus inspired me, but inspired to - what
is this what my lesson is all pointing back to? that there is no value whatsoever in sensation of itself, no aesthetic, no meaning, no inspiration to be had, but the inspiration to rut
but the Tier within me, and its champion, Florestan, is provoked profoundly by this vision, he had never distinguished between the lust of men or the lust of women - it was all simply the same thing only differing in details
But there must be an answer - it is a question that has always plagued me. What has lust to do with music? Hohenheim, the man of answers and of destiny, you must know the answer to this question, you must know the solution to this riddle.
he seeks through force, to capture
I await the vision, or your return, to puzzle out the answer.
This? is a letter, Herr Richard. Florestan narrows his eyes at the Psychiater. There can be no doubt in the highly-perceptive mind of Ha, now, that I have recovered in a definite and undeniable way. Whether this is a temporary respite, or a permanent cure, remains to be seen, however (as he sees it) - whether I can pursue a more painless, less dramatic death (as I see it), also remains to be seen. It is a matter of Geist.
I do believe you - however, I do not believe in myself; preferring in my lazy madman’s way (tut!) to put the responsibility all upon you, as Schneider here, for whom I have a developing affection - abjectness brings this out in me, as it did in the case of Johannes - for he was of the most abject!, would prefer to believe that my touch upon his brow had somehow inspired him to greatness at piano. He will be able to say, with alacrity, that he has been touched by that which abides by the Wellspring, but it is not myself. Nor, do I believe, by analogy, that you, Hohenheim, are that Wellspring but rather are servant of its occult forces, the mysterious and vaunted Illuminati who have been so rumored to have served at the whim of God and their own curious understanding. If these Illuminati serve the purpose of Art, and the curbing of the unholy regime of the musical Philistines, then I am with you.
But it appears other than this - I am not with you but rather, you are with me; for I did not ask (not aloud) for this service, and yet, you serve, without visible form of payment. This journal is no payment! I have done much thinking this, as the absence of pain and the hammering of whatever Liszt had been about in Bonn (he must have gone by now, for it is silent, ever silent, but for bursts of random Mozart concertoes which never trouble me but sing me to rest quite deliciously, in the subtle world.( The subtle world is in many ways, at peace.
I have often… but back to my notes, for I could sit and write in this clef for hours, about the most irrelevant of imaginings, and I worry that Lamier will not be able to attend me as closely (I get to this presently) to be able to supply me with adequate paper for the task, nor Wolf to be able to spirit them away as innocently penned manuscript for his private ruminations. He is not so simple as to think they are music! I told him, to line his birdcage with them, and in the creation of the messes at the bottom of the cage, a great spiritual secret would unfold. He keeps canaries, apparently, at the family Hof at Neuschloß.
This he agreed to do, reluctantly (if only at my request)
To the letter. Ha Rallentando. I cannot read it, he says to me, blinking in his owlish manner. And Florestan, with his crashing success in annoying Ha, the piano of my nightmare, is once again sorely tempted, and it is cruel thing, so I must restrain him this day though it is less of an entertainment, and so I do.
We dispense with pretext, Schneider dresses me, or rather stands critically in my room as I dress myself. One gets used to almost anything, including standing in one’s underclothes tying one’s cuffs while observed at close range… yes I have got used to anything, and I appear as if I am a normal man, in normal circumstances, in the sitting room in audience with Ha, for my psychiatric interview.
It is in French, I reply. Yes, I read French, he confirms. Then - you cannot read this? No - he shakes his head. It is plainly French! I say, slightly alarmed, and take back the paper from his open hand. I read it, it is in plain French, for all to see, and I read the first sentence aloud. “In German if you please” he replies, deeply disturbed in some unaccountable fashion.
And so I translate, one word at a time, into German, and he nods, for me to go on, and I peer up at him from time to time.
“We shall leave the content of the letter as a separate topic,” he replies when I cease. “Where did you learn this language?”
The Piano peers at me again, in some deep distress, and I cannot for the life of me understand his problem with my text - content aside. He waits.
“In school of course, along with everything else.”
“That!” he points, now querulously angry. “Is not. French.” He rises, and flees through the door! Unaccountable, unaccountable, that one so composed as he, who withstood the screaming and thrashing Herr Baffling and Paralytic at his most awful and unmanageable, who did not hesitate to tie me hand and foot when I threatened to shake myself to pieces and stab myself to bloody wounds with whatever came to hand, just to put out the fires of agony… is distressed to impoliteness by the appearance of a single angry missive in French. There is most assuredly something greatly amiss here.
A period of time passes at which point I take up my notes and begin once again with pen, transcribing the notes of the previous day, along with a brief theme which is, I must confess, probably a simple variation on one of the restful Mozartian ditties that sooth my sleep each night (where they come from, I cannot say) until the piano blusters back into the room, a text in his hand.
“Read this, if you please,” he says, and his glasses are perched high upon his head. “Aloud.”
He gives me a text - it is Candide, in French, that French of the past century, which I know equally well as modern French. After five sentences he reaches over, and claps the book shut in my face.
“Now - this” he hands me back the hand-copied draft of the letter. Oh. I see. It is one of my imaginary keys, transliterated, an exercise I had been doing before the last screaming episode. Of course it is French, but it is not in direct alphabetic notation; it is an offset into S. If I am enlarging my reputation as a madman, I have done well this day.
I debate with myself whether this helps or hinders my cause, and Florestan has aught to say on the matter. Do I explain the cryptographia for him? Or let him believe I have lost all to madness? Hm. There is a larger subject here, however, and that is - that unless Johannes is exceedingly clever by half, that he will not be able to discern any one letter of that text. But then, neither will the Tiere. I smile to myself, secretly. Not so secretly, because the anger of the piano is growing rather less piano and rather more forte, particularly now that I am smirking.
“You are deliberately attempting to test my patience,” he says then, his voice growing into an angry threat. I meet his eyes. When threatened, one may flee or one may fight.
“And about the content of the letter?” Florestan replies, supercilious.
“Since it is indecipherable, that does not truly matter, does it? You had this delivered?”
“It is decipherable!” Florestan retorted instantly, his pride hurt. “It is just that I did not reveal the key to it.”
“The key!” he exclaims. “There is a key?”
“Naturally, as with all music, there is a key.”
“Music? You said it was a letter!” he argues. The petulant child in him seems to grow to full manifestation before me. And we continue in this vein, the haughty Florestan and the argumentative schoolboy, who has been tricked by a clever and not quite sporting schoolmaster - I feel somewhat attired as schoolmaster today
Something I had remembered, about - oh yes, schoolmasters, and the schoolmaster’s wife. While I leave Florestan to his Hour of Distractions and Disturbances to Keep the Psychiater Busy, I wander in time to Herr Baruch and his lovely wife, who had taught me (he the classics, she the more rudimentary arts,) while a youth in Z, and when he was away to provide a Seminar in München, she took up a rather more aggressive curriculum with the young Skulander. She was suitably similar in difference of age between myself and this Robert of the future (the irony had not escaped me, even then.) Skulander who after which, renamed himself Bellerophon, which resulted in the early termination of my lessons and my start at the Gymnasium.
I had, it would seem, a need (Ha draws back and attempts once again to re-engage on the topic of hidden handwritings and Jekyll, and Hyde, with Florestan all this while) to orient myself in terms of masculinity, having been provoked and disoriented by the female visions of the Milan of the Mind. And I meditate, as I can easily do -- now that I am not battling with the internal demons of Music, or with the Tiere, while Florestan argues forcefully in favor of one’s creative right to keep one’s thoughts to oneself alphabetically, even while under psychiatric treatment,) upon the possible difference between the forceful seduction of a youth by a woman, and the forceful seduction of a girl by a man.
I have seen both through the selfsame eyes, in the selfsame day. For there is a difference, undoubtedly, as I see it, as I witnessed them, - and yet, there is no difference. It explains as well, my mad desire to rescue the Tiere, however misplaced it was. And this, if Ha were not so profoundly distracted by languages he cannot translate!
Oh dear, he has fled again, no doubt to find another book. My problem, I now see, is a conflation within my soul, of two motives: The first, to act out that powerful desire to be a seducer, rather than interminably the seduced, as I had been so many, many times. The second, simultaneously (paradoxically) to save that which was innocent from its own seduction, for I could not bear to see what I had seen: the flower of youth fed upon by age. I know what that is like; and it is unholy.
I rationalized to myself - if I must be utterly, entirely, brutally frank in the hour of my death, Hohenheim… that I could do no harm to her. Having expressed to me repeatedly and with great force, that she had pledged herself to me body and soul, this was all the Erlaubnis required to act upon it. In retrospect, and in light of my vision of the future, this is also wrong. A child, a youth, a girl in the throes of her first passion, regardless of her apparent outward aspect, cannot decide such things! They must be decided on her behalf. I should not have consented to her. Ultimately, Wieck was right. Legally. Morally, he was wrong, for he did not act on her interest, but on his own. He sought only to preserve his own domain, and the forbidden caresses he stole at her piano, and I found out later, elsewhere.
These are deep ruminations, Hohenheim, and for the birdcage entire. She could not decide, being too young. And I should not decide, being too selfish in my own aims. Then - who decides? Lacking a parent of discernment (I did lack one, since Johanna desired only to make me a little Johann Christoph Friedrich, and with the passing of August I had no true mentor in my own home), neither did I, decide. We are a generation without parents.
To other things, now.
Lamier at length comes. Encouraged by my apparent normality, not to say actual ‘peacefulness’ and self possession, pulls the blinds completely shut over the windows, and shuts the door. Produces a key! and locks it, leaving the key in the latch so that it cannot be unlocked from without, but must have the lock broken in order to enter; or the door removed from its hinges.
“However did you convince them to give you a key?” I exclaim, amazed.
“I didn’t,” he replied with a small smile. “I absconded with it.” Then, the smile broadened. “I would like privacy.”
And privacy we need, for there is heavy news; though none of it a surprise of any kind to me. The Tiere had taken up residence nearby in the Grand Hotel, having suffered from some medical problem of a female nature (no surprise) and was attended quite scandalously by Johannes at her bedside, after which certain sums were paid to certain hoteliers to keep such details to themselves (all known, also no surprise.) In the interim, lacking proper supervision, my eldest, after making the loudest accusations, sought to make escape with his younger brother Ferdinand in tow (who did go, but turned back), and Ludwig, undaunted, made his way all the way to Seeheim, before before disappearing entirely. He was under the impression that his father was at Heidelberg, according to his brother.
And so, he is lost, though - if the biographical notes I read in the book from the Future are to be believed, not permanently so, for he will be found soon enough to be interred in a madhouse for the remainder of his days. And there is, in the present news, a brief yet profound excitement in me: Flee, Ludwig! do not return! find the places of your destiny, independent of the tyrannies of Wieck and Company! He may yet succeed, or he may yet die. But in dying, he may succeed.
I am undisturbed by Lamier’s intelligence. Tonight he is distracted, and amazed at my recovery, which is nothing less than miraculous to him. These accusations, no great surprise, and Ferdinand remains absolute and adamant, that the child Felix must be adopted out and sent from my house, since he is no child of S but the issue of cuckoldry and a disgrace to our once respectable home. I restrain my laughter. They are nothing if not bold; they have the makings of soldiers in them, my sons.
I pray my daughters will one day demonstrate such courage; for I believe, despite my other prejudices, that daughters are made for better things than bows, and dresses, and the curling of hair, and the playing of pianos!
And Lamier has something to say in his own behalf. This now, is a surprise. And then ensued his rather lengthy confession, composed and saved up for that moment in which, either I died, and he would speak upon my grave, or I recovered, when he would speak to my face. Losing that quality of self possession I hold so dear in him, and which has earned him his rather more comfortable living than my own, he makes brief, artless allusions and many references to the past, and our troubled friendship.
He glances repeatedly at the door, securely locked against intrusions and perhaps as well, closed against listening at keyholes (it is clear he does not trust this), and then inquires...
“are you well enough to take a brief walk?”
and I bridle - but Ha Piano (he waves my objection away),
“I have taken care of that, but it is up to you, I am not comfortable in these surroundings…” he looks to and fro, I have never seen him quite so furtive.
I agree to go with him, if he has made the proper arrangements and legally twisted the proper arms, for I do feel quite restored, and there is no reason why I could not take a walk, since it is part of what is done here, of which I have done so little. And so, without backward glance, nor leave from anyone, we depart, straight out the front door into the full light of early evening, into the Sebastianstraße, where he takes a quick right down the lane toward the Gasthaus Zur Funf Rosen, where he is staying.
He performed the same ritual of privacy when we were in his suite - beautifully appointed with gilt and modern paintings of salons, one of which, I would swear, contained an image of Chopin at the piano, when viewed at distance… and he did not hesitate but retrieved the Rothschild he had bought for me. This evening was planned! He had advance notice of my return to myself, and had decided already to try to remove me. But - why…
But what a relief to be outside of the unrelenting plainness of Ha’s hospital! With its smells of cleaning and of laudanum and laundry! Into something with the odor of perfume, the smell of flowers, the scents of harvest still lingering and the air not close or musty from rain.
And we sit, and pour wine, and talk, as we had never talked before; first about the day we spoke of the Tiere and of Felix, and of my first attempt to die, and to my very great surprise. My dear Charles, for all of his self possession, has lost it entire tonight, perhaps it is the memory of companionship, for I am nothing more than the very image of myself that he remembers, as though I am well and whole, and not dying. He weeps, embracing me with both grief and happiness, and takes on that aspect he had that night when he said the words I did not heed…
It was a night for not heeding, Hohenheim. I did not heed you; because when Charles asked, I did not refuse him. If this means he suffers a despair of passion for the remainder of his days, I know that for an hour he was happy, and I was as happy as circumstances could allow. I saw no reason to refuse him; there had arisen in me the female soul that cried out for love, and needed the regard of someone who did not bear the variously aspected face of B/Z - someone who cared about me, for myself. And as well, it had been far too long for Florestan to remain unslaked, since the little business of the angel and the Morphia, and the little businesses of Wolf late in the summer. And if I was certain of nothing else, it was that Charles loves me, and always has done. And of all the people I have ever loved, I had never confused my feelings toward Charles with the lusts that tangled themselves together with Music. If that be excuse; then let that stand as my excuse, for not heeding you.
Before it grew too late, he saw me back to 182, and in through the door. Peculiarly, it seemed, for all the time I was gone, no one was about, nor missed me. I had been left in his care entirely, and by the time I arrived at the top of the stairs and Charles lighted the candle at my table for me to encode this, my newest confession, I felt somewhat neglected at not being missed. Perhaps - I had not left at all, but rather, departed into Time, and if I so willed, upon the manifestation of Dorothea I could have Charles as my companion instead; as gentle as a hart, as courageous and as stealthy as a lion. So I must ask, what other consequence may ensue from this indiscretion, Hohenheim?
But onward… The night is half gone. I grow tired now from the intersection of wine and laudanum, though I avoid taking it as much as possible - the Piano appears to think that it was only a matter of time that the laudanum caught up to me, which is why he insists I still drink, but it does not mix, does not… mix, I prefer the less profound abashment of Merlot! One cannot always have it one’s own way, and so the Rothschild in far greater quantity, battles the Laudanum (the lauded?) for supremacy in my Geist, and I fear that one or the other won out! Because I wake with a lurid stain of ink upon my hands and brow,and a large blot upon the page around which I must work to complete this missive. Fortunate for me that my visit with Johannes is not for at least a day -a day in which my angel can apply whatever solutions she has available to removing ink from the skin - scrubbing, most likely, and bleach, to remove the stain
et in hora mortis nostrae
Now, I am visibly peccatoribus, from falling upon my pen into drunken sleep while writing, and my face is half-mashed by being pressed upon the desk. But I compose! myself once again, and before anyone is up and about. Though Schneider is supposed to be waked for observing me, he is nowhere in evidence. I hurry to change into proper attire for sleep and lie abed while vision overcomes me once again. I will wake and watch, now, for the next long while. For days, perhaps. My vigil is only now beginning.
My angel spends much time with a tiny annoying brush scrubbing my forehead, and when I have had enough and shoo her away, there is still a grey stain remaining there. The hands, it is harder to clean, since they are creased and since I do not like getting them abraded. I realize much too late in life, how much I detest having my hands held, and she clucks over me, as does Schneider. None says a single word regarding my sojourn with Lamier from the evening before; nor do I dare to ask. But prior to this cleaning up procedure, which interrupts vision and letter-writing both, I am transported to another time, more by will this time, to explore the untraveled path of the Dichter, had I followed the course my lately-dearest Lamier would have had me pursue…. and it is a theater
A private theater. A theater of the mind, darkly solemn, with a large desk, and before me, a book. My book. A hand-bound, cloth volume, and the pages of the book, loosely unfolded. And before me, a device that takes my voice, and causes it to echo, as though in a large amphitheater, rather than this small space, surrounded by glass. This is my book, and these, my poems, sacred to me, as a bible is. I never let it part from me. For the time I am writing it, until it is complete, it lives with me, and is carried everywhere; it is my beloved. All this is much the same as in my youth, as I pursued the self-proclaimed career of Poet, the unknown Gottfried Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, cousin of Johann C.F.v.S, Knight of the Golden Stone, whose initials GCFS make a passable motif for opening overture.
My reverie is rudely interrupted by the arrival of Johannes, in breathless haste. Haste, the subtle thief of time - I must be constrained, constrained, for to transform myself back into my Gottfriedness for my vision, I must needs shed my S, my C, my F (perhaps, keep the F), for there seems to be nothing left of composition - at least not of the notational variety. As well, I find myself, with the passing of Florestan’s keening cello desire, and the waning of my femininity, completely empty of him, and there is little left to meet my haste-filled enemy and rival.
He comes weary by an order of magnitude, with the bearing of a man who never sleeps. Upon his face, that expression I have seen so often in my own mirror, of a man exhausted by the whims of his mistress. At once, he sees the mark upon my brow; and he embraces me, gingerly, as he has had to do so much of late. Having regretted the harsh tone of my letter, I am presently glad, and grateful, that I had written it with such cryptographia, that he could not discern its harshness; and now I can dilute with compassion, what Florestan had so pointedly and arrogantly argued in imaginary French. Its intent, of course, was to get him to come, so that I could express to him in person my rage and disappointment at the fate of Ludwig, and his complicity in another crime, as yet unadmitted.
“You are better,” he notes, all surprise, and grips my arms more forcefully, as though to test their strength. Indeed, Johannes, indeed I am better.
“Somewhat,” I reply, “though I am stained with sin...” Florestan jokes, embarrassed, because the spot went only from dark to light grey, and still very definitely grey. A symbol. Johannes makes a non-committal sound, and I gauge his state of mind.
“What sin is this?” he replies, and I discern that today he plays at Analytic. He and Ha, apparently, have already had an interview.
“Oh, the sin of indiscretion,” Florestan replies, incisive. “Do you know, I took a walk with Lamier without the hospital?”
His face could not have registered more shock! Florestan sees that his latest blow lands squarely. “Richard said nothing of it!”
“You can bring this tale to him then.”
He bridled! He rose! “So it is this mood once more! I fear for your imminent death, and come at all speed, to be told I must wait out the week - ”
“All speed?” Florestan pauses… at length I learn a pause! “How can this be? When I sent for you, and you did not come, I became so distraught I asked both the Direktor and Lamier to make direct inquiries about my sons! You were nowhere to be found or asked! I was frantic with anxiety! I screamed for days!”
“You - you what?” Johannes’s Tier takes on a questing, Rottweiler aspect, turning his nose to the scent. “I was not told of this! You did not send for me! You did not write! Did you write?”
Florestan nods. “Of course! And in great agitation.”
“I received no letter!” he bellows, and out! and down! the hall, he disappears, clattering loudly on the stairs, and undoubtedly - into the Direktor’s office. That is that, for the time being. I return to my ruminations, careful now to avoid any further peccatoribi on my fingers or face, and pour more judiciously my Rothschild, lest its dangerous intersection with Laudanum put me back into a swoon…. he is gone he is gone he is
the madman, finding himself in an idle moment of reverie, returns to the curiosities of the Future as it refashions itself before his eyes, with the power of the Wellspring
I am in a great station - like the Eisenbahnhof I saw in Milan, but this is entirely covered over and sealed off from the world, and beyond --it must be a Flugzeughafen! For the flying machines are arrayed without, connected by tunnels - I am going on a trip via air, and around me, neither amazed nor afraid, are men, women, and even - small children. One such child, amongst her kin, distantly regarded over a set of thick glasses by their mother, eyes me with a serious regard, to the exclusion of her baby brother dragging on her arm and her less-young sister pointing at the gliding craft outside the window; she stares at me unblinking, and I feel my heart stutter under her gaze -
Unaccountably, I am loaded down with a large parcel of children’s toys I had bought on a whim, thinking of giving them to K’s children upon my return to… where might I be going? Where am I on my way to? Chicago. That seems right. If I am on my way to Chicago then where am I now? I look around me, still disoriented in some profound way, and look at the signs above me: Ah ha. Cincinnati. Some Amerikan aboriginal name - so - Amerika, again. But Chicago, that is in the center of the land. I would have traveled to Amerika with the Tiere, had I lived… and so it seems, I will. And the regard of the girl is upon me, and she points ---
this has happened before!
“why is that lady -” she begins again, and I understand this vision, now. And the mother, less forcefully (different mother, not German this time) takes the girl's arm and turns her skillfully, 'now Elizabeth, don’t point at people that way’ and the girl glances back - I know that look, for it is the selfsame Rottweiler look - and gasp.
JOHANNES! and as the name announces itself to my mind, as though sent there telepathically, the little girl (blond, white-skinned, Amerikan in every way), smiles mysteriously and nods.
I had never known Johannes to throw his thoughts - perhaps this a new skill, for here re-embodied in the diminuitive blondine is the selfsame beloved, blond Johannes of my dream and nightmare. But seeing him thus, in such innocent guise, I am struck, as I never am by his Tier Johannes Komponist guise, by the calumny of his betrayals; perhaps I love him too greatly in his present form. This is not true of the Future, however, and my emotions boil with the turmoil of my anger, my frustration, my Zorn, for his betrayals. As I never am, in my own bed while I lay dying. Oh Johannes, I feel so little love for you in this Future!
But despite this distraction, I feel moreover a curious excitement, and find myself weighing whether this or that trinket, that particular item, is suitable to give this or that child while embarking on a flying machine. Are we all lashed down immovable so that we cannot walk about? It could not be, for all are attired casually or formally, as they wont, and even these delicate children, do not fear.
I find a place to sit and wait. At length, and due to some peculiarity of Destiny or Fate, the child Elizabeth wanders directly toward me and looks into my eyes. “What do you want now?” she says straight out, as though there were no break between Johannes’ departure from my hospital room and this moment in the Future at the Flugzeughafen. It seems what preys upon her mind is the selfsame Thema.
“I want to learn more about music,” I answer, ambiguously positive and at the same time, non-committal.
“What more would you need to learn?” she asked with amusement, cocking her head, Tier-style.
“Oh - I want to learn the piano. Do you know how to play the piano?” I ask, smiling now, the thoughts between us come and go like strikes of lightning. So Johannes, you have also transcended Time and come forward to meet me at the Flugzeughafen!
The girl smirked at me, “Of course!” Then Mama, somehow ever nearby, comes, and says “All of the children are musical,” and herds the rest forward to greet the talkative stranger, and nods in agreement when I reveal that I have these toys… is this why I have toys? Did I have an appointment? The little one, Sean (these children all have Irish sounding names), Elizabeth, the oldest, and Allison, the dark-eyed one, all of them, somehow… familiar, yet, I know this one, this Johannes of the future, as her hand reaches forward to touch the ring on my finger, lightly… my…. F - ‘that is so beautiful’ she murmurs softly,
“It is a ruby,” I reply, and something within me has a wild desire to remove the ring and give it to her, but under Mama’s watchful eye that would not be permitted - yet, I consider, and remove the ring anyway, and hand it to her. Mama perceives this as she should, as a showing, not as a giving. I realize it for what it is - it is a showing, in rehearsal for a giving. She takes the doll and the puzzle, respectfully returning the ruby by placing it in my upraised palm, unaccountably - and I gasp at the sight - there is an inkstain on my hand exactly where… exactly where - and I open my book of Gedichte (I still have one, but this time it is a different book, a book entitled Sorrows) and there, upon the page
Eusebius, who could not live without love, ceased to be…
He could not live in the world, abandoned, and hear one note of which he dedicated to her, played
written in the selfsame ink! It is the moment before, the moment BEFORE
how can this be? how can this be of the future, and yet, be that which I had first burned…
and I look up again, from my sitting room in the hospital, and there is Johannes! Walking at a slightly less frantic pace, into the room, the full size male Tier Johannes version, with his Rottweiler costume complete with brown coat. And sits. And with a look of sheer self-abnegation - no oh no no no
do not get on YOUR knees now Johannes - you know me better than this! He refrains - the impulse is there, however, and lingers, for he is now openly weeping, and lays his head upon his arm and sniffles, and I am moved to comfort him, and as my hand moves forward I see the ring I had replaced upon it, and the blond curls beneath my fingers
and she looks up at me, with the very same look of guilty yearning,
I did not want to do that to you, I never meant to hurt you, Robert, you I loved so completely, but she… she…
So you come back to meet me here, in this unlikely city, to travel with me to Chicago, to tell me this, that you are sorry? That you pay a penance as well, that you are now recast in some innocence? How do I forgive you, Johannes? how? tell me
“I do not wish for you to suffer” he says instead, and the F of Florestan’s suffering and late-found pity wishes no longer to do anything to him, for all anger is drained away from me, leaving only - that empty echo of pain, that which is purely emotional, and a tear falls from my eye,
“But I cannot stand for you to die”
“It will be easy, Johannes. Think - you will not have to bribe hoteliers for the cost of your place in my bed and to protect yourself from accusations of adultery,” Florestan pronounces. But instead of bridling, he sobs, and the scalding tears that ooze from him seep, gradually, into my sleeve, and my hand, of its own accord, comforts him, even as Florestan’s words lash him. “You will not have to hide from me, or let my son go missing.”
At this, he raises his tortured, puffy eyes to meet my own. “What? what what what!”
“Is not Ludwig missing? That is what Lamier told me last evening.” My question is plain enough, but the confusion that manifests on Johannes’ face, causes even me to doubt.
“Since - since when? Where is Lamier now?” I give him the address. And he is once again gone, leaving a stain, equal in proportion to the stain upon my hands, greater than the stain upon my brow, where his regret and guilt leaked onto my newly-cleaned and pressed suit. His apology, it would seem, from my interjected vision, must come in a future moment.
And I hear music…
The sweetest angel sings, and it is not with ears but rather in my imagination that I hear her, and the light around is suffused with accompanying beauty. I am transported by this, and am reminded, with a moment of distraction, of the time when I sat in the library of C, in Colditz and heard the angelic voice raised to the accompaniment of a Hammerflügel, played by the physician himself, another August,
Anxiety in August,
The agony of my yearning for Frau C, when she stood beside the klavier and sang… I was transported by her beauty and by the beauty of her singing (I was only a youth, only a youth,) but with the wisdom that permeated her being, she knew my feelings. At the completion of her song, she cast a gaze of such fondness upon me that I would die from my yearning, and be content in my death.
But there was more to this vision, it was the music itself, Schubert, the pure, holy sound of his setting of the Ave Maria…. it was shortly after this first private recital at Colditz, that I heard of Schubert’s death - I was at Heidelberg by then, and that was when Lamier first stood vigil with me, in his tender, selfless way… when I wept and shrieked and pulled out more than a salutary amount of hair. He stayed with me through it all, and when at last I ceased, comforted me. I first had my vision of Schubert, then. And when he died - when he died
I could not stop weeping for the tragedy of it - for the ceasing of him! Perhaps this is what Johannes feels right now about me, which is why he weeps and clings. Yet, cannot Johannes see that I go, not to cease or to disappear, but to preserve the best part of myself from a more ignominious ending: to later, reemerge? He will yet see, if my vision be true…
I am reflecting, deeply, upon my first vision of Schubert,
and I am, most uncharacteristically, transported into a metaphorical rather than a literal place, where stands an idyllic forest… and I hear…
ora pro nobis
ora, ora pro nobis
Before me, an open clearing, empty but for a brilliantly jewel-encrusted stone that rises from the ground, as a small monolith, or altar. I approach it with some fear, an apprehension that is countered by the attraction and fascination I feel simultaneously.
Bubbling out from the stone is water, or what appears to be water, clear, cold, and dark as ink in the shadowy light, and I know what I must do.
Kneeling, I plunge both hands into the fountain, and that stain that had spread across my fingers, my broken F, my impotent C, my mute and hidden A, felt a deep chill, a chill unto the bones themselves, and permeated me, until I was shaken, utterly. Until I could think of nothing but that I must remove them lest I be shaken apart! But did not, for I must not. Because this is the Wellspring, and I am its keeper.
I look up, across the glade. There stands an angel, not merely a nurse in a dim and dusty hospital room, but an angel of light, suffused with the glow of Heaven, she, or he, I am at first unable to tell, with wings of purest gold, winking brightly in the shadowy surround. The love of the angel palpably radiates from her - I make the decision it is a She, and She opens her mouth to sing
And rather than the single pure tone I expect, what emerges is the voice of ninety pieces of orchestra! Nay, more! In a volume of pure solar beauty, with the majesty of a sunrise breaking through the trees. My hands have lost all remaining feeling, as they bathe in the water that gushes out before me, from its hidden place,
the place of sapphires…
The music swells, and overwhelms everything, exhausts every tone, every scale, every crescendo, and increases, until it has gone beyond the range of normal hearing of man, and still I hear it, Celestial… this Angel, I know, is not any Angel. It is Schubert, in his true form, after casting off the mundane garb of his Tier form, this…
This were no tragedy! Would I not choose this guise? In preference to my own poor, shallow Tier form even now? I could not weep for Schubert, transformed back to his natural state - but could I not weep for myself, enamored of it, and bound here? I attempt now to withdraw from the fountain which has flowed now over arms, and shoulders, and splashes my face, covering me with the chilling numbness - but also with the delicious taste of it, which I hold to my mouth with my cold, unfeeling fingers…
and it will not let me go…
and that was when I began to scream
this was the second time; for this had happened before, but not this way, not so compellingly unstoppable…
I saw this same place Ha,
I was here
the night I learned of the death of Beethoven
and I saw him, here
On his deathbed, his hands shook and he coughed relentlessly,
every few minutes,
he was only hours from the end, it would seem…
he was reading a score of Schubert that was brought to him,
and he said, at last, setting it down,
“He is doing Heaven’s work, so he should be let to do it
And now, since he is ready, it is time for me to go.”
And Beethoven spoke nothing more.
Within the week following my vision, Beethoven was dead. That must have been when Beethoven made way for Schubert to become its keeper, but he himself was already ill unto death…
and when Schubert carried Beethoven with the other pallbearers to his final resting place, Beethoven’s spirit returned with him, in his spiritual form, to his rooms, and there, gave the Wellspring into Schubert’s hands….
as Schubert did, two years later… into mine, as I lay weeping, after the screaming,
and when it did,
ha. Certainly that all makes perfect sense to you?
It was after this, I fell upon the novels of and poems of the writers I had met, and I wrote to P, and applied for study with Moscheles, (since Weber, the master hand-selected by August to teach me, had also died)… it was a moment of crisis, and in that crisis
Eusebius and Florestan rose, as though from dream, and whispered into the ear of the credulous student Skulander… and it was done - and he was E, and S, he was F and A…, from this he made his Major C, and then, together they could compose. But only in Holy Silence, when he put his hands into the Wellspring and came from them the bright bolt of fiery liquid that shook him, and when he woke, it was complete - he could neither sleep nor eat then, nor speak --
Is that what you wanted to know, ha?
I could never understand, Hohenheim, how Wagner could always be talking. If he was talking, how could he listen? Whence came the inspiration if his mouth were always ajar, spewing forth? This question I asked, when in dream I beheld the singing angel that roared out the motivic power of the second movement of the C symphony into my pen, the ink pooling into the staves as though etched there by the fire of God, and I observed it with stained fingers, and swollen eyes, still weeping,
how is it done, if one does not keep utter silence?
And the angel replied
with the F-minor quartett.
and tormented my nights with music
and hummed, unceasingly, into my burning eardrums
and it did not
nor did I wish it to
This sound will form the sphere
From which the Future storms
this redeemed creation then will form
“Do you find,” Ha asks me sometime later, when I return to the text, the context, the subtext, of his Jekyll and Hyde thesis, “That you cannot, or do not, chose who you shall be from moment to moment?”
“I find it is difficult to choose whether I will wear this, or that shirt,” Florestan replies with a late haughtiness which Ha has no patience with any longer, and he draws himself up. “And as the poet says, the clothes maketh the man,” he adds smartly in English.
“Do you have no regard for your well-being, Florestan?” The name in his mouth is an accusation!
“Who?” Florestan replies coolly, glancing to one side as though to look for another person in the room. Ha! haha, his chin comes up. He is beginning to lose his temper.
“I am concerned,” Eusebius smoothly appends, “about my son Ludwig. My meeting with Johannes ended so abruptly. Ludwig is missing. Has he been found?” I gaze upon Ha’s excellent glass lenses, and at the reflection of myself in the midst of Ha’s smoothly Teutonic visage, and beneath the composed face I know, he twitches, and then twitches a bit more.
My pauses improve ever so much more as I approach the moment of death! Rallennnnnnntannnnnndooo
So aptly named, the Psychiater regards me, even more slowly, rallentando, testing his own response against the limits he knows are within him. “I have had to admit to myself, Herr S,” he resumes the formal address, at which I smile slightly, “That you have an uncanny ability to annoy me. I am sorry you feel it is necessary to do this; but I think at last I understand why. You have much to conceal, do you not?”
Florestan is piqued by his humility and his paradoxically bold rejoinder! “I admit nothing!” he repeats in refrain!
“I have made inquiries, and investigated your concerns for your children. Frau S has written to me, and has that she knows exactly where all of them are, and insists that if you and I only allowed her to, she would bring them to you directly -“ ah, no Eusebius, do not listen to him, he is only repeating what she knows will tempt you.”
“No. “ I reply with finality. “No, no no. Would you bring your young son here to visit with me, Herr Direktor?”
He dodged the question with skill, returning to his original refrain! poco a poco! “And you have much to conceal, about your sister, and her illness and death? About your father? He drowned too. They both drowned.”
“There are a lot of rivers in Saxony,” Florestan replied, supercilious.
“And there is a lot of grief in you from those rivers in Saxony,” he waxed Literary then - shall we dispense with the third movement of our Adagio then, Ha Piano, and become Literati? Florestan grouses.
and like a shot of a cannon
with no warning
with the absoluteness and finality of the fall of a moonless night, closed in with cloud
I was elsewhere
and I knew where
for I had seen these rooms, these places, these pits, these dungeons
the prison for the insane at the Schloß Colditz
there is where he was!
my son, now grown, though slight of stature, stout from inactivity and confinement, but thin in the limbs,
Interred, much as me, but not in such extravagant comfort, with the Direktor of a fine research institution feeding me wine and jelly and humoring my acerbic Hydeness
but in silence and pain and waiting
And I go to him and put my hand upon his shoulder, and he looks up at me and recognizes me. “Papa?” he says, and I hold him, for long, long minutes. I hold him, that crushed, broken spirit that wanted only to be loved and held, but could not, because he was constantly, ongoingly tormented by fear and confusion, ever pulling away, even when I beckoned him
I knew so well, how he felt! For was that not how I was, ever? And the Tiere, having used her patience up on me entire, whom she could not at length cheer or cajole, she had nothing left for Ludwig, and when he grew, so early in childhood, both lame and slow, or so it appeared…unable to make a Staccato ! (not all children are meant for piano, I objected) she cried,
“Look at him, there is something wrong, how could I give birth to a monster!”- right in his presence! and he ran to me and buried himself in me, what was I to do, and what could I say,
don’t be afraid, your father is a madman too, Liebchen
His eyes have wandered now, and move fervently, his head comes up as he follows the movement of shadows, and hums, quietly, the music of the Ghost Realm that I, too, hear. That he can hear this, is both uncanny and unsurprising, for I do not know yet, whether I am real in this place. The mad have abilities the sane do not have, in the Ghost Realm…
that is what we have in common
“Ludwig?” I ask.
“You can see me?”
“Do you know where I am?”
“Yes. You are dead. Mama told me you are dead. You drowned in the Rhein.”
“I did not drown, Ludwig. I died in the hospital. But I still live, somehow. Does that make sense?”
“Yes, Papa. You are an angel. I always knew that you were an angel. I saw you before I was born.” His words are direct, inarguable.
“I, an angel, you say?” I am amused
“You are an angel of music. Angels have to go back to heaven, and I knew that, even when I was little. But you have come back to me. I knew you would. Or I would kill myself here. I have waited for you. And now, you have come!” he sighed, happily, “just as I prayed.”
This, Hohenheim, one more request I make of you! That if Ludwig is fated to this eternity of night, interred in Schloß Colditz for twenty-three years! Then let it be but a moment to him! If time is so plastic! and further, that in my own sojourn into the future I can in some way, be of comfort to him, and return, when he needs hope in his dark night!
Can this be done? If she abandons him so thoughtlessly - if Johannes can let her! - can he not have solace? He did nothing to earn this fate, due to my misfortune
And it must be! For you have done better than this, even as I woke from the vision to find myself peering at two images of myself in the lenses of Ha’s glasses once again, feeling somewhat hypnotically drowsy
the night comes again
And the Future impends. I am seated in a small hall, drafty, with snow drifting down outside. And blustering in the door of the hall is a young, blond woman (much smaller nose, I might add), and with her, the slightly shambling, stout about the middle, and thin-legged, unmistakable form of Ludwig, my misshapen, mad son, exuding a much more cheerful exterior! Grasping her arm as she sheds her coat and hat, and they both come to where I sit, to greet me, with that direct, unerring look… and I glance down at her hands
there is nothing to compare with a woman’s hands upon a piano
It is she. Those are her hands.
Happily behind her trails the boy, grown to a sort of quasi-manhood, cheerful in the extreme, dutiful and respectful, he swallows my hand in his own and smiles, full of happiness, and my soul is gladdened
and her name is Carole
and his name… of course - is Robert
He seems to dog her every step, and she, solicitous and kind - the woman I always imagined her to be, if she were not a clockwork toy manufactured in Leipzig for Wieck and Company, that soul I imagined to be,
my Geliebte… but was not… and never could be, for She, my true Geliebte, She is a Mystery…the woman I see in my dream of the future
I am wrenched back by the rudest possible shaking, into the Present - I am being shaken entire! The hands of Schneider, now in their more businesslike and less musical mode, forte! cruelly pound upon my back, and I am turned this way and that! As I wake from my reverie, I begin to struggle in earnest, with that new strength born of painlessness and renewed life, and I hear coughing and shouting and there is a bit of business with a -
needle, no ha you promised!
And I manage to knock it from the hand of the Psychiater where it shatters into brilliant motes of glassy dust, drizzling a sticky white fluid onto the floor, ritardando, and I laugh - realizing much too slowly, lento - that was the wrong thing to do
Schneider circles behind, wary, to seek a hold with which to subdue me, and I put up my hands, put up completely - “please Ha,” I cry, “I will cease! do not, just do not stick me -“ and I hold stock still, pulling the pieces of Florestan and what is left of his dignity, back together, and seat myself on the edge of the bed. My shoes lie somewhere beyond, for which there is no explanation - Something tragic happened while I journeyed away
He peers at me over the edges of his glasses, and he too, becomes still, and I attempt to read the score of the last several moments, in the mirror of his face. I try to discern the melody. No luck.
The Psychiater, poco a poco, rittttttttttttaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrdannnnnndo
he moves quite slowly
and in his hand, as though magically summoned, is another syringe
but did you not promise me that
you need something for your wind - for we may have lost you then - he says
my - wind?
oh… the wind
I cannot argue with whatever this most recent tragedy had done to me. He is a medical doctor, after all. I endure him as he sticks me with some other thing, something clear, something cool, a drug that will open my veins and free what sticks in my lungs, for I had ceased breathing, then, he said - and they were reviving me, I feel little, and there is no bolt of disorientation as with the morphia, merely a slight flush, and feeling as of fever, a rushing, such as I once felt from the singing of the trees, the sighing of the stars, and the weeping of the river Neckar as it labors through its defile under the Schloßbrücke.
Why would they do that, Hohenheim? revive me? I have tried so hard to die! Alas
And then Ha does an amazing thing! He leans toward me carefully, peers directly into my face, and I see his eyes as though through a distorting lens - there is something very wrong with my eyesight then, and he says to me,
“Now perhaps we can achieve with pentothal what we could not with morphia,” and his face becomes quite ugly with Scientific Intent
“Pentothal? You said it was for my wind…”
“And so it will help, that was no lie, but there is an interesting side effect of this medicine, my dear Florestan, in that it has a curiously compelling effect upon one’s conscience.”
“You expect me, then, to give up my Holy Silence?” Florestan retorted, too disinhibited to withhold reply.
Ha nodded, his mouth a grim line.
And to my utter horror! Ha did ply him with questions, quite incisive ones! Regarding the purpose of the Tiere’s trip to Britain with Johannes, and the Tiere’s mysterious medical condition, that Johannes also refused to discuss… Florestan - you have me undone! -- told him all he knew, without shame, for he had no desire to conceal the crimes of the Tiere from the Piano any longer. There was no longer anything to lose. And so he concluded, perhaps correctly, that the prospect of destroying an innocent babe in the womb (as they are able to do in Britain nowadays) because of my unwillingness to legitimize it in some shadowplay of pretended intimacy, would cause me to go to pieces? Yes, because, Eusebius, ha, Schneider, and all who might also hear,
she had done it before!
Feast of St. Engelbert
The aftermath of the unholy session with Ha’s drug is a great despair, of unwilling revelation, and of pain - not the pain I had dispensed with, but the less tangible but no less stark pain of forcibly waked memory
For I remembered, without willing it, and disclosed, without desiring it…
The horrific despair… lento, lento, deep into the vibrant pain of the viola, where it weeps alone -
When the young Miss Wieck, freed from her captor briefly for her summer holidays, exchanged secret letters with Eusebius, who remained at all times utterly engrossed in his work, or so he let on (though it was quite the opposite, and quite contrary.) He instead spent his droughts lying on the sofa in Felix’s den, reading novels in English and composing alternative verses to Shelley’s turgid romances. And Felix, working on a Mass in C, would take in all that he said in conversation, or read aloud, commenting intelligently and at regular intervals, though his composition was uninterrupted (thus was his genius, Felix’s… he himself could not write like that, and never would, and could not live up to Felix in any way…)
“You think I write fast!” he said. “I cannot wander more than two feet from a violin!” he retorted. “You should hear tale of Schubert” and he would regale S, while he held his thumb in the second canto of Cymbeline, with tales he had been told by his father and his patrons at Gewandthaus, about Schubert’s immense virtuosity as a composer. “Self taught!” he exclaimed, arms waving. “Self taught! I have spent my life in the hands of tutors who always know one more little thing to do better!” And then he rounded on S - “and YOU! Who taught you composition?”
“Well… Dorn - ”
“Dorn taught you theory! Who taught you composition, Lieber?”
“Exactly!” he proclaimed, triumphant. “Now - what do you think of this bit I just did?” and then Felix would take out his violin and race through the soprano’s parts…
“One day,” S said, dreamily, “I will write something that will express how I feel about you, Felix. You are the only one with whom I feel truly complete -”
“Not Frau C?” he chuckled. “I supposed you had finally found that women were the end of all searches for you…” Then he pouted, setting down his pen and advancing upon the reclining S, lying outstretched with his book of verse. Never - never. There was that about Felix that required reassurance, ever, ever…. and so he would dedicate something worthy of Felix, in time - when he had mastered a form worthy of him. Until then, there was only his regard, and his love….
And it was while Felix finished “Paulus” that he received the letter with invitation to meet Miss Wieck in Dresden, and when he paused, guiltily, at Felix’s door, as he readied to leave, the conductor waved him on. “We all must marry, Lieber. What you and I have, will never be touched by THAT.” And not looking up again, he returned his pen to his inkwell, withdrew it, and began penning, at impossible speed, a fresh sheet, humming quietly to himself.
The meeting with Miss Wieck in Dresden was tense. Florestan remained waked, stalking, while the heroic Miss Wieck sought in every way to conquer our hero the Confessor, who pined away, not for a mere lust, but for his desires to be fulfilled in a more traditional role, that of a suitor. But at the hotel, the girl dispensed with cloak and muff and threw herself into his arms, her hot mouth hungry for a Nice Snack.
He was flattered, abashed, and embarrassed, and eased her down from her starting piano position to something a bit more ladylike, and they retired to her rooms, and were served dinner, by which time she had assumed a more normal breathing pattern. Each time he had seen her, she had grown more willowy, and more refined, and the weeks of tours, with their attendant dressing up and dancing and curtseying, had refined her further; though nothing could have refined her hunger. They dined, and talked, of their frustrated engagement, and of how badly they had missed one another, and spent a goodly amount of time reacquainting themselves with the texture of one another.
The desire in her was a palpable thing, like a slap across the cheek, like a splash of a waterfall, and he was transported by it. And had he not outsized her by a significant margin, and exerted every effort to restrain her, she would have simply ravished him. So much for the theory of being the Seducer. He backed her down with wine and an invitation to try some of his new pieces at the piano. Their rooms were well furnished and he had arranged already for the one with the piano. But to conceal the fact of the arrival of the most Lauded Preisträger in the Empire, he had had to accept the delivery of a normal, average, piano. The distraction worked adequately. But she told him in no uncertain terms that this was merely a momentary postponement, and she attacked the first arrangement of his Opus 18 with the same intent that she attacked his person earlier. Then! Proceeded to comment with greater energy about how she would like various things rearranged in the harmony, and he was both outraged and amused.
“My dear” he said, gently taking her hands away from the proof manuscript, “The composer knows best, what the composer would like. It is not the decision of the pianistin.” And he took the pen from her hand. To his utter shock, she did, then, slap him.
“Don’t be condescending,” she hissed. “I have to play this gobbledegook. You just write it. How long did it take you? A day, a week, maybe?” And to his own surprise, Eusebius’s eyes welled up in tears, and he put his head in his hands. A child has made me weep, he thought to himself miserably. She had no idea what it took to write that piece!
And you will never let her know, whispered the voice of the angel, from the heart of the Wellspring. But those hard hands once again sought him and said “Oh don’t cry, I didn’t mean it, here, give us a kiss,” and she insinuated herself into his arms then, and tasted his tears as she mouthed his cheek,
Please, she whispered, please, I can’t go another day without you…
But he was checked. The memory of his Spring, and her death, and the bleeding horror in her rooms, all due to their lack of restraint, chilled him, and doused all arousal even as she waxed passionate… for the more insistent she became, the colder did he
and this was ever so
They must not, and they must not - for what would come of an indiscretion, here, would be more horrible by far, than what occurred from his indiscretion with Claudia F…. and may even result in his being attacked in the street, were Wieck to discover her in his rooms on a secret assignation in Dresden,
but by the third evening, after much more entreaty, hours more of kissing and thrashing about on sofas, hectoring and argument… she produced the one thing he could not argue against…
Now he had no further excuse, did Eusebius, for he fully intended that the tempestuous pianistin would be his Chiarina, as foretold by the prophet Felix. After all,
It would annoy the old man.
But ! that was not enough
For he regretted, after much more tempest, and much less affection, his offer,
When his continued suit for her hand was summarily rejected,
She wrote him a terse letter in which she said she must depart immediately for Britain, so as to have an operation only performed in godless countries (like Britain) for the purpose of disposing of an unwanted pregnancy, and she felt he should know, since he was the father…
and all of this
Florestan had spewed out to Ha in one shot of pentothal, to my utter humiliation.
“And so,” Ha concludes, staccato, leading up to a forte flourish, “You concluded that you were responsible for the unborn child then?” and Florestan nodded, biting a trembling lip. “And that now - you believe that she has done so again?” Nods. Again. “And another life has been”
And with the speed of a flute run, Florestan rejoinders “not just one - for my son Ludwig”
“Is safe at home in his bed.”
“No!” he shrieked, and Schneider had to come, and hold him down for his thrashing about. Florestan spent some time shouting “no” repeatedly, like the honking of the English horn in that horrific Liszt composition I can never, ever forget. Ha, one would have to see that cold, stone tower
to appreciate how wrong you are.
The cure, he learned, for unwanted pregnancy, in godless countries (because French letters are not all G), was the taking of a large amount of a dangerous poison which floods the womb with a toxic fluid that destroys what grows within, and then forces a quick expulsion of the growing child and its caul within a matter of half a day. In extreme circumstances, surgeries were done - I believe that in this current case, the latter probably, since she was confined for somewhat longer.
“Papa?” the voice of Ludwig sounds in the night, and I open my eyes. And I see him, sitting in the darkness, like a blind thing, questing by turning his face this way and that. I answer, and he turns toward me, eyes shining. “Papa, there is something you should know - so that you will understand why she left me here.”
“She left you here because she is a monstrous unfeeling beast, who would do anything to hurt me, and this was the way she could hurt me the most!” I declared.
Ludwig shook his head, seeming still somewhat blind, or at least feeble in sight. He looked at me slightly aside, as though his eyes were in some way damaged, and he received a clearer vision indirectly, than when viewing his subject straight on. “No, Papa, that is not why.”
“Then -- why?” I ask him, with a slow dread, and know that he has the truth.
“Because of what I told her, Papa. Just as you, I found I could not keep silent on the truth - not after the things she said about you.”
The things she said about me? not important, not important Eusebius, just listen to the boy
“Go on, Ludwig,” and I pat his shoulder. He is palpable! to me; at my touch he shivers, and he clings to me - this is a physical sensation! I wonder at it.
“I told her that she would not be able to keep on killing me; because I was an angel, like you. She could make me die once, but I would come back, and bear the scars of what she had done when she poisoned me in the womb, which is why I am lame, and slow -
“You told her that? What do you mean, poisoned you in the - ”
“Yes, Papa. I died before, and came back, because I had to,” he said simply. “To remind her. I am her reminder of you. That is why I returned. And when she was unfaithful, I reminded her. I will stay here, as her reminder.” His voice was clear, calm, determined, and if I might be quite honest - rather chillingly cold, for one who is interred and should be beside himself with grief…Yet there was little grief in evidence, just a cold resolve. “That is why she locked me away…” he laughed then, a small, nasty sound. “She didn’t want to be reminded…”
“Reminded of what?”
“Of her sin. I am the reminder of her sin.” He laughed raucously then. “You may have been driven to madness, Papa, but I was born mad. I am what she made me. I am her madness!”
I nodded, thoughtful. He was quite right. I then asked him if he had any objection if I were to ask that his imprisonment be relieved by the Manipulation of Time, and he said
“If you wish it, Papa. And I would like to see you again, if you can come. But I will always see Mama again.” He laughed again. “Always. She may stay away from Colditz, but I can go to her in her dream whenever she falls asleep…” he laughed again. “She has a price to pay, in sleeplessness. For you, and for me.”
The sound of Ludwig’s spiteful laughter woke me from the depth of dream, and I was covered once again in a cold sweat.
we return to our Adagio
The wedding of Wolf to my angel is set for Christmas. Will I last that long, Hohenheim? I must!
And I must, must see Johannes…
8 November 1855
I have had two visitors today, in addition to Charles, who has attempted without success to abscond with me a second time. He spent an hour pouting, and insisted that his story regarding Ludwig was not fabricated - nor did I accuse him of it -
yet someone had
“You have seen the Tiere!” Florestan declared.
And he lowered his eyes. “Obviously,” he murmured.
“And she denied it!”
He nodded again, slightly dejected. “You said you did not want to hear any of what she said, or any news of what she did.”
“But with respect to the -”
“I wish,” he interrupted, “We could be alone, truly alone…”
And - I am sitting up, quite well and recovered still, and embrace him, sympathetic but firm, and take the opportunity to speak quietly into his ear,
“I do care, it is just that we both have to accept what comes…”
And he sighs -- eloquently, he sighs -- and just as I knew would happen, two scalding tears escape him and he turns away, embarrassed at his own feelings, and the fact that he is not thinking of what is truly important -
Charles pulls himself together at last. “Yes, to news then. Yes, they found him, it took several days and the news was only just confirmed this morning. He is quite unwell, but it is said he will recover. She had no good answer when I asked who was watching him - you wish to know this?”
I nod. Florestan - cease! I brush off his objections, and quell him - momentarily
“She said that she could not watch him constantly, and that he was an impolite, rude, and undisciplined child, and incapable of doing as he was told. And it would be no surprise to anyone if he were waylaid, or fell in a ditch and broke his neck. And that she had accepted this fact, of his inevitable death, without qualms or fears.”
“The beast!” Florestan cried, and his voice echoed impressively off the stairwell outside the open door. And Charles hurries to close it.
“No more! no more of her! She will not kill Ludwig off!” he carries on. “I have this on good authority. He will outlive her, and dog her footsteps to her grave!” Florestan’s laugh, an echo of Ludwig’s laugh. My God, is this where Ludwig got that nasty laugh? It is the selfsame!
“Good authority?” Lamier, puzzled, does his best Skulander imitation then with his head turned to one side… oh the dear thing… I can think of nothing I would rather do than to put my arms around him.
“Don’t listen to me. I am a madman,” Florestan concludes. And at that moment, we were interrupted by the brooding mastiff, thinner by half notes - Johannes.
“I was told you awaited me,” he groused. And he sits, and eyes Lamier with the deepest suspicion.
“You - “he growls, as territorial as any mastiff, and I snap my fingers at him.
“I am over here, Johannes. Pay attention. Lamier has brought me the article by Wagner, at last. Tell me what you think of it?” I push the Zeitschrift over to him, open to the page.
“It is not signed by him," he declares. How can you be sure it is Wagner?”
“How could it be any but him? He has written me interminable correspondence, Johannes!”
Just then - like the ill-omened opening of Beethoven’s first symphony in Wien, universally frowned upon at its first introduction to the Public - Wolf begins to play, clearly, and with executory perfection, the piano reduction of Opus 54, no doubt for Schneider (and perhaps too, in hopes that Johannes would be intrigued enough to speak to him.) I wait for Johannes to finish reading the article, all the while smiling tightly.
“He has always resented Mendelssohn," he says at last. "He has just come to make a mania of it, because it will get some attention so he makes it an issue of Jews…”
And I peer at him
Watch ever for persecution of the Jews -
“So,” Florestan draws himself up, warming to the battle, “You not only cuckold me, you have now in the blush of youth become an apologist for Wagner and his racist extremism!”
“I am not an apologist!” he parried, too quickly to cover his gaffe. For I, having made a compound accusation (learned THAT from Wieck) positioned him such that, he could not object to the latter, without assenting to the former! Positioning, as in piano, is everything.
“As well as a cuckold,” Lamier echoed the thoughts of Florestan with exactitude.
“Twice over,” Florestan added.
Johannes stared, first at me, then at my lawyer, and then again, lingeringly, at me. And then -
“I have no quarrel with you, Robert---”
“Tut!” Florestan interjects loudly, cutting him off.
“He knows, he already knows!” he shouted, now exasperated to exacerbation. “There is no need to hide it! He knows that you have more than one persona!”
“He forced many truths from me,” Florestan intoned darkly. “Including those about you, Johannes. Most interested, in fact, about what you had concealed from your interview with him - the little matter of your relations with my wife, and how it contributed to my despair, and the child --"
“You got it right this time. Don’t you know what she said to me, Johannes? This is what loving that woman is like…”
this is what loving that woman is like
schneller, a la Marcia
When he got the letter, dropped it in the dust
he ran! he hired a carriage, he rode by night and by day… he arrived in Leipzig
far, far too late, and there was no note waiting for him. And he went to Wieck - not having learned his lesson, not by a quaver! not by a grace note, not by an
The old man did receive him, haughtily. “Would you like to play the piano? It is a good sound. Latest thing, it has four pedals.”
“I don’t play the piano,” he replied, tempted despite his inner resolve, with haughtiness, and he found himself sulking.
“Oh yes that’s right!” he exclaimed happily, brandishing his cigar as if it were a cane - where was his cane? He could not walk on that leg, before “You are a Komponist now! Make much money at it? Find a wife?” Wieck snickered, a nasty sound.
And he stared… at Wieck
If only to annoy him - he could, he would, he should endure her
“I came to see your daughter.”
“You may not,” Wieck smiled, contentedly.
“Is she here in Leipzig?”
“She is not. Cigar?”
He demurred. “When will she return?”
“At some future time,” he answered, clearly enjoying S’s discomfort; Florestan was gradually becoming enraged. Wieck could sense it, and rose easily to the game.
“Then you will not tell me?”
“You have no need to know. You are not her suitor.”
“I most certainly am!” he retorted.
And Wieck shook his head, denying.
It was at this moment that Florestan uttered his threat. This which, when carried through, ended me, and likewise ended the fulfillment of the charge given by the Angel of the Wellspring, which otherwise compelled me. Had it not been for Florestan’s pure hatred of the man, how different everything would have been!
“I shall do as I see fit," Florestan swore, "And there will not be a power on earth - including you and your might, that will stand between me and my desire…” he said, in a rather Schillerian manner. It was only partially rehearsed, so that it would come out rather more Sturm, and rather less, Drang; and did neither. It sounded petulant, and precious.
And he laughed. The Madman laughed! “You are a good composer, but a bad actor. I’m not afraid of you.” And he turned his back on him! to return to his den.
There was nothing to be done. Repeating himself would seem weak. Angry pronouncements could lead to more laughter, and he wouldn’t bear that gracefully.
“I come at her invitation,” he ventured, tossing the words at his back. And the Madman, after hesitating less than a semidemiquaver, half-turned.
“That could not be. I have forbidden her to contact you.” Wieck peered at Florestan, then, sizing him up. “She would not have defied me.”
“She most certainly has; and has every right to do so.”
“For a jurist you have a poor understanding of civil law,” he sneered. “Do not come here again.” And turned his back on Florestan once again.
“If you say so. But that will not deter me.”
“We shall see about that.”
There was nowhere to send a letter. There was no address at which he could inquire. There was only waiting… and in the waiting… in the waiting
There was an offer from Wien once again, and another from Venice, via Felix, who had made a good amount of noise about the symphonic movements he had completed, and which he had announced. And so, distracted by necessity from the Chiarina and her remove to Britain for the horrific purpose of abortion, he set out for the nearest destination, in the company of the conductor, and a new acquaintance, the violinist J, who had a great interest in the possibilities promised by his first sonata for violin.
He went to Wien, and there met up again (embarrassingly) with Alma M, now visibly with child, with her adoring spouse. M was dashingly Bohemian, at least in appearance. But in conversation, dull to the point of vacuousness. S tried to picture, but could not, a dinner conversation between the brilliant willow, and this healthy seeming, Schillerian (in looks alone) dandy. He searched her face, while they sat at dinner, for some indication there of a secret happiness, some quality he had overlooked in M that would make of these two a match; and searched as well, for that flicker of memory that would indicate to him that she had found in him, S, a moment of solace or of light that would carry her through the dull months and years ahead. Indeed their eyes did meet (after long hours of almost encounter in the overcrowded room) and she mouthed, more than spoke, the two syllables that told him all he needed to know: “Danke.”
Wien was a whirlwind, rife with talk of the new music and its exemplars. Felix did not so much squire him about (maintaining a discreet but politely attentive distance), but retreated, after making the appropriate introductions to his fellow musicians, patrons, family members, and those who, like S, were enthusiasts of Schubert. The centerpiece of this excursion was of course, the private dinner with the ladies of the land, the Esterházys, who had been personally taught by Schubert; one of them was said to have been his lover. It was, more than piano, the string instruments that interested the royals, however; and J was hastened forward to play with the elder Caroline at the piano, one of Schubert’s sublime sonatas. S and Felix were invited along, but not to play.
After the interminable dinner, returning in the carriage to the city proper from the Schloß, S inquired of J, “have you been before?” and J nodded, still somewhat intimidated by the presence of the Now Important Florestan, and the incredibly famous though socially cool, Felix, who sat quietly as they returned to the hotel. J glanced up fervently at Felix then, which puzzled S, until Felix waved a hand at him and said
“So, tell him the story” dismissively.
And J told S, in an embarrassed whisper, in the darkness of the carriage, that while he was a very young violin student, he was hired, along with his fellow musicians, from the Hochmusikschule in Eisenstadt, to play for a very exclusive, and very private party. They were selected, not for their musical ability, but by the observation that they were youths who could keep to themselves, did not gossip, and were otherwise serious young men. This party, he found out later, was for the old Count (the same that T had met earlier, in 1826.) At this party they were asked to play, one after another, and in duos and trios, pieces that they knew; and that during the performances, the Count sat with the most curious and fixed expression, unmoving, at his table, a glass of wine untouched, and made no motion or comment of any kind. “It was the most unnerving performance I have ever given,” he said.
Felix interrupted, “after, after” and looked away as though not to witness what J was going to say next, and yet anxious for it to be done.
“Then after this, we were called back - not all, but a few. About a week later. And were offered twenty thaler to come to another party. We had not been paid that much the first time. It was not to play the violin…”
S gasped. “Twenty tha - He paid you for - for what? He -“ He stared at Felix, who returned his gaze unblinkingly then looked back at J. “And so now, you have an open invitation to them?”
“Yes. And that is how I was selected to join the orchestra at Eisenstadt,” he replied, his voice now dropped below whisper to an even lower register. “I hope you haven’t lost all respect for me.”
“For you? Not for you!” S exclaimed. “Felix! What is the meaning of this?”
Felix did not recoil from the question, for he had anticipated it. “It is as I explained, Lieber. It is vital to understand what the public considers Important. However, when it comes to the rulers of the land, one needs to consider what they personally see as Important. I prefer it to be my excellences as a musician.”
Privately, however, their conversation was not ended, and what followed later that night in Wien was a hot row with Felix about the risk S ran in his plan to provoke Wieck by way of a lawsuit, which he had discussed in theory with Chiarina in their previous secret meeting. And was revealed in the row, that Felix had contrived several concerts, appointments, and excursions to distract S from it. But S was determined; even moreso now, since his eyes were full of the visions of children and youths, serving the pleasure of the powerful, in the guise of Music.
Upon his return, a scalding letter lay waiting for him at Felix’s house; demanding all details of his visit to Wieck and the reason for it, and detailing the punishment she endured upon her return from abroad, including cancelled concerts, and the insistence that she double her practice on scales only; and no new pieces. Upon reading the letter, he was incensed; and it instructed him to meet her once again in Dresden; at which time she would bring her brother Alwin, who had surrendered a career in music entirely; to prepare a deposition for the court. After much argument with Felix,who was set against a lawsuit, he concluded the courses with his private students, prepared the autographs of his new Sonata for his new, enthusiastic publisher, and set out for yet another secret meeting.
this is what loving that woman is like
Sex, to the young Chiarina, seemed more of a dietary than a tactile thing, for ever did she have to have a part of him to nibble, to kiss, or even, to bite. There was this violence in her that found its expression this way, and many were the times he drew back in alarm from some hard nip on the ear or neck. “In another life,” he said half-jokingly, “I think you must have been a race horse, nibbling for sugar,”
Ill-timed, for she bit down hard on his ear then and he yelped while she exclaimed “You are making fun of my nose again!” and he sighed.
“Ow,” he repeated. He must now make it all up to her, despite exhaustion.
She was right in this; but it was not a consciously cruel thing he did; It was distracting to him; and he could not look at her face-on without a moment of amusement at the almost comedic mismatch between her thin face and her dominant nose, which required a certain tilt of the head, and angle at the piano, to minimize. It was these things, these petty things, from which the resentments of the Tiere built up over time: in the ongoing battle that was their romance. Following the trip to the Godless Nation, which she did not mention (nor could he inveigle her to discuss it) she was, in passion, entirely unrestrained, unloosed, insatiable, as though she had not suffered an unholy and horrible operation (perhaps - it was all a lie, to manipulate him!)
On the second day of his visit, Alwin did indeed come, and insisted that he add his own complaints about Wieck to the brief to the court. And so he prepared it. In regard to the unwillingness of Wieck to allow his daughter to marry a suitable man of appropriate station (a Herr Doktor Komponist!) who was able to support her, though she had not yet attained majority. And his Lack of Reason in So Doing.
Their first tack, of course, was not the bishop’s court: It was to gain the consent of C’s mother. When approached, however, she insisted that her consent was irrelevant in light of Wieck’s refusal. The Madman had already paid her an unannounced visit, making it patently clear that if Chiarina’s mother desired the continued enjoyment of the liberal maintenance he had bestowed upon her, she would not cooperate in S’s lawsuit, nor say anything untoward about him. The woman was utterly cowed. Chiarina, with the energy attendant upon full rebellion from her warden, attempted to convince S to throw in many false accusations regarding him, the last of which, she blurted, a claim that Wieck had murdered his son. He put down the pen and stared at the coiffed head of the girl, as she concentrated upon the page whereon he had suddenly ceased writing. “That he murdered my -”
“No matter that it was a daughter. Courts don’t care about daughters, they care about sons.” His heart began to trip in his chest and he gripped her shoulders in both hands.
“What are you saying?” he demanded, and she shrugged off his grasp.
“Don’t! Robert, you know how I hate to be grabbed like that!” And he withdrew. Then there grew a slow dread in him, that she would imminently reveal the sordid horrors of the Abortion to her brother, and then refashion it in some fantastic way as Wieck’s fault. Were she to do this, and were Alwin to announce it, S would likely go to prison - not Wieck! -- for condoning the irresponsible actions of a minor child, in his behalf! If confronted he would not deny that he had had relations with her! He hurriedly plucked the drying sheet from the desk.
“What daughter!” he cried.
“The - the child of the putzfrau, that - what was her name, F… that you carried on with so daringly and made pregnant.” He colored, gradually turning purple. Of course she knew about that. But what had that to do with Wieck -
“What about her?”
“Well surely you know! He kicked her down the stairs, Robert! And beat her until she lost the child, of course. She had to have told you! Can’t have that kind of scandal at Wieck and Company!”
“He did what?” he shrieked - and it seemed, the shrieking continued,, to the strains of the opening minor ascending modulation of the first movement of “Spring”
And it was the robust and quite prescient Alwin, this time, who following S closely upon his rush out the door, expertly dived into the Donau and pulled him still gasping, not yet unconscious, from his second attempt to drown himself. He was in bed, then, for a week, and refused to see Chiarina, though she came daily and banged at the door, shouting his name. Alwin eventually chased her off and sat with him, feeding him soup when he sat up. S did little but weep, and roaring through his brain were themes for music that were not yet written - but consumed the sleeplessness of his nights… and he dreamed, waking, of the Wellspring, but could not look upon the face of the spiteful girl who had with such pleasure, divulged a secret that had broken him wide open, bleeding. She had known all along…
and that is why!
The whispered voice of Ha at length penetrates the madman’s reverie. The room is now dark.
“Are you awake?”
“What time is it?”
“It is night, Herr S.”
“Where is Johannes?”
“He has gone to his hotel. He will return when you are awake. Is there pain?”
He shook his head. “No, no no, the theme has been selected. The theme is not pain. The theme is - pain… it is another kind of pain, a pain of the soul”
Ha leaned in, barely able to hear the whisper of the madman, whose dry words rasped like the torn leaves of a discarded manuscript, and drifted onto the floor.
“Herr S, are you with me? Florestan?”
“Eusebius is dead,” Florestan pronounced, in a low whisper, which sounded ever so much more like the whisper of the young Ludwig, lying in his bed, with a cut of liver pasted to his forehead, sipping a draught of laudanum for an injury. An injury, an injury… it is all just - an injury… and Florestan came back to himself just the slightest bit, and sat up.
“Did I say anything?”
“Much whispering - Florestan, it is Florestan now?”
The madman focused his gaze upon the twin images of his face in Ha’s glasses.
“This means so much to you. What does it matter? What could it matter? What could it possibly matter!” He crescendoed from a low whisper into a loud shout.
“Don’t you wish to recover?” Ha replied, unperturbed by the violence in Florestan’s voice.
Florestan laughed. “No! Whatever gave you that idea? Let me go, Ha! You have no idea what you are delaying with these drugs and these interviews! Let me go at last! You cannot save me!”
“But I can try,” he looked at his hands. “My profession demands that I try, and not simply accede to a suicide’s desire for oblivion. Florestan laughed again, this time bitterly. He laughed Ludwig’s laugh.
“You think I seek oblivion? You could not be -”
“Did I say anything?” he repeated.
“Nothing that I could make out,” Ha answered, honestly, once again inspecting his nails. He was profoundly uncomfortable, Florestan could see that, with a growing prescience. “However, your concern for your children, and your reservations about the actions of your spouse and Herr Professor B are adequately founded. There has to be a better means to help them. And I can, now that I know, perhaps effect that means.”
Florestan waved away Eusebius’s vain hope, that somehow Ha was Important enough to rescue his children from the Tiere. “No, no. You are not Important Enough. She will crush you, as she crushed me. She is Lauded, and Important. Only Johannes is Important Enough, and she will listen only to him, and that, only to gain his regard and get him to serve her pleasure another day.”
“I think you are mistaken,” Ha argued.
“You do not know!” Florestan retorted.
9 November 1855
This morning, Johannes trudged back; however, from the look on his face, I conclude that he has as yet not confided in the Tiere any of Florestan’s belligerent confession. But today, Ha had a surprise for Florestan, before the arrival of the Herr Professor, and this was his ‘means.’ Another of those truth-revealing, soul-disposing injections… which led first of all to a bout of screamed imprecations (not repeated here), then much more, in full voice, for now, uninhibited by the cautions of Eusebius, and freed by the alchemy of the Psychiater inflicted upon his blood,
Florestan speaks! when the disinhibition crushed me at last, his mouth was opened, and he said, in reply to Ha’s insistent question, about the day, about the day - about the what
that Eusebius counted as his last..
She had been away, and had finally returned, to find me contented with my finished autograph. But, having plucked it from my weakened hands, (peccatoribus) when she saw the dedication to Claudia, rounded on me! Oh curse this drug for detail - for Ha is by my elbow now and writes, in his close, non-coded script,
“Johannes… I have aught to say to Johannes now, please Ha, do not take notes down on this most private of horrors… so you wish to know, Johannes, why I fear for my son, and why I jumped in the Rhein? So you shall know it, and know all”
and Ha, in his Scientific Condescension writes it all down, (Lamier, intervene!) I plead but he hears me not! he sits, quietly, hands folded, while the Psychiater holds fast to his pencil! and Johannes, now with his hair a-fly, embarrassed unto death, judging from the greyness of his pallor, as though I had spilled ink on him by night and my angel had spent the morning scrubbing at his entire face…
the greyness of his pallor
“Then on with you Ha,” I goad him, “Take it all down for posterity! Eusebius is dead! Let it be done, for I have lost all, all of my pride, and all of my dignity, I am a naked soul, drawn down to dust, and I have been destroyed by she I loved, and humiliated by he I trusted, and you can make an Opera of it! if Wagner has an inkling of it, with swords and shields and flying women… all Music is lost, and all reputation, there is nothing that will be preserved, from this,
so on with you, Ha,
this is what loving that woman is like, (das ist, wie die Frau zu Lieben)
“For she, for she… when she saw the dedication she said
‘Now who is this? Another of your women? How many is it now? Fifty? seventy? Romances for String! Nothing for piano!’ she spat the words at me, triple forte, and then she spat at me, and I covered my face - there is nothing more humiliating, Johannes, than being spat upon by a woman! and then!
“She seized my autographs, my beloveds! from my hands, and from the table on which they lay. And being a gentleman I will not struggle with a lady, and she held them before my eyes.
“ ‘This - is what I think of your romances, Robert.’
“And she tore the autographs - or rather, attempted to… but the paper was too thick, and so she set down half of the scores to better get a purchase on them.
“ ‘This…’ and she tore the parcel in her hands, in half, her face - grey - with anger and jealousy, a rage of it, a paroxysm! and the pain of the tearing of my autographs, that I had labored on for so many weeks, was a jagged stab into my heart and I did stop breathing. Regardless, not heeding the pain that thundered through me, she picked up the manuscripts that remained intact, and tore through those as well, and in the brief period it took her to reduce my Romances to confetti, I was undone, and the pain in my chest had welled out into a true paroxysm, and I staggered, and sat. I was mute before her rage.
“But she was not satisfied, for she demanded response! And! (note, I shall never forget, Johannes, never - for when enraged, the careful coiffure of her composure was undone by exertion and gave her the aspect of Medusa, her curls loosed into writhing serpent necks which swung around her as she destroyed my creation,) she then said,
“ ‘You are not the only one who has sought pleasure elsewhere, my love. While I sat sweating on a stage in those gowns, working to keep our home together and our children fed, I received many offers from men far better able to keep me, than you! And when they asked, I answered!’ She held her head up. That is how it is done, you must know this, Johannes.
“She answered. ‘And it is only fitting, since you have dishonored me… that I have also dishonored you. But at least I admit it. It is what you deserve, for this!’ she held a torn bit still, as though to place all of her scorn into the one piece, and brandish it as a weapon, and held it against her womb, now once again swelling with pregnancy. ‘I expect at least, you will give this next one a paternity.’
“ ‘A pa -’
“‘No, it is not yours!’ She exclaimed. Then she raised her arm to deal me a violent blow. She spat it! She! said it! ‘Now, you know!’
“And from the doorway there, suddenly, stood my weak one, my Liebchen, Ludwig - no! and he ran at her with the poker from the fire! ‘Don’t hurt my father!’ he shrieked, raising the impossibly heavy iron over his head, and made as though to smite her with it, and she turned, in good time to avoid the poor lame child, who could hardly walk straight, never mind injure her, except by pure chance…
“And rather than aim her blow on the man who sat before her unresisting, the one who was strong enough to endure it, she turned, (hard as stone, a concert pianists’ arms are) and struck him across the head, whereupon he dropped the iron, and the momentum of the blow sent him crashing, upended, into the corner, where he crumpled like a broken doll, sobbing. A child! A…. child
“Then, I must stand. And stood. Before me, lay the ruin of my world, for I could not endure what she had become, and what she had done to her own blood, to spite me. That was the end of things, for Eusebius, Johannes. And the ghost, Florestan, bereft, knelt before the weeping boy and held him, and our tears were the tears of a single being, weeping. She no longer existed, to us. I picked him up, and felt all of his bones (miraculously intact, but for the rising bruise on his head, and the puffy eyes of his despair) and I said ,
“ ‘I am not hurt, Ludwig, she has done nothing to me, there is no need to fear’ and put him to rights (much sobbing, and much embracing), and put a chunk of cold liver on his forehead, and put him to bed, and called for the doctor. But I had lied, because with the assault upon my little one, and the destruction of the last trickle of the Wellspring through my hands, she had destroyed the remaining music that was the Eusebius of me. And that, is how I ended.
“The Tiere fled, to the place that soloists go when they have had their tantrums - to her lover (I look straight into Johannes’ eyes) I am sure you remember that night, she must have wanted you that night. She is always full of passion when enraged. And when the doctor came, I said nothing to him, for a lie is worse than a tacit permission. His words to me upon departing were,
“ ‘You cannot stay here and leave them alone with her - for it will go worse for them.’ By this he meant to say that she would be a greater threat to them in my presence, in order to gain as great a revenge as possible. ”
Johannes interrupts my cold narrative with a short outburst of “my God, my God, Robert” and I raise a hand, and he falls silent. I am not yet done.
“Without telling you all of this horrid detail, Johannes, I implored you to watch over them. Without telling Herr Richard anything about this, I begged him to be sure that you did. I never had need to tell Lamier - he knew her already, because he knows evil, and has looked into its face.” Charles did not move, nor look up upon the mention of his name.
And Florestan ran out his time, as the disinhibition of the drug turned first quarrelsome, and at last, violent, and he shook himself and rose to his feet, devastated by the quiet countenance of the Psychiater, the miserable visage of his erstwhile friend, and the composed demeanor of his lawyer, he rounded upon them all and screamed at them: “Now do you know what loving that woman is like?”
And Ha, in that quiet way only achieved by the finest tuned of all klaviers, took the melody and said,
“You must still love her very greatly, to have endured all of that in silence, for so long.”
I stared at him - quelled at last, while from the Wellspring was struck a coda of profound agony, of utter humiliation… the last words of the Confessor upon his death….
“Yes. Yes, I still do.” And he sobbed.
“And what would you say to her, if you could speak to her and know she would listen?”
But Eusebius had spoken his last, at last, at last. And spoke no more. This was the last of him, and I knew throughout myself, that in remembering and recounting that final insult dealt by the Tiere to the Angel of Music, he could not live, or even breathe, in this body any longer. What reigned in his stead, formed slowly, and is fashioned variously. Even now I am not sure I can truly understand what resulted from the last gasp of Eusebius; but it was final in a way I could not have anticipated, from his rehearsals. Like the cessation of an entire range of notes, like the sudden silence of a whole section of orchestra. And I was then reduced to chamber parts; for I knew that Music had ended.
with the slow dance of death, Florestan was found standing more or less alone, our Adagio, ended.
Download The Death of a Mad Composer in PDF format.
Requires Adobe Reader.
The Death of a Mad Composer Index
[ Prelude ]
[ Movement I ]
[ Movement II ]
[ Movement III ]
[ Movement IV ]
[ Movement V ]