Eichendorff: Die Stille (The stillness)

20 06 2011
Stillness, by AlicePopkorn

Stillness by AlicePopkorn (CC)

Knows or guesses but no one
How I am so well, so well!
Ah, if but one, just one would know it,
No person should know it otherwise.

Not so calm is it outside in the snow,
Not so quiet and hushed
Are the stars in the heights
As are my thoughts.

I’d wish I were a birdie
and travel over the sea,
far over the sea and beyond,
until I were in heaven.

Like the prior poems Schumann chose for his Liederkreis, this poem has a definite longing for an existence beyond perception through the mortal veil. It is a portrait of the inner life of a soul reaching toward the one and only thing that will fulfill it.  It is unclear whether the speaker yearns for the beloved or the Beloved and what form fulfillment will take.

The mystery of the poem is greatly enhanced by Eichendorff’s masterful manipulation of the German language — it’s worthy of a thesis unto itself! Eichendorff keeps the reader guessing by twisting grammatical constructs, by inserting slight variations of thoughts, and by delaying crucial pieces of information as long as possible. Images come into focus, go out of focus, and come into focus again, slowly and  gradually.

By using the subjunctive voice in the first and last stanzas to evoke the world of the imaginary and the”what if”, Eichendorff mystifies the reader; when he uses the indicative voice — the “real” voice — in the second stanza, the imagery is so ethereal and dreamy that it still seems imaginary. No matter how calm and clear the speaker’s thoughts may be, the reader really doesn’t know precisely what those thoughts are or where they are going.

I’m still puzzling about the placement of Waldesgespräch, because its menacing tone between Intermezzo and Die Stille seems somewhat out of place. We’ll see how this plays out in the next few songs!

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




Eichendorff: In der Fremde

12 05 2011

"Red Sky Lightning" By Luis Argerich (CC)

In the foreign place

From the homeland behind the lightning red,
From there, the clouds come here,
But father and mother are long dead,
And no one knows me there anymore.

How soon, ah, how soon will come the quiet time
where I will rest, too, and above me
will rush the beautiful solitude of the woods,
and no one will know me here anymore.

From the title alone — In the foreign place — we immediately sense discomfort and detachment. The first lines make us aware of the turbulence associated with leaving home, with the images of lightning and clouds. The further reflection that family is gone and “no one knows me there” makes it clear that, even if the speaker were to return home, that place would be just as foreign as wherever he is now.

The speaker becomes reflective in the second stanza, and one cannot help but wonder exactly what “the quiet time” means (The German word stille could also mean “still” as in peaceful and without movement). I believe the imagery of the solitude of the woods rushing over the implies mental peace and freedom from anxiety. Ultimately, however, freedom from anxiety is only fully experienced in death, which is unfortunately why many people with mental illness commit suicide. Whether the speaker is suicidal, reflecting on death, or simply seeking freedom from his cares is left to interpretation.

Regardless of his mental state, the speaker realizes that inevitably and in fact very soon he will be completely forgotten.

Read the rest of this entry »