Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Song of the Day: In Praise of Tears

I went to a great concert at a local college last week, with all music by Franz Lizst. He arranged some beautiful music for the piano. (If you've ever watched Tom & Jerry, you've probably heard one of his arrangements.) One of the most beautiful pieces of the evening was Lizst's arrangement of a Schubert song. 

This recording is of Schubert's original voice and piano arrangement, but with just the first two stanzas. It's all I could find.

What I love about the song is the wistful, high piano notes, which seem to evoke tears pretty well. I also love  the message, because while it partakes of some senses-versus-soul dualism, it's true that tears can be magically unifying. Recognizing our tender disappointments connects us with every other living thing.

And, perhaps most of all, I love the general Romantic, slightly overwrought tone of the piece. Was this the eighteenth-century version of Bright Eyes?

Laue Lüfte,
Alle Lenz- und Jugendlust,
Frischer Lippen
Küsse nippen,
Sanft gewiegt an zarter Brust;
Dann der Trauben
Nektar rauben,
Reihentanz und Spiel und Scherz:
Was die Sinnen
Nur gewinnen:
Ach, erfüllt es je das Herz?

Wenn die feuchten
Augen leuchten
Von der Wehmut lindem Tau,
Dann entsiegelt,
Drin gespiegelt,
Sich dem Blick die Himmels-Au.
Wie erquicklich
Löscht es jede wilde Glut;
Wie vom Regen 
Blumen pflegen,
Hebet sich der matte Mut.

Nicht mit süßen
Zwang Prometheus unsern Leim.
Nein, mit Tränen;
Drum im Sehnen
Und im Schmerz sind wir daheim.
Bitter schwellen
Diese Quellen
Für den erdumfangnen Sinn,
Doch sie drängen 
Aus den Engen
In das Meer der Liebe hin.

Ew'ges Sehnen
Floß in Tränen,
Und umgab die starre Welt,
Die in Armen
Sein Erbarmen
Immerdar umflutend hält.
Soll dein Wesen
Denn genesen,
Von dem Erdenstaube los,
Mußt im Weinen
Dich vereinen
Jener Wasser heil'gem Schooß.
Brisk winds,
Scent of flowers,
All Spring and youthful joy,
Fresh lips
Stolen kisses, 
softly pressed on tender breast;
Then the grape's
nectar stolen,
Round dances and games and jokes:
Whatever the senses
can achieve:
Ah, does it ever fulfil the heart?

When the moist
eyes shine
from the dew of melancholy limes,
then unsealed,
therein mirrored,
the sight of Heaven's meadow.
Then suddenly
in the twinkling of an eye
every wild gleam is extinguished;
as from the rain
flowers are nurtured,
dull spirits are raised.

Not with sweet
floods of water
did Prometheus mix our lime.
No, with tears;
Thereby in longing
and in pain have we come home.
A bitter threshold
these springs
for the birth of our earthly senses,
as they pressed
out of the narrows
into the sea of life.

Eternal yearnings
float in tears
and surround the stark world,
In their arms
it's salvation
they evermore uphold.
Shall your nature
then be purged
free from the dross of Earth,
You must in weeping
unite yourself
with yonder water's holy shoots.

Lyrics via the Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive

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