This is the 5th post of the series about the songs composed from Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. If you missed the previous posts, here they are.
Solitud en fer-se de dia - J.H. Füssli
Loneliness in the Morning Twilight - J.H. Füssli

We left the novel in the chapter 13 of the second book, when Wilhelm hears the harpist singing Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass from the hallway; he goes into the room and asks him to keep singing.

The narrator tells a curious conversation between the two characters: Wilhelm keeps making questions that the harpist answers by means of songs; he describes the scene as “a meeting of certain devout people” where the harpist is the lieder that “edifies his guest”, recalling present and past memories again, discovering new emotions and calming him down enough so he could think carefully about his situation and his future while going back home. Nowadays that would be called music therapy.

We readers “hear” just one of these songs, Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt (Who longs in solitude to live), which reveals, as Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass, a deep sadness. It is about loneliness. Loneliness which is a torture but still desired, the harpist compares it with a lover; a terrible loneliness that will accompany him to his grave. We don't know yet what tortures the harpist, but his words convey that he doesn't believe in redemption, neither in this life nor in the hereafter. There is no hope for him.

We are listening to Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt by Hugo Wolf, who called the song Harfenspieler I (he doesn't keep, then, the order at the novel). This Lied is also the first of the fifty one Goethe's Lieder, written between October 1888 and October 1889. The mood marking of the song is "Sehr getragen, schwermütig" (very slowly, melancholic), and that's how we hear the harpist, absorbed, at times virtually declaiming, with contained emotion in others, while the piano reminds us of the harp's sound. A sad song, as it could not be otherwise, that we are listening performed by Thomas Allen and Geoffrey Parsons. aquí you are.

Harfenspieler I

Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt,
Ach! der ist bald allein;
Ein jeder lebt, ein jeder liebt
Und läßt ihn seiner Pein.
Ja! Laßt mich meiner Qual!
Und kann ich nur einmal
Recht einsam sein,
Dann bin ich nicht allein.

Es schleicht ein Liebender lauschend sacht,
Ob seine Freundin allein?
So überschleicht bei Tag und Nacht
Mich Einsamen die Pein,
Mich Einsamen die Qual.
Ach, werd ich erst einmal
Einsam in Grabe sein,
Da läßt sie mich allein!

Who longs in solitude to live,
Ah! soon his wish will gain;
Men hope and love, men get and give,
And leave him to his pain.
Yes, leave me to my moan!
When from my bed
You all are fled,
I still am not alone.

The lover glides with footstep light:
His love, is she not waiting there?
So glides to meet me, day and night,
In solitude my care,
In solitude my woe:
True solitude I then shall know
When lying in my grave,
And grief has let me go.

(translation by Thomas Carlyle)

When Wilhelm arrives at his accommodation, he's pretty much determined to move away and continue his journey, leaving the city and the people he knew behind. If there were any room for doubt, a new show of jealousy from young Friedrich reinforces him. One more time, he sees himself on the boy (I don't want to get further on this scene because it's not relevant for the main plot, but I really think that's one of the tenderest in the whole novel.)

The decision is made, but it still hurts, and when Mignon goes into his room, she realizes Wilhelm's sadness; she sits at his feet while he caresses her hair. Suddenly, she has seizures and suffers an attack; she looks dead and Wilhelm is terribly frightened. When she comes around, Wilhelm promises Mignon that he will never abandon her. They are now father and daughter. Of course, Wilhelm won't go back home.

That's how the second book ends, Wilhelm enjoying “the most pure and undescribable felicity” and the harpist playing on the other side of the door, offering him his songs. The third book begins with the first Mignon's song, so I’d rather set now the scene and in my next post, we'll be able to talk about this little girl who Wilhelm loves so much.

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