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Title: A Day with Robert Schumann
Author: Byron, May Clarissa Gillington, -1936
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    [Illustration]



    THE HIDALGO.

    My days I spend in courting,
    With songs and hearts a-sporting,

                              (_Der Hidalgo_).

    [Illustration]


     A DAY WITH
       ROBERT
      SCHUMANN
    BY MAY BYRON

    [Illustration]

    LONDON
    HODDER & STOUGHTON


    _In the same Series._
        _Mozart._
        _Beethoven._
        _Mendelssohn._
        _Schubert._
        _Chopin._
        _Wagner._
        _Gounod._
        _Tschaikovsky._



A DAY WITH SCHUMANN.


It is an April morning in 1844, in the town of Leipzig,--calm, cool, and
fraught with exquisite promise of a prolific spring,--when the Herr
Professor Doctor Robert Schumann, rising before six o'clock as is his
wont, very quietly and noiselessly in his soft felt slippers, dresses
and goes downstairs. For he does not wish to disturb or incommode his
sleeping wife, whose dark eyes are still closed, or to awaken any of his
three little children.

The tall, dignified, well-built man, with his pleasant, kindly
expression, and his air of mingled intellect and reverie, bears his
whole character written large upon him,--his transparent honesty,
unflagging industry, and generous, enthusiastic altruism. No touch of
self-seeking about him, no hint of ostentation or conceit: he is still
that same reticent and silent person, of whom it was said some years ago
by his friends,

    "Herr Schumann is a right good man,
    He smokes tobacco as no one can:
    A man of thirty, I suppose,
    And short his hair, and short his nose."

That, indeed, is the sum total of his outward appearance: as for the
inward man, it is not to be known save through his writings. Literature
and music are the only means of expression, of communication with
others, which are possessed by this modest, pensive, reserved maestro,
upon whom the sounding titles of Doctor and Professor sit so strangely.

In the unparalleled fervour and romance of his compositions,--in the
passionate heart-opening of his letters,--in the sane, wholesome, racy
colloquialism of his critiques,--the real Robert Schumann is unfolded.
Otherwise he might remain a perennial enigma to his nearest and dearest:
for even in his own family circle, tenderly and dearly as he adores his
wife and children, his lips remain sealed of all that they might say:
and the fixed, unvarying quietude of his face but rarely reveals the
least suggestion of his deeper feelings.

Yet, at the present time, were you to search the world around, you
should hardly find a happier man than this, in his own serene and
thoughtful way. For, in his own words, "I have an incomparable wife.
There is no happiness equal to that. If you could only take a peep at us
in our snug little artist home!" Clara Wieck, whom he has known from her
childhood, whom he struggled, and agonised, and fought for against fate,
for five long years of frustration and disappointment, is not only his
beloved wife and the mother of his little ones,--she is his
fellow-worker and co-artist, and literal helpmate in every department of
life. She has "filled his life with sunshine of love,"--and, "as a
woman," he declares, "she is a gift from heaven.... Think of perfection,
and I will agree to it!" But, beyond that, she has poured her beautiful
soul into every hungry cranny of his artistic sense. "For Clara's
untiring zeal and energy in her art, she really deserves love and
encouragement.... I will say no more of my happiness in possessing a
girl with whom I have grown to be one through art, intellectual
affinities, the regular intercourse of years, and the deepest and
holiest affection. My whole life is one joyous activity."

The annals of art, indeed, hold no more lovely record of a union between
natural affinities. That of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning perhaps
approximates most closely to that of Robert and Clara Schumann. But
whereas in the former case both husband and wife were alike engaged upon
the same branch of literature,--poetry,--and a certain sense of sadness
was apt to embitter the success of the wife, because of the unpopularity
(in those days) of the husband,--Schumann is solely and pre-eminently a
composer, and Clara solely and absorbingly a pianist. No shadow of
artistic rivalry can fall upon their delight, nor darken their pleasure
in each other's achievements. Schumann's most impassioned and
characteristic productions have been definitely inspired by Clara, ever
since the days when, as a child of nine, she listened to his fantastic
fairy-tales, and her exquisite playing thrilled him with a desire to
think in music. And Clara, who has never made a mere show of her
marvellous executive skill, but has "consecrated it to the service of
true art alone,"--is never happier than when interpreting her husband's
works.

It is, in short, necessary to deal with Schumann as a whole,--as a man
who has fulfilled the triple destiny for which Nature intended him,--as
individual, husband, and father,--before one can even approximately
understand this silent, studious dreamer, whose one ideal of happiness
is to sit at home and compose.

Schumann considers this early morning hour the most precious of his day,
from a working standpoint. He seats himself at his desk, and places his
two treasures where they shall catch his eye conspicuously; for he
regards them more or less as charms and talismans to bring out the best
that is in him. They are, a steel pen which he found lying on
Beethoven's grave at Vienna, and the MS. score of Schubert's C-major
Symphony, which he obtained by a lucky chance. He regards these with a
mixture of sentiment and humorous toleration of his own mysticism: but
he cherishes them none the less, and often casts a reassuring glance in
their direction, as he covers sheet after sheet of paper with his
shockingly illegible handwriting. "Poets and pianists," says he with
resignation, "almost always write with a dog's paw. The printers will
make it out somehow." He is engaged upon his work in connection with the
_Neue Zeitschrift für Musik_ (New Musical Times), which he originally
founded, and of which he has been some nine years Editor. During all
these years he has contributed to its pages those admirable reviews and
appreciations which are so utterly unlike anything heretofore attempted
in the realm of musical criticism. "There is no quality to be desired in
a musical critic that Schumann does not possess:" and in addition to
technical equipments of every kind, keen insight and an almost prophetic
quality in his predictions, he has the priceless gift too often denied
to the critic,--that of superabundant sympathy. His hands are ever
thrown out to welcome the young and timid genius, even as they are
clenched, so to speak, with threatening fists towards Philistinism,
charlatanism and mediocrity. He loves to praise rather than to blame,
and to detect the germs of coming greatness in some obscure, unsuspected
artist. He takes into his regard the personal equation wherever
possible, and does not separate the musician from the man: for, he says,
"the man and the musician in myself have always struggled to manifest
themselves simultaneously.... I speak with a certain diffidence of
works, of the precursors of which I know nothing. I like to know
something of the composer's school, his youthful aspirations, his
exemplars and even of the actions and circumstances of his life, and
what he has done hitherto."

As his pen travels rapidly over the pages, the reason of his cramped and
crabbed handwriting is only too evident. Schumann's right hand is
crippled. In an evil hour of his youth, while yet he was consumed with
the ambition of a would-be virtuoso, he experimented, with artificial
restrictions, upon one of his right-hand fingers, intending thus to
strengthen the rest by assiduous practice ... with the result that he
lamed his hand for ever. This disastrous attempt deprived the world of a
good pianist, but conferred upon it a great composer: for it is possible
that the executive would have superseded the creative ability within
him. Nevertheless, he confesses that, "My lame hand makes me wretched
sometimes ... it would mean so much if I were able to play. What a
relief to give utterance to all the music surging within me! As it is, I
can barely play at all, but stumble along with my fingers all mixed up
together in a terrible way. It causes me great distress."

Thus, you perceive, he is considerably debarred from expressing himself
in sounds, no less than in words: he must perforce retire more and more
within himself. The ease with which he writes is balanced by the
difficulty with which he speaks: and bitterly he has complained, "People
are often at a loss to understand me, and no wonder! I meet affectionate
advances with icy reserve, and often wound and repel those who wish to
help me.... It is not that I fail to appreciate the very smallest
attention, or to distinguish every subtle change in expression and
attitude: it is a fatal something in my words and manner which belies
me."

He is, indeed, only paralleled by the _Lotus Flower_ of his own
delicious song,--shrinking from the daylight of publicity, and softly
unfolding to the gentle rays of love.

    The Lotus flower is pining
        Under the sun's red light:
    Slowly her head inclining,
        She dreams and waits for the night.

    The moon, who is her lover,
        Awakes her with his rays,
    And bids her softly uncover
        Her veiled and gentle gaze.

    Now glowing, gleaming, throbbing,
        She looks all mutely above,--
    She is trembling, and sighing, and sobbing,
        For love and the pangs of love.

                                                (_Heine._)

And here she enters the room, this woman who is literally his _alter
ego_, and the small prattle of children is audible in the awakening
house. Madame Schumann is, in her husband's words, a "pale, not pretty,
but attractive" young woman of twenty-six, "with black eyes that speak
volumes,"--slender, vivacious, affectionate: the exact complement of
Robert in all respects. It is easy to perceive in them, at the first
glance, "two noble souls distinguished by fastidious purity of
character--two buoyant minds concentrated to the service of the same
art." The heavily-thoughtful face of the composer lights up with sudden
sunshine.

"Come and sit beside me, my dear, sweet girl!" says he. "Hold your head
a little to the right, in the charming way you have, and let me talk to
you a little. Upon my word, Clärchen, you look younger than ever this
morning. You cannot be the mother of three. You cannot be the celebrated
pianist. You are just the queer, quaint little girl you were ten years
ago, with strong views of your own, beautiful eyes, and a weakness for
cherries!" This is a very long speech for Schumann, and his wife looks
at him with a shade of anxiety--such anxiety as she is never wholly
free from. For the words which she wrote in her diary on her wedding day
were more prophetic than even she may yet recognise: "My
responsibilities are heavy--very heavy; give me strength to fulfil them
as a good wife should. God has always been and will continue to be my
helper. I have always had perfect trust in Him, which I will ever
preserve." She, and she alone, is aware of all those mysterious clouds
of melancholia, those strange sounds of inexplicable music, which brood
at times above her darling husband--friend, comrade and lover in one.
She, and she only, can banish, as David did from Saul, the terrible
phases of irrational depression, and exorcise the evil power which is
always lurking ambushed in Schumann's outwardly happy life.

    [Illustration: THE LOTUS-FLOWER.

    The Lotus flower is pining
        Under the sun's red light:
    Slowly her head inclining,
        She dreams and waits for the night.

                                          (_Die Lotos-Blume_).]

"See," says he, with modest pride, "what a vast amount of work I have
completed this morning!"

"You are a most diligent creature, Robert!" she tells him, "and yet I
cannot but wish sometimes, that this literary work were off your
mind--that you had more time to devote towards composing, which is your
true _métier_. I want all the world to understand how great a master
you are--I am jealous of every minute spent upon the _Neue
Zeitschrift_!"

"Don't be too ambitious for me, Clärchen: I desire no better place than
a seat at the piano with you close by."

"That does not satisfy me," says the impetuous little lady, "I want you
to be recognised and applauded by all men. When I am rendering your
divine compositions, I feel as though all the while I were declaring:
'Just hear this!--Just listen to that!--This is by Robert Schumann, the
greatest genius in Germany: it is an honour to me to be allowed to
perform such works.'"

"My dear, those compositions are my poor, weak way of expressing my
thoughts about you! The battles which you have cost me, the joy you have
given me, are all reflected by my music. You are almost the sole
inspiration of my best--the Concerto, the Sonata, the _Davidsbündler_
dances, the _Kreisleriana_, the _Novelletten_. Why, dearest, in the
_Novelletten_ are my thoughts of you in every possible position and
circumstance and all your irresistibleness!... No one could have written
the _Novelletten_, unless he had gazed into such eyes and touched such
lips as yours. In short, another may do better work, but nothing just
like these."

"That, indeed, I feel," replies Clara with a little sigh, "and the very
significance of their meaning, I believe, forbids my doing full justice
to their amazing difficulties. You need a pianist like Liszt, my Robert,
to interpret you to the best advantage."

"I have every admiration for Liszt's wonderful playing, with its
diapason of all the moods between the extremes of fiery frenzy, and
utmost delicacy. But his world is not mine--not ours, Clärchen. Art, as
we know it--you when you play, I when I compose--has an intimate charm
that is worth far more to us than all Liszt's splendour and tinsel."

They embrace with the warmth and sweetness of perfect mutual
comprehension: and she prevails upon him to descend from cloudy Olympian
editorial heights, so far as to refresh himself with a modest
_Frühstück_ or breakfast, and a brief gambol with the little ones--for
he has that devotion to tiny children characteristic of all great men.
Never, perhaps, has any composer so thoroughly entered into childish
griefs and fears and pleasures--the April shower and shine of
babyhood--than Schumann in his _Kinderscenen_. The consummate musician
who has surmounted every difficulty, acquainted himself with every
method of his art--the man who has mastered the forms of symphony,
chamber-music, pianoforte and vocal music to their farthest present
limits--here stands forth as the exponent of little innocent every-day
emotions. _By the Fireside_, _Bogeys_, _A Child's Petition_, _From
Foreign Lands_, _Blindman's Buff_, and so on, the simple titles run.
"They are descriptive enough, you see, and as easy as winking!" he has
told his wife. And they are the very breath of childhood,--they "dally
with the innocence of love, like the old age." Nobody could have
imagined them but a man who had eternal youth in his heart. "The
dissonances are as softly blended as if a child had actually poured
forth its pure soul."

It may readily be imagined with what looks askance the composer of the
_Kinderscenen_ is favoured by his academic and hide-bound
contemporaries. "Romanticism run mad"--"modernism gone
crazy;"--"discordant innovations;"--"new-fangled nonsense"--there are
few terms too harsh for Herr Schumann; and sometimes he is
contemptuously ignored as beyond all possibility of classification.
Already sufficiently _outré_, in the opinion of all conventional
musicians, by his adoption of the cyclical form, rather than the
orthodox classical, for his abstract pianoforte music--"the whole
becoming organic by means of the intimate connection between the various
parts;"--already sufficiently outlandish, in the estimation of the
average conservative critic, by what is condemned as his _grotesquerie_
and _bizarrerie_ of treatment: Schumann is not careful to answer his
opponents, or to defend himself from any charges of _lèse-majesté_
against the imperial art which he serves. That wide and genial tolerance
which he extends towards all new composers, he does not demand or even
expect for himself. Nevertheless, as he allows, "I used to be quite
indifferent to the amount of notice I received, but a wife and children
put a different complexion upon everything. It becomes imperative to
think of the future." And he is aware that his own personal
idiosyncrasies are the strongest obstacle in his way; for he is unable
to push or praise himself in the least, and the lordly egotism by dint
of which other composers win, or command, a hearing, has been entirely
omitted from the making of this dumb genius. He knows no professional
jealousy, he never speaks ill of a soul;--but then, one might say that
he hardly ever spoke at all. He is almost unknown in society,--partly
because he really has no interest whatever apart from music, partly
owing to his silent manner and retiring disposition. It is on record
that one day after Madame Schumann had been playing with tremendous
success at one of the smaller German courts, the Serene Highness who was
ruler there enquired of her with great affability, "whether her husband
were also musical?" And with his fellow-musicians he is so invincibly
taciturn that conversation is almost a farce. Even Wagner, whose powers
of loquacity are almost illimitable, resents being reduced to the
utterance of an absolute monologue. "When I came to see Schumann," he
grumbles, "I related to him my Parisian experiences, spoke of the state
of music in France, then of that in Germany, spoke of literature
and politics,--but he remained as good as dumb for nearly an hour. Now,
one cannot go on talking _quite_ alone. An impossible man!"

    [Illustration: THE KNIGHT AND THE LORELEI.

    The hour is late, the night is cold,--
    Who through the forest rides so bold?
    The wood is wide,--thou art alone,--
    O lovely maid, be thou my own!

                                      (_Waldesgesprach_).]

The fact is, that the "impossible man" dwells apart in a world of his
own, a world peopled by the best folk he has ever encountered either in
the flesh or the spirit, and a world where the austerest canons and
noblest aspirations of his great art are upheld on a very different
plane from that of Leipzig. He has the highest possible view of his
vocation and what it should entail. "To send light into the depths of
the human heart, that is the artistic calling," he has declared.... "The
artist is to choose for his companions those who can do something beyond
playing passably on one or two instruments--those who are whole men and
can understand Shakespeare and Jean Paul.... People say, 'It pleased,'
or 'It did not please,'--as if there were nothing higher than pleasing
the public!" ... A man with such notions as these, in the first half of
the nineteenth century, must of necessity live and move to a great
extent in an ideal atmosphere of his own: and Schumann, to do so the
more literally, has created his own company in that "spiritual and
romantic league," the _Davidsbund_, which exists only in his
imagination, but exercises considerable vigour none the less.

The _Davidsbund_ is a mystical community of kindred souls, each
enlisted, with or without his knowledge, under the banner of "a resolve
to do battle in the cause of musical progress, against Philistinism in
every form." One can only vaguely compare it to the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood in England. "Mozart was as much a member of it as Berlioz
now is," so declares its founder. Chopin, Julius Knorr, Schuncke, Carl
Banck and others, without any form of enrolment, are members of the
Davidite fraternity. New names and old are added from time to time, in
the friendly columns of the _Neue Zeitschrift für Musik_, which is the
organ of the league: and especially Schumann himself appears under a
number of _noms de guerre_, representing the manifold facets of his
identity. As _Florestan_, he speaks for "the turbulent and impulsive
side of his nature, full of imaginative activity;" as _Eusebius_, he
expresses those gentle, thoughtful, sensitive qualities which sit so
lovably upon him. As _Meister Raro_, calmly logical, he stands between
both the above, and, "acting as arbitrator, sums up their opposing
criticisms," much as his father-in-law Friedrich Wieck the great
professor might do. To light-hearted, humorous, almost frivolous
critiques he signs himself _Jeanquirit_: and last, not least of the
"Davidites," he introduces Mendelssohn as _Meritis_, and embodies
varying traits of his beloved Clara as _Zilia_, _Chiarina_, and
_Cecilia_.... Call it feather-brained, fantastic, ridiculous, if you
will, the _Davidsbund_ has a very definite meaning, and fulfils a very
noble purpose. For, to use its inventor's own phrase, "In every age
there is a secret band of kindred spirits. Ye who are of this
fellowship, see that ye weld the circle firmly, that so the truth of Art
may shine ever more and more clearly, shedding joy and blessing far and
near."

That remarkable power of expressing the personalities of his friends in
music, which has been Schumann's from youth, stands him in good stead
for the depicting of various "Davidites": he could show the peculiar
characteristics of any one of them in a few moments, on the pianoforte,
whereas years would not suffice him to give a verbal explanation. This
power of portrayal is noticeable in the very construction of his
songs,--such as, for instance, _The Two Grenadiers_, or _Freedom_, or
_The Hidalgo_, with its essentially Spanish arrogance.

    My days I spend in courting,
    With songs and hearts a-sporting,
        Or weaponed for a fight!
    The fragrant darkness daring,
    I gaily forth am faring,
        To roam the streets by night,
    For love or war preparing,
        With bearing proud and light....
    The moon her light is flinging,
    The powers of Love are springing,
        And sombre passions burn ...
    Or wounds or blossoms bringing,
        To-morrow I'll return!
    While o'er the horizon darkling,
    The first faint star is sparkling,
        All prudence cold I spurn,--
    Or wounds or blossoms bringing,
        To-morrow I'll return!

In the course of the morning Schumann, reluctantly leaving a mass of
unfinished MSS. upon his desk and pianoforte, betakes himself to his
duties at the Conservatorium, where he has been professor for about a
year. Conscientious and painstaking in tuition as in all else, he is not
naturally a good teacher. He seems to be devoid of the priceless power
of imparting verbal instruction, or of imparting the secret of the
system whereby a desired effect shall be attained. His habitual and
increasing melancholy reserve rises up like a barrier between himself
and his pupils: his reticence chills and bewilders them. His own musical
education has been an entirely personal matter, and not wrought out upon
the accepted scholastic lines. Moreover, intercourse with musical people
has always "appealed to Schumann far more, and with greater success,
than dry lessons in thorough bass and counterpoint." Hence, whilst he
appears almost unable to assist the novice in the beginning, or tadpole
stage, he is able to afford invaluable help and stimulating criticism to
those young artists with whom he may come in contact, and who adore him
for his sympathetic kindness. The violinist Joachim never forgot how,
as a boy of thirteen, he played the _Kreutzer_ sonata with his host at
the house of Mendelssohn. Lonely and silent all the while, Schumann
remained in a corner of the room; but subsequently, while Joachim was
sitting near him, he leaned forward and pointed to the stars, shining
down into the room through the open window. He patted the lad's knee
with gentle, friendly encouragement. "Do you think they know up
there," he queried, "that a little boy has been playing down here
with Mendelssohn?"--This question was the very essence of
Schumann,--romantic, mystical, full of tender dreams.

His composition-lessons over, he conducts a part-singing class.
Orchestral conducting is abhorrent to him; it is "too defiant and
conspicuous a task." He cannot make his meaning clear by word of mouth:
and in gesture he is singularly deficient. But in part-singing he is an
excellent instructor, because he is seated at the piano and can indicate
there the suggestion which he fails to convey _viva-voce_. Even now, in
the wreck of his abilities as a pianist, it is possible to imagine what
he might have been: he can produce an extraordinary depth and
richness of tone, seeming to obtain some of his effects by unusual and
almost illegitimate means. His accentuation is very slight, and he uses
both pedals too frequently and too freely. Notwithstanding these
peculiarities, however, the same indefinable magic pervades his
piano-playing as his compositions.

    [Illustration: I WILL NOT CHIDE.

    I will not chide, although my heart should break,
    Though all my hopes have died, lost Love, for thy dear sake--
          I will not chide.

                                    (_Ich grolle nicht_).]

Nervous, excitable, uneasy, the master draws a breath of relief when the
class is dismissed. The pleasant Hebraic face of Mendelssohn nods in at
his door in passing. The two musicians are so busily engaged, that often
they hardly exchange a word for weeks together. Mendelssohn, the
recipient of many a generous and whole-hearted encomium from his devotee
Schumann, does not return this fraternal enthusiasm. To his
well-balanced mind, the silent moody man and his productions are too
wild, too eccentric, too uncanny. He regards them, at times, with a
species of grudging admiration: at others, he sides in heart, if not in
speech, with the current opinion of the town. "Opposition to all
artistic progress has always been a distinctive characteristic of
Leipzig musical society," and therefore horror-stricken hands are
uplifted at the editor of the _Neue Zeitschrift für Musik_, his
heretical doctrines, and still more heretical deeds. The good people of
the Thomas-School Choral Society, the audience at the Gewandhaus
concerts, the subscribers to opposition musical papers, regard Herr
Schumann very much as the knight regarded the lady at the close of his
own magnificent _Waldesgesprach_.

    "The hour is late, the night is cold,--
    Who through the forest rides so bold?
    The wood is wide,--thou art alone,--
    O lovely maid, be thou my own!"

    "Great is the craft and guile of men,
    With grief my heart is rent in twain;
    Far sounds the bugle to and fro,--
    Away! my name thou dost not know!"

    "Thy steed and thou so bright array'd,
    So wondrous fair, thou lovely maid,--
    --I know thee now! God! let me fly!
    Thou art the fairy Lorelei!"

    "Thou know'st me now--my towers do shine
    Deep mirror'd in the dark blue Rhine,--
    The wind blows cold, the day is o'er,--
    Thou shalt escape me never more!"

In the afternoon, Schumann, back at home, is occupied with creative
work. This, perhaps, is the most congenial part of his day: for, as it
has been said of him, he sees life musically, and whatever happens to
impress him takes the form of music. Steadily, deliberately, of set
purpose, and yet with the authentic fire of divine inspiration infusing
his smallest effort, he has conquered, one by one, in every field of
creative art. His finest pianoforte works were composed during the
wretched years of strain and stress whilst he was waiting to marry
Clara, held apart from her by her jealous and inexorable father, until
(again like the Brownings) the lovers took matters into their own hands
and were married in sudden and in secret. Three of his four great
symphonies saw the light in one year, 1841,--an achievement truly
colossal. Last year, 1843, he was studying and perfecting himself in
chamber music. His life, outwardly so uneventful, has been abnormally
prolific in brain-work: and that of no fatal fluency or shallow
meretriciousness, but conceived upon the highest possible plane. "The
more clearly we examine Schumann's ideas," says Liszt, "the more power
and life do we discover in them: and the more we study them, the more
are we amazed at the wealth and fertility which had before escaped us."
And his own theories of art are bound to evolve themselves thus:--for
"Only think," he has written, "what circumstances must be combined to
produce the beautiful in all its dignity and splendour. We need,--1st,
lofty deep purposes and ideality in a composition; 2nd, enthusiasm in
description; 3rd, masterly execution and harmony of action, closely
combined; 4th, innate desire for giving and receiving, a momentarily
favourable mood (on both sides, that of listener and performer); 5th,
the most fortunate conjunction of the relatives of time, as well as of
the more especial question of place and other accessories; 6th, sympathy
of impression, feelings and ideas--a reflection of artistic pleasure in
the eyes of others."

And these definitions apply in all their detail to the outcome of
Schumann's happiest year of all,--the year after his union with
Clara,--the time when like a bird he burst into infinite ecstasy of
melody, and eclipsed himself with the number, variety and bewildering
beauty of his vocal compositions. That perfect balance between words and
music, that power of identifying himself with the poet whose words he
"sets," which pre-eminently differentiates Schumann from all other
musicians, was born of "hopes fulfilled and mutual love." There are no
songs which can compare with his, in passionate intensity and depth of
emotion. It may be that only the skilled and sympathetic musician can
interpret them with full effect: but the least expert auditor can be
poignantly affected by them. Especially is this the case with his
treatments of Heine,--the one poet _par excellence_ in whom he discovers
all he can desire of power, of pathos and of passion. "The lyrics _Die
Lotos-blume_ (The Lotus-flower) and _Du bist wie eine Blume_ (Thou art
like unto a flower) are among the most perfect things found in the
realms of song, in their enchanting truth and delicacy of sentiment";
and "not one of all those subtle touches ... which make Heine's poetry
what it is, has been lost upon Schumann." _Ich grolle nicht_ (I will
not chide) is unapproachable in its white-heat of uttermost despair.

    I will not chide, although my heart should break,
    Though all my hopes have died, lost Love, for thy dear sake--
        I will not chide.

    Though thou be bright bedeck'd with diamond-shine,
    No ray of joy illumines that heart of thine,
        I know full well!

    I will not chide, although my heart should break,--
        I saw it all in dreaming,
    I saw the night that thro' thy soul is streaming,
    I saw the snake that on thy heart doth feed,
    I saw, my love, how sad thou art indeed,--
        I will not chide!

_Die Beiden Grenadieren_ (The Two Grenadiers), with Schumann's favourite
_Marseillaise_ introduced in such masterly fashion at the end,
remains an unrivalled utterance of manly and patriotic grief.

    To France were returning two Grenadiers,
        In Russia they long did languish,
    And as they came to the German frontier,
        They hung down their heads with anguish.
    'Twas then that they heard the story of woe,
        That France was forlorn and forsaken,
    Besieged and defeated, and crushed by the foe,
        And the Emp'ror, their Emp'ror was taken!

        *       *       *       *       *

    "My cross of honour and crimson band
        Lay on my heart right surely;
    My musket place within my hand,
        And gird my sword securely:
    So will I lie there and harken, dumb,--
        Like sentry when hosts are camping,--
    Till I hear the roar of the cannon come,
        And the chargers above are tramping!

    "Above me shall ride then my Emp'ror so brave,
        While swords are flashing and clashing,
        While sabres are fiercely contending,--
    In that hour of his need I will rise from the grave,
        The cause of my Emp'ror defending!"

And in his song-cycle _Frauen-lieben und Leben_ (Woman's Life and Love)
he has evinced "extraordinary depths of penetration into a side of human
character which men are generally supposed incapable of
understanding--the intensity and endurance of a pure woman's love." ...
Yet who should know it if he does not?...

Towards evening, various folk drop in by ones and twos,--musical
acquaintances, it need hardly be said, for there is no other topic than
that of their art which they can discuss with Robert Schumann. The
discussion may possibly be on their part only, with a man like this, of
whom it is told that one day he went into a friend's house, whistling
softly _sotto voce_,--and, with nothing but a cheery nod, walked to the
piano and opened it,--played a few chords,--made a modulation, and
returned to the original key,--shut the piano, gave another courteous
nod, and--exit, in utter silence! He is, indeed, capable of sitting for
hours in the midst of a merry chattering company, completely lost in
thought, employed upon the evolution of some musical thought. But when
he _does_ speak, his words are all altruistically ardent, full of eager
praise and joyful appreciation for the great names of music, whose
excellencies he loves to point out. "The great masters, it is to them I
go," he avows with the humility of a child,--"to Gluck the simple, to
Händel the complicated, and to Bach the most complicated of all." His
admiration of "John Sebastian" is boundless. "I always flee to Bach, and
he gives me fresh strength and desire for life and work.... The profound
combinations, the poetry and humour of the new school of music
principally emanate from Bach."


    [Illustration: THE TWO GRENADIERS.

    To France were returning two Grenadiers,
        In Russia they long did languish,
    And as they came to the German frontier,
        They hung down their heads with anguish.

                                          (_Die Beiden Grenadieren_).]

Mozart is to him, as to all great artists, a veritable divinity. "Do not
put Beethoven," says he, "too soon into the hands of the young: steep
and strengthen them in the fresh animation of Mozart.... The music of
the first act of _Figaro_ I consider the most heavenly that Mozart ever
wrote." And with his customary absolute freedom from professional envy,
he terms Mendelssohn "the Mozart of the nineteenth century," and will
not even sit in the same room with anyone who disparages him. He has
upheld with noble enthusiasm the merits of such rising stars as Chopin,
Heller, Gade, Sterndale-Bennett, Berlioz, Franz, and Brahms. He has, it
may be said, only one _bête noir_, the blatant and flamboyant Meyerbeer.
Regarding Wagner, his opinion is in abeyance. "Wagner is a man of
education and spirit ... certainly a clever fellow, full of crazy ideas,
and audacious to a degree.... Yet he cannot write or think of four
consecutive lines of beautiful, hardly of good, music." So Schumann has
delivered himself at one time; but he is ready to revoke this judgment,
and to declare, "I must take back one or two things I said after reading
the score of _Tannhäuser_; it makes quite a different effect on the
stage. Much of it impressed me deeply."

When his guests depart, Schumann accompanies them a little way, that he
may, according to his invariable custom, spend an hour or so of the
evening at Popper's Restaurant. There, should his friend Verhulst
be present, he enjoys what is for him a free and animated
conversation--otherwise, among the chink of glasses and clank of plates,
he remains aloof and meditative.

Evening darkens slowly into the calm spring night,--that
_Frühlingsnacht_ which he has set forth in such exquisite music--as he
regains his home and rejoins his wife. She is practising softly lest the
children awaken, but rises with a smile of joy, and receives her husband
as though he had been a year away. Side by side, holding each others'
hands, they sit by the window and inhale the sweet April air. A sense of
beatitude encompasses them.

"Hast thou done well to-day, Robert?" she enquires.

"Well? Yes--very well: better than I hoped or expected. A soft voice
seemed to whisper to me whilst I worked, 'It is not in vain that thou
art writing.' ... But in such an hour as this, my Clara, I long more
deeply to give expression to my holiest thoughts. To apply his powers to
sacred music must always be the loftiest aim of an artist. In youth we
are all too firmly rooted to earth with its joys and sorrows: but with
advancing age, our branches extend higher. And so I hope the time for my
efforts in this direction is not far distant."

"It is, then, at present, eluding you--the study of sacred music?"

"It demands a power of treating the chorus--a knowledge of superb
_ensemble_ and massive effects to which I have not yet attained." And he
heaves a sigh as of one faced with mighty problems. For to this man,
"from whom the knowledge of no emotion in the individual heart is
withheld, it is a matter of extreme difficulty to give expression to ...
those feelings which affect the whole of mankind in common."

"For you, who can realize human love so devoutly, there should be no
eventual hindrance to the expression of love towards God," says the
little dark-eyed woman, pressing his hand with warm devotion.

"You yourself are the concrete expression of love towards God," the
composer murmurs, gazing down at her in the twilight--"you and your
music together. If I once said I loved you because of your goodness, it
is only half true. Everything is so harmoniously combined in your
nature, that I cannot think of you apart from your music--and so I love
you one with the other." A sudden spasm contracts his face as he
speaks--he turns his head wildly to and fro.

"Robert!" she exclaims, "what is the matter? You shuddered--your hand
has gone cold and clammy. What ails you?"

"What are those distant wind-instruments?" he asks in awestruck tones.
"What are they playing? Don't you hear? Such harmonies are too beautiful
for earth...."

Clara strains her ears into the stillness. "There is nothing--nothing
audible whatever," she asseverates. "Robert, you are ill--you have
overworked your head--"

"I have heard them before ... beautiful, beautiful!--Ah! now they are
silent!" and he passes his hand over his brow with a bewildered air.

"Come, dearest, you are overwearied--come and sleep sweetly." Schumann
permits himself to be led away from the window by his anxious wife:
slowly he regains his composure.

"My little treasure!" he whispers, clasping her tenderly, "what should I
be without your loving care of me? Clärchen ... Schumann ... I wonder
whether an angel imagined the names together?"

"May that angel guard thee, Robert," says she, "and all that is thine
and mine, for ever."

The open piano glistens whitely in the darkness: she closes it as they
leave the room.

    [Illustration]


    _Printed by Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., Ltd.
    Bradford and London._       _4880_

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's notes:

    Punctuation has been normalized.
    Page 10: "Barret" changed to "Barrett."
      "Elizabeth Barrett Browning".
    Page 21: "pevote" changed to "devote."
      "... more time to devote towards composing".
    Page 23: "frühstück" changed to "Frühstück."
      "... a modest _Frühstück_ or breakfast".
    Page 45: "blume" changed to "Blume."
      "The lyrics _Die Lotos-blume_".





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