A pilgrimage from youth to old age

Schubert D946
Memento mori. © Charles Thibo

Jetzt reifen schon die roten Berberitzen,
alternde Astern atmen schwach im Beet.
Wer jetzt nicht reich ist, da der Sommer geht,
wird immer warten und sich nie besitzen.

Wer jetzt nicht seine Augen schließen kann,
gewiß, dass eine Fülle von Gesichten
in ihm nur wartet bis die Nacht begann,
um sich in seinem Dunkel aufzurichten: –
der ist vergangen wie ein alter Mann.

Dem kommt nichts mehr, dem stößt kein Tag mehr zu,
und alles lügt ihn an, was ihm geschieht;
auch du, mein Gott. Und wie ein Stein bist du,
welcher ihn täglich in die Tiefe zieht.1

I quote this poem in its full length as one more reverence to my German readers. It was written in 1901 by Rainer Maria Rilke, the Austrian poet whose rare and powerful eloquence I love so much, along with his mysticism, his directness, his talent to chain heavenly elements to our earthly existence and to elevate the human being to a higher truth.

This specific poem marries gloominess and hope. It is part of a collection of poems with the title “The Book about the Pilgrimage”. Its essence: Collect moments of joy while you are young and keep these souvenirs as a source of light for the time when you have grown old. The message and the way it is felt and expressed by Rilke leads me to… Schubert. You saw that coming, didn’t you?

In 1828, six months before his death, Franz Schubert wrote three pieces for piano (Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946). They weren’t published until 1868 – by Johannes Brahms. They rank among the most emotional pieces the composer ever wrote. Three miniatures of an uncomparable beauty. Dynamic chords, languishing melodies, angry, even furious thoughts alternating with serenity and tenderness.

The French pianist Bertrand Chamayou has recorded D. 946. It is what I call a perfect recording. I will say no more.

© Charles Thibo

1The red barberries are ripening already,
aging asters are breathing feebly in the patch.
He who has not gained wisdom, now that the summer goes,
will always wait and never be master of himself.

He who cannot close his eyes, certain that a wealth of faces
was resting inside himself until the night began
only to rise in the darkness:
– he will have passed away like an old man.

He will not gain anything anymore, he will not see another day,
and anything that happens to him will be a lie.
You too, oh Lord! And like a stone
you are
pulling him daily into the depths.

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de Chareli

Writer, photographer, piano student, music enthusiast. And a lot more. You are welcome to follow my blog.

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