Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Immortal Beloved

In these degenerate days of "sexting", the love letter seems to be a lost art. But there were once men who could set a page aflame. Today marks the 200th anniversary of the beginning of Beethoven's letter to his Immortal Beloved, an incendiary missive to a mysterious lady.
The entire letter is written on 10 small pages, in Beethoven's rather inconsistent handwriting. The first section occupies four pages. In the following, the dashes and underlined words are as in Beethoven's manuscript, crossed-out parts are enclosed in “{...}”.
6th July, in the morning.
My angel, my everything, my very self. – only a few words today, and in pencil (with yours) - I shall not be certain of my rooms here until tomorrow – what an unnecessary waste of time - why this deep grief, where necessity speaks - can our love exist but by sacrifices, by not demanding everything. Can you change it, that you are not completely mine, that I am not completely yours? Oh God, look upon beautiful Nature and calm your mind about what must be – love demands everything and completely with good reason, that is how it is for me with you, and for you with me - only you forget too easily, that I must live for myself and for you as well, if we were wholly united, you would not feel this as painfully, just as little as I would – my journey was terrible. I did not arrive here until 4 o'clock yesterday morning. As there were few horses, the mail coach chose another route, but what a dreadful one this was! At the last stage but one I was warned not to travel at night; attempts were made to frighten me about a forest, but that only made me more eager. – I was wrong. The coach broke down on the awful road, a road without a proper surface, a country one. If the two coachmen had not been with me, I would have remained stranded on the way. Esterhazi travelled the usual road here and had the same fate with eight horses that I had with four. – Yet I did get some pleasure out of it, as I always do when I successfully overcome difficulties. – now quickly to the interior from the exterior. We will probably see each other soon, only, today I cannot convey to you my observations which I made during these few days about my life – If our hearts were always close together, I would have no such thoughts. my heart is full with so much to tell you - Oh - There are moments when I feel that language is nothing at all - cheer up - remain my faithful only darling, my everything, as I for you, the rest is up to the Gods, what must be for us and what is in store for us. –
your faithful ludwig -

The following section continues on pages 5 and 6 through half of page 7. The struck-out portion below is heavily crossed-out in the manuscript.

Monday evening, 6th July.
You are suffering, you my dearest creature – only now do I realize that letters have to be posted very early, on Mondays – Thursdays – the only days when the mail is delivered to K. - you are suffering - Oh, wherever I am, you are with me, I talk to myself and to you[,] arrange [it] that I can live with you, what a life!!!! as it is!!!! without you – Pursued by the goodness of mankind here and there, the goodness that I wish to deserve as little as I deserve it. – Man’s humility towards man – this pains me – and when I consider myself in relation to the universe, what am I and what is the man who is called the greatest? – And yet, – therein lies the divine element in man. I weep when I think that you will probably not receive first news of me until Saturday. However as much as you love me - I love you even more deeply, but - but never hide yourself from me - Good night – as I am taking the baths I must go to bed. {oh go with me, go with me} Oh God - so near! so far! Is not our love a true edifice in Heaven - but also as firm as the firmament. –
The final section of the letter resumes after a horizontal line on page 7. The handwriting on the last page is much larger and more difficult to decipher, showing a marked difference from the relatively more orderly page 9. The entire tenth page is thus taken up by only a small amount of text (beginning with "life - my everything" in the translation below).
Good morning, on 7th July.
While still in bed my thoughts turn towards you my Immortal Beloved, now and then happy, then sad again, waiting whether fate might answer us - I can only live either wholly with you or not at all, yes I have resolved to stray about in the distance, until I can fly into your arms, and send my soul embraced by you into the realm of the Spirits - yes unfortunately it must be - you will compose yourself all the more since you know my faithfulness to you, never can another own my heart, never – never – O God why do I have to separate from someone whom I love so much, and yet my life in V[ienna] as it is now is a miserable life - Your love makes me at once most happy and most unhappy - at my age I would now need some conformity[,] regularity of my life – can this exist in our relationship? – Angel, I have just heard that the mail coach goes every day – and thus I must finish so that you may receive the letter immediately. – be patient – only through quiet contemplation of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – Be calm; for only by calmly considering our lives can we achieve our purpose of living together.- be calm - love me - today - yesterday - What yearning with tears for you - you - you my life – my everything - farewell - oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your Beloved


Forever thine
forever mine
forever us.
This letter was never sent, and was found among Beethoven's effects when he died.

The mostly likely candidate for the Immortal Beloved is Josephine Brunsvik. Beethoven had given her piano lessons when she was a teenager, and a passion seems to have ignited between them. However, Josephine was married off to an older count and their relationship was apparently harmonious enough. The unfortunate man was carried away by pneumonia in 1804, leaving Josephine a widow pregnant with her fourth child. Although she and Beethoven visited regularly, a marriage to a commoner was out of the question because Josephine would have lost custody of her children. Her second marriage was extremely unhappy and her financially incompetent husband ruined the family. In the summer of 1812 Josephine traveled to Prague (through which Beethoven had to travel to reach the spa at Teplitz where he composed his letter); nine months later her seventh child, Minona, was born. Her husband had been gone since the beginning of the year and did not return until 1814.

Josephine's life was full of sadness and hardship: estranged from her older children; separated from her younger children, she died in 1821. Wikipedia says: 

During this year, Beethoven composed his very last Piano Sonatas Op. 110 and Op. 111, believed by many musicologists to be clearly like requiems, with discernible reminiscences to "Josephine's Theme", the Andante favori.
The "Immortal Beloved" letter is a powerful testament to a misbegotten yet flaming passion.

1 comment:

Dymphna said...

Reading Josephine's life story was painful. She tragically managed to do everything wrong. In the end the only one who probably had any patience for her situation was Beethoven.