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The Romantics

July 1, 2015

 

The Romantics

 

In 1854, the same year that the 44 year old Schumann attempted suicide and landed himself in the Endenich mental asylum, Heinrich Heine, the German poet , journalist and essayist completed his Confessions. Here he wrote:

 

Notwithstanding the war of extermination that I had waged against Romanticism, I always remained a Romanticist at heart. After I had delivered the most deadly blows against the taste for Romantic poetry in Germany, there stole over me an inexpressible yearning for the blue flower in the fairy-land of Romanticism, and I grasped the magic lyre and sang a song wherein I gave full sway to all the sweet extravagances, to all the intoxication of moonlight, to all the blooming, nightingale-like fancies once so fondly loved. 

 

Were the Romantics merely purveyors of 'sweet extravagances'? Heine, is of course self-mocking here, but, then, irony threaded its way through all that he wrote. Whether Schumann, who set 16 of Heine's 'Lyrisches Intermezzo' of 1822 in his song cycle 'Dichterliebe' (A Poet's Love), was aware of the distance Heine implied between himself and the florid sentiments of the Poet who woos his beloved and gains her love only to lose it, we cannot tell from this most moving and enchanted of song cycles. But Schumann, the consummate poet of music, created an evocation of longing, tremulous happiness, tender love and the desperation of loss that is so pure and true, it hardly matters.

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