Joy and the Demon

Parthenon Marble Sculpture, Pheidias, Acropolis (CC PDM 1.0)

My mind recalls that impassable mud…
The road clogged, the crows collecting together,
Pecking dead things from the mud, I think.
The candle burns low; I lit it for some reason,
I sit up sleepless and the wine tastes bad…
This place is cabbage-stinking, cold, strewn with papers…
Full of chaos.
My left ear hurts, and there is a futile noise in my ear drums,
Like the slow flap of wet canvas in the wind.

I wrote something for them at Heiligenstadt,
For my brothers, yes, a kind of testament,
It was 1802, and the future was obscure.
‘Come then, Death, whenever you like,
And with courage I will go to meet you –
Farewell; and when I am dead do not wholly forget me.
I deserve to be remembered by you,
Since during my lifetime I have often thought of you
And tried to make you happy – Be happy.’

And now the thousand spites and sins and cruelties of my life
Rear over me like the overhanging hedges of that mud-imprisoned road.
I did everything badly except write music.

Look! Beyond the window pane, the darkness is retreating.
Freude! Her presence has indeed brushed my face.
The day wrapped in grey poised silence.
Yet the trees are glowing with quite inhuman hope.

And this Europe I shall make into a stage
With shawls of mist hung on its walls
For comfort and for decoration, a stage placed
Between the mountains and the ocean, onto which
The prisoners of tyranny shall at last come out,
Blinking into the light, freed by courage, by fidelity,
To sing of liberty and unlooked for justice,
By your magic, goddess, I shall sing this into being,
By the ferocious tenderness of Leonore and Clare…
I have often cried with silent frustration. Humiliated.
My fragile hearing slipping away.
Unable to hear the speech of friends or sycophants.
I poured what I had of the heat of generosity
Into these ugly, ink-stained, brutal hands.
I write this symphony.