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Rätsel (1840) Op. 25 no.16

Part of a series or song cycle:

Myrthen (Op. 25)


Es flüstert’s der Himmel, es murrt es die Hölle,
Nur schwach klingt’s nach in des Echos Welle,
Und kommt es zur Flut, so wird es stumm,
Auf den Höhn, da hörst du sein zwiefach Gesumm.
Das Schlachtengewühl liebt’s, fliehet den Frieden,
Es ist nicht Männern noch Frauen beschieden,
Doch jeglichem Tier, nur musst du’s sezieren,
Nicht ist’s in der Poesie zu erspüren,
Die Wissenschaft hat es, vor allem sie,
Die Gottesgelahrtheit und Philosophie.
Bei den Helden führt es den Vorsitz immer,
Doch mangelt’s den Schwachen auch innerlich nimmer,
Es findet sich richtig in jedem Haus,
Denn liesse man’s fehlen, so wär es aus.
In Griechenland klein, an des Tiber Borden
Ist’s grösser, am grössten in Deutschland geworden.
Im Schatten birgt’s sich, im Blümchen auch.
Du hauchst es täglich, es ist nur ein (was ist’s?).


Heaven whispers it, Hell mutters it,
It resounds but faintly in the echo’s waves;
And when it comes to the sea, it falls silent,
On the heights you can hear its twofold hum.
It loves the thick of the battle, it flees peace,
It is granted to neither men nor women,
But to every animal, only you must dissect it.
It is not to be found in poetry,
Science has it, science above all,
And theology and philosophy.
It always presides amongst heroes,
Yet the weak never lack it in their souls,
It can be found in any house,
For were it missing, all would be over.
Small in Greece, on the banks of the Tiber
It grew bigger, but biggest of all in Germany.
It’s concealed in the shade, and the tiny flower,
You breathe it daily, it’s merely a… (what is it?).
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Robert Schumann was a German composer and influential music critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. He had been assured by his teacher Friedrich Wieck that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.

Schumann's published compositions were written exclusively for the piano until 1840; he later composed works for piano and orchestra; many Lieder (songs for voice and piano); four symphonies; an opera; and other orchestral, choral, and chamber works. Works such as KinderszenenAlbum für die JugendBlumenstück, the Sonatas and Albumblätter are among his most famous. His writings about music appeared mostly in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music), a Leipzig-based publication which he jointly founded.

In 1840, Schumann married Friedrich Wieck's daughter Clara, against the wishes of her father, following a long and acrimonious legal battle, which found in favor of Clara and Robert. Clara also composed music and had a considerable concert career as a pianist, the earnings from which formed a substantial part of her father's fortune.

Schumann suffered from a lifelong mental disorder, first manifesting itself in 1833 as a severe melancholic depressive episode, which recurred several times alternating with phases of ‘exaltation’ and increasingly also delusional ideas of being poisoned or threatened with metallic items. After a suicide attempt in 1854, Schumann was admitted to amental asylum, at his own request, in Endenich near Bonn. Diagnosed with "psychotic melancholia", Schumann died two years later in 1856 without having recovered from his mental illness.

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