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An die Königin Elisabeth (1852) Op. 135 no.3

Part of a series or song cycle:

Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart (Op. 135)

An die Königin Elisabeth

Nur ein Gedanke, der mich freut und quält,
Hält ewig mir den Sinn gefangen,
So dass der Furcht und Hoffnung Stimmen klangen,
Als ich die Stunden ruhelos gezählt.
Und wenn mein Herz dies Blatt zum Boten wählt,
Und kündet, Euch zu sehen, mein Verlangen,
Dann, teurer Schwester, fasst mich neues Bangen,
Weil ihm die Macht, es zu beweisen, fehlt.
Ich seh’ den Kahn im Hafen fast geborgen,
Vom Sturm und Kampf der Wogen festgehalten,
Des Himmels heit’res Antlitz nachtumgraut.
So bin auch ich bewegt von Furcht und Sorgen,
Vor euch nicht, Schwester. Doch des Schicksals
Zerreisst das Segel oft, dem wir vertraut.

To Queen Elizabeth

One thought alone gladdens and grieves me
And dominates my mind,
So that the voices of fear and hope resound,
When sleepless I count the hours.
And when my heart chooses this letter as messenger,
Revealing how I long to see you,
Then, dear sister, a new anguish seizes me,
Because the letter lacks the power to prove it.
I see the boat half hidden in the harbour,
Held back by the storm and warring waves,
And heaven’s serene face blackened by night.
So am I likewise beset by cares and fear,
Not of you, my sister. But the force of fate
Often lacerates the sail in which we trust.
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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Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, was Queen of Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567 and Queen consort of France from 10 July 1559 to 5 December 1560.

Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, was six days old when her father died and she acceded to the throne. She spent most of her childhood in France while Scotland was ruled by regents, and in 1558, she married the Dauphin of France, Francis. He ascended the French throne as King Francis II in 1559, and Mary briefly became queen consort of France, until his death in December 1560. Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, but their union was unhappy. In February 1567, his residence was destroyed by an explosion, and Darnley was found murdered in the garden.

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was generally believed to have orchestrated Darnley's death, but he was acquitted of the charge in April 1567, and the following month he married Mary. Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. On 24 July 1567, she was forced to abdicate in favour of James, her one-year-old son by Darnley. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southwards seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Mary had previously claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics, including participants in a rebellion known as the Rising of the North. Perceiving her as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in various castles and manor houses in the interior of England. After eighteen and a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth, and was subsequently beheaded.

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