It is common knowledge that most of the works of famous artists, musicians, poets, and writers are a result of their sufferings in real life. Inspired by friendship, love, and sometimes even death, they created masterpieces that were able to go through the centuries and still pass the necessary set of emotions to people who are listening, watching, or reading them. The same is true about Schumann’s “Dichterliebe”. It is a song cycle that was created in 1840 and still preserved its emotional coloring and ability to produce the necessary effect on the listener. The words to the music are written by Heinrich Heine and it should be admitted that the words only increased the value of Schumann’s work. The cycle of these songs continues developing the theme of love, to be more exact, unrequited love as this is what Schumann experienced when composing the music and this is what he tried to express in his “Dichterliebe”. Back then he was in love with a girl named Clara but unfortunately, this love was not mutual. The agony of his love and the infinity of his sufferings served as a basis for the “Dichterliebe” the theme of which is love with no response and hope. Due to the words of the poem written by Heinrich Heine we can observe the love of both the musician and the poet expressed in the lines: “Da hab’ ich ihr gestanden/ Mein Sehnen und Verlangen” (Burton Raffel, p. 56) which stands for “I confessed to her/ My passionate longing and desire” (Burton Raffel, p. 56). These words are about Schumann who confessed his feelings to Clara but found out that this love was not mutual.
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As far as imagery is concerned, a lot of means to describe the environment and the situation as a whole are used. “Als alle Knospen sprangen/ When all the sprouts were springing open” (Burton Raffel, p. 56) is not only the sign of spring. This is a description of how such feelings as love arouse in people’s souls. First, they are like “sprouts” which stand for affection which with time develops into branches or real feelings which remain in the heart of a person forever. Calling his beloved “Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne/ The rose, the lily, the dove, the sun” (Heinrich Heine, Frederic Ewen, p. 70) he shows how precious to him his beloved is. Comparing her with the sun he wants to show that his love for her is something warm, eternal, and never-ending. Multiple metaphors are used to show the sufferings, for instance “das Herz bricht/ the heart is breaking”, “in deines Herzens Raume/ in your heart’s space”, and, finally one of the most vivid personifications is used to express the poet’s grief to the full extent: “Und wüßten’s die Blumen, die kleinen,/wie tief verwundet mein Herz,/sie würden mit mir weinen/zu heilen meinen Schmerz/ And if they knew it, the blooms, the little ones,/ how deeply wounded my heart is,/they would weep with me/to heal my pain” (Heinrich Heine, Frederic Ewen, p. 73). The poet wishes that the flowers were alive so that they could share his grief with him.
In conclusion, it must be admitted that “Dichterliebe” cannot leave anyone indifferent. When writing words on this music, Heinrich Heine got to the essence of it, feeling very clearly what exactly the composer was trying to express. It can even be stated that the words and the music are mutually complementary though without each other they are no less impressive. Heine managed to express using words the agony of Schumann’s love and the infinity of his sufferings which served a basis for the “Dichterliebe”.
- Heinrich Heine, Frederic Ewen. The Poetry and Prose of Heinrich Heine. Citadel Press, 1948.
- Burton Raffel. The Art of Translating Poetry. Penn State Press, 1988.