A Very Personal Letter From Richard Wagner.

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 20 January 2014 | 5:38:00 am


Venice, September 29, 1858. To Mathilde Wesendonck 

Now the waning moon is late in rising. When it was in its full glory it afforded me some consolation through agreeable impres­sions of which I stood in need. After sunset I regularly travelled toward it in my gondola in the direction of the Lido. The struggle between night and day was a wonderful spec­tacle in the clear sky. To the right, in the deep rosy heavens, twinkled the evening star, serenely bright. The moon in all its splendour threw its glittering net toward me across the sea. Homeward bound, my back was turned toward it. My gaze, ever wandering in the direction where you abide and from where you were gazing at the moon, was met, right above the familiar constellation of the Great Bear, gravely yet brightly, by the growing light-trail of the comet. This held no terror for me, as nothing does any more, since I no longer have any hope, any future. In fact I was obliged to smile at the superstitious fright which people show over such phe­nomena, and with a certain bravado I chose it for my own constellation. I saw only something uncommon, bright and wonderful. Am I too a comet? Did I bring misfortune? —Was it my fault?—I could not take my eyes off it.

Silent and composed I arrived at the Piaz-zetta with its bright lights and never-spent wave of gaiety. Then along the melancholy canal. Right and left superb palaces. Pro­found silence. Only the gentle gliding of the gondola and the swish of the oar. Ar­rival at the silent palace. Broad chambers and corridors, with myself as solitary tenant. The lamp is lighted. I take up the book, read a little, think much. Silence every­where.

Ah, music on the canal. A gondola with gaily coloured lights, singers, and players. More and more gondolas with listeners join it. The flotilla, barely moving, gently gliding, floats the whole width of the canal. Songs from pretty voices accompanied on passable instruments. Everything is ear. At last, almost imperceptibly, the flotilla makes the turn of the bend and vanishes still more im­perceptibly. For a long while I hear the tones ennobled and beautified by the night, tones which as art do not interest me, but which here have become part of Nature. Finally all is silent again. The last sound dissolves itself into moonlight, which beams softly on, like a visible realm of music.

Now the moon has set.

I have not been well for a few days and have been obliged to omit my evening outing. Nothing has remained for me but my solitude and my futureless existence! On the table before me lies a small picture. It is the portrait of my father, which reached me too late for me to show it to you. It is a noble, gentle, sorrowful, yet intellectual face that appeals to me strongly. It has grown very dear to me.

Whoever enters here expects to find the pic­ture of a dearly beloved woman. No! I have no picture of her. But in my heart I treas­ure her soul. Let anyone who can, see that! Good night!

R