Clara Schumann’s Lieder – A Classical Cousin

Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own has me currently entranced with its gentle, yet poignant questions about women’s history – not just in fiction, but in culture and arts generally.

According to a Washington Post quiz (which, given its loaded questions, ought to be taken with a pinch of salt), I come under the umbrella of “Yes, but…” feminists, meaning I identify as somewhat feminist but am also critical of feminism as it stands today.  Without getting deeply into the topic – I am trying, by a thread, to stay apolitical on this blog – I would say that’s a fairly accurate summary of my outlook.

My main concern for women’s rights are those basic ones which are still lacking in other countries.  In Woolf’s book, I am reminded that women in the West underwent similar struggles.  For example, as lately as 100 years ago, a choice of career was limited:

…I had made my living by cadging odd jobs from newspapers, by reporting a donkey show here or a wedding there; I had earned a few pounds by addressing envelopes, reading to old ladies, making artificial flowers, teaching the alphabet to small children in a kindergarten. Such were the chief occupations that were open to women before 1918.  (ch. 2)

More to come on this later.  (This will be Monday’s podcast episode!)

Here I just wanted to share a piece by Clara Schumann, the talented pianist and composer, best known (for better or worse) as the wife of composer Robert Schumann.  Like Robert, Clara composed lieder, or songs, which put German poetry to music.  (I picture the German gentry gathering around of a summer’s evening, listening to a talented family member performing these songs, though whether that is totally accurate, I cannot say.)

These are the lyrics, translated by David Kenneth Smith:

Der Mond kommt still gegangen  The moon so peaceful rises
Emanuel Geibel (1815-1884)  Op. 13 No. 4

Der Mond kommt still gegangen  The moon so peaceful rises
mit seinem gold’nen Schein,  with all its golden shine,
da schläft in holdem Prangen  there sleeps in lovely glitter
die müde Erde ein.  the weary earth below.

Und auf den Lüften schwanken  And on the breezes waft down
aus manchem treuen Sinn  from many faithful hearts
viel tausend Liebesgedanken  true loving thoughts by the thousand
über die Schläfer hin.  upon the sleeping ones.

Und drunten im Tale, da funkeln  And down in the valley, there twinkle
die Fenster von Liebchens Haus;  the lights from my lover’s house;
ich aber blicke im Dunkeln  but I in darkness still look out –
still in die Welt hinaus.  silent – into the world.

A Deal Me In catch-up post

Hello again!  Hope anyone who is reading this is doing well and, if it’s winter where you are, staying warm.  🙂 

I was off to a good reading start this year, but the last month has been nothing short of hectic.  My excuse this time is I’ve been mentoring young programmers on a local robotics team, gearing up for a big competition next month.  Between work during the day and robots in the evening, reading was pushed to the back burner.  However, the bulk of our programming is completed, and now we can kick back a little and I can (hopefully) find time to read again.

I’m actually on track with Deal Me In; I’ve just not blogged regularly.  Here are the stories I’ve drawn for the last month or so (and yes, diamonds keep randomly showing up!).

Q ♣ Circles

This essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson is probably quintessential Transcendentalist reading.  In “Circles,” Emerson encourages the reader to look at life in the form of circles – Venn diagrams, really.  He suggests there is always a bigger circle than the one you see; that, for example, knowledge and religious beliefs are circles which can be at some future date surpassed by larger circles, the decryption of the present unknown.

Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood; and if there is any truth in him, if he rests at last on the divine soul, I see not how it can be otherwise.  The last chamber, the last closet, he must feel, was never opened; there is always a residuum unknown, unanalyzable.  That is, every man believes that he has a greater possibility.

It was interesting to read this story at this time.  I recently read up on the Sikh religion and can see certain parallels between Sikhism and Unitarianism, the latter of which has links to Transcendentalism.  I can see the appeal in this philosophy, but I find problems with it, from a religious standpoint – but I won’t go into that here (at least, not for now). 

This is a good one to read if you want to get the gist of Transcendentalism in a short, digestible format.
9 ♣ The Death of a Moth 

My first Virginia Woolf was disappointing, actually.  The writing in this sketch is ok, but underwhelming for such a big name.  I still want to read one of her longer works; maybe short stories weren’t her thing.

5 ♦ Rumpelstiltskin

A wicked king enslaves a girl to spin gold…and then marries her?!  I don’t remember this one being so troubling – did I grow up with a censored version?  Either way, another unsettling story collected by the Grimm brothers. 

4 ♦ The Woman with Two Skins

You know it’s a bad story when it starts and ends with slavery.  The Grimms have serious competition with this frightful tale, which I found on World of Tales.  It was collected by a man named Elphinstone Dayrell (there’s a fairytale name!), who apparently worked as a district commissioner in Nigeria and was a member of the Royal Geographical Society…considering he was interested in local folk tales, I’d say he was probably unusual for a colonist.  This story has certain universal elements – a wicked woman, a witch (male, in this case), and a small but strong protagonist.  In any case, though some may not like the turn-of-the-century British vocabulary, I have to give Dayrell credit for documenting the story.  I’m not sure it’s suitable for children; like Grimm, it is what it is!