It seems that a vast period of time has passed. Another vision ensues. I see myself in youth, curled into the hard windowseat that looks down into the Hauptmarkt from my room, and occasionally the front door rattles as a customer enters or leaves. It is my birthday, and I am ten years old. Held in my hands is the too-difficult text of Byron’s Manfred, not yet available to me in German, and so I labor over the English original. Why must he be so metaphorical? Can he not, for my sake, use less flowery words, so that I am not constantly jumping up to the dictionary? As I study, a sound comes to my ears. It is my mother, singing. She must be brushing her hair, now. I am drawn away from the puzzling beauty of Byron’s verse to the irresistible beauty of her voice. She does this because she knows I am listening.
I wander down the main stair, toward the singing voice as it grows louder and more compelling to my ear, and as I do, I realize that something impossible is happening. It is I, indeed, and I am yet ten, but the angelic voice of my mother is singing “Der Gärtner” which I did not compose until 1842! nor publish until 1851. Then – the singer cannot be my mother, else she herself composed it in 1820 or before, and I took it down later from memory. But this cannot be, because I, here in the finalized Present, know that my mother never composed a tune nor invented any single piece of music, and she learned anew only what I wrote, and then only my student compositions; for my true work did not come until later. So it cannot be.
By the time I reach the bottom of the staircase I behold the beautiful newness of the paint, the grand doors that lead into what is no longer my father’s shop but is now a concert hall! Just as had been done to Ha’s library in the Future! This is my house, indeed, and on what is now a stage, where once lay stacks of cartons of books and Zeitungen, there stands in slimmer guise, with wildly loose hair running free, my mother! Practicing with a chamber quartett! She never wore such a seductive coiffure in 1820, certainly! This is my birthday indeed, for I see she is rehearsing this concert as a gift to me. I enter the room, and milling about are others, dressed for the concert, listening to the rehearsal as they arrange flowers near the stage, and set the chairs in the hall. It must be some hours beforehand.
I stand rapt, listening. The casements are finished in beautifully polished blond wood, the walls shine with bright stucco, new-applied. The Flügel on the stage shines with a rich sheen. This Future is wealthy beyond the dreams of the greediest composer’s avarice! And this room, yet another shrine to chamber music.
Do you vouchsafe for me this vision as answer to the pages of bitter regret just past, Hohenheim? For what could touch me more deeply, or move me more joyously than to see my mother once again, so radiant? In voice, perfect, sweetly singing a piece I had composed specifically in her memory?
There is a joy in me difficult to contain, now, for I love her utterly. She is the incarnate presence of the Angel, to me. Despite her moods and petulances, she never said single word of harshness to me. She loved me unrelentingly, constantly. She told me once that she had prayed in song to God to send her an angelic child, to bring her inspiration to sing, and she knew when she was confined with me, that she had Song within her. During that pregnancy she sang continually.
She, my Beloved, was my first Song, and I ill tolerated parting from her. Oh joy, mixed with sorrow! For here, again, she stands. No more than five and twenty years old, and if possible, her voice more brilliantly colored. And standing at the door, invisible in the Ghost Realm, I weep for the soul-stirring vision of her..
It is my birthday.
The moment chimes, the audience – a hundred, more! pack into the room, some with flowers in hand, with smiles, greybeard men, grey-haired women, youths, and here and there a serious-faced child – a violinist the one, another a pianist. I can read it in their faces. Students at the Konservatorium.
Since when has this dull town had a musical Konservatorium, I wonder? Oh dear, it is named for me! I learn. The house, the plaza, the school… how incredibly embarrassing. To go from obscure neglect to a cult-like fame in death. A man should never live to see himself become a figure of reverence. It is not me, it was never me… erect monument instead to the faceless Angel of the Wellspring!