Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Meeting
By Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874–1929)
From ‘The Adventurer and the Singer’: Translation of Bayard Quincy Morgan
  [Baron Weidenstamm, the adventurer, returns to Venice after long years of absence, and is recognized in the opera-house by Vittoria, the opera-singer, who has loved him and has a son by him. After the performance she finds her way to him.]

BARON—Tell more about thyself, yet more.
  Vittoria  [with growing animation]—Hast thou not heard
Me sing? They say the air grows darker
And lighter in the largest churches
When I am singing.        5
They say my voice is like a singing bird
That sits upon a twig in heavenly glory.
They say that when I sing, there mingle joyful
Two streams, the golden stream of sweet oblivion,
The silver stream of blissful recollection.        10
Within my voice there floats the highest rapture
On golden summits; and the golden chasm
Of deepest anguish quivers in my singing.
This is my all, for I am just as hollow
As any vaulted body of a lute,        15
A nothing, that but harbors worlds of dreams:
And all of it’s from thee, thine own, thy splendor….
  Baron—How should I be the cause of all these wonders?
  Vittoria—O, simply, love. For this is how it came:
When thou forsookst me, in my utter darkness        20
Just like a bird that flutters on dark branches
My voice sped out and searched the world for thee.
Thou wast alive, that was enough for me.
I sang and thou wast near, I know not how,
And oft and oft I thought thou wast quite near        25
And that my voice could fetch thee from the air
As if it had the talons of the eagle.
I ’stablished islands in the air, and it was here
Thou layest when I sang. And always, always
I felt as if I clamored: It is he        30
Inspiring all these raptures, all these torments!
Heed not my voice! ’Tis he that moves you so!
And my complaints descended far and far
Like endless stairways, gates beneath me thundered
And closed with distant rumbling, all the world        35
My voice embraced, the world and more: thyself—
Thou wast in it.
  Baron—                Be mine again, Vittoria.
  Vittoria—I cannot. No. I will not!
  Baron—Who forbids it?
  Vittoria—                Who?  [Pauses.]  Oh, people—too.
  Baron—Thy husband?
  Vittoria—                My whole fate
Forbids it utterly. Dost thou not feel it?…
Belong to me again! Recall the past!
  Vittoria—I do recall it. There’s no fibre in me
But knows it well. And therefore let me be.
But thou recall. Think how the horror came,        45
When we had fain, with sinful, impious finger,
Stirred up the dying flame….
  Baron—                            Oh, what a fool
Was I, to torture thee, what miscreant
And fool! And all about the presents!
  Vittoria  [quite perplexed]—The presents?
  Baron—            Which the marquis
  Vittoria  [repeats]—                            Marquis—me?
  Vittoria  [dully]—        What?
  Baron—Who built your country-house—
  Vittoria—My country-house?
  Baron—                Yes, with the nut-pine grove.
  Vittoria—I know no country-house, and there was never
A present that could make thee torture me!        55
The name Grimaldi never touched my ear!
No word of him!….
  Baron—                    And could I have confounded
So much at once, the place and person both?
  Vittoria—He has confounded it! he could forget it,
As ’twere the content of a wretched farce,        60
As ’twere a tavern’s name, a dancer’s face!
[She weeps.]
And if so much he could forget, then what
Forgot he not?  [Pauses.]
He has forgot!—Fool, fool! So this is life.—
Now I am calm. Before, seest thou, I was        65
Just like a silly child, and so have spoiled
Our pleasant chat, thy quiet narrative.

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