That's the tenth post of the series about Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. As always, you can read all the previous posts here.
Wilhelm Meister (kupfer) - Moritz won Schwind
Illustration from Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship (copperplate engraving) - M. von Schwind
We left Wilhelm and his companions at the first chapter in the fourth book, leaving the Count's castle, who provided them the means to get to a nearby village. Once there, Melina organizes the journey to the city where they are settling; Wilhelm forgets about going back home and joins them.We left Wilhelm and his companions at the first chapter in the fourth book, leaving the Count's castle, who provided them the means to get to a nearby village. Once there, Melina organizes the journey to the city where they are settling; Wilhelm forgets about going back home and joins them.

When they are ready to go, some rumours arrive that there are bandits on their road; They have to choose between staying in town some more days, taking a much longer way or just ignoring those rumours and go ahead with their plans. Wilhelm thinks the last one is the best option and soon everybody agrees, especially Melina who thinks is the cheapest option. Nevertheless, they set out ready for an attack.

On the second day of their journey, the drivers suggest stopping for a rest at a clearing in the forest. While preparing their meal, the bandits attack them; Wilhelm and Laertes fend off the attack but Wilhelm is shot "between the breast and the left arm". When he recovers consciousness, he's alone in the clearing with Philine and Mignon, who have tried to stop his bleeding as they could. The rest of the company flees to the nearest town, carrying Laertes, who is also injured. The harpist knows how serious Wilhelm's injure is and goes to town to ask for help.

When it’s getting dark, a group headed by a beautiful lady on horseback arrives at the clearing and helps Wilhelm. He can barely gaze the lady before losing again consciousness, but still, he’s fascinated by her beauty. The harpist comes back with a few men and the Amazon leaves just after arranging a hunter for escorting Wilhelm and his small group and help them to accommodate. Once in the village, they go to the lodging where the theatre company take refuge. They refuse to shelter Wilhelm: they have lost all their belongings and truly think that he's responsible for the attack. Only Philine keeps her trunk (according to the actors, because she used her feminine charms), which also contains Wilhelm's belongings because the Melinas took his trunk in the castle. It’s no use that Wilhelm reminds them about their agreed decision to travel despite the rumours. The hunter takes Wilhelm, Philine, Mignon and the harpist to the rectory, where the priest and his family agrees to host them.

The days go by and Wilhelm gets better. Laertes, who is also recovering from his injuries, visits Wilhelm; Melina and the company want Wilhelm to recommend them to his friend Serlo (the theatre director that Wilhelm intended to visit long time ago, when he was engaged to Marianne); they also demand for money for the trip. Wilhelm agrees to their request and argues with Philine about it, as she doesn't understand that he helps Melina and the actors after they treat him so badly. Philine, angry, leaves Wilhelm. Mignon, who was dull and sad during all that time, lights up when Philine goes and she takes care of Wilhelm again.

The young man wants to go to Serlo's place. Before, he wants to visit the mysterious and beautiful Amazon to thank her for saving his life. Nevertheless, there is no way to find her and Wilhelm must accept that he will never see her again. In his memory, the lady that he glimpsed looks so much like the Countess, that sometimes he mixes both images. And while he's thinking about them, he hears Mignon and the harpist singing.

That happens in the eleventh chapter, we've arrived at one of the most popular songs of the novel, Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt. Most of the composers wrote only for Mignon, without considering that it is a duo; that's the case, for example, of Tchaicovsky, whose song we listened in the last post of the series.

Schubert wrote a song for the two voices, Mignon and the harpist. Goethe says that Mignon and the harpist sing "with a touching expression, in the form of an irregular duet" and that's what we hear in the music; both sing the same song but don't sing together, it seems that they are quite deep in thought and don't realize that they are accompanied. For me, this song by Schubert is one of the most beautiful Wilhelm Meister's songs ever written. We're listening to Angelika Kirschschlager and Simon Keenlyside accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, a live recording.
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt 

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
Weiß, was ich leide!
Allein und abgetrennt
Von aller Freude,
Seh ich am Firmament
Nach jener Seite.

Ach! der mich liebt und kennt,
Ist in der Weite.
Es schwindelt mir, es brennt
Mein Eingeweide.
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
Weiß, was ich leide!

You never long’d and lov’d
You know not grief like mine:
Alone and far remov’d
From joys or hopes, I pine:
A foreign sky above,
And a foreign earth below me,
To the south I look all day;

For the hearts that love and know me
Are far, are far away.
I burn, I faint, I languish,
My heart is waste, and sick, and sore;
Who has not long’d in baffled anguish
Cannot know what I deplore.

 (translation by Thomas Carlyle)
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Comments (2)

  • Ekaterina Shapinskaya

    A wonderful series on Wilhelm Meister's wonderings and a beautiful music piece.

  • Sílvia

    Thank you, Ekaterina!

    I love that song. I think that Schubert really got Goethe's idea, Mignon and the arpist together but each one absorbed in thought.

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