Literary Lyrics: Immortal Beloved by Beethoven

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A few weeks ago, I read this post by Jillian in which she discussed the life of Beethoven and some of his work. I think everyone if familiar with Mr. Beethoven to some extent -- who doesn't know the tune of "Fur Elise?" I grew up playing his work. I remember spending hours over "Moonlight Sonata" in the sixth grade, and my dad offering my $100 to play it perfectly without any mistakes. I remember learning "Rondo a Capriccio (Rage Over a Lost Penny)" and how at that point it was the longest piece I had ever learned (12 pages. Oh how things change). And much later, I remember auditioning for BYU's School of Music with the Tempest Sonata (and crashing and burning). Piano performance didn't wind up being my future career, obviously. However, I still turn to the piano as often as I can for stress relief, expressing emotions, or to give The Husband his own private concert.

Anyway, I am getting off topic. I knew through Beethoven's music that he was a passionate person, and I'd heard that "Fur Elise" was written in honor of a woman he didn't have the opportunity to be with in his life. But when I read an excerpt from a letter he wrote called "The Immortal Beloved," I was moved to tears. It made me want to learn more of Beethoven's music because the emotion in the letter was so strong and tragic.

Technically, these aren't lyrics. But they are written by a heartbroken musician and they are heartrending and beautiful. There are three letters.

July 6, in the morning
      My angel, my all, my very self - Only a few words today and at that with pencil (with yours) - Not till tomorrow will my lodgings be definitely determined upon - what a useless waste of time - Why this deep sorrow when necessity speaks - can our love endure except through sacrifices, through not demanding everything from one another; can you change the fact that you are not wholly mine, I not wholly thine - Oh God, look out into the beauties of nature and comfort your heart with that which must be - Love demands everything and that very justly - thus it is to me with you, and to your with me. But you forget so easily that I must live for me and for you; if we were wholly united you would feel the pain of it as little as I - My journey was a fearful one; I did not reach here until 4 o'clock yesterday morning. Lacking horses the post-coach chose another route, but what an awful one; at the stage before the last I was warned not to travel at night; I was made fearful of a forest, but that only made me the more eager - and I was wrong. The coach must needs break down on the wretched road, a bottomless mud road. Without such postilions as I had with me I should have remained stuck in the road. Esterhazy, traveling the usual road here, had the same fate with eight horses that I had with four - Yet I got some pleasure out of it, as I always do when I successfully overcome difficulties - Now a quick change to things internal from things external. We shall surely see each other soon; moreover, today I cannot share with you the thoughts I have had during these last few days touching my own life - If our hearts were always close together, I would have none of these. My heart is full of so many things to say to you - ah - there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all - Cheer up - remain my true, my only treasure, my all as I am yours. The gods must send us the rest, what for us must and shall be -
Your faithful LUDWIG
Evening, Monday, July 6
      You are suffering, my dearest creature - only now have I learned that letters must be posted very early in the morning on Mondays to Thursdays - the only days on which the mail-coach goes from here to K. - You are suffering - Ah, wherever I am, there you are also - I will arrange it with you and me that I can live with you. What a life!!! thus!!! without you - pursued by the goodness of mankind hither and thither - which I as little want to deserve as I deserve it - Humility of man towards man - it pains me - and when I consider myself in relation to the universe, what am I and what is He - whom we call the greatest - and yet - herein lies the divine in man - I weep when I reflect that you will probably not receive the first report from me until Saturday - Much as you love me - I love you more - But do not ever conceal yourself from me - good night - As I am taking the baths I must go to bed - Oh God - so near! so far! Is not our love truly a heavenly structure, and also as firm as the vault of heaven?
Good morning, on July 7
      Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us - I can live only wholly with you or not at all - Yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits - Yes, unhappily it must be so - You will be the more contained since you know my fidelity to you. No one else can ever possess my heart - never - never - Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves. And yet my life in V is now a wretched life - Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men - At my age I nedd a steady, quiet life - can that be so in our connection? My angel, I have just been told that the mailcoach goes every day - therefore I must close at once so that you may receive the letter at once - Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together - Be calm - love me - today - yesterday - what tearful longings for you - you - you - my life - my all - farewell. Oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
ever thine
ever mine
ever ours

I got the text of these letters here

And so you can still have some music with your "lyrics" this morning, here is "Moonlight Sonata," which will always be my favorite piece by Beethoven, and the "Sonata Pathetique," which I am sporadically trying to learn. 


  1. The second movement of the Sonata Pathetique is one of my very favorites to play. It is so, so gorgeous. I played it in place of a wedding march at my uncle Michael's wedding a few years ago.

  2. I read this post while listening to Für Elise. Beethoven was an intriguing man. I'm liking him more and more, the more I read and listen.

    Thanks for sharing this. :-)

  3. @Allison -- Ooh, I will have to look at it!

    @Jillian -- Thanks for getting me started on it in the first place. :)


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