1 August 2020   Leave a comment

Music Night

It’s hot. I truly believe that I am going to lose my mind as the President of the United States quotes as a medical authority a doctor who believes that medicines are made from alien DNA and that demons practice astral sex. We are nearing 155,000 COVID deaths. A hurricane is bearing down on the US east coast. Congress let unemployment benefits lapse after the US GDP decline by 33% in the second quarter. And President Trump just took his 283rd golfing trip in less than 4 years.

So no news. Just good music.

As we contemplate the possibility of domestic and foreign meddling in the November elections, it is useful to consider the words of Goethe as he describes the last night of Egmont, waiting in a dungeon for his execution by a Spanish ruler. His crime? Working toward the independence of Dutch Provinces from Spanish rule. It is hard to imagine how revolutionary the idea of freedom was in an era of an uncontrollable king, buttressed by a Catholic Church intent on preserving its power in the face of the Protestant Reformation. But in 1787 Goethe captures the exhilaration of the moment as people begin to consider seriously lives without oppressive tyranny:

“Behind his couch the wall appears to open and discovers a brilliant apparition. Freedom, in a celestial garb, surrounded by a glory, reposes on a cloud. Her features are those of Clara and she inclines towards the sleeping hero. Her countenance betokens compassion, she seems to lament his fate. Quickly she recovers herself and with an encouraging gesture exhibits the symbols of freedom, the bundle of arrows, with the staff and cap. She encourages him to be of good cheer, and while she signifies to him that his death will secure the freedom of the provinces, she hails him as a conqueror, and extends to him a laurel crown. As the wreath approaches his head, Egmont moves like one asleep, and reclines with his face towards her. She holds the wreath suspended over his head,—martial music is heard in the distance, at the first sound the vision disappears. The music grows louder and louder. Egmont awakes. The prison is dimly illuminated by the dawn.—His first impulse is to lift his hand to his head, he stands up, and gazes round, his hand still upraised.)

“The crown is vanished! Beautiful vision, the light of day has frighted thee! Yes, their revealed themselves to my sight uniting in one radiant form the two sweetest joys of my heart. Divine Liberty borrowed the mien of my beloved one; the lovely maiden arrayed herself in the celestial garb of my friend. In a solemn moment they appeared united, with aspect more earnest than tender. With bloodstained feet the vision approached, the waving folds of her robe also were tinged with blood. It was my blood, and the blood of many brave hearts. No! It shall not be shed in vain! Forward! Brave people! The goddess of liberty leads you on! And as the sea breaks through and destroys the barriers that would oppose its fury, so do ye overwhelm the bulwark of tyranny, and with your impetuous flood sweep it away from the land which it usurps.”

EGMONT, A Tragedy In Five Acts, By Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Translated by Anna Swanwick

Beethoven translates that exhilaration in his Egmont Overture.

Posted August 1, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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