Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I first encountered the word Sehnsucht many years ago, in a song by Tchaikovsky, a setting of a poem by Goethe. The song was sung by Rossano Brazzi's character in the movie Little Women. I hardly remember the rest of the movie, but that song enchanted me.

Here are Goethe's words:

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
Weiß, was ich leide!
Allein und abgetrennt
Von aller Freude,
Seh ich ans 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!

Source: Wikipedia.

Wiki also provides this translation:

Only one who knows this longing
Understands what I suffer!
Alone and separated
From all joy,
I look to the vast horizon
On every side.

Oh! He who loves and knows me,
Is far away.
I feel dizzy, and it burns
my insides.
Only one who knows this longing
Understands what I suffer!

(Yes, I know. It sounds much better in German.)

Browsing Rattle's site last night, I came across another poem. It was written by David Lee Garrison, and it can be found here at Rattle's blog. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find the poem. It's called Bach in the DC Subway.

Do you remember the story? The violinist in the subway was Joshua Bell. Click here for the Washington Post's coverage of the event, with video.

One line of the poem brought me to tears. Garrison says

"all the children,
all of them,
waded into the music
as if it were water"

Wouldn't it be wonderful to rediscover the openness that children have, that allows them to accept the incursion of the extraordinary - of magic - into their lives as their due? Wouldn't you love to wade into music as if it were water, without needing to analyze its components or think about it at all?

I'm there again, in that longing state. I'm suffering from Sehnsucht. I want to push aside the layers of age and fatigue and habit and insecurity that, for the most part, keep me walking the straight and narrow. I want to find fairies in the garden, hear the voice of the stream, use my superhuman powers to save the world. There was a time when I could do all that, wasn't there?


Anonymous said...

Sweet and poignant post, Sandra, hugs

Sandra Leigh said...

Thanks, Kimmi.

John Hayes said...

Lovely post--I believe you can still do it.

Brian Miller said...

it still happens...

Sandra Leigh said...

John and Brian - thank you. It's a matter of loosening up and letting it happen, I think. Maybe I need a little quality time with Wilson. ;>)

Leah said...

What an absolutely beautiful post. Really.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Love your last paragrapht there, sandra, I'm sure we all feel the same :) I agree with John Hayes too. And thank you so much for all your well wishes and humour,I'm sure they helped.I really smiled at your husbands great lines bout 'The coffin they carry you off in' Thank you.TFE.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

I don't remember hearing about joshua bell and the experiment. what a story!!!!

thanks for the link

pearls before swine indeed! what a perfect header!

thanks for the marvelous post....all of it, now I really have to get to work!

willow said...

"all the children,
all of them,
waded into the music
as if it were water"

Oh, this is lovely. Wonderful post. I adore Joshua Bell and his magic. Did you know he studied at Indiana University? That's where my daughter did her undergrad work.

Anonymous said...

Sandra, there must have been a time...and you're right; it reads better in the German :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

I love this post.

I am feeling a longing right now. For just a moment, I want to stop what I am doing, this circle of novels and booksignings and etc etc etc and go outside, sit on my porch, and stare out at my beloved smoky mountains, listen to the silence save for the creek rushing and the critters calling . . . walk along my cove road and hear the ghosts of men and women who once lived pinch a flower from a stalk and leave the rest alone . . . to inhale everthing into my marrow where it will stay there, a memory seeped into my bones.

thank you.

Reya Mellicker said...

Longing is a bitch, isn't it? I think all the old theories about grief, the bargaining, denial, anger, etc. isn't as true as longing for the departed one. To me that is the essence of grief.

As for the Joshua Bell story, it was completely contrived to make us look like a bunch of jerks. They very carefully chose a subway station and a time of day (just before 9:00) when no one would have time to listen. They could have put Joshua Bell in dozens of other stations in which a large crowd of admirers would have gathered. It was total crap.

Betsy said...

This is gorgeous...really!

Sandra Leigh said...

Oh, my. Thank you to Leah, Kimy, and everyone, for your kind and thoughtful responses. I get the feeling that there's a lot of Sehnsucht out there.

Eejit - I am delighted to see that you are well enough to surf. That's a very good sign.

Willow, no - I didn't know that. Let me see - that makes 3 degrees of separation between me and Joshua, right? ;>)

Subby, only in German (I hope) would a poet even consider saying something like "I feel dizzy, and it burns my insides". Oy.

Kathryn, seeing photos and videos taken from your porch, I get the feeling that you live surrounded by magic. I hope you get lots of chances to just sit and take it in.

Reya - that makes sense, the staging. On the other hand, I doubt that it was anything personal. They could have staged it in the New York subway, or the Toronto subway, at a similar time and got the same results. The story has made me think twice, though, whenever I'm rushing past a busker.

Anonymous said...

Sandra, I dunno...Tommy Roe came pretty close in his song, "Dizzy"...

I'm so dizzy my head is spinnin'
Like a whirl-wind it never ends
And it's you girl, makin' it spin
You're makin' me dizzy....

And that's just the chorus, wot? Makes me wonder if Tommy read that Goethe work....

Sandra Leigh said...

Sure - but he didn't say "Baby, you set my innards on fire!" Or did he?

Anonymous said...

Don't think so, but I'm sure that line is used somewhere in a song, you betcha!

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