The young nun
(Poet's title: Die junge Nonne)
Set by Schubert:
Wie braust durch die Wipfel der heulende Sturm!
Es klirren die Balken, es zittert das Haus!
Es rollet der Donner, es leuchtet der Blitz! –
Und finster die Nacht, wie das Grab! –
So tobt’ es auch jüngst noch in mir!
Es brauste das Leben, wie jetzo der Sturm!
Es bebten die Glieder, wie jetzo das Haus!
Es flammte die Liebe, wie jetzo der Blitz! –
Und finster die Brust, wie das Grab! –
Nun tobe du wilder, gewalt’ger Sturm!
Im Herzen ist Friede, im Herzen ist Ruh! –
Des Bräutigams harret die liebende Braut,
Gereinigt in prüfender Glut –
Der ewigen Liebe getraut. –
Ich harre, mein Heiland, mit sehnendem Blick;
Komm, himmlischer Bräutigam! hole die Braut!
Erlöse die Seele von irdischer Haft! –
Horch! friedlich ertönet das Glöcklein vom Thurm;
Es lockt mich das süße Getön
Allmächtig zu ewigen Höhn. –
How the howling storm is roaring through the tree tops!
The rafters are rattling – the house is shaking!
The thunder is rumbling – the lightning is flashing! –
And the night is dark, dark as the grave! –
That’s how it is, that’s how it is!
It is not long ago that similar storms were raging within me!
Life was roaring, like the storm is now!
My limbs were trembling, like the house is now!
Love was ablaze, like the lightning now!
And my breast was dark, dark as the grave!
Now rage on you savage, powerful storm!
In my heart there is peace, in my heart there is calm! –
The loving bride is awaiting her bridegroom.
Purified in the refiner’s fire –
Devoted to eternal love. –
My saviour, I am waiting with a longing gaze;
Come, heavenly bridegroom! Collect your wife!
Release this soul from its earthly prison! –
Listen! the little bell is ringing out peacefully from the tower;
The sweet notes are calling me
Up to the eternal heights with an almighty power –
All translations into English that appear on this website, unless otherwise stated, are by Malcolm Wren. You are free to use them on condition that you acknowledge Malcolm Wren as the translator and schubertsong.uk as the source. Unless otherwise stated, the comments and essays that appear after the texts and translations are by Malcolm Wren and are © Copyright.
It is not easy to tell ourselves that the pathetic fallacy is, in fact, a fallacy. It is not just in literature that external weather conditions seem to express the inner states or suffering (Greek pathos, hence ‘pathetic’) of characters. In everyday life the weather truly seems to be related to mood and temperament, and it is difficult to describe such moods and temperaments without using metaphors from the weather. Sunny dispositions can give way to tempestuous rages. If we attend a performance of King Lear we cannot separate the outer storm on the heath from the inner turmoil in Lear’s mind, however much we tell ourselves that this is a literary convention or that there are other characters (even within the same scene) who are not experiencing a similar tempest within.
It is therefore not surprising that the young nun has to work hard to convince herself that the storm outside is an echo of an inner conflict that has now been resolved by her decision to enter the cloister. She insists (too much) that her inner storm has abated, but she cannot avoid stirring it up again as she tries to contrast her past with the present in the second strophe: the current flash of lightning allows her to refer again to (and surely feel again) the burning of a forbidden love. The lightning leaves her blinded and acutely conscious of the darkness around her and within her breast – a darkness that is like the grave.
This is not what she was trying to say. She knows that she is supposed to have an inner glow and new life now, so in verse three she tries again to tell us (and herself) that the storm outside is unrelated to her current spiritual state. She tries to sublimate her passion (Latin ‘passio’ is related to Greek ‘pathos’) by turning her mind to Christ as the heavenly bridegroom. The storm had drawn her attention to the forces of nature that bent tree tops and threatened buildings, but she now tries to concentrate on the artificial sound of a bell and the imperturbable strength of a tower. Nothing can stop her seeing her cell as a prison, though. It is not here that she is going to consummate her relationship with Christ since she now sees him as a knight or prince coming to liberate her from the dark castle. The contrast between the poem’s two sets of images – the storm and the built environment – suggests that she is still waiting for a storm that will destroy the rafters and the walls that now enclose her and lift her up to the heights. The bell calling her to prayer is supposed to remind her that God is in the still small voice not in the wind or the fire (1 Kings 19), but her attraction to the power of the storm cannot be easily overcome. The sweet sound lures her with total power to eternal heights (she is caught up) and so in the Alleluja she enters (or does she just try to convince herself that she is entering?) an ecstatic state that has transcended the initial storm, not by denying or rejecting it but by exploiting and participating in it. The inner turbulence lasts longer than the storm outside.
Original Spelling and note on the text Die junge Nonne Wie braust durch die Wipfel der heulende Sturm! Es klirren die Balken - es zittert das Haus! Es rollet der Donner - es leuchtet der Blitz! - Und finster die Nacht, wie das Grab! - - - Immerhin, immerhin! So tobt' es noch jüngst auch in mir! Es brauste das Leben, wie jetzo der Sturm! Es bebten die Glieder, wie jetzo das Haus! Es flammte die Liebe, wie jetzo der Blitz! - Und finster die Brust, wie das Grab! - Nun tobe du wilder, gewaltiger Sturm! Im Herzen ist Friede, im Herzen ist Ruh! - Des Bräutigams harret die liebende Braut, Gereinigt in prüfender Glut - Der ewigen Liebe getraut. - Ich harre, mein Heiland, mit sehnendem Blick; Komm, himmlischer Bräutigam! hole die Braut! Erlöse die Seele von irdischer Haft! - Horch! friedlich ertönet das Glöcklein vom1 Thurm; Es lockt mich das süße Getön Allmächtig zu ewigen Höhn - »Alleluja!« 1 When this poem was published (in 1828) the wording here was 'am Thurm' (on/in the tower, not from the tower). It is impossible to know if Schubert made the change himself or if he was working from an earlier version of the text.
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Poetische Betrachtungen in freyen Stunden von Nicolaus. Mit einer Vorrede und einem einleitenden Gedichte begleitet von Friedrich von Schlegel. Wien. Gedruckt und im Verlage bey Carl Gerold. 1828, page 58.
Note: Schubert received Craigher’s poem in handwritten form. Craigher issued it later in the book mentioned above.
To see an early edition of the text, go to Page 58 [82 von 244] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ184126000