Julius to Theone
(Poet's title: Julius an Theone)
Set by Schubert:
Schubert did not set the words in italics
[April 30, 1816]
Nimmer, nimmer darf ich dir gestehen,
Was beim ersten Drucke deiner Hand,
Süße Zauberin, mein Herz empfand!
Meiner Einsamkeit verborgnes Flehen,
Meine Seufzer wird der Sturm verwehen,
Meine Tränen werden ungesehen
Deinem Bilde rinnen, bis die Gruft
Mich in ihr verschwiegnes Dunkel ruft.
Ach! du schautest mir so unbefangen,
So voll Engelunschuld ins Gesicht,
Wähntest den Triumph der Schönheit nicht.
O Theone! sahst du nicht den bangen
Blick der Liebe an deinen Blicken hangen?
Schimmerte die Röte meiner Wangen
Dir nicht Ahnung der verlornen Ruh
Meines hoffnungslosen Herzens zu?
Dass uns Meere doch geschieden hätten,
Nach dem ersten leisen Drucke deiner Hand!
Schaudernd wank ich nun am jähen Rand
Eines Abgrunds, wo auf Dornenbetten,
Tränenlos, mit diamantnen Ketten,
Die Verzweiflung lauscht, Ha! mich zu retten!
Holde Feindin meines Friedens, beut
Mir die Schale der Vergessenheit!
I can never, ever admit to you
What happened when I first touched your hand,
Sweet magician, what my heart experienced!
The hidden pleading of my loneliness,
My sighs, they are going to be blown away by the storm,
My tears are going to be unseen,
They are going to flow without your face noticing them, until the grave
Calls me into its silent darkness.
Oh, you looked at me so simply and directly,
With your face so full of angelic innocence,
With no awareness of the triumph of your beauty!
Oh Theone! Did you not see the anxious
Look of love that responded to your gaze?
Did not the red glow on my cheeks
Give you any inkling of the lost peace
Of my desperate heart?
If only oceans had separated us
After that first gentle touch of your hand!
Shaking, I now totter on the vertiginous rim
Of an abyss, where, on beds of thorns,
Without tears, in diamond chains,
Despair is lying in wait! Oh! to save me
Beauteous enemy of my peace, offer
Me the chalice of forgetfulness!
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.
Despite the title, Julius is not in fact addressing Theone. He knows that he can never say any of these things to her, which is precisely why he needs to utter them in this form. The couple presumably met in a formal context, were introduced and shook hands. They looked into each other’s eyes. He was overwhelmed, partly perhaps because she appeared to keep her cool and show no emotion (‘a face so full of angelic innocence’); this ‘proper’ behaviour makes her all the more desirable for Julius. We have to conclude that one or both of them was already married or engaged.
All that remains for Julius is to complain about his loneliness to an absent audience, to cry in secret in such a way that she will never see his tears. The agony is that they are not going to be physically separated. She might be a new neighbour (or relative) and he knows that he cannot avoid her. It would have been better if an ocean had come between them, but as things are he has to cope. He sees himself as tottering on the edge of an abyss, and as he looks down he sees the danger of falling into despair, which is presented as a sort of chained beast lying in wait to attack those who fall into his lair. Its bed of thorns is understandable, but why the beast’s chain is studded with diamonds is more of a mystery. Do they symbolise something attractive that might lure Julius into the pit? He certainly seems to enjoy talking about his hopeless passion, so the more he indulges himself in thinking and talking about it the more likely he is to succumb to absolute despair. He sees that he needs to forget her, but cannot help asking Theone herself to pass him the cup that will cure him. Deep down he probably knows that these cups work the other way. Just as the chalice of the Eucharist is connected with the words ‘drink this in remembrance of me’, any beaker offered to him will bring it all flooding back.
Original Spelling Julius an Theone Nimmer, nimmer darf ich dir gestehen, Was beim ersten Drucke deiner Hand, Süße Zauberin, mein Herz empfand! Meiner Einsamkeit verborgnes Flehen, Meine Seufzer wird der Sturm verwehen, Meine Thränen werden ungesehen Deinem Bilde rinnen, bis die Gruft Mich in ihr verschwiegnes Dunkel ruft. Ach! du schautest mir so unbefangen, So voll Engelunschuld ins Gesicht, Wähntest den Triumph der Schönheit nicht! O Theone! Sahst du nicht den bangen Blick der Liebe an deinen Blicken hangen? Schimmerte die Röthe meiner Wangen Dir nicht Ahnung der verlornen Ruh Meines hoffnungslosen Herzens zu? Daß uns Meere doch geschieden hätten Nach dem ersten leisen Drucke deiner Hand! Schaudernd wank' ich nun am jähen Rand Eines Abgrunds, wo auf Dornenbetten, Thränenlos, mit diamantnen Ketten, Die Verzweiflung lauscht! Ha! mich zu retten, Holde Feindin meines Friedens, beut Mir die Schale der Vergessenheit!
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Gedichte von Friedrich von Matthisson. Erster Theil. Tübingen, bei Cotta, 1811, pages 58-59.
Note: The Tübingen 1811 edition annotates (page 323): “Aus einem unvollendet gebliebenen Romane” (From a novel that remains incomplete). The poem was first published 1787 in a slightly different version with the title Theon an Lyda and a motto by Tasso.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 58 [80 von 380] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ185186703