GERTRUDE AND I

GERTRUDE AND I

by Hermann Hesse, Adele Lewisohn

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CHAPTER I

MY life, as I look back on it now, does not seem to have been a particularly happy one. Yet I cannot call it unhappy, in spite of my many mistakes. When all is said and done, it is very foolish to question so much about happiness and unhappiness. It seems to me that it would be harder for me to give up the unhappiest days of my life, than all the happy ones. For, if to live, means consciously to accept the inevitable, to probe fully good and bad, and to conquer, besides our outer destiny, an inner, a truer, and a less casual fate — then my life has not been poor and worthless.

If my outer fate has hung over me, as over all — unavoidable and decreed by the gods — my inner destiny is of my own making.

For the sweetness and bitterness which it brought, I believe I, alone, am answerable.

Several times in my early years I wished to be a poet. If I were a poet, I could not now resist the allurement of going back in my life to the delicate shadows of my childhood, and to the hidden wellsprings of my earliest remembrance. But these are to me so beloved and sacred that I must not desecrate them, even to myself. I was given full freedom to discover my gifts and tendencies, to make my inner joy and pain, and to consider the future, not as an outside power from above, but as the hope and the reward of my own power.

So I went untouched through school, as an unbeloved, little-gifted, but quiet student, whom one leaves alone because he does not seem to be amenable to any strong influence. Somewhere in my sixth or seventh year I began to feel that, of all unseen forces, music was to seize me most strongly and to master me most completely. After this I had my own world, my refuge and my heaven, which no one could take from me, and which I desired to share with no one. I was a musician, although before my twelfth year I had learned to play no instrument, and never thought to earn my bread, later, through music.

Moreover, this feeling has remained without any essential change. And so it seems to me, as I look back, that my life was very gay and varied, although set from the very first in one key, and guided by one single star. Whether it was well or ill with me, my inner life remained unchanged. I might for long periods put forth upon strange waters, with no notes and no instrument to touch, but in every hour, a melody sang in my blood and on my lips. If eagerly I sought for the solution of many things — for forget fulness and deliverance, for God and knowledge and freedom — I always found them in music. For that I did not need Beethoven or Bach. That from time to time, one can be moved and pervaded by rhythm and harmony, has always been for me a deep consolation, and has betokened a justification of all life.

O Music! A melody breaks upon you. You sing it, not with your voice, but with your soul. It saturates your very being. It takes possession of all your strength. For a few minutes it extinguishes all that lives in you— all the non-essentials, the evil, the gross, the sad. It puts you in tune with the world. It makes the heavy, light, and it lends wings to the motionless. All of that can the melody of one folk-song do!

And then the harmony! Every euphonious consonance of pure tone, like a peal of bells, fills the soul with charm and gratification, and every tone, vibrating in sympathy, can kindle the heart and make it tremble for very joy — as can no other bliss.

Of all the forms of pure happiness of which people and poets have dreamed, to listen to the music of the spheres seemed to me the highest and the most spiritual. My deepest and most precious dreams have been this — for the length of a heart-beat to hear the building of the universe, and the entirety of all life, sound in mysterious, inborn harmony. Ah, how can life then be so confused, and out of tune, and untruthful — as can only lies, malice, envy and hatred between men — when the simplest music proclaims so clearly that purity, harmony, and brotherly concord of clear tones can open Heaven to us! And although I may chide myself, and be angry that I, with all good purpose, could bring out of my life no song, and no pure music, in my innermost heart I well feel the imperative incite merit, the thirsting demand for a pure harmony, sacred in itself. But my days are full of incidents and discords. And wherever I turn, and where I knock, I listen in vain for the echo of clear and full tones.

But nothing more of this. I will tell my tale. If I only think for whom I have written these pages, who had the real power over me to force this confession from me, to break through my loneliness — then I must repeat the beloved name of a woman, who was bound to me not only by a long period of my life and destiny, but who has been fixed above me like a star...

Product Details

BN ID: 2940014893411
Publisher: OGB
Publication date: 08/15/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 243 KB

About the Author

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. Profoundly affected by the mysticism of Eastern thought, Hesse’s books and essays reveal a deep spiritual influence that has captured the imagination of generations of readers. His best-known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, Demian and Magister Ludi. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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