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to these previous causes, the sternness of his isolation was made complete by the dreadful calamity of a dense and incurable deafness.
Dark indeed was his melancholy, bitter the revulsion of his capacious soul upon itself. He says, “I was nigh taking my life with my own hands. But Art held me back. I could not leave the world until I had revealed what lay within me." Resolved at any cost to be himself, and express himself, and leave the record to posterity, he left behind opponents and patrons alike, and consecrated all to his genius and its ideal objects. Occupying for a long time a room in a remote house on a hill, he was called the Solitary of the Mountain. “His life was that of a martyr of the old legends or an iron-bound hero of the antique.” Poor, deaf, solitary, restless, proud,
”' and sad, sometimes almost cursing his existence, sometimes ineffably glad and grateful, subject now to the softest yearnings of melancholy and sympathy, now to tempestuous outbreaks of wrath and woe, shut up in himself, he lived alone, rambled alone, created alone, sorrowed and aspired and enjoyed alone.
The character of Beethoven has many times been wronged by uncharitable misinterpretations. He has been drawn as a misanthrope, a selfish savage. His nature had attributes as glorious as the music born out of them. He was a democrat, who earnestly desired that the rights of all men should be secured to them in the enjoyment of freedom. Asked, in a law-suit before a German court, to produce the proof of his nobility, he pointed to his head and his heart, and said, “My nobility is here, and here.” He was a fond reader of Plato and of Plutarch. One of his biographers says, “The Republic of Plato was transfused into his flesh and blood." He always stood by his republican principles stanchly. It was in the firm belief that Napoleon meant to republicanize France that he composed and inscribed to him his Heroic Symphony. On learning that the First Consul had usurped the rank of Emperor, he tore off the dedication and threw it down with explosive execrations. He sympathized intensely with that whole of humanity which to a genius like his ever reveals itself as a great mysterious being, distinct from individuals, yet giving the individual his sacredness and grandeur. His uncertain and furious temper was an accident of his physical condition, the unequal distribution of force in his nervous centres. An idea which to a man of stolid health and complacency would be nothing, entering the imagination of the rich and febrile Beethoven, was a terrific stimulus. To judge him justly, discriminating insight and charity are needed.
In his lofty loneliness his mislikers considered him as “a growling old bear." Those who appreciated his genius thought of him as the mysterious “cloud-compeller of the world of music." Nearly all regarded him as an incompreheusible unique, into whose sympathetic interior it was impossible to penetrate. Carl Maria von Weber once paid him a visit, of which his son, Max Weber, has given a graphic description full of interesting lights. Himself kept scrupulously clean by an oriental frequency of bathing, he sat in the disorderly, desolate room, amidst the slovenly signs of poverty, his mass of lion-like face glowing with the halo of immortality, his head crowned with a wild forest of hair. He was all kindness and affection to Weber, “embracing him again and again, as though he could not part with him."
When he produced his mighty opera, Fidelio, it failed. In vain he again modelled and remodelled it. He went himself into the orchestra and attempted to lead it; and the pitiless public of Vienna laughed. To think now of the Austrian groundlings cackling at the sublimest genius who has ever lifted his sceptre in the empire of sound, making him writhe under the torturing irony of so monstrous a reversal of their relative superiorities! After suffering this cruel outrage, he fled more deeply than ever into his cold solitude. As Weber says, “He crept into his lair alone, like a wounded beast of the forest, to hide himself from humanity." Nothing can be sadder in one aspect, grander in another, than the expression this unapproachable creator, this deaf Zeus of music, has given of his isolation. “I have no friend; I must live with myself alone; but I well know that God is nearer to me than to my brothers in the art."
Of course this is no entire picture either of the soul or the experience of Beethoven. He had his happy prerogatives and hours. Life to him, too, was often sweet and dear. He knew the joy of a fame which before he died had slowly grown to be stupendous. Almost every one of the musical celebrities who arose in his time, from the author of Der Freischütz to the author of Der Erlkönig, with pilgrim steps brought a tributary wreath to him as the greatest master. Above all, he had a sublime consciousness and fruition of his own genius. At one time he says, “Music is like wine, inflaming men to new achievements, and I am the Bacchus who serves it out to them.” At another time he says, “Tell Goethe to hear my symphonies, and he will agree with me that music alone ushers man within the portals of an intellectual world, ready to encompass him, but which he can never encompass.” If he suffered hunger, loneliness, the misunderstanding of the vulgar and conventional, he kept himself free, and felt himself supreme in his sphere. An anonymous critic has well written of him: “He gained what he sought, but gained it with that stain of discord in his finer nature which is to the soul of the artist what the shadow of a cloud is to a landscape. The desire to make the world different from what it was, in kind as well as degree, was the error which ruined his earthly peace; for he persisted in judging all relations of life by the unattainable ideals which drew him on in music. Yet it was out of this opposition to the reality, which was to him a sorrow and bitterness known to but few beside, that there came the final victory of his later creations.'' He also knew that his strains would sound his name and worth down the vista of future ages with growing glory. “I have no fear for my works. No harm can betide them. Whoever understands them shall be delivered from the burdens that afflict mankind."—W. R. ALGER.