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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Meeting

By Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874–1929)

  • From ‘The Adventurer and the Singer’: Translation of Bayard Quincy Morgan
  • [Baron Weidenstamm, the adventurer, returns to Venice after long years of absence, and is recognized in the opera-house by Vittoria, the opera-singer, who has loved him and has a son by him. After the performance she finds her way to him.]

  • BARON—Tell more about thyself, yet more.

    Vittoria[with growing animation]—Hast thou not heard

    Me sing? They say the air grows darker

    And lighter in the largest churches

    When I am singing.

    They say my voice is like a singing bird

    That sits upon a twig in heavenly glory.

    They say that when I sing, there mingle joyful

    Two streams, the golden stream of sweet oblivion,

    The silver stream of blissful recollection.

    Within my voice there floats the highest rapture

    On golden summits; and the golden chasm

    Of deepest anguish quivers in my singing.

    This is my all, for I am just as hollow

    As any vaulted body of a lute,

    A nothing, that but harbors worlds of dreams:

    And all of it’s from thee, thine own, thy splendor….

    Baron—How should I be the cause of all these wonders?

    Vittoria—O, simply, love. For this is how it came:

    When thou forsookst me, in my utter darkness

    Just like a bird that flutters on dark branches

    My voice sped out and searched the world for thee.

    Thou wast alive, that was enough for me.

    I sang and thou wast near, I know not how,

    And oft and oft I thought thou wast quite near

    And that my voice could fetch thee from the air

    As if it had the talons of the eagle.

    I ’stablished islands in the air, and it was here

    Thou layest when I sang. And always, always

    I felt as if I clamored: It is he

    Inspiring all these raptures, all these torments!

    Heed not my voice! ’Tis he that moves you so!

    And my complaints descended far and far

    Like endless stairways, gates beneath me thundered

    And closed with distant rumbling, all the world

    My voice embraced, the world and more: thyself—

    Thou wast in it.
    Baron—Be mine again, Vittoria.

    Vittoria—I cannot. No. I will not!

    Baron—Who forbids it?
    Vittoria—Who?[Pauses.]Oh, people—too.

    Baron—Thy husband?
    Vittoria—My whole fate

    Forbids it utterly. Dost thou not feel it?…

    Belong to me again! Recall the past!

    Vittoria—I do recall it. There’s no fibre in me

    But knows it well. And therefore let me be.

    But thou recall. Think how the horror came,

    When we had fain, with sinful, impious finger,

    Stirred up the dying flame….
    Baron—Oh, what a fool

    Was I, to torture thee, what miscreant

    And fool! And all about the presents!

    Vittoria[quite perplexed]—The presents?
    Baron—Which the marquis


    Baron—Who built your country-house—

    Vittoria—My country-house?
    Baron—Yes, with the nut-pine grove.

    Vittoria—I know no country-house, and there was never

    A present that could make thee torture me!

    The name Grimaldi never touched my ear!

    No word of him!….
    Baron—And could I have confounded

    So much at once, the place and person both?

    Vittoria—He has confounded it! he could forget it,

    As ’twere the content of a wretched farce,

    As ’twere a tavern’s name, a dancer’s face!

    [She weeps.]

    And if so much he could forget, then what

    Forgot he not?[Pauses.]

    He has forgot!—Fool, fool! So this is life.—

    Now I am calm. Before, seest thou, I was

    Just like a silly child, and so have spoiled

    Our pleasant chat, thy quiet narrative.