David (quemadmodum) wrote,

Deadly beauty

Last weekend, driving over the mountain from Readsboro to Searsburg on the way to visit my mother in the hospital in Bennington, VT, I suddenly found myself surrounded on both sides of VT route 8 by trees encased in ice. The sun shone brilliantly on this forest of glass, and I was so struck by its beauty that I had to wake Bill up, even though he was sitting next to me in the car and had fallen asleep in his usual adorable way (he is truly adorable when he's asleep....the silvery beard, the little tiny cute ear, the closed eyes...all right, enough mawkishness for now).
But of course the aftermath of an ice storm is terrible for the trees. Even now, here and there, I could see strips of raw wood where the weight of the ice had torn whole branches away. But at the same time, the breeze playing through the frozen branches made an unearthly tinkling sound, like thousands of chandeliers dancing in the wind.
And then...after all I am a singer...and after all I know a bit of German poetry....the Brahms song "Es hing der Reif" came to mind. It's not a song I'll ever sing in public, most likely, because it requires a kind of disembodied, floating quality. I remember the song chiefly from classes in Schenkerian harmonic analysis at Princeton, which almost succeeded in transforming this beautiful song into "an example of complex neighbor motion around 5 and 6", but somehow the song survived. It's set to a poem by Klaus Groth, who was also a friend of Brahms, and here it is, some of it applicable to that strange view on the mountain:

Es hing der Reif im Lindenbaum,
Wodurch das Licht wie Silber floß.
Ich sah dein Haus, wie hell im Traum
Ein blitzend Feenschloß.
Und offen stand das Fenster dein,
Ich konnte dir ins Zimmer sehn
Da tratst du in den Sonnenschein,
Du dunkelste der Feen!
Ich bebt' in seligem Genuß,
So frühlingswarm und wunderbar:
Da merkt' ich gleich an deinem Gruß,
Daß Frost und Winter war.

The frost hung on the linden tree
The light poured through it in a silvery flood.
I saw your house, illuminated as in a dream
A dazzling faerie fortress!
And your window was open
I could see you in the room
You walked into the sunlight
You, darkest of faerie beings!
I trembled with heavenly delight
As warm as the spring, wondrous
And then I saw suddenly from your greeting
That frost and winter reigned.
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