Part 3 out of 22
THE DREAM OF LOVE.
The wedding-festival was over, and Vienna was resting from the fatigue
of the brilliant entertainments by which the marriage of the archduke
had been followed, both in court and city. And indeed the rejoicings had
been conducted with imperial magnificence. For eight days, the people of
Vienna, without respect of rank, had been admitted to the palace, to
witness the court festivities; while in the city and at Schonbrunn,
nightly balls were given at the expense of the empress, where the happy
Viennese danced and feasted to their hearts' content.
They had returned the bounty of their sovereign by erecting triumphal
arches, strewing the ground with flowers, and rending the air with
shouts, whenever the young archduchess had appeared in the streets.
The great maestro Gluck had composed an opera for the occasion; and
when, on the night of its representation, the empress made her
appearance in the imperial loge, followed by the archduke and his bride,
the enthusiasm of the people was so great that Gluck waited a quarter of
an hour, baton in hand, before he could begin his overture.
But now the jubilee was over, the shouts were hushed, the people had
returned to their accustomed routine of life, and the exchequer of the
empress was minus--one million of florins.
The court had withdrawn to the palace of Schonbrunn, there to enjoy in
privacy the last golden days of autumn, as well as to afford to the
newly-married pair a taste of that retirement so congenial to lovers.
Maria Theresa, always munificent, had devoted one wing of the palace to
the exclusive use of her young daughter-in-law; and her apartments were
fitted up with the last degree of splendor. Elegant mirrors, buhl and
gilded furniture, costly turkey carpets and exquisite paintings adorned
this princely home; and as the princess was known to be skilled both as
a painter and musician, one room was fitted up for her as a studio, and
another as a music-hall.
From the music-room, a glass door led to a balcony filled with rare and
beautiful flowers. This balcony overlooked the park, and beyond was seen
the city, made lovely by the soft gray veil of distance, which lends
such beauty to a landscape.
On this perfumed balcony sat the youthful pair. Isabella reclined in an
arm-chair; and at her feet on a low ottoman sat Joseph, looking up into
her face, his eyes beaming with happiness. It was a lovely sight--that
of these two young creatures, who, in the sweet, still evening, sat
together, unveiling to one another the secrets of two blameless hearts,
and forgetting rank, station, and the world, were tasting the pure joys
of happily wedded love.
The evening breeze whispered Nature's soft low greeting to them both;
and through the myrtle-branches that, hanging over the balcony,
clustered around Isabella's head, the setting sun flung showers of gold
that lit up her face with the glory of an angel. Bright as an angel
seemed she to her husband, who, sitting at her feet, gazed enraptured
upon her. How graceful he thought the contour of her oval face; how rich
the scarlet of her lovely mouth; what noble thoughts were written on her
pale and lofty brow, and how glossy were the masses of her raven black
hair! And those wondrous eyes! Dark and light, lustrous and dim, at one
moment they flashed with intellect, at another they glistened with
unshed tears. Her form, too, was slender and graceful, for Nature had
denied her nothing; and the charm of her appearance (above all, to an
eve weary of splendor) was made complete by the vapory muslin dress that
fell around her perfect figure like a silver-white cloud. The only
ornament that flecked its snow was a bunch of pink roses, which the
archduke with his own hand had culled for his wife that morning. She
wore them in her bosom, and they were the crowning beauty of that
simple, elegant dress.
Isabella's head rested amongst the myrtle-branches; her eyes were fixed
upon the heavens, with a look of ineffable sadness, and gradually the
smile had died from her lips. Her countenance contrasted singularly with
that of the archduke. Since his marriage, he had grown handsomer than
ever; and from his bright expressive face beamed the silent eloquence of
a young and joyful existence.
In his joy he did not see the painful shadows that were darkening his
wife's pale beauty. For a while, a deep stillness was about them.
Flooded by the gold of the setting sun, lay the park at their feet;
farther off glimmered the domes of St. Stephen at Vienna, and faint over
the evening air came the soothing tones of the vesper-bell.
"How beautiful is the world!" said Joseph, at length; and, at the sound
of his voice, suddenly breaking the stillness that had been so congenial
to her reveries, Isabella started. A slight shiver ran through her
frame, and her eyes unwillingly came back to earth. He did not see it.
"Oh, how lovely is life, my Isabella, now that the music of thy heart
replies to mine! Never has earth seemed to me so full of beauty, as it
does now that I call thee wife."
Isabella laid her soft hand upon her husband's head, and looked at him
for a while. At length she stifled a sigh, and said, "Are you then
happy, my husband?"
He drew down the little hand that was resting on his blonde curls and
kissed it fervently. "A boon, my beloved. When we are alone, let us
banish Spanish formality from our intercourse. Be the future empress
before the world, but to me be my wife, and call me 'thou.'"
"I will," replied she, blushing. "And I repeat my question, art thou
happy, my husband?"
"I will tell thee, dearest. There seems within me such a flood of melody
seeking voice, that sometimes, for very ecstasy, I feel as if I must
shout aloud all the pent-up joy that other men have frittered away from
boyhood, and I have garnered up for this hour. Again I feel intoxicated
with happiness, and fear that I am dreaming. I tremble lest some rude
hand awake me, and I look around for proof of my sober, waking bliss. I
find it, and then breaks forth my soul in hosannas to God. And when,
mingling among men, I see a face that looks sad or pale, I feel such
sympathy for him who is less happy than I, that I make vows, when I am
emperor, to heal all sorrow, and wipe away all tears. Then come great
and noble aspirations, and I long to give back to my people the
blessings with which they greeted thee, my own Isabella. This is not one
feeling, but the meeting of many. Is it happiness, dearest?"
"I cannot tell," replied she; "for happiness is a thing so heavenly in
its nature, that one hardly dares to give it a name, lest it take
flight, and soar back to its home above the skies. Let us not press it
too closely, lest we seek it and it be gone."
"We shall do as it pleases thee," said Joseph, snatching her two hands,
and pressing them to his heart. "I know that when thou art by, Happiness
is here, and she cannot go back to heaven, unless she take thee too."
And again he looked at his wife, as if he would fair have blended their
dual being into one.
"I wish to make thee a confession, Isabel," resumed he. "It is a great
crime, dearest, but thou wilt give me absolution, I know. As I look
back, I can scarce believe it myself, but--hear. When the empress gave
me thy miniature, beautiful though it was, I gave my consent to marry,
but my heart was untouched. When Count Bathiany departed on his mission,
I prayed that every obstacle might encumber his advance: and oh, my
beloved! when I heard that thou wert coming, I almost wished thee buried
under Alpine avalanches. When I was told of thy arrival, I longed to fly
away from Vienna, from rank and royalty, to some far country, some
secluded spot, where no reasons of state policy would force me to give
my hand to an unknown bride. Was I not a barbarian, sweetest, was I not
"No, thou wert only a boy-prince, writhing under the heavy load of thy
"No, I was a criminal; but oh, how I have expiated my sin! When I saw
thee my heart leaped into life; and now it trembles lest thou love not
me! But thou wilt love me, wilt thou not? thou who hast made me so happy
that I wish I had a hundred hearts; for one is not enough to contain the
love I feel for thee!" [Footnote: These are his own words. Caroccioli
"Life of Joseph II."]
Isabella was gazing at him with a melancholy smile. "Dreamer!" said she,
in a low trembling tone, that sounded to Joseph like heavenly music--"
dreamer! the heart that through God's goodness is filled with love is of
itself supernaturally magnified; for love is a revelation from heaven."
"Sweet priestess of love! how truly thou art the interpreter of our
passion! For it is OURS, my Isabella, is it not? It is our love of which
we speak, not mine alone. I have confessed to thee; now do the same by
me. Tell me, my wife, didst thou hate the man to whom thy passive hand
was given, without one thought of thee or of thy heart's predilections?"
How little he guessed the torture he inflicted! He looked into her eyes
with such trusting faith, with such calm security of happiness, that her
sweet face beamed with tender pity, while her cheeks deepened into
scarlet blushes, as she listened to his passionate declarations of love.
"No," said she, "no, I never hated thee, Joseph. I had already heard
enough to feel esteem for my future husband; and, therefore, I did not
hate, I pitied him."
"Pity him, my own, and wherefore?"
"Because without consulting HIS heart, he was affianced to an unknown
girl, unworthy to be the partner of his brilliant destiny. Poor Isabella
of Parma was never made to be an empress, Joseph."
"She was, she was! She is fit to be empress of the world, for all
poetry, all goodness, all intellect and beauty look out from the depths
of her lustrous eyes. Oh, look upon me, star of my life, and promise to
guide me ever with thy holy light!"
So saying, he took her in his arms, and pressed her to his tender, manly
"Promise me, beloved;" whispered he, "promise never to leave me."
"I promise," said the pale wife, "never to forsake thee, until God calls
me hence to--"
"Oh!" interrupted Joseph, "may that hour never strike till I be in
heaven to receive thee; for love is selfish, Isabella, and my daily
prayer is now, that thy dear hand may close my eyes."
"God will not hear that prayer, Joseph," replied Isabella; and as she
spoke, her head sank upon his shoulder, and her long hair fell from its
fastening, and, like a heavy mourning-veil, shrouded them both. Her
husband held her close to his heart, and as he kissed her, she felt his
tears drop upon her cheek.
"I do not know," said he, "why it is, but I feel sometimes as if a
tempest were gathering above my head. And yet, the heavens are
cloudless, the sun has set; and see, the moon rises, looking in her pale
beauty, even as thou dost, my love. She has borrowed loveliness from
thee to-night, for, surely, she was never so fair before. But all seems
lovely when thou art near, and, I think, that, perchance--thou lovest
me. Tell me, Isabella, tell me, dearest, that thou dost love me."
She raised her head, and met his passionate gaze with a look so sad that
his heart grew cold with apprehension. Then her eyes turned heavenward,
and her lips moved. He knew that she was praying. But why, at such a
"Tell me the truth!" cried he, vehemently--"tell me the truth!"
"I cannot answer thee in words," murmured Isabella, "but thou shalt have
music--love's own interpreter. Come, let us go into the music-room."
And, light as a fairy, she tripped before, opening herself the door,
though he strove to prevent her.
"No, this is MY temple, and my hands unclose the doors," said she, once
Her husband followed her, enchanted. She looked around at the various
instruments, and struck a few chords on the piano.
"No. This is too earthly. My own favorite instrument shall speak for
So saying, she opened a case that lay on the table, and took from it a
"This," said she to her husband, "is the violin that came with me from
"How, Isabella," exclaimed he, "dost thou play on my favorite
"The violin, to me, is dear above all instruments," replied she; "it
alone has tones that respond to those of the human heart." [Footnote:
The infanta, who played on several instruments, excelled on the violin.
Wraxall, vol. ii., page 390.]
With indescribable grace she raised the violin to her shoulder, and
began to play. At first her chords were light and airy as the sounds
from an AEolian harp; then the melody swelled until it broke into a gush
of harmony that vibrated through every chord of the archduke's beating
heart. As he stood breathless and entranced, she seemed to him like that
picture by Fiesole, of the angel that comforts the dying. This
picture had always been, above all others, the archduke's favorite, and
now it stood embodied before him, a living, breathing divinity.
The music died away to his ear, though still she played; but now it
seemed to stream from her eyes that shone like luminous stars, and flow
from her softly moving lips, that whispered to the spirits which now
low, now loud, laughed, sighed, or sobbed out their responses from the
Isabella was no longer a woman and his wife. She was a glorified spirit;
and now he trembled lest his angel should vanish, and leave him nothing
but the memory of a heavenly vision. His eyes filled with tears; a
convulsive sigh broke from his breast, and, burying his face in his
hands, he sank down upon the sofa.
A light shudder ran through Isabella's frame; her eyes, which had
wandered far, far beyond the portals that shut us out from heaven,
looked wildly around. Her husband's sigh had awakened her from a
blissful dream, and once more her weary heart sank desolate to the
earth. But with an expression of tenderest pity she turned toward him
and smiled. Then her music changed; it pealed out in rich harmony, fit
for mortal ears. She saw her complete mastery over the archduke's soul;
his eyes grew bright and joyful once more, and from his countenance
beamed the light of perfect contentment.
"Our epithalamium!" exclaimed he, overjoyed, and no longer able to
control his exultation, he darted from his seat, and clasped the dear
musician in his arms.
"I thank thee, my Isabella," said he, with a voice that trembled with
excess of happiness. "Yes, this is the voice of love; thou hast answered
me with our wedding-song. In this melody is drowned every bitter
remembrance of my life; the discords of the past have melted into
richest harmony--for thou returnest my love. A thousand times I thank
thee; this hour is sacred to me forever.
"Thou hast said that thou lovest me," continued the happy husband, "and
now I feel the power and strength of a god. I am ready for the battle of
"But I think that I saw the god weep. Poor mortal friend, gods shed no
tears--tears are the baptism of humanity."
"Oh, gods must weep for joy, Isabella, else they could not feel its
"May Heaven grant that thou weep no other tears!" said the wife,
solemnly. "But hear," continued she, raising her little hand, "the
palace clock strikes eight, and we promised her majesty to spend this
evening with the imperial family circle. We must be punctual, and I have
scarcely time to dress."
"Why, wilt thou change that sweet simple dress? Art thou not always the
pride of the court? Come--thy muslin and roses will shame all the silk
and jewels of my sisters. Come!"
She laid her hand gently upon the arm that drew her forward, and
courtesied before him with mock ceremony.
"My lord and husband," said she, laughing, "although your imperial
highness has banished Madame Etiquette from our balcony, remember that
she stands grimly awaiting us by yonder door, and we must take her with
us into the presence of our august empress. Madame Etiquette would never
permit me to pass in this simple dress. She would order me indignantly
from her sight, and your highness also. Go, therefore, and don your
richest Spanish habit. In fifteen minutes I await your highness here."
She made another deep courtesy. The archduke, taking up the jest,
approached her, and, kissing her hand, replied:
"I obey your imperial highness, as your loyal husband and loving
subject. I shall deck myself with stars and orders; and in princely
splendor I shall return, as becomes the spouse of the archduchess of
Austria. Your highness's obedient servant."
And in true Spanish fashion, he bent his knee and kissed the hem of her
robe. Backing out of her presence he bowed again as he reached the door,
but catching her laughing eyes, he suddenly dashed right over Madame
Etiquette, and catching his wife in his arms, he gave her a last and a
right burgher-like kiss. The archduke was very happy, and the
archduchess--well! One day God will reward her!
As the door closed, the expression of her face changed. The smile died
from her lips, and her eyes were dim with tears.
"Poor boy!" murmured she, "he loves me, and I--I suffer him to believe
that I return his love, while--But I am right," said the devoted girl,
and she clasped her hands convulsively together.
"O my Saviour!" cried she "in mercy give me grace while I live, to be
true to the vows, that before thine altar, I have sworn to the Archduke
of Austria! It were cruel in me to wound his noble heart--cruel to awake
him from his dream of love! Let him at least be happy while I live; and
Lord give me strength that I faint not under my burden!"
The sun had risen, flooding the earth with light, and the people of
Vienna had already begun their labors for the day. But the curtains had
not yet been drawn from a richly-furnished room, whose walls were lined
with books; and in whose centre stood a table covered with papers,
whereon the lights, not yet extinguished, were dropping their waxen
tears from two lofty silver candelabra. At this table sat a man, looking
earnestly at a paper covered with notes of music. He had sat there the
whole night long, and his countenance gave no indication of the
exhaustion that follows upon night-watching. His large, dark, gray eyes
flashed whenever he raised his head thoughtfully, as he frequently did;
and when music was born of his thoughts, a smile illuminated his
otherwise plain face, and a wonderful light played about his magnificent
forehead; the glory of that genius which had made it her dwelling-place.
The form of this man was as striking as his face. Tall and commanding in
stature, his wide shoulders seemed proudly to bear the weight of the
head that towered above them, and in his lofty bearing there was a
dignitv that betokened either rank or genius.
He had both; for this man was Christopher von Gluck, son of a huntsman
of Prince Eugene, who was born in 1714 in the village of Weidenwang.
This son of the poor huntsman was known throughout all Europe; and in
Italy, the nobles in their palaces and the people on the streets sang
the melodies of Phedra, Antigone, Semiramide, and Telemacco. In Germany
he was less known; and in Vienna alone, was he truly appreciated.
There he sat, unconscious of the daylight. On a chair at his side lay a
violin and a flute; near them, a violoncello leaned against the wall and
within reach of his hand stood one of those upright pianos just then
coming into fashion.
At one moment he wrote rapidly, at another he hummed a melody; again,
half declaiming, half singing, he read off a recitative; and then bent
over and wrote with all his might. The light began to smoke, and the wax
dropped over his music, but he saw none of it; neither saw he the
daylight that had replaced his candles. He was so absorbed in his work
as not to hear a knock at his door.
But now the knock was repeated; and this time so distinctly that it
waked him from his dream of harmony, and he frowned. He rose, and
striding to the door, withdrew the bolt.
The door opened, and a tall, elegant woman, in a tasteful morning-dress
came in. Her fine, regular features were disturbed, and her eyes were
red with weeping or watching. When she saw Gluck looking so fresh and
vigorous, she smiled, and said, "Heaven be praised, you are alive and
well! I have passed a night of anxious terror on your account."
"And why, Marianne?" asked he, his brow unbent, and his face beaming
with tenderness; for Gluck idolized his beautiful wife.
She looked at his quiet, inquiring face, and broke into a merry laugh.
"Oh, the barbarian," cried she, "not to know of what he has been guilty
of! Why, Christopher, look at those burnt-out wax lights--look at the
daylight wondering at you through your curtains. Last night, at ten
o'clock, I lit these candles, and you promised to work for only two
hours more. Look at them now, and see what you have been doing."
"Indeed, I do believe that I have been here all night," said Gluck, with
naive astonishment. "But I assure you, Marianne, that I fully intended
to go to bed at the end of two hours. Is it my fault if the night has
seemed so short? Twelve hours since we parted? Can it be?"
He went to the window and drew the curtains. "Day!" cried he, "and the
sun so bright!" He looked out with a smile; but suddenly his brow grew
thoughtful, and he said in a low voice:
"Oh, may the light of day shine upon me also!"
His wife laid her hand upon his arm. "And upon whom falls the light of
day, if not upon you?" asked she, reproachfully. "Look back upon your
twenty operas, and see each one bearing its laurel-wreath, and shouting
to the world your fame! And now look into the future, and see their
unborn sisters, whose lips one day will open to the harmony of your
music, and will teach all nations to love your memory! And I,
Christopher, I believe more in your future than in your past successes.
If I did not, think you that I would indulge you as I do in your
artistic eccentricities, and sit like a lovelorn maiden outside of this
door, my ear strained to listen for your breathing--dreading lest some
sudden stroke should have quenched the light of that genius which you
overtask--yet daring not to ask entrance, lest my presence should
affright your other loves, the Muses? Yes, my dear husband, I have faith
in the power of your genius; and for you this glorious sun has risen
to-day. Chase those clouds from the heaven of your brow. They are
In the height of her enthusiasm she twined her arms around his neck, and
rested her head upon Gluck's bosom.
He bent down and kissed her forehead. "Then, my wife has faith, not in
what I have done, but in what I can do? Is it so, love?"
"It is, Christopher. I believe in the power of your genius."
Gluck's face wore an expression of triumph as she said this, and he
smiled. His smile was very beautiful, and ever, when she saw it, his
wife felt a thrill of happiness. Never had it seemed to her so full of
"Since such is your faith in me, my Egeria, you will then have courage
to hear what I have to tell. Tear away the laurel-wreaths from my past
works, Marianne--burn them to ashes. They are dust and to dust they will
surely return. Their mirth and their melody, their pomp and their
pathos, are all lies. They are not the true children of
inspiration--they are impostors. They are the offspring of our affected
and falsely sentimental times, and deserve not immortality. Away with
them! A new day shall begin for me, or I shall hide my head in bitter
solitude, despising my race, who applaud the juggler, and turn away in
coldness from the veritable artiste."
"What!" exclaimed Marianne, "those far-famed operas that delight the
world--are they nothing more than clever deceptions?"
"Nothing more," cried Gluck. "They did not gush from the holy fount of
inspiration; they were composed and arranged to suit the taste of the
public and the dexterity of the singers, who, if they trill and juggle
with their voices, think that they have reached the summit of musical
perfection. But this must no longer be. I have written for time, I shall
now work for immortality. Let me interpret what the angels have
whispered, and then you shall hear a language which nothing but music
can translate. What are the lame efforts of speech by the side of its
thrilling tones? Music is a divine revelation, but men have not yet
received it in their hearts. I have been made its messenger, and I shall
speak the message faithfully."
"Ah, Christopher," interposed Marianne, "I fear you will find no
followers. If the message be too lofty for the hearers, the messenger
will be driven away in disgrace."
"Hear the coward!" cried Gluck vehemently; "see the woman's nature
shrinking from the path of honor because it is beset with danger. I did
well not to let you know the nature of my last labors, for with your
sighs and croakings you would have turned me back again into the highway
of falsehood. But you are too late, poltroon. The work is done, and it
shall see light." Gluck looked at his wife's face, and the expression he
saw there made him pause. He was already sorry, and ready to atone. "No,
no! I wrong you, my Egeria: not only are you the wife of my love, but
the friend of my genius. Come, dearest, let us brave the world together;
and even if that fail us, let us never doubt the might of truth and the
glory of its interpreters."
So saying, Gluck reached out his hands; and his wife, with a trusting
smile laid both hers upon them. "How can you doubt me, Christopher?"
asked she. "Look back into the past, to the days of our courtship, and
say then who was faint-hearted, and who then declared that his little
weight of grief was too heavy for those broad shoulders to bear."
"I! I!" confessed Gluck; "but I was in love, and a man in love is always
"And I suppose," laughed Marianne, "that I was not in love, which will
account for my energy and patience on that occasion. To think that my
rich father thought me too good for Gluck!--Heaven forgive me but I
could not mourn him as I might have done, had his death not left me free
to marry you, you ill-natured giant. Yes! and now that twelve years have
gone by, I love you twice as well as I did; and God, who knew there was
no room in my heart for other loves, has given me no children, for I
long for none. You are to me husband, lover, friend, and--you need not
shake your head, sir--you are child, too. Then why have you kept your
secrets from me--tell me, traitor, why?"
"Not because you were faint-hearted, my beloved," said Gluck with
emotion; "my violent temper wronged us both, when it provoked me to
utter a word so false. But genius must labor in secret and in silence;
its works are like those enchanted treasures of which we have
read--speak of their existence, and lo! they are ashes, Sometimes genius
holds an enchanted treasure before the eyes of the artiste, who in holy
meditation must earn it for himself. One word spoken breaketh the spell,
and therefore it was, Marianne, that I spoke not the word. But the
treasure is mine; I have earned it, and at my wife's feet I lay it,
perchance that she may stand by my side, while the world rejects it as
worthless, and heaps obloquy upon my head."
"His will be a bold hand that casts the first stone at the giant!" said
Marianne, looking proudly upon the tall and stalwart figure of her
"You call me giant, and that recalls to me a fact which bears upon the
subject of our conversation now," said Gluck, with a laugh. "It was the
fall of my 'Giant' that first showed me the precipice toward which I, my
works, and all my musical predecessors, were hastening."
"You mean your 'Cuduta de Giganti,' which you tried to exhibit before
those icy English people?"
"Do not speak against the English, Marianne; they are a good, upright
nation. It is not their fault if they are better versed in bookkeeping
than in music; and I do not know that they are far wrong when they
prefer the chink of gold to the strumming and piping which, until now,
the world, turning up the whites of its eyes, has called music. I, who
had been piping and strumming with the rest, suddenly rushed out of the
throng, and thrusting my masterpiece in their faces, told them that it
was music. Was it their fault if they turned their backs and would not
believe me? I think not."
"Oh I you need not excuse the English, Christopher. I know the history
of the 'Cuduta de Giganti,' although Master Gluck has never told it me.
I know that the young artist met with no favor at English hands; and I
know that because his works were not a lame repetition of Italian music
and water, the discerning Londoners voted it worthless. I know, too,
that Master Gluck, in his distress, took counsel with the great Handel,
and besought him to point out the opera's defects. Then said Handel--"
"How, dear prattler, you know what Handel said?"
"I do, Master Gluck. Handel said: 'You have given yourself too much
trouble, man. To please the English public you must make a great noise.
Give them plenty of brass and sheep-skin.'"
"So he did," cried Gluck, convulsed with laughter. "I followed his
advice. I sprinkled the choruses with trumpet and drum, and the second
time the opera came out it was a complete success."
Marianne joined in the mirth of her husband.
"But now, if all this is true, why do you like the English?"
"Because my failure in England taught me the utter worthlessness of our
present school of music, and inspired me with the desire to reform it."
He drew her arm within his, and seated her on the divan by his side.
THE NEW OPERA.
"Now, Marianne," said he, putting his arm around her waist, "hear the
secret history of my musical career. I will tell you of the misfortunes
which my genius has encountered through life. I begin with England. It
is of no use to go back to the privations of my boyhood, though they
were many; for hunger and thirst are the tribute that man must pay to
fate for the capital which genius gives to him, and which he must
increase with all his might and all his strength. Even as a boy I craved
less for bread than for fame; and I consecrated my life and soul to art.
I thought that I was in the right way, for I had written eight operas,
which the Italians lauded to the skies. But the 'Caduta de Giganti' was
a failure, and 'Artamene' likewise. This double fiasco enraged me (you
know my bad temper, Marianne). I could not bear to be so misconceived. I
was determined to show the English that, in spite of them, I was an
artiste. I longed to bring them to my feet, as Jupiter did the Titans.
So I ordered from one of those poetasters to be found in every land, a
sort of libretto called, in theatrical parlance, a lyric drama; and to
the words of this monstrosity I arranged the very finest airs of my
several operas. When I had completed this musical kaleidoscope I called
it 'Pyramus and Thisbe.' I dished up my olla podrida, and set it before
the hungry English; but they did not relish it. The public remained
cold, and, what was far worse, I remained cold myself. I thought over
this singular result, and wondered how it was that music which, as a
part of the operas for which it was written, had seemed so full of soul,
now faded into insipidity when transplanted to the soil of other
dramatic situations. I found the answer in the question. It was because
I had transplanted my music from its native soil, that its beauty had
flown. Then it burst upon my mind that the libretto is the father of the
opera, the music its mother; and so, if the father be not strong and
lusty, the mother will bring forth a sickly offspring, which offspring
cannot grow up to perfection. Now, my operas are sickly, for they are
the children of an unsound father, who is no true poet."
"Still, still, rash man!" whispered Marianne, looking around as though
she feared listeners. "Do you forget that the father of your operas is
"I remember it too well; for many of my works have perished from their
union with his weak and sentimental verses. Perished, in MY estimation,
I mean; for to make my operas passable, I have often been obliged to
write fiery music to insipid words; and introduce fioritures out of
place, that the nightingales might compensate to the world for the
shortcomings of the poet. Well, my heart has bled while I wrote such
music, and I prayed to God to send me a true poet--one who could write
of something else besides love; one, who could rise to the height of my
own inspiration, and who could develop a genuine lyric drama, with
characters, not personages, and a plot whose interest should increase
unto its end."
"And have you found him?" asked Marianne, with a meaning smile. "I have.
"Calzabigi," interrupted she.
"How!" cried the fiery Gluck, "after promising secrecy, has he been
unable to curb his tongue?"
"Nonsense, Christopher! he has not said a word to me. I guessed this
"And how comes it that you never hinted a word of it to ME?"
"I waited for the hour when you deemed it best to speak, my love; for I
fully comprehend the reasons for your silence. I waited therefore until
Minerva should come forth, full armed, to challenge Jove's opponents to
the strife. Meanwhile I had faith in God and thee, Christopher, and I
prayed for Heaven's blessing on thy genius."
"Heaven will hear thy prayer, my better self," cried Gluck, drawing his
wife close to his heart. "Oh, how happy I feel to be permitted to speak
with thee of my past labors! How gladly shall I listen to thy criticisms
or thy approval! both, more to me than those of all the world beside.
Come, Marianne, I will begin now."
He sprang up from the divan, and would have hurried to the piano, but
Marianne held him back. "Maestro," said she, "before we sacrifice to
Apollo, let us give to life and mortality their rights. Prose awaits us
in the dining-room, and we shall give her audience before we open the
pages of this nameless opera."
"You shall hear its name, Marianne. It is--"
Marianne put her arms around his neck, and whispered, "Hush, my Orpheus!"
"How! You know that also?"
She raised her hand, as if in menace. "Know, Christopher, that little
Hymen tolerates no man who has secrets from his wife. You tried to be
silent, but betrayed yourself in your sleep. You do not know how often
during the night you have called Eurydice in tones of plaintive music.
Nor do you know how, as you appealed to the deities of the infernal
regions, I shuddered at the power of your weird notes!"
"You heard, then," cried Cluck, enchanted. "And you--"
"My friend Prose, Prose calls with angry voice. Away to the dining-room!
A man who has revelled all night with the Muses, needs refreshment in
the morning. Nay--you need not frown like Jupiter Tonans--you must go
with me to eat earthly food, before I taste your nectar and ambrosia.
Come, and to reward your industry you shall have a glass of Lacrimae
Christi from the cellar of the Duke of Bologna."
She drew him from the room, and succeeded in landing him at the
"Now, I will not hear a word about art," said Marianne, when the
servants had brought in the breakfast. "I am the physician, both of body
and mind, and condemn you to a silence of fifteen minutes. Then you may
"Of my opera, carissima?"
"Heaven forbid! of the wind and weather--nothing else. Now hush, and
drink your chocolate."
So Gluck, obedient, drank his chocolate, and ate his biscuit and
partridge-wing in silence.
All at once, the comfortable stillness was broken by a loud ringing of
the door-bell, and a servant announced Signor Calzabigi.
Gluck darted off from the table, but Marianne, laughing, brought him
back again. "First, your glass of Lacrimae Christi," said she.
"Calzabigi will be indulgent and wait for us a moment."
He took the glass, and inclining his head, drank her health.
"Marianne," said he cheerfully, "I have been amiable and tractable as a
good child. Enough of Prose, then--give me my freedom now, will you?"
"Yes, maestro; you are free; your body is refreshed, and can bear the
weight of that strong soul that has no infirmities to impede its flight.
Fly, if you list--to Calzabigi!"
RANIER VON CALZABIGI.
The door of the drawing-room bad scarcely opened before Calzabigi
hastened forward to meet Gluck. But, seeing his wife, he stopped, and
made a profound inclination.
"Speak out, friend," cried Gluck merrily. "She knows every thing, and
think what a treasure of a wife she is! She has known it all along,
without betraying herself by a word."
"And does that surprise you?" answered Calzabigi, "It does not me, for
well I know that the signora is an angel of prudence as well as of
goodness. The signora will allow me to speak before her? Well, then,
maestro, the die is cast. I am just from the house of Count Durazzo, to
whom, at your request, I took the opera yesterday. The count sat up all
night to examine it; and this morning, when I was ushered into his room,
I found him still in his evening-dress, the score on the table before
"Hear, Marianne," exclaimed Gluck, triumphantly, "it is not only the
composer who forgets to sleep for the sake of this opera. And what said
the theatrical director, Raniero?"
"He said that no intrigue and no opposition should prevent him from
representing this magnificent opera. He says that he feels proud of the
privilege of introducing such a chef-d'oeuvre to the world. He has
already sent for the transcribers; he has chosen the performers, and
begs of the author to distribute the parts. But every thing must be done
at once, for the opera comes out in October to celebrate the birthday of
the young Archduchess Isabella."
"That is impossible," cried Gluck. "We are in July, and such an opera
cannot be learned in three months."
"With good-will, it can be done, Christopher," said Marianne,
imploringly. "Do not leave your enemies time to cabal against you;
snatch the victory from them before they have time for strategy."
"You do not know what you require at my hands," returned he,
passionately. "You do not know how an ill-timed pause or a slighted rest
would mar the fair face of my godlike music, and travesty its beauty."
"Hear how he defames himself!" laughed Marianne, "as if it were so easy
to desecrate Gluck's masterpiece."
"It is precisely because it is my masterpiece that it is easy to
travesty," returned Gluck, earnestly. "The lines which distinguish the
hand of a Raphael from that of a lesser genius are so delicate as to be
almost imperceptible. Slight deviations of the pencil have no effect
upon a caricature; but you well know how completely a beautiful face
maybe disfigured by a few unskilful touches. I will cite as an example
the aria of 'Orpheus,' 'Che faro senza Euridice' Change its expression
by the smallest discrepancy of time or modulation, and you transform it
into a tune for a puppet-show. In music of this description a misplaced
piano or forte, an ill-judged fioriture, an error of movement, either
one, will alter the effect of the whole scene. The opera must,
therefore, be rehearsed under my own direction, for the composer is the
soul of his opera, and his presence is as necessary to its success as is
that of the sun to the creation." [Footnote: These are Gluck's own
words. Anton Schmid, "Life of Gluck," page 152.]
"Well, I am sure, you can manage the whole troupe with that stentor
voice of yours," replied Marianne.
"If you do not consent, Gluck," interposed Calzabigi, "they will have to
rehearse for the birthday fete an opera of Hasse and Metastasio."
"What!" shrieked Gluck, "lay aside my 'Orpheus' for one of Hasse's puny
operas? Never! My opera is almost complete. It needs but one last aria
to stand out before the world in all its fulness of perfection, and
shall I suffer it to be laid aside to give place to one of his tooting,
jingling performances? No, no. My 'Orpheus' shall not retire before
Hasse's pitiful jeremiades. It shall be forthcoming on the birthday, and
I must train the singers by day and by night."
"Right!" exclaimed Marianne, "and we shall crown you with new laurels,
Christopher, on that eventful night."
"I am not so sure of that, Marianne. It is easier to criticise than to
appreciate, and every thing original or new provokes the opposition of
the multitude. In our case, they have double provocation, for
Calzabigi's poem is as original as my music. We have both striven for
simplicity, nature, and truth; we have both discarded clap-trap of every
sort. Oh, Calzabigi, my friend, how happy for me that I have found such
a poet! If, through his 'Orpheus,' Gluck is to attain fame, he well
knows how much of it is due to the inspiration of your noble poem."
"And never," exclaimed Calzabigi, grasping the extended hand of the
composer, "never would the name of poor Calzabigi have been known, had
Gluck not borne it along upon the pinions of his own fame. If the world
calls me poet, it is because my poem has borrowed beauty from Gluck's
"Yes," said Gluck, laughing, "and if your poem fails, you will be
equally indebted to Gluck's music. Those half-learned critics, so
numerous in the world, who are far more injurious to art than the
ignorant, will rave against our opera. Another class of musical pedants
will be for discovering carelessness, and, for aught we know, the
majority of the world may follow in their wake, and condemn our opera as
barbarous, discordant, and overstrained."
"We must try to forestall all these prejudices, and win the critics to
the side of truth and real art," said Marianne.
"The signora is right," said Calzabigi. "It is not so much for our own
sake, as for the sake of art, that we should strive to have a fair
hearing before the world. We have the powerful party of Metastasio and
Hasse to gain. But I will deal with them myself. You, maestro, speak a
word of encouragement to Hasse, and he will be so overjoyed, that he
will laud your opera to the skies. And pray, be a man among men, and do
as other composers have done before: pay a visit to the singers, and ask
them to bring all their skill to the representation of your great work;
ask them to--"
Here, Gluck, boiling over with indignation, broke in upon Calzabigi, so
as actually to make the poet start back.
"What!" cried he, in a voice of thunder, "shall I visit the ladies'
maids also, and make them declarations of love? Shall I present each
singer with a golden snuff-box, while I entertain the troupe at a
supper, where champagne shall flow like water, and Indian birds-nests
shall be served up with diamonds? Shall I present myself in full
court-dress at the anteroom of the tenor, and, slipping a ducat in the
hand of his valet, solicit the honor of an interview? Shall I then bribe
the maid of the prima donna to let me lay upon her mistress's
toilet-table a poem, a dedication, and a set of jewels? Shame upon you,
cravens, that would have genius beg for suffrages from mediocrity!
Rather would I throw my 'Orpheus' behind the fire, and let every opera I
have ever written follow it to destruction. I would bite out my tongue,
and spit it in Hasse's face, sooner than go before him with a mouth full
of flattering lies, to befool him with praise of that patchwork he has
made, and calls AN OPERA! When I was obscure and unknown, I scorned
these tricks of trade; and think you that to-day I would stoop to such
baseness? Eight years ago, in Rome, a cabal was formed to cause the
failure of my 'Trionfo de Camillo,' Cardinal Albini came to assure me
that his influence should put down the plots of my enemies. I thanked
him, but refused all protection for my opera: and I told his eminence
that my works must depend upon their own worth for success. [Footnote:
This is true. Anton Schmid, page 88.] And you dare, at this time, to
come with such proposals to me? You are not worthy of my friendship. I
will have nothing further to say to either of you, you cringing
So saying, with his dark-blue dressing-gown flying out like an angry
cloud behind him, Gluck strode across the room, and sailed off to his
Marianne, smiling, reached out her hand to the astounded poet. "Forgive
his stormy temper," said she, gently; "he can no more bear contradiction
than a spoiled child. His wrath looks formidable; but though there is
much thunder, there is no lightning about him. Wait a quarter of an
hour, kind friend, and he will be back, suing for pardon and imploring
us to take his hand, just like a naughty child that he is. Then he will
smile, and look so ashamed that you will never have the heart to feel
"I have none already," replied Calzabigi; "his thunder has rolled
grandly over our heads, and right noble are its sounds; but the
lightning has spared us. We are safe, and--unconvinced. For, indeed,
signora," continued Raniero, with earnestness, "we are right. No
reliance is ever to be placed upon the justice or good taste of the
world, and since the maestro refuses to propitiate his judges; I will
undertake the task myself. I shall go at once to Metastasio, and after
that I shall invite the performers to a supper."
It was the birthday of the Archduchess Isabella, and all Vienna was
alive with festivity. The passionate love of the archduke for his
beautiful young wife was well known, and the people hastened to offer
homage to the beloved partner of their future emperor.
From early morning the equipages of the nobility were seen hurrying to
the palace, where the archduchess in state, surrounded by the other
members of the imperial family, received the congratulations of the
court. In an adjoining room, on a table of white marble, were exhibited
the rich gifts by which her new relatives had testified their affection;
for Isabella was adored by her husband's family.
The Emperor Francis, usually so simple, had presented her with a set of
jewels, worth half a million; and the empress, whose joy in the
happiness of her son's wedded life knew no bounds, was lavish in her
demonstrations of love to the woman who had awakened his heart to gentle
Not only had every variety of rich costumes been ordered for Isabella
from Paris, but the empress had gone so far as to present a set of
bridal jewels to her little grand-daughter, a child scarcely a year old.
This magnificent parure of diamonds, sapphires, and pearls, was the
admiration of the whole court. Around it lay the offerings of the young
sisters-in-law, all of whom, with one exception, had presented
something. The Princess Christina, the dearest friend of Isabella, had
painted her miniature, and this beautiful likeness was intended as a
present to the Archduke Joseph. [Footnote: Wraxall, page 80.] He
received it with delight; and while his large blue eyes wandered from
the portrait to the original, he testified his pleasure by every
possible expression of rapture and gratitude. "And yet," said he, "there
is something in this picture which I have never seen in your
countenance, Isabella. Your eyes, which to me have always seemed to
borrow their light from heaven, here look dark and unfathomable, as if
within their melancholy depths there lay a secret full of untold
Joseph did not perceive the look of intelligence that passed between his
wife and sister as he spoke these words: he still gazed upon the
picture, and at last his face, which had been lit up with joy, grew
sorrowful and full of thought. Suddenly he laid the miniature down, and
placing his hands upon Isabella's shoulders, he looked searchingly at
her pale countenance.
"Look at me, my beloved," whispered he, tenderly, "let me see your
bewitching smile, that it may give the lie to yonder strange image. I
see there your beautiful features, but instead of my loving and beloved
wife, my happy, smiling Isabella, I see an angel, but, oh, I see a
martyr, too, dying of some secret sorrow. That is not your face--is it
my wife? YOU have never looked so wretched, so heart-broken! Speak,
Isabella, you are happy, are you not, my own one?"
"Yes, dear husband," whispered she, scarcely moving her blanched lips,
"I am happy and contented in your happiness, But see, the empress
beckons to you. She seems about to present some stranger to your
The archduke left to obey the summons, and Isabella and Christina
remained together, looking vacantly upon the birthday-table and the
splendid gifts that lay in such rich profusion before their eyes.
"Poor brother!" murmured Christina, "he loves as few have ever loved
before! And you, dear sister, can you not kindle one spark from the
embers of your heart to warm--"
"Why speak of my dead heart?" said Isabella, mournfully. "Did I not long
ago confide to you its terrible secret? You, my trusted and dearest
friend, have you not seen how I pray Heaven for strength to hold before
my husband's eyes the faint ray of light which he mistakes for the
sunshine of love? Dear Joseph! His heart is so noble and so rich with
love that he sees not the poverty of mine. May God be merciful that his
delusion last at least as long as my life! then will I die happy; for I
shall have done my duty in the face of a sorrow transcending all other
Christina bent her head over the glittering heaps before her, that no
one might see her tears. But Isabella saw them as they fell upon the
bridal gifts of her little daughter.
She pointed to the jewels. "See, Christina, your tears are brighter than
our dear mother's diamonds. Now, were the emperor here--"
"Heaven forbid!" said Christina, as with her gossamer handkerchief she
wiped away the fallen tear. "If the empress were to know this, she would
be justly displeased, that, on such a day, my tears should dim the
splendor of your little daughter's bridal jewels."
"Give yourself no concern for my daughter's jewels, Christina; she will
never see her bridal-day."
"How? Do you expect her to be an old maid, like my two eldest sisters?"
asked Christina, with assumed playfulness.
Isabella laid her hand on Christina's shoulder. "I believe," said she,
solemnly, "or rather I know, that my daughter will ere long be an
"Oh, Isabella," cried Christina, almost impatiently, "is it not enough
that you prophesy your own death, to make me wretched, without adding to
my grief by predicting that of your child, too?"
"I cannot leave her behind, Christina; I should be unhappy without her.
She must follow me--but hush! Here comes the empress --let us be happy
for her sake."
And with a sweet smile, Isabella advanced to greet her mother-in-law.
"My dearest daughter," said the empress, "I long for this ceremonial to
end, that we may enjoy our happiness en famille. We must dine in
private, unless you wish it otherwise, for to-day you are empress of all
hearts, and your wishes are commands."
Isabella raised the hand of the empress to her lips. "I have but one
wish to-day, your majesty," said she; "it is that you love me."
"That wish was granted before it was uttered, my beloved child," replied
the empress, tenderly, "for indeed I love you more and more each day of
my life; and when I see you and my son together, your happiness seems
like the old melody of my own happy bridal so many years ago."
"And yet," said Isabella, "your majesty looks so young--"
"No, child, I am a grandmother," replied the empress, smiling proudly,
"but my heart is as young as ever, and it leaps with joy when I look
upon the son whom you have made so happy. Why, HIS heart looks out of
his great, blue eyes with such--But see for yourself, here he comes!"
At this moment the archduke entered the room, and advanced toward his
mother, while at the door, apparently awaiting his return, stood the
emperor and the lord high chancellor, Kaunitz.
"Pardon me, your majesty, if I interrupt you," said the archduke. "I
have just learned from the marshal of the imperial household that your
majesty has declined going to the opera to-night. Can this be possible,
when Gluck's new opera has been rehearsing for two months with especial
reference to this occasion?"
"It can," replied the empress, "for I do not interdict the
representation--I only absent myself from it."
The archduke crimsoned, and he was about to make some hasty reply, when
he felt the pressure of his wife's hand upon his arm. He smiled, and
controlled himself at once.
"Forgive me, if I venture to remonstrate with your majesty," replied he,
good-humoredly. "This new opera of Gluck is a musical gem, and is well
worthy your majesty's notice."
"I have been told, on the contrary, that it is very tiresome," exclaimed
the empress with impatience. "The libretto is heavy, and the music also.
It is highly probable that the opera will fail, and it would certainly
be unfortunate if, on this day of rejoicing, we should assemble there to
witness the failure."
"But your majesty may have been misinformed," persisted Joseph. "Let me
beg of you, my dear mother, for the sake of the great maestro, who would
take your absence sorely to heart, as well as for the sake of the
director, Count Durazzo, who has taken such pains to produce this new
masterpiece--let me beg you to reconsider your decision."
"And allow me to add my entreaties to those of Joseph," said the
emperor; entering the room. "All Vienna awaits the new representation as
a high artistic gratification. Without your majesty's presence the
triumph of the maestro will be incomplete."
"And the emperor, too, opposes me?" said Maria Theresa. "Does he, too,
desert the old style, to follow these new-fangled musical
eccentricities? Have we not all enjoyed the opera as it exists at
present? And if so, why shall this Master Gluck step suddenly forward
and announce to us that we know nothing of music, and that what we have
hitherto admired as such was nothing more than trumpery? Why does he
disdain the poetry of Metastasio, to adopt that of a man whom nobody
knows? I will not lend my hand to mortify the old man who for thirty
years has been our court-poet. I owe it to him, at least, not to appear
at this representation, and that is reason enough for me to refuse my
"But Calzabigi's poem is of surpassing beauty," remonstrated the
emperor; "for Kaunitz himself has seen it, and is in raptures with it."
"Ah, Kaunitz, too, has given his adherence to the new musical caprice of
Master Gluck?" said the empress, signing to the count to come forward.
"Yes, your majesty," said Kaunitz, bowing, "I also am for the new and
startling, whether in politics or in music. I have learned this lesson
from my imperial mistress, whose new line of policy now commands the
admiration of all Europe."
The empress received these flattering words with an emotion of visible
pleasure; for it was seldom that Kaunitz paid compliments, even to
"You mean, then, that Gluck has not only produced something new, but
something of worth, also?"
"Yes, your majesty, music has cut off her queue, and really in her new
coiffure she is divinely beautiful. Moreover, your majesty has rewarded
the seventy years of Metastasio with a rich pension, proof enough to him
of the estimation in which his talents are held. Metastasio belongs to
the old regime you have pensioned off; Calzabigi and Gluck are children
of our new Austria. Your majesty's self has created this Austria, and
you owe to her children your imperial countenance and favor."
"But I have been told there will be some strife to-night between the
rival parties," said the empress.
"And since when has your majesty shunned the battle-field?" asked
"But the defeat, count, I fear the defeat. The opera is sure to fail."
"No one knows better than your majesty how to console the vanquished.
Your majesty was never greater than when, after the defeat of
Field-marshal Daun, you went forth to meet him with all the honors which
you would have awarded to a victorious general. [Footnote: After the
battle of Torgau, which Daun lost.] If Gluck fails to-day, he will not
be the less a great artiste, and your majesty will sustain him under his
The empress laughed. "It is dangerous to contend with Kaunitz, for he
slays me with my own weapons. And you, too, my husband, would have me
abandon Hasse and Metastasio, who are so pious and so good, for this
Gluck, whom I have never met inside of a church? Gluck is not even a
"But he is a genius," cried out Joseph, "and genius is pleasing in the
sight of God. Metastasio and Hasse are old, and having nothing better to
do, they go to church. If they were young, your majesty would not meet
them so often, I fancy."
The face of the empress grew scarlet while the archduke poured forth
these thoughtless words; and all present felt that Gluck and his cause
But Isabella came to the rescue. Approaching the empress and kissing her
hand, she said: "Your majesty has been so good as to say that to-day you
would refuse me nothing. I have two requests to make. May I speak?"
"Yes, dear child, you may," replied the empress, already appeased by the
gentle voice of her beloved daughter-in-law. "I know so well that you
will ask nothing unseemly that I do not fear to grant your requests.
What are they?"
"First, your majesty, I beg that my husband and I be permitted to attend
the mass that is to be celebrated in your private chapel, that by your
side we may beg of God to give peace to Austria, and to bless us, your
majesty's own family, with unity and love among ourselves. Will you
The empress, in her animated way, drew the archduchess toward her, and
kissed her tenderly.
"You are an angel, Isabella," said she, "and discord ceases at the very
sound of your voice. Yes, dearest child, you shall come with Joseph; and
side by side we will pray for peace and family concord. For the second
boon, I guess it. Is it not that I grant your husband's petition?"
Isabella, smiling, bowed her head, and the empress turned toward the
"Well, your majesty," continued she, "since my presence is
indispensable, I bow to your superior judgment in art, and the court
must attend the opera to-night. Are you satisfied, my son?" asked she of
the archduke. "Are you satisfied now that I have sacrificed my
prejudices to give you pleasure? And on some future occasion will you do
as much for me, should I require it?"
"With shame I shall remember your majesty's goodness in pardoning my
ungracious behavior to-day" replied the archduke, fervently pressing his
mother's hands to his lips.
"I not only forgive but forget it, my son," said Maria Theresa, with one
of her enchanting smiles; "this is a day of rejoicing, and no clouds
shall darken our happiness. Let us now retire to the chapel, for,
believe me, dear son, it is not well to forget our heavenly Father until
age forces us to remember our dependence. A great and brilliant destiny
is before you, Joseph, and much you need help from Heaven. Watch and
pray while you are young, that you may call down the blessing of God
upon your career."
ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE.
On that night, all Vienna sped to the Imperial Opera-house. Not lords
and ladies alone, but commoners and artisans with their wives, thronged
to hear the wonderful music which for three weeks had divided the
Viennese into two bitter factions. On one side stood Metastasio, the
venerable court-poet, whose laurels dated from the reign of the
empress's father. Linked with his fame was that of Hasse, who for forty
years had been called "Il caro Sassone" Hasse, who had composed so many
operas, was often heard to say, that, when it came upon him unawares, he
did not know his own music.
All Italy had declared for Hasse and Metastasio, and in scornful
security the Italians had predicted the discomfiture of the new school
On the other hand were Gluck and his friend Calzabigi, whose partisans
disdained the old style, and lauded the new one to the skies. Gluck was
perfectly indifferent to all this strife of party. Not once, since the
first day of rehearsal, had his countenance lost its expression of calm
and lofty security. Resolved to conquer, he receded before no obstacle.
In vain had the prima donna, the renowned Gabrielle, complained of
hoarseness: Gluck blandly excused her, and volunteered to send for her
rival, Tibaldi, to take the role of Eurydice. This threat cured the
hoarseness, and Gabrielle attended the rehearsals punctually. In vain
had Guadagni attempted, by a few fioritures, to give an Italian turn to
the severe simplicity of Orpheus's air. At the least deviation from his
text, Gluck, with a frown, would recall the ambitious tenor, and do away
with his embellishments. In vain had the chorus-singers complained of
the impossibility of learning their parts. Gluck instructed them one by
one. He had trained the orchestra, too, to fullest precision; and
finally, every difficulty overcome, the great opera of "Orpheus and
Eurydice" was ready for representation on the birthday of the
Shortly before the hour of performance, Gluck entered his drawing-room
in a rich court-dress, his coat covered with decorations. His wife met
him, elegantly attired, and sparkling with diamonds. She held out her
hand, and smiled a happy smile.
"Look at me, my hero," said she. "I have arrayed myself in my
wedding-jewels. I feel to-night as I did on the day when we plighted our
faith to one another before the altar. Then, dear Christopher, our
hearts were united; to-day--our souls. Is it not so? And are we not one
"Yes, dearest, yes," replied Gluck, folding her in his arms, "never have
I so prized and loved you as in these later days of strife and struggle.
Well do I feel what a blessing to man is a noble woman! Often during our
rehearsals, when I have encountered the supercilious glances of
performers and orchestra, the thought of your dear self has given me
strength to confront and defy their scorn. And when, weary in mind and
body, I have found my way home, the touch of your hand has refreshed and
cooled the fever in my heart. And often when others have pronounced my
music worthless, I might have despaired, but for the remembrance of your
emotion. I thought of your tears and of your rapture, and hope revived
in my sick heart. Your applause, dear wife, has sustained me to the
"No, dear Christopher," replied Marianne, "not my applause, but the
might of your own inspiration. That which is truly great must sooner or
later prevail over mediocrity."
"The world is not so appreciative as you fancy. Marianne! Else had
Socrates not drunk of the poisoned beaker, nor Christ, our Lord, been
crucified. Mediocrity is popular, because it has the sympathy of the
masses. Not only does it come within their comprehension, but it is
accommodating; it does not wound their littleness. I know, dear wife,
that my opera is a veritable work of art, and therefore do I tremble
that its verdict is in the hands of mediocrity. Poor Marianne! You have
arrayed yourself for a bridal, and it MAY happen that we go to the
funeral of my masterpiece."
"Well, even so," replied the spirited wife, "I shall not have decked
myself in vain; I shall die like the Indian widow, upon the funeral pile
of my dear husband's greatness. I will both live and die with you,
maestro; whether you are apotheosized or stoned, your worth can neither
be magnified nor lessened by the world. My faith in your genius is
independent of public opinion; and whether you conquer or die, your
opera must live."
"How I wish," said Gluck thoughtfully, "that from above, I might look
down a hundred years hence and see whether indeed my works will have
value on earth, or be thrown aside as antiquated trumpery! But it is
useless--an impenetrable cloud covers the future, and we must e'en
content ourselves with the verdict of the day. Let me be strong to meet
it!--Come, Marianne, the carriage is coming to the door, and we must go.
But is all this splendor to be hidden behind the lattice-work of my
"Oh, no, Christopher," said his wife gayly; "on such a night as this, I
have taken another box; from whence I can be a happy witness of my
"What intrepid confidence the woman possesses!" exclaimed Gluck,
catching his wife's gayety. "But how will my brave champion feel, if she
has to see as well as hear the hisses that may possibly greet us
"I shall feel heartily ashamed of the audience," replied Marianne, "and
shall take no pains to conceal my contempt."
"We shall see," answered Gluck, handing her to the carriage, and
following her with a merry laugh. "Now, forward!"
Within the theatre all was commotion. On one side, the partisans from
the old school, who, from prejudice or custom, adhered to Hasse and
Metastasio, predicted failure. This party was composed of Italians, and
of all those who had "gone out" with old Austria. New Austria, on the
other hand, with all the young dilettante of Vienna, were resolved to
sustain Gluck, and, if possible, secure to his new opera an
unprecedented triumph. The excitement reached even those boxes where sat
the elite of the Viennese nobility. Even THEIR voices were to be heard
discussing the merits or demerits of the musical apple of discord. The
Gluckites related that Guadagni who, at first, had been strongly
prejudiced against the opera, had finally been moved to tears by its
exquisite harmony, and had said to Gluck that he was learning for the
first time to what heights of beauty music might soar. The Hasseites
replied that the opera was none the less tedious for Guadagni's word.
Moreover, if Hasse and Metastasio had not openly condemned Gluck's
musical innovations, it was because they were both satisfied that the
opera would damn itself, and they were present to witness the
discomfiture of its composer. [Footnote: Anton Schmid, "Ritter von
Gluck," page 92.]
Suddenly there was a hush in the theatre. The attention of the
disputants was directed toward a small box, in the first tier, the door
of which had opened to give entrance to two persons. One was an old man
with silver-white hair, which flowed in ringlets on either side of his
pale and delicate face. His thin lips were parted with an affable smile,
and the glance of his small dark eyes was mild, benevolent, and in
keeping with the rest of his countenance. His small, bent figure was
clothed in the cassock of an abbe, but the simplicity of his costume was
heightened by the order of Theresa which, attached to a silk ribbon,
hung around his neck.
The other was a tall, gaunt man, in the dress of court maestro de
capello. His lean face was proud and serious, his large mouth wore an
expression of scorn, and his full-orbed, light-blue eyes had a glance of
power which accorded well with his lofty stature. The two advanced arm
in arm toward the railing, and, at their appearance, a storm of applause
arose from the parterre, while the partisans of the Italian school
cried; "Long live Hasse! Long live Metastasio!"
They bowed and took their seats. While this was transpiring, the wife of
Gluck entered her box. With a quiet smile she listened to the shouts
that greeted her husband's rivals.
"He too" thought she, "will have his greeting and his triumph."
She was not mistaken. No sooner had Gluck appeared in the orchestra,
than, from boxes as well as parterre, a thousand voices pealed forth his
welcome: "Long live Gluck! long live the great maestro!"
Gluck bowed gracefully, while Marianne, happy but tranquil, unfolded her
jewelled fan, and leaned back in supreme satisfaction. Metastasio
whispered something to Hasse, who nodded his head, and then began to run
his fingers through the masses of his bushy, gray hair.
Suddenly were heard these words: "Her majesty the empress, and the
Hushed now was every sound. Every eye was turned toward the box
surmounted by the double-headed eagle of Austria. The marshal of the
household appeared with his golden wand, the doors of the box flew
asunder, the audience rose, and the empress, leaning on the arm of the
emperor, entered her box. Magnificently dressed, and sparkling with
diamonds, her transcendent beauty seemed still more to dazzle the eyes
of her enraptured subjects. She was followed by the archduke, who, in
conversation with his wife, seemed scarcely to heed the greetings of his
future subjects. Behind them came a bevy of princes and princesses, all
of whom, including little Marie Antoinette and Maximilian, the two
youngest, had been permitted to accompany the imperial party. It was a
family festival, and Maria Theresa chose on this occasion to appear
before her people in the character of a mother.
The empress and her husband came forward and bowed. The former then
glided gracefully into her large gilt arm-chair, while the latter signed
to his children to be seated.
This was the signal of the music to begin. The audience resumed their
seats, Gluck raised the leader's staff, and signed to the musicians.
The overture began. In breathless silence the audience listened to that
short, earnest overture, whose horns, trumpets, and hautboys seemed to
herald the coming of kings and heroes.
The curtain rose, and, in a funeral hall, Orpheus poured forth his grief
for the loss of his Eurydice. With this pathetic complaint mingled the
voices of the chorus of mourners; then a solo from Orpheus, in which he
bewails anew the fate of the noble woman who had died for his sake. The
god of love appears, counselling him to descend himself to the infernal
regions. Orpheus, strengthened and revived by hope, resolves to tempt
the dangerous descent, and calls upon his friends to share his fate.
At the end of the first act the curtain fell amid the profoundest
silence. The Hasseites shrugged their shoulders, and even Gluck's
warmest adherents felt undecided what to say of this severe Doric music,
which disdained all the coquetries of art, and rejected all superfluous
"I am glad that Metastasio is here," said the empress, "for his presence
will prove to Calzabigi that he is not a pensioned dotard. And what
thinks my daughter of the opera?" asked Maria Theresa of the infanta.
But when she saw Isabella's face, her heart grew faint with fear. The
archduchess was pale as death, and her countenance wore an expression of
grief bordering on despair. Her large, dark eyes, distended to their
utmost, were fixed upon the ceiling; and she seemed as if she still
heard the wailings of Orpheus and the plaintive chorus of his friends.
Joseph saw nothing of this. He had taken a seat farther back, and was
chatting gayly with his little brothers and sisters.
"God help me!" murmured the empress; "she looks as if she were dying!
Oh, if she were right with her dismal prophecy of death! What if indeed
she is to leave us? Have mercy, O God! I know that I love her too well.
She will be taken from me; Heaven will claim from me this sacrifice!"
[Footnote: The empress's words. Caraccioli, "Life of Joseph II.," page
Isabella shuddered, and awakened from her horrid dream. Her eyes fell,
her cheeks flushed, and once more her lips parted with a gentle smile.
With a tender and appealing look, she turned toward the empress and
kissed her hand.
"Pardon me, your majesty," whispered she; "the music has entranced and
bewildered me. I was in another world, and was lost to the present."
"The music pleases you, then?" asked the empress.
"Oh, your majesty," cried Isabella, "this is no music to give pleasure;
it is the sublimest language of truth and love!"
"Then," said the empress tenderly, "if you prize it so highly, dearest,
I will prove to you how dearly I love you, for your verdict and mine
disagree. Our next festive day will be that on which Joseph is to be
crowned King of Rome. And we shall do homage to the taste of the Queen
of Rome by ordering that this opera be repeated on the occasion of her
Isabella shook her head. "I shall not live long enough to be crowned
Queen of Rome." [Footnote: Isabella's own words. Wraxall, ii., page 394.]
Maria Theresa was about to murmur a reply, when the curtain rose, and
the second act of the opera opened.
The audience, who had been loudly canvassing the music, were silenced,
and awaited in breathless expectation the unfolding of the plot. Soon
came the wonderful scene between Orpheus and the furies who guard the
gates of Avernus. The beseeching tones of Orpheus, and the inexorable
"No!" of the furies, made every listener tremble. Even Hasse, overcome
by the sublimity of the music, bowed his head with the rest; and
Metastasio, enraptured with the words, murmured, "Ah, che poesia
divina!" Murmurs of applause were heard from every side of the theatre;
they grew with every scene, and at last burst forth in wild shouts. It
seemed as if the audience were gradually rising to the appreciation of
this new and unknown music, until with one accord its matchless beauty
burst upon their hearts and overpowered them.
When the curtain fell a second time, the applause knew no bounds. The
Gluckites, in triumphant silence, hearkened to the voices of the
deeply-moved multitude, who gave full vent to their emotions, and
noisily exchanged the thoughts to which the wonderful opera had given
Marianne, supremely happy, listened enraptured, while wreaths fell in
showers around the head of her beloved husband. The adherents of Hasse
and Metastasio no longer dared to raise their voices in opposition to
the public verdict. In this state of excitement the third act began.
With increasing delight, the audience listened. When Eurydice, condemned
to return to the infernal regions, sang her plaintive aria, sobs were
heard throughout the theatre, and murmurs of applause were audible
during the whole scene. But when Orpheus concluded his passionate aria
'Che faro senza Eurydice,' the people could contain their enthusiasm no
longer. Exalted, carried away, with beating hearts and tearful eyes,
they cried "Da capo!" and when Guadagni, in compliance with the call,
had repeated his solo, the audience shouted out so often the name of
Gluck, that he could resist his joy no longer. He turned, and they saw
his noble face scarlet with blushes; then arose another storm. Again and
again the "vivas" and the clappings were renewed, each time more frantic
Hasse, tired of the spectacle of his rival's triumph, had disappeared.
Metastasio, more magnanimous, had remained, and applauded as loudly as
any. Marianne, to conceal her tears, had hidden her face behind her open
fan; and as the applause of the people increased, until it resembled the
shouts of victory, she murmured: "I knew it, I knew it! The true and
beautiful must always prevail."
The fire of enthusiasm had spread to the imperial box. The emperor had
more than once been heard to call out, "Bravo!" and Maria Theresa had
several times felt her eyes grow dim. But she brushed away her tears and
exclaimed: "It is beautiful, certainly; but it is a heathen opera, in
which not God but gods are invoked!"
Isabella said nothing. She had held up before her face the bouquet which
her husband had gathered for her, that her tears might fall unseen among
its flowers. Joseph saw those tears shining like dew-drops upon its
rose-leaves, and, taking it from her hands, he kissed them away. "Do not
weep, my Isabella," whispered he tenderly; "your tears fall like a
weight of sorrow upon my heart. Wipe them away, beloved. The day will
come when you also shall be an empress, and your people will do you
homage as I do now; and then you will have it in your power to heal
their sorrows, and wipe away their tears; and they will love and bless
you as I--"
A final burst of applause drowned the voice of the archduke. The opera
was at an end, and the people were calling again for Gluck, the creator
of the lyric drama.
"IN THREE YEARS, WE MEET AGAIN."
The war was over. All Vienna was rejoicing that the struggle which had
caused so much bloodshed was at an end, and that Austria and Prussia had
Neither of the two had gained any thing by this long war, except
glorious victories, honorable wounds, and a knowledge of the power and
bravery of its enemy. Both had serious burdens to bear, which, for many
years to come, would be painful reminders of the past. Austria, to cover
the expenses of the war, had invented paper money, and had flooded the
empire with millions of coupons. Prussia had coined base money, and all
the employes of the state had received notes, which were nicknamed
"Beamtenscheine." After the war these notes were exchanged for this base
currency, which soon afterward was withdrawn from circulation as
worthless. But Prussia had obtained from Austria full recognition of her
rights to Silesia, and she in return had pledged herself to vote for
Joseph as candidate for the crown of Rome, and to support the
pretensions of the empress to the reversion of the duchy of Modena.
We have said that all Vienna was rejoicing, and turned out to receive
the returning army with laurel wreaths and oaken boughs. The people
breathed freely once more; they shouted and feasted, and prepared
themselves to enjoy to their utmost the blessings of peace.
But while the nation shouted for joy, a cloud was gathering over the
imperial palace, and its black shadow darkened the faces of the once
There wanted now but a few months to complete the third year of the
archduke's marriage, and the young princesses seized every opportunity
to make schemes of pleasure for the joyous anniversary. Isabella viewed
these projects with a mournful smile. Her countenance became sadder and
more serious, except when in the presence of her husband. There she
assumed an appearance of gayety: laughing, jesting, and drawing from her
violin its sweetest sounds. But, with her attendants, or in the company
of the other members of the imperial family, she was melancholy, and
made her preparations for death, which she foretold would overtake her
"You believe this terrible presentiment, my daughter?" said the empress
to her one day. "Will you indeed forsake us who love you so dearly?"
"It is not that I will, but that I MUST go," replied she. "It is God who
calls me, and I must obey."
"But why do you think that God has called you?"
Isabella was silent for a moment, then she raised her eyes with a
strange, unspeakable look to the face of the empress. "A dream has
announced it to me," said she, "a dream in which I place implicit
"A dream?" said the pious empress to herself. "It is true that God
sometimes speaks to men in dreams; sometimes reveals to us in sleep
secrets which He denies to our waking, earthly eyes. What was your
"What I saw?" whispered she, almost inaudibly. "There are visions which
no words can describe. They do not pass as pictures before the eye, but
with unquenchable fire they brand themselves upon the heart. What I saw?
I saw a beloved and dying face, a breathing corpse. I lay overwhelmed
with grief near the outstretched form of my--my--mother. Oh, believe me,
the prayer of despair has power over death itself, and the cry of a
broken heart calls back the parting soul. I wept, I implored, I prayed,
until the dim eyes opened, the icy lips moved and the stiffening corpse
arose and looked at me, at me who knelt in wild anguish by its side."
"Horrible! "cried the empress. "And this awful dream did not awake you?"
"No, I did not awake, and even now it seems to me that all these things
were real. I saw the corpse erect, and I heard the words which its
hollow and unearthly voice spoke to me: `We shall meet again in
"Say no more, say no more," said the pale empress, crossing herself.
"You speak with such an air of conviction, that for a moment I too
seemed to see this dreadful dream. When had you your dream?"
"In the autumn of 1760, your majesty."
The empress said nothing. She imprinted a kiss upon the forehead of the
infants, and hastily withdrew to her own apartments.
"I will pray, I will pray!" sobbed she. "Perhaps God will have mercy
She ordered her private carriage and drove to St. Stephens, where,
prostrate among the tombs of her ancestors, she prayed for more than an
From this day Maria Theresa became sad and silent, anxiously watching
the countenance of Isabella, to see if it betokened death. But weeks
passed by, and the infanta's prophecy began to be regarded as a delusion
only fit to provoke a smile. The empress alone remained impressed by it.
She still gazed with sorrowing love at the pale and melancholy face of
"You have made a convert of my mother," said the Archduchess Christina
one day to Isabella, "although," added she, laughing, "you never looked
better in your life."
"And you, Christina, you do not believe?" said Isabella, putting her arm
around Christina's neck. "You, my friend, and the confidante of my
sorrows, you would wish to prolong the burden of this life of secret
wretchedness and dissimulation?"
"I believe in the goodness of God, and in the excellence of your own
heart, dear Isabella. These three years once passed away, as soon as you
will have been convinced that this prophecy was indeed nothing but a
dream, your heart will reopen to life and love. A new future will loom
up before you, and at last you will reward the love of my poor brother,
not by noble self-sacrifice, but by veritable affection."
"Would that you spoke the truth!" returned Isabella sadly. "Had my heart
been capable of loving, I would have loved him long ago--him, whose
noble and confiding love is at once my pride and my grief. Believe me
when I tell you that in these few years of married life I have suffered
terribly. I have striven with my sorrows, I have tried to overcome the
past, I have desired to live and to enjoy life--but in vain. My heart
was dead, and could not awake to life--I have only suffered and waited
"Gracious Heaven!" cried Christina, unmoved by the confidence with which
Isabella spoke, "is there nothing then that can bind you to life? If you
are cold to the burning love of your husband, are you indifferent to
"Do you think that I will leave my child?" said Isabella, looking
surprised. "Oh, no! She will come to me before she is seven years old."
[Footnote: The infanta's own words. This interview of Isabella with
Christina is historical, and the most extraordinary part of it is, that
the prophecy of her child's death was fulfilled.]
"Oh, Isabella, Isabella, I cannot believe that you will be taken from
us," cried Christina, bursting into tears, and encircling her sister
with her arms, as though she fancied that they might shield her from the
touch of death. "Stay with us, darling, we love you so dearly!"
Her voice choked by emotion, she laid her head upon Isabella's shoulder,
and wept piteously. The infanta kissed her, and whispered words of
tenderness, and Christina's sobs died away. Both were silent. Together
they stood with sad hearts and blanched cheeks, two imperial princesses
in the prime of youth, beauty, and worldly station, yet both bowed down
Their lips slightly moved in prayer, but all around was silent. Suddenly
the silence was broken by the deep, full sound of a large clock which
stood on the mantel-piece. Isaella raised her pale face, and listened
with a shudder.
For many months this clock had not struck the hour. The clockmaker, who
had been sent to repair it, had pronounced the machinery to be so
completely destroyed, that it would have to be renewed. Isabella could
not summon resolution to part with the clock. It was a dear memento of
home, and of her mother. She had therefore preferred to keep it,
although it would never sound again.
And now it struck! Loud, even, and full-toned, it pealed the hour, and
its clear, metallic voice rang sharply through the room.
Isabella raised her head, and, pointing to the clock, said, with a
shudder: "Christina, it is the signal--I am called!" [Footnote:
Historical. Wraxall, p. 387.]
She drew back, as if in fear, while the clock went on with its
relentless strokes. "Come, come, let us away!" murmured Christina, with
pale and trembling lips.
"Yes, come," sighed Isabella.
She made a step, but her trembling feet refused to support her. She grew
dizzy, and sank down upon her knees.
Christina uttered a cry, and would have flown for help but Isabella held
her back. "My end approaches," said she. "My senses fail me. Hear my
last words. When I am dead, you will find a letter for you. Swear that
you will comply with its demands."
"I swear!" said Christina, solemnly.
"I am content. Now call the physician."
Day after day of anguish went by--of such anguish as the human heart can
bear, but which human language is inadequate to paint.
Isabella was borne to her chamber, and the imperial physician was called
in. The empress followed him to the bedside, where pale and motionless
sat Joseph, his eyes riveted upon the beloved wife who, for the first
time, refused to smile upon him, for the first time was deaf to his
words of love and sorrow.
The physician bent over the princess and took her hand. He felt her
head, then her heart, while the empress, with folded hands, stood
praying beside him: and Joseph, whose eyes were now turned upon him,
looked into his face, as if his whole soul lay in one long gaze of
Van Swieten spoke not a word, but continued his examination. He bade the
weeping attendants uncover the feet of the princess, and bent over them
in close and anxious scrutiny. As he raised his eyes, the archduke saw
that Van Swieten was very pale.
"Oh, doctor," cried he, in tones of agony, "do not say that she will
die! You have saved so many lives! Save my wife, my treasured wife, and
take all that I possess in the world beside!"
The physician replied not, but went again to the head of the bed, and
looked intently at the face of the princess. It had now turned scarlet,
and here and there was flecked with spots of purple. Van Swieten
snatched from Joseph one of the burning hands which he held clasped
within his own.
"Let me hold her dear hands," said he, kissing them again and again.
The doctor held up the little hand he had taken, which, first as white
as fallen snow, was now empurpled with disease. He turned it over,
looked into the palm, opened the fingers, and examined them closely.
"Doctor, in mercy, speak!" said the agonized husband. "Do you not see
that I shall die before your eyes, unless you promise that she shall
The empress prayed no longer. When she saw how Van Swieten was examining
the fingers of the archduchess, she uttered a stifled cry, and hiding
her head with her hands, she wept silently. At the foot of the bed knelt
the attendants, all with their tearful eyes lifted to the face of him
who would promise life or pronounce death. Van Swieten gently laid down
the hand of his patient, and opened her dress over the breast. As though
he had seen enough, he closed it quickly and stood erect.
His eyes were now fixed upon Joseph with an expression of deep and
painful sympathy. "Speak," said Joseph, with trembling lips, "I have
courage to hear."
"It is my duty to speak," replied Van Swieten, "my duty to exact of her
majesty and of your highness to leave the room. The archduchess has the
Maria Theresa sank insensible to the floor. From the anteroom where he
was waiting the emperor heard the fall, and hastening at the sound, he
bore his wife away.
Joseph, meanwhile, sat as though he had been struck by a thunderbolt.
"Archduke Joseph," cried Van Swieten, "by the duty you owe to your
country and your parents I implore you to leave this infected spot."
Joseph raised his head, and a smile illumined his pale face. "Oh," cried
he, "I am a happy man; I have had the small-pox! I at least can remain
with her until she recovers or dies."
"Yes, but you will convey the infection to your relatives."
"I will not leave the room, doctor," said Joseph resolutely. "No inmate
of the palace shall receive the infection through me. I myself will be
Isabella's nurse until--"
He could speak no more; he covered his face with his hands, and his
tears fell in showers over the pillow of his unconscious wife.
Van Swieten opposed him no longer. He was suffered to remain, nursing
the archduchess with a love that defied all fatigue.
Of all this Isabella was ignorant. Her large, staring eyes were fixed
upon her tender guardian, but she knew him not; she spoke to him in
words of burning tenderness, such as never before had fallen from her
lips; but while she poured out her love, she called him by another name,
she called him Riccardo--and while she told him that he was dearer to
her than all the world beside, she warned him to beware of her father.
Sometimes, in her delirium, she saw a bloody corpse beside her, and she
prayed to die by its side. Then she seemed to listen to another voice,
and her little hands were clasped in agony, while, exhausted with the
horror of the vision, she murmured, "Three years! three years! O God,
what martyrdom! In three years we meet again!"
Her husband heeded not her wild language, he listened to the music of
her voice. That voice was all that was left to remind him of his once
beautiful Isabella; it was still as sweet as in the days when her beauty
had almost maddened him--that beauty which had flown forever, and left
its possessor a hideous mass of blood and corruption.
On the sixth day of her illness Isabella recovered from her delirium.
She opened her eyes and fixed them upon her husband with a look of calm
intelligence. "Farewell, Joseph!" said she softly. "Farewell! It is over
now, and I die."
"No, no, darling, you will not die," cried he, bursting into tears. "You
would not leave me, beloved, you will live to bless me again."
"Do not sorrow for me," said she. "Forgive and forget me." As Joseph,
overcome by his emotion, made no reply, she repeated her words with more
emphasis: "Forgive me, Joseph, say that you forgive me, for otherwise I
shall not die in peace."
"Forgive thee!" cried he. "I forgive thee, who for three years hast made
my life one long sunny day!"
"Thou wert happy, then," asked she, "happy through me?"
"I was, I AM happy, if thou wilt not leave me."
"Then," sighed the wife, "I die in peace. He was happy, I have done my
duty, I have atoned--"
Her head fell back. A long, fearful silence ensued. Suddenly a
shriek--the shriek of a man, was heard. When the attendants rushed in,
Isabella was dead, and Joseph had fallen insensible upon the body.
[Footnote: This extraordinary account of the life and death of the
infanta, Isabella of Parma, is no romance; it rests upon facts which are
mentioned by historians of the reign of Maria Theresa. Caroline Pichler,
whose mother was tire-woman to the empress when the archduchess died,
relates the history of the prophecy, wherein Isabella, first in three
hours, then in as many days, weeks, months, and years, awaited her
death. She also relates the fact of her death at the expiration of three
years, "in the arms of her despairing husband." Caroline Fichler,
"Memoirs of my Life."]
CHE FARO SENZA EURYDICE.
The funeral rites were ended, and Isabella of Parma slept in St.
Stephen's, in the tomb of the kaisers.
Joseph had refused to attend the funeral. From the hour his
consciousness had returned to him he had locked himself within his
apartments, and night and day he was heard pacing the floor with dull
and measured tread. Not even the empress, who had stood imploring at the
door, could obtain a word in answer to her entreaties. For two days and
nights lie remained within. On the third day the emperor knocked at the
door, and announced to his son that all was now ready for the funeral,
and his presence was indispensable.
Joseph opened the door, and, without a word, leaned upon his father's
arm, and traversed the long suite of apartments hung in black, until
they reached the room where lay the body of his wife. There, amid
burning wax-lights, was the hideous coffin that enclosed his beloved
one, and was about to bear away forever his life, his love, and his
happiness. When he saw the coffin, a stifled cry arose from his breast.
He darted with open arms toward it, and, bending down, hid his face upon
At this moment the doors of the room were opened, and the empress
entered, attended by her daughters, all in deep mourning. Their faces
were wan with weeping, as were those of all who followed the bereaved
sovereign. Meanwhile Joseph neither saw nor heard what passed around
him. The ceremonies began, but while the priest performed the funeral
rites, the archduke murmured words which brought tears to the eyes of
his father and mother.
Maria Theresa approached her stricken son. She kissed his hair, and laid
her hand lovingly upon his shoulder.
"My son," said she, with quivering lip, "arise and be a man. Her soul is
with God and with us; let us give her body to the earth that bore it."
While the empress spoke, the bells of the churches began to toll, and
from the streets were heard the beating of muffled drums, and the
booming of the cannon that announced to Vienna the moving of the funeral
"Come, my son, come," repeated the empress. "Our time of trial is at
Joseph raised his head from the coffin, and stared wildly around. He saw
the priests, the acolytes with their smoking censers, the weeping
attendants of his wife; he saw the black hangings, the groups of
mourners, and his father and mother standing pale and sad beside him; he
heard the tolling of the bells and the dull sound of the funeral drum;
and now, now indeed he felt the awful reality of his bereavement, and
knew that as yet he had suffered nothing. Tears filled his eyes, and he
sank upon his father's breast. Sobs and wailings filled the funeral
hall, while without the inexorable knell went on, the drums still beat,
the cannon roared, all calling for the coffin, for whose entrance the
imperial vault lay open.
Once more Joseph approached this dreadful coffin. He kissed it, and
taking from it one of the roses with which it had been decked, he said,
"Farewell, my wife, my treasure; farewell, my adored Isabella!" Then
turning toward the empress, he added, "Thank you, dearest mother, for
the courage which bears you through this bitter trial; for me, I cannot
follow you. Greet my ancestors and say to them that never came a nobler
victim to the grave than the one which you bear thither to-day."
"You will not go with us!" said the empress, astounded.
"No, mother, no. Mingle dust with dust, but do not ask me to look into
my Isabella's grave."
He turned, and without a word or another look at the coffin, he left the
"Let him go," whispered the emperor. "I believe that it would kill him
to witness the funeral ceremony."
The empress gave a sign, and the cortege moved with the coffin to the
catafalque, which, drawn by twelve black horses, awaited the body in
front of the palace.
Joseph once more retreated to his room, and there, through the stillness
of the deserted palace, might be heard his ceaseless tramp, that sounded
as though it might be the hammer that was fashioning another coffin to
break the hearts of the imperial family. At least it seemed so to the
sorrowing empress, who listened to the dull sound of her son's footsteps
with superstitious fear. She had gone to him, on her return from the
funeral, to console him with her love and sympathy. But the door was
locked, and her affectionate entreaties for admission were unanswered.
She turned to the emperor. "Something must be done to bend the obstinacy
of this solitary grief," said she anxiously. "I know Joseph. His is a
passionate and obdurate nature, strong in love as in hate. He had
yielded his whole soul to his wife, and now, alas! I fear that she will
draw him with her to the grave. What shall we do, Franz, to comfort him?
How shall we entice him from this odious room, which he paces like a
lion in his cage?"
"Go once more and command him to open the door. He will not have the
courage to defy you," said the emperor.
Maria Theresa knocked again, and cried out, "My son Joseph, I command
you, as your sovereign and mother, to open the door."
No answer. Still the same dull, everlasting tread.
The empress stood awhile to listen; then, flushing with anger, she
exclaimed, "It is in vain. We have lost all control over him. His sorrow
has made him cruel and rebellious, even toward his mother."
"But this is unmanly," cried the emperor with displeasure. "It is a
miserable weakness to sink so helpless under grief."
"Think you so?" said the empress, ready to vent upon the emperor her
vexation at the conduct of her son. "In your pride of manhood you deem
it weak that Joseph grieves for his wife. I dare say that were your
majesty placed in similar circumstances, you would know full well how to
bear my loss like a man. But your majesty must remember that Joseph has
not your wisdom and experience. He is but a poor, artless youth, who has
been weak enough to love his wife without stint. This is a fault for
which I crave the emperor's indulgence."
"Oh, your majesty," replied the emperor, smiling, "God forbid that he
should ever grow less affectionate! I was only vexed that the voice of
Maria Theresa should have less power over my son than it has over his
father; that silvery voice which bewitched me in youth, and through life
has soothed my every pang."
The empress, completely softened, reached out her hand.
"Would you, indeed, mourn for me, Franz?" said she tenderly. "Would you
refuse to listen to father or mother for my sake? My dearest, you would,
I believe. From our childhood we were lovers, we will be lovers in our
old age, and when we part the one that is left will mourn as deeply as
Joseph. Let us, then, be lenient with his grief, until our love and
forbearance shall have won him to come and weep upon his mother's
"If your majesty permit," said Christina, stepping forward, "I will try
to soften his grief."
"What can you do, dear child?" asked the empress of her favorite
"I have a message for him," replied Christina. "I swore to Isabella that
no one but myself should reveal it to Joseph. I know that it will prove
consolatory, and Isabella also knew it. For this reason she intrusted it
"Try, then my daughter, try if your voice will have more power than
mine. Meanwhile I will essay the power of music. It over-came him once
when he was a boy. We will try him with the music that Isabella loved
She called a page and spoke with him in a low voice. In conclusion she
said, "Let the carriage go at once and bring him hither in a quarter of
The page withdrew, and the imperial family were again alone. "Now, my
daughter," said the empress, "see if he will speak to you."
Christina approached the door. "My brother Joseph," said she, "I beseech
you open the door to me. I come from Isabella; it is she who sends me to
The bolt was withdrawn, and for a moment the pale face of Joseph
appeared at the door.
"Come in," said he, waving his hand to Christina. She followed him into
the room where so many, many tears had been shed. "Now speak," said he,
"what did Isabella say to you?"
His sister looked with pity upon his ghastly face and those hollow eyes
grown glassy with weeping. "Poor, poor Joseph!" said she softly, "I see
that your love for her was beyond all bounds."
He made a motion of impatience. "Do not pity me," said he. "My grief is
too sacred for sympathy. I do not need it. Tell me at once, what said