2282 - Ludwig van Beethoven's Return to Vienna
Oh you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn, 
or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me....
 The Heiligenstadt Testament

Three miles from my adopted city 
lies a village where I came to peace.
The world there was a calm place, 
even the great Danube no more 
than a pale ribbon tossed onto the landscape
by a girl's careless hand.  Into this stillness 

I had been ordered to recover.  
The hills were gold with late summer;
my rooms were two, plus a small kitchen, 
situated upstairs in the back of a cottage 
at the end of the Herrengasse.  
From my window I could see onto the courtyard 
where a linden tree twined skyward — 
leafy umbilicus canted toward light, 
warped in the very act of yearning —
and I would feed on the sun as if that alone 
would dismantle the silence around me.

At first I raged.  Then music raged in me,            
rising so swiftly I could not write quickly enough 
to ease the roiling.  I would stop 
to light a lamp, and whatever I'd missed — 
larks flying to nest, church bells, the shepherd's 
home-toward-evening song — rushed in, and I
would rage again.  

I am by nature a conflagration; 
I would rather leap 
than sit and be looked at.
So when my proud city spread  
her gypsy skirts, I reentered,  
burning towards her greater, constant light.
Call me rough, ill-tempered, slovenly— I tell you, 
every tenderness I have ever known 
has been nothing 
but thwarted violence, an ache 
so permanent and deep, the lightest touch 
awakens it. . . . It is impossible 

to care enough.  I have returned 
with a second Symphony 
and 15 Piano Variations
which I've named Prometheus,
after the rogue Titan, the half-a-god 
who knew the worst sin is to take 
what cannot be given back.

I smile and bow, and the world is loud.  
And though I dare not lean in to shout 
Can't you see that I'm deaf? —
I also cannot stop listening.
(Rita Dove)


© José Pacheco Pereira
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