“Oh! dark, dark,
dark, amid the blaze of noon!
Irrecoverably dark—total eclipse,
Without all hope of day!
Oh first created Beam, and thou, great Word,
‘Let there be light,’ and light was over all,
Why am I thus bereaved thy prime decree?
The sun to me is dark.”
To his severe affliction we owe alike many of the defects of his character and the splendors of his genius. All his powers, concentrated into a spiritual focus, wrought such things as lift him into a solitary greatness. The world has agreed to measure this man as it measures Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare. We do not compare him with others.
Beethoven had the reputation among his contemporaries of being harsh, bitter, suspicious, and unamiable. There is much to justify this in the circumstances of his life; yet our readers will discover much to show, on the other hand, how deep, strong, and tender was the heart which was so wrung and tortured, and wounded to the quick by—
“The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
Weber gives a picture of Beethoven: “The square Cyclopean figure attired in a shabby coat with torn sleeves.” Everybody will remember his noble, austere face, as seen in the numerous prints: the square, massive head, with the forest of rough hair; the strong features, so furrowed with the marks of passion and sadness; the eyes, with their look of introspection and insight; the whole expression of the countenance as of an ancient prophet. Such was the impression made by Beethoven on all who saw him, except in his moods of fierce wrath, which toward the last were not uncommon, though short-lived. A sorely tried, sublimely gifted man, he met his fate stubbornly, and worked out his great mission with all his might and main, through long years of weariness and trouble. Posterity has rewarded him by enthroning him on the highest peaks of musical fame.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born at Bonn, in 1770. It is a singular fact that at an early age he showed the deepest distaste for music, unlike the other great composers, who evinced their bent from their earliest years. His father was obliged to whip him severely before he would consent to sit down at the harpsichord; and it was not till he was past ten that his genuine interest in music showed itself. His first compositions displayed his genius. Mozart heard him play them, and said, “Mind, you will hear that boy talked of.” Haydn, too, met Beethoven for the first and only time when the former was on his way to England, and recognized his remarkable powers. He gave him a few lessons in composition, and was after that anxious to claim the young Titan as a pupil.
“Yes,” growled Beethoven, who for some queer reason never liked Haydn, “I had some lessons of him, indeed, but I was not his disciple. I never learned anything from him.”