Thursday, May 16, 2013


It happened at Bonn.

One moonlight winter's evening I called upon Beethoven, for I wanted him to take a walk, and afterward sup with me.

In passing through some dark, narrow street, he paused suddenly. "Hush!" he said- "what sound is that? It is from my sonata in F!" he said eagerly. "Hark! how well it is played!"

 It was a little, mean dwelling, and we paused out­side and listened. The player went on; but in the midst of the finale there was a sudden break, then the voice of sobbing. "I cannot play any more. It is so beautiful, it is utterly beyond my power to do it justice. Oh, what would I not give to go to the concert at Cologne!" "Ah, my sister," said her companion, "why create regrets, when there is no remedy? We can scarcely pay our rent." "You are right; and yet I wish for once in my life to hear some really good music. But it is of no use."

Beethoven looked at me. "Let us go in," he said. "Go in!" I exclaimed. "What can we go in for?" "I will play to her," he said in an excited tone. "Here is feeling-genius-understanding. I will play to her, and she will understand it."

And before I could prevent him his hand was upon the door. A pale young man was sitting by the table making shoes; and near him, leaning sorrowfully upon an old-fashioned harpsichord, sat a young girl, with a profusion of light hair falling over her bent face. Both were cleanly but very poorly dressed, and both started and turned toward us as we entered.

 "Pardon me," said Beethoven, "but I heard music, and was tempted to enter! I am a musician." The girl blushed and the young man looked grave and somewhat annoyed. "I also overheard something of what you said," continued my friend. "You wish to hear-that is, you would like - that is - Shall I play for you?"

 There was something so odd in the whole affair, and something so comic and pleasant in the manner of the speaker, that the spell was broken in a moment, and all smiled involuntarily. "Thank you!" said the shoemaker; "but our harpsichord is so wretched, and we have no music."

 "No music!" echoed my friend. "How, then, does the Fraulein-" He paused and colored up, for the girl looked full at him, and he saw that she was blind. "I entreat your pardon!" he stammered. "But I had not perceived before. Then you play by ear?"


 "And where do you hear the music, since you frequent no concerts?"

 "I used to hear a lady practicing near us, when we lived at Bruhl two years. During the summer evenings her windows were generally open, and I walked to and fro outside to listen to her." She seemed shy; so Beethoven said no more, seated himself quietly before the piano, and began to play.

He had no sooner struck the first chord than I knew what would follow - how grand he would be that night. And I was not mistaken. Never, during all the years I knew him, did I hear him play as he then played to that blind girl and her brother. He was inspired; and from the instant when his fingers began to wander along the keys, the very tone of the instrument began to grow sweeter and more equal. The brother and sister were silent with wonder and rapture.

 The former laid aside his work; the latter, with her head bent slightly forward, and her hands pressed tightly over her breast, crouched down near the end of the harpsichord, as if fearful lest even the beating of her heart should break the flow of those magical, sweet sounds. It was as if we were all bound in a strange, dream, and only feared to wake.

 Suddenly the flame of the single candle wavered, sank, flickered, and went out. Beethoven paused, and I threw open the shutters, admitting a flood of brilliant moonlight. The room was almost as light as before, and the illumination fell strongest upon the piano-and player. But the chain of his ideas seemed to have been broken by the accident. His head dropped upon his breast; his hands rested upon his knees; he seemed absorbed in meditation. It was thus for some time.

 "Listen!" the composer said, and he played the opening bars of the sonata in F. At length the young shoemaker rose and approached him eagerly, yet reverently.

 "Wonderful man!" he said, in a low tone, "who and what are you?"

 A cry of delight and recognition burst from them both, and exclaiming, "Then you are Beethoven!" He rose to go, but we held him back with entreaties. "Play to us once more-only once more!' He suffered himself to be led back to the instrument. The moon shone brightly in through the window and lit up his glorious, rugged head and massive figure.

 "I will improvise a sonata to the moonlight!" looking up thoughtfully to the sky and stars. Then his hands dropped on the keys, and he began playing a sad and infinitely lovely movement, which crept gently over the instrument like the calm flow of moonlight over the dark earth. This was followed by a wild, elfin passage in triple time-a sort of grotesque interlude, like the dance of sprites upon the sward. Then came a swift agitato finale a breathless, hurrying, trembling movement, descriptive of flight and uncertainty, and vague, impulsive terror, which carried us away on its rustling wings, and left us all in emotion and wonder.

 "Farewell to you!" said Beethoven, pushing back his chair and turning toward the door-"farewell to you!"

 "You will come again?" asked they in one breath.

He paused and looked compassionately, almost tenderly, at the face of the blind girl. "Yes, yes," he said hurriedly, "I will come again and give the Fraulein some lessons. Farewell! I will soon come again!"


  1. Why do you publish such apocryphal nonsense?

    1. because it suits me. Sadly I haven't made time to go back and edit this and correct all the errors that scanning it from a 100 year old book created