Thursday, 17 January 2013

Artur Schnabel, Eichendorff and Football

What connects Josef Freiherr von Eichendorff, the Prussian poet and administrator, with Artur Schnabel, the pianist, and Manchester City Football Club? Bert Trautmann, the football player who broke his neck during the 1956 FA Cup Final and continued to play on. Trautmann escaped death becuase one of the vertebrae in his neck wedged at an angle so that his spine and throat weren't severed. All his life, Trautmann seems to have defied the odds. Joining the Luftwaffe aged 17, he served in a parachute regiment in Russia, where only 90 of his 1,000-man divison survived. He's still alive, aged 90, having lived in England, Wales, Germany, Spain and Burma. A kind reader lent me the book Trautmann's Journey (Catrine Clay 2010).

So how does Artur Schnabel fit in?  One of Trautmann's comrades was Heinz Schabel, nephew of the pianist. Heinz Schnabel was called "Der Alte" because he was in his late 30's while most of the unit were teenagers. Schnabel  was a dapper gent but tough as nails, having parachuted into Crete before serving on the Eastern Front. Trautmann and Schnabel werer posted to defend the bridges at Arnhem in 1945. In the tension, Schnabel began to recite a poem. It was Eichendorff's Sensucht. Trautmann hadn't experienced anything but the Nazis. Schnabel, however, was old enough to remember another more cultivated world, where what his uncle stood for was respected.  So Trautmann, who'd been a Hitler Youth because he didn't know anything else, was huddled with Artur Schnabel's nephew, part Jewish war hero.

To Trautmann the poem was lovely and reminded him of childhood. Schnabel chose well, for the poem refers to "zwei junge Gesellen" far from home, in a rugged landscape, singing as they head forth.

Es schienen so golden die Sterne,  Am Fenster ich einsam stand
Und hörte aus weiter Ferne Ein Posthorn im stillen Land.
Das Herz mir im Leib entbrennte, Da hab' ich mir heimlich gedacht:
Ach wer da mitreisen könnte In der prächtigen Sommernacht!

Zwei junge Gesellen gingen Vorüber am Bergeshang,
Ich hörte im Wandern sie singen Die stille Gegend entlang:
Von schwindelnden Felsenschlüften, Wo die Wälder rauschen so sacht,
Von Quellen, die von den Klüften Sich stürzen in die Waldesnacht.

Sie sangen von Marmorbildern, Von Gärten, die über'm Gestein
In dämmernden Lauben verwildern, Palästen im Mondenschein,
Wo die Mädchen am Fenster lauschen, Wann der Lauten Klang erwacht,
Und die Brunnen verschlafen rauschen In der prächtigen Sommernacht.

photo : Old El Paso

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