Florestan and Eusebius
by Kayleen Asbo
For Clara Schumann
There was a split so deep in Schumann
He gave names to his different sides:
Florestan, the bold, confident hero
Eusebius: the tender, melancholy, soulful pilgrim
At first, the split was a game they played ,
Etched in song in Carnival and Opus 6
She proofread the witty reviews
he wrote under the two pseudonyms
in the music journal that gave them their daily bread.
The crack widened over the years .
Florestan became filled with rage and fire, burning with humiliation and fury,
while Eusebius, sank into total silence: agoraphobic, listless and depressed.
Eventually the crack opened so wide, the conflicting voices
threw Robert into the Rhine River
and he passed his last days in the asylum in Bonn.
Through it all, Clara trudged on:
writing love letters from her concert tours and
tender melodies for his birthday.
She was drawn by a siren song she could not tune out.
Despite the paranoia,
the fits of abuse,
the whirlpool of instability and emotional extremes,
even in the face of suicide attempts, she played on,
remembering the beauty that lived trapped inside him.
At the end , she dipped her fingers into wine so he could suck on them like a baby.
She closed his eyes with tears of both sorrow and relief
and spent the rest of her days enshrining the memory of her love
in the music that leapt him back to life under her devoted fingers.
I think of this as I go aching with my own grief to the piano to play ‘Widmung”
Noticing for the first time that the words translate as “You are my grave”.
I imagine her shaking, a leaf in the wind after one of Robert’s storms,
Pasting a smile of composed tranquility on her face while she practiced this song
Though inside, her stomach heaved and her pulse raced.
Day after day until the end
She continued to inscribe their conjugal felicity in the marriage diary they shared --
Marking in frail symbols their nights of passion
unable to deny their sacred splendor
as she held fast to the songs
that she knew
were inside of him.