He was a ninety-plus gentleman from Vienna whom I read to when his eyesight had gone too far. Until he couldn't concentrate on listening anymore, that is.
The first thing we read was a scene from Goethe's Faust. Then we found some Gottfried Keller, which turned out to be too long for us. Then some Karl Kraus. Then some poetry. Then some music theory by Kauder. But again and again we came back to Goethe.
One day he called me up and recited a poem by Goethe, one that I believe my Oma really liked near the end of her, life, too.
Ueber allen Gipfeln
In allen Wipfeln
kaum einen Hauch.
Die Voegelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
ruhest du auch.
(Traveler's Night Song
Above all peaks
In all treetops
hardly a breath.
The little birds hush in the woods.
Just wait, soon
you, too, shall rest.)
What do you say to something like that? I prompted him along as he was reciting it (because I had memorized it after I found out Oma liked it), and then I applauded his memory.
Occasionally when we'd read he'd remember a line or two and anticipate my reading. Always very choice lines: he was an astute person.
Yes, was. You may have already guessed where this was headed. He passed away over the weekend.
One such anticipation was (again Goethe):
Ja! diesem Sinne bin ich ganz ergeben,
Das ist der Wahrheit letzter Schluss:
Nur der verdient sich Freiheit wie das Leben,
Der taeglich sie erobern muss.
(To this meaning I am devoted,
this is Truth's final conclusion:
Only he earns Freedom and Life
Who daily must conquer them.)
Go out and conquer.