Music, Photograph, Text

Speculations on Poetry in Part 2

Die Post as composed by Franz Schubert

The entry page of “Die Post” composed by Franz Schubert. Thiis first page is in the pubilic domain, since I took it from the Peter’s Edition. This is to demonstrate varied entries given by Schubert.

“Die Post”

Baudmannsdorf, Budziwojow, Poland

A view of the village of Baudmannsdorf, Poland. The Polish name of the village is Budziwojow. This village was where the signal to the start of the battle on May 26, 1813  was given by torching the windmill there.  This was the part of the Liberation War between Napoleon’s France and the coalition of the Prussian and Russian armies. Napoleon was not present in the battle, but he came afterward to the town of Haynau (Chojnow).  This view of the village is from the point below the location where the battle monument stands.

The first poem in Part 2 is titled “Die Post.”  The story of the poem is that the lyric “ich” has a sweetheart in the town, and the lyric “ich” is  outside of the town, perhaps in the village.  He is waiting to hear from her even though the circumstances of his departure rule out that she would write to him because according to the first poem, “Gute Nacht,” his sweetheart decided to marry someone rich, and he gave up the place to avoid seeing her getting married.

I speculate how Wilhelm Müller got an idea for this poem.  When he enlisted as an infantry soldier in the Prussian Army in 1813, he was  a student at the University of Berlin and not quite 19 years old.  He fought battles in 1813, May and August, as an infantry soldier.   He fougt in four battles, and the third battle was outside of Chojnow.  Müller did not have any sweetheart at that time because if he had one, he might have written to her and there would have been some written evidence of letter exchange.  As far as we know he did not have any girlfriends when he was participatig in the battles.

However, there were many young men fighting with him, some of whom must have left their sweethearts and wives at home.  This would give the backgrounds to the poem “Die Post” because Müller must have seen the Post delivery to the battleground when some of his fellow soldiers did receive letters.

Let us look at the music, particularly the first page.  I think that the music of “Die Post” is rhymically varied from the very beginning.  The voice enters on the 9th measure.  It is unusual in that it does not begin on the upbeat.  The rhythm is 6/8 and Schubert emphasized the dance beats of oom pah pah in the measure, and had the voice enter on pah pah. Perhaps he wanted to emphasize the word Straße or Müller’s beginning two words affected Schubert’s voice.  The second and third entries of the voice are a typical upbeat, but the last entry is on the second beat, which emphasized the word “mein” and “Herz.”  Schubert repeated the words, “mein Herz” three times, thus emphasizing.  When we look at the piano part of the song, it is clear that the left hand mimics the horses and the right hand mimics the posthorn.  You can hear the posthorn by listening to the right hand melody.  The voice depicts the heart of the first person, the person who tells about the experience of waiting for a letter in vain.

Chojnow, located in the lower Silesian area of the current Poland, was a small town at that time, but on the important east-west highway linking Dresden and Breslau.  That might be why there was a battle here between Napoleon’s France and the coalition of the Russian and Prussian armies.  The French army was stationed in the town while the Russian-Prussian coalition was mainly south of the town, in many villages.  For the Prussians, which was led by the general, Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, it was important to know what the French army was up to.   For this reason, I imagine, those in the villages were waiting to hear from the town, and the post delivery might have included the update on the French position and how they were preparing for the battle.

Haynau Town Model in Regional Museum in Chojnow

The model of the town, Haynau (Chojnow) in the 19th Century. This model is displayed in the Regional Museum (Muzeum Rgionalne). The town is located in the lower Silesian area.