Going into the Woods, Schumann’s Waldszenen op. 82

originally published in:
Internaltional Journal of Musicology 3 (1993), pp. 151-175.

Going into the Woods
Space, Time, and Movement in Schumann’s Waldszenen op. 82,1

Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen,
Die da träumen fort und fort,
Und die Welt hebt an zu singen,
Triffst du nur das Zauberwort.2

These verses by Eichendorff, perhaps the most romantic and the most musical poet of the 19th century, not only show how important music was for the romantic poet. They constitute a kind of Weltanschauung, a view of the world, a program and a justification for the romantic poet, and, in the end, for the romantic composer, too3. The poem is perfectly balanced in its gentle and “swinging” rhythm, its male and female endrhymes and, last but not least, in its inner melody, modulating from i-sounds to the diphtong äu and then to the repeated o-sounds in fort und fort, and, after the opposition of e and i, moving to a synthesis in the last verse. The strophe itself is a perfect example of the message it conveys. What is this message?