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Wordly Wisdom


249. "Freedom,--progress, is purpose in the art-world as in
universal creation, and if we moderns have not the hardihood of
our ancestors, refinement of manners has surely accomplished
something."

(Middling, July 29, 1819, to Archduke Rudolph.)

250. "The boundaries are not yet fixed which shall call out to
talent and industry: thus far and no further!"

(Reported by Schindler.)

251. "You know that the sensitive spirit must not be bound to
miserable necessities."

(In the summer of 1814, to Johann Kauka, the advocate who
represented him in the prosecution of his claims against the
heirs of Prince Kinsky.)

252. "Art, the persecuted one, always finds an asylum. Did not
Daedalus, shut up in the labyrinth, invent the wings which
carried him out into the open air? O, I shall find them, too,
these wings!"

(February 19, 1812, to Zmeskall, when, in 1811, by decree of the
Treasury, the value of the Austrian currency was depreciated one-
fifth, and the annuity which Beethoven received from Archduke
Rudolph and the Princes Lobkowitz and Kinsky reduced to 800
florins.)

253. "Show me the course where at the goal there stands the palm
of victory! Lend sublimity to my loftiest thoughts, bring to them
truths that shall live forever!"

(Diary, 1814, while working on "Fidelio.")

254. "Every day is lost in which we do not learn something useful.
Man has no nobler or more valuable possession than time;
therefore never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."

(From the notes in Archduke Rudolph's instruction book.)

255. "This is the mark of distinction of a truly admirable man:
steadfastness in times of trouble."

(Diary, 1816.)

256. "Courage, so it be righteous, will gain all things."

(April, 1815, to Countess Erdody.)

257. "Force, which is a unit, will always prevail against the
majority which is divided."

(Conversation-book, 1819.)

258. "Kings and Princes can create professors and councillors, and
confer orders and decorations; but they can not create great men,
spirits that rise above the earthly rabble; these they can not
create, and therefore they are to be respected."

(August 15, 1812, to Bettina von Arnim.)

259. "Man, help yourself!"

(Written under the words: "Fine, with the help of God," which
Moscheles had written at the end of a pianoforte arrangement of
a portion of "Fidelio.")

260. "If I could give as definite expression to my thoughts about
my illness as to my thoughts in music, I would soon help myself."

(September, 1812, to Amalie Sebald, a patient at the cure in
Teplitz.)

261. "Follow the advice of others only in the rarest cases."

(Diary, 1816.)

262. "The moral law in us, and the starry sky above us."--Kant.

(Conversation-book, February, 1820.)

[Literally the passage in Kant's "Critique of Practical Reason"
reads as follows: "Two things fill the soul with ever new and
increasing wonder and reverence the oftener the mind dwells upon
them:--the starry sky above me and the moral law in me."]

263. "Blessed is he who has overcome all passions and then
proceeds energetically to perform his duties under all
circumstances careless of success! Let the motive lie in the
deed, not in the outcome. Be not one of those whose spring of
action is the hope of reward. Do not let your life pass in
inactivity. Be industrious, do your duty, banish all thoughts as
to the results, be they good or evil; for such equanimity is
attention to intellectual things. Seek an asylum only in Wisdom;
for he who is wretched and unhappy is so only in consequence of
things. The truly wise man does not concern himself with the good
and evil of this world. Therefore endeavor diligently to preserve
this use of your reason--for in the affairs of this world, such
a use is a precious art."

(Diary. Though essentially in the language of Beethoven there is
evidence that the passage was inspired by something that he had
read.)

264. "The just man must be able also to suffer injustice without
deviating in the least from the right course."

(To the Viennese magistrate in the matter of Karl's education.)

265. "Man's humility towards man pains me; and yet when I consider
myself in connection with the universe, what am I and what is he
whom we call the greatest? And yet here, again, lies the divine
element in man."

(To the "Immortal Beloved," July 6 (1800?).)

266. "Only the praise of one who has enjoyed praise can give
pleasure."

(Conversation-book, 1825.)

267. "Nothing is more intolerable than to be compelled to accuse
one's self of one's own errors."

(Teplitz, September 6, 1811, to Tiedge. Beethoven regrets that
through his own fault he had not made Tiedge's acquaintance on an
earlier opportunity.)

268. "What greater gift can man receive than fame, praise and
immortality?"

(Diary, 1816-17. After Pliny, Epist. III.)

269. "Frequently it seems as if I should almost go mad over my
undeserved fame; fortune seeks me out and I almost fear new
misfortune on that account."

(July, 1810, to his friend Zmeskall. "Every day there come new
inquiries from strangers, new acquaintances new relationships.")

270. "The world must give one recognition,--it is not always
unjust. I care nothing for it because I have a higher goal."

(August 15, 1812, to Bettina von Arnim.)

271. "I have the more turned my gaze upwards; but for our own
sakes and for others we are obliged to turn our attention
sometimes to lower things; this, too, is a part of human destiny."

(February 8, 1823, to Zelter, with whom he is negotiating the sale
of a copy of the Mass in D.)

272. "Why so many dishes? Man is certainly very little higher than
the other animals if his chief delights are those of the table."

(Reported by J. A. Stumpff, in the "Harmonicon" of 1824. He dined
with Beethoven in Baden.)

273. "Whoever tells a lie is not pure of heart, and such a person
can not cook a clean soup."

(To Mme. Streicher, in 1817, or 1818, after having dismissed an
otherwise good housekeeper because she had told a falsehood to
spare his feelings.)

274. "Vice walks through paths full of present lusts and persuades
many to follow it. Virtue pursues a steep path and is less
seductive to mankind, especially if at another place there are
persons who call them to a gently declining road."

(Diary, 1815.)

275. "Sensual enjoyment without a union of soul is bestial and
will always remain bestial."

(Diary, 1812-18.)

276. "Men are not only together when they are with each other;
even the distant and the dead live with us."

(To Therese Malfatti, later Baroness von Drossdick, to whom in the
country he sent Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister" and Schlegel's
translation of Shakespeare.)

277. "There is no goodness except the possession of a good soul,
which may be seen in all things, from which one need not seek to
hide."

(August 15, 1812, to Bettina von Arnim.)

278. "The foundation of friendship demands the greatest likeness
of human souls and hearts."

(Baden, July 24, 1804, to Ries, describing his quarrel with
Breuning.)

279. "True friendship can rest only on the union of like natures."

(Diary, 1812-18.)

280. "The people say nothing; they are merely people. As a rule
they only see themselves in others, and what they see is nothing;
away with them! The good and the beautiful needs no people,--it
exists without outward help, and this seems to be the reason of
our enduring friendship."

(September 16, 1812, to Amalie Sebald, in Teplitz, who had
playfully called him a tyrant.)

281. "Look, my dear Ries; these are the great connoisseurs who
affect to be able to judge of any piece of music so correctly and
keenly. Give them but the name of their favorite,--they need no
more!"

(To his pupil Ries, who had, as a joke, played a mediocre march at
a gathering at Count Browne's and announced it to be a composition
by Beethoven. When the march was praised beyond measure Beethoven
broke out into a grim laugh.)

282. "Do not let all men see the contempt which they deserve; we
do not know when we may need them."

(Note in the Diary of 1814, after having had an unpleasant
experience with his "friend" Bertolini. "Henceforth never step
inside his house; shame on you to ask anything from such an one.")

283. "Our Time stands in need of powerful minds who will scourge
these petty, malicious and miserable scoundrels,--much as my
heart resents doing injury to a fellow man."

(In 1825, to his nephew, in reference to the publication of a
satirical canon on the Viennese publisher, Haslinger, by Schott,
of Mayence.)

284. "Today is Sunday. Shall I read something for you from the
Gospels? 'Love ye one another!'"

(To Frau Streicher.)

285. "Hate reacts on those who nourish it."

(Diary, 1812-18.)

286. "When friends get into a quarrel it is always best not to
call in an intermediary, but to have friend turn to friend
direct."

(Vienna, November 2, 1793, to Eleonore von Breuning, of Bonn.)

287. "There are reasons for the conduct of men which one is not
always willing to explain, but which, nevertheless, are based on
ineradicable necessity."

(In 1815, to Brauchle.)

288. "I was formerly inconsiderate and hasty in the expression of
my opinions, and thereby I made enemies. Now I pass judgment on
no one, and, indeed, for the reason that I do not wish to do any
one harm. Moreover, in the last instance I always think: if it is
something decent it will maintain itself in spite of all attack
and envy; if there is nothing good and sound at the bottom of it,
it will fall to pieces of itself, bolster it up as one may."

(In a conversation with Tomaschek, in October, 1814.)

289. "Even the most sacred friendship may harbor secrets, but you
ought not to misinterpret the secret of a friend because you can
not guess it."

(About 1808, to Frau Marie Bigot.)

290. "You are happy; it is my wish that you remain so, for every
man is best placed in his sphere."

(Bonn, July 13, 1825, to his brother Johann, landowner in
Gneisendorf.)

291. "One must not measure the cost of the useful."

(To his nephew Karl in a discussion touching the purchase of an
expensive book.)

292. "It is not my custom to prattle away my purposes, since
every intention once betrayed is no longer one's own."

(To Frau Streicher.)

293. "How stupidity and wretchedness always go in pairs!"

(Diary, 1817.)

[Beethoven was greatly vexed by his servants.]

294. "Hope nourishes me; it nourishes half the world, and has been
my neighbor all my life, else what had become of me!"

(August 11, 1810, to Bettina von Arnim.)

295. "Fortune is round like a globe, hence, naturally, does not
always fall on the noblest and best."

(Vienna, July 29, 1800, to Wegeler.)

296. "Show your power, Fate! We are not our own masters; what is
decided must be,--and so be it!"

(Diary, 1818.)

297. "Eternal Providence omnisciently directs the good and evil
fortunes of mortal men."

(Diary, 1818.)

298. "With tranquility, O God, will I submit myself to changes,
and place all my trust in Thy unalterable mercy and goodness."

(Diary, 1818.)

299. "All misfortune is mysterious and greatest when viewed alone;
discussed with others it seems more endurable because one becomes
entirely familiar with the things one dreads, and feels as if one
had overcome it."

(Diary, 1816.)

300. "One must not flee for protection to poverty against the loss
of riches, nor to a lack of friendship against the loss of
friends, nor by abstention from procreation against the death of
children, but to reason against everything."

(Diary, 1816.)

301. "I share deeply with you the righteous sorrow over the death
of your wife. It seems to me that such a parting, which confronts
nearly every married man, ought to keep one in the ranks of the
unmarried."

(May 20, 1811, to Gottfried Hartel, of Leipzig.)

302. "He who is afflicted with a malady which he can not alter,
but which gradually brings him nearer and nearer to death,
without which he would have lived longer, ought to reflect that
murder or another cause might have killed him even more quickly."

(Diary, 1812-18.)

303. "We finite ones with infinite souls are born only for sorrows
and joy and it might almost be said that the best of us receive
joy through sorrow."

(October 19, 1815, to Countess Erdody.)

304. "He is a base man who does not know how to die; I knew it as
a boy of fifteen."

(In the spring of 1816, to Miss Fanny Giannatasio del Rio, when
Beethoven felt ill and spoke of dying. It is not known that he
was ever near death in his youth.)

305. "A second and third generation recompenses me three and
fourfold for the ill-will which I had to endure from my former
contemporaries."

(Copied into his Diary from Goethe's "West-ostlicher Divan.")

306. "My hour at last is come;
Yet not ingloriously or passively
I die, but first will do some valiant deed,
Of which mankind shall hear in after
time."--Homer.

("The Iliad" [Bryant's translation], Book XXII, 375-378.)

(Copied into his Diary, 1815.)

307. "Fate gave man the courage of endurance."

(Diary, 1814.)

308. "Portia--How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world."

(Marked in his copy of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice.")

309. "And on the day that one becomes a
slave,
The Thunderer, Jove, takes half his
worth away."--Homer.

("The Odyssey" [Bryant's translation], Book XVII, 392-393.
Marked by Beethoven.)

310. "Short is the life of man, and whoso
bears
A cruel heart, devising cruel things,
On him men call down evil from the
gods
While living, and pursue him, when he
dies,
With scoffs. But whoso is of generous
heart
And harbors generous aims, his guests
proclaim
His praises far and wide to all
mankind,
And numberless are they who call him
good."--Homer.

("The Odyssey" [Bryant's translation], Book XIX, 408-415. Copied
into his diary, 1818.)

Published:
Jan 6, 2016
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