Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sisi's Masquerade

The Empress Elisabeth paced the long room restlessly. The Emperor was away and she felt tired of the stuffy, old palace! She longed to go out and dance. It was carnival season in Vienna. 'Sisi' imagined the shimmering lights and the romance of the balls. She persuaded her lady-in-waiting, Ida von Ferenczy, to go with her to a masquerade.

"Don't look so worried, Ida," Sisi exclaimed, as Ida wondered what would happen if anyone found out.

"It will be fun."

Sisi donned a bright yellow mantle and hood while Ida wore a crimson raincoat. Sisi thought that they were adequately disguised in their black satin and lace masks. She took Ida to the mirror and said, "No one will recognise us!"

They felt very alone at first, surrounded by crowds in masks enjoying themselves. Sisi thought of going home but a tall, fair, young man suddenly greeted them. He escorted them into the ball. The young man, a minor government official, wondered if the strange woman with the lovely voice was an aristocrat. He became suspicious when she asked him many questions about the Emperor and Empress.

When Sisi asked him her age, he replied: "Thirty-six." This frightened the Empress who wondered if he recognized her. When she started to leave, he persuaded her to stay and gave her his card. He told the young grandmother that she could contact him.

The young man was Herr Friedrich List Pacher von Theinburg, who remembered this night all his life. The Empress did write, using the pen-name, 'Gabrielle'. They kept up a long correspondence and von Theinburg eventually found out that the letters were indeed from the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Married with a family, he eventually stopped the correspondence, although it was perfectly innocent. The Empress sent him this poem:

The Song of the Yellow Domino

Do you think of that night still in the glowing ballroom?
Long, long ago, long ago,
where two souls once met,
long, long ago, long ago,
where our odd friendship began.
Do you, my friend, still think of it at times?
Do you think of the words, so intimately trusting,
that we exchanged by the loud dance music?
Oh, only too fast our time dwindled away,
a press of the hand yet, and I had to fly.
I did not dare unveil my face to you,
but I did show my soul to the light.
Friend, that was more, that was more!
Years have gone and drawn away,
but they will never unite us two again.
Questioning at night I look at the stars,
none gave me back help or answer.
Soon I came near to you, soon again far away.
Are you already lingering on another star?
If you live, then give me a sign by day,
that I may scarcely hope, but can await.
So long ago, so long ago!
Let me wait no more,
wait no more!


Matterhorn said...

This reminds me a bit of the friendship between Sisi's niece, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, and Einstein- they also corresponded with many letters, and some poems. Here's one by Elisabeth, the sensibility it expresses seems rather similar to that of Sisi's poem:

Viola said...

Thank you very much, Matterhorn. I am sorry that I have taken so long to reply.

I didn't know about the correspondence between Queen Elisabeth of Belgium and Einstein. I read the letter and poems very quickly so I must read them again. They're both very well-written and quite lovely.

Kittie Howard said...

A very sweet story that touches the heart. The poem's rather sad tho. We spent three days in Vienna prior to returning home, visited the palace once again. But, mostly, I like to walk outside and imagine all that was. Sisi is on plates and mugs and pins now for tourists but forever in the Austrian's heart.

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