Friday, July 31, 2009

The Work of Beauty

Today is the birthday of two people who have been very dear to me. One, who lives far away now, I see only rarely; the other I will probably never see again. Both were accomplished artists who strove to dive deep and seek out what was untapped and overlooked in their disciplines, and one in particular rose to a relatively high level of recognition, but both, worn down by poor remuneration and family exigency, eventually attrited out of their fields.

As much as there is real resentment among the upstanding towards those who have spent themselves in riotous living, there is also, as I've learned since beginning this blog almost exactly two years ago, resentment of those who have shunned duty and spent their days seeking out the greenest green, the purest sound, the truest word -- especially when the fruits of their efforts, no matter how beautiful, do not produce much in the way of cold, hard cash. Commenters on this blog have suggested that financial reward is the surest gauge of artistic ability, when anyone who's spent any time at all among artists knows that money earned is generally a random and inaccurate measure of the quality of the work.

Lately I've been reminded of the poem "In the Desert" by Stephen Crane:

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter-bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

There seems to be an inordinate amount of self-perpetuating bitterness in our culture at present, and I've been disappointed to see many Catholic blogs serving it up. This blog, on the other hand, proposes that the work of seeking to uncover and propagate beauty is valuable work, even if it is not well-paid work, and even if it ends in total failure. Those who doubt this is a worthy proposition should read Michael D. O'Brien's compelling novel about the sufferings of a Native Canadian artist, A Cry of Stone. Or, if pressed for time, they could just read Frederick by Leo Lionni, in which the eponymous field mouse is chided by his community for appearing to daydream while they are gathering food for the winter. When winter comes, however, and the food supplies run low and everyone is feeling a bit . . . bitter, Frederick steps forth and tells them of the colors of the meadow (he had been "gathering" them while the others worked), describes the warmth of the sun so that it seems to the other mice that they can almost feel it, and recites a poem that helps them connect to a deeper sense of their shared field-mouse humanity.

This is the work of artists, whether known or unknown, whether successful by the measures of our materialistic society or not. It is sad to see those who should be seeking and advancing the beauty of God scorn the efforts of artists across disciplines to make His beauty more obvious and relevant to their fellows, when beauty itself is proof of His goodness.

Happiest of birthdays, M. and M. I wish you beauty.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mercy and the Single Mother

Enbrethiliel at Sancta Sanctis has an interesting post up, analyzing current attitudes toward single motherhood among (mostly female) Catholic bloggers. With the caveat that "[as] for myself, I don't want a Catholic blogosphere that's too sweet," she quotes from a couple of blogs that make accusations, based purely on the authors' speculation, against single mothers, the main one being that single mothers make the considered, if not calculated, choice to be consigned to poverty and exhaustion because they want sex without consequences (ascribing uncanny, almost parthenogenetic, powers to single mothers, these bloggers essentially ignore the concomitant choices made by men). One of the bloggers Enbrethiliel quotes goes even further:

"In Feminist Fantasy Land we are supposed to look upon irresponsibility as something to be praised and we are supposed to boo and hiss at duty and responsible adult behavior. Therefore, marriage is to be looked upon as a waste of time and promiscuity is to be embraced.

The result? A massive, and still growing, class of impovershed [sic] single mothers that demand tax payer money [sic] to care for themselves and their children. All while many of them continue on in the same irrisponsible [sic] behavior that landed them in poverty in the first place.

And we are supposed to feel sorry for them and praise them as heroic martyrs. (???)

. . . . [S]ingle mothers are not special and they do not deserve special praise or special treatment above married mothers. " [Emphasis in original]

I'm not sure if it's worthwhile to unpack this diatribe, which after all speaks for itself. But I am saddened to see these sentiments emerging from Catholics who adhere proudly to their faith. Then again, maybe "adhering proudly" is the key to this disparagement, to this -- dare I say it -- scorn, and even hatred, for one's brethren. I believe that the Catholic faith contains, teaches, and advances the truth, but having received the gift of faith-- through no merits of my own -- gives me no cause to boast, and even less to disparage others, especially others who are in need of friendship and spiritual support.

Some readers of this blog know of my close friendship with a single mother living in poverty, who is a mother in spite of every effort of her ex-boyfriend's family to induce her to abort (and, pace Coffee Catholic, she is not supported by taxpayer money, though her pre-school-aged daughter, as an American citizen living in poverty, qualifies for food stamps and Medicaid). She did not make the choice to deprive her daughter of a father; her daughter's father made that choice. And her "irresponsible behavior," like that of so many other women, was motivated far less by "feminism" than it was by love and the desire for love. Was that love misguided? Most likely yes. But bloggers like Coffee Catholic and Leticia are luckier than they know if their own love and desire for love was never misguided, mishandled, mistreated, or cast before swine. Perhaps they had attentive parents of whose love they were assured, and therefore never knew the desperate loneliness and sense of unworthiness that encourages so many women to seek love and its substitutes elsewhere; if so, in that regard, they are also luckier than they know. But from those to whom much has been given, much is required.

The patristic apologist Tertullian famously described the early Christians by saying: "Look . . . how they love one another." That love was truly revolutionary in the pagan ancient world. Equally revolutionary, in a culture that regarded strength and ruthlessness as virtues and meekness as a sign of cringing subservience, was the idea of humility as a good for which to strive. I understand the attraction that some Catholics feel to the ethos of the Church Militant, but that does not cancel out the necessity, modeled by Christ Himself, for us to humble ourselves and to love one another in truth. If we are living in a neo-pagan era now, shouldn't we, as Christians, counter the culture by cultivating love for one another -- especially for those we're naturally inclined to scorn and hate?

There is a phenomenon among Catholics of a certain lack of enthusiasm for converts (or, as in my case, reverts), in spite of the fact that heaven rejoices over repentant sinners far more than over the righteous. I sometimes think that the righteous ones resent the fun that the more sinful converts and reverts had spending themselves in disorderly living, and think that we should pay for it temporally more than we seem to have already -- the workers coming at the eleventh hour and all that. To them, all I can say is that God is good, and one of the strange paradoxes of grace is that those who deserve it the least have the most right to His mercy. May God teach all of us, especially me, to be merciful.

(Above: Colin McCahon, Madonna and Child)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Forgiveness for Miles

Back in New York, I taught a writing class for undergraduate music majors at my university. Most of them were jazz players who had come to New York, as artists in all disciplines do, from far and wide. They were full of ambition, and dreamt of making lives as musicians in the city that calls to jazz players like Mecca calls to Muslims; New York is, after all, the storied Jazz City whose legendary players, clubs, and myths are no less mystical than those of the cosmology of that other city. (It is even harder, unfortunately, to make a living in jazz than it is in classical music; all my students worked "bread gigs" in addition to playing in clubs and attending college full-time.)

I tried to tailor my teaching I gave to the needs and interests of this special set of students. For instance, when teaching about footnotes and citations, I told my class that, during the time he was married to actress Cicely Tyson, Miles Davis was reputed to have abused her physically. I offered this rumor as an example of something for which a writer would need to cite solid sources, lest he commit a gross breach of ethics, or even an act of slander; for rumor, as tempting as it is to believe, is not fact.

In actual fact, I had first heard this unfortunate rumor from an old boyfriend, a jazz musician who knew someone who knew Miles (always the way, of course). I have no idea if it's true, though everyone knows that Miles Davis was not a nice man. And so I was moved and delighted today to read the following poem, by Philip Bryant, on The Writer's Almanac; it's called "Miles: Prince of Darkness."

I remember my father's stories
about him being cold, fitful,
reproachful, surly, rude, cruel,
unbearable, spiteful, arrogant, hateful.
But then he'd play
Some Day My Prince Will Come
in a swirl of bright spring colors
that come after a heavy rain
making the world anew again
and like the sometimes-tyrannical king
who is truly repentant of his transgressions
steps out onto the balcony
to greet his subjects
and they find it in their hearts
to forgive him for his sins
yet once again.

I loved that poem. And I loved that class and those students.

The last assignment I gave each semester was a record review; they could write about any CD in their collections. Every semester someone would write about Kind of Blue, and I recall with particular fondness how one of them -- a Hasidic jazz drummer whose goal was to fuse nigunim, the devotional songs of the Lubavitcher, with jazz -- explained with marvelous skill why it was such a great album by playing snippets of the solos from "So What," the album's first track. The reason Kind of Blue was great (and that Miles was great, and that Coltrane was great, etc.) was the remarkable succinctness and simplicity of their playing.

I think there's a lot of truth to that. And I pray that we'll all be truly repentant and truly forgiven like Miles in the poem, and that, in spite of our own personal darkness, we'll all give something beautiful to the world, like Miles in real life.

(Above: John Coltrane and Miles Davis during the recording of Kind of Blue, 1959.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Song for Mary Magdalene

By the Irish patriot and martyr of the Easter Rising Pádraig Pearse, whom Yeats names in his eulogy "Easter 1916."

O woman of the gleaming hair,
(Wild hair that won men's gaze to thee)
Weary thou turnest from the common stare,
For the shuiler Christ is calling thee.

O woman of the snowy side,
Many a lover hath lain with thee,
Yet left thee sad at the morning tide,
But thy lover Christ shall comfort thee.

O woman with the wild thing's heart,
Old sin hath set a snare for thee:
In the forest ways forspent thou art
But the hunter Christ shall pity thee.

O woman spendthrift of thyself,
Spendthrift of all the love in thee,
Sold unto sin for little pelf,
The captain Christ shall ransom thee.

O woman that no lover's kiss
(Tho' many a kiss was given thee)
Could slake thy love, is it not for this
The hero Christ shall die for thee?

Magdalene virginis

This is a re-post from earlier this year, in honor of the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, patroness of penitents.

The sinful woman who, in a dramatic gesture of penitence, washes Christ’s feet with her tears in Luke 7:36-50 is never identified as Mary Magdalene, the sinful woman from whom Christ drove out seven devils (Luke 8:2-3), but Pope Saint Gregory the Great, in his thirty-third homily, conflated the two women, also declaring Mary of Bethany (mentioned in Luke 10:38-42 and John 11) to be one and the same.

The Vatican reversed Gregory’s conflation in 1969, but it has always seemed to me, as it has to millions of believers from the seventh century on, that he knew what he was about: his conflation gave the Church a powerful figure of repentance and spiritual renewal, at once a reformed prostitute, a watcher at the Crucifixion, the first contemplative (in her identification with Mary of Bethany), and, finally, as the first witness to the Resurrection, apostola apostolorum -- the Apostle to the Apostles. In the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene also came to be identified with with the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11), and with the Samaritan woman living, without benefit of marriage, with her sixth “husband” (John 4:1-42).

If we read the Gospels as a linear narrative, then the incident in which the penitent sinner anoints Christ's feet at the house of Simon the Pharisee precedes the similar incident described in John 12:1-11, in which Mary of Bethany anoints His feet at another dinner, six days before the Passover seder that precedes His arrest. It seems to me that these are meant to be two separate incidents, not two different retellings of the same one. We recognize Mary as the penitent sinner because she has performed once again her unique and beautiful act of penitence and reverence.

Devotion to the Magdalene was strong in the Middle Ages, when popuar belief held that, after her conversion, she had been miraculously restored to the state of virinity. A thirteenth-century calendarium refers to her as “Magdalene virginis,” and a sermon by a Syrian monk from the eleventh century calls her “Our Lady Magdalene." Saint Godric, a twelfth-century English hermit, received a vision in which the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene appeared to him together and taught him a song, a striking example of two saints who seem in our time to possess distinctly different, almost opposing, ethoi, mystically joined together in the practice of music.

I used to wonder about the passage in Luke in which Christ declares to Simon: "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much." Did He mean, I wondered, that He forgave her because she showed her love for and faith in Him so dramatically? However, I believe now that somehow she knew, in a motion of the heart, that she was already forgiven; and that therefore she gathered up her ointment and rushed off to Simon's house in an outpouring of love.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The End of an Era

Catholic blogger par excellence -- as well as brilliant apologist, urbane raconteur, great wit, and lovely, ardent, and compassionate woman -- Dawn Eden has written what she intends to be her last blog post.

Dawn is a dear friend of mine. She is also my son's godmother. When I first started writing this blog two years ago, I intended it to be read only by a few close friends, including her, and when she linked to it, I was devastated at first. But her publicizing my blog has given me the opportunity to make other wonderful friends, an experience that has enriched my life. And, while some readers who found me through Dawn complained that she shouldn't link to me (it appears that some who consider themselves orthodox Catholics believe that others, apparently more sinful, don't deserve to be called penitents), Dawn always defended me.

I pray that Dawn will find in her life and work the connection and engagement she facilitated for others through her storied blog. Godspeed.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Two B's, Part II: Quid est Veritas?

Joan Baez's self-titled debut album was released in 1960, when the singer was nineteen years old. Politics and larger cultural issues aside, I've always had mixed feelings about Baez as a folk music icon. Although I grew up in a left-wing household, it was not a Baez household; the primary musical influences on my childhood were Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Kurt Weill, Gilbert and Sullivan, and the wonderful children's vinyl records I'd inherited from my older brothers. It was a wonderful friend of mine in adulthood (a fellow heir to the pink-diaper tradition, who had had himself baptized in secret) who introduced me to Baez's music, making me a gift of her first album.

At first I was stunned by the innocence, beauty, and purity of that distinctive voice (I did find her vibrato a trifle excessive in the upper register, however, and was surprised to read later on that Baez had worked to develop it by manually manipulating her larynx). I also found much to admire in her finger-picking guitar style. But there was also an element of her musicality that repelled me: it was cold -- even calculated -- mercilessly four-square, and especially bad in traditional Black repertoire, where her musical rigidity stood out like a sore white thumb. As a singer who has specialized in neglected (classical) repertoires, I appreciated Joan Baez's attempts to excavate a forgotten musical past and give it the fresh face of youth, and I recognized how influential she'd been culturally, if not musically (the most important of her peers in folk music, like Bob Dylan, shown with her above, were soon moving away from traditional ballads and writing original material).

The most interesting thing to me about Baez is what she stood for at a brief moment in time, before the Vietnam War and the resulting market for protest music. In the early 1960s, Joan Baez was the poster child for the post-Romantic condition: the longing -- expressed musically and aesthetically -- for some sort of authenticity in the face of a vulgar, commercialized culture; the hunger for the truth; the desire to return "home," to one's roots, to the primordial state of unsullied childhood. The tragedy of Romanticism, however, is the truth that home can never be returned to, and that, perhaps, there never was any such home to begin with.

Here is a beautiful number from Joan Baez's first album, "Fare Thee Well," which is an illustrative display of all that is good about her singing and playing; the song's last line is a reference to Matthew 23:34. And here is a song by Brahms, "Heimweh II" (he wrote three songs with that title, translated as "homesickness," or "grief over home"), which is, I think, the most succinct statement possible about the nature of Romanticism. Its lyrics, in a fine rhymed translation by the composer (and pink-diaper baby) Leonard Lehrmann:

Oh, if I only knew the road back,
The dear road to childhood's land!
Oh, why did I search for happiness
And leave my mother's hand?

Oh, how I long to be at rest,
Not to be awakened by anything,
To shut my weary eyes,
With love gently surrounding!

And nothing to search for, nothing to beware of,
Only dreams, sweet and mild;
Not to notice the changes of time,
To be once more a child!

Oh, do show me the road back,
The dear road to childhood's land!
In vain I search for happiness,
Around me naught but deserted beach and sand!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

" . . . to break, blow, burn . . . "

Today is the birthday of J. Robert Oppenheimer's "Gadget," which figures so prominently in the staging of the character's aria in the video linked just below. On July 16, 1945, the Gadget -- the first atomic bomb -- was exploded in the desert at Alamogordo, New Mexico, at the site Oppenheimer had christened "Trinity."

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I had the opportunity at the last minute to attend the final dress rehearsal of John Adams's Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitcan Opera last fall, just before leaving New York for good. It was perhaps the best possible way to leave my beloved city, and it was one of the most moving and astonishing things I've ever seen in the theater, let alone in the opera. From the moment the curtain rises on a hive of cubicles, covered with a scrim on which the real-life security clearance photos of the Manhattan Project scientists are projected, the audience is subject to the heart-changing spectacle offered by a great work of art.

A great work of art, musical or otherwise, has the intention and the result of transforming the witness's relationship to both the history of his own humanity and the humanity he shares with all members of his race. The anguish on baritone Gerald Finley's face as he sings Oppenheimer's Act I aria (linked below), a brilliant setting of John Donne's Holy Sonnet XIV (the text of which Oppenheimer had copied into his own diary), invites all who witness to acknowledge the fall from Eden which we share with our first parents and with one another, the curse that keeps us from living in peace, and the hope of redemption for the human race.

I would like to think that J. Robert Oppenheimer, not only a brilliant physicist but also a learned man and a spiriual seeker, found redemption in the end.

To view the trailer from the Met's production of Doctor Atomic, which includes shots of the cubicle scrim, go here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Batter my heart . . . "

Oppenheimer's magnificent first-act aria from the New York production of Doctor Atomic is up on Youtube at last.

I think the New York staging is superior to the San Francisco-Amsterdam version; Gerard Finley's performance is astonishing. I am shattered by the line "Yet dearly I love you and would be loved fain,/But am betrothed unto your enemy" each time I hear this.

Luck Be A Lady

While walking downtown recently I overheard a conversation of cosmic significance between two otherwise ordinary-looking men walking behind me. One of them brought up sacred geometry, noting: "If you know about numbers, you know everything -- even the code of the universe." His friend agreed, adding, "Yeah, you can use that for betting."

It never occurred to me that what worked for Solomon's Temple might work at OTB, but hey, you never know.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Prayer Request

Dear readers, my fellow blogger Radical Catholic Mom and her family are in urgent need of your prayers. If you are able, please pray for her intentions. May God bless you for this sacrifice.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


This is beautiful. The London-based Capital Children's Choir singing an arrangement of "Chinese" by Lily Allen, which the composer wrote for her mother.

The lyrics:

I see you from the sky
And I wonder how long it will take me to get home
I wait for an hour or so at the carousel
I have a cigarette to pass the time
Cause the traffic's hell

I don't want anything more
Than to see your face when you open the door
You'll make me beans on toast and a nice cup of tea
And we'll get a Chinese and watch TV

Tomorrow we'll take the dog for a walk
And in the afternoon then maybe we'll talk
I'll be exhausted so I'll probably sleep
And we'll get a Chinese and watch TV

You wipe the tears from my eye
And you say that all that it takes is a phone call
I cry at the thought of being alone and then
I wonder how long it will take til I'm home again

I don't want anything more
Than to see your face when you open the door
You'll make me beans on toast and a nice cup of tea
And we'll get a Chinese and watch TV

Tomorrow we'll take the dog for a walk
And in the afternoon then maybe we'll talk
I'll be exhausted so I'll probably sleep
And we'll get a Chinese and watch TV

I know it doesn't seem so fair
But I'll send you a postcard when I get there

I don't want anything more
Than to see your face when you open the door
You'll make me beans on toast and a nice cup of tea
And we'll get a Chinese and watch TV
Tomorrow we'll take the dog for a walk

And in the afternoon then maybe we'll talk
I'll be exhausted so I'll probably sleep
And we'll get a Chinese and watch TV

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How to Get Your Girlfriend to Abort

A woman journalist has written an article for called "Dealing with a Unwanted Pregnancy," which gives men tips on how to manipulate their girlfriends into having abortions. These helpful hints include the following:

Once you’ve given your opinion, back it up with good reasons. Don’t just tell her you don’t want to be a father; some women aren’t going to consider that a good enough reason to have an abortion. A new baby means significant life changes: Food, diapers, medical care -- these things cost money you may not have. Who’s going to care for the baby while you’re working? Will you have to move to a new home? Will you have to sell your Harley and get a station wagon? These things may sound like normal changes in the life of a new parent, but if you don’t want to be a new parent, these changes can be pretty overwhelming.


Blaming a woman for getting pregnant, or threatening to end a relationship, rarely gets positive results. This is a gamble you’d be better off avoiding; if it works, she’s bound to resent you for it down the road, and your relationship will suffer in one form or another. You may view this as welcome alternative to fatherhood, but the threat is actually just as likely to lead straight to it. If a woman is undecided about her pregnancy, being ordered to end it could result in a desire to prove that she can have a baby if she wants to. Neither of these scenarios is rational, and both are likely to result in extreme bitterness. . . . If you feel the need to make strong declarations, use words like “can’t” instead of “won’t.”

The "positive results," of course, mean abortion. And yeah, station wagons are pretty uncool.

Though it's doubtful that sex columnist Isabella Snow's (be forewarned: her website contains graphic content and language) intention was to demonstrate that abortion has always worked to the convenience of men and the detriment of women, her article spells it out loud and clear. Let no one who's given the matter any thought believe that pro-choice equals pro-woman.

Thanks to my friend Fallen Sparrow for the hat tip about this article.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More Tauber

The tenor, as Franz Schubert, playing and singing the composer's song "Ständchen" in the 1934 film "Lilac Time." Delightful!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"Ich weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten . . . "

One of the earliest songs I can remember hearing is the German folk song "Die Lorelei." When I was three years old, I had a 45 record of the Vienna Boys Choir singing "The Little Drummer Boy," and on the flip side was "Die Lorelei." I knew nothing about the story of the song or the meaning of its words, but I was enchanted by the beautiful melody, and have never forgotten it. To my surprise, I heard it again today for the first time since childhood, played by a German festival band at a Fourth of July breakfast in the mountains where I now live.

The internet is in some ways the great mender of memories, an ethereal madeleine that both kindles nostalgia and satisfies it, enabling the forlorn seeker to find again that which he thought had been lost forever to time and forgetfulness. When I got home, I googled "Die Lorelei," and found to my surprise that it is a setting of a poem by the greatest poet of German Romanticism, Heinrich Heine. The poem tells the story of the mythical Lorelei, the siren of the Rhine who lures sailors to their deaths with her beautiful singing, but is also a kind of meta-narrative -- a poem that is as much about the poet's memory of the legend as it is about the legend itself. An English translation follows:

I don't know what it may signify
That I am so sad;
There's a tale from ancient times
That I can't get out of my mind.

The air is cool and the twilight is falling
and the Rhine is flowing quietly by;
the top of the mountain is glittering
in the evening sun.

The loveliest maiden is sitting
Up there, wondrous to tell.
Her golden jewelry sparkles
as she combs her golden hair

She combs it with a golden comb
and sings a song as she does,
A song with a peculiar,
powerful melody.

It seizes upon the boatman in his small boat
With unrestrained woe;
He does not look below to the rocky shoals,
He only looks up at the heights.

If I'm not mistaken, the waters
Finally swallowed up fisher and boat;
And with her singing
The Lorelei did this.

I could not find the Vienna Boys Choir singing it, but here it is, sung by the great Austrian tenor Richard Tauber. It is exquisite.

In the years I lived in Washington Heights in uptown Manhattan, my downstairs neighbor was a wonderful woman, Mrs. M., who had emigrated to America from Vienna in 1938. As a teenage girl, Mrs. M., the daughter of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, had frequented the Vienna State Opera especially to hear Tauber sing. Mrs. M. had been a great beauty; in her wedding portrait, which she kept on her old piano, she looked like a silent film star, and her husband, who was Jewish, was no less handsome (when I moved into the apartment above her with my first husband, she was recently widowed).

In Vienna, Mrs. M. had worked in the glove department of a fashionable department store behind the opera house. One day a group of SS officers came in to browse. When they saw Mrs. M., they made for the glove counter, and one of the officers took her hand and declared her to be the very personification of Aryan beauty. They invited her to a party at the officers' hall, but she flirtatiously waved her other hand in their faces, the one on which she wore her wedding ring. The next day she quit her job, and she and her husband left for America. Upon arrival, Mr. M. enlisted with the U.S. Army, and he soon was back in Europe, fighting against the Third Reich. Mrs. M.'s beloved father died at Auschwitz.

Mrs. M. is now in her nineties, and has moved out of New York to live with her daughter far away. She was the best neighbor I've ever had, a wonderfully kind, patient, and tolerant woman, and a true friend. I miss her.

Because Heine too was a Jew (and, later, a convert to Lutheranism, who may have converted not because of conviction, but because he longed to teach at university, a profession forbidden to Jews), the Nazis tried to ban "Die Lorelei." But the beautiful song was so enduringly popular that the best they could do was declare the author of its verses "unknown."