Heiligenstadt Testament

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Heiligenstadt Testament  (1802) 
by Ludwig van Beethoven, translator not mentioned
A letter written by Beethoven to his brothers Carl and Johann on 6 October 1802 concerning his increasing deafness. An addendum is dated 10 October 1802. It was discovered among his papers after his death and published (in German) in October 1827.

Testament[edit]

For my brothers Carl and [Johann] Beethoven

O you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me, you do not know the secret

causes of my seeming, from childhood my heart and mind were disposed to the gentle feelings of good will, I was even ever eager to

accomplish great deeds, but reflect now that for six years I have been a hopeless case, aggravated by senseless physicians, cheated

year after year in the hope of improvement, finally compelled to face the prospect of a lasting malady (whose cure will take years

or, perhaps, be impossible), born with an ardent and lively temperament, even susceptible to the diversions of society, I was

compelled early to isolate myself, to live in loneliness, when I at times tried to forget all this, O how harshly was I repulsed by

the doubly sad experience of my bad hearing, and yet it was impossible for me to say to men speak louder, shout, for I am deaf. Ah

how could I possibly admit such an infirmity in the one sense which should have been more perfect in me than in others, a sense

which I once possessed in highest perfection, a perfection such as few surely in my profession enjoy or have enjoyed - O I cannot

do it, therefore forgive me when you see me draw back when I would gladly mingle with you, my misfortune is doubly painful because

it must lead to my being misunderstood, for me there can be no recreations in society of my fellows, refined intercourse, mutual

exchange of thought, only just as little as the greatest needs command disposition, although I sometimes ran counter to it yielding

to my inclination for society, but what a humiliation when one stood beside me and heard a flute in the distance and I heard

nothing, or someone heard the shepherd singing and again I heard nothing, such incidents brought me to the verge of despair, but

little more and I would have put an end to my life - only art it was that withheld me, ah it seemed impossible to leave the world

until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce, and so I endured this wretched existence - truly wretched, an

excitable body which a sudden change can throw from the best into the worst state - Patience - it is said that I must now choose

for my guide, I have done so, I hope my determination will remain firm to endure until it please the inexorable parcae to break the

thread, perhaps I shall get better, perhaps not, I am prepared. Forced already in my 28th year to become a philosopher, O it is not

easy, less easy for the artist than for anyone else - Divine One thou lookest into my inmost soul, thou knowest it, thou knowest

that love of man and desire to do good live therein. O men, when some day you read these words, reflect that you did me wrong and

let the unfortunate one comfort himself and find one of his kind who despite all obstacles of nature yet did all that was in his

power to be accepted among worthy artists and men. You my brothers Carl and [Johann] as soon as I am dead if Dr. Schmid is still

alive ask him in my name to describe my malady and attach this document to the history of my illness so that so far as possible at

least the world may become reconciled with me after my death. At the same time I declare you two to be the heirs to my small

fortune (if so it can be called), divide it fairly, bear with and help each other, what injury you have done me you know was long

ago forgiven. To you brother Carl I give special thanks for the attachment you have displayed towards me of late. It is my wish

that your lives be better and freer from care than I have had, recommend virtue to your children, it alone can give happiness, not

money, I speak from experience, it was virtue that upheld me in misery, to it next to my art I owe the fact that I did not end my

life with suicide. - Farewell and love each other - I thank all my friends, particularly Prince Lichnowsky and Professor Schmid - I

desire that the instruments from Prince L. be preserved by one of you but let no quarrel result from this, so soon as they can

serve you better purpose sell them, how glad will I be if I can still be helpful to you in my grave - with joy I hasten towards

death - if it comes before I shall have had an opportunity to show all my artistic capacities it will still come too early for me

despite my hard fate and I shall probably wish it had come later - but even then I am satisfied, will it not free me from my state

of endless suffering? Come when thou will I shall meet thee bravely. - Farewell and do not wholly forget me when I am dead, I

deserve this of you in having often in life thought of you how to make you happy, be so -



Heiligenstadt

October 6,1802 Ludwig van Beethoven

For my brothers Carl and [Johann]

to be read and executed after my death.

Addendum[edit]

Heiligenstadt, October 10, 1802, thus do I take my farewell of thee - and indeed sadly - yes that beloved hope - which I brought

with me when I came here to be cured at least in a degree - I must wholly abandon, as the leaves of autumn fall and are withered so

hope has been blighted, almost as I came - I go away - even the high courage - which often inspired me in the beautiful days of

summer - has disappeared - O Providence - grant me at least but one day of pure joy - it is so long since real joy echoed in my

heart - O when - O when, O Divine One - shall I find it again in the temple of nature and of men - Never? no - O that would be too

hard.

This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.
Original:
This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.
 
Translation:
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).