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The Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major by Gustav Mahler, known as the Symphony of a Thousand, was mostly written in 1906, with its vast orchestration and final touches completed in 1907.

History and premiere


Widely recognized as one of the composer's greatest achievements, the juxtaposition of sacred and secular texts in this symphony remains its most significant and least discussed aspect. While it testifies truly and plainly toward Mahler’s profound ambivalence in matters religious it is simultaneously a testament to his deep and abiding spirituality—God and Goethe, eternal life versus eternal love. Mahler’s opening gambit, ‘Veni, creator spiritus’ ("Come, creator spirit") might just as well have read "come, creative spirit" since the music for it reportedly came in a white heat of inspiration.

Mahler told Arnold Schoenberg that the music for the symphony came to him "as though it had been dictated to me ... already composed." While he did compose the work quickly, between June 21 and August 18, it may not initially have been that complete. Mahler had first planned for the Eighth Symphony to have four separate movements:

  1. Veni, Creator Spiritus
  2. Caritas
  3. Scherzo: Christmas Games with the Christ Child
  4. :This movement would have included two songs from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
  5. Creation through Eros (Hymn)

What the sketches for these movements did not have were words; though the opening theme was articulated to fit the words "Veni, creator spiritus," Mahler may have planned this work to be purely instrumental. Mahler dated these sketches "Aug. 1906." Somewhere in the eight weeks which followed, Mahler replaced the contemplated hymn to Love with a similar idea based on the closing scene in Part II of Goethe's Faust, with the ideal of salvation through the eternal womanhood (das Ewige-Weibliche). He interrupted his holiday to conduct The Marriage of Figaro at the Salzburg Festival. There, critic Julius Korngold spotted a well-thumbed copy of Faust protruding from his coat pocket.

The dramatic and intellectual plan for the symphony became affirming Goethe's symbolic vision while linking it to the Christian faith and belief in the Spirit as expressed in "Veni, Creator Spiritus." In doing so, the symphony metamorphosed from being completely instrumental to completely choral—the first completely choral symphony to be written. Yet in a 1906 conversation with Richard Specht, the composer confirmed that the music, not the text, had remained paramount:

"This Eighth Symphony is noteworthy for one thing, because it combines two works of poetry in different languages.
The first part is a Latin hymn and the second nothing less than the final scene of the second part of Faust...Its form is also something altogether new.
Can you imagine a symphony that is sung throughout, from beginning to end?
So far I have employed words and the human voice merely to suggest, to sum up, to establish a mood...But here the voice is also an instrument.
The whole first movement is strictly symphonic in form yet is completely sung...the most beautiful instrument of all is led to its calling.
Yet it is used only as sound, because the voice is the bearer of poetic thoughts."

Nevertheless, the ideal Goethe expressed and Mahler set to music was a powerful catalyst, as he expressed to his wife Alma in June 1906:

That which draws us by its mystic force, what every created thing, perhaps even the very stones, feels with absolute certainty as the center of its being, what Goethe here—again employing an image—calls the eternal feminine—that is to say, the resting-place, the goal, in opposition to the striving and struggling towards the goal (the eternal masculine)—you are quite right in calling the force of love.
Goethe ... expresses it with a growing clearness and certainty right on to the Mater Gloriosa—the personification of the eternal feminine!

Mahler explained still further to Alma in another letter a year later, as he rehearsed the symphony in Munich:

The essence of it is really Goethe's idea that all love is generative, creative, and that there is a physical and spiritual generation which is the emananation of this "Eros."
You have it in the last scene of Faust, presented symbolically ...
The wonderful discussion between Diotima and Socrates ... gives the core of Plato's thought, his whole outlook on the world ...
The comparison between [Socrates] and Christ is obvious and has arisen spontaneously in all ages ...
In each case Eros as the Creator of the world.

The discource between Socrates and Diotima on love, as written in Plato's Symposium and translated by Percy Bysse Shelley, reads:

"Love then, O Socrates, is not as you imagine the love of the beautiful."
— "What, then?"
— "Of generation and production in the beautiful."
— "Why then of generation?"
— "Generation is something eternal and immortal in immortality.
It necessarily, from what has been confessed, follows that we must desire immortality together with what is good, since Love is the desire that good be for ever present to us.
Of necessity Love must also be the desire for immortality."


Dress rehearsal for the world premiere of the Symphony

The premiere performance of this choral symphony, in Munich on 12 September 1910, featured a chorus of about 850, with an orchestra of 171. These massive forces led to Mahler's agent dubbing the work Symphony of a Thousand. While Mahler did not approve of the title at all, calling it his agent's "Barnum and Bailey methods" in publicizing the work, the title remains associated with it.

This work was the first to which the publishers Universal Edition obtained an original copyright. They first published a vocal score in 1910, with a full score following in 1911.

The piece was a great success at its premiere, one of few of Mahler's works to be so well received in his lifetime. It was the last premiere of one of his works that Mahler witnessed before his death. He completed two further works, the orchestral song cycle Das Lied von der Erde, and his Symphony No. 9.

Today, despite the enormous forces and cost required to stage the symphony, performances and recordings are not rare. However, the number of musicians involved in modern performances rarely reaches 1,000. In 2000, as part of the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, a performance was given with the combined forces of several choirs and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, totalling over 1000 musicians. In 2001, there was a performance celebrating an anniversary year in Baselmarker, with over 700 singers from 16 local choirs and 200 members of the Basel Symphony Orchestra. Including around 150 aides, over 1,000 performers were involved.

On March 15 2008, Maestro Yoav Talmi led 190 orchestra musicians, 700 choristers, and over 100 children in a performance of the symphony in Quebec Citymarker to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its founding.


The symphony requires a massive number of musicians to perform, hence the nickname "Symphony of a Thousand." The work is scored for the following forces:

2 Piccolos (several to a part)
4 Flutes
4 Oboes
English horn
Clarinet in E-flat, doubled throughout
3 Clarinets in B-flat and A
Bass Clarinet in B-flat and A
4 Bassoons

8 Horn in F
4 Trumpets in F and B-flat
4 Trombones

Bass Drum
3 pairs of Cymbals
Deep Bells in A and A-flat


Offstage instruments:
4 Trumpets in F (several to a part)
3 Trombones
Vocal parts:
First Soprano (Magna Peccatrix)
Second Soprano (Una poenitentium)
Third Soprano (Mater gloriosa)
First Alto (Mulier Samaritana)
Second Alto (Maria Aegyptiaca)
Tenor (Doctor Marianus)
Baritone (Pater ecstaticus)
Bass (Pater profundus)

Boys' Choir
Mixed Choirs I, II

2 Harps (several to a part)
Mandolin (several to the part)

Violins I, II
Double Basses

1Note by Mahler: When large choirs of voices and strings are used, doubling of the first chair of woodwinds is recommended.


Mahler attempted something truly novel in the Eighth which affected both its content and its overall structure. He attempted boldly to unify the entire work through the expression of a personal philosophical ideal—in this case the redemptive power of human love. This became the topic for Part II of the symphony. From there Mahler strove to link this power with both the creative spirit who inspires the artist and God the Creator who endows the artist with creativity. Both of these latter became the philosophical substance of Part I. This departure from pure narrative became apparent in the symphony's tonal scheme, which asserts an unshakable and enclosing E flat.

While the Eighth has been described as, and called by its composer, a choral symphony, some critics have suggested the key to understanding Part I is by considering it Mahler's tribute to one of Bach's major motets, quite possibly Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied. The polyphony of this motet overwhelmed Mahler and he may have been consciously emulating it in the Eighth. Part II, in contrast, could be considered a synthesis of dramatic cantata, sacred oratorio, song cycle and choral symphony, all culminating in a final chorale (Chorus mysticus) modeled on the concluding chorale in the Second Symphony.

Part I

The first part, Hymnus: Veni, Creator Spiritus, is a setting of a medieval Latin hymn by Rabanus Maurus and typically lasts around 25 minutes; one of the soprano soloists (the third one, which, in Part II, sings the part of Mater Gloriosa) does not appear in this section. The movement is mostly vocal, with the hymn being sung mainly by the choirs, but often with the soloists at the same time. Despite its apparent complexity, in it can be seen a type of sonata form.

It opens with the organ and winds playing an E-flat major chord which immediately introduces the first statement by the chorus of the first two lines of text: "Veni, creator Spiritus, mentes tuorum visita." This also introduces a three-note motif (E flat, B flat down a fourth, A flat up a seventh) which, along with the following three notes (G, F, E-flat), is one of the primary themes in the entire symphony, appearing throughout in many variations and transpositions.

"Imple superna gratia" introduces the second theme in a slower and quieter mood. The section builds up to a restatement of the opening "Veni creator" theme.

"Infirma nostri corporis", starting with a variation of the main theme, is again quieter and somewhat somber, befitting the text, "the infirmities of our bodies".

An orchestral interlude uses the main theme in inversion as well in its normal form. A mildly grotesque effect is created by the frequent use of staccato and pizzicato and low muted brass.

"Infirma nostri corporis" is stated again, this time by the soloists without chorus, using another theme.

"Accende lumen sensibus", which opens with the direction "With sudden rapture" and is set for full orchestra, chorus, and soloists, is a complicated development of most of the preceding themes, in which the key signature changes six times. Thirty-six measures over a B-flat pedal-point build to a dramatic climax with a reprise of the opening "Veni creator".

"Qui Paraclitus diceris" is again quieter, using mostly soloists with the choir usually singing softly underneath.

"Gloria Patri Domino" is introduced by the boys' choir and answered by the chorus singing it to the main theme in its original form. The movement ends with all forces singing "Gloria Patri" ("Glory to the Father") fortissimo and the full orchestra augmented by off-stage brass.

Part II

The second part, Schlußszene aus Goethes "Faust" lasts almost an hour, which is longer than most complete symphonies. It takes as its text the final scene of Goethe's Faust II. It is often said to be more like a cantata than a choral symphony because of its extensive use of vocal soloists, but this is not the case as Mahler maintains a firm hold of symphonic form. While the music is continuous, it can be regarded as three sections corresponding to the last three movements of the classical symphony: first, a slow adagio section lasting for fifteen minutes with very little singing; then a scherzo-like section; and last, a stately finale. Mahler described the finale to his friend the conductor Willem Mengelberg this way: "Try to imagine the whole universe beginning to ring and resound. These are no longer human voices, but planets and suns revolving."

Because of its length and complexity, a full analysis is impractical, but a brief synopsis may be attempted. The movement starts with dark, low instrumentation and men's voices, and ends, just before the final chorus, with bright, high instrumentation suggesting a celestial vision; while the transition between these two extremes is not explicitly a continuous ascension, the implication of an ascension is felt overall.

The Adagio opens with a sombre orchestral prelude, in which the theme in the string basses is based on the first movement's "Accende lumen sensibus." The men (a chorus of hermits) sing an appropriately dark text about forests and caverns. Pater Ecstaticus and Pater Profundis (the lowest soloists) sing about the emotions they feel in such a setting, and how, for all its darkness, they still feel divine love.

The Scherzo is devoted to various choruses of angels carrying Faust's soul up to heaven and singing about his redemption and the joys of the blessed.

The Finale begins with Doctor Marianus calling attention to the blessed Virgin, who will receive Faust's soul. As the Virgin (according to stage directions) "soars into view," the chorus, "a penitent" (Gretchen, Faust's lover in the first part of the play), and other female soloists representing women who have benefited from the Virgin's mercy, intercede to her for Faust. Mater Gloriosa (the Virgin) tells Gretchen to take Faust's soul, and Doctor Marianus sings his adoration of her. After the orchestra ascends to an ethereal gossamer in the highest registers to depict the beatific vision, the chorus sings the last stanza, beginning with "Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis" ("All things transitory are but parables") and ending with "Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan" ("The Eternal Feminine draws us upward"). This starts pianississimo and builds up to a thundering climax (see Mahler's comment above), with the off-stage brass playing the "Veni creator" theme from the opening of the symphony.


The symphony takes around eighty minutes to perform, with the fastest recording being conducted by Neeme Järvi at 70 minutes and 16 seconds and the slowest with Wyn Morris, at 92 minutes and 45 seconds. In the context of Mahler's larger body of work, it represents a first return to the usage of voices since his fourth symphony, the usage of a chorus since his third, and a chorus with adult male voices since his second.


Movement I (Veni Creator Spiritus)

Original Latin
Veni, creator spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita;
Imple superna gratia,
quae tu creasti pectora.

Qui tu Paraclitus diceris,
donum Dei altissimi,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.

Infirma nostri corporis,
virtute firmans perpeti.
Accende lumen sensibus.
Infunde amorem cordibus.

Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus;
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne pessimum.

Tu septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae.

Per te sciamus de Patrem,
noscamus [atque] Filium,
[Te utriusque] Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

Veni, creator spiritus
mentes tuorum visita;
Imple superna gratia,
quae tu creasti pectora.

Da gaudiorum praemia,
da gratiarum munera;
dissolve litis vincula,
adstringe pacis foedera.

Gloria sit Patri Domino,
Natoque, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito
in saeculorum saecula.
In English
Come, Creator Spirit,
visit the minds of your people,
fill with grace from on high
the hearts which Thou didst create.

Thou that art called Comforter,
gift from God most high,
living fount, fire, love
and unction of the spirit.

Endow our weak flesh
with perpetual strength,
kindle our senses with light,
pour Thy love into our hearts.

Drive the enemy far from us
grant us lasting peace,
so that, beneath Thy guidance,
we may avoid all ill.

Thou, sevenfold in gifts,
finger of the Father's right hand.

Give us to know Father
and Son through Thee,
and in Thee, Spirit emanating of both,
grant that we may always believe.

Come, Creator Spirit,
visit the minds of your people,
fill with grace from on high
the hearts which Thou didst create.

Give us joy,
grant us Thy peace,
smooth our quarrels,
preserve us in bonds of peace.

Glory be to the Father,
to His Son, who rose from the dead,
and to our Advocate and Comforter
for ever and ever.

Movement II (Schlußszene aus Goethes Faust - 2. Teil)

Original German

Waldung, sie schwankt heran,
Felsen, sie lasten dran,
Wurzeln, sie klammern an,
Stamm dicht an Stamm hinan,
Woge nach Woge spritzt,
Höhle, die tiefste, schützt,
Löwen, sie schleichen stumm,
Freundlich um uns herum,
Ehren geweihten Ort,
Heiligen Liebeshort.

(auf und abschwebend)
Ewiger Wonnebrand,
Glühendes Liebesband,
Siedender Schmerz der Brust,
Schäumende Gotteslust.
Pfeile, durchdringet mich,
Lanzen, bezwinget mich,
Keulen, zerschmettert mich,
Blitze, durchwettert mich,
Daß ja das Nichtige
Alles verflüchtige,
Glänze der Dauerstern,
Ewiger Liebe Kern!

(tiefe Region)
Wie Felsenabgrund mir zu Füßen
Auf tiefem Abgrund lastend ruht,
Wie tausend Bäche strahlend fließen
Zum grausen Sturz des Schaums der Flut,
Wie strack, mit eig'nem kräft'gen Triebe,
Der Stamm sich in die Lüfte tragt;
So ist es die allmächt'ge Liebe,
Die alles bildet, alles hegt.

Ist um mich her ein wildes Brausen,
Als wogte Wald und Felsengrund!
Und doch stürzt, liebevoll im Sausen,
Die Wasserfülle sich zum Schlund,
Berufen, gleich das Tal zu wässern;
Der Blitz, der flammend niederschlug,
Die Atmosphäre zu verbessern,
Die Gift und Dunst im Busen trug;

Sind Liebesboten, sie verkünden,
Was ewig schaffend uns umwallt.
Mein Inn'res mög' es auch entzünden,
Wo sich der Geist, verworren, kalt,
Verquält in stumpfer Sinne Schranken,
Scharf angeschloss'nem Kettenschmerz.
O Gott! beschwichtige die Gedanken,
Erleuchte mein bedürftig Herz!

(schwebend in der höhern Atmosphäre,
Faustens Unsterbliches tragend)
Gerettet ist das edle Glied
Der Geisterwelt vom Bösen:
Wer immer strebend sich bemüht,
Den können wir erlösen;
Und hat an ihm die Liebe gar
Von oben teilgenommen,
Begegnet ihm die sel'ge Schar
Mit herzlichem Willkommen.

(um die höchsten Gipfel kreisend)
Hände verschlinget
Euch freudig zum Ringverein!
Regt euch und singet
Heil'ge Gefühle drein!
Göttlich belehret,
Dürft ihr vertrauen:
Den ihr verehret,
Werdet ihr schauen.

Jene Rosen aus den Händen
Liebend-heiliger Büßerinnen
Halfen uns den Sieg gewinnen
Und das hohe Werk vollenden,
Diesen Seelenschatz erbeuten.
Böse wichen, als wir streuten,
Teufel flohen, als wir trafen.
Statt gewohnter Höllenstrafen
Fühlten Liebesqual die Geister;
Selbst der alte Satans Meister
War von spitzer Pein durchdrungen.
Jauchzet auf! Es ist gelungen.

Uns bleibt ein Erdenrest
Zu tragen peinlich,
Und wär er von Asbest,
Er ist nicht reinlich.
Wenn starke Geisteskraft
Die Elemente
An sich herangerafft,
Kein Engel trennte
Geeinte Zwienatur
Der innigen beiden;
Die ewige Liebe nur
Vermag's zu scheiden.

Ich spür' soeben,
Nebelnd um Felsenhöh',
Ein Geisterleben,
Regend sich in der Näh'.
Seliger Knaben
Seh'ich bewegte Schar,
Los von der Erde Druck.
Im Kreis gesellt,
Die sich erlaben
Am neuen Lenz und Schmuck
Der obern Welt.
Sei er zum Anbeginn,
Steigendem Vollgewinn
Diesen gesellt!

Freudig empfangen wir
Diesen im Puppenstand;
Also erlangen wir
Englisches Unterpfand.
Löset die Flocken los,
Die ihn umgeben!
Schon ist er schön und groß
Von heiligem Leben.

(in der höchsten, reinlichsten Zelle)
Hier ist die Aussicht frei,
Der Geist erhoben.
Dort ziehen Fraun vorbei,
Schwebend nach oben.
Die Herrliche mittenin
Im Sternenkranze,
Die Himmelskönigin,
Ich seh’s am Glanze.

Höchste Herrscherin der Welt!
Lasse mich im blauen,
Ausgespannten Himmelszelt
Dein Geheimnis schauen.
Billige, was des Mannes Brust
Ernst und zart beweget
Und mit heiliger Liebeslust
Dir entgegenträget.
Unbezwinglich unser Mut,
Wenn du hehr gebietest;
Plötzlich mildert sich die Glut,
Wie du uns befriedest.

Jungfrau, rein im schönsten Sinne,
Mutter, Ehren würdig,
Uns erwählte Königin,
Göttern ebenbürtig.

Dir, der Unberührbaren,
Ist es nicht benommen,
Daß die leicht Verführbaren
Traulich zu dir kommen.
In die Schwachheit hingerafft,
Sind sie schwer zu retten.
Wer zerreißt aus eig'ner Kraft
Der Gelüste Ketten?
Wie entgleitet schnell der Fuß
Schiefem, glattem Boden?

Du schwebst zu Höhen
Der ewigen Reiche;
Vernimm das Flehen,
Du Gnadenreiche!
Du Ohnegleiche!

Bei der Liebe, die den Füßen
Deines gottverklärten Sohnes
Tränen ließ zum Balsam fließen,
Trotz des Pharisäer Hohnes;
Beim Gefäße, das so reichlich
Tropfte Wohlgeruch hernieder;
Bei den Locken, die so weichlich
Trockneten die heil'gen Glieder -

Bei dem Bronn, zu dem schon weiland
Abram ließ die Herde führen;
Bei dem Eimer, der dem Heiland
Kühl die Lippe durft' berühren;
Bei der reinen, reichen Quelle,
Die nun dorther sich ergießet,
Überflüssig, ewig helle,
Rings durch alle Welten fließt -

Bei dem hochgeweihten Orte,
Wo den Herrn man niederließ;
Bei dem Arm, der Von der Pforte,
Warnend mich zurücke stieß;
Bei der vierzigjähr'gen Buße,
Der ich treu in Wüsten blieb;
Bei dem sel'gen Scheidegruße,
Den im Sand ich niederschrieb -

Die du großen Sünderinnen
Deine Nähe nicht verweigerst.
Und ein büßendes Gewinnen
In die Ewigkeiten steigerst,
Gönn' auch dieser guten Seele.
Die sich einmal nur vergessen.
Die nicht ahnte, daß sie fehle,
Dein Verzeihen angemessen!

Neige, neige,
Du Ohnegleiche,
Du Strahlenreiche,
Dein Antlitz gnädig meinem Glück!
Der früh Geliebte,
Nicht mehr Getrübte,
Er kommt zurück.

Er überwächst uns schon
An mächt'gen Gliedern.
Wird treuer Pflege Lohn
Reichlich erwidern.
Wir wurden früh entfernt
Von Lebechören.
Doch dieser hat gelernt:
Er wird uns lehren.

Vom edlen Geisterchor umgeben,
Wird sich der Neue kaum gewahr,
Er ahnet kaum das frische Leben,
So gleicht er schon der heil'gen Schar.
Sieh, wie er jedem Erdenbande
Der alten Hülle sich entrafft,
Und aus ätherischem Gewande
Hervortritt erste Jugendkraft!
Vergönne mir, ihn zu belehren,
Noch blendet ihn der neue Tag.

Komm! Hebe dich zu höhern Sphären!
Wenn er dich ahnet, folgt er nach.

Blicket auf zum Retterblick,
Alle reuig Zarten,
Euch zu sel'gem Glück
Dankend umzuarten!
Werde jeder bess're Sinn
Dir zum Dienst erbötig;
Jungfrau, Mutter, Königin,
Göttin, bleibe gnädig!

Alles Vergängliche
Ist nur ein Gleichnis;
Das Unzulängliche,
Hier wird's Ereignis;
Das Unbeschreibliche.
Hier ist's getan;
Das Ewig Weibliche
Zieht uns hinan.
In English

Forest, that sways here,
Rocks that weigh down on it,
Roots that cling,
Trunks dense on trunks.
Wave sprays over wave,
The deepest cave shields us.
Lions that creep silently
Tame about us,
Honour the sacred place,
The holy shrine of Love.

(floating above and below)
Eternal burning brand,
Glowing bond of Love,
Seething pain of the breast,
Foaming joy of God.
Arrows, pierce me,
Lances, subdue me,
Maces, beat me down,
Lightning thunder through me!
That now the worthless
Be cursed for ever
Shine forth the enduring star,
Eternal Love’s centre.

(deep region)
As the rocky chasm at my feet
On the deep abyss weighs at rest,
As a thousand gleaming streams flow
To the terrible plunge of the flood’s foam,
As with its own great strength
The trunk is born up into the air -
So is almighty Love
That forms all, preserves all.
There is about me a wild rushing,
As if forest and rocky ground shook,
And yet there rose, in lovely sound,
The waters to the abyss,
Called as it were to water the valley;
The lightning that flaming struck
To clear the atmosphere,
Took the poison and vapour in its bosom -
They are Love’s messengers, they tell
What ever-creating surrounds us.
My inner being it too must charm
Where the spirit, confused, cold,
Tormented in the limits of dull senses,
Feels the sharp pain of chains.
O God! Quieten my thoughts,
Bring light to my needy heart!

(hovering in the higher atmosphere,
bearing what is immortal of Faust)
Saved is the noble limb
Of the spirits’ world from the wicked:
“Who ever-striving takes pains,
Him can we redeem.”
And if Love from above
Was shared by him,
The blessed host meet him
With heartfelt welcome.

(circling in the highest heaven)
Join your hands
Joyful in a ring,
Up and sing
Holy feelings!
Taught by God
You may trust;
The one whom you revere,
You shall see.:

Those roses from the hands
Of loving holy penitents
Helped us to win victory,
To complete the holy work,
To take this soul’s treasure as prize.
The evil drew back, as we strewed,
The Devil flew, when we smote.
Instead of the wonted pangs of Hell
The spirits felt the torment of Love;
The old Satan himself
Was afflicted with sharp pain.
Rejoice! We have succeeded.

There remains for us earthly remains
To bear with difficulty;
And were he of matter indestructible
He is not pure.
When the strong force of the Spirit
The elements
Has snatched up to itself,
No angel could part
The united double nature
Of both soul and body,
Eternal Love only
May divide them.

I feel now
In the mist and rocky heights
A Spirit life
Dwelling near.
Of blessed boys
I see a throng.
Free from earth’s pressure.
Gathered in a circle
They rejoice
In the new spring and beauty
Of the upper world.
Let him begin here
To win the fulness of life
As their companion!

Joyfully we take
This man into the state of chrysalis;
So we receive
The angels’ pledge.
Set loose the flakes of earth
That are about him!
Then he is fair and great
From holy life.

(in the highest, purest cell)
Here the view is free,
The Spirit lifted up.
There pass women
Ascending above.
The glorious one among them
In crown of stars,
The Queen of Heaven
I see in splendour.

Highest Lady of the world!
Let me in the blue
Extended tract of Heaven
See your mystery.
Approve what in man’s breast
Grave and tender moves
And with holy joy of Love
Brings him to meet you.
Unconquered our courage
When you, sublime, command;
Suddenly wanes anger

Virgin, pure in fairest mind,
Mother, worthy of reverence,
Our chosen Queen,
Equal to God.

To you, the immaculate,
It is not denied
That the easily seduced
May come to you in consolation.
In weakness gathered in
They are hard to save;
Who tears apart through his own strength
The chains of lust?
How quickly does the foot slide
On the sloping, smooth ground?

You float up to the heights
Of the eternal kingdom;
Hear our pleading,
Full of grace!
Without peer!

By the love that at the feet
Of your Son, enlightened by God,
Let tears flow as balsam
In spite of the scorn of the Pharisees;
By the box that so richly
Dropped down fragrance;
By the locks that so gently
Dried the sacred limbs -

By the well to which once
Abraham led the herds;
By the pitcher which coolly
Touched the Saviour’s lips;
By the pure, rich source
That now there gushes,
Overflowing, ever clear
Flows throughout the world -

By the sacred place
Where the Lord was laid;
By the arm that from the entrance
Warning pushed me back;
By the forty-year penitence
That I truly spent in the desert;
By the holy words of parting
That in the sand I wrote -

You who do not avert your gaze
From women who have sinned
Raise into eternity
The victory gained by repentance,
Grant also this poor soul,
Who only once forgot,
Who did not know that she erred,
Your forgiveness!

(once called Gretchen. Approaching)
Turn, turn,
You matchless one,
Rich in glory,
Your face in grace on my happiness!
The one I early loved,
No more troubled,
Comes back.

(circling nearer)
He grows the greater
With his mighty limbs,
Will true redemption
Richly return.
We were early distanced
From the chorus of life;
Yet this man has learned,
He will teach us.

By the noble choir of spirits surrounded,
The newly born scarcely knows,
He scarcely divines fresh life,
So he becomes like the holy host.
See! How he from every bond of earth
Tears aside the old veil
And from the clothing of the ether
Comes forth his first youthful strength!
Grant me to teach him,
Still blinded by the new day.

Come, rise up to higher spheres!
If he is aware of you, he will follow.

Look up to the redeeming sight,
All you who repent,
That tries to bring you
To a blessed fate.
That every better sense
May serve you;
Virgin, Mother, Queen,
Goddess, be gracious to us!

All that is transitory
Is but an image;
The inadequacy of earth
Here finds fulfilment;
The ineffable
Here is accomplished;
The eternal feminine
leads us upwards.



  1. Seckerson, Edward, Gramophone 3/2005.
  2. Kennedy, Mahler, 149
  3. Kennedy, Mahler, 77.
  4. Kennedy, Mahler, 151.
  5. De la Grange, 429-430.
  6. As quoted in Kennedy, Mahler, 150-1.
  7. Mahler biographer Michael Kennedy calls the above quote a testimony to the breadth of the composer's human sympathy and to the power of the mysticism which impelled his creative activity. Kennedy, Mahler, 151.
  8. As quoted in Kennedy, Mahler, 150.
  9. As quoted in Kennedy, Mahler, 150.
  10. Kennedy, 100.
  11. Sydney Olympic Arts Festival
  12. Quebec Symphony Orchestra - The Symphony of a Thousand in Quebec City | Reuters
  13. Mitchell, New Grove, 18:524-525.
  14. New Grove, 18:523.
  15. Mitchell, New Grove, 18:524.

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