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"Ah, husband, don't count any longer upon the emperor," said his wife. "For that is the worst part of the news, and shows that every thing is lost: the emperor has left Vienna."
"What!" exclaimed Haydn, and his face grew flushed with anger. "What, they dare to slander the emperor so infamously as that! They dare to assert that the emperor has forsaken his Viennese when they are in danger? No, no, the emperor is an honest man and a faithful prince; he will share good and evil days alike with his people. A good shepherd does not leave his flock, a good prince does not leave his people."
"But the emperor has forsaken us," said Conrad; "it is but too true, master. All Vienna knows it, and all Vienna mourns over it. The emperor is gone, and so are the empress and the imperial children. All are gone and off for Presburg."
"Gone! the emperor gone!" muttered Haydn, mournfully, and a deadly paleness suddenly covered his cheeks. "Oh, poor Austria! poor people! Thy emperor has forsaken thee--he has fled from thee!"
He sadly inclined his head, and profound sighs escaped from his breast.
"Do you see now, husband, that I was right?" asked his wife. "Is it not true that it is high time for us to think of our property, and to pack up and bury our valuables?"
"No!" exclaimed Haydn, raising his head again; "this is no time to think of ourselves, and of taking care of our miserable property. The emperor has left--that means, the emperor is in danger; and therefore, as his faithful subjects, we should pray for him, and all our thoughts and wishes should only be devoted to his welfare. In the hour of danger we should not be faint-hearted, and bow our heads, but lift them up to God, and hope and trust in Him! Why do the people of Vienna lament and despair? They should sing and pray, so that the Lord God above may hear their voices--they should sing and pray, and I will teach them how!"
And with proud steps Haydn went to the piano, and his hands began to play gently, at first, a simple and choral-like air; but soon the melody grew stronger and more impressive. Haydn's face became radiant; instinctively opening his lips, he sang in an enthusiastic and ringing voice words which he had never known before--words which, with the melody, had spontaneously gushed from his soul. What his lips sang was a prayer, and, at the same time, a hymn of victory--full of innocent and child-like piety:
"Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
Profound silence prevailed while Haydn was singing, and when he concluded with a firm and ringing accord and turned around, he saw that his wife, overcome with emotion, with folded hands and eyes lifted up to heaven, had sunk down on her knees, and that old Catharine and Conrad were kneeling behind her, while the cat stood between them listening to the music as it were, and even the parrot below seemed to listen to the new hymn, for its screams had ceased.
A smile of delight played on Haydn's lips and rendered his face again young and beautiful. "Now, sing with me, all three of you," he said. "Sing loudly and firmly, that God may hear us. I will commence again at the beginning, and you shall accompany me."
He touched the keys vigorously, and sang once more, "God save the Emperor Francis!" and carried away by the melody so simple and yet so beautiful, the two women and the old footman sang with him the tender and artless words.
"And now," said Haydn, eagerly, "now, I will write down the melody on the spot, and then you shall run with it to Councillor von Swieten. He must add a few verses to it. And then we will have it copied as often as possible--we will circulate it in the streets, and sing it in all public places, and if the French really should come to Vienna, the whole people shall receive them with the jubilant hymn, 'God save the Emperor Francis!' And God will hear our song, and He will be touched by our love, and He will lead him back to us, our good Emperor Francis."
He sat down at his desk, and in youthful haste wrote down the music. "So," he said then, "take it, Conrad, take it to Herr von Swieten; tell him it is my imperial hymn. Oh, I believe it will be useful to the emperor, and therefore I swear that I will play it every day as long as I live. My first prayer always shall be for the emperor." [Footnote: Haydn kept his word, and from that time played the hymn every day. It was even the last piece of music he performed before his death. On the 26th of May, 1809, he played the hymn three times in succession. From the piano he had to be carried to his bed, which he never left again. When Iffland paid him a visit in 1807, Haydn played the hymn for him. He then remained a few moments before the instrument--placed his hands on it, and said, in the tone of a venerable patriarch: "I play this hymn every morning, and in times of adversity have often derived consolation and courage from it. I cannot help it--I must play it at least once a day. I feel greatly at ease whenever I do so, and even a good while afterward."-- "Iffland's Theatrical Almanac for 1855," p. 181.]
"And now run, Conrad, and ask Herr von Swieten to finish the poem quickly, and you, women, leave me. I feel the ideas burning in my head, and the melodies gushing from my heart. The hymn has inspired me with genuine enthusiasm; and now, with God and my emperor, I will commence my Creation! But you, you must not despair--and whenever you feel dejected, sing my imperial hymn, and pour consolation and courage into your hearts--into the hearts of all Austrians who will sing it. For not only for you, but for Austria, I have sung my hymn, and it shall belong to the whole Austrian people!"
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Louisa of Prussia and Her Times -by- Louisa Muhlbach