512 Words

Heroic Tragedy

M. Stanley Bubien

I tapped the score sitting upon my friend's table. His newest symphony, one which he had been poring over for several months. Notes caught my eye and I tilted my head.

"A new direction for you, I see."

He smiled, and his hair flew back with his vigorous nod. Laying one hand upon the score, he said, "Yes!" He turned it to read better, his grin becoming childlike. "I confess, Ferdinand," he directed a mischievous eye toward me, "I left this out hoping you would notice. It's so nearly complete, and I've wanted to share it with someone."

"Let's have a look then." I stepped to his side and we both gazed upon his creation. Melodies cascaded within my head as he flipped the pages. A lengthy work, obviously conceived on a grand scale, it conjured to mind the life and death of someone deserving immense fanfare.

"Done?" he asked, as he had countless pages before, and flopped the vellum to expose the one below. However, instead of the score's continuation, there sat, completely out of sequence, the title page. I first noticed at the bottom, "Luigi Von Beethoven," and then, at the top, "Bonaparte."

"You've dedicated this work to Napoleon?" I asked.

His stood straight, as if at attention. "Absolutely. He has restored order to France, making their wondrous nation the envy of all Europe once again. The people rejoice, for he is a hero. Yes! A hero!"

I frowned. "You name the emperor of France a hero?"

"Emperor," he scowled in surprise. "He is not an emperor."

I realized then that this news had not reached his ears. "My friend," I said, placing a hand firmly upon his shoulder, "I am sorry to tell you this, but it is most unfortunately true. Bonaparte has declared himself an emperor."

He did not cross-question me, nor did he try to deny my words---I believe he trusted my counsel implicitly. Etched upon his face, I could see the inner turmoil as his cheeks slowly began to burn and the scowl became solid as iron.

He rested fingers upon the score's title and said, "Is he then, too, just an ordinary human being?" His question begged no answer, and his voice raised as he continued, "Now he, too, will trample upon all the rights of man and satisfy only his ambition." Seizing the page, he wrenched it from the table and cried, "He will become a tyrant!"

And with that, he rent the vellum in two and cast it upon the floor. Clasping hands behind his back, he began pacing. Once or twice, he even trampled upon the leaflets as if he wished to be trampling upon the remains of Bonaparte himself.

A cloud had descended and it refused to clear. I confess I fled from his flat at my first opportunity, and, once upon the street, I glanced within to see him fiercely pacing still.

"What a tragedy," I mumbled amidst passersby, for I envisioned the remainder of his third symphony sharing the fate of the title page. "What a heroic tragedy."

Based on a true story.

Copyright ©1998 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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March, 1998
Issue #23

512 Words