Je l'adore, et mon âme, à vos ordres rebelle,
Ne peut ni soupirer ni brûler que pour elle.
It is at this point in the story that the poet probably envisaged Hippolytus saying these lines, a mythological prototype for any young man caught in a web of forbidden love. The character is wan and mournful, and goes around in circles without finding an exit to the maze; in Schubert's song the accompaniment also seems to describe circles—to such an extent that it brings to mind, also with its A minor tonality, the distressed and circular movement of the hurdy-gurdy handle turned aimlessly by Der Leiermann from Winterreise. But this is only a distant pre-echo; the abiding joy of playing Schubert's song accompaniments is the never-ending variety of pianistic invention created especially for each poem and situation. Once the composer has created an accompanimental figure, he seldom uses it in the same way for another song; when there is some resemblance between accompaniments it is not because of a lack of originality, but because of Schubert's complex and highly evolved private musical language of unconsciously cross-referenced tonal analogues—the ennumeration of which should be the concern of the next generation of Schubert scholars. On first hearing this song we may come to the conclusion that wandering, unhinged behaviour is the common denominator between Hippolits Lied and Der Leiermann, but it is clear that the patterning and figuration of the accompaniment is as unique as any fingerprint. The flow of quavers is decorated by an insistently repeating mordent which Fischer-Dieskau finds 'charming' but which seems to me more like a nervous tic, a sign that Hippolytus's passion for Aricie is as obsessive and doomed as Phaedra's for him. This figure to be found nowhere else in the Lieder. Unlike many another song in A minor, it lacks the healing balm of the major key, and apart from an eloquently turned miniature postlude it is entirely strophic.
It is probable that the composer believed the poet to be Johanna Schopenhauer (1766–1838), mother of the famous philosopher, whose three-volume novel Gabriele quotes the poem in the course of its narrative. Both the Mandyczewski and the Peters editions ascribe the text to Schopenhauer, but it is in fact by Friedrich Gerstenberg, a poet, critic, playwright and philosopher of Danish extraction. He stood somewhat on the outskirts of German literary activity and is best remembered for influencing the young Goethe and for writing Ugolino, a drama based on Dante's Inferno. Gerstenberg was an authority on British and French theatre (he wrote books on Shakespeare and Beaumont and Fletcher) and was also knowledgeable about Greek mythology; as we have seen, these two interests are united in the background to this poem.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991