The sense of gloom and despair in Franz Schubert's Ihr Bild is so immanent that we take the past tense of the text, on first encounter, as a literary substitute for a present-tense narration. The poem does have a present tense, which it distinguishes sharply from its narrative simple-past. We may feel that the grief is “here and now,” despite the speaker's efforts to distance it. That is why a typical précis puts the action of the piece into a present tense. We can synopsize such observations in what is called “the Speaker's Map” of the poem's tenses. Schubert's setting—no matter how he arrived at it—is highly sophisticated and absolutely straightforward. Rather than presenting some stylized manifestation of grief, Schubert shows us the persona, in the present tense, literally not believing that he has lost his beloved. Schubert's setting elevates Heinrich Heine's pathetic puppet into a figure of some tragic stature. The piano, playing solo over a more or less extended amount of time, frames every sung phrase of the piece.
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