Monday, November 25, 2013

The Springs of My Soul

"You have broken the springs of my soul."

Klemens von Metternich to his lover the Duchess of Sagan. Autumn of 1814.

By all the accounts I have read, which granted is not a great many, our lover boy von Metternich was madly, passionately, unabashedly in love with the Duchess of Sagan. Those same accounts also describe the love as being returned (at least for a while), and describe the Duchess as quite a beauty. Good for him, he was a bit older than the Duchess, and it is also nice to see the older generation(s) rekindling their youth in the most simple of ways.

For the people who do not have the obscure, classical education that I am currently paying off at about 1000 quid a month, our lover boy von Metternich was at the time the Austrian Foreign Minister. He was quite the dandy/looker himself, and was a real charmer. At home in the stuffy, rule laden drawing rooms of 19th century Vienna, he was able to have several women swoon over him at once, but it appears that the Duchess was his true love. Or at least he thought so at the time, and that time is critical to the story. At the time, Metternich wrote those impossibly sad lines, he was quite the busy bee trying to get Austria as much as he could during the Congress of Vienna. A Congress that, eventually, secured peace in Europe for nearly a century. A Congress so historically significant that Henry Kissinger wrote a book about it. A Congress that for being all of that, was never officially opened.

All in all, a pretty fucking big deal, and since Austria fought about as well as a one armed, one eyed, drunken, chicken in the wars preceding the Congress, it was incumbent upon Metternich to try to salvage from the negotiation table what his white coated pansy of an army could not achieve on the battle field. It would be 'six weeks of hell', and from my understanding of the concept of 'hell' it is not a place I would want to spend six seconds, and certainly not six weeks. During those six weeks of fun, delegates from almost 200 countries, duchies, free cities, and even the Pope descended on Vienna to carve up the spoils of the recent defeat of that freedom loving fellow, Napoleon.  Like starving men around the last of the kidney pies, these worthies were set to take everything they could grab, and the devil take the hindmost.

It is this tense, pretty fucking important, setting that we find our soulful lover Metternich, and his Duchess. From their letters, and from their actions they would appear to be a perfect couple, each not bad to look at, both of them witty, urbane, intelligent in their own way, and both as rich as Croesus. A 19th century power couple. As with most power couples, or maybe with just most couples in general, things could just not last. The Duchess was not pleased by her role of 'unofficial mistress' (I wonder if there is an official mistress role?), and since Metternich was married, and not going to divorce anytime soon (or ever) she got a bit miffed, and a miffed Duchess is not someone that you want mucking about with your feelings, as our boy Metternich was about to find out to his cost.

And that cost was the "springs of his soul" she left him high and dry at a time when he either needed her the most or at the very least needed not to have his heart broken into a million pieces. I would wager that negotiating with a fellow by the name of Talleyrand was a difficult thing to do in the best of times, try doing it with the springs of your soul broken. Not going to be a fun time.  The fact that he was able to keep it together to achieve what he did speaks volumes about the steel in the springs of Metternich's soul.  Broken springs or not, he got a fairly good deal at the Congress, and I applaud him for it.

That is all the set up for the real reason of this post, because much like our boy Metternich someone chose a very important time in my life to 'break the springs of my soul.' Much like the Duchess of Sagan this person knew what they were doing, and knew that the timing of it just made things that much worse. Unlike Metternich, the steel in the springs of my soul are not quite as hardened, and if I were a time traveler (a la Dr. Who) I would go back, and make a much different decision than I did at the time. But time only travels by passing in my world, and going back is not possible, at least as far as this incarnation of me knows. Looking back in time is about the best us mortals not in possession of a Tardis can do, and that just isn't quite the same.

It is in that 'looking back' in time that a queer sort of madness lies. The madness of the (now) knowing better, the (now) knowing the 'right' thing to do or say, and the madness of watching it in my memory unfold like a bad play in a cheap theatre, where there are no 'good' seats. Rewinding those events and playing them forward and backwards over and over again in slow motion to see the exact moment when it all went horribly wrong, and the wall between us was built entirely too high for us to ever climb again. Of course, all this 20/20 hindsight does not repair the broken springs of my soul, those remain broken. Unlike Metternich, who I am fairly certain effected the proper repairs to his soul, I seem to lack the ability to accomplish that feat. Perhaps, almost certainly, he was made of sterner stuff, or perhaps, I just don't care to try. Until that Tardis comes into my (current) life.Time is only going to pass at the normal speed, and only in one direction.

That direction is, in theory, forward or at least as close to forward as I can manage. Time for me cannot go backwards, it might be possible to make it stand still, but only ever so briefly, and it might be able to go sideways with the right amount of effort, but effort is something that I find myself in short supply of, and therefore time will march on in a forward direction. Forward isn't always progress, but forward we shall go into an unknown, and unknowable future, fraught with peril or perhaps just as boring as today has turned out to be, that is yet to be decided. Though I guess at this 'time' I should apologize to the shade of Metternich for taking his ever so sad words, and using them for my own purposes. It was done out of a odd sort of admiration, and the fact it was poorly done should not tarnish the sadness of those heartfelt words penned ever so long ago. Mea culpa. 



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