A Letter to Tadzio
(April, 2000; written for my grade 12 IB English class, based on Thomas Mann's Death In Venice)
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The day after Europe was shocked by the sudden death of Gustov von Aschenbach, renowned writer, the staff at the hotel in Venice he had called home for a few weeks prior to his demise was removing all of his personal belongings from his room, when they stumbled upon a letter. It was tucked into the bottom drawer of his cabinet beneath a tattered copy of the Bible, where it may well have lain undiscovered for an indeterminate length of time had it not carried the scent of flowers in bloom. Stained with tears and filled with emotion, the small paper was kept by one of the maids at the hotel until but a few years ago, when it was finally released to the public. By that time, Aschenbach as a person was remembered far less, his work speaking for him instead, and so the world was not so offended by the writing, which reads as follows:
I write this long past sunset, after the content have fallen into their beds, hoping that you will understand what I have to say, though my rational mind whispers always that you cannot. Please do not think me a madman, chasing fevered dreams like a wild dog nipping at the wind, for it is with the most solemn and thoughtful mind that I pen this letter. Certainly you must have noticed my gaze upon you appearing more and more frequently over the past days, and so forth must my confessions flow, before my pent-up emotions damn me further:
I love you. Please, do not shrink away from these words, for they are as heartfelt as any said before, and please, do not think that they are borne of an aging man's folly, for they are far too pure for such a creation. I realize that our time, and the morals we both have been raised to believe, suggest that such a feeling for you should make both of us feel unclean, but that would be but a pair of masks placed over the face of true beauty, and that of he who adores it. Perhaps those around us have never felt such an inexplicable emotion as that which fills my heart when I look upon you; perhaps you have not, either, but I have, and so I shall attempt to explain this divine blessing to you.
You are as close to perfection as I have laid eyes upon over the span of my life, and whenever my gaze must leave you, it is as if someone has blown out the lamp of my life, bathing all that I see in darkness once more. Never before had I realized what the ache within my soul was - truth be told, I had not been truly aware of it - until it had been momentarily appeased and then left to return. It is as if a void has opened within the core of my being, crying out to be filled with what can never be mine. This mixture of joy and torment is one I have never known before, and while it tears me apart, I would never choose to have stayed home rather than have come to Venice.
However, I know that I cannot go on this way. With the first rays of light spreading across the horizon to signal the dawn, my mind is consumed by images and continuous thoughts of you, and is not released until I drift into blessed unconsciousness again with the nightfall. You are like the sweetest of blossoms, captivating in your beauty, yet unlike the shallow, temporary romance of a flower, the joy you bring carries on indefinitely, and no length of time will ever despoil the perfection that is you. No penned word will ever eloquently express these feelings that flicker over my soul, equal in their joy and misery, and so I feel quite helpless, unable to speak to you of my emotion, yet unable to remain silent.
Oh, Tadzio! If only we could have been born into another time! Certainly a Greek society of ages past would not shun me for feeling this way, and perhaps my desires for your love could have been fulfilled, but such is not to be. I know that I can never truly spend my life with you, divine to love than to be loved, bringing such love as this into one's heart is surely a sign of your true divination.
Until the day breaks and I may again follow, never to catch,
Gustov von Aschenbach
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