Carmen Sylva: “How I Spent My Sixtieth Birthday” (29. December 1903)
“When I woke the King, I thanked him again for his beautiful present which had arrived, a few days earlier, and could not wait in the cold, a Bechstein piano, my first concert grand. All the artistes who had played here for the last few years had had to make the best of my old pianos which were becoming rather worn out. We had already heard what divine tones this new one could produce, for it had been honoured by Emil Sauer’s magic touch, so I thanked the King all the more, and said it was really too much. He only laughed and said it was certainly enough.
But when I went to breakfast, late of course, for I had to smell all the flowers again, and wind up the musical box, and play with the kittens, their charming little faces looking so pretty with their ribbons, there stood another present, a lovely picture painted by Count Courten, which the King had brought for me in Munich. On presenting it he said “Here, I present you with your dream!” The picture is called “In the Ancestral Hall” and represents a lovely young girl, in a ball dress, standing under the light of a bright lamp, lost in her thoughts. The gallery behind her is dimly lighted by the moon’s rays, and in the gloom appears the ghost of a knight, transparent against the background, but still quite distinct, who looks at the girl with loving earnest eyes. It is a highly poetical picture, but my own dream was not less so.
On the 8th of October, 1869, I dreamt I was standing in our old Castle of Neuwied on the Rhine, and that it was all in flames. I rushed into the large hall which is on the second floor, and covered with beautiful carvings and bas-reliefs, and I was lamenting that it must soon be destroyed, when suddenly a black bearded knight appeared in silver armour, mounting the staircase on a black horse, stopped in the middle of the room, the flames shining upon his armour with a ruddy glow, lifted his vizier, dismounted, and stretching out his hand came towards me.
I was much teased about that dream, because I always used to say I would never marry, and fire signifies marriage, and then the knight too! Only a week later, on the 15th October, I was engaged.
And, when some years later I paid my first visit to Sigmaringen, on entering the large hall, I exclaimed, “But there stands my knight!” It was really very gallant of the King to remind me of my dream in so tender a fashion. You see, he was indeed a true knight.“
From: Carmen Sylva, How I Spent My Sixtieth Birthday, translated into English by H. E. Delf, 1904.