Monday, January 19, 2009

Einstein on Albert I

Albert Einstein was an intimate of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. He shared with the Queen a passion for classical music, and enjoyed discussing political and philosophical issues with the King. Many fascinating and touching letters exist between Einstein and the royal couple which testify to the depth of their friendship. I would like to cite one, in particular, written by Einstein to the grieving Queen, shortly after the King's tragic death in a mountaineering accident in 1934. The letter is included (in French translation) by Queen Marie-José of Italy in her memoirs, Albert et Elisabeth de Belgique, mes parents.

Venerée Reine,

Il semblerait que dans ces années chargées de mal, le sort s'acharne à pulveriser tout ce qui reste de grande valeur humaine et de serviteurs soucieux du bonheur de l'humanité. Il ne m'est pas arrivé souvent, dans la vie, d'être bouleversé comme je le fus après la nouvelle du coup si lourd qui a subitement ruiné votre harmonieuse existence et qui a fait une brêche, impossible à combler, dans ce petit groupe de lutteurs dévoués qui s'efforcent d'arrêter la chute lugubre de l'Europe. Le Roi a abandonné la vie d'une façon merveilleuse, en pleine force 'imbrisée,' et s'est plongé dans l'inconsciente nature qu'il aimait avec une telle passion. Mais pour la nation belge, et au-delà d'elle pour l'Europe, sa main qui savait aplanir avec douceur, son oeil clair et net de tout préjugé sont irremplaçables. Je sais ce qu'éprouvent ceux qui voient l'objet de leur amour appartenir irrévocablement au passé. Mais je sais aussi que pour les êtres forts, dont vous êtes, se mettre au service des choses immatérielles et en particulier se consacrer aux arts, remplit leur vie d'une douceur qui échappe, dans une certaine mesure, à la brutalité des coups que porte l'aveugle destin. En vous disant la part que je prends de tout coeur à votre peine, je vous serre les mains.

Votre Albert Einstein,

le 20 février 1934.


Revered Queen,

It would seem that in these years, filled with evil, fate is determined to destroy all that remains of great human worth and all those who serve humanity and are concerned for its welfare. It has rarely happened, in my life, that I have been as overwhelmed as I was by the news of the heavy blow which suddenly destroyed your harmonious life and which made a breach, impossible to repair, in the small group of those who are fighting, devotedly, to ward off the dismal fall of Europe. The King departed this life in a marvelous fashion, in his prime, and plunged into the unconscious nature which he loved with such a passion. But for the Belgian nation, and beyond it, for Europe, his even hand, his clear and unprejudiced vision are irreplaceable. I know what people feel who see the object of their love belonging irrevocably to the past. But I also know that for strong individuals (such as yourself), to put oneself at the service of immaterial things, and, in particular, to devote oneself to the arts, fills life with a sweetness which escapes, to a certain extent, the brutality of the blows inflicted by blind fate. As I tell you that I share your grief with all my heart, I shake your hands.

Your Albert Einstein,

20 February, 1934.

2 comments:

Ms. Lucy said...

How touching...This is a side of Einstein that I didn't know. Another informative post, as usual. Thanks.

Matterhorn said...

Yes, I too, was taken by surprise when I discovered this side of Einstein.