Frauenliebe und Leben. Chamisso’s poems and Schumann’s songs.
 9781107002302, 1107002303

Table of contents :
1. Women in early nineteenth-century Germany: societal conventions, ideology, relationships
Part I. The Poetry: 2. Adelbert von Chamisso: a sketch of his life and works
3. Chamisso's poems about women: a literary context for Frauenliebe und Leben
Part II. The Music: 4. The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben
5. Schumann at work on his songs
6. Schumann's cycle: analysis and comparative interpretation
Appendix 1. Chronological listing of nineteenth-century Frauenliebe und Leben settings
Appendix 2. Poetry in the original German and in English translation.

Citation preview

Frauenliebe und Leben

Rufus Hallmark’s book explores Robert Schumann’s beloved yet controversial song cycle Frauenliebe und Leben and the poems of Adelbert von Chamisso on which it is based, setting them in the context of the challenges and social expectations faced by women in early nineteenth-century Germany. Hallmark provides the most extensive English-language study of Chamisso, a poet little known today outside Germany, including a biographical sketch and excerpts from his other poetry. He examines a range of poems about women, by Chamisso and others, and discusses the reception of the poetic and musical cycles, including illustrated editions, contemporary reviews, and other musical settings. Based on new studies of Schumann’s manuscript sources and on comparative analyses of his songs and settings by Carl Loewe, Heinrich Marschner, Franz Lachner, and others, Hallmark provides fresh musical and interpretive insights into each song.

rufus hallmark is Professor of Music at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey. He is the editor of Schumann’s song cycles Dichterliebe and Frauenliebe und Leben for the new critical edition of the composer’s works. He is also the author of The Genesis of Schumann’s Dichterliebe: A Source Study (1976), German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century (1996, rev. 2010), and numerous articles on the songs of Schumann, Schubert, and Vaughan Williams, published in journals and international conference reports. In 2011 he won the American Musicological Society’s Thomas Hampson Prize for work on classic song. A member of the American Musicological Society and the Schumann, Rückert, and Chamisso Gesellschäfte, he was Secretary of the Board of the American Musicological Society from 2001 to 2007.

music in context Series editors

J. P. E. Harper-Scott Royal Holloway, University of London Julian Rushton University of Leeds The aim of Music in Context is to illuminate specific musical works, repertoires, or practices in historical, critical, socio-economic, or other contexts; or to illuminate particular cultural and critical contexts in which music operates through the study of specific musical works, repertoires, or practices. A specific musical focus is essential, while avoiding the decontextualization of traditional aesthetics and music analysis. The series title invites engagement with both its main terms; the aim is to challenge notions of what contexts are appropriate or necessary in studies of music, and to extend the conceptual framework of musicology into other disciplines or into new theoretical directions.

books in the series sim o n p. ke ef e , Mozart’s Requiem: Reception, Work, Completion j . p . e . h a r p e r - s c o t t , The Quilting Points of Musical Modernism: Revolution, Reaction, and William Walton na nc y n o vem b er, Beethoven’s Theatrical Quartets: Opp. 59, 74 and 95 rufus h allmark, ‘Frauenliebe und Leben’: Chamisso’s Poems and Schumann’s Songs

Frauenliebe und Leben Chamisso’s Poems and Schumann’s Songs rufus hallmark

University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Information on this title: © Rufus Hallmark 2014 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2014 Printed in the United Kingdom by Clays, St Ives plc A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data Hallmark, Rufus E., 1943– author. Frauenliebe und Leben : Chamisso’s poems and Schumann’s songs / Rufus Hallmark. pages cm, – (Music in context) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-107-00230-2 (hardback) 1. Chamisso, Adelbert von, 1781–1838 – Criticism and interpretation. 2. Schumann, Robert, 1810–1856. Frauenliebe und Leben. 3. German poetry – 19th century – Readings with music. 4. Music and literature – Germany – History – 19th century. I. Title. PT1834.Z5H35 2014 8380 .609–dc23 2014020105 ISBN 978-1-107-00230-2 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

For Anne


List of tables [page viii] List of music examples [ix] Acknowledgments [xii] How to use this book [xv]

Introduction [1] 1 Prologue – women in early nineteenth-century Germany: societal conventions, ideology, relationships [6] part i

the poetry


2 Adelbert von Chamisso: a sketch of his life and works [29] 3 Chamisso’s poems about women: a literary context for Frauenliebe und Leben [74] part ii

the music


4 The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben


5 Schumann at work on his songs [137] 6 Schumann’s cycle: analysis and comparative interpretation [161] Afterword [236] Appendix 1 Chronological listing of nineteenth-century Frauenliebe und Leben settings [239] Appendix 2 Poetry in the original German and in English translation [241] Select bibliography [262] Index [273]



3.1 Chamisso’s lyric poems in the voices of middle-class women. [page 81] 3.2 Poems by Rosa Maria [Varnhagen] and Diotima [Sophie Borries] in the Deutscher Musenalmanach (DM) during Chamisso’s and Schwab’s editorship. [92] 4.1 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben in outline. [118] 4.2 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, key scheme. [122] 4.3 Schumann’s major song cycles of 1840–1841. [124] 4.4 Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben, key scheme. [125] 4.5 Key ratios in Schumann’s major song cycles of 1840. [127] 5.1 The evolution of the rondo-like form of song 2 of Frauenliebe. [149] 6.1 Settings of “Seit ich ihn gesehen.” [167] 6.2 Form in settings of “Er der herrlichste von allen.” [181] 6.3 Comparative analytic chart for Schumann, “Er, der herrlichste von allen.” [186] 6.4 Heinrich Marschner, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen,” form diagram. [193] 6.5 Sigismund Thalberg, “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” analytic diagram. [204] 6.6 Form of Loewe’s song 7, “An meinem Herzen.” [218]


Music examples

4.1 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4

5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8

6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7

Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, incipits of songs 1, 5, and 9. [page 120] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” sketch. [144] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” autograph. [146] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 2 “Er, der herrlichste von allen,” sketch, ending with hypothetical harmony. [148] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 3 “Ich kann’s nicht fassen”: sketch with hypothetical harmony; autograph, original harmony; autograph, emended harmony. [152] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 4 “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” evolution of melody for second stanza. [153] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 5 “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern,” autograph, mm. 41–44. [155] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 5 “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern,” autograph, mm. 27–28, 31–32. [156] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 6 “An meinem Herzen,” autograph, mm. 18–19: (a) hypothetical; (b) autograph; (c) corrected copy. [158] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” voice-leading graph. [166] Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen” (mm. 1–12). [168] Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen” (mm. 1–9). [169] Carl Reissiger, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen”: (a) mm. 1–12; (b) mm. 17–20. [171] Ferdinand Hiller, Frauenliebe und Leben, “Seit ich ihn gesehen”: (a) mm. 1–10; (b) mm. 26–40. [172] Franz Lachner, “Seit ich ihn gesehen”: (a) mm. 1–6a; (b) mm. 20–23. [174] Heinrich Marschner, “Seit ich ihn gesehen” (mm. 1–15a). [176]



List of music examples

6.8 6.9 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 6.20 6.21 6.22 6.23 6.24 6.25 6.26 6.27 6.28 6.29

Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 1–5). [179] Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 2 “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 1–4). [179] Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 2 “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 25–29). [182] Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 2 “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 49–55). [183] Franz Lachner, “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 85–95). [189] Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 3 “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” (mm. 1–4a). [191] Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” (mm. 1–10a). [192] Heinrich Marschner, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” (mm. 1–7a). [193] Franz Lachner, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen”: (a) mm. 24–32a (b) mm. 108–124 [194] Carl Reissiger, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” (mm. 25b–37a). [196] Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 4 “Du Ring an meinem Finger” (mm. 1–4). [200] Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 4 “Du Ring an meinem Finger” (mm. 1–10). [201] Sigismund Thalberg, “Du Ring an meinem Finger”: (a) mm. 1–5; (b) mm. 9–13. [202] Sigismund Thalberg, “Du Ring an meinem Finger” (mm. 27–35). [204] Heinrich Proch, “Du Ring an meinem Finger” (mm. 1–16a). [205] Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 4 “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” melodic inversion in stanza two. [206] Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 5 “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern” (mm. 1–8). [209] Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 5 “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern”: (a) mm. 1–5; (b) mm. 8–12. [210] Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 6 “Süsser Freund, du blickest mich” (mm. 1–8). [213] Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 6 “Süsser Freund” (mm. 3–11a). [214] Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 7 “An meinem Herzen” (mm. 1–8a). [217] Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 7 “An meinem Herzen” (mm. 1–6a) [218]

List of music examples

6.30 Franz Lachner, “An meinem Herzen” (mm. 36–44). [221] 6.31 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 8 “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan” (mm. 2–12). [225] 6.32 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 8 “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan” (mm. 1–14a). [226] 6.33 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 9 “Traum der eignen Tage.” [228] 6.34 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 9 “Traum der eignen Tage” (mm. 1–8a). [229]




When one comes to acknowledge all the encouragement, suggestions, and assistance for a book project that has stretched over as many years as this one, it is difficult to make short shrift of it. Yet it would be unfair of me to say as much about each person as I would like, for then readers would tire before they reached the end. That must not happen, because everyone mentioned here has been essential to my work, in one way or another. I fear there may be persons whose names should appear below, but do not; to them I humbly apologize for my forgetfulness. It was the late James Patrick, a Princeton roommate, friend, and pioneering jazz scholar, who made the original suggestion to me that I look into Schumann songs for my doctoral research. The late Janet Knapp, my first graduate school mentor (at Boston University), initially kindled my interest in Frauenliebe und Leben in particular when she, a few years later, invited me to lecture about this cycle before a performance by Elly Ameling and Dalton Baldwin at Vassar College. Lewis Lockwood, my principal Princeton mentor and friend, later invited me to contribute a book on Schumann songs to his series Studies in Musical Genesis and Structure (Oxford University Press), which launched me on the project in earnest. (The study eventually grew beyond the bounds of that series.) Also to be mentioned here with gratitude is Ruth Solie, whose seminal essay on Frauenliebe und Leben (1992) led to a long correspondence between us and stimulated many of my ideas, often at odds with hers, about the poetry and the music. Through the years, many individual scholars and friends have shown sustained interest in this project and offered me encouragement in accomplishing it. I wish there were space to acknowledge specifically how each has helped me, in big ways and small; the recollection of their various favors always engenders warm gratitude in my heart. I name as many as I can remember, in alphabetical order: Bernhard Appel, Ute Baer, Stephen Banfield, Frances Barulich, Charles Burkhart, Victoria Cooper, Matthew Cron, Christopher Doll, Marie-Thérèse Federhofer, Ann Clark Fehn, Werner Feudel, Stephen Goode, Elissa Guralnick, Susan and William J. Harris, Fleur Jones, Harold and Sharon Krebs, Fred Lerdahl, Louise Litterick, Helmut Loos, Bettina Muhlenbeck, Kristina Muxfeldt, Gerd


Nauhaus, Kazuko Ozawa, Peter Petschauer, Bruce Phillips, Nancy Reich, Linda and Edward Roesner, Julian Rushton, Martin Schoppe, Heinrich Schwab, Thomas Synofzik, Rebecca Taylor, Jürgen Thym, Monika Torrey, Rigbie Turner, Jutta Weber, Matthias Wendt, and Susan Youens. I also extend my thanks to all the students who have studied this cycle with me over the years, the graduate seminar scholars, and singers and pianists as well, who asked questions, offered insights, and obliged with performances. Many libraries and institutions have made my research both possible and pleasant, by providing me access to materials, by offering me opportunities to share my ideas, and by supporting my work in other tangible ways. Among these are the American Musicological Society, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich), the British Library, the Deutsche Akademische Austausch Dienst, the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek (Berlin), the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Vienna), the Houghton Rare Book Library (Harvard), the J. Pierpont Morgan Library (New York), the New England Conservatory, Queens College, CUNY (the Aaron Copland School of Music), the Robert-Schumann-Gesellschaft and the RobertSchumann-Forschungsstelle (Düsseldorf), the Robert-Schumann-Haus (Zwickau), and Rutgers University. I am extremely thankful for a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which supported an intense period of work on this book. I also gratefully acknowledge the support of the American Musicological Society for a subvention from the Publications Committee and a prize from the Thomas Hampson Fund Supporting Research and Publication on Classic Song. It was beneficial and also great fun to become engaged with Chamisso scholars and scholarship in recent years, just as it was to become familiar with Rückert circles in past years when my work led me in that direction. I am much obliged to Cambridge University Press, to music editor Victoria Cooper, who enthusiastically accepted this book in the new series and facilitated the support of the webpage by the Press, to editor Julian Rushton, for his warm encouragement at every step and his meticulous reading of the manuscript, and to Fleur Jones, who patiently shepherded the book through its final stages, and to my expert and sensitive copy editor, Hilary Scannell. I also acknowledge the invaluable assistance and advice of Matthew Cron, who prepared the book’s musical examples and designed and set up the website that is adjunct to this book, and also offered good advice and assistance on various other technical matters. Online access to primary sources has opened up amazingly in recent years. When I think of discovering a copy of Kugler’s 1830 Skizzenbuch




years ago in the stacks of the Library of Congress, and compare that to today, when with a few strokes of the keyboard anyone can see this first published source of Chamisso’s Frauenliebe poems on the computer screen, I am awed. This same minor miracle can be performed to summon up Schumann’s sketches, autograph manuscript, and the corrected copy of his songs. I am thrilled that readers of this book will be able to consult these materials so easily, and I fervently hope they will. None of this would be of much import if it were not for the enduring artistic achievement of Schumann’s songs themselves, and of the poems on which they are based. Generations of singers and pianists have kept this cycle before the public ever since it became a favorite with audiences in the nineteenth century. It is no less recorded and programmed in recitals today. Despite its detractors, it not only has survived, but thrives. I tip my hat to the poet, the composer, and to all of the interpreters who perform these songs. Finally, I come to the most important acknowledgment of all, to Anne Hallmark, my wife and emotional and intellectual companion through the years. Hesitating to dedicate this book “To my love and life” for fear of displeasing or embarrassing her with such a sentiment, I have tucked this phrase away here at the end of these remarks. Anne has put up with this long, drawn-out process, never failing to encourage me, frequently helping me out (with invitations to make presentations on my work to her students and with many questions and suggestions about my ideas and editorial improvements to my writing), and always exhibiting fresh interest and enthusiasm for the project. In effect she has been my first and last editor. Anne is the qua of my sine qua non, and it is with much love that I dedicate this book to her.

How to use this book

This book is provided with webpage resources containing materials useful to the reader. I am grateful to Cambridge University Press for this online, adjunct feature, enabling the reader to consult many more illustrative and supportive materials than would have been available in the printed book alone. I also wish to thank Matthew Cron for designing and assembling the resources, which are listed below. They are of two sorts: (1) texts, music, and illustrations on this webpage; and (2) links to relevant materials available in digital form online. The reader may reach the webpage via the following link: 1 Materials on the webpage: Poetry (in German and in English translation) Chamisso, Frauenliebe und Leben Chamisso, Tränen Wendt, Bilder des weiblichen Lebens Music Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben Loewe, Frauenliebe Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben Illustrations Paul Thumann, illustrations for de luxe edition of Chamisso’s Frauenliebe und Leben Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, first edition title page 2 Links to digital resources Kugler, Skizzenbuch Primary sources for Schumann’s songs autograph sketches (Morgan Library, New York) autograph (Berlin Staatsbibliothek, Berlin) copy with autograph emendations (Morgan Library, New York)



Robert Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben, Op. 42, is one of the composer’s three great song cycles, along with Dichterliebe, Op. 48, and the Eichendorff Liederkreis, Op. 39. This cycle, like its companions, remains a staple on the concert stage, in voice studios, and on recordings. Frauenliebe was probably Schumann’s most popular song cycle in the nineteenth century. His genius as a lied composer remains undisputed today. These songs demonstrate his compositional mastery with their sensitive treatment of poetic form and sentiment and their inherent musical expressiveness. The poems, by Adelbert von Chamisso, a noted figure in his day, are among his “lyric-epic” creations – poems that are at once individual, firstperson lyrical utterances and, when taken as a whole and in sequence, delineate a narrative. The Frauenliebe1 poems portray moments in the life experience of a young German woman of the early nineteenth century, from adolescent infatuation to love, engagement, marriage, conjugal intimacy, motherhood, and (early?) widowhood. Chamisso’s poetry in general, and these poems in particular, were immensely popular in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Few if any will deny the beauty and expressiveness of Schumann’s songs. Yet modern performers, audiences, and critics nearly always qualify their praise with an acknowledgment that the poems on which they are based, more than many other nineteenth-century lyrics, are out of touch with modern sensibilities. Even in the 1940s, the famous singer and lied interpreter Lotte Lehmann wrote: “One often hears Chamisso’s poems for this cycle criticized as being old-fashioned.”2 To be sure, Lehmann herself proceeds to write about the songs sincerely and whole-heartedly, but her remark reflects a growing adverse opinion of the cycle. One modern view 1


The title of Chamisso’s poetic cycle is Frauen-Liebe und Leben, but Schumann’s title for his songs is Frauenliebe und Leben. In this work I use the form Frauenliebe und Leben for both the poems and the song cycle, and also for the similarly titled Lebenslieder und Bilder. For the sake of brevity I also occasionally use the short titles Frauenliebe and Lebenslieder. Unless otherwise indicated all translations are the author’s own. Lotte Lehmann, Eighteen Song Cycle: Studies in Their Interpretation. London: Cassell / New York: Praeger (1972), 93.




even asserts that the poems must have presented stereotyped images of women and marriage unacceptable even in their own day. And since Schumann was drawn to these poems and set them, his music also comes under suspicion of fostering the outdated attitudes and ideas.3 Thus one approaches this cycle at a certain disadvantage. The songs come with a good deal of “baggage.” A question that hovers around this work without ever being explicitly acknowledged is whether it should even be performed any longer, since many find its sentiments uncomfortable, or worse, insulting and demeaning. How can a singer and pianist put their all into a performance, how can listeners enjoy the songs, if they have misgivings about the texts, and therefore about the music, which so sincerely embraces Chamisso’s poems? And yet on the evidence of the recital repertory and recordings, as I mentioned earlier, it is clear by and large that neither performers nor audiences reject this cycle. Must we remain at such a dissatisfying impasse and live with this somewhat debilitating tension? The aim of this book is, at least partially, to suffuse the discussion of Frauenliebe und Leben with information about the social, philosophic, poetic, and musical contexts of Chamisso’s poetry and Schumann’s songs so that we may come to a more balanced view of them. I do not seek to convert anyone to a particular point of view, but I do hope to bring new information to the dialogue to promote a more nuanced perspective. I do not set out to “whitewash” Chamisso or Schumann, but to understand their achievements sympathetically from within their own era and culture. Chapter 1, then, is a prologue in which I offer a characterization of early nineteenth-century German society, ideas, and practices relating to women and marriage. I hope it provides readers with something more than “a naïve historical relativism”4 to help them understand and appreciate the poems and songs on their own terms. The book also sets out to provide the English-speaking reader with a fuller portrait of Adelbert von Chamisso’s life and work than can be gleaned from most English-language sources.5 Chapter 2 provides a biographical sketch and introduction to his poetry, including a representative sampling of poems (with translations). Most English readers know little or nothing 3

4 5

For a summary of other similar and more recent opinions, see Ruth A. Solie, “Whose Life? The Gendered Self in Schumann’s Frauenliebe Songs,” in Steven Paul Scher, ed., Music and Text: Critical Inquiries, Cambridge University Press (1992), 219–240. Ibid., 220. The most that readers can find about Chamisso in English are encyclopedia entries and chapters in literary histories of Germany. Furthermore, very few of Chamisso’s poems are published in translation.


about Chamisso other than that he authored a fable about a man named Peter Schlemihl who sold his shadow to a mysterious man in gray – students of German literature will know this – or that he authored the poems that served as texts for Schumann’s song cycle – musicians are likely to be aware of this. But Chamisso deserves to be better known. He led a fascinating life and was an accomplished scientist and a beloved poet. Besides his “marvelous tale” of Peter Schlemihl and his collected poems, his chronicle of the trip he made around the world as the naturalist on an exploratory voyage was widely read. His scientific observations were significant contributions to the biological, geological, anthropological, and linguistic knowledge of the time. His poetry may suffer if we bring to it the same expectations that we bring to the work of his romantic predecessors and contemporaries, for he neither shared their aesthetic goals nor chose the same subjects for his writing. But his social and political poems are informative, insightful, and invigorating, and his narratives are well crafted, entertaining, and sometimes gripping and moving. And he had a delightful sense of humor. Chapter 3 will look more specifically at contemporary poems about women, both Chamisso’s and others, and will sample some poems by women as well. Our notions of his gender biases may be tempered by a better acquaintance with others of his own poems about women as well as by an appreciation of his liberal politics in other regards. The poems of Frauenliebe und Leben may grow in the estimation of readers when they are compared with some contemporaneous efforts in the same vein as well as with poetry by women. If Chamisso’s cycle of poems is better appreciated when contextualized, so are Schumann’s songs, for he was by no means the only composer who set Chamisso’s texts. Chapter 4 will portray the reception of Chamisso’s poems in music, giving an overview of the cycles by Franz Kugler, Carl Loewe, and Schumann, comparing the features that make their songs cyclic compositions and considering some contemporary reviews. A number of individual songs based on Chamisso’s cycle by other composers round out the picture of the musical reception of these poems. Finally, some of the de luxe, illustrated editions of Chamisso’s poems from the later nineteenth century will close the chapter. Chapter 5 tells the reader about Schumann’s composition of Frauenliebe und Leben. The fresh interpretations of Schumann’s songs in this book are based in part on insights gleaned from the study of the composer’s manuscripts. Schumann’s preliminary sketches, his full autograph draft or working manuscript, and his corrections and emendations in the copyist’s manuscript furnish details that are often interesting in themselves and that also provoke new interpretive speculation and insight.




Chapter 6 sets forth the author’s analysis and interpretation of Schumann’s songs, drawing together the poems, Schumann’s compositional decisions, and comparisons with other musical settings. While the superiority of Schumann’s songs over the cycles by Franz Kugler and Carl Loewe and over the settings of individual poems by other composers may seem a foregone conclusion, it is nevertheless revealing to consider the musical and expressive qualities of these other contemporary songs. Careful comparisons may serve to intensify our appreciation of the subtle psychological insights of Schumann’s musical readings of the poems. Occasionally another setting may rival one of Schumann’s in some way. This is a propitious time for bringing together much new research and discussion concerning Frauenliebe und Leben. A number of scholars have taken a strong interest in this cycle in recent years and have presented a variety of arguments about the poetry and the music. The most significant, in chronological order of publication, are the articles by Ruth Solie, Kristina Muxfeldt, Matthias Walz, Elissa Guralnick, and Herbert Hopfgartner (see the bibliography). Their provocative and insightful essays have all contributed to the discussion in this book. Solie’s article, to which I shall often refer, has pride of place. It is not far-fetched to say that her essay launched a new wave of study of this cycle, for Muxfeldt’s and Guralnick’s articles both take her arguments to some extent as points of departure. Her work has been a great catalyst for my own work on Frauenliebe; I am very grateful to her not only for the essay itself, but also for her stimulating correspondence and discussions with me through the years. In the matter of primary manuscript materials, Kazuko Ozawa has studied the original sources of this cycle (as well as of Schumann’s other Chamisso songs) and has transcribed the varying versions the songs, tracing their evolution painstakingly from sketch to first edition. Her book makes unnecessary a minute and thorough discussion of the sources here and allows me to bring to the fore only those original passages and emendations that, in my opinion, hold particular fascination and provide both insight into Schumann’s creative mind and evidence for new critical interpretations. Chapter 6 will draw on and respond to this rich vein of primary documents and secondary literature. Schumann’s music in general has not fallen from grace; it is held in high regard by performers, listeners, and thinkers alike. We need make no allowances for his compositions. In this regard, of course, his lasting reputation differs from Chamisso’s, whose work is much less well known and valued. In an afterword I offer a way for English-speaking readers,


particularly Americans, to construe a poet like Chamisso, by discussing a parallel case in nineteenth-century American literature. As much as I have come to enjoy and admire Chamisso and his poetry, and though my love and admiration for Schumann’s lieder continues to grow, I have endeavored to maintain a critical detachment in this book, perhaps not always successfully. As soon . . . as the critic sees that his approvals and disapprovals reflect his own bias positions, he will take a more mature attitude toward his function as a critic. He is no longer a legislator, he is an explicator. He is no longer handing down a value judgment from on high; he now sees that he is merely explicating and elucidating the complex nexus of preferences on which every particular judgment of taste is based.6

I trust that readers will listen with interest and open minds to what I have to say in this book and that they will, perhaps after even further reading and reflection, make up their own minds. I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to them.


William Thomas Jones, The Romantic Syndrome, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff (1961), 237.



Prologue – women in early nineteenth-century Germany: societal conventions, ideology, relationships

We lay on the ground and kissed. Perhaps you smile. That we only lay on the ground and kissed. You young people can lend your bodies now, play with them, give them as we could not. But remember that you have paid a price: that of a world rich in mystery and delicate emotion. It is not only species of animal that die out, but whole species of feeling. And if you are wise you will never pity the past for what it did not know, but pity yourself for what it did. John Fowles, The Magus Writers such as . . . Chamisso . . . may have projected their own desires into the portraits of women that appear in their work, but they were also recording the change that perceptive contemporaries had observed. Eda Sagarra, Tradition and Revolution in German Literature and Society, 1830–1890


German women were unquestionably subordinate to men in the early nineteenth century. In the light of our modern convictions about gender equality and the great strides that have been made in women’s rights, the conditions under which women lived were deplorable. The legal system, societal attitudes and norms of behavior, and prevalent philosophical ideas were magnified by the relative cultural isolation of Germany. These factors supported male supremacy, the casting of women in the fixed roles of housewife and bearer and nurturer of children, and the attribution to women of sex-determined characteristics such as weakness, emotionality, and dependence. The information we have suggests also that women for the most part accepted this state of affairs. Furthermore, even liberal-minded reformers had much more modest goals than we might imagine and did not challenge many of the basic assumptions of the patriarchal society. As curious, alien, or repugnant as we in the twenty-first century may find this state of affairs, it is necessary to understand it as the context for Chamisso’s poems and Schumann’s songs about women. The period of German history between the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the revolutions of 1848 is variously named. From a political perspective

Women in early nineteenth-century Germany

it is usually designated the Vormärz, the post-Napoleonic restoration era preceding the initial outbreak of workers’ revolutions in March of 1848. Culturally the period is commonly known as “Biedermeier.” The latter term takes its name from a minor literary creation – a character who is a parody of Philistinism in contemporary society. As such the term, which generally refers to “lowbrow” middle-class culture, has an opprobrious connotation.1 The standard explanation of Biedermeier taste takes a rather Hegelian dialectic form. Germany had been overrun by Napoleon’s forces, and an almost predictable reaction set in. Middle-class German people, weary from warfare, foreign domination, and insecurity, did an about-face from the bracing ideals of the French revolution and submitted to reactionary government because it was their own and offered order, peace, and security. They found solace in home, family, and work. For their relatively modest homes they bought comfortable, practical furniture that featured simple design, slight, humble decoration, and the natural beauty of unpainted wood grain. They went to concerts to marvel or swoon at the excessive technical display and expressiveness of instrumental virtuosi, to opera houses to be caught up in the melodramatic works of Marschner or to be gently charmed by the comedy and sentiment of Lortzing. At home they played simple piano miniatures and sang unassuming lieder. They had themselves painted in informal family gatherings. They enjoyed realism in the form of landscapes and the representation of scenes from their daily life. The humorous paintings of Carl Spitzweg have become emblematic of the period. Chamisso wrote largely about and for this German middle class. The portrait that follows is, therefore, of middle-class women. There were certainly women of the aristocracy and of the uppermost middle class to whom the ensuing description would not apply and who would and did protest contemporary doctrinaire ideas about their sex. One woman, for example, wrote, “It is ignorant of people to imagine that our [women’s] spirit is different and suited to other needs, and that we could live entirely upon the existence of a husband or a son.”2 But the speaker is Rahel Levin Varnhagen (1771–1833), 1


See Friedrich Sengle’s magisterial study Biedermeierzeit. Deutsche Literatur im Spannungsfeld zwischen Restauration und Revolution, 1815–1848, 3 vols, Stuttgart: Metzler (1971, 1972, 1980); also, Karl Buchheim, Deutsche Kultur zwischen 1830 und 1870, Frankfurt: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion (1966); Klaus Epstein, The Genesis of German Conservatism, Princeton University Press (1966); Michael Titzmann, ed., Zwischen Goethezeit und Realismus. Wandel und Spezifik in der Phase des Biedermeier, Tübingen: Niemeyer (2002). Juliane Jacob-Dittrich, “Growing Up Female in the Nineteenth Century,” in John C. Fout, ed., German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History, New York: Holmes & Meier (1984), 203–204.



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who presided over a brilliant early nineteenth-century salon of Berlin intellectuals. Though Chamisso moved in such circles in Berlin, and even though Rahel’s husband, Varnhagen von Ense, was a friend of his, it was not for or about Rahel Levin that Chamisso wrote his poetry. In nineteenth-century Germany, children were the legal property of their father, not of both parents, from the age of five, and even adult women, if unmarried, remained under the legal jurisdiction of their fathers.3 Girls and young women were thus at the mercy of their fathers when it came to marriage, and fathers (then as now) were capable of being more concerned about the economic foundation and respectability of marital matches than about love. Girls were considered to enter their Wartezeit (waiting time) as early as the age of fourteen, and from that time for many of them the yearning to be released from their fathers’ domination must have added to their motivation to marry. Chamisso, as we shall see, treated the subject of marriageable daughters and overbearing fathers in his poetry, portraying both the humorous and the tragic sides of the situation.4 The education of a girl beyond basic literacy and numeracy consisted largely of domestic skills. In Protestant areas girls were allowed and encouraged to read the Bible, sermons, selected poetry, and, of course, cookbooks. In 1795 a woman in Bremen wrote that her parents had allowed her only the Bible, a catechism, and selected sermons to read.5 A painting entitled Hausgarten by Erasmus Engert depicts a woman sitting with her Bible and her knitting, implying that the two were equally appropriate activities for women.6 In households that could afford an instrument, girls learned to play the piano. Wider culture and unlimited reading were to be avoided. Parents seem to have wanted to protect their daughters from books as some wish to shield them from certain music today, and for the same reason: a fear that they will grow up too fast. A craze for reading was considered excessive, even a vice.7 Chamisso alludes to the parental attitude toward books as pariahs in his humorous poem “Recht Empfindsam” (see further in Chapter 3). 3

4 5 6


See Eda Sagarra, “German Law and Women,” in A Social History of Germany 1648–1914, New York: Holmes & Meier (1977), 405; see also Rudolf Huebner, A History of Germanic Private Law, Boston (1918), 664, cited in Nancy Reich, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press (2001), 9n19. See the discussion of “Recht Empfindsam” and Tränen in Chapter 3. Sagarra, A Social History of Germany, 408. See Renate Möhrmann, “The Reading Habits of Women in the Vormärz,” in Fout, ed., German Women, 105. Ibid.

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Times were changing, however, and once of marriageable age or married, young women found reading entertainment in the burgeoning numbers of Almanache and Taschenbücher, anthologies of poetry, stories, essays, reviews, engravings, etc. Dating their origins back into the eighteenth century, these publications found a second flourishing in the Biedermeier period.8 Urania, Minerva, and the Deutscher Musenalmanach were among the many titles; Chamisso wrote for and then edited the latter annual poetry collection for the issues 1832–1839. A humorous poem in the 1831 Musenalmanach, when it was still under the editorship of Amadeus Wendt, provides a light-hearted impression of the transitional era. The poet debates whether to give a new bride a cookbook or an almanac. He recognizes that the last generation had regarded the cookbook “nebst Psalmenbuch und Bibel” as “des Weibes höchste Lit’ratur” (a woman’s highest literature next to a psalm book and the Bible), but counters: Doch anders wollt’ der Geist der Zeiten, Vorwärts soll mit der Bildung schreiten Der deutschen Frauen zarten Sinn; Nicht nur den Laren, auch den Musen Erglüh’ der Funke in dem Busen Der sinnig keutschen Priesterin. Begeistert nun des Theetisches Dampfe, In schöner Seelen edeln Kampfe, Bei Räthseln und Sonnettenklang, In tausend rhythmischen Gestalten Soll sich des Witzes Blüth entfalten Zu Pfänderspiel und Rundgesang.9

But the spirit of the times wills otherwise; The sensitive mind of German women Shall stride forward with its cultivation; Let the spark in the bosom of the thoughtful Chaste priestess glow for the muses As well as for the household gods. Now is the steam of the tea table inspired With the noble struggle of beautiful souls, Amid the clamor of riddles and sonnets, The blossoming of wit shall unfold In thousands of rhythmic forms In cardplay and round-singing.

The writer seems to be mocking women’s new interest in culture in the same breath with which he announces it; or perhaps the humor is directed less at women than at the publication’s low estimation of the level of women’s intelligence and taste. In any case, the poet concludes that his best bet to win the appreciation of the bride for whom he is buying a gift is to get her both a cookbook and an almanac.



See Margarete Zuber, “Die deutschen Musenalmanache und schöngeistigen Taschenbücher des Biedermeier, 1815–1848,” Boersenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandel. Frankfurter Ausgabe, Neue Folge 13 (July 1957), 869–964. K. R. Hagendach, “Das Kochbuch und der Almanach. An die Braut,” in Amadeus Wendt, ed., Deutscher Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1831, Leipzig (1831), 239–240.


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Young women commonly married men older than themselves. Adelbert von Chamisso was thirty-nine and his bride Antonie Piaste only eighteen. Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck were, respectively, twenty-nine and twenty when they married. It could take years for a man to gain a sufficient economic footing to be able to offer assurances to a bride’s father that he could provide for her: [A]lthough bourgeois marriage may look like a trap rather than an ideal to us, this ideal of family life was reinforced in the past not only by moral constraint but, ironically, by the fact that it was so difficult to attain. Young men who wanted to reach some standing in the world had to postpone marriage until such time as they could afford it, since the wife earned nothing. . .10

At the same time, the husband-to-be expected a wife to be a woman of childbearing age and of sufficient youth and vigor to manage his household. The result was often an unequal relation between husband and wife: The common disparity in age between husband and wife in middle-class circles made this kind of relationship more credible: the scarcity of job opportunities, especially before 1850, meant that marriage was frequently delayed until the man was between thirty and forty. . . [T]he employment situation for men and the extreme difficulty for a young woman of finding a position, meant that marriage brought security as well as status.11

Brides were therefore probably disposed to look up to their fiancés, who were frequently their seniors in age, wealth, and perhaps even social position. Professions of unworthiness, while perhaps nonetheless sincere, may at the same time have been accustomed attitudes adopted by prospective young wives of the older men who were in a position to free them from their fathers’ controlling reach and to provide for their economic security. We come to the conclusion that self-abnegation may often have been a pose, a pose perhaps not so much calculated as inculcated to flatter and win the hearts of adoring males – particularly older specimens. In his observations of the comportment of a young German girl, an American traveler in early nineteenth-century Germany reached a conclusion consistent with this inference: She is full of kindness . . . She is simple, heartfelt, and self-sacrificing, and her kind manners give one the impression, at first, she is very amiable and nothing else; but after a while, you see under this, that there is a strong understanding and very

10 11

Eva Figes, Patriarchal Attitudes, Greenwich CT: Fawcett Publications (1971), 109. Sagarra, A Social History, 414.

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vigorous character. Her mind is not the most highly cultivated, but in all this family, there is such a taste for Art, that it in some degree has made up for this, and she has an excellent practical sense. Her impulses are kind and noble – and she will grow.12

In considering a young woman’s personality, the nineteenth-century propensity for self-revelation and expression of feelings must also be taken into account. Putting the foregoing together with this factor, we are not shocked to read – in the letters of Henriette von Mühlenfels to her future, second husband, a man some years her senior – passages such as the following: In the sweet vocation that had been allocated to me in the world of love in which I live, all the powers that dwell in me will freely develop themselves, but otherwise I am poor and weak.13

For the record, the addressee was the eminent theologian, philosopher, and liberal nationalist Friedrich Schleiermacher. We know that Henriette was an intelligent, well-read woman, who was an intellectual companion as well as help-mate to her husband. Her intelligence apparently did not prevent her from happily assuming the roles of wife and mother, nor dissuade her from espousing the prevailing ideas of womanhood. A certain distancing of prospective marital partners from each other also stemmed from the fact that young women were not afforded much opportunity to get to know their fiancés well before marriage: [G]enerally the laws of society for the intercourse of young gentlemen and ladies are the strictest possible. Every gentleman is assumed – before anything is known to the contrary – to be of lax principles. He cannot walk out with a lady; he cannot accompany her to a meeting, a concert, or a theatre; he must not see her at her own house, except in the company with her mother, or a guardian. She never goes into company without an older relative; and for her to invite any young gentlemen to her house, would be the greatest breach of etiquette. The proper place for intercourse between the sexes, is considered to be the ballroom; and the few words passed there, are usually the basis, and often the main part of their knowledge of one another, before the parties become more nearly connected. Of course, there are exceptions to this . . . but, in general, this treating of the two sexes, as if they were morally dangerous to one another, is kept up through Germany.14

Often, then, a woman was married on the basis of little direct observation and limited courtship. Her future happiness depended on her father’s (or 12 13


Charles Loring Brace, Home-Life in Germany, New York: C. Scribner (1853), 197. Quoted in Gwendolyn E. Jensen, “Henriette Schleiermacher: A Woman in a Traditional Role,” in Fout, ed., German Women, 91. Brace, Home-Life in Germany, 261.



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her parents’) judgment and – to the extent that she participated in the decision – on her own evaluation. Once married, a woman was free of her father’s authority, but she was subject to her husband’s. The legal and possessive rights passed, as it were, through the male side. In Chamisso’s Lebenslieder und Bilder the man addresses his wife as “mein süsses Eigentum” (my sweet property or possession) (see further in Chapter 3). Women of the era by and large consented to prescribed roles and were willing to submit to their husbands’ will. Sophie Mereau, a liberal writer who had brought out the Almanach für Frauen in the 1780s, married Clemens Brentano in 1803 and promised him she would abandon her literary career and thenceforth write only cookbooks; she held herself to her promise until her death in childbirth a few years later. Fanny Lewald, the first German woman to make an independent living as a writer, acknowledged that she unconsciously held on to the subordination and dedication to domestic tasks that had been instilled in her. A mid-century American traveler in Germany was told by a Berlin woman (admittedly a royalist), “You will not laugh at a woman’s truth, if she tells you, that sometimes there is no pleasure like subjection.”15 The roles of housewife and mother were in many cases welcomed. During her first marriage Henriette von Mühlenfels wrote to her husband’s friend Schleiermacher (whom she later married) of the satisfaction that household responsibilities gave her: The feeling of being a housewife, who takes care of the whole household, and who may arrange everything according to her own will and pleasure, is, I think, always precious to a woman, and I also value it very much and am proud of the dignity.16

In a novel of the 1850s, Die Tante (The Aunt) by Fanny Lewald, the heroine reflects on her married life: “Like a father, a loving father . . . he made my task to serve him in the home a cherished duty.”17 This character epitomizes a Biedermeier woman’s outlook. Motherhood, as we have received it from our parents’ generation, is not the timeless “natural” state some of our elders and conservative social advocates would have us believe; it was a relatively young idea at the time under study here. With the burgeoning of the middle class, the modern “nuclear” family gradually outnumbered and displaced both agrarian and aristocratic households as society’s norm. In the new family babies were cared for and children reared not by members of an extended family, on the 15 17

Ibid., 129. 16 Jensen, “Henriette Schleiermacher,” 92. Sagarra, A Social History of Germany, 414.

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one hand, nor by nursemaids and household staff, on the other, but by the mother. Breast-feeding by the biological mother became common, replacing wet-nursing and contributing to the emotional bond. Mary Wollstonecraft, an outspoken advocate for women in late eighteenthcentury England, wrote “[W]hat sympathy does a mother exercise who sends her babe to a nurse, and only takes it from a nurse to send it to a school?”18 In their novelty and strong bonding of mother and child, the new experiences of family and mothering were very appealing. What Mühlenfels wrote to Schleiermacher of her experience of mothering reads like a prose paraphrase of couplets from “An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust” from Frauenliebe: How I feel when I hold my little daughter in my lap, or lay her to my breast you will not expect me to describe – how could I? It is such an all-absorbing love, deep, deep in my heart – a longing desire to screen the little creature from every pain, every suffering, and to take all upon myself.19

“[T]he cult of family should not be overlooked as the source of much happiness and fulfillment for many, perhaps most women.”20 The middle-class family shared a new intimacy. The typical middle-class couple neither shared their abode with members of their extended families, as peasant, agrarian families did, nor were able to afford the grander space and supporting staff enjoyed by the aristocracy. They had a modest dwelling of their own – a small house or an apartment. The informal “Du” became the normal term of address within the family, instead of the formal “Sie,” formerly used between parents and children.21 The influence of pietistic thinking, too, among other things, helped to bring about a turning away from the strict, affectionless discipline of children. Pietism encouraged selfanalysis and the open expression of emotions; “for many this brought a new demonstrativeness into family relationships, which benefited . . . children.”22 Thus with new conceptions of parenting came also a new identity of childhood. Since women commonly married older men to begin with, and because life expectancy – though improved in the nineteenth century – was still 18

19 21


Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, London (1792), modern edn. London: J. M. Dent & Sons (1929), 167. Jensen, “Henriette Schleiermacher,” 89. 20 Sagarra, A Social History of Germany, 415. Mary Freudenthal, “Bürgerlicher Haushalt und bürgerliche Familie vom Ende des 18. bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts,” in Heidi Rosenbaum, ed., Seminar: Familie und Gesellschaftsstruktur. Materialen zu den sozioökonomischen Bedingungen von Familienformen, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp (1978), 390. Sagarra, A Social History of Germany, 409.



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shorter than now, the death of a husband was not unusual. A widow, especially a widow with children, was in a difficult situation. If there were no relatives or in-laws with whom she could live, and if her husband had not provided for her adequately, she was socially and economically stranded. Her best hope lay in finding another husband. In preparation for such an eventuality, Mary Wollstonecraft advocated better education for women, whom she believed would be shrewd enough to protect their interests and those of their children in negotiating a second marriage.23 Chamisso’s lighthearted poem “Ein Lied von der Weibertreue” deals with the plight of a young widow; though her precipitously brief period of mourning has amorous causes, the encouragement of her new romance by her protective older maid reflects a more practical concern with the widow’s predicament.24 A strain of what we would term “sexist” thinking with regard to women runs through eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German thought. A sampling reveals the tendency. Hegel, in Philosophy of Right, characterized man as active, woman as passive. Man’s will gives him drive and an interest in the universal. Woman thinks only of particulars; she is fit for the home and domestic chores.25 In The Science of Right Fichte said a woman should subordinate her will entirely to her husband and lose herself in him.26 Kant held that although men and women were sexually or biologically equal, the wife was to be ruled by her husband because of a man’s superior faculties.27 Schopenhauer believed that women existed only for the propagation of the race; the ideas he expressed in his essay “Of women” fiercely derogate the female gender.28 Philosophical treatises were not the only place where such ideas were found. A mid-eighteenth-century religious tract stated that a wife must practice “that loyalty which she owes her husband, who alone is lord and 23 25 27


Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 53. 24 See further in Chapter 3. As described in Figes, Patriarchal Attitudes, 116. 26 Ibid., 124. Julia, O’Faolain, ed., Not in God’s Image: Women in History from the Greeks to the Victorians, New York: Harper & Row (1973), 285. For example: “Women are directly fitted for acting as the nurses and teachers of our early childhood by the fact that they are themselves childish, frivolous and short-sighted; in a word, they are big children. . . Neither for music, nor for poetry, nor for the fine art have they really and truly any sense of susceptibility. . . .That woman is by nature meant to obey may be seen by the fact that every woman who is placed in the unnatural position of complete independence immediately attaches herself to some man, by whom she allows herself to be guided and ruled. It is because she needs a lord and master.” Arthur Schopenhauer, “Of Women,” Parerga and Paralipomena: A Collection of Philosophical Essays, trans. from the German by E. F. J. Payne, Oxford University Press (1974), vol. II, 62ff. I am indebted to Stephen Goode for bringing this essay and these passages to my attention.

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master in the house, whom she must aid in the tasks of the house, but only in the way he deems fitting.”29 A more positive and admiring complexion is put on men’s view of women in Schiller’s poems “Würde der Frauen” (“Dignity of women”) and “Die Ideale” (“The ideal woman”), where a woman’s distinct qualities are honored and her role as help-mate praised.30 The underlying assumptions of gender-based personality characteristics and of subordination of women to men are nevertheless apparent, and Schiller’s poems are read today as unconsciously doctrinaire. A writer who thoroughly illustrates the mid-nineteenth-century German attitude toward women is Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl (1823–1897), a social historian and theorist. His multi-volume work Die Naturgeschichte des Volkes als Grundlage einer deutschen Sozialpolitik (The Natural History of the People as a Basis for a Theory of German Social Politics) contains a study of Die Familie (1854) in two parts: “Man and Wife” and “House and Family.” Riehl argues that inequality between man and woman, not only sexually determined differences, is inherent in the creation. In Riehl’s view a woman has no importance as an individual, but only as a wife and mother; the family is the overriding consideration. He condemns careers for women, believes in a minimum of education – and that minimum to be rendered in the home on domestic matters with a smattering of “culture.” In her proper place, a woman serves an inestimable role: The man gives to the house and family its name and external character; he represents the house and home to the outside. But through the wife the inner character of the house comes to life; so in fact does she breathe life into the home. . . The political character of the people depends on the woman, political action on the man.31

The strong admonitory tone of Riehl’s writing suggests that he perceived – with regret – that the society he preferred was undergoing change. A brief exposition in English of Riehl’s ideas can be found in an interesting little book called Home Life in Germany by Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick.32 Riehl compiled his ideas mid century; Mrs. Sidgwick wrote her book fifty years later.





The Obligation of Married Women to their Spouses (1760), as quoted in Sagarra, A Social History of Germany, 408. Schiller’s poem is widely available, e.g. Friedrich Schiller. Sämtliche Werke, Munich: C. Hanser (n.d.), vol. III, 161–163. Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl, Die Naturgeschichte des Volkes als Grundlage einer deutschen Sozialpolitik, Stuttgart (1853–1867), vol. III (1855), Die Familie, 222–223. See also Paul Zaunert, ed., Vom Deutschen Land und Volke. Eine Auswahl, Jena (1922), which includes excerpts from Riehl’s four-volume work. Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick, Homelife in Germany, London: Methuen (1908).



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By that time, as she notes, “Herr Riehl’s views . . . seem a little behind the times,” and “the most modern German women are in direct opposition to Herr Riehl.”33 But we may assume that his characterization stood for the early decades of the nineteenth century. Women influence public matters, said Fichte, by influencing their husband’s opinion.34 Rousseau, asserting the “natural” differences between the sexes, argued also for their desirability, reasoning that “[t]he more women are like men, the less influence they will have over men, and then men will be masters indeed.”35 Women’s subordination and lack of formal education manifested itself in domestic social situations. An American, Charles Loring Brace, writing mid century of his travels in Germany, remarked on the bearing of German women: Another peculiarity in most of German society which would at once attract an American’s attention is the much less prominent place woman takes. It is very seldom you hear a lady taking any great share in table conversation. There are very few subjects on which her opinion or her feelings seem to be listened to with much attention. It is quite evident she has a very different position from what is given her in American life.36

These views of women were not without opponents in German and European society. The opposition, however, had more modest goals than one might expect. “The main impetus towards a women’s rights movement came from those concerned, as were most German reformers, with education rather than liberty.”37 Even if the feminist movement in Germany was more conservative than similar efforts in other industrialized western European countries,38 it shared with them this preeminent concern. In the late eighteenth century there was already a vein of sentiment that was a forerunner of later women’s liberation movements. Two significant treatises on women were, coincidentally, published in the same year – 1792 – one in England and the other in Germany. The better known is Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; the other is Über die bürgerliche Verbesserung des Weibes (On the Civic Betterment of Women) by one Theodor Gottlieb Hippel (1741–1796), a judge and mayor

33 35

36 38

Ibid., 63 and 66. 34 O’Faolain, Not in God’s Image, 286. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile; or, Education, trans. Barbara Foxley from Emile, ou de l’Education, London: J. M. Dent & Sons (1911), 327. Brace, Home-Life in Germany, 194. 37 Sagarra, A Social History of Germany, 407. Fout, ed., German Women, 4.

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in Königsberg.39 Hippel urged equal legal rights and equal education and job opportunities for women. He criticized the French revolution for having reneged on its social principles concerning women, for having kept women imprisoned in “the bastilles of gallantry, the prisons of domesticity, and the civic dungeons in which the fair sex continues to find itself.”40 Hippel maintained that male domination was a historical, not a natural fact. Hippel did not believe that the inequalities could be righted overnight by legislation, but that equal co-education was the logical first step. Men and women equally educated would not allow marriage to be degraded into a master–slave relationship. “Hippel gave systematic and eloquent expression to many views which were already in the air” and that had been discussed for years in pamphlets and articles.41 Mary Wollstonecraft, wife of writer William Godwin and mother of Mary Godwin Shelley, also pleaded chiefly for the improved education of women. One of her central arguments was that an educated woman could thereby be an intellectual companion for her husband. She also contended that women needed to be educated more in order to be better mothers to their children since “the care of children in their infancy is one of the grand duties annexed to the female character by nature.”42 Even such a forwardlooking and liberated thinker thus still held to some gender-based tenets. Wollstonecraft argues further that a good education is the best preparation for the possible eventuality of widowhood. If she has not learned some independence of thought, a widow may be prey to a beguiling suitor who is interested only in cheating her children of their inheritance. Another feminist writer, the American Margaret Fuller Ossoli, published her tract Woman in the 19th Century in 1845. Fuller rejected the notion of woman’s inferiority to men. She thought women deserved a good education and the opportunity to make themselves useful to society at large – that is, not only to their families – through volunteer charitable work. Educated women could also pursue more creative domestic occupations such as gardening, or – in rare cases – could seek employment. What is noteworthy about these liberal proponents of women’s rights is that they accept – implicitly or explicitly – the primary role of women as 39



Hippel was a close friend of E. T. A. Hoffmann. Born a year apart, they were acquainted from boyhood and attended law school together. Though their friendship waned, Hippel came to be with Hoffmann at his deathbed. Hoffmann once depicted himself and Hippel as Castor and Pollux. As cited in Epstein, “The Debate over the Emancipation of Women,” The Genesis of German Conservatism, 229–236. Ibid., 233. 42 Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 166.



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wives and mothers. They see this role as a natural, honorable, and fulfilling occupation for the majority of women. Wollstonecraft wrote, “When I treat of the peculiar duties of women . . . I do not mean that they should be taken out of their families”;43 and further, “Mankind [sic] seem to agree that children should be left under the management of women during their childhood.”44 Margaret Fuller, noting that author Jean Paul Richter’s foremost requirement for a wife was that she “cook him something good,” commented: “We have high respect for those who ‘cook something good,’ who create and preserve fair order in houses . . . only those ‘functions’ must not be drudgery, or enforced necessity.”45 The common thread in these lines of reasoning is that women ought to be better educated not only in order to improve themselves, but also in order to be better companions to their husbands and mothers to their children. “Love,” wrote Wollstonecraft, “from its very nature, must be transitory. . . The most holy bond of society is friendship. . . [T]he woman who strengthens her body and exercises her mind will . . . become the friend . . . of her husband.”46 And better education for women would mean better education for the children, whose tutelage was in the mother’s hands. The woman’s responsibility to husband and children is accepted by and large, but her equal access to education to improve her mind and skills for those responsibilities is considered her right. No matter how much our attitude toward the prevalent sexism of early nineteenth-century society may be softened by the relatively liberated advocacy of some progressive social thinkers of the era, we probably still find the situation of women deplorable. While it may be advisable to try to project ourselves back into the social context of Chamisso’s and Schumann’s time, it is not easy. Modern critiques help us appreciate the more ominous downside of such conservative societal attitudes. Late twentieth-century historians with feminist sensibilities have offered provocative and insightful interpretations of the socio-sexual state of affairs in the early nineteenth century. Barbara Duden reminds us that wives were virtually the legal property of their husbands. “Das schöne Eigentum” (beautiful property) is the title of her article challenging the usual assessment of the industrial revolution as a liberating factor in

43 45


Ibid., 70 44 Ibid., 75. Margaret Fuller, in Arthur Fuller, ed., Woman in the Nineteenth Century and Kindred Papers Relating to the Sphere, Condition and Duties of Women, Boston: J. P. Jewett (1855), 44. Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 34.

Women in early nineteenth-century Germany

women’s lives.47 According to the conventional argument, the middleclass wife was freed from work and given greater leisure to cultivate her mind and talents. On the contrary, argues Duden, the rise of capitalism and decline of agrarian economy displaced the wife from equal partnership with her husband, made him the sole wage-earner rather than co-worker, and reduced women’s roles to those of housewife and mother. Attitudes and philosophical ideas redefined woman as representative of the beautiful, the virtuous, the realm of feeling, the self-sacrificing, the passive; she was praised for her selfless offering of herself to her husband and family, in terms of whom she has her identity. But in effect, her housebound, dependent situation left her powerless, and later liberation efforts had to overcome ingrained images of women’s place in the home. The social and economic developments of the age actually created barriers to liberation movements. The assignment of gender characteristics, it is argued by Karin Hausen,48 was a way of preventing women’s independence, of keeping them in their traditional place. These ideas of contrasting Geschlechtscharaktere were discussed in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and treatises in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, coincident with the rise of the middle class and with the evolution of the new family identity. The notion of romantic love and the idea of a “social contract” between marital partners (analogous to that between citizens and the state) modified marriage from a social institution to a personal relation based on love and trust. The equality implied by the new relationship threatened the notion of male supremacy. Sex-based characteristics were a means of continuing the subjection of women. These characteristics, neither a mere recognition of biological differences nor an acceptance of traditional social status and function, were declared to be universal emotional and mental qualities determined by gender. They “proved” that the subordination of women to men and the role of women as wives and mothers were “natural” consequences. For example, Fichte said that a woman’s love was by definition total subjection to a man and that reciprocally the man’s love was dutiful generosity and tenderness. The socio-economic circumstances on which these arguments are based are well documented. Duden’s challenge to the conventional claim that 47


Barbara Duden, “Das schöne Eigentum. Zur Herausbildung des bürgerlichen Frauenbildes an der Wende vom 18. und 19. Jahrhundert.” Kursbuch 47 (1977), 125–140. Karin Hausen, “Family and Role Division: The Polarisation of Sexual Stereotypes in the Nineteenth Century – An Aspect of the Dissociation of Work and Family Life,” in Richard Evans and W. R. Lee, eds., The German Family: Essays in the Social History of the Family in 19th- and 20th-Century Germany, London (1981), 51–83.



Frauenliebe und Leben

women were bettered by the industrial revolution and Hausen’s explanation for the coincidence of the appearance of Geschlechtscharaktere along with the rise of the new middle-class family both inject fresh insight into the period. Duden and Hausen seem to go further, however, by implying and – in Hausen’s case – by asserting that these ideas, attitudes, and practices were conscious acts of subjugation and propagandizing by the male culture. Hausen explains that the exploitative nature of this value system became apparent only later in the nineteenth century, when its “social function” became clear.49 The distinctly polemical shading of these arguments seems warranted by the repressive tendencies of the attitudes the arguments expose. Indeed one has little difficulty in recognizing similar conservative social attitudes and liberal challenges to them in our own time.50 Yet while it is natural to deplore what we perceive as the gender-based discrimination of an earlier society and era, we should probably avoid the simplistic notion that early nineteenth-century women by and large perceived themselves as victims of repressive societal attitudes. Duden’s and Hausen’s interpretations may be construed to suggest that gender roles and characteristics were imposed upon a female population resistant to their adoption, constraining women to behave in certain ways. As we have seen, however, many middle-class women willingly accepted the responsibilities of housewife and mother and enjoyed the increased intimacy of the new family. Even the proponents of women’s rights did not share twentieth- and twenty-first-century ideas of liberation; they accepted marriage and motherhood as appropriate societal functions for most women, and argued principally for improved educational opportunities. A further inference that one might make – that Chamisso and Schumann were, by virtue of their poetry and songs, complicit perpetrators of male domination – seems to me an unwarranted and ungenerous conclusion.51 They were both, admittedly, creatures of their era; however original in poetic and musical expression they were, the ideological content of their Frauenliebe creations was to some extent determined by the era and the society in which they lived. Had Chamisso written his Frauenliebe poems and Schumann composed his songs toward the close of the century, then 49 50


Ibid., 61–66. As I am writing, the male-led challenge in the US Congress to a woman’s right to control her own body, and other related movements that in effect place stringent limitations on women’s freedom of action, are being collectively characterized as the “War on Women”; at the same time the Vatican is rebuking Roman Catholic nuns and subordinating their orders to all-male supervision. Ruth Solie argues this position, and she does so eloquently and with verve and wit. See her article “Whose Life?”, 219–240. Solie’s essay will be discussed later in the book.

Women in early nineteenth-century Germany

they could with justification be accused of supporting outdated notions, of doggedly maintaining male supremacy in a Germany which was by then more open to progressive social ideas and alive with a Frauenbewegung (women’s movement). But ironically Chamisso was in many ways a political liberal of his time, as we shall see in the following chapter. And Robert and Clara shared a comparatively equitable marriage, compared with the traditionally imbalanced husband–wife relationship of the day. Both recognized their own and each other’s unique talents and artistic vocations and were caught in the very modern dilemma of wanting to enjoy traditional roles as well. The outward facts of Robert and Clara’s relation further illustrate features of the German middle-class society in which they lived. Their thoughts and attitudes, as manifest in their diaries and letters, sometimes corroborate, sometimes amplify, and sometimes contradict or complicate our understanding of male–female relations of the time. Under the law Friedrich Wieck had control over his children from age five, and he exercised this right in taking Clara away from her mother at that age. Later on, even if Clara’s mother had not earlier left Wieck, she would have had little legal say in the strife over Clara’s attachment to Robert Schumann. This is just the beginning of the firm control that Wieck exerted over his daughter and that we can find amply described and documented in Nancy Reich’s biography of Clara.52 For all the excellent musical training and instruction in practical affairs that her father gave her, Clara had unusually good cause to regard a prospective husband as a savior, the man who could release her from her father’s grip. And that man was Robert Schumann, with whom she shared artistic aspirations and with whom – in addition – she was in love. Robert had had two kinds of relations with women during his early manhood. With girls like Christel, who appears with no surname in his diary, he enjoyed sexual relations rather single-mindedly. It appears that Robert had slept with Christel for a number of years, even while he was experiencing a very different kind of regard for others of the opposite sex. To someone like Agnes Carus, an older woman married to a doctor in whose home Robert played the piano, Robert looked up almost idolatrously; she was for him “a holy image sleeping ever chastely in my soul.”53 The dichotomy in Robert’s experience of women might be attributed to that dual 52 53

Reich, Clara Schumann. Peter Ostwald, Schumann: The Inner Voices of a Musical Genius, Boston: Northeastern University Press (1985), 36.



Frauenliebe und Leben

nature of his personality that manifested itself later in his pseudonymous Florestan and Eusebius; but it might just as well be blamed on the strict middle-class mores of the time that forbade all but the most circumspect social intercourse between the sexes, and which probably pushed ripe young males frequently to seek purely sexual satisfaction where they could find it, as Schumann did. Clara Wieck was barely adolescent when Robert first met her; she neither triggered sexual yearnings nor yet inspired his respect and longing. She was his piano teacher’s daughter, and he probably felt affectionate toward her. By the mid-1830s, when his works were being published and the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik was producing a steadier income for him, Robert began to have an interest in marriage. “From here on a change in my essential nature and genuine desire for a wife” he wrote in his diary.54 He pursued two other women – Emilie List and Ernestine von Fricken – unsuccessfully before he turned his attention solely to Clara. Over the years as she physically matured and as he came to know her artistry, Robert was drawn more and more to Clara. He also came to hold her in a worshipful regard and sometimes even worried whether he would be someone she could look up to. In November 1835 they kissed for the first time; it may have been Clara’s first erotic experience, for she fainted.55 They dated their betrothal from August 14, 1836,56 and only in that year began to address each other with the familiar “Du.”57 They would probably have married then – Robert at age twenty-five, Clara at sixteen – had Friedrich Wieck not raised objections and eventually legal procedures that kept them apart for three more years. During the years of waiting, Robert and Clara were extremely thoughtful about what marriage would mean for them. Robert looked forward to their joint artistic careers, for he hoped and intended that they would compose together. He recognized the greater and more lucrative success of Clara’s career and even considered moving the publication of the journal to Vienna because Clara had been so well received there and because there they would be beyond her father’s legal clutches. 54

55 56


From his Tagebuch II, 33, as quoted by John Daverio, Robert Schumann: Herald of a “New Poetic Age”, New York: Oxford University Press (1997), 157. Ostwald, Schumann, 120. Reich, Clara Schumann, 53. Gerd Nauhaus has shown from a newly discovered document dated February 8, 1836, that Robert and Clara had a secret assignation in Dresden earlier that same year, at which they exchanged a “Kuss der Verlobung” (kiss of engagement). “‘Schwere Abschiede’. Neuentdeckte autobiographische Dokumente Schumanns aus den Jahren 1836 und 1838,” Schumann Studien 5 (1996), 7–24. Reich, Clara Schumann, 53; Ostwald, Schumann, 122.

Women in early nineteenth-century Germany

Clara wondered if Robert appreciated the demands of her career and wrote to him that he could surely find a better housewife than she.58 Clara exhibited contradictory attitudes toward becoming a housewife. She was apprehensive about the time it would take from her career, as in the following letter (winter 1837–1838): Are you in a position to offer me a life free from care? Consider that though I have been brought up simply, I have never had a care. Must I bury my art now? Love is all very beautiful, but, but. . .59

At the same time, as the following letter shows (June 1838), she was curious about and eager to learn domestic skills: It would be lovely if Therese [Robert’s sister-in-law] could be with us the first weeks after our wedding. She could teach me many things that I cannot learn at home because my father does not want to see me anywhere but at the piano. How I would like to concern myself with household tasks now and then, but I would just be laughed at.60

And while Clara may have been reluctant to “bury” her art, she was quite willing to turn over the income from it to Robert’s management for, as she said, “It is the husband’s duty to rule over his wife’s money.”61 After their marriage, Clara received a weekly allowance from Robert.62 The more conventional side of Robert’s view of marriage and of a woman’s role may have exaggerated his expectations for Clara’s adjustment to married life. The following passages seem to answer Clara’s thoughts cited above, while asserting the prospective husband’s authority: I am musing about our first summer in Zwickau as married folks. . .Young wives must be able to cook and to keep house, if they want satisfied husbands, and you can have fun learning that from Therese; and then young wives may not make long journeys right away, but must take care of themselves and spare themselves . . .63 [I]f you were to be forgotten as an artist, would you not be beloved as a wife?. . . The first year of our marriage you shall forget the artist, you shall live only for yourself and your house and your husband, and wait . . . just see how I will make you forget the artist – because the wife stands even higher than the artist. . .Yet you still remain an artist.64

58 61 63


Ostwald, Schumann, 134–137. 59 Reich, Clara Schumann, 59. 60 Ibid., 60. Ostwald, Schumann, 153. 62 Ibid., 6. Berthold Litzmann, Clara Schumann. Ein Künstlerleben nach Tagebüchern und Briefen, 3 vols., Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel (1910), I, 299, as quoted in Reich, Clara Schumann, 68. Robert Schumann in seinen Schriften und Briefen, ed. Wolfgang Boetticher, Berlin: B. Hahnefeld (1942), 257, as quoted in Reich, Clara Schumann, 68.



Frauenliebe und Leben

And, if any doubt remained about Robert’s assumption of a husband’s authority: Just promise me not to entertain any more unnecessary fears, trust and obey me; after all, men are above women.65

The difficult thing to assess in any of these statements by either Robert or Clara is whether they can be accepted at face value or should be leavened with humor or irony. In some of their attitudes, then, Robert and Clara fit into the mold of an early nineteenth-century German male and female. Certain features of their personalities, however, run against the grain of the Geschlechtscharaktere. Clara clearly had the energy, ambition, and discipline that would have been, in the abstract, attributed to a man. Her father even said she could do anything a boy could do and quoted Goethe’s remark about Clara: “She plays with as much strength as six boys.”66 Once when Robert was angry with Clara, he described her spitefully as an aggressive woman pianist and said of her “She herself is a man.”67 Clara had also learned well how to manage her affairs, that is, her dealings with the outer, public world of concerts, tours, publicity, as opposed to the inner, domestic world that was believed to be the true and proper domain for the woman. Robert’s ambitions and talents as composer and critic enabled him to manage his dual career well. These occupations were to a great extent private, however, conducted in his home, through a voluminous correspondence, and among a small coterie of friends and close associates. Robert was notoriously reserved, ill at ease, and relatively ineffective in public situations (as when conducting, for example). Robert exhibited other “feminine” characteristics. He looked up to many figures he considered greater than himself, such as Mendelssohn. He formed close, dependent relationships with several men, to whom for a time he was very devoted (e.g. Ludwig Schunke, William Sterndale Bennett).68 Furthermore, Robert lived a great deal in the world of his feelings; he was certainly as emotional as he was rational. Indeed, what his alter egos Florestan and Eusebius to a great extent incorporate are what the early nineteenth 65 66 68

Litzmann, Clara Schumann, I, 331, as quoted in Reich, Clara Schumann, 69. Reich, Clara Schumann, 55. 67 Ostwald, Schumann, 124. Ostwald’s emphasis on Schumann’s male companionships underlines an important component of the composer’s life, but his characterization of Robert as bisexual is perhaps too limiting. This term presumably refers only or mainly to a person’s sexual activity, not more generally to his or her social and emotional life. Ostwald makes the latter abundantly clear in Robert’s case, but adduces no convincing evidence of the former. See Ostwald, Schumann, passim.

Women in early nineteenth-century Germany

century would have seen as Robert’s alternating masculine and feminine character traits. Florestan was full of energy and will, bold and forceful – the extroverted person of action; Eusebius was quiet, pensive, intuitive, imbued with tenderer feeling – the introverted person of reflection. Such characteristics may have been seen not as inconsistencies in, but merely as exceptional complications of, an “artistic” personality; perhaps Robert saw himself in such terms. Perhaps Wieck, on the contrary, viewed these characteristics as an aberration from proper masculinity, a factor in his unwillingness for Clara to marry Robert. And as for Clara, perhaps it was Robert’s tenderness and emotional responsiveness that made him exceptional in her sight. “You are everything to me,” she wrote. “You are the ideal of a man, an ideal I have always carried in my heart.”69 Given the many traits that Robert’s personality manifested, we can be confident that Clara’s “ideal” was not the stereotypical sex-determined male of contemporary thought. If Robert Schumann today sometimes strikes us as an oppressive husband, assuming the traditional patriarchal role in the family, putting his career above Clara’s, and expecting sacrifice from her as wife, mother, and housekeeper, we must remember to contrast him with other men of his day. Felix Mendelssohn discouraged his sister Fanny’s composing career, suppressed his sister’s name, and published her songs as his own. Sophie Mereau’s husband, mentioned earlier, did not ask, but ordered his wife to halt her writing career. We should further recall that Robert had been willing to move the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik to Vienna partially on account of Clara’s strong reception there, that he encouraged her to compose, assisted her with orchestration, that, in contrast to Mendelssohn, he proudly published a jointly composed song cycle under both their names, that he accompanied her – as the husband of the renowned pianist – on a concert tour in Russia, that he accepted her as his equal intellectual companion. I write this not to whitewash Robert, who did not hesitate to place many burdens on Clara, and who early in their marriage tried to persuade her to relinquish her own professional career, but to put all of this in a broader perspective.


Reich, Clara Schumann, 60.


part i

The poetry


Adelbert von Chamisso: a sketch of his life and works

Ich bin überall fremd. (I am everywhere a stranger.) Chamisso 1810 Was man sich in der Jugend wünscht, hat man im Alter die Fülle; ich glaube fast, ich sei ein Dichter Deutschlands. (What one wishes for in one’s youth, one has one’s fill of in maturity; I almost believe I am a German poet.) Chamisso 1828

The poetry of Adelbert von Chamisso cannot be sympathetically appreciated without some knowledge of his fascinating life and career.1 The following description of Chamisso by a contemporary catches some of the flavor of his complicated circumstances and contradictory characteristics: He was a man endowed by nature with rare gifts, but long persecuted by fate, a French emigrant and a Prussian officer, an aristocrat and a liberal, a poet and a botanist, the author of a fantasy-novel and a world traveler, he was a naturalized German and a Frenchman by birth, in short – he was Chamisso.2

The offspring of aristocrats who became a Bürger or bourgeois, a Frenchman who became an enthusiastic German citizen, the author of politically charged verse as well as of poems portraying everyday domestic scenes, the naturalist



This biographical sketch is based on Eduard Hitzig’s nineteenth-century biography (Leben und Briefe, volumes V and VI of his edition of Chamisso’s collected works) and on the two modern biographies by Werner Feudel, Adelbert von Chamisso. Leben und Werk, 2nd edn., Leipzig: P. Reclam (1980; henceforth cited as Feudel, Chamisso) and Peter Lahnstein, Adelbert von Chamisso. Der Preuβe aus Frankreich, Munich: List Verlag (1987; henceforth cited as Lahnstein, Chamisso). In this chapter I cite these works specifically only when I directly quote from them, but I fully acknowledge my utter dependence on them. All references to Chamisso’s writings are to the most recent complete critical edition of his works: Adelbert von Chamisso. Sämtliche Werke, ed. Volker Hoffmann (annotations) and Jost Perfahl (text edition), Munich: Winkler (1975), vol. I (prose fiction and poetry). The first page number refers to the poem itself; if there is a second number, it refers to the appendix of explanatory notes. Jean-Jacques Ampère (1800–1864), French historian and writer, who met Chamisso in Berlin in 1827; quoted in Adelbert von Chamisso. Werke in Zwei Bänden, eds. Werner Feudel and Christel Laufer, Leipzig: Insel-Verlag (1981), I, Einführung, 7.



The poetry

on a three-year voyage around the world and later the settled curator at the botanical garden in Berlin – the currents and seeming contradictions of Chamisso’s life and career are those of the age itself. A biographical sketch and a more focused look at his later life and second literary period (when he wrote the Frauenliebe cycle) will enable us to appreciate Chamisso’s achievements and make a balanced assessment of the poems in question. Louis Charles Adélaide de Chamisso was born to Count and Countess de Chamisso (also spelled Chamissot) in late January, 1781, at their ancestral home, the castle Boncourt in Champagne. Adélaide was only eight when the French revolution broke out in July 1789. Three years later, the count left Boncourt of his own free will with this family, and the family wandered for four years before settling in the Prussian capital, Berlin, in 1796. It was there that the adolescent Adelbert (as he was renamed) learned the German language and began to develop a strong attachment to German people and culture, though at first he still thought of himself as a “jeune exilé.” He served as a page to Queen Friederike Luise, at the court of King Friedrich Wilhelm II (of the four-hundred-year-old Hohenzollern line), and received an education by her command at the French Gymnasium, a foremost institution touting classic French literature and, since Voltaire’s residence, works of the Enlightenment. This education and his association with the large community of Huguenots in Berlin led Chamisso to break with his family’s Roman Catholicism. Following the family tradition of military service, Chamisso became a cadet in the Prussian army in 1798, and he was commissioned lieutenant in 1801, the same year that his parents returned to France under a Napoleonic amnesty. Chamisso’s sense of duty flagged under the conditions of Prussian military life, but, forced by circumstances to continue his service, he found escape in the continued reading and study of French and German authors. He had also begun to write, in French and in German, and to make translations from his mother tongue into German. After a visit to his family in France in the fall and winter of 1802–1803, Chamisso returned to Berlin and found his way into the salon classes of the upper middle class, such as that of Rahel Levin. Chamisso made a lasting impression on her husband, the writer Karl August Varnhagen von Ense; years later he recalled the tall, gangly Frenchman in his tight uniform who had great difficulty with spoken German, but who nevertheless recited from memory his German lyrics and elegies and excerpts from his verse drama Faust. Chamisso read the novels and other writings of Friedrich Schlegel and attended the lectures on romantic poetry by his brother, August Wilhelm Schlegel.

Chamisso: life and works

These literary and intellectual inclinations led to the regular assembly of a group of friends who dubbed themselves the Nordsternbund, aligning themselves with Schlegel’s romanticism and disassociating themselves from the sentiments of the Berlin Enlightenment. Besides young writers like Chamisso and Varnhagen von Ense and other interested and sympathetic persons, the Polar Star Union included a lawyer named Eduard Hitzig, who later became Chamisso’s close friend and first biographer. The poets of the Union competed in penning sonnets, odes, and elegies, which they published in their Grüner Musenalmanach (1804–1806), edited by them together and consciously modeled on Tieck and Schlegel’s almanac of 1802, itself derivative from Schiller’s literary almanac of the closing years of the previous century. About a third of Chamisso’s Musenalmanach poems are sonnets, some written to friends (e.g. da la Foye, and his brother’s wife Pauline), and some dedicated to admired figures (Schiller, Fichte). Many of Chamisso’s verses at the time (published and unpublished) were written to a young French emigrant and widow serving as a governess in Berlin, Cérès Duvernay, to whom he was passionately, but unrequitedly, attached. He met her in 1803, and their vacillating relation continued until 1808, even after she left Berlin for Königsberg. Some verses from his unrhymed poem “Nacht und Winter” (“Night and winter,” 1803) demonstrate the young poet’s romantic self-pity, in which nature reflects his own state of mind: Harsh and cold the wind arises, Herb und kalt der Wind sich reget, Dunkle Wolken ziehn am Himmel, Dark clouds draw across the sky, There no single star is twinkling. Und es flimmern keine Sterne. As they rest above the fields, Wie sie ruhn auf dem Gefilde, So, too, within my deepest soul Ruhn mir in der tiefsten Seele Rest dark night and harsh winter. Dunkle Nacht und herber Winter. (Werke 196)

The circle of friends broke up in 1805 as various members left Berlin for employment or university study. Chamisso wanted to educate himself further so that he could put his life on a firmer footing, and he considered enrolling at Halle University, where Friedrich Schleiermacher, among others, taught; but political events overtook him. First, Halle University was closed by order of Napoleon for its political leanings. Furthermore, Napoleon had defeated the Austrians and Russians at Austerlitz, and now Prussia anticipated his invasion. Chamisso’s regiment was given its marching orders. They quitted Berlin and were eventually assigned the defense of Fort Hameln, on the River Weser southwest of Hanover. Chamisso’s application for release from military duty



The poetry

was rejected, and he passed the time in further reading and writing, producing among other things Adelberts Fabel (1806), an allegorical tale of a young man’s maturation through dream-like encounters and fantastic experiences, in the manner of the tales of Ludwig Tieck and Novalis (the pseudonym of Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg). In October 1806 Napoleon’s army defeated the Prussians at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt. In November, Chamisso’s regimental commander surrendered Fort Hameln without a fight. Given the strong fortifications and the preparedness of the soldiers, Chamisso was shocked and angered (as he wrote to Varnhagen and testified later in a hearing) that his commander had given up so easily. That winter Chamisso undertook a trip to France to visit his parents and siblings. Only when he reached Paris did he learn that his mother and father had just died. The small annuity they had left him was not enough to allow him to stay in Paris. Chamisso was at a crossroads. While he was drawn back to his homeland, he also felt uncomfortable traveling in a land where in some circles he would have to hide his aristocratic and Catholic background and in others his republicanism and Protestantism. He found the society of middleclass Paris crass and disillusioning, where, as he wrote to Varnhagen, “The Old is no more, nor yet the New.”3 In 1807 Chamisso returned to Berlin and successfully applied for release from military service. He did not yet feel himself a citizen of Germany any more than he had felt at home in France, and his discomfort had good grounds. The Napoleonic campaign through Prussia and the quartering of French troops in the capital naturally caused the native populace to resent all things French. Under the political circumstances, the cultural and intellectual life of the city stagnated. The old romantic spirit, the belief in world culture, and joy in the artful cultivation of poetic form had passed. A nationalistic spirit and realism began to replace them. The ideals and interests of the Nordsternbund had passed. Many of the remaining members dispersed to other cities to continue their studies and creative endeavors under more favorable circumstances. With many of his friends away, except Hitzig, Chamisso found himself more or less alone in Berlin. For a while he was attached to the circle of intellectuals around the publisher and book dealer Georg Reimer; these included the historian Fichte and the theologian Schleiermacher, both of whom were nurturing the growing consciousness of a German nation. But Chamisso doubted that their patriotic, nationalist plans could succeed in the 3

Feudel, Chamisso, 44.

Chamisso: life and works

absolutist state of Prussia. Furthermore, he was made uncomfortable by their virulently anti-French attitudes. Chamisso was at a low point. He nevertheless continued his independent language studies (learning Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and eventually several other tongues) and studies in science, in which he had always had a strong interest, and tried to earn a living giving private instruction. Though not himself literarily productive in these years, he did acquire the last volume of Arnim and Brentano’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, which aroused in him a lifelong interest in folk poetry. His studies also enabled him to read Dante and Cervantes in the original languages. In the winter of 1809–1810 there came an opportunity to return to France as a lycée (high school) instructor in Brittany, a position his siblings had obtained for him. Given the situation in Berlin, Chamisso leapt at the chance to get away, to try to repatriate himself, and to find a means to supplement the income from his inheritance. He arrived in Paris in February 1810 only to learn that the position had been withdrawn. Chamisso soon found consolation for this latest disappointment in the salon society of Berlin émigrée Henriette Mendelssohn, the sister of Friedrich Schlegel’s wife Dorothea. There Chamisso re-encountered some of his old Berlin friends, including Varnhagen, and made the acquaintance of the brilliant and flamboyant writer Germaine de Staël, a Germanophile and outspoken critic of Napoleon, the poet Ludwig Uhland, and the celebrated scientist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt. The young poet also became reacquainted with Helmina von Chézy, whom he had first met in Berlin in 1796.4 Their friendship was deepened by their collaboration on a French translation of August Wilhelm Schlegel’s lectures, though apparently their relation never blossomed into the romantic involvement Chamisso yearned for. This hardly prevented, and perhaps even instigated, a number of poems to Chézy, almost always in a lamenting tone. Chézy left Paris in 1810 to return to Berlin, and Mme de Staël went into an exile imposed by Napoleon principally for her latest book De l’Allemagne (On Germany). In that work she idealized the first people conquered by Napoleon and held them and their culture up as exemplary and worthy of emulation. The book was confiscated and its author banished from Paris; she withdrew to her late father’s estate, Coppet, near Geneva. “The house and its environs had become a refuge for many male acolytes of Germaine’s, 4

Helmina von Chézy (1783–1856) was to be the librettist of Weber’s opera Euryanthe; she was also the author of “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen,” Schubert’s well-known song for soprano with piano and clarinet. The isolation and loneliness of the shepherd in this text mirror Chamisso’s feelings of estrangement, or of any poet’s consolation in his own work.



The poetry

all of them Constitutionalist Royalist émigrés. . . .”5 On Mme de Staël’s recommendation a prefect in southwestern France took Chamisso as his secretary. This circumstance gave Chamisso much time to steep himself in French literature, including medieval and Renaissance authors; he was especially fond of Rabelais, whose earthy realism is sometimes reflected in Chamisso’s later poetry. His situation also afforded him a glimpse of French politics, which he found a parody of democracy, the bourgeois officials being merely beneficiaries of Napoleon’s favoritism. Chamisso was thus disillusioned with the French revolution as it had devolved into the Napoleonic empire. Through Mme de Staël he was introduced to ideas of English liberalism, with its emphasis on gradual political and economic evolution rather than revolution. These principles would inform his later political convictions. His association with de Staël had also helped Chamisso find his identity. Like Chamisso, de Staël did not feel at home anywhere (except, in her case, Paris, from which she was banished). Politically she was a moderate. As the daughter of Jacques Necker, who had served the king as finance minister, she had been an associate of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Yet she supported the revolution, because she had hoped it would dispose of the injustices of the absolutism and bring about a constitutional monarchy, but she was antipathetic to the extremes of both the Terror (she was horrified by the execution of the king and queen) and of the young post-revolutionary government. And she felt rejected on all sides, and was received with only qualified success in her travels abroad. She and Chamisso must have found each other kindred souls in their rootlessness. His discussions with her about her admiration for Germany, but inability to turn her back on France, precipitated Chamisso’s realization that he truly had become German. German was his predominant language now, he felt his adopted country more of a homeland, he felt estranged from his brothers and sisters; he thus had insufficient grounds for remaining in France. It was during this period that Chamisso wrote an oft-cited description of himself, one that portrays well the tensions in his life: I am a Frenchman in Germany and a German in France, a Catholic to Protestants, a Protestant to Catholics, philosophical to the pious and bigoted to the freethinking, a man of the world to the learned and a pedant to the worldly, a Jacobin to the


Francine du Plessix Gray, Madame de Staël: The First Modern Woman, New York: Atlas (2008), 89. Chamisso would have encountered numerous luminaries from the world of arts and letters at Coppet, including the German historian, writer, and Shakespeare translator August Wilhelm Schlegel, whom Germaine de Staël had hired as her children’s tutor!

Chamisso: life and works

aristocrats and a nobleman to the democrats, a man of the ancien régime etc. I am nowhere at home, I am everywhere a stranger.6

Ironically his words are remarkably similar to the portrait of Chamisso cited at the beginning of this chapter; yet whereas the latter, observed years later in Chamisso’s maturity, have a positive and admiring tone, here Chamisso seems despondent. This mood is apparent in his poem “Winter” (1811): In den jungen Tagen Hatt ich frischen Mut, In der Sonne Strahlen War ich stark und gut.

In my younger days I had a fresh spirit, In the sun’s beams I was strong and good.

Liebe, Lebenswogen, Sterne, Blumenlust! Wie so stark die Sehnen! Wie so voll die Brust!

Love, life’s excitement, Stars, love of nature! How strong my longing! How full my heart!

Und es ist zerronen, Was ein Traum nur war; Winter ist gekommen, Bleichend mir das Haar.

And now it’s melted away, What was only a dream; Winter has come, Bleaching white my hair.

Bin so alt geworden, Alt und schwach und blind, Ach! verweht das Leben, Wie ein Nebelwind!

I’ve grown so old, Old and weak and blind, Ah! gone is my life, Like a misty wind! (Werke 198)


“Ich bin Franzose in Deutschland und Deutscher in Frankreich, Katholik bei den Protestanten, Protestant bei den Katholiken, Philosoph unter den Frommen und Mucker unter den Freigeistern, Weltmann unter den Gelehrten und Pedant unter den Leuten von Welt, Jakobiner unter den Aristokraten und unter den Demokraten ein Edelmann, ein Mann des Ancien régime usw. Ich bin nirgends am Platze, ich bin überall fremd. . .” Feudel and Lauter, eds., Werke, Einführung, 12. Note the resonance with Mme de Staël’s remark, “The Republic exiled me. . . The Counterrevolution hangs me” (du Plessix Gray, Madame de Staël, 98). Chamisso’s sentiments are echoed by the elderly Franz Liszt: “Everybody is against me. Catholics, because they find my church music profane, protestants because to them my music is Catholic, freemasons because they think my music too clerical; to conservatives I am a revolutionary, to the ‘futurists’ an old Jacobin. As for the Italians . . . if they support Garibaldi they detest me as a hypocrite, if they are on the Vatican side, I am accused of bringing Venus’s grotto into the Church. To Bayreuth, I am not a composer, but a publicity agent. Germans reject my music as French, the French as German, to the Austrians I write gypsy music, to the Hungarians foreign music. And the Jews loathe me, my music and myself, for no reason at all.” As cited in Klara Hamburger, Liszt (Budapest: Kossuth [1987], 184); I am indebted to Patrick Durek for bringing this to my attention.



The poetry

Chamisso visited Mme de Staël once more and then undertook a long walking tour in the Jura mountains and in the fore-Alp mountains of Savoy. In the course of it he collected a herbarium of over a thousand plants. As a child Chamisso had loved nature, and he now realized that he wanted to turn from art to science, from speculation to observation. Mme de Staël fled Switzerland in 1812 for Russia, and thence to England. It was Chamisso’s cue to depart as well.7 Confidently and eagerly he made his way back to Berlin, where he enrolled at the age of thirty-one as a medical student at Berlin University. He took courses in botany, zoology, anatomy, mineralogy, magnetism, and natural philosophy. “I have already forgotten that I ever wrote a sonnet,” he wrote to his friend Friedrich de la Foye.8 In early 1813 came the news of Napoleon’s retreat from his Russian military campaign. As the French army approached the city of Berlin was in turmoil. The university closed, and many of Chamisso’s professors fled to join the volunteer forces of liberation. Chamisso himself was torn between distaste for fighting his countrymen and his sense of duty to his adopted homeland, the latter complicated by his skepticism about the Prussian ruler’s goals in the war of liberation. Finally Chamisso left Berlin, resided in the country, and continued his botanical observations and collections. It was during this time that Chamisso set pen to paper to record Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (The Marvelous Story of Peter Schlemihl). The work was an extension of his story-telling in the home of his friend Eduard Hitzig. He neither regarded it as a re-entry into literary production, nor, much less, foresaw the amazing success it would have. He did not even have publication in mind, but sent the partially completed manuscript to Hitzig in Berlin with the direction, “Read this to your wife, tonight, if you have time; if she is curious to learn what else happens to Schlemihl . . . send the book back to me tomorrow morning, so that I can write more . . .”9 Schlemihl is the tale, with distinct Faustian overtones, of an ordinary young man who, in return for a purse of gold that is never empty, agrees to forfeit his shadow to a mysterious man in gray. To his great chagrin Schlemihl discovers that without his shadow he is ostracized by society. He is denied the common bonds of friendship, let alone the possibility of 7

8 9

Fortunately for Chamisso, Mme de Staël’s friendship with him never became the passionate, controlling, and often hysterical relations that developed with many of her lovers. Feudel, Chamisso, 61. “Lies das deiner Frau vor, heute Abend, wenn Du Zeit hast; wenn sie neugierig wird zu erfahren, wie es mit Schlemihl weiter ergangen . . . so schick mir gleich morgen das Heft wieder, auf dass ich daran schreibe.” Feudel, Chamisso, 65.

Chamisso: life and works

marriage to Mina, the young woman he loves, since her parents will not permit her to marry a man who does not own a proper shadow! Then the devil – for this, of course, is the real identity of the man in gray – plays his trump card. He offers Schlemihl his shadow back in exchange for his soul. Schlemihl bravely rejects the proposal and, eventually, also throws away the purse. The devil is foiled and miraculously Schlemihl receives a pair of seven-league boots, in which he strides around the world for the rest of his life, dwelling apart – still shadowless – but finding solace in studying and writing about the plant and animal life he observes. Chamisso’s story of the man without a shadow has been much written about and variously interpreted. On one level the tale has undeniable autobiographical features. Physically Schlemihl resembles the poet – long legs, wearing an old, dirty kurtka coat – and certainly the shadowlessness of Schlemihl is akin to the homelessness that Chamisso so long experienced. As Schlemihl with Mina, so had Chamisso been unsuccessful in his romantic relationships with women, and the solitary naturalist’s exploratory life of the book’s conclusion coincided with Chamisso’s interests and – as we shall see – corresponded with a major event in Chamisso’s life that was in the offing. From another perspective, Peter Schlemihl is also a parable about the evils of the desire for and struggle after wealth and possessions. Not only the title character, but many persons Peter encounters in the course of the story base their identity and success and their relationships with other people on money. If Schlemihl in its pact with the devil is a successor to Faust, it is in this latter regard also a precursor to Wagner’s Ring. It is also noted of Schlemihl that it is very much grounded in middle-class reality. Though the plot has fantastic elements, the people and settings are recognizable as early nineteenth-century German bürgerlich (bourgeois) society. Details of dress, speech, and occupations are grounded in contemporary reality. Though Tieck’s Kunstmärchen or artistic fairy tales are in some ways forerunners, Chamisso chose to set his fable in the realistically depicted present rather than in a timeless, imaginary past.10 Fantasy and middle-class reality are blended as they are in Weber’s opera Der Freischütz. In late 1813 Chamisso returned to Berlin and resumed his studies. At the behest of friends he published Schlemihl in 1814. To his great surprise, its 10

To cite a recent, psychological interpretation, Jürgen Link finds in Schlemihl an early instance of anxiety over “abnormality” versus “normality,” concepts and terms that had recently been introduced into discourse about human personality. See “Zum Anteil der Normalität an der Bifurkation Romantik vs. ‘Biedermeier’,” in Titzmann, ed., Zwischen Goethezeit und Realismus. 197–211.



The poetry

success was extraordinary. Within a short time, it appeared in reprints and new editions. Celebrated illustrators were engaged for later re-issues, including the Englishman George Cruikshank, known later for his illustrations of Dickens’s novels. Within Chamisso’s lifetime Schlemihl was translated into French, English, Spanish, Russian, Polish, and Dutch. By 1818, Chamisso noted, it was read by everyone and regularly stolen from libraries. In the fall of 1814 Chamisso made the acquaintance of E. T. A. Hoffmann, in whose company he spent many evenings over beer, tobacco, and conversation, together with Hitzig and other friends. The companions planned a collaborative novel, to which each would contribute individual chapters. The project came to naught, partly due to the excitement engendered by Napoleon’s return from his exile on Elba in the spring of 1815. The military mobilization and the renewed anti-French feelings caused Chamisso’s old anxieties to resurface. By chance he came across a notice in the newspaper of a Russian expedition to explore the Pacific Ocean and the north polar sea. He applied for the post of naturalist on the voyage and, with the endorsement of Hitzig (who was acquainted with some of the sponsors), was accepted. He traveled from Berlin through Hamburg and Kiel to Copenhagen, where the Rurik, a cutter brig under the command of Captain Otto von Kotzebue (son of August von Kotzebue, an author of popular, sentimental plays), embarked on August 17, 1815. The route of the voyage was to be southwest across the Atlantic, around Cape Horn, and north through the Pacific to the polar sea. The real aim of the voyage was to discover a direct trade and military route from Russia to the Atlantic through the polar sea. The Rurik was a Russian naval ship and the exploration was largely underwritten by the Russian-American Trading Company, which dominated the fur trade. But because of the inclusion of an able naturalist (Chamisso) and the ship’s doctor (Eschscholtz), to record scientific observations, and of a pictorial artist (Louis Choris), to record visual information, the voyage greatly increased European knowledge of the lands, peoples, flora, and fauna along its route, although the primary goal of the trip was not realized. The voyage of the Rurik was one of a number of voyages of exploration and scientific observation from this period, including those of Philip Commerson (1766–1769), George Forster (Captain Cook’s third voyage of 1776), Alexander von Humboldt (1799–1804), Charles Darwin’s famous voyage on the Beagle (1831–1836), Lieutenant Wilkes (1838–1842), and Alexander Agassiz (1872–1876).11 11

See Harry Liebersohn, The Traveler’s World: Europe to the Pacific, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press (2006).

Chamisso: life and works

Chamisso profited personally and scientifically from the trip. For three years he traveled, landing in Brazil, Chile, the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, the Philippines, Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, San Francisco, and other intermediate spots. Chamisso kept a detailed diary, always explored inland on foot – collecting botanical and zoological samples and keeping careful records – studying the languages and customs of the native cultures he encountered, and recording personal experiences. Grounded in Rousseau, Chamisso hoped to find “unspoiled natives” who lived in harmony with one another and with nature. He was almost always disappointed, since Christian missionaries and European commercial interests had usually reached the natives before him, bringing the intrusion of Western thought and religion and capitalist materialism. In the Ratak Group of the Marshall Islands, however, Chamisso came closest to his ideal, discovering in the dwellers on the isle of Aur a friendly, modest, peaceful people. One native, a man named Kadu, sailed for a while onboard the Rurik, forming a warm friendship with Chamisso and enabling the latter to learn much about his language and customs. Twice the Rurik sailed beyond settled land to explore the polar sea, and twice it returned, the second time heading for home ahead of schedule because of Captain Kotzebue’s serious illness. The return trip was made westward through the China Sea and Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope and north via London to St. Petersburg. The original goal of finding an arctic passage was not achieved. But Chamisso profited mightily, storing up biological, geographical, linguistic, and cultural observations and experiences that enriched his scientific and literary careers the rest of his life.12 Chamisso’s week-long stay in London near the end of the voyage gave him first-hand knowledge of English politics. A parliamentary election was imminent, and Chamisso was amazed by the personal freedoms that he beheld. People assembled and spoke freely of their differing political leanings, speeches were made, newspapers printed uncensored opinions, political posters covered the walls of buildings. This experience made concrete the ideas he had earlier encountered about English liberalism and the belief in progress. The scientific outcome of Chamisso’s work on the voyage was considerable. He was the first naturalist, before Darwin, to explore and bring back 12

For an account of Chamisso’s voyage, besides his own book, see Niklaus R. Schweizer, A Poet among Explorers: Chamisso in the South Seas, Bern: Herbert Lang Frankfurt (1973). See further Liebersohn, The Traveler’s World; Klaus Bździach, Mit den Augen des Fremden. Adelbert von Chamisso – Dichter, Naturwissenschaftler, Weltreisender, Berlin gesellschaft für interregionalen Kulturaustausch (2004) (this collection of essays on Chamisso’s multi-faceted interests and accomplishments was a companion to an exhibit at the Kreuzberg Museum in Berlin).



The poetry

such a substantial collection of specimens from the islands and shores of the Pacific Ocean. He discovered many previously unknown plants from the north Pacific regions, Hawaii, and California. His herbarium contained some 2500 of them. Over sixty plants and animals bear his surname in their Latin scientific designation, e.g. Papilo chamissionis (a Brazilian butterfly), Cibotium chamissoi (a Hawaiian tree fern).13 Though Chamisso himself was scientifically conservative and held to the idea that species were generally unchangeable, his demonstrations of generational change within a species of sea snails contributed to Darwin’s formulation of his theory of evolution. While he was primarily an empiricist and no theoretician, Chamisso was the first to speculate that islands were implanted by drifting seeds and fruits and the first to suggest that the phenomenon known commonly as “sea blood” was caused by pigmented microorganisms in the water. His and Eschscholtz’s observations and hypotheses about the formation of coral reefs and atolls played a major role in nineteenth-century theories of these fascinating formations.14 His scientific studies, published in specialized journals, earned him recognition and esteem in the scientific world. Chamisso reached Berlin at the end of October 1818 and he set straight to work organizing the materials of the voyage. He had maintained a diary as well as scientific records. The latter “Observations and Opinions” (“Bemerkungen und Ansichten”) were the first to be published. They were included in the third volume of Captain von Kotzebue’s report of the voyage.15 In the mid-1830s, when the Leipzig publisher Weidmann wanted to bring out the collected works of Chamisso, he asked to add the poet’s diary of his trip to the naturalist’s observations. So Chamisso occupied himself once again with the materials and composed a narrative account of his experiences, refreshing his memory from his diary, his letters, and his scientific notes. The resulting Reise um die Welt (Voyage Around the World, 1836) was one of the most significant and readable travelogues of the early nineteenth century, and it remains no less enjoyable and full of insights today.16 No less a personage 13




See the list of “Chamisso gewidmete Namen von Pflanzen, Tieren und geographischen Orten” in Mit den Augen des Fremden, 115–116. For an interesting, detailed account of the history of thinking about coral, see David Dobbs, Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral, New York: Pantheon Books (2005). Entdeckungs-Reise in die Süd-See und nach der Berings-Straße zur Erforschung einer nordöstlichen Durchfahrt in den Jahren 1815 bis 1818, 3 vols., Weimar (1821). As the 200th anniversary of this exploratory voyage approaches, a new edition of Chamisso’s narrative has just been published, together with reproductions of 140 illustrations (some in full color) made by Ludwig Choris during the voyage. Reise um die Welt, ed. Matthias Glaubrecht, lithography Ludwig Choris, Berlin: Die Andere Bibliothek (2012).

Chamisso: life and works

than Alexander von Humboldt praised Chamisso’s enthusiastic and impartial account and his natural prose. He wrote to the author, “[T]his voyage around the world has been given the appeal of a new universal drama through the individuality of your presentation.”17 As a result of the popularity of Schlemihl and the renown of the Rurik expedition, Chamisso had returned to Berlin a modestly well-known personage. He had finally found a measure of acceptance in the Prussian capital, and in early 1819 he received an honorary doctoral degree from the university and an appointment at the Schöneberg botanical garden. In contrast to the flux of his first thirty-eight years, the rest of Chamisso’s life was outwardly stable. With the security and satisfaction of the botanical post, Chamisso married, raised a family, resumed writing poetry, and became a beloved and respected literary and scientific figure. His long Wanderschaft over, a seasoned Chamisso settled down to a long wished for and much deserved quiet and productive existence. The major portion of his literary creation, with the exception of Schlemihl, lay ahead of him. It is with this change in mind that Thomas Mann, in his sympathetic and admiring essay about Chamisso, commented: It is the old story. Werther shot himself, but Goethe remained alive. Schlemihl, shadowless, strides booted over hill and dale, a natural scientist “living to himself alone.” But Chamisso, after producing a book from his sufferings, hastened to outgrow his problem-child phase. He settles down, becomes the father of a family and academician, master of his craft. One cannot be interesting forever. Either you die of your interestingness or you become a master.18

Antonie Piaste, Chamisso’s bride, was the foster child of his friend Eduard Hitzig. Chamisso had known her as a child who with Hitzig’s other children had enjoyed his story-telling in earlier times. She was now eighteen years old; Chamisso was nearing forty and ready to marry. He wrote to his friend de la Foye that Antonie loved him, that they would marry as soon as the botanical post and the house that came with it were confirmed. He called Antonie “my kind angel, who is youth, health, clarity, light and warmth all in one, and looks like a child and a young woman at the same time.”19 17



“Diese Weltumseglung, schon veraltet, hat durch Ihre Individualität der Darstellung den Reiz eines neuen Weltdramas erhalten.” Feudel, Chamisso, 101. See also Liebersohn, The Traveler’s World. Thomas Mann, “Chamisso,” in Essays of Three Decades, trans. from the German by H. T. Lowe-Porter, New York: A. A. Knopf (1947), 258. “Mein holder Engel, der Jugend, Gesundheit, Klarheit, Licht, und Wärme zugleich ist, und wie die Jungfrau zugleich und wie das Kind aussieht.” Quoted in Lahnstein, Adelbert von Chamisso, 158.



The poetry

They were married on September 25, 1819, and moved into the house by the Schöneberg botanical garden, which at that time lay beyond the gates of Berlin. In 1820 Chamisso wrote to a friend that Schlemihl no longer wanted for a shadow, but in fact had it threefold: from the wings of the Prussian phoenix, from the trees of the botanical garden, and from the wings of his angel.20 In these years Chamisso was primarily concerned with writing scientific papers, which were published regularly; writing poetry was a pastime for him. He jotted verses down in his poetic notebooks for family, and, in turn, friends – such as Varnhagen, Hitzig, and Hoffmann von Fallersleben, initially recording poems in his Poetische Hausbücher (poetic house books). He recorded the following poem in his diary in 1819 with the superscript “An Antonie,” one of many in which acknowledges the discrepancy in their ages. The verses express his devotion to Antonie and a note of envy of her youth; he seems to tremble as he remarks on her healthiness, as though seized with thoughts of mortality – hers and his own: “Was soll ich sagen” Mein Aug ist trüb, mein Mund ist stumm, Du heissest mich reden, es sei darum.

“What shall I say” My eye is troubled, my mouth is mute, You tell me to speak, that’s the reason.

Dein Aug ist klar, dein Mund ist rot, Und was du nur wünschest, das ist ein Gebot.

Your eye is clear, your lips are red, Whatever you wish, that is my command.

Mein Haar is grau, mein Herz ist wund, Du bist so jung, und bist so gesund.

My hair is gray, my heart is sore, You are so young, so healthy, too.

Du heissest mich reden, und machst mir’s so schwer, Ich seh dich so an, und zittre so sehr.

You tell me to speak, yet make it so hard, I look at you, and tremble so much. (Werke 188, 801)

This domestic happiness had as a backdrop the ominous political events of 1819. On March 22, a radical student shot and killed August von Kotzebue, the popular playwright (and father of the captain of the Rurik), accusing him of being a government informer. The assassination played right into the hands of Austrian foreign minister and later chancellor Metternich, who was trying to persuade the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III of the danger of unfettered liberties. Citing popular demonstrations and uprisings and von Kotzebue’s murder, Metternich engineered the passage of the Carlsbad 20

Ibid., 160.

Chamisso: life and works


Decrees, which imposed reactionary controls. Universities were given political commissioners, the newspaper press and book publishers were subjected to censorship, and a special commission of inquiry was established. Known adherents of a liberal German nation, such as the theologian Schleiermacher and the publisher Reimer, were closely watched. Much resented, the Metternich system effectively held liberalism and nationalism in the German-speaking world in check until 1848. Chamisso carefully followed political developments in Germany as well as in France. His letters are full of vehement sentiment and sarcasm about the repressive atmosphere in Berlin, and he wrote an essay against censorship a few years later (1828). Yet his feelings did not lead him to political activity, which he believed was futile under the Prussian regime. He held the conviction, moreover, that gradual reform and return to principles of the revolution in France would one day inevitably reach Germany; this conviction shielded him from the resignation and despair that overtook much of the German middle class. Chamisso registered his impatience with the restoration and his positive belief in future change in a group of five sonnets collectively entitled “An die Apostolischen” (To the Apostles, 1821–1822), couching some of his thoughts in the language and tone of Jesus’s castigation of the Pharisees and prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. The poems are noteworthy for their novel employment of the strict sonnet form as a vehicle for liberal political sentiment.21 Here is the first sonnet, which has the subheading “Ev[angelium] Matth[ew] c. 24”:22 Ja, überhand nimmt Ungerechtigkeit, Und Not, Empörung, Hass, Verrat befährden. Die falschen Christi wollen sich gebärden Als mit dem Unrecht, nicht dem Recht, im Streit. Bald aber, nach der Trübsal dieser Zeit, Wird den Geschlechtern allen auf der Erden Des Menschen Zeichen offenbaret werden Mit grosser Kraft und hoher Herrlichkeit.

21 22

Yes, injustice gains the upper hand, Want, rebellion, hate, betrayal reign. False Messiahs want to join the fight In the name of wrong, instead of right. Soon though, after the sorrow of this time, To all the people of the earth around, The sign of humanity will soon be revealed With power great and glory like to none.

Feudel, Chamisso, 121. In the Gospel of Matthew, Ch. 24, Jesus prophesies the destruction of the Temple (v. 1, 2), the coming of false Messiahs (v. 23, 24), and afterward the sign of the coming of the Son of Man (v. 30, 31). He counsels that people watch for the signs of these times as one reads the coming of summer in the fig tree (v. 32, 33).


The poetry

Vom Feigenbaume lernt: an seinen Zweigen Erkennet ihr des Sommers Anbeginn, Wann steigt der Saft und Blätter schon sich zeigen. Wo habt ihr, blöde Toren, doch den Sinn? Ihr seht den Saft in alle Zweige steigen, Und leugnet euch den Sommer immerhin!

From the fig tree learn: in its branches You can see when summer’s on its way When the sap rises and leaves begin to bud. When will you come to your senses, you fools? You see the sap in every branch arising, Yet still deny that summer’s soon to come! (Werke 373, 829)

The sonnet was, however, uncharacteristic for Chamisso at this time. He had largely abandoned his interest in early romantic Formspielerei (form play) and wanted, like Ludwig Uhland, to write poetry for the general reader. He had once described Uhland’s as the kind of poetry that no one writes but everybody reads,23 and now he turned with other late romantic poets to folk-like poetry – in shorter lines and simpler stanzas and often with refrains – sometimes with a socio-political implication lurking plainly in his verse. In “Der alte Müller” (1822), Chamisso transferred the paraphrased biblical prophecies of the sonnets to the mouth of an old miller welcoming a stormwind (stanzas 5–10): Willkommen, willkommen, grossmächtiger Wind! Was bringst du mir Neues, verkünd es geschwind. Hilf, Himmel, erbarme dich unser!

Be welcome, be welcome, you almighty Wind! What news do you bring me, tell me at once.

Du hast mich gewiegt, du hast mich genährt, Du hast mich geliebt, du hast mich gelehrt.

’Twas you that rocked me, nourished me, too, ’Twas you that loved me, that taught me to learn. Help, Heaven, have mercy upon us!

Hilf, Himmel, erbarme dich unser!

Help, Heaven, have mercy upon us!

Du hast mir die Worte wohl hinterbracht, Die Worte der Weisheit, von Toren verlacht. Hilf, Himmel, erbarme dich unser!

’Twas you who brought me the words The words of wisdom, at which the fools laughed. Help, Heaven, have mercy upon us!

Ihr Toren, ihr Toren, die fasstet ihr nicht, Die fasste der Wind auf, der gab mir Bericht. Hilf, Himmel, erbarme dich unser!

You fools, you fools didn’t grasp them at all, The wind grabbed them and reported to me. Help, Heaven, have mercy upon us!


Feudel, Chamisso, 50.

Chamisso: life and works

Das Wort wird Tat, das Kind wird Mann, Der Wind wird Sturm, wer zweifelt daran? Hilf, Himmel, erbarme dich unser! Willkommen, willkommen, grossmächtiger Wind! Und was du auch bringest, vollend es geschwind. Hilf, Himmel, erbarme dich unser!


Word becomes deed, the child becomes a man, Wind becomes storm, who doubted that? Help, Heaven, have mercy upon us! Be welcome, be welcome, you almighty wind! Whatever you’re bringing, accomplish it soon. Help, Heaven, have mercy upon us! (Werke 250)

Chamisso could also belittle the restoration period with humor. In “Tragische Geschichte” (1822), the old-fashioned pigtailed hair style characterizes its wearer – whether reactionary government or crass middle-class society – as laughably out of joint with the time: “Tragische Geschichte” ’s war einer, dem’s zu Herzen ging, Dass ihm der Zopf so hinten hing, Er wollt es anders haben.

“Tragic story” There once was a man, it rankled him so That his pigtail in the back did grow, He wished it otherwise.

So denkt er den: wie fang ich’s an? Ich dreh mich um, so ist’s getan – Der Zopf, der hängt ihm hinten.

He thought and thought: how shall I begin? If I turn around, it’ll face me then – The pigtail hangs behind him.

Da hat er flink sich umgedreht, Und wie es stund, es annoch steht – Der Zopf, der hängt ihm hinten.

He quickly turned himself around, Where it had hung it still was found. The pigtail hangs behind him.

Es dreht er schnell sich anders ’rum, ’s war aber noch nicht besser drum – Der Zopf, der hängt ihm hinten.

Still quicker then did he revolve, But this his problem did not solve. The pigtail hangs behind him.

Er dreht sich links, er dreht sich rechts, Es tut nichts Guts, es tut nichts Schlechts – Der Zopf, der hängt ihm hinten.

He first turned left, and then turned right, Neither of these could help his plight.

Er dreht sich wie ein Kreisel fort, Es hilft zu nichts, in einem Wort – Der Zopf, der hängt ihm hinten.

He twirled himself just like a top, It didn’t help, it didn’t stop The pigtail from hanging behind him.

The pigtail hangs behind him.


The poetry

Und seht, er dreht sich immer noch, Und denkt: es hilft am Ende doch – Der Zopf, der hängt ihm hinten.

And still he’s turning without a shirk, And thinking, In the end ’twill work! The pigtail hangs behind him. (Werke 204)

The poem’s imagery does double duty. The Zopf or pigtail, to begin with, whether it be the man’s own hair or a wig, had become an outmoded fashion and symbol of the aristocracy. Additionally, the man in the poem seeks to put the pigtail (or past) before him when it should, in the natural order of things, be behind him. The caricature is thus intensified. After Chamisso’s poem, the Zopf as a motif of political reactionism was appropriated by others, including Heine, Freiligrath, and Fontane. In “Die Goldene Zeit” (1822), framed as a toast to “the freed Fatherland, and the good, golden time,” he mocks the state of affairs after the Carlsbad Decrees. Here is its opening stanza: “Die Goldene Zeit” Füllt die Becher bis zum Rand Tut, ihr Freunde, mir Bescheid: Das befreite Vaterland, Und die gute golden Zeit! Denn der Bürger24 denkt und glaubt, Spricht und schreibt nun alles frei, Was die hohe Polizei Erst geprüft hat und erlaubt.

“The Golden Age” To the brim fill the mug in your hand, My friends, now join me, let us toast The liberated Fatherland, And of our golden age we’ll boast. For each citizen may freely think, Believe, and say out loud, and write Everything the high police Have first pronounced to be all right. (Werke 210)

In the ensuing six stanzas, by way of illustrating this purported freedom of expression, the toast presenter recites nothing other than platitudes, but nevertheless in the last stanza is betrayed and apprehended by the police for teaching that two plus two equals four from a sixteenth-century mathematics book,25 which is to say one published prior to the Prussian censors’ permission.



Chamisso’s original line read “der Deutsche” (the German), which he changed to “Bürger” (citizen) to avoid censorship himself. The Adam Ries or Riese (1492–1559) mentioned in the penultimate stanza of “Die Goldene Zeit” is known as the “father of modern calculation.” He was a major force in the shift from Roman to Arabic numerals, demonstrating in an extremely popular and influential book that the latter were much better suited to calculation. That his name would evoke modern, common-sensical mathematical reckoning is attested by the fact that “Macht nach Adam Ries” (“Do it like Adam Ries”) is still a popular expression in Germany today.

Chamisso: life and works

The Chamissos’ personal situation did not remain unproblematic. Though their marriage by all accounts had been (and would continue to be) a good one, Adelbert had an affair after he and Antonie had been together for two years. In the summer of 1821, he traveled to Hamburg to visit the Hertz family, with whom he had become acquainted on a much earlier stay in that city. Though the evidence is circumstantial and indirect, it seems likely that he was intimate with Frau Marianne Hertz and that the son she bore the following year was Chamisso’s.26 There is no evidence that Chamisso was ever otherwise unfaithful to Antonie. That the single infidelity took its toll on their relationship, however, might perhaps be seen in the fact that after their second son was born in 1822, there was a five-year hiatus before Antonie bore their other five children one after the other. The Chamissos also experienced the misfortune of losing their home. In the summer of 1822, a few months after the birth of their second son, the Schöneberg house caught fire and burned down. They decided to move into the city and took a house on Lindenstrasse and later on Friedrichstrasse. Each of the new residences required a long walk for Chamisso each day to and from the botanical garden. His botanical colleague Schlechtendahl recalled Chamisso’s habits: On the way that led him from the [city] gate across the field to Schöneberg, he either botanized and picked up this or that noteworthy or useful thing, or he walked along thoughtfully, occupied with a poem, grabbed quill and paper when he arrived to write down what he had composed, and I have heard some pretty things for the first time right here.27

Chamisso now avoided salon society and kept for the most part to himself, his family, and a few close friends. He did, however, become a participant in the Mittwochsgesellschaft that his old friend Eduard Hitzig founded in 1824. The “Wednesday Society” consisted periodically of figures like Varnhagen, Eichendorff, Wilhelm Müller, in addition to Hitzig and Chamisso, and was joined occasionally by guests such as Achim von Arnim and A. W. Schlegel. (A younger man named Franz Kugler also began to attend these meetings, and we shall hear more of him later.) The society, grounded in Goethe’s injunction to broaden one’s attention beyond the literature of one’s own 26 27

See Feudel, Chamisso, 110, and Lahnstein, Chamisso, 160–161. “Auf dem Wege, der ihn vom Tore über das Feld nach Schöneberg führte, botanisierte er entweder und brachte dies oder jenes Merkwürdige und Brauchbare mit, oder er ging, mit einer Dichtung beschäftigt, sinnend hinüber, ergriff, angekommen, Feder und Paper, um das Gedichtete festzuhalten, und manches Schöne habe ich hier zuerst gehört.” Quoted in Feudel, Chamisso, 112, and Lahnstein, Chamisso, 166.



The poetry

country, gathered to read and discuss recent works from other European countries. Their admiration of Goethe set the members of the Mittwochsgesellschaft decidedly apart from contemporaries for whom Goethe’s poetry was not sufficiently nationalist and politically engaged. While these latter writers lacked the stylistic consistency of a school or the bonds of close friendship, they were united by their common interest in the use of literature to urge social and political reforms. Many of their individual names (e.g. Wolfgang Menzel, Ludwig Börne, Karl Gutzkow, Heinrich Laube) are not so well known today as the name by which they became collectively known, Junges Deutschland (Young Germany). At the same time, many poets of the second German romantic generation stood aside from the political situation by devoting their poetry to idealized views of legendary and medieval Germany, orthodox Roman Catholicism, fantasy, and nature. Among these numbered such writers as Joseph von Eichendorff, Nicholaus Lenau, Wilhelm Müller, and E. T. A. Hoffmann. Chamisso at times reacted to contemporary politics in his writing, as we have seen, and occasionally made use of topics and materials favored by the romantics. Yet by comparison with the poets of Young Germany, Chamisso was conservative, and compared with the romantics, he was not an elevated or visionary poet. For the romantics, the arts pointed to a higher reality. Romantic poets used language to suggest the ineffable, they cherished imagery that symbolized what could not otherwise be expressed. Grounded in an older conception of literature, Chamisso was not drawn to the spiritual and philosophical ends of poetry like the Romantics, nor did he see its purpose as primarily political, like the Young Germans. Chamisso belonged to no literary party; he had no overriding agenda for his poetry other than to write about the things he knew and liked, and these tended to be people and events. Chamisso did not draw characters or stories from classical history or myth, or heroes and heroines or episodes from German history and legend. He did not write sophisticated or elegant poetry for an aristocratic or intellectual readership. He wrote about and from within middle-class German society and, from that perspective, about higher and lower classes of society. Characteristic of much of his literary work (as of his scientific work) is a tendency toward observation with little ideological impulse or philosophical reflection. Werner Feudel, one of his chief modern biographers, has written, “He wanted to portray life, as it is, not as it should be . . . . The subject of his poetry [was] always humanity.”28 28

“Er wollte das Leben darstellen, wie es ist, nicht wie es sein sollte,” Feudel, Chamisso, 172.

Chamisso: life and works

In late 1825 Chamisso made one last trip to France, where he traveled to collect the reparations that had been decreed by the royalist French government as being due to émigrés of the revolution. He visited his brothers and sisters and discovered that on account of the French edition of Schlemihl (1822) he was as well known in France as in Germany. He encountered Louis Choris, the artist from the Rurik expedition, met with Auguste de Staël (son of Mme de Staël) and with the Marquis de Lafayette, and participated in a public gathering and demonstration by the liberal faction opposed to the royalist government. Chamisso discovered the satirical poetry and songs of the poet Jean Pierre de Béranger, which the public loved for their mockery of the aristocracy and the church. He witnessed the vindication of press freedom in a celebrated trial. He saw the economic and social change caused by an industrial revolution – particularly the use of steam power in manufacture and transportation – in advance of that in Germany. He noted the positive progress, but also the materialism of the middle class and the poverty of the urban poor. He returned to Berlin in January 1826. The Berlin of Chamisso’s day, though not so large as Paris, was growing rapidly. In the twenty years between Chamisso’s return from his world voyage and his death (that is 1818–1838), Berlin’s population increased from 250,000 to 350,000 (40 per cent). Formerly a city of aristocrats and bureaucrats and their servants and suppliers, Berlin now witnessed growing commerce and industry. The same things that Chamisso had seen in Paris were happening in Berlin, on a smaller scale. Industrialization and the prospect of work had attracted a larger work force than there were jobs available. The streets were full of beggars; approximately 3000 inhabitants lived by theft alone; the poor were everywhere.29 Many of Chamisso’s poems after his Parisian visit illustrate his newer concerns and interests and reflect attitudes he picked up in anti-clerical France. “Nachtwächterlied” (1826) satirically criticizes in general the conservative and repressive clerical power of the church in Catholic countries, perhaps with the renewal of the Inquisition in Spain specifically in mind. As a motto, Chamisso quotes a line from Béranger’s “Les missionaires” – “Eteignons les lumières / Et rallumons le feu” (“Let’s extinguish the light and rekindle the fire”) alluding to the Inquisition, and he makes wonderfully ironic use of the fire image in the fifth stanza. But put into the mouth of a German nightwatchman, and with a paraphrase of a well-known expression


See the discussion in Lahnstein, Chamisso, 176–183.



The poetry

of Austrian Emperor Franz I (stanza two, lines 1,2),30 the song also satirizes circumstances in Germany: “Nachtwächterlied” Hört, ihr Herren, und lasst euch sagen, Was die Glocke hat geschlagen: Geht nach Haus und wahrt das Licht, Dass dem Staat kein Schaden geschickt. Lobt die Jesuiten!

“Nightwatchman’s song” Listen, sirs, and remind yourselves, The hour the clock has just now struck: Go to your homes and save the light, So that no harm the State will blight. Praise the Jesuit fathers!

Hört, ihr Herren, wir brauchen heute Gute, nicht gelehrte Leute, Seid ihr einmal doch gelehrt, Sorgt, dass keiner es erfährt. Lobt die Jesuiten!

Listen, sirs, today we need Good, but not such learned people, If learned you already are, Take care that no one learns it. Praise the Jesuit fathers!

Hört, ihr Herren, so soll es werden: Gott im Himmel, wir auf Erden, Und der König absolute, Wenn er unsern Willen tut. Lobt die Jesuiten!

Listen, sirs, thus will it be: God in heaven, we on earth, And the king is absolute, So long as he does our will. Praise the Jesuit fathers!

Seid, ihr Herren, es wird euch frommen, Von den gutgsinnten Frommen; Blase jeder, was er kann, Lichter aus, und Feuer an. Lobt die Jesuiten!

See that you, sirs – ’twill serve you well – Are among the well-disposed; Let each, as he is able, Blow out the light and kindle the fire. Praise the Jesuit fathers!

Feuer, ja, zu Gottes Ehren, Um die Ketzer zu bekehren, Und die Philosophen auch, Nach dem alten, guten Brauch. Lobt die Jesuiten!

Fire, yes, to the honor of God, So that we might “convert” the candles, And the philosophers as well, According to good, old custom. Praise the Jesuit fathers!

Hört, ihr Herren, ihr seid geborgen, Geht nach Haus, und ohne Sorgen, Schlaft die lange, liebe Nacht. Denn wir halten gute Wacht. Lobt die Jesuiten!

Listen, sirs, you are protected, Go to your houses, and without care Sleep a long and lovely night, For we are keeping a good watch. Praise the Jesuit fathers! (Werke 204)


Werke 807.

Chamisso: life and works


“Der Bettler und sein Hund” (1829), acknowledged as the first German socio-critical poem, portrays the suicidal extreme to which uncared for poverty and sickness have driven a beggar. Unable to pay the duty on animals, the beggar intends to drown his dog. Unable to bring himself to commit that act, he throws himself into the water instead. His dog tries, in vain, to save him. This depiction of the downtrodden of society, the naturalistic language, the straightforward recounting of a suicide, and the pointed sentimentality of the behavior of the man’s only friend were heretofore unknown as matter and means for German poetry: “Der Bettler und sein Hund” (305) Drei Taler erlegen für meinen Hund! So schlage das Wetter mich gleich in den Grund! Was denken die Herrn von der Polizei? Was soll nun wieder die Schinderei?

“The beggar and his dog” Three thalers to pay to license my hound! The wind may as well blow me down!

Ich bin ein alter, ein kranker Mann, Der keinen Groschen verdienen kann; Ich habe nicht Geld, ich habe nicht Brot, Ich lebe ja nur von Hunger und Not.

I am an aging, sickly man, Not one groschen earn I can; I have no money, I have no bread, I live only on hunger and dread.

Und wann ich erkrankt, und wann ich verarmt, Wer hat sich da noch meiner erbarmt? Wer hat, wann ich auf Gottes Welt

And when I was sick, when I was poor,

Allein mich fand, zu mir sich gesellt?

Who befriended me, beside me curled?

Wer hat mich geliebt, wann ich mich gehärmt? Wer, wann ich fror, hat mich gewärmt? Wer hat mit mir, wann ich hungrig gemurrt, Getrost gehungert und nicht geknurrt?

Who loved me when I came to harm?

Es geht zur Neige mit uns zwein, Was muss, mein Tier, geschieden sein; Du bist, wie ich, nun alt und krank, Ich soll dich ersäufen, das ist der Dank!

It’s coming to an end with the two of us, We must, old friend, be parted; You, like me, are old and sick, I should drown you – how kind-hearted!

Das ist der Dank, das ist der Lohn! Dir geht’s, wie manchem Erdensohn.

That is my thanks, that’s your reward! Just as with many a child of earth.

What will the police think up next? Another new rule on a flimsy pretext?

Who looked after me all the more? When I was all alone in the world

When I was cold, who got me warm? Who when I from hunger scowled Hungered with me instead of growled?


The poetry

Zum Teufel! Ich war bein mancher Schlacht, Den Henker hab ich noch nicht gemacht.

Oh hell! I soldiered in many a fight, But never a hangman was I till now!

Das ist der Strick, das ist der Stein, Das ist das Wasser, – es muss ja sein. Komm her, du Köter, und sieh mich nicht an, Noch nur ein Fussstoss, so ist es getan.

Here’s the rope, and here’s the stone, There’s the water, – I have to do it, Come here, you mongrel, don’t look at me, Just a kick, and it will be done.

Wie er in die Schlinge den Hals ihm gesteckt, Hat wedelnd der Hund die Hand ihm geleckt, Da zog er die Schlinge sogleich zurück, Und warf sie schnell um sein eigen Genick. Und tat einen Fluch, gar schauderhaft,

As he slipped the loop around his neck, The dog, tail wagging, licked his hand,

Und raffte zusammen die letzte Kraft, Und sturzt’ in die Flut sich, die tönend stieg, In Kreise sich zog und über ihn schwieg.

Gathered together his remaining strength, Threw himself in the river, the water rose, And rippled in circles, and covered him up.

Wohl sprang der Hund zur Rettung hinzu, Wohl heult’ er die Schiffer aus ihrer Ruh, Wohl zog er sie winselnd und zerrend her, – Wie sie ihn fanden, da war er nicht mehr.

To his rescue leapt the hound, His howling turned some boaters’ heads, Whining and straining he led them round, – But when they found him, he was dead.

Er ward verscharret in stiller Stund Es folgt’ ihm winselnd nur der Hund, Der hat, wo den Leib die Erde deckt, Sich hingestrecket und ist da verreckt.

To a grave he was borne at a quiet hour, Only the dog followed and whined; Where the body lay covered with earth, There the hound stretched out and died.

He jerked the rope away right quick And placed his own neck in the band. He uttered a curse, a horrible one,

(Werke 305)

The poem was poorly reviewed by many. Wolfgang Menzel, one of the “Young Germany” writers and a sharp critic, took Chamisso to task for his “adversely tormenting tale of death.”31 Another found the poem simply “laughable.”32 Chamisso wrote, “Never have the critics raised a greater cry against me than on the occasion of the beggar and his dog.”33 Chamisso answered the criticism with a sonnet, “Der Dichter und der Leser” (“The poet and the reader”), in which he stated simply that he was moved by the story of a dog who had swum after his drowning master: “Viel edler als der Mensch sei doch das Tier” (“The animal is far nobler than the man”).34 31 32 34

“[W]idrig peinigende Mordgeschichte” as cited in Feudel, Chamisso, 142; also Werke 821. “[L]ächerlich,” wrote an anonymous critic; Werke 821. 33 Feudel, Chamisso, 142. Werke 567.

Chamisso: life and works

Chamisso adapted Béranger’s poem “Le vieux vagabond” as “Der Bettler” (1828, Werke 255), a monologue by an old, dying beggar which raises issues of social responsibility. (“Teach me a craft, give me a job, I want to earn my bread. . . You might just as well have crushed me when I first saw the light of day; [or] you should have educated me, as befits a human being.”)35 Having outlined a veritable welfare program with his questions and comments about his down-and-out situation, the beggar concludes by saying that if someone had helped him, “Ich hätte euch brüderlich geholfen, / Und euch im Tode nicht geflucht” (“I would have helped you like a brother, and not in dying cursed you”). Chamisso was strongly moved by wretched conditions for factory workers, the jobless, and the poor in Berlin; the factory closings during the cholera epidemic in 1831 impressed this on him deeply. He believed that enlightened government measures could improve conditions, and like Bettina von Arnim, he also felt that it was the duty of middle- and upper-class citizens to help ameliorate the lives of the less fortunate.36 “Der Invalid im Irrenhaus” (1827), in five short, chilling stanzas, tells of a soldier who fought under the marshalling cry of “Freedom” at the battle of Leipzig (1813) in the war of liberation against Napoleon. Severely wounded about his head, in and out of consciousness, he now lies bound in a madhouse, where his cries of “freedom” are met with scourges from his guardians. Much irony lies in the title itself – that a war-wounded soldier is in a madhouse instead of a hospital – and furthermore, that his expectations of enjoying the freedom for which he fought is treated as insanity. Its last stanza: Schrei ich wütend noch nach Freiheit, Nach dem bluterkauften Glück, Peitscht der Wächter mit der Peitsche Mich in schnöde Ruh zurück.

When I raging still cry for freedom, For good fortune bought with blood, With a whip the guard then whips me Back into contemptible peace. (Werke 307)

To his comical retelling in “Don Quixote” of the old Spanish knight’s adventure with the windmills (1826), Chamisso adds a last, tongue-in-cheek



“Lehrt mich ein Handwerk, gebt mir Arbeit, / Mein Brot verdienen will ich ja;. . . .Ihr hättet mich erdrücken sollen, / Wie ich das Licht der Welt erblickt; / Ihr hättet mich erziehen sollen, / Wie sich’s für eine Menschen schickt.” See Feudel, Chamisso, 188, and also Ewa Sagarra, Tradition and Revolution in German Literature and Society, 1830–1890, New York: Basic Books (1971), passim.



The poetry

stanza that turns the humorous poem into a socio-political commentary. Here are the first and last stanzas, the first a dialogue between knight and servant, the last the narrator’s commentary: Noch ein Abenteuer, Welches Ruhm verspricht Siehst du auf dem Hügel Dort die Riesen nicht? Turmhoch, missgeschaffen, Drohen in den Wind, Welche anzuschauen Fast wie Mühlen sind? Mit Vergunst, Herr Ritter, Kann ich da nur sehen Mühlen, die im Winde Ihre Flügel drehen. ... Sollte wer mich fragen Wie man vieles fragt, Ob es Riesen waren, Wie der Herr es sagt, Oder blosse Mühlen, Wie es meint der Knecht; Geb ich unbedenklich Unserm Ritter Recht. Mit den Herrn es halten, Bleibt das Klügste noch; Was von solchen Dingen Wissen Knechte doch?

Here’s another adventure That promises me fame; Don’t you see on the hilltop The giants standing there? Tower-tall, misshapen, Turning in the wind, Which when you look at them Are almost like windmills? By your leave, my lord, There I see only Windmills, whose big blades Are cranking in the wind. .... Should someone ask me, As many people do, If these were such giants, As the knight declared, Or just plain windmills, As the servant believed; It would be safe to say That the knight was right. To agree with one’s superiors Is still the wise thing to do; For of things like these What do servants know? (Werke 249)

Another instance of Chamisso’s social and political consciousness is furnished by “Lass ruhn die Toten” (1827), in which Chamisso employs a familiar romantic image, old ruins in a forest at night. He sets a scene that Eichendorff might have described or that Caspar David Friedrich might have painted.37 But whereas those artists might have aimed to suggest a


It would not be far-fetched to speculate that Chamisso knew paintings by Friedrich, such as The Abbey in the Oakwood (1809–1810), The Monastery Cemetery in the Snow (1817–1819). Friedrich lived and worked in Dresden, and his works were widely known. French writer

Chamisso: life and works


spiritual element, something noumenal about the sight, Chamisso looks at the same images and sees “Nur Staub und Totengebein” (only dust and the bones of the dead). These are not emblems of the eternal, but only artifacts of a past that cannot be resurrected: “Lass ruhn die Toten” Es ragt ein altes Gemäuer Hervor aus Waldesnacht, Wohl standen Klöster und Burgen Einst dort in herrlicher Pracht.

“Let the dead rest” Some ancient ruins arise From within the forest at night, Once a cloister and castle In splendor there did stand.

Es liegen im kühlen Grunde Behauene Steine gereiht: Dort schlummern die Frommen, die Starken, Die Mächt’gen der alten Zeit.

In a cool plot of ground there lies A row of hewn headstones: There sleep the devout, the strong, The mighty of bygone times.

Was kommst du bei nächtlicher Weile Durchwühlen das alte Gestein? Und förderst herauf aus den Gräbern – Nur Staub und Totengebein!

What brings you at this nocturnal hour Rummaging among the old stones? All you’ll coax from the graves Are dust and bones of the dead!

Unmächtiger Sohn der Stunde, Das ist der Zeiten Lauf. Lass ruhn, lass ruhn die Toten, Du weckst sie mit Klagen nicht auf.

Powerless Son of the Hour, That is the course of time. Let them rest, let the dead ones rest, You’ll not wake them with your plaints. (Werke 332)

Despite his many misgivings, Chamisso never lost faith that through gradual change the political and social situation in Germany would improve. Thus his reformist hopes and expectations never turned to radical measures. He viewed the world as unquestionably transformed for the better since his youth. Shortly before his death, he wrote to his sons: I hope that you will study, as much as you can afford, but I fully understand if one or the other of you wants to go into business. The age of the sword [i.e. hereditary aristocracy] is past, and industry gains power and nobility in the world, as it should.

Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, a longtime acquaintance of Chamisso’s, championed Friedrich’s painting; the Berlin publisher Georg Reimer, a close associate of Chamisso’s, owned thirty-three paintings by Friedrich. See Helmut Börsch-Supan, Caspar David Friedrich, New York: George Braziller (1974), 63–64.


The poetry

In any case, better a capable businessman than a scribbler or a bureaucrat on a low rung.38

One of his most famous poems, “Das Schloss Boncourt” (1827), a meditation on his family’s former estate in France, echoes the same sentiment: “Das Schloss Boncourt” Ich träum als Kind mich zurücke, Und schüttle mein greises Haupt; Wie sucht ihr mich heim, ihr Bilder, Die lang ich vergessen geglaubt?

“Castle Boncourt” I dream myself back to my childhood, And shake my old gray head; Why call me home, you images, That I thought I’d long forgot?

Hoch ragt aus schatt’gen Gehegen Ein schimmerdes Schloss davor, Ich kenne die Türme, die Zinnen, Die steinerne Brücke, das Tor.

High rises from shadowy confines A shimmering castle before me, I know the towers, the walkways, The stony bridge, the gate.

Es schauen vom Wappenschilde Die Löwen so traulich mich an, Ich grüsse die alte Bekannten, Und eile den Burghof hinan.

Then from the coat of arms The lions gaze knowingly on me. I greet my old acquaintances, And dash into the courtyard.

Dort liegt die Sphinx am Brunnen, Dort grünt der Feigenbaum, Dort, hinter diesen Fenstern, Verträumt ich den ersten Traum.

There lies the sphinx in the fountain, There buds the old fig tree, There, behind those windows, I dreamed my very first dreams.

Ich tret in die Burgkapelle Und suche des Ahnherrn Grab, Dort ist’s, dort hängt vom Pfeiler Das alte Gewaffen herab.

I step into the chapel And seek the ancestral tomb, There it is, and there on columns All the old weaponry hangs.

Noch lesen umflort die Augen Die Züge der Inschrift nicht, Wie hell durch die bunten Scheiben Das Licht darüber auch bricht.

My eyes are still unable To read the inscription there, No matter that through stained glass The light brightly shines from above.


“Ich wünsche, dass sie studieren, insofern sie die Mittel dazu haben, bin aber ganz damit einverstanden, wenn der eine oder der andere zu bürgerlichem Gewerbe übergehen will. Die Zeit des Schwertes ist abgelaufen, und die Industrie erlangt in der Welt, wie sie wird, Macht und Adel. Auf jeden Fall besser ein tüchtiger Arbeitsman als ein Skribler oder Beamter aus dem niedern Trosse.” As quoted in Feudel, Chamisso, 193–4.

Chamisso: life and works

So stehst du, o Schloss meiner Väter, Mir treu und fest in dem Sinn, Und bist von der Erde verschwunden, Der Pflug geht über dich hin.

So you stand, O ancestral castle, Real to my mind here and now, Yet from the earth you’ve vanished, And over you passes a plow.

Sei fruchtbar, o teuer Boden, Ich segne dich mild und gerührt, Und seg’ne ihn zwiefach, wer immer Den Pflug nun über dich führt.

Be fruitful, dearest grounds, I bless you tenderly, And bless him doubly, that ever Pushes a plow through your soil.

Ich aber will auf mich raffen, Mein Saitenspiel in der hand, Die Weiten der Erde durschschweifen, Und singen von Land zu Land.

But I shall gather myself, My zither in my hand, And travel the whole wide world, And sing from land to land. (Werke 192)

Another, very different vein of Chamisso’s poetry is morbid and illustrates his fascination with a good yarn, even a gruesome one. Thomas Mann wrote, “What strikes one is the abrupt, almost pathological contradiction between the ethereal delicacy of Chamisso’s production in this kind [e.g. Frauenliebe] and his indisputable fondness for strong, even horrible subjects.”39 “Die Löwenbraut” (1827)40 tells the tale of a zookeeper’s daughter mauled to death by a once friendly lion made ferociously jealous by the approach of the girl’s fiancé, who subsequently shoots and kills the animal. The subject matter of this fanciful and gruesome ballad was apparently invented by Chamisso (though it is not unlike Matthäus von Collin’s “Der Zwerg”),41 but he also based some of his tales on actual events. From his friend Hitzig, who was a lawyer and judge, the poet often heard of criminal cases that interested him. One was the remarkable tale of one Margarete Gottfried of Bremen who, in the course of fifteen years, poisoned her parents, her brother, three children, and her first and second husbands. She was arrested in 1828, tried, and executed in 1831. Chamisso’s poem “Die Giftmischerin” (1828) is a monologue spoken by the poisoner, in which she proudly and unrepentantly confesses and justifies her murders just before her execution. Here are the first two stanzas:

39 40


Mann, “Chamisso,” 248. Werke 304. Schumann set this poem and published it with two of Chamisso’s translations of Béranger, “Die Kartenlegerin” and “Die rote Hanne” as Op. 31, 1–3. Set by Schubert (D. 771).



The poetry

“Die Giftmischerin” Dies hier der Block und dorten klafft die Gruft. Lasst einmal noch mich atmen diese Luft, Und meine Leichnrede selber halten. Was schauet ihr mich an so grausenvoll? Ich führte Krieg, wie jeder tut und soll, Gen feindliche Gewalten. Ich tat nur eben, was ihr alle tut, Nur besser; drum, begehret ihr mein Blut, So tut ihr gut. Es sinnt Gewalt und List nur dies Geschlecht; Was will, was soll, was heisset denn das Recht? Hast du die Macht, du hast das Recht auf Erden Selbstsüchtig schuf die Stärke das Gesetz, Ein Schlächterbeil zugleich und Fangennetz Für Schwächere zu warden. Der Herrschaft Zauber aber ist das Geld: Ich weiss mir Bessres nichts auf dieser Welt, Als Gift und Geld.

“The poisoner” Here is the block and there yawns the tomb. Let me breathe this air one more time, And speak my funeral oration myself. What makes you look at me so gruesomely? I waged a war, as everyone does and should, Against enemy forces. I did only that which all of you do, Only better; and thus you crave my blood, So do it well. The human race thinks only power and lies; What is, or should be, what we call “right”? If you have might, you have the right on earth. Selfishly the powerful created the law, To be both butcher knife and animal trap For the weaker ones. But the ruling class’s magic is money: I know nothing better in all the world Than poison and money.

The poisoner then recounts how she planned the murders and poisoned her husband, brother, and father to inherit their money, and then also did away with her three children, because “they made it difficult for me to reach my goal”: Ich habe sie vergiftet, sie gesehen, Zu mir um Hülfe rufend, untergehen, Bald stummer, kalte Leichen.

I poisoned them, and watched them die, All the while asking me for help, Soon dumb, cold bodies.

The poem concludes with the following stanza: Ich habe mich zu sicher nur geglaubt Und büss es billig mit dem eignen Haupt, Dass ich der Vorsicht einmal mich begeben. Den Fehl, den einen Fehl bereu ich nur, Und gäbe, zu vertilgen dessen Spur, Wie viele eurer Leben!

I was overconfident, too sure, And now pay fairly with my own head; For letting my caution slip one fatal time. The error, that single error only I regret, And would give, to eradicate that clue, Any number of your lives!

Chamisso: life and works

Du, schlachte mich nun ab, es muss ja sein. Ich blicke starr und fest vom Rabenstein42 Ins Nichts hinein.


You, butcher me now, it must be so. I stare numb and fixed from the ravens’ stone Into nothingness. (Werke 318)

In “The poisoner” Chamisso may have been the first to depict in a monologue the criminally insane, possibly a paranoid schizophrenic. What is remarkable beyond the tale itself and his choice of it as a subject is his imaginative skill at painting the workings of the poisoner’s mind. “Das Kruzifix” (1830, Werke 463) is a sadistic fantasy of a sculptor who nails his model to a cross in his studio in order to be able to portray a crucifixion realistically. He secretly moves his finished sculpture into the cathedral at night. The next day the clergy and congregation are so moved by his work that they come to his studio to honor and reward him. There they find the dead model, but the sculptor is gone. They apprehend him and punish him in kind. Chamisso loved to spin a tale in verse. And he was a master of terza rima, that rhyme scheme that enchains three-line stanzas to one another impelling the reader along. “Certainly, Platen wrote the most perfect German sonnets,” wrote Thomas Mann, “but with equal certainty Chamisso deserves the title of most masterly wielder of the terza rima.”43 The modern edition of his works contains approximately four thousand lines of terza rima. “Das Kruzifix” was written in this verse form, and Chamisso employed it in a number of narrative poems, such as “Salas y Gomez” (1830), the spell-binding story of a marooned sailor. Salas y Gomez is a rocky island in the South Pacific, an island that Chamisso knew from his exploratory voyage. In his poem, the sole survivor of a shipwreck is stranded there. The story is told in the first person, ostensibly Chamisso’s translation of the Spanish sailor’s journal written on slates that Chamisso has discovered on the island. The following excerpt (“Slate 3,” stanzas 13–20) demonstrates Chamisso’s ability to build a dramatic moment. As this excerpt begins, the stranded sailor has just spotted an approaching ship: Und ruhig sah ich her das Fahrzeug gleiten Mit windgeschwelten Segeln auf den Wogen, Und schwinden zwischen ihm und mir die Weiten

42 43

And calmly I saw the ship head this way With wind-swollen sails over the waves, And the distance between us dwindles.

The place of execution, presumably named for the presence of scavenging birds. Mann, “Chamisso,” 249.


The poetry

Und jetzt – ! es hat mein Ohr mich nicht betrogen, Des Meisters Pfeife war’s, vom Wind getragen, Die wohl ich gier’gen Durstes eingesogen. Wie wirst du erst, den seit so langen Tagen Entbehrt ich habe, wonnereicher Laut Der Menschenred’, aus alte Herz mir schlagen! Sie haben mich, die Klippe doch geschaut Sie rücken an die Segel, im Begriff Den Lauf zu ändern. – Gott, dem ich vertraut! Nach Süden – ? wohl! sie müssen ja das Riff Umfahren, fern sich halten von der Brandung. O gleite sicher, hoffnungschweres Schiff! Jetzt wär’ es an der Zeit! o meine Ahndung!

And now – ! my ear did not deceive me,

Blickt her! blickt her! legt bei! setzt aus das Boot! Dort unterm Winde, versucht die Landung! Und ruhig vorwärts strebend ward das Boot Nich ausgesetzt, nicht liess es ab zu gleiten, Es wusst gefühllos nichts von meiner Not. Und ruhig sah ich hin das Fahrzeug gleiten Mit windgeschwellten Segeln auf den Wogen, Und wachsen zwischen ihm und mir die Weiten.

Look here! Look here! Heave to! Lower the boat! There leeward try for a landing! And calmly moving onward, the boat was Not lowered, the ship did not slow down, It callously knew nothing of my need. And I saw the ship calmly sail away With wind-swollen sails over the waves,

The first mate’s whistle it was, wind borne, Which I drank up with greedy thirst. How much will you, of which I so long Have been deprived, O blissful sound Of human speech, move my old heart! They must have seen me, seen the island, They’re adjusting the sails, they’re about To change their course. – God! in whom I trust! Southward – ? Of course, they must sail Around the reef, stay far from the breakers. O sail surely, ship of hope! Now would be the moment! O my fearful presentiment!

And the distance between us grow. (Werke 468–476)

Another strong ingredient in Chamisso’s poetry is humor. Besides the comic irony exhibited in some of the poems already discussed, there is also simple joy in telling a funny tale and in the portrayal of amusing characters. Many of these have to do with women and their relations with men and will be discussed in the next chapter. But at least one comic poem should be sampled here – “Hans Jürgen und sein Kind” (Hans Jürgen and his child; October 1830) – both because it is a delightful tale and because it has a particular connection to Frauenliebe. Jürgen is a

Chamisso: life and works


drunkard, and the poem opens with an exhortation and a threat from his wife: Hans Jürgen, lässt du das Trinken nicht sein, Und lässt nicht vom leidigen Branntewein, Du wirst zur Verzweiflung mich bringen; Im Weiher dort ist’s bald geschehen, Da witst du dein Kind mich ertränken sehn, Mich selbst hinunter springen.

Hans Jürgen, if you don’t stop drinking, And don’t leave that tiresome brandy alone, You will drive me to despair; If you don’t stop, there in the pond You’ll see me drown your child, And jump in myself.

Jürgen protests that his drinking is not his fault, but that of the golden lion, whose fixed stare from the sign above the inn’s door drew him in to taste its brew. But tonight, he promises, he will resist and will come home with a “dry throat.” Of course he gives in again to the lure of drink, and at his homecoming his wife gives him a once-over, grabs the child from the cradle, and runs out the door. This sobers Jürgen up enough for him to realize she’s making good on her threat, and he chases her to the pond. Before he arrives he hears a splash, and he finds his wife standing by the pond with empty arms: Er schreit es und springt in das Wasser hinein, – Das Wasser, das mochte so tief nicht sein, Die Beute leicht zu halten. Er trägt das Wickelkind im Arm, Und drückt’s an die Brust so innig und warm, Und steigt aus dem Bade, dem kalten.

He dashed and sprang into the water, –

“An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust, Du meine Wonne, du meine Lust!” Doch musst du mich nicht so kratzen. Ein gutes, schönes Kind, allein Es kratzet doch ganz ungemein; Was hast du den für Tatzen?

“Upon my heart, upon my breast, You my bliss, you my joy!” But you mustn’t scratch me so. Just a good, pleasant child, Yet it scratches an immense amount; What have you got for paws?

Und wie er’s näher untersucht, Erkennt er den schwarzen Kater und flucht, Den Kater, ihm zum Possen. – Ach Frau, ach Frau, wo bist den du? – Die sitzt zu Hause, die Tür ist zu, Die Türe bleibt verschlossen.

And when he looked more closely, He recognized the black tomcat and cursed, A prank with the tomcat. – Ah wife, ah wife, where are you then? – She’s sitting at home, the door is closed, The door stays locked.

The water, it can’t be very deep, The bundle was easy to get hold of. He carried the swaddled babe in his arms, And pressed it on his chest cozy and warm, And stepped out of the cold water.


The poetry

Ach Frau, das ist ein frostiger Spass; Es ist so kalt, ich bin so nass. – Die Türe bleibt verschlossen; Und wie er pocht und flucht und lärmt, Und fleht und winselt und sich härmt, Die Türe bleibt verschlossen. Die Nachbarsleute, die Gäste zu Hauf Vom goldenen Löwen passten wohl auf, Das kann leicht einer sich denken; Die haben wacker ihn ausgelacht, Und haben ein Lied auf ihn gemacht, Und singen’s in allen Schenken. Hans Jürgen, rette, rette dein Kind! Zum Weiher, zum Weiher! geschwind, geschwind! Doch lasse dich ja nicht kratzen. Und schmeckt, Hans Jürgen, der Branntewein, Komm her zu dem goldenen Löwen herein, Wir singen ein Lied dir zum Platzen.

Ah wife, this is a cold joke; It’s so cold, and I’m so wet. – The door stays locked; And while he knocks and curses and howls, And begs and whimpers and grieves, The door stays locked. The neighboring folk, the guests at the Inn Of the Golden Lion pay him heed, As one can easily imagine; They boldly laughed at him, And made up a song about him, And they sing it in all the taverns. Hans Jürgen, rescue, rescue your child, To the pond, to the pond, be quick, be quick! But don’t let him scratch you. And if, Hans Jürgen, it’s brandy you’d like, Come on over to the Golden Lion, We’re singing your song till we burst. (Werke 260)

The intrinsic humor of the story, wonderfully told by Chamisso, is only heightened by the pointed, tongue-in-cheek quotation from the seventh poem from Frauenliebe, which he had penned earlier that same year. Chamisso only occasionally published poems he had written since his return from the world voyage; this smattering of verse appeared in periodicals, but the bulk remained in his diaries. Then to the second edition of Schlemihl (1827), Chamisso appended a selection of his poetry written during the last decade, including some of the poems discussed in the preceding pages. Chamisso did not expect any particular reaction, but the public reception was enthusiastic. The broad variety of subjects and the novelty of much of his verse had strong appeal. What Goethe wrote of the French poet Béranger could be said with equal validity of Chamisso: His songs have made millions happy year in year out; they speak pitch-perfectly also to the working classes, while rising so far above the level of the ordinary that people

Chamisso: life and works

in the company of these charming spirits become accustomed to and compelled into thinking of themselves as nobler and better.44

Heine, in his essay on the “romantic school,” wrote the following warm remarks about Chamisso, whom he wanted to mention even though the poet’s work was a bit off-topic: Actually I may not speak here of Adelbert von Chamisso; although a contemporary of the romantic school, in which movement he took part, the heart of this man has recently so rejuvenated itself that he has modulated to entirely new keys, made himself to rank as one of the most original and significant modern poets, and belongs far more to the young Germany than to the old one.45

In a letter to his friend de la Foye, Chamisso himself wrote, “What one wishes for in one’s youth, one has one’s fill of in maturity; I almost believe I am a German poet.”46 The July revolution in Paris in 1830 awakened the patriotic and democratic feelings of much of the rest of Europe. In Germany the newspapers were full of stories; the populace was very excited by the demonstration of revolutionary politics. Chamisso immediately penned “Memento,”47 a poem in terza rima depicting the deposed king, Charles X, as an at first





“Seine Lieder haben jahraus jahrein Millionen froher Menschen gemacht; sie sind durchaus mundrecht auch für die arbeitende Klasse, während sie sich über das Niveau des Gewöhnlichen so sehr erheben, dass das Volk im Umgange mit diesen anmutigen Geistern gewöhnt und genötigt wird, selbst edler und besser zu denken.” As quoted in Feudel, Chamisso, 136. Heine’s observation continues about Chamisso’s earlier poetry: “Yet in the songs of his earlier periods there wafts the same breath that blew our way from Uhland’s poetry; the same sound, the same color, the same fragrance, the same melancholy, the same tears . . . Chamisso’s tears are perhaps more touching, for, like a spring that leaps out of a rockface, they break out of a far stronger heart.” (“Von Adelbert von Chamisso darf ich hier eigentlich nicht reden; obgleich Zeitgenosse der romantischen Schule, an deren Bewegungen er teilnahm, hat doch das herz dieses Mannes sich in der letzten Zeit so wunderbar verjüngt, dass er in ganz neue Tonarten überging, sich als einen der eigentümlichsten und bedeutendsten modernen Dichter geltend machte und weit mehr dem jungen also dem alten Deutschland angehört. Aber in den Liedern seiner früheren Periode weht derselbe Odem, der uns auch aus den Uhlandschen Gedichten entgegenströmt; derselbe Klang, dieselbe Farbe, derselbe Duft, dieselbe Wehmut, dieselbe Träne . . . Chamissos Tränen sind vielleicht rührender, weil sie, gleich einem Quell, der aus einem Felsen springt, aus einem stärkerem Herzen hervorbrechen.”) Heinrich Heine, Die Romantische Schule. Späte Lyrik, Munich: Goldmann Gelbe Taschenbücher 961 (1964), 127. Heine’s extended tract originated as a series of essays on German literature written in French for French readers and published as a periodical in 1832–1833; he later revised it and translated it into German and published it in Germany in 1835. “Was man sich in der Jugend wünscht, hat man im Alter die Fülle; ich glaube fast, ich sei ein Dichter Deutschlands.” Feudel, Chamisso, 130. Werke 376.



The poetry

unrecognized old man in dirty purple robes fleeing his country, hearing behind him the “trunkenen Freudenruf” (drunken cry of joy) of his former subjects crying, “Zerriss er den Vertrag doch selbst, da galt / Es nur das Fest der Freiheit zu erneuen” (“Since he violated the contract himself, now we must renew the celebration of freedom”). The short poem ends with the warning, “Ihr Mächtigen der Erde! schaut und lernt!” (“You mighty of the world! Behold and learn!”). Other poets began to pen politically leavened verse, following the example of Chamisso. To be sure, many of the Young Germans were much more explicit and revolutionary than Chamisso, but biographer Werner Feudel contends that Chamisso was the lone voice of criticism in the 1820s. By the 1830s, in comparison with other poets, Chamisso had become more conservative, but still held to his belief that conditions in Germany would improve gradually with time. He believed the Volk would bring about change, not the agitating Republikaner. He continued to admonish those in power to recognize ordinary people’s rights and to treat them fairly, as he does in “Das Riesen-Spielzeug” (1831). A giant’s young daughter, while out playing, has come upon a farmer plowing his field, and grabbing him up with delight, she takes him home in a sack as a new plaything. Here are the concluding stanzas of the poem: Der Alter sass am Tische und trank den kühlen Wein, Er schaut sie an behaglich, er fragt das Töchterlein: “Was Zappeliches bringst du in deinem Tuch herbei? Du hüpfest ja vor Freuden; lass sehen, was es sei.”

The old one [giant] sat at table and drank a nice cool wine, He looked at her contented, and asked, “O daughter mine, What’s the wriggling thing you’ve brought in your handkerchief? You’re leaping about with joy; let me see what you have.”

Sie spreitet aus das Tüchlein und fängt behutsam an, Den Bauer aufzustellen, den Plug und das Gespann; Wie alles auf dem Tische sie zierlich aufgebaut, So klatscht sie in die Hände und springt und jubelt laut.

She spread the little hanky and cautiously began To set the farmer out, and with him his plow and team; And when she’d finished placing them prettily about, She clapped her hands together and leapt and gave a shout.

Der Alte wird gar ernsthaft und wiegt sein Haupt und spricht:

The old one turned serious and shook his head and spoke:

Chamisso: life and works


“Was hast du angerichtet? Das ist kein Spielzeug nicht; Wo du es hergenommen, da trag es wieder hin, Der Bauer ist kein Spielzeug, was kommt dir in den Sinn?

“Whatever have you got there? That certainly is no toy; Wherever you picked it up, go place it there again, The farmer is not a toy, whatever were you thinking?

Sollst gleich und ohne Murren erfüllen mein Gebot; Denn, wäre nicht der Bauer, so hättest du kein Brot; Es spriesst der Stamm der Riesen aus Bauernmark hervor, Der Bauer ist kein Spielzeug, da sei uns Gott davor!”

Do as I say this minute with no grumbling;

Burg Niedeck ist im Elsass der Sage wohlbekannt, Die Höhe, wo vor Zeitem die Burg der Riesen stand, Sie selbst ist nun verfallen, die Stätte wüst und leer, Und fragst du nach den Riesen, du findest sie nicht mehr.

Mount Niedeck is in Alsace, its legend is well known, On its heights long ago the giants’ castle stood, Now it stands in ruins, the place is empty and bare, And if you seek the giants, you’ll find them no more there.

For without the farmer, you’d have no bread to eat; The race of giants descends from farmer stock, The farmer is not a toy, God forbid!”

(Werke 335)

The freedom struggle in Poland against Czarist domination, about which Uhland, Lenau, Platen, and others wrote, did not elicit any poetry from Chamisso. In a perhaps signally revealing letter to the publisher Georg Reimer in June 1831, Chamisso said of his silence about things Polish: “As for me, though full of wonder and hardly drawing a breath as I follow the events, I feel no call to speak, and no single, well-defined poetic image has yet surfaced out of this heaving sea.”48 What one may infer from this remark is that Chamisso did not write poetry for purely political reasons, though if an arresting event or person engaged his poetic imagination and was at the same time susceptible of a social or political interpretation, he would gladly offer one. This inference receives support from a remark he made a year later in describing how he envisioned the poetic almanac he was to co-edit: 48

“Was mich betrifft, voller Bewunderung und kaum aufatmend den Ereignissen folgend, fühle ich mich doch ohne Beruf zu reden, und kein einzelnes, abgegrenztes poetisches Bild ist noch für mich aus diesem wogenden Meere hervorgetaucht.” Feudel, Chamisso, 151.


The poetry

“I think and hope that the time with its earnest, political meaning will be reflected in this little book and that public opinion will give vent to itself in song. It has certainly rung out in my own poems enough, unconsciously and unsought” (italics mine).49 It was during these years (1829–1831) that Chamisso wrote a number of poems about middle-class domestic life, including Frauenliebe und Leben. These will be discussed in detail in the next chapter. In 1831 (the year of Chamisso’s fiftieth birthday), the Leipzig publisher Weidmann brought out a collected edition of his poetry. Its success was so great that the next year the poet wrote, “People sing my songs, they are sung in the salons, composers scramble for them, children recite them in school, my portrait appears after Goethe, Tieck and Schlegel as the fourth in the row of contemporary German poets . . . ”50 Many poets praised him, among them Ferdinand Freiligrath, who credited Chamisso with inspiring his own work, and Heinrich Heine (quoted earlier). A group of admiring younger poets assembled around Chamisso in Berlin. The young Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen counted his meeting with Chamisso the highlight of his trip to Germany. Chamisso had published poems in the Musenalmanach (Leipzig, Weidmann, 1830–1832) edited by Amadeus Wendt, including Frauenliebe und Leben, and now he and the Stuttgart poet Gustav Schwab were asked to serve as co-editors, replacing Wendt (who left for a university post in Göttingen). The new editors renamed the annual lyrical anthology the Deutscher Musenalmanach, and Chamisso jointly oversaw its publication until his death (1832–1838, for the seven annual issues 1833–1839). The high-minded, purely lyrical Almanache of the turn of the century – such as those that Chamisso and Varnhagen had emulated in their Grüner Musenalmanach – had been largely crowded out by the more lowbrow Damentaschenbücher and Damen-Kalender that mixed unpretentious verse and prose, theater and concert reviews, fashion news, and so forth. Under Chamisso’s and Schwab’s direction, the Deutscher Musenalmanach renewed the older tradition and was of great significance for the German poetry of the 1830s. 49


“Ich denke und hoffe, dass auch in diesem Büchlein die Zeit in ihrem ernsten politischen Sinne sich abspiegeln und die öffentliche Meinung sich auch im Liede Luft machen werde. Ist sie doch in meinen eigenen Gedichten, unbewusst und ungesucht oft genug erschallt.” Ibid., 162. “Das Volk singt meine Lieder, man singt sie in den Salons, die Komponisten reissen sich danach, die Jungen deklamieren sie in den Schulen, mein Porträt erscheint nach Goethe, Tieck und Schlegel al das vierte in der Reihe der gleichzeitigen deutschen Dichter. . .” Ibid., 160.

Chamisso: life and works

Frustrated by censorship in his desire to make the Musenalmanach a completely open forum of opinion, Chamisso still managed to publish much distinguished work. In his prefacing poem in their first volume, “Zur Einleitung” (As an Introduction; [Werke 490]), Chamisso invites both older and younger poets to contribute: “Herein! du Meister mit der Lorbeer-Krone; / Du Jünger, der noch ringt nach gleichem Lohne” (“Come in, you master with the laurel crown; / You youth, who still struggle for that same reward”). Among the “masters” published in the Musenalmanach were Goethe, Eichendorff, Platen, Rückert, Lenau, in addition to contributions by Chamisso and Schwab. Some fine younger poets also were introduced in its pages (e.g. Eduard Mörike, Ferdinand Freiligrath, and Emanuel Geibel). Among the younger, less well-known poets were at least two women, acquaintances of Chamisso’s: “Diotima” (Sophie Borries), and Rosa Maria [Varnhagen], the sister of Chamisso’s old friend Karl August Varnhagen von Ense; she and Chamisso enjoyed a friendly correspondence.51 There were not many Dichterinnen (women poets) at the time; and the foremost among them, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797–1848), had more or less eschewed publication in literary periodicals.52 Though the co-editors’ collaboration began well, Schwab’s more conservative poetic taste led to some tension and disagreement. To take the most famous example, Chamisso solicited work from Heine, to whom Schwab strenuously objected. Chamisso confessed that he was “ein anderer Mensch” (“a different man”) from Heine, but protested that despite personal preferences Heine was still a poet (“to his fingertips”) and as such ought to be included.53 He even proposed a portrait of Heine for the title page, and the publisher Georg Reimer obtained Heine’s permission. This led to the withdrawal of Schwab from the enterprise for a year. Over the complete run of the Musenalmanach (including the issues edited by Wendt) over three hundred pages were filled with Chamisso’s poetry, more than 8 per cent of the some 3500 pages of ten issues. About half of the epic terza rima poems and ballads from this period were published there. In these, Chamisso often tells a story in which characters of a lower class get the better of those from upper classes. Frequently these are tales based on the poet’s own experience or reading, or on a combination of the 51 52


A poem by Rosa Maria will be discussed in Chapter 3. Droste-Hülshoff held a low opinion of Almanache and pocketbooks. See Paul Gerhard Klussmann, “Das literarische Taschenbuch der Biedermeierzeit als Vorschule der Literatur und der bürgerlichen Allgemeinbildung,” in York-Gothart Mix, ed., Almanach- und Taschenbuchkultur des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag (1996), 96ff. Feudel, Chamisso, 166–167.



The poetry

two, as in “Ein Gerichtstag auf Huahine” (“A judgment day on Huahine,” 1832, Werke 410), the story of a trial on an island near Tahiti. Chamisso had read of Western-style law codes being introduced to South Sea islands, and the description of the island and the empathy with the natives reflect Chamisso’s own experiences during his world voyage. Tahiti’s queen visits Huahine and directs that a tall breadfruit tree be felled to make her a new boat. The tree had sheltered and nourished an island family, and the man, Tahute, protests and calls for a trial under the new legal code. The judge has no choice but to summon the queen to judgment. Tahute refuses her haughty and presumptuous attempt to content him with money, but he is satisfied when she admits the wrongness of her thoughtless deed and feels remorse. Another story in terza rima, “Rede des alten Kriegers Bunte-Schlange” (“Speech of the old warrior Colorful Serpent,” Werke 424), takes the side of the Creek Indians against the hypocritical promises of white men. BunteSchlange is described by Chamisso as “ein Nestor seines Volkes” (“a Nestor of his people”), and he speaks about President Andrew Jackson in an ironic tone similar to that Mark Anthony used for Brutus: “Er liebet seine roten Kinder ja” (“Oh yes, he loves his red children”). Despite these instances, the lowly for whom Chamisso felt sympathy were not exclusively from other countries and other cultures. In one of his most famous pieces, “Die alte Waschfrau” (1833), he introduces the urban working class into his poetry: “Die alte Waschfrau” Du siehst geschäftig bei dem Linnen Die Alte dort in weissem Haar, Die rüstigste der Wäscherinnen Im sechsundsiebensigsten Jahr. So hat sie stets mit sauerm Schweiss Ihr Brot in Ehr und Zuchte gegessen, Und ausgefüllt mit treuem Fleiss Den Kreis, den Gott ihr zugemessen.

“The old washerwoman” You see her busy with the linen The old and white-haired woman there, The strongest of the washerwomen At the age of seventy-six. Thus has she always, sweating at her work, Eaten her bread with discipline and honor, And has trod with true industry The path that God set out for her.

Sie hat in ihren jungen Tagen Geliebt, gehofft und sich vermählt; Sie hat des Weibes Los getragen, Die Sorgen haben nicht gefehlt; Sie hat den kranken Mann gepflegt; Sie hat drei Kinder ihm geboren;

In her days of youth long gone She loved, and hoped, and then was wed; And well she bore her wifely lot; Her life was not without its cares, She tended her sick husband’s health; She bore to him three children;

Chamisso: life and works


Der hat’s gewebt zu Leinewand; Die Schere brachte sie, die Nadel, Und nähte sich mit eigner Hand Ihr Sterbehemde sonder Tadel.

And finally laid him in his grave, And never lost her faith and hope ... She managed to save and to plan And bought some flax and stayed up nights To spin the flax to finest thread, And brought the thread to a weaver she knew; He wove it into linen fabric; She used her scissors and her needle, By her own hand she stitched herself A faultless funeral gown to wear.

Ihr Hemd, ihr Sterbehemd, sie schätzt es, Verwahrt’s im Schrein am Ehrenplatz; Es ist ihr Erstes und ihr Letztes, Ihr Kleinod, ihr ersparter Schatz. Sie legt es an, des Herren Wort Am Sonntag früh sich einzuprägen, Dann legt sie’s wohlgefällig fort, Bis sie darin zur Ruh sie legen.

Her dress, her funeral dress, she treasured, She stored it in an honored place, It is her first and is her last, Her jewel, a treasure she has saved. On Sunday morning she puts it on To receive the blessing of God’s word, Then she lays it carefully away, Until in it she’ll be laid in earth.

Und ich, an meinem Abend, wollte, Ich hätte, diesem Weibe gleich, Erfüllt, was ich erfüllen sollte In meinem Grenzen und Bereich. Ich wollt, ich hätte so gewusst Am Kelch des Lebens mich zu laben, Und könnt am Ende gleiche Lust An meinem Sterbehemde haben.

And I, at evening time, could wish That I might, as this woman has, Fulfill what I was meant to do Within my sphere and my own limits; I wish I’d known to live like her Refreshing myself from the goblet of life, That I in the end the same pleasure Might find in my funeral raiment.

Sie hat ihn in das Grab gelegt, Und Glaub und Hoffnung nicht verloren. ... Sie hat gespart und hat gesonnen Und Flachs gekauft und nachts gewacht, Den Flachs zu feinem Garn gesponnen, Das Garn dem Weber hingebracht;

(Werke 186)

According to Feudel, this poem, unlike some of Chamisso’s earlier socially conscious works, does not rail against things, but merely presents an instructive portrait of the quotidian life of a Berlin laundress. She is praiseworthy because she has fulfilled her tasks and perhaps achieved more in her own terms than many of higher classes. And the portrayal is realistic. Chamisso leaves no doubt that he is telling of an actual case: the fortune of his own washerwoman [Mutter Schulz]. His heroine is an accurately drawn social type; she is at her work at the washtub. With this exact picturing of the milieu, this poem [like


The poetry “Der Bettler und sein Hund”] stands at the beginning of poetry about poor people in the 19th century. It contributed toward focusing attention on the social needs of the lowest classes of society.54

What’s more, Chamisso acted on his social conscience. In 1838 he composed a second poem about his old washerwoman and sold the two together, donating the proceeds of 150 Reichtalers to Mutter Schulz.55 In 1834 a second, enlarged edition of his collected poetry was published. The next year Chamisso finished composing the Tagebuch of his world voyage, saw the publication of the third edition of Schlemihl, and was elected a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, having been nominated by none other than Alexander von Humboldt. A third and further enlarged edition of the poetry was published, and the first edition of his collected works in four volumes appeared in 1836. It contained his recently completed Reise um die Welt (Trip Around the World). Together with Otto von Kotzebue’s earlier account of the voyage and Chamisso’s more purely scientific report, which had been published together in 1821, this new narrative meant that the Rurik’s voyage was “one of the most important ethnographic expeditions of the era of scientific exploration.”56 Yet these achievements and honors were those of an aging and ailing man. Chamisso had begun to experience chronic respiratory problems. Bathing cures had not helped, and a tone of resignation crept into his poetry. In line with his interest in the languages of the South Pacific, Chamisso considered taking a recommended warm climate rest cure in Hawaii. But then in May 1837, after suffering a long respiratory illness of her own, Antonie died suddenly of a hemorrhage. Chamisso’s premonition of her death may be reflected in the fevered visions of “Traum und Erwachen” (Werke 583). In a tortured dream the poet imagines himself aboard the Rurik again, but this time on a voyage of unknown destination. He imagines himself in the South Seas, and later he becomes Peter Schlemihl momentarily. He sees his mother, then realizes she is dead. At last his children, gathered in concern around his bed, awaken him from his dream. He counts his children and asks where their mother is. “Mother’s resting,” they answer. “So shall I; I’m weary,” replies Chamisso. The aging poet still displayed a strong enthusiasm for technological and social progress, in which he never lost faith. In the fall of 1837, Antonie dead only a few months and himself ill, he took a postal coach to Leipzig in order


Ibid., 177.


Ibid., 189.


Liebersohn, The Traveler’s World, 63.

Chamisso: life and works


there to board a train pulled by Germany’s first steam locomotive, the “Saxonia,” on the just-completed section of track from Leipzig to Dresden. Already in “Das Dampfross” (1830; Werke 208), Chamisso had taken a view distinctly different from that of other poets, who saw the railroad as a threat to the romantic beauties of nature. Chamisso used the speeding steam locomotive as the occasion for a proto-science fiction episode: the protagonist in the poem can travel so fast on his “steam horse” that he can outrun the sun and go backward in time. Pausing two generations removed in time, he tells of having seen his mother at the hour of his birth, his grandmother on her wedding day. Now he will visit Napoleon on St. Helena, and then at his coronation, where he will warn him of the future. As he leaves this scene, someone asks him whether it is advisable to invest in Rothschild, but he has disappeared before the question is out of the asker’s mouth. Chamisso had always occupied himself with translation. Some poems of Hans Christian Andersen became known to the German reading public through Chamisso’s efforts (“Märzveilchen,” “Muttertraum,” “Der Soldat,” and “Der Spielmann”). He had already rendered in German a few of Béranger’s songs (e.g. “Die Kartenlegerin,” “Die rote Hanne,” “Der Bettler”), and he continued to translate the popular French poet. These isolated poems appeared individually among his collected poetry, but in 1838 in conjunction with his younger colleague Franz von Gaudy he prepared a collection of Béranger for publication. The poems of Béranger and the preparation of the 1839 Deutscher Musenalmanch were Chamisso’s last major achievements. In June 1838 he wrote the poem that was to be his last, “Mahnung” (“Admonition” Werke 743), a sonnet that once again expresses his acknowledgment of change and faith in ideas to shape the future: “Mahnung” Willst deines Hauses Glanz du aufrecht halten? Lass rosten deiner Väter Schild und Schwert; Die tun es nicht, die geben nicht den Wert, Die Zeit ist abgelaufen, wo sie galten.

“Admonition” Do you want to keep your house’s proper splendor? Then let your father’s coat of arms now rust; It serves no purpose, might as well be dust, No longer do such things engender trust.

Das Neue wird. Das Alte muss veralten. Die Meinung hat im Lichten sich verklärt Und von der rauhen Faustkraft abgekehrt, Das Wort ist’s, der Gedanke, welche walten.

The new is in. The old must pass away. Opinion has benefited from the light, Has turned from raw and arbitrary might, It is reason and ideas that now hold sway.


The poetry

Dort magst du die verfemten Häupter sehen, Männer des Wortes, welche tüchtig waren, Und sehen ihre Sitze ledig stehen.

Heads of state you’ll see turned out, Men of reason who were virtuous Have moved on and ceded to others their place.

Von dir lass die Geschichte Gleiches melden, Tüchtig, wie sie, erwirb und lasse fahren, Und Deutschland rechnet dich zu seinen Helden.

Let history say the same of you, Virtuous, like them, acquire, but then let go, And Germany will rank you among its heroes.

(Werke 743)

In August Chamisso was overcome with fever and shivering and then went into a coma. He came out of it for one day and gave clear instructions about the Musenalmanach. On August 21, 1838, at the age of fifty-seven, Chamisso died. He was buried next to Antonie on August 23 at the cemetery near the Halle Gate (Hallische Tor). Tributes and poetic outpourings were plentiful and sincere. For the rest of the nineteenth century Chamisso’s popularity was secure. As he himself remarked during the last year of his life, in a letter to his old friend de la Foye: I have the favor of the public, and the factions, who tear each other apart in our literature or throw muck at each other, do not fail to take off their hats to me as they pass. – In Germany about 1000 Uhlands and 500 Chamissos are needed every year for birthday, godparent, christening and bridal gifts.57

Chamisso was already mindful of his mortality when, in 1834, he composed two sonnets. They were published with the simple heading “Sonnet” in the Deutscher Musenalmanach in 1836, but they later became know as “Die letzte Sonette” (“The last sonnets”). Here is the first: “Du sangest sonst von Frauen-Lieb und Leben, Mein trauter Freund, mir schöne Lieder vor; An deinen lieben Lippen hing mein Ohr, Ich fühlte mich in Lieb und Lust erbeben.


“Once to me of women’s love and life, My dearest friend, you sang such lovely songs; My ear could not but hang upon your words, I felt myself tremble with love and desire.

“Ich habe die Gunst des Publikums, und die Parteien, die in unserer Literatur einander zerreissen, oder mit Kot bewerfen, ermangeln nicht, den Hut abzuziehen, wenn sie an mir vorübergehen. – Zu Geburtstags-, Paten-, Christ- und Brautgeschenken warden in Deutschland jährlich 1000 Uhland und 500 Chamisso gebraucht.” As quoted in Feudel, Chamisso, 195–196.

Chamisso: life and works

“Du singst nicht mehr; – um deine Lyra weben Die Spinnen, dünkt mich, einen Trauerflor; Sprich, wirst du nie die Lust, die ich verlor, Du süsser Liedermund, mir wiedergeben?”


“You sing no more; – and upon your lyre Spiders, I think, are weaving a mourning band; Tell me, will you never, sweet singer of songs, Revive in me the pleasure that I’ve lost?”

Ich trage selbst – still, still! mein gutes Kind – Geduldig und entbehre sonder Klage; Bin müde jetzt, verklungen ist mein Singen.

I’m bearing up – hush, hush, my good child – Patiently and forgo special complaints; I am weary, my singing has died away.

Ein Sänger war ich, wie die Vögel sind, Die kleinen, die nur zwitschern ihre Tage. – Der Schwan nur. . . – Reden wir von andern Dingen!

I used to be a singer, just like the birds, The little ones that twitter all day long. – But the swan. . . – Let’s talk of other things. (Werke 495)


Chamisso’s poems about women: a literary context for Frauenliebe und Leben

To consider Frauenliebe und Leben1 in isolation – as we usually do – is to distort our notion of Chamisso’s work as a whole and to risk misinterpreting this cycle and ignoring its merits. In order to broaden our view of Chamisso’s Frauenbild or image of women, this chapter will look at his statements about women and at the works in which he depicted women or wrote in their voice, and view these in the light of the preceding biographical sketch. We shall also consider the poetry by women that was published in the Deutscher Musenalmanach during Chamisso’s years as co-editor. And finally we shall examine a set of poems published there a year before he assumed the editorship – the Bilder des weiblichen Lebens (Pictures of Wifely Life) by Amadeus Wendt, the former editor. Whatever readers’ individual appraisals of Frauenliebe may turn out to be, at least they will have a more informed appreciation of the variegated literary gallery Chamisso created and of the context in which he fashioned it.

Chamisso’s women: Antonie It is sometimes suggested that Chamisso modeled the woman in Frauenliebe und Leben on his young wife, Antonie. Descriptions of her by Chamisso and by other observers, as well as the poems Chamisso addressed to her, lend credence to this contention. Friend and biographer Eduard Hitzig, who was Antonie’s foster father, explained that Chamisso had often rocked Antonie on his lap when she was a child and that she had listened attentively to his story-telling and pantomimes. Chamisso recalled those times in “An Antonie” (1821), in which he tells that coming home from his voyage three years earlier, he had found Antonie grown into a young woman:



Chamisso’s cycles Frauenliebe und Leben and Tränen are printed with English translations in Appendix 2.

Chamisso’s poems about women

Wie anders fand ich’s, durft ich wieder nahn. Zur Jungfrau will das Kind sich schon entfalten. Der Bräutigam ist nun ein fremder Mann. Nicht Du, nicht Sie, wie sollt ich mich verhalten? Ich stand von fern und schaute so dich an.


How different I found it when I returned. The child blossoms into a young woman. The groom is now a stranger. Not “Du,” not “Sie,” how should I act? I stood apart and gazed at you. (Werke 704)

Chamisso’s awkwardness about which pronoun to use with Antonie injects a smiling and realistic tone into the picture. He continues: Aus Schimpf wird Ernst, – dich fasst der Ernst des Lebens, Du bist nun wirklich meine holde Braut. Ich bin am festen Ziele schwanken Strebens, Du bist mein Weib, du bist mir angetraut. Ich habe nicht gehofft, gestrebt vergebens Mir blühen Weib und Kind so hold und traut. – Kind, Braut, Weib, Mutter, alles mir im einen, Lass mich an deiner Brust vor Freude weinen.

Jest turns serious, – the seriousness of life lays hold of you, You are now really my lovely bride. I’ve reached a steadying goal after unsteady striving, You are my wife, you are married to me. I have not hoped, not striven in vain; For me wife and child bloom so lovely and dear. – Child, bride, wife, mother, all in one to me, Let me cry for joy on your breast.

On May 7, 1819, Chamisso wrote to Varnhagen, describing his fiancée as the “prettiest and loveliest” of the young girls among Hitzig’s foster children. “Now I’m taking her home. I have chosen with reason and seized with my heart . . . She is young, blossoming and strong, pretty and innocent, pure and unselfconscious, clear, cloudless and happy, calm, reasonable and joyful, and so loveable!”2 Hitzig cites verses in Chamisso’s poetic journal as evidence of how Antonie was regarded. There the poet Ludwig Uhland wrote an unrhymed octave in praise of Antonie’s beauty.3 And directly thereafter, Chamisso penned “Was soll ich sagen?”4 He also recorded a twenty-eight-line poem headed “Adelbert an seine Braut” (1819), which includes the following, telling lines:



“Nun hole ich sie heim. – Ich habe mit dem Verstande gewählt und mit dem Herzen erfasst . . . Sie ist jung, blühend und stark, schön und fromm, rein und bewusstlos, klar, wolkenlos und heiter, ruhig, verständig und froh, und so liebevoll!” Hitzig, Leben und Briefe, vol. VI, 83. Ibid., 86. 4 See above, Chapter 2, p. 42.


The poetry

O du mein frommes, gutes Kind, Mein guter Engel, hold und lind, Mir ward durch dich das Heil verliehn, O lasse mich zu deinen Füssen In meiner Demut nieder knien Und beten und in Tränen fliessen: Du hast, O Herr, in ihrem Blick Eröffnet mir den Himmel dein.

O you, my good, gentle child, My good angel, lovely and gentle, Through you healing was granted to me, O at your feet let me Kneel in humility And pray with flowing tears: You, O Lord, in her glance Have opened heaven to me. (Werke 697)

One might suspect from Chamisso’s adulatory remarks in these lines that the Frauenliebe poems reflect his own feelings toward Antonie as much as his idea of her feelings for him. If the sentiments thus far seem disembodied in their lack of physical desire, consider the yearning Chamisso attributes to himself through Antonie’s inferences in “Die Braut spricht” (“The bride speaks,” 1819). Note that in this poem Chamisso speaks as though in Antonie’s voice: Nicht verhehlen kann ich’s und nicht sagen, Wie in meinem Herzen ich dich liebe, Ja du weisst es. Wirst auch meiner schonen, Wenn ein wundersam und kindisch Bangen Mich ergreift, so wie der Tag heranrückt, Den herbei du ungeduldig rufest. Will ich sonst doch alles, was du wünschest. Sieh! es fehlt so gar nichts meinem Glücke, Wenn ich dich in meinen Armen halte. Aber dir, mein Trauter, nicht genügt es. Weiss ich gleich, was mehr noch du begehrest Nicht zu ahnden, macht es mich erzittern.

I am unable either to hide or to tell you How I love you in my heart, You know that. You will indulge me If a wondrous and childish uneasiness Seizes me, as the day approaches That you impatiently summon. I will do everything else you wish. See! nothing is wanting from my happiness If I hold you in my arms. But for you, beloved, it is not enough. I know, too, not to suspect what else you desire, It makes me tremble. (Werke 698)

This self-same impatience on the part of the groom and apprehension on the part of the bride, even with some of the same language, will return in the fifth poem of Frauenliebe. If in his late thirties Chamisso’s passion (or his expression of it) was subdued, a set of sonnets that Chamisso wrote for Cérès Duvernay, in 1804 when he was twenty-three, portray the younger poet’s strong physical desire. The poems are headed “Sie” and “Er.” In the octave of the first the woman expresses her uncertainty and anxiety about giving herself up to the

Chamisso’s poems about women


“flames of love,” but in the sestet her longing increases, and giving in she anticipates the relief of her “hot concern” (“heissen Kummer”). In the next sonnet, there is no mistaking the man’s intentions in the imagery of the sestet: Die Kraft der Liebe walte unbestritten, In Flammenfluten tauch, und neugeboren Entschwinge stark dich zu der blauen Klarheit. Die Afterwelt entsinkt den Flammentritten, Wir fanden uns, die wollend sich verloren, Dem Doppeltod erstand das Uns zur Wahrheit.

Let the power of love reign unequalled, Plunge into the flood of flames, and newborn Swing yourself strongly up to the blue clarity. The world sinks at the flames’ approach, We found each other, having wanted to lose ourselves; From double death the “We” arises to truth. (Werke 544–545)

Death as a metaphor for the fulfillment of sexual passion will also emerge in Frauenliebe 3. However true it may be that the Frauenliebe poems were inspired by Chamisso’s relation with Antonie, they also embody many stereotyped, contemporary notions of womanhood. Ruth Solie’s reading5 contends that Chamisso does little more than dramatize the male sexist cant of his day. Feudel and others point to Schiller’s poems “Die Ideale” (“The ideal ones”) and “Würde der Frauen” (“The dignity of women”), both from 1796, as early embodiments of these ideas and attitudes. In “Die Ideale” we find a worshipful, idealizing image of woman as friend and companion: Du, die du alle Wunden heilest, Der Freundschaft leise zarte Hand, Des Lebens Bürden liebend theilest, Du, die ich frühe sucht’ und fand.6

You, who heal all wounds, Gentle hand of friendship, Who lovingly shares life’s burdens, You, whom I early sought and found.

“Würde der Frauen” compares men and women, a primary instance of the attribution of distinct gender-based characteristics. In alternating stanzas of contrasting structure – dactyls for the feminine, trochees for the masculine – Schiller portrays men as active, strong, relating to the outer world, champions of reason and law, while women are passive, weak, relating to the inner world of self and home, exemplars of feeling and morality. It should be noted that this poem, like the other, is written in praise of women, in whose


Solie, “Whose Life?”


Schiller, Sämtliche Werke, 161–163.


The poetry

protective hands “Ruht, was die Männer mit Leichtsinn verschwenden, / Ruhet der Menschheit geheiligtes Pfand” (“rests what men in thoughtlessness squander, rests the sacred guarantee of humanity”). Yet while some of Chamisso’s portrayals of female characters are informed by these ideas, they are not restricted by them. To such received notions, which were a general part of the societal zeitgeist, Chamisso adds a leavening dose of story-teller’s imagination and realistic observation, often tinged with his social criticism, as we shall see.

Chamisso’s other depictions of women In his tale Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte Chamisso portrays the title character’s total infatuation with the girl Mina. In Chapter IV news of Schlemihl’s wealth has preceded him, and the townsfolk, thinking him to be a noble (or even a royal) person traveling in disguise, send a wagon of musicians and a choir of girls to greet him: vor dem Schlage des Wagens erschien in weissen Kleidern ein Chor Jungfrauen von ausnehmender Schönheit, die aber vor der Einen, wie die Sterne der Nacht der Sonne, verschwanden. Sie trat aus der Mitte der Schwestern hervor; die hohe zarte Bildung kniete verschämt errötend vor mir nieder, und hielt mir auf seidenem Kissen einen aus Lorbeer, Ölzweigen und Rosen geflochtenen Kranz entgegen, indem sie von Majestät, Ehrfurcht und Liebe einige Worte sprach, die ich nicht verstand, aber deren zauberischer Silberklang mein Ohr und Herz berauschte, – es war mir, als wäre schon einmal die himmlische Erscheinung an mir vorüber gewallt. (Werke 32) ([I]n front of the door of the coach there appeared all in white dresses a choir of girls of exceptional beauty, but who paled as stars before the sun compared to one. She stepped out from the midst of her companions; this tall, fair creature knelt embarrassed and blushing before me, and held out to me, on a silk cushion, a wreath woven from laurels, olive branches, and roses, whereupon she uttered a few words about majesty, honor, and love that I did not understand, but whose magical, silvery tone enchanted my ear and heart, – it was as if a heavenly vision opened to me.)

Schlemihl is enchanted with Mina; her radiant beauty eclipses that of the other girls. The beholder’s rapture and the image of light are not unlike those in “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” only here the roles are reversed; the male is obsessed with the female. Later that evening Schlemihl – now taken to be a count (Graf Peter) – is guest at a special party in his honor. Mina appears, and Schlemihl is struck speechless by her presence:

Chamisso’s poems about women

Sie folgte sittsam ihren Eltern, und schien nicht zu wissen, dass sie die Schönste sei. Es wurden mir der Herr Fortmeister, seine Frau und seine Tochter vorgestellt. Ich wusste den Alten viel Angenehmes und Verbindliches zu sagen; vor der Tochter stand ich wie ein ausgescholtener Knabe da, und vermochte kein Wort hervor zu lallen. (Werke 34) (She followed her parents demurely and seemed not to know that she was the prettiest. They were introduced to me as Mr. Fortmeister and his wife and daughter. I knew to say something polite and engaging to the parents; before the daughter I stood like a scolded schoolboy, and was not able to utter a word.)

In an aside to Chamisso, to whom Schlemihl is ostensibly narrating his own story, Mina is described in the following terms: O mein guter Chamisso . . . Mina war wirklich ein liebewertes, gutes, frommes Kind. Ich hatte ihre ganze Phantasie an mich gefesselt, sie wusste in ihrer Demut nicht, womit sie wert gewesen, dass ich nur nach ihr geblickt; und sie vergalt Liebe um Liebe mit der vollen jugendlichen Kraft eines unschuldigen Herzens. Sie liebte wie ein Weib, ganz hin sich opferned; selbstvergessen, hingegegeben den nur meinend, der ihr Leben war, unbekümmert, solle sie selbst zu Grunde gehen, das heisst, sie liebte wirklich. (Werke 36) (O my good Chamisso . . . Mina was truly a lovable, good, devoted child. I had chained myself to my thoughts of her; in her modesty she did not know what made her so deserving that I should look only at her; and she returned love for love with the full youthful energy of her innocent heart. She loved as a woman, giving herself wholly; unmindful of herself, given to the man who she felt was her life, unconcerned, even if she suffered; that is, she loved truly.)

Schlemihl, realizing that his love for Mina is hopeless because of his unholy pact with the devil, and griefstricken that he has fallen in love with her, cries to his companion Bendel that he “in tückischer Selbstsucht” (deceitful selfishness) has allowed her to develop a strong affection for him. But before he, in his indecision, can bring himself to break off the relation, she takes the decisive step with a selfless letter of renunciation: Bin ein schwaches, törichtes Mädchen, könnte mir einbilden, dass mein Geliebter, weil ich ihn innig, innig liebe, dem armen Mädchen nicht weh tun möchte. . . .Du hast mich unendlich glücklich gemacht, Du hast mich Dich lieben gelehrt. Zeuch hin! – Weiss doch mein Schicksal, Graf Peter gehört nicht mir, gehört der Welt an. . . .Siehe, wenn ich das denke, zürne ich Dir, dass Du bei einem einfältigen Kinde Deiner hohen Schicksale vergessen kannst. – Zeuch hin, sonst macht der Gedanke mich noch unglücklich, die ich, ach! durch Dich so glücklich, so selig bin. (Werke 37) (I’m a weak, foolish girl. I could imagine that my beloved, because I love him so very sincerely, does not want to hurt me . . . You have made me infinitely happy, you have



The poetry taught me how to love you. Go your way! – but know my fate. Count Peter does not belong to me, he belongs to the world . . . Listen, when I realize that, I scold you that you could forget your high calling for a simple child. Go your way, or otherwise these thoughts will make me unhappy, since I have been, ah! so happy, so blessed with you.)

Mina’s self-abnegation – which is clearly echoed in the sentiments of “Er, der herrlichste von allen” – here carries with it three additional implications. Because she has acted first, by writing the letter to Schlemihl before he has made his planned speech to her, Mina manifests her intuitive power. We may also infer that as a practical matter she wishes Schlemihl to be gone from her life, feeling her love for someone of a higher social rung to be hopeless. And finally, because of her youth, we may also attribute some of her manner to adolescent self-dramatization. Arguably these factors come into play again in the Frauenliebe poems. A considerable number of Chamisso’s poems feature women, either as the subject or as the lyric voice. Chamisso may have devoted a higher proportion of his work to women than any other male poet of the era. Over a century ago in his essay “Die Frau in der Lyrik Chamissos” Hermann Tardel wrote about the special place that women held in the poet’s work. Tardel noted the preeminence of Frauenliebe and its depiction of the “deutsche Frau,” but he wrote, “This interpretation needs to be enlarged, for his portrayal of a woman is not limited by any means to this one type.”7 Chamisso’s numerous poems that feature female characters fall perceptibly into two categories. First, there are stories or character studies in verse. These draw on folk traditions (like “Das Burgfräulein von Windeck”), historical happenings (“Sophia Kondulimo und ihre Kinder”), adaptations of other writers (“Ein Lied von der Weibertreue” after La Fontaine), on current events (“Die Giftmischerin”), and on other sources. Second, there are his portrayals of women from contemporary German middle- and lower-class society. These are the poems that are most relevant to the present discussion. These latter include sentimental narratives like “Die alte Waschfrau”, discussed in the previous chapter, and “Die Mutter und das Kind” (“The mother and her child”; Werke 238), in which a mother whose child has died torments herself with grief all day long and into the night, and at last dies peacefully during a dream in which her child comes to comfort her. But we shall look more closely at the poems with younger women as protagonists. 7

“Diese Auffassung bedarf jedoch einer Ergänzung, denn die Schilderung der Frau ist bei weitem nicht auf diesen einen Typus beschränkt.” Hermann Tardel, “Die Frau in der Lyrik Chamissos,” Janus: Blätter für Literaturfreunde 1 (1903), 492.

Chamisso’s poems about women

Table 3.1 Chamisso’s lyric poems in the voices of middle-class women “Der Frau Baser Kluger Rat” (1827) “Recht Empfindsam” (1828) Frauenliebe und Leben (1829–1830) Tränen (1830) Wer kaufet Liebes-Götter (1830) Lebenslieder und Bilder (1831) “Die Braut” (1831) Die Blinde (1831–1832) “Die Klage der Nonne” (1833) “Die drei Schwestern” (1838)

lyric monologue lyric dialoguea lyric monologue; 9 poems lyric monologue; 7 poems lyric monologuesb lyric dialogue; 22 poemsc lyric monologue lyric monologue; 6 poems lyric monologue (from Chinese) lyric monologuesd

(Werke 216) (Werke 217 ) (Werke 149) (Werke 157) (Werke 730) (Werke 164) (Werke 733) (Werke 160) (Werke 184) (Werke 601)

Notes: a Between father and daughter. b Prospective husbands, the father, the daughters. c “Er” and “Sie” (male and female speakers, from childhood through adulthood). d The three sisters.

Many others of these poems of women (and a few men) are written in the first person as lyric monologues, and, in some cases, as dialogues (see Table 3.1). Marriage is a common theme in many of these poems. It is a desirable state, but hard to achieve, a problem for the young marriageable woman and for her parents alike. One of Chamisso’s more popular comic poems, “Der Frau Baser Kluger Rat” (“Frau Baser’s shrewd advice”; Werke 216), urges marriage for young women at all costs. Teasingly Frau Baser suggests possible husbands for Trude, listing a young man, an old man, a military officer, and finally even a lame or stooped man. For each one she cites drawbacks that Trude will have to reckon with, but adds that Trude, what with the difficulty of catching a man nowadays, had better take what she can get. In “Die drei Schwestern” (“The three sisters”; Werke 601) each sister recounts her sad experience. The groom of the first was killed on their wedding day. The husband of the second went mad and then ran away, and she knows no more of him. But the third sister contends that her plight is the worst: she has never been loved at all. “Die Klage der Nonne” (“The nun’s complaint”, after a Chinese source; Werke 184), like Kerner’s “Stirb, Lieb’ und Freud’” and Fröhlich’s “Die Nonne” (both set by Schumann), is essentially a fantasy of happy marriage and motherhood denied to the woman who has, for whatever unidentified reason, taken religious vows. In funny and serious poems alike, if the father appears, he is usually an unsympathetic male character, the head of the household wanting to jettison burdensome daughters or the overbearing parent insensitive to his



The poetry

daughter’s feelings. In “Wer kaufet Liebes-Götter,”8 three men come to a friend for counsel with their problems. The friend, being an anxious father, sees the solution for each in marriage to one of his daughters. Each refuses this “solution” and parts, cursing the friend. The excited and eager girls hound their father for news of prospective marital matches until he loses his temper with them. A serio-comic drama transpires in “Recht Empfindsam” (“Delicate feelings”; Werke 217). A girl is disgusted by the choice her parents have made for her husband, and the poem is an argument in dialoguing quatrains between father and daughter (the latter in flowing pentameter, the former in shorter, tetrameter lines). The angry, uncomprehending father, looking for someone or something to blame, even lashes out at the books his daughter reads. (It was deemed inappropriate at the time for young women to read much beyond the Bible and cookbooks.) And though we interpret the daughter’s suicidal threats as a histrionic ploy, our sympathy remains with her in the face of her father’s callous exertion of unyielding authority. Here are some excerpts, the first beginning with the daughter’s characterization of the man her father wants her to marry: Tochter Rauher Wirklichkeit nur mag er frönen; Ohne Zartheit, ohne Poesie, Ungebildet, kann er nur mich höhnen, Mich verstehen, nein, das wird er nie!

Daughter A slave to raw reality is he; With no delicacy, no poetry, Uncultured, he can only scorn me. Understand me? No, he never will.

Vater Mutter, die verfluchten Bücher Müssen ihr den Kopf verdrehn. Waren wir denn je gebildet? Konnten wir uns je verstehn? ....

Father Mother, the damnable Books must have turned her head. Were you and I so cultured? Did we ever understand each other? ....

Tochter Lieber will ich in ein Kloster fliehen, Gibts kein Kloster, in mein frühes Grab; Wohl denn! dieser Schmach mich zu entziehen, Stürz ich in die Wellen mich hinab!

Daughter I’d rather flee to a convent, but If there is none, to an early grave. Well then! to withdraw from this disgrace,


I’ll throw myself into the deep!

Werke 730. The title comes from a comic Goethe poem, which makes an implicit analogy between buying and selling birds at the market and finding a mate.

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Vater Hast du endlich ausgeredet? Gut, du bleibest mir heut zu Haus, Hältst dein Maul und nimmst den Bengel, Punktum, und das Lied ist aus.

Father Have you quite finished? Good, you’ll stay home today, Hold your tongue and marry the boor, Period, and that’s the end of it.

Chamisso treats the same subject, but altogether more seriously, in Tränen (Tears; Werke 157–164), a cycle of seven poems. In his collected poetry, Chamisso accorded Tränen a prominent position, placing it third in the Lieder und Lyrisch Epische Gedichte, following Frauenliebe und Leben and another, short lyric (“Küssen will ich, ich will küssen”).9 These seven poems movingly portray the thoughts of a young woman whose widowed father has ordered her to break off her engagement to her beloved in order to marry the man he has chosen for her. The cycle offers a perspective on a decidedly unhappy, arranged marriage, or Vernunftheirat, a situation that was probably not uncommon in this period. Like Frauenliebe, Tränen is in the first person, female voice, as are many of Chamisso’s lyrisch epische Gedichte. The parallels between Tränen and Frauenliebe are instructive. (The complete cycle appears in Appendix 2.) In Tränen 1 (“Was ist’s, o Vater”), the daughter speaks to her father, obedient to but protesting his order to renounce the man she loves and marry the one he has chosen for her. He has broken her heart, and she feels dead inside. Perhaps her father’s tenderer feelings for her will be evoked when she dies and joins her mother in the grave. The fact of the mother’s death, as the loss of a spouse, calls to mind the husband’s death at the end of Frauenliebe. In Tränen the mood is intensified by two deaths, the mother’s in the past and the protagonist’s projection of her own death in the future, setting a decidedly dark tone for the cycle. This dialogue of the protagonist with a character from another generation may also evoke Frauenliebe 9 (“Traum der eignen Tage”) in an ironic way. There the older widow speaks with her granddaughter about a happy past; in Tränen the dialogue is between daughter and father about a bleak future.


This poem, incidentally, is a triolet, the equivalent of an old French rondeau, an example of Chamisso’s cultivation of formal variety (see Matthias Walz, “Frauenliebe und Leben Op. 42. Biedermeierdichtung, Zykluskonstruktion und musikalische Lyrik,” in Gerd Nauhaus, ed., Schumann Studien 15. wissenschaftliche Arbeitstagung zu Fragen der Schumann-Forschung, Zwickau 1992, Cologne: Studio (1996)). This poem constitutes a refreshing pause between two rather serious sets of poems. It is a trifle, something to allow readers to cleanse their palates before plunging into the next course. Such a transitional moment is called for, since we pass from one essentially happy story, albeit tinged with grief, to a starkly sad one.



The poetry

In Tränen 2 (“Ich habe, bevor der morgen”), the protagonist waits through the night for a last meeting with her beloved, but he never comes. The image of the daughter alone in her room awaiting her beloved reminds us of the young woman in Frauenliebe 1(“Seit ich ihn gesehen”) alone in her room thinking of the man with whom she has fallen in love. In Tränen 3 (“Nicht der Tau, und nicht der Regen”), the protagonist, crying and distraught, buries the engagement ring her beloved had given her at her mother’s grave. This is a sadly ironic counterpart to Frauenliebe 4 (“Du Ring an meinem Finger”), for in both of these poems the young woman address her thoughts to her engagement ring. In Tränen 4 (“Denke, denke, mein Geliebter”), the unhappy young woman recalls the free and sincere love she has enjoyed and contrasts it with the materialistic and legalistic bargaining between her father and her future husband over the dowry. Chamisso inserts the telling detail that the dowry her father is giving with his daughter’s hand was her mother’s legacy! The daughter then describes the upcoming wedding ceremony mockingly as “a union not made in heaven.” This “wedding poem” is a yet another ironic counterpart to Frauenliebe, in this case to the joyous no. 5 (“Helft mir, ihr Schwestern”). The young woman’s sorrow now turns to grim bitterness. The cycle reaches its emotional climax in Tränen 5 (“Die, deren Schoss geboren”), in which the protagonist, distinguishing herself both from the gratitude of a happy mother and from the unfulfilled desire of a childless woman,10 utters a desperate and devastating plea to the “Vater aller Welt” that she by choice be made barren. None of the perceived parallels with Frauenliebe is as painful as this one, for in that cycle the woman excitedly tells her husband of her pregnancy (6, “Süsser Freund”) and ecstatically nurses her newborn child, extolling the joys of motherhood (7, “An meinem Herzen”); in Tränen she prays that God will deny her (and her husband) this very experience. As chilling as is her confessed desire for childlessness, equally harsh is its implicit premise – that she knows she must will herself lovelessly in sexual submission to her husband. In Tränen 6 (“Ich hab ihn im Schlafe gesehen gemeint”) the protagonist describes a stark dream in which her beloved appears, pale and upset, and who, in the third, concluding stanza, turns away and leaves her. This bleak Traumbild is worthy of Heine’s dream poems – think of “Ich hab’ im Traum 10

The contemporary reader would perhaps more readily have thought of a woman who has not found a husband or whose child(ren) died in infancy, or of a nun who sacrificed marriage and motherhood, rather than of a woman who is biologically unable to bear children.

Chamisso’s poems about women

geweinet”11 – and arguably betrays his influence. Heine’s celebrated Buch der Lieder had appeared just three years earlier (1827). The poem contrasts with the pleasant dream images in Frauenliebe. In the final poem, Tränen 7 (“Wie so bleich ich geworden bin?”), the protagonist’s despair has turned to a dull, indifferent acceptance of her lot and anticipation of the death that will free her from her marital misery. In response to her husband’s inquiry into her despondency, she tells him not to worry and to cheer up; after all, he has the house, the garden, and the land, which is what he wanted. All she needs is a simple coffin and a grave. The protagonist’s wish for her own death and her portrayal of her husband’s indifference contrasts ironically with the husband’s death and the widow’s grief and sense of loss in Frauenliebe 8 (“Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan”). These correspondences point up the remarkable parallelism of these two cycles, but they also magnify their differences. Frauenliebe portrays a young woman who marries for love, and almost certainly with her family’s approval; Tränen portrays a young woman who is forced to abandon her beloved and enter into an unwanted, arranged marriage. Tränen leaves little doubt where Chamisso’s sympathies lay, strongly suggesting that he was opposed to a Vernunftheirat decided by a father against a daughter’s will. His cycle allows the cruel reality of the situation to come through as the young woman protests and laments her predicament in painfully eloquent verse. Furthermore, if the portrait of manhood in Frauenliebe is flattering to its male author, the one in Tränen is decidedly not. The father is oblivious to or uncaring about his daughter’s feelings, and Chamisso affords us no sympathy with the new suitor. (Interestingly, there is a poem by a female poet about just such a marriage which we shall consider in the next section of this chapter.) Lebenslieder und Bilder (Werke 164–181) is a series of twenty-two poems in the form of first-person monologues alternating between male and female protagonists. The “stories and pictures from life” begin with lyrics spoken by “Der Knabe” (The boy) and “Das Mädchen” (The girl), he playing dragonslayer and she mothering her doll. From that point forward the poems are headed “Er” und “Sie,” and we witness their passage from childhood to school days, to adolescence, love and courtship, engagement, marriage, parenthood, and finally to a confrontation with serious decisions concerning the man’s duty in a fraught political situation. The husband 11

One of the poems that Schumann set in his cycle Dichterliebe, Op. 48, where it appears as song no. 13.



The poetry

decides he must join his fellows and enter the fray (an allusion to the July revolution of 1830), and he is killed. As in Frauenliebe, then, the woman is left a widow in the end, her only consolation being her children and her memories. This cycle is an almost “textbook” depiction of gender-based characteristics, and it is more illustrative than the Frauenliebe poems, since the male is portrayed equally with the female. From their gendered nursery games, the protagonists proceed to similarly distinct activities. The boy watches soldiers and is excited by the idea of warfare. Later the young man, over beer with companions, celebrates the idea of fighting for the sake of freedom. He goes off on a Wanderschaft, in the course of which he meets his childhood sweetheart again, and their lives become entwined. She observes, insinuatingly, the nesting and parenting habits of birds and tends the roses in her garden. After they have met, he must leave, but he contemplates his blossoming love and sings of his love (a clever echo song, poem 11), and she dreams of him and complains of how quiet the valley is without him. He builds a house, with a garden for her, acquires a ring and comes back to propose to her. She demurs, not really believing his intention, anxious that he may only be raising false hopes in her. After all, she protests (poem 14), she is not a suitable wife, for she has no significant dowry: “Lass ab, du täuschest dich, du kennst mich nicht, / Ich habe nichts als Liebe dir zu geben” (Leave off, you fool yourself, you know me not, / I have nothing but love to give you). But he persists and she relents, and they declare their excited love to each other in alternating stanzas of poem 15. In one stanza, he calls her “Mein süsses Eigentum” (my sweet property), and in the following stanza she addresses him as “Mein teuer Herr, mein Gebieter” (my dear lord, my master). In the next two poems the mother rocks and talks to her son (16) and the father holds and whispers to his sleeping daughter (17). The mother predicts to her infant son that one day his mother’s house will be too small for him and he will leave her and “storm” out into life. The father talks of his infant daughter’s beauty and speaks of her marrying one day. Poem 18 begins with this declaration and implied question by the woman: Du liebst mich wohl, ich zweifle nicht daran, Und lebte nicht, wenn mir ein Zweifel bliebe; Doch liebst du mich, du lieber böser Mann, Nicht so, wie ich dich liebe.

You love me well, I have no doubt of that, And could not live if any doubt remained; But you, you dear, wicked man, Do not love me as I love you.

Chamisso’s poems about women


And the man replies (poem 19): Ich werde nicht mit dir, du Süsse, rechten, – Dich lieben, so wie du mich liebest? nein. Aus Rosen lass den Siegerkranz dir flechten, Der Liebe Preis ist dein. Die Lieb umfasst des Weibes volles Leben, Sie ist ihr Kerker und ihr Himmelreich: Die sich in Demut liebend hingegeben, Sie dient und herrscht zugleich.

I shall not dispute you, my dear, – Love you as you love me? No. Let a victory crown be woven for you of roses; The prize for love is yours. Love comprises the woman’s whole life, It is her prison and her heaven: She who has given herself lovingly and in humility Serves and rules at the same time.

Gekehrt nach aussen ist des Mannes Trachten, A man’s aspirations are turned outward, And to shape the future strive his deeds; Und bildend in die Zukunft strebt die Tat; Love must regard him as a foster child, Als Pflegling muss die Liebe den betrachten, Whom she approaches with her Dem segnend sie sich naht. blessing. Up to this point, Lebenslieder und Bilder has seemed a rather old-fashioned, but neutral depiction of youth, love, and marriage. Now ideology seems jarringly to break in. The unequal man–woman relationship and his prescriptive words and preaching tone seem suddenly alien to our modern ears. Without disputing such a justifiable reaction, it seems fair and relevant to point out that the man goes on to say that the “monstrous” and “untamed” bow before her image, a metaphor in keeping with his statement that “she both serves and rules.” Furthermore, the last stanza begins to intimate the political problems that are intruding: “O lasse mich in deinen lieben Armen / Vergessen dieser Zeiten düstern Schein” (“O let me in your loving arms / forget the gloomy cast of these times”). This may help explain the previous stanzas contextually as words to fortify his wife for difficult times that are coming. These lines also humanize the man by revealing that in spite of his societally prescribed and required manliness, he wishes he could forget the problems of the outside world and stay in his beloved’s arms. As revealed earlier, the man does decide he must leave his family to join what he (and Chamisso) perceive as a momentous historical movement: “Ich, Rabe, schrie: die schwangre Zeit will kreissen! – / Nun bebt die Welt bei ihrer Niederkunft” (“I, raven, cry: the pregnant age will give birth! – / Now the world quakes at its downfall”). He asks his son to bring him his weapons, he is saddened by the thought of


The poetry

the battle into which he must go, but is willing to give his life for the important cause. He bids his wife and children goodbye (poem 21). In the final poem, the woman informs the children of their father’s death. Though she instructs her son that he, as inheritor of his father’s name, must be just as brave, she also, in utter realism and with perceptible bitterness, adds: Heb auf das Tuch, du bist sein einzger Sohn, Dem Sohne wird die Wunde dieses Helden, Was Mannestugend sei, und was ihr Lohn, Gar unvergesslich melden.

Lift up the shroud, you are his only son, This hero’s wounds will show his son What manly virtue and its reward are, Unforgettably.

The poem closes with these lines: “Ja, weine, meine Tochter, weine du, / Ich habe keine Tränen” (“Yes, weep, my daughter, weep; I have no tears”). It is a dry-cheeked sorrow like that at the end of Frauenliebe. Chamisso’s gallery of women characters gains considerable variety when we move to those poems for which he drew on external sources. The two most memorable of these portraits may be the grimmest and the funniest, respectively. Chamisso based “Die Giftmischerin” (“The poisoner”; Werke 318 discussed in Chapter 2, pp. 57–59) on a contemporary criminal report of a woman who systematically murdered her parents, her brother, three children, and her first and second husbands. The poem is a monologue in which Chamisso imagines the hair-raising and unrepentant confession of a completely amoral, psychopathic murderer who poisoned her family for the pleasure of killing. The ironically titled “Ein Lied der Weibertreue” (“Song of wifely fidelity”; Werke 280), drawn from La Fontaine, is the tale of a young woman mourning in the burial vault beside the body of her dead husband, an older man who had been captain of the guard. She has pledged to starve herself to death. A young soldier guarding the nearby gallows, where a robber’s body is swinging, seeks some shelter from the wind and enters the vault. He offers to share his food and drink with the widow, at whose beauty he marvels. She at first refuses, but eventually accepts refreshment from him. Taking his leave, he gives the widow a kiss; she blushes. When he returns to his neglected watch, he discovers to his horror that someone has stolen the body off the gallows; he knows that for this he will pay dearly. The widow’s old servant woman suggests substituting the captain’s body for the robber’s to protect the soldier. The widow tacitly agrees, but when the drape is pulled from the body, the soldier recognizes his commander. At this point, the widow drops her passive composure and urges that they make haste. All three carry the body to the gallows, and even knock out a tooth to match the robber’s physiognomy.

Chamisso’s poems about women

So schleifen hinaus ihn all drei Und hängen ihn an den Galgen frei; Und streift nun der Wind die Heide entlang, So geben die Knochen gar guten Klang Zum Lied von der Weibertreue.

So all three drag him out And hang him on the empty gallows; And as the wind now brushes the heath, The rattling bones give a nice rhythm To the song of wifely fidelity.

Though it is never explicitly stated, the innuendo leaves little doubt that the young widow will not lack for a lover, and one who is younger than her late husband. Like nearly every poet of the era, Chamisso must have a Lorelei poem, a story of a bewitching female figure. “Das Burgfräulein von Windeck” (“The maid of Castle Windeck,” after a folktale; Werke 235) is such a ballad. When a knight, hunting in the forest and sweating from the heat, chases a deer into the ruins of castle Windeck, he wistfully thinks of the wine he used to drink in this place. To his surprise a clear-eyed, golden-haired woman appears with a horn of delicious wine and offers it to him. He drinks, whereupon she looks at him sympathetically and suddenly disappears. From that moment on, the knight knows no peace, no rest, no hope; he is unable to die, but is only a thin, pale, ghostly creature, unlike any other. People later say of him that she must have kissed his lips, and so freed him from this life. “Die Weiber von Winsperg” (“The wives of Winsperg,” after Grimm; Werke 734) tells the story of how cunning, resourceful wives saved their husbands’ lives. When their city is besieged, the women obtain the assurance of the aggressor king that they themselves may leave the city unharmed with whatever belongings they can carry. When the gates are opened, out come the women with their husbands on their backs. The besieging king, presumably impressed with the women’s ingenuity, keeps his word. Two poems depict the extremes of motherly devotion. “Der Stein der Mutter” (Werke 414) is based on a report from Alexander von Humboldt’s voyage to equatorial America. The “mother’s stone” is a stone at the mouth of a Brazilian river; it commemorates a woman who tried to drown herself at that spot after her daughter was taken into slavery. “Sophia Kondulimo und ihre Kinder” (“Sophia Kondulimo and her children”; Werke 361) is based on an actual occurrence during the Greek war of liberation. When the Turks besiege the city of Missolunghi, Sophia tells her son he must kill his sister to prevent her from being taken as a slave by the Turks. When the Turks draw near, she urges him on, and he stabs his sister. Sophia and her son run, he is wounded, a Turk is about to dispatch them both when word comes that the international Philhellenic League will buy the slaves the Turks spare. Sophia



The poetry

and her wounded son board the rescue ship and to their great relief and joy find there her daughter, whose wound had not been mortal. These brief accounts give an idea of the breadth of Chamisso’s interest in and portrayal of female characters. The poet was a story-teller at heart, and he was drawn to whatever character, male or female, provided a good tale. His definition of “good” was clearly very catholic, embracing the sentimental, the sensational, the ironic, the tragic, the heroic, and the amusing. Though most of his female protagonists are virtuous women, he is not judgmental about the exceptions; he affords the unrepentant poisoner fifty-four lines. He smiles at the existential choice the captain’s young widow makes for life. He is proud of Sophia Kondulimo’s tough moral choice, but also jubilant at her final consolation. Only in one instance does Chamisso become moralistic about a female character, when he included “Das Mädchen und das Rebhuhn” (“The maiden and the partridge”; Werke 725) in a set of poems he translated from Greek originals: Ein Mädchen, ein schwangres Mädchen Ging aus aufs Feld zu mähn. Sie mähte hin und wieder Und kreisste dann in Wehn.

A maiden, a pregnant maiden Went out to the fields to mow. She mowed down and back And then went into labor.

Gelehnt auf eine Garbe Gebar sie ein goldnes Kind, Sie nahms in ihre Schürze Und gings zu ertränken geschwind.

Leaning on a sheaf She bore a golden child, She took it in her apron And went quickly to drown it.

Ein Rebhuhn kam ihr entgegen, Ein Rebhuhn sprach zu ihr: Du grauses Ungeheuer, Du arges, grausames Tier!

A partridge met her And the partridge spoke to her: You cruel monster, You evil, inhuman animal!

Hab achtzehn Jung’ im Neste, Ernähre sie mit Not – Du hast das goldne Knäblein, Du gibst ihm selber den Tod.

I have eighteen young ones in the nest, I feed them with difficulty – You have one golden little boy, And you yourself deal him death.

Here the utter naturalism of the first two stanzas is so striking that – given Chamisso’s sympathy with the lower classes – one expects a censure of the economic and societal conditions that have brought the maid to her extreme action. The chastening conclusion – and the folksy way it is put into the mouth of a talking animal – is all the more jarring. The poet was, of course, following a model; that he may have lacked sympathy with its

Chamisso’s poems about women

uncharacteristically stern, moral conclusion can perhaps be read in the fact that Chamisso never published this poem. Of three “Neugriechisch” adaptations, only one was included among his published works: “Verratene Liebe.”12

Poems by women in the Musenalmanach Although the foregoing survey gives a much more extensive idea of Chamisso’s Frauenbild than one can glean from the Frauenliebe poems alone, we would do well to consider poems actually written by women of the time. In her article “Frauenliebe und Leben Now and Then,” Kristina Muxfeldt argues that Chamisso may have sought to give voice to women’s private feelings because so few female poets were doing so at the time.13 Muxfeldt cites contemporary evidence that the scarcity of poetry expressing a female point of view in matters of the heart was perceived as a distinct lack. Her argument that Chamisso’s poetry about and in the voice of women was a response to that lacuna seems a reasonable speculation. There is another way that Chamisso responded: by publishing in the Deutscher Musenalmanach poems by female poets. In the years he and Gustav Schwab edited the Musenalmanach, they published nine poems by Rosa Maria Varnhagen and six by Sophie Borries (the latter under the pen name Diotima)14 in the yearbook (see Table 3.2).15 Rosa Maria (1783–1840) was the sister of Chamisso’s friend and fellow author Karl August Varnhagen von Ense, and hence the sister-in-law of Berlin’s celebrated salon hostess Rahel Levin. She and Chamisso were long-time friends and correspondents.16 Sophie Borries (1799–1841) was a poet whose acquaintance Chamisso made

12 13




Set by Schumann, Op. 40, no. 5. Kristina Muxfeldt, “Frauenliebe und Leben Now and Then,” 19th-Century Music 25 (2001), 27–48. “Diotima” (Greek, “honored of god” [Zeus]) was a female philosophical figure in Plato’s Symposium, where she voiced the ideas that have come to be known as “platonic” love. The name was used as a penname also by women poets other than Borries and also by some male writers in reference to women who inspired them, most famously Friedrich Hölderlin’s Diotima (Susette Borkenstein Gontard) in his novel Hyperion. We do not know, of course, whether Chamisso or Schwab actively sought women contributors, or if the poetry of Varnhagen and Borries came their way simply as an accident of friendship. But it is certainly true that female poets were rare. The best-known was Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797–1848), who did not like to publish in Almanache; see Klussmann, “Das literarische Taschenbuch,” 96ff. Feudel, Chamisso, 45, 61. See also Adelbert von Chamisso und Rosa Maria (Mitgetheilt von Rosa Maria), In Der Freihafen 2 (1839), H. 1, 1–28.



The poetry

Table 3.2 Poems by Rosa Maria [Varnhagen] and Diotima [Sophie Borries] in the Deutscher Musenalmanach (DM) during Chamisso’s and Schwab’s editorship.a DM 1833 (179–185) Rosa Maria: “Rückblick,” “Begegnung,” “Wiedersehen” 1 and 2 DM 1834 (368) Rosa Maria: “Wanderlied” DM 1835 (243–45) Diotima: “Der welke Kranz,” “Sehnsucht,” “Das bleiche Antlitz” DM 1836 (288; 304–309) Diotima: “Aussöhnung” Rosa Maria: “Schifferlieder,” “Des Seemanns Braut,” “Der Hafen, Schiffes Ankunft” DM 1837 (220; 223) Diotima: “Das stille Haus” Rosa Maria: “Am Hochzeitsmorgen” DM 1839 (45) Diotima: “Pfingstlied” Notes: a There are yet a few more poems in the DM that may be by a woman. They appear under the initials “F.A.B.”, whose identity has not yet been discovered. According to Ernst Ferdinand Kossmann (Der deutsche Musenalmanach, 1833–39, The Hague: M. Nijhoff [1909], 120 ff.) and judging by the content of the poems, the author is probably a woman. I wish to thank Monika Sproll and Marie-Thérèse Federhofer for bringing these to my attention. These poems, like those of Varnhagen and Borries, merit careful study, because their sentiments and ideas open other windows on women’s thought and point of view. The poems by F. A. B. are found as follows: DM 1836, 183–188, “Ein Lied von der Liebe,” “Sturm und Stille”; DM 1838, 136–140, “Gedichte 1” and “Gedichte 2”; DM 1839, 139–142, “Mondeszauber,” “Distichen.”

in Vorpommern in 1823. Chamisso corresponded with her, too; he wrote to her, for example, in 1837 about the death of his wife Antonie.17 The majority of these poems concern unfulfilled love. Most are reflections by women on having been abandoned by their sweetheart, lover, or fiancé. These poems present male characters as unfaithful, dishonorable, inconsistent, providing a decidedly female viewpoint on the shortcomings of men, something Chamisso’s poems lack. He probably welcomed their perspective into the Musenalmanach.18 17


Lahnstein, Chamisso, 230. One letter to Rosa Maria and two letters to Diotima are included in Hitzig’s Leben und Briefe, vol. VI, 170, 200, 204. Chamisso had on one occasion written of a man turning his back on a woman, and that is in Peter Schlemihl. Schlemihl is sorrowfully aware of his shabby treatment of the young woman who is so selflessly devoted to him. See the discussion above.

Chamisso’s poems about women

Many of their poems tell of the cooling of a man’s love, in spite of the earlier, ardent protestations of his commitment. Rosa Maria’s “Wiedersehen” consists of two poems, both of which address the man. In the first the woman recalls how deeply in love she believed they had been before he went away, but then tells him in no uncertain terms that he cannot rekindle her love. Here are its opening stanzas: Du warst meinen Blicken entschwunden, Die Monde schnell kommen und gehn, Viel stossen der Wellen zum Meere, Seit ich dich nicht wiedersehn.

You vanished from my sight, Many moons have come and gone, Many waves have pounded the sea, Since I last saw you.

Auf einmal stehest du wieder Vor mir mit dem alten Blick, Und rufest die Lieder und Träume Der alten Zeit mir zurück!

And then one day you stand again Before me with your old look, And recall the songs and dreams Of the old times!

The middle stanzas evoke the love she felt for him and then the passing of a year’s time with no word from him. The closing stanzas return to his reappearance in the present: O blicke nicht so mir in’s Auge. Ich hab’ dir nichts Leides gethan, Zurück schau’ in’s eigne Herze, Denn da fing dein Unglück sich an.

Don’t look into my eyes like that. I have done nothing to wrong you, Look into your own heart, That’s where your trouble began.

Nun stehest vergebens du wieder Vor mir mit dem alten Blick, Du bringest die Lieder und Träume Vergangener Zeit nicht zurück!

Now you again stand in vain Before me with your old look, But you cannot bring back the songs And dreams of the past again.

The second poem expands to a dialogue, in which the man expresses surprise and dismay that the woman cannot overlook his long absence and renew her love for him. She answers simply: “Ja Wiedersehen ist nur schön,/ Wenn Zwei sich treu geblieben!” (“Yes, reunion is beautiful only when two have been true to each other!”). In “Wanderlied” Rosa Maria evokes the traditional image of the happy male wanderer: In die Ferne zieht ein Wand’rer Leichten Sinn’s am Wanderstab, Singt ein Wanderlied, dazwischen Pflückt er sich manch Blümchen ab.

Abroad fares the Wanderer With a light heart and his staff, Sings a Wanderlied, and meanwhile Picks himself some flowers.



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There is little room to doubt the sexual connotations of his staff and flowerpicking. And the poem soon reveals that his travels are a thin disguise for being utterly carefree and uncommitted to his girlfriend back home: Aus den Augen, aus dem Sinne, Goldnes Sprüchlein, wohlbekannt! Andrer Städtchen, ander Mädchen, Ist ein’s, das ihm nah verwandt!

Out of sight, out of mind, A good old saying, well known! Other towns, other maidens, Is another, that applies well to him.

Later – in the shade of a linden tree – his thoughts turn to his beloved, whom he had left in tears at his departure. But this memory brings about no change of heart, and the poem ends jarringly with his utter indifference: Ihren Namen, seinen Namen Schreibt er spielend in den Sand, – Dorten wohl zum letztenmale Beide man vereinigt fand. Kalter Wind durchzieht die Lüfte Und verweht die Namen dort, Monde wechseln, Winde wehen Und verwehen manches Wort!

Her name, his name He playfully writes in the sand,─ That’s where for the last time Both were seen together. A cold wind blows through the air And blows away the names there; Moons change, winds blow, And they carry away many a word!

Diotima’s “Der welke Kranz” tells of a young woman’s morning stroll with her beau, when he had picked green leaves from the oak tree and woven them into a garland for her: Und das Symbol der Treue Stellt ich auf meinen Schrein, Als wir gekehret waren Nach Haus im Abendschein.

And that symbol of faithfulness I placed on my bureau, When we had returned To the house in the evening light.

Da steht es – ach, seit Jahren Verwelket und bestaubt; Gleicht so nun seiner Treue: Die stets ich grün geglaubt.

There it remains – ah, for years now Withered and dried; It thus resembles his faithfulness, Which I had believed ever green.

In “Aussöhnung” Diotima offers a philosophical response to the hurt that a woman may experience from her partner: Die Liebe ist ein tiefer Born, Und keiner ermisst ihn je; Und thät er durch Kälte, Spott und Zorn Bis in den Tod uns Weh’.

Love is a deep well, And none can plumb it; And it grieves us with cold, And scorn and anger till death.

Chamisso’s poems about women

Die Lieb’ ist Demuth, Rel’gion, Das ew’gen Lebens Pfand; Du brachst mein Herz – und ich – zum Lohn, Drück’ zärtlich deine Hand.

Love is humility, religion The promise of eternal life; You broke my heart – and I – as reward, Tenderly press your hand.

Wenn du nach Jahren gütig bist, Ich nichts zu klagen hab’; Ich weiss nur dass die Liebe ist, Und ausser ihr das Grab.

If you are kind to me for many years, I have nothing to complain about; I know only that there is love, And besides that, the grave.

This sobering picture of conjugal love, coming from an actual female point of view, offers a strong counterweight to Chamisso’s “Traum der eignen Tage” of the old widow in Frauenliebe und Leben. In the latter poem, the memories of past happiness erase any past unpleasantness. In the case of the woman in his cycle, she had no complaints about her husband, or such complaints were so minor that his death seemed “the first grief” that he had dealt her. But in both cases love outlasts all else. Rosa Maria’s “Am Hochzeitsmorgen” is particularly interesting in this context, for it, like Tränen, deals with a marriage imposed on a reluctant daughter: “Am Hochzeitsmorgen” Mich preisen Alle glücklich Begrüssen froh mich heut’, Die Tanten und Gespielen Erscheinen hocherfreut.

“Wedding day” Everyone counts me lucky, They greet me happily today, My aunt and my playmates Appear overjoyed.

Sie brachten Band und Spitzen Und viel Geschmeide dar, Den Kranz von Grünen Myrten Zu flechten mir in’s Haar.

They’ve brought me ribbon and lace And lots of jewelry, The wreath of green myrtle To braid into my hair.

Sie loben und bewundern Mein weisses Atlaskleid, Und Eine gar, ich glaube, Sieht mich mit stillem Neid.

They laud and admire My white satin gown, And one of them, I think, Eyes me with silent envy.

Man wähnt mich hochbeglücket, Ahnt meine Wehmuth nicht, Bringt mir auf rote Seide Gedruckt ein Festgedicht.

People think me highly fortunate, They don’t suspect my sorrow, They bring me a celebratory poem Printed on red silk.



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Drin lobet man und preiset Den Bräutigam gar sehr, – Die Eltern sind so glücklich, Als wenn auch ich es wär’!

Therein the bridegroom Is highly esteemed and praised, – My parents are so happy, As if I were happy, too!

Sie sehen mich im Kranze Gerührt, mit feuchtem Blick, Still hab’ ich mich ergeben, Still tragend mein Geschick.

They look at me in the group, Moved, with moistened eye, Quietly I have surrendered myself, Quietly I bear my lot.

Doch zweifl’ ich manchmal leise, Als würd’ es jemals gut, Denk’ ich an Ihn, dem heute Gewiss ist weh zu Muth.

Yet sometimes I quietly wonder If things will ever be good, When I think of him, who today Is surely sore of heart.

“Am Hochzeitsmorgen” portrays a bride’s private thoughts at her wedding, presenting an authentic female voice offering a poignant objection to a Vernunftheirat. The lyric monologue begins neutrally, and for three stanzas we take the poem at face value as a placid account of a happy wedding day. We even note the touch of humor in the third strophe when the bride senses that another woman envies her white silk wedding gown. But then the bride’s sadness is unexpectedly revealed in the second line of the fourth strophe, and the irony is amplified in the fifth stanza, when she contrasts everyone else’s pleasure with her sorrow. The cause of her unhappiness is revealed only in the poem’s conclusion, when the bride alludes to the man she has had to forsake. She knows that he suffers on her wedding day as much as she. Like the miserable young woman in Tränen, the protagonist here will bear her lot in quiet submission. Rosa Maria’s and Sophie Borries’s poems furnish evidence that many of the sentiments expressed in Chamisso’s poems in the voice of women are accurate, that the situations that Chamisso writes about were common experiences. They also provide valuable additional insights into women’s feelings about love and marriage.

Amadeus Wendt’s Bilder des weiblichen Lebens Before concluding this survey, we would do well to take note of a set of poems by Amadeus Wendt, both as a likely model for and as a foil to Chamisso’s famous cycle. (It was Wendt from whom Chamisso and Gustav Schwab assumed editorial control of the Musenalmanach in 1831 and

Chamisso’s poems about women

changed its title to the Deutscher Musenalmanach the following year.)19 In the 1830 issue of the Musenalmanach Wendt included his Bilder des weiblichen Lebens (Pictures of a Woman’s Life).20 The title and date of Wendt’s poems suggest their possible influence on Chamisso’s creation of Frauenliebe and the Lebenslieder, and the content confirms a significant degree of correspondence. The excerpts from these mediocre verses provided below illustrate their likely influence on Chamisso.21 (Wendt’s complete cycle appears in Appendix 2c at the end of the book.) The Bilder are a set of seven poems, or sections, with the following individual titles: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

“Geburt” (“Birth”) “Kindheit” (“Childhood”) “Die Jungfrau” (“The maiden”) “Liebeserwachen” (“Love’s awakening”) “Hochzeit” (“Wedding”) “Die Hausfrau” (“The housewife”) “Früher Tod” (“Early death”)

“Birth” describes the baby daughter at her mother’s breast the morning after she was born, and her brothers having their first look, and her father praying for her happy future. “Childhood” depicts the little girl playing with dolls, sitting in her mother’s lap, walking with her mother in the garden, and saying her prayers at bedtime. “The maiden” tells of her confirmation and first communion and of the time approaching when she will devote herself to a young man and leave home. In “Love’s awakening” the young woman speaks of how different everything seems, how new spring is this year, how one person’s glance has transfigured her. “Wedding,” with seventy-four




Wendt was a Leipzig city councillor and a scholar of law and philosophy, but also a trained musician and writer. He penned some poetry and was later an occasional contributor to the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. He is generally cited for his writing in the history of philosophy, but he also translated Stendhal’s biography of Rossini (1824) and wrote a critical book on the state of music in Germany (1836). See the entry “Amadeus Wendt (1783–1836)” in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, vol. XLII, Leipzig (1897), 747–748. Musenalmanach fur das jahr 1830, 274–288. I consulted the complete run of the Musenalmanach at the Houghton Library, Harvard University (Houghton 46543.5.H*), but the periodical is also available in modern facsimile from Weidman: Hildesheim, Zurich (1985), printed and bound as ten volumes in five. Wendt’s cycle is discussed in my article “Amadeus Wendts Bilder des weiblichen Lebens: Ein Vorbild für Chamissos Frauenliebe und Leben?”, in Helmut Loos, ed., Robert Schumann: Persönlichkeit, Werk und Wirkung, Bericht über die Internationale Musikwissenschaftliche Konferenz vom 22. bis 24. April 2010 in Leipzig, Leipzig: Schröder (2011), 90–112.



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lines the longest in the group, is a actually a series of formal greetings to the bride and groom by the guests, the young men and young women, and by the parents. “Housewife” describes the wife’s activities organizing and ordering her household in anticipation of her husband’s return from a long absence; this poem includes worshipful remarks about the woman by her house maids. “Early death” is a farewell to the departed, joined with an expression of faith that her spirit will live eternally. Closer inspection reveals that Wendt’s conception is more nearly a set of formal tableaux than a series of dramatic vignettes. Wendt’s poems are also largely stated in a neutral third person by an omniscient author; only the fourth is spoken by the protagonist herself. While the interjections of the father within no. 1 and of the servants within no. 6 are actual speech, the long greetings in no. 5 are rather ceremonial declarations, and the remainder of the poetry is straightforward narration or description. It would be easy to imagine no. 5, “Hochzeit” as the “Festgedicht” printed on red silk in Rosa Maria’s poem “Am Hochzeitsmorgen.” Wendt’s poetry also seems religious in intent. Already, in “Childhood,” we are told that the little girl: . . . fasst ins Herz den grossen Namen Des, der die Pracht der Sonne schuf, Und winkte, dass die Sterne kamen; Durch alle Welten klingt sein Ruf! Andächtig faltet sie die Hände So wie’s die fromme Mutter tut. . .

. . . holds in her heart the great name Of Him who create the sun’s glory, And nodded to make the stars appear; Through all worlds resounds his Name! Devoutly she folds her hands Just as her pious mother does. . .

In “The maiden” she is reared on scripture and confirmed: Von des Lehrenden Wort, der das Gute mit sorglicher Seele Treu gepflegt und genährt ihr in der fühlenden Brust, Tritt nun die Jungfrau geweiht in der Frommen heil’ge Gemeinde, An den heiligen Tisch, zu dem gesegneten Mahl. . .

From the words of her teacher, who with a caring soul Has truly cultivated and nourished goodness in her sensitive breast, The maiden, dedicated, now steps into the holy congregation of the devout, To the sacred table, to the blessed meal. . .

“Love’s awakening” is tinged with a kind of pantheism: “Mir ist, als sprächen Geisterzungen / In jedem Blatt, in jedem Wehn.” (“It seems to me as though spirit tongues were speaking in every leaf, in every breeze.”) At the end of “Hochzeit,” the parents lovingly pronounce “Und der heil’ge

Chamisso’s poems about women


Altar weihet der Menschheit Bund” (“And the holy altar consecrates the human union”). A mystically expressed belief in the continuity of the spirit of the individual in an all-embracing spirit world is expressed in the last poem, “Early death.” That spirit world is described metaphorically as “a sea of light” from which spirits drink and which is not bound by space or time: Drum zartes Bild, so fahre hin, Dein stets das Herz gedenket, Denn deines Lebens treuer Sinn Wird nicht mit dir versenket.

So tender image, now go your way, Fondly our hearts always remember you, The true meaning of your life Will not be buried with you.

Er waltet fort in Lieb’ und Dank, Und bleibt dem Licht verbündet; Die Fackel, die hinieden sank, Wird droben neu entzündet.

It wanders forth in love and thanksgiving, And remains united with the light; The torch that went out here below Will be relit above.

Just as these poems suggest that religious feeling and piety are among the gender-determined characteristics of women, so more intimations of gender-based characteristics are to be found in Wendt’s poems, particularly in the speeches of the young men and maidens at the wedding: Jünglinge Heil dir, O Jungfrau, du liebliche Rose, Aufgeblüht zu der Menschen Lust, ... Seelengenuss und himmlischen Frieden Bringst du dem Jüngling, von Gott beschieden.

The Young Men Hail to thee, O Maiden, you lovely rose, blossomed for men’s pleasure ... Soul’s pleasure and heavenly peace Sent from God you bring to the young man.

Fernhin schweifte des Jünglings Streben, Drang über Berge, ging übers Meer, Schaute der Menschen bewegliches Leben, Und der Völker lauten Verkehr, Und mit des Wissens Beute beladen, Wandelt er eilend auf schwindelnden Pfaden.

Distant roamed the young man’s striving, He pressed over mountains, went over seas, Beheld the stirring life of mankind, And the boisterous commerce of peoples, And laden with the booty of knowledge Hurrying he wandered on vanishing paths.

Die Jungfrauen Hoch, fürwahr, ist der Jüngling zu loben, Welcher mit rastlostreibender Kraft, Immer gewendet den Blick nach oben,

The Young Women Highly indeed is the young man to be praised, Who with restlessly impelling strength, His glance always directed above,


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Aus sich selbst sein Schicksal erschafft. ... Und in des Lebens wirbelnden Kreisen, In den bewegten Wogen der Welt, Steht er fest in dem Sinne der Weisen, Stets gerüstet ein muthiger Held. Schirmet und schützet der Väter Sitte Waltet und herrscht in des Hauses Mitte.

By himself creates his own destiny. ... And in life’s whirling circles, In the churning waves of the world, He holds fast to the wisdom of the sages, A brave hero always armed. [He] shields and protects the customs of fatherhood, Commands and is lord in the midst of the house.

... Aber die Jungfrau, der Heimath gewogen, Bleibet daheim in der friedlichen Bahn, Und in der Treue Schatten erzogen, Schliesst sie dem Baum sich, dem stützenden, an. Selig walten der Freundschaft Triebe, Aber mächtiger waltet die Liebe.

But the maiden, well disposed toward the home, Remains there in the peaceful path, And raised in the shade of Truth, She clings to that sustaining tree. The blessed power of friendship holds sway, But more mightily rules love.

By comparison with Wendt’s poems, Chamisso’s Frauenliebe und Leben is restrained, economical, even understated, and much more dramatic and attractive. As is apparent from the excerpts above, Wendt’s verse is wordier and more abstract, in vocabulary and form (e.g. “Die Jungfrau,” no. 3, is in unrhymed hexameters). It lacks the concreteness, passion, and humor of both the Lebenslieder and Frauenliebe cycles. The ostensible characters and situations seem merely to be excuses for Wendt’s Poloniuslike pronouncements. Occasionally one hears something in Wendt’s poems – a sentiment, a turn of phrase – that seems to find an echo in Chamisso’s poems. When in “Liebeserwachen,” Wendt’s maiden says “Und wie aus langer Zeiten Ferne/ Erscheint mir meiner Kindheit Tal” (“The valley of my childhood appears to me as though through the distance of many years”), we think of these lines from Frauenliebe 4: “Ich hat ihn ausgeträumet,/ Der Kindheit friedlichen Traum” (“I had dreamed it away, the peaceful dream of childhood”). The rhythm and stanza structure of Frauenliebe 5 seems modeled on the guests’ initial greeting in “Hochzeit”:

Chamisso’s poems about women


Wir bringen dir, Holde, Des Jünglings Erwählte, Am festlichen Tage den festlichen Sang. Frei walte der Jubel, Weit schalle die Freude, Von fröhlichen Tänzen erzittre das Haus!


./../. ./../. ./../../../ ./../. ./../. ./../../../

(We bring you, lovely one, / The man’s chosen one, / A celebratory song on the day of celebration. / Let rejoicing have free sway, / Let joy resound far and wide, / May the house quake with happy dances!)

Chamisso: Helft mir, ihr Schwestern, Freundlich mich schmücken, Dient der Glücklichen heute mir. Windet geschäftig Mir um die Stirne Noch der blühenden Myrte Zier.

/../. /../. /./.././ /../. /../. /./.././

Chamisso has added rhyme and omitted the unstressed foot at the head of each line, but the overall structure is retained. What is more, it turns out that this meter and stanza pattern – six lines in two similar tercets of 2 + 2 + 4 accents per line – is quite uncommon,22 evidence that strengthens the speculation that Chamisso borrowed these elements of his wedding poem from Wendt’s. In the same poems, when we hear Wendt’s “Jungfrauen” say to the bride, Nimm, O Geliebte, am Tage der Wonne Tränenbenetzet das Myrthenreis, Denn umglänzt von der Liebe Sonne Trittst du jetzt aus unserm Kreis

Take, O beloved, on this day of bliss, The myrtle crown moistened with tears, For you, radiant in the sun of love, Now step out of our circle

we cannot help but think of these corresponding lines in Chamisso: Bist, mein Geliebter, Du mir erschienen, Gibst du, Sonne, mir deinen Schein? ... 22

Have you, my beloved, Appeared to me, Do you give me, Sun, your shine? ...

Horst Joachim Frank, in his Handbuch der Deutschen Strophenformen, Munich: Hanser (1980), does not include this form among his six-line stanza and meter forms. Although his compendium is not exhaustive, the fact that this form does not appear in his large handbook certainly suggests that it is rare if not unique.


The poetry

Aber euch, Schwestern, Grüss ich mit Wehmut, Freudig scheidend aus eurer Schar.

But you, my sisters, I greet wistfully, Joyfully leaving your company.

The closing stanza of “Hausfrau”: O dürfte, gerötet die Wange Sie bergen an seiner Brust, Und leise die Lippen verkünden, Welch’ Hoffen ihr einzig bewusst!

O might she, her cheeks reddened, Bury them on his chest, And her lips softly make known, That hope of which she alone is aware!

unfailingly send our minds to the following lines in Frauenliebe 6: Komm und birg dein Antlitz Hier an meiner Brust, Will ins Ohr dir flüstern Alle meine Lust.

Come and bury your face Here on my breast, I’ll whisper in your ear All my delight.

In each a face is buried on the other’s breast, and the wife whispers the news of her pregnancy in her husband’s ear. It is worth noticing that in Wendt’s poem the blushing wife buries her head on her husband’s chest, while Chamisso has the wife tell her husband to bury his head on her breast. All of this internal evidence seems persuasive, but could Chamisso in fact have known Wendt’s poems before he composed his own “Pictures”? Chamisso began the Frauenliebe poems in late 1829 and finished them in early 1830. The Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1830, in which Wendt’s Bilder appeared, was actually published in September 1829, and therefore we may feel confident that Chamisso saw it before he wrote Frauenliebe und Leben. Chamisso was already in communication with Wendt, for he himself had poems in the 1830 Musenalmanach (his five sonnets entitled “An die Apostolischen,” his terza rima narrative “Salas y Gomez,” and two other shorter poems). Given Chamisso’s frequent practice of taking others’ poems as models for imitation or adaptation, using Wendt’s Bilder as the starting point for his cycle would be quite in character. And the derivations seem patent. (For instances of Chamisso poems based on those of others, see Chapter 2.) Whether Chamisso received the primary impetus for Frauenliebe (and parts of the Lebenslieder und Bilder) from Wendt or came upon the idea independently is perhaps ultimately unimportant. The point is that the two poets treated the same material, but in very different ways. Wendt seems determined to project ideas about these milestones in life, while Chamisso

Chamisso’s poems about women

succeeds in portraying a personal experience of them. It is hard to resist the conclusion that Chamisso set out to improve upon Wendt’s cycle. The clearest improvement Chamisso made is the recasting of the situations as first-person monologues, making his cycle a series of lyrisch epische Gedichte – lyric-narrative poems – as he called them. This meant, too, that Chamisso did not begin his poems until the young woman was old enough to speak for herself. He further concentrated this cycle by beginning with first adolescent infatuation. (Even in the Lebenslieder, Chamisso skipped birth and infancy and begins his “story” when the boy and girl can tell of their childhood play in their own voices.) Chamisso’s poems also concentrate the feeling by restricting the story almost entirely to the woman and the man. Though we have a passing awareness of her sisters (in poems 1 and 5), her mother (poem 6), her baby (poem 7), and her granddaughter (poem 9), none of these is prominent, much less brought into a “speaking role.” Chamisso also removed overt religiosity from his cycle. Chamisso had turned his back on his parents’ Roman Catholicism, and though he maintained a generally Christian outlook, he did not belong to any particular, institutionalized sect. If anything, Chamisso makes his young woman’s feelings for the man she loves nearly religious in tone. In Frauenliebe 4 she says, Ich werd ihm dienen, ihm leben, Ihm angehören ganz, Hin selber mich geben und finden Verklärt mich in seinem Glanz.

I shall serve him, live for him, Belong to him wholly, Give myself to him and find Myself transfigured in his radiance.

And in Frauenliebe 5 she continues, “Lass mich in Andacht, / Lass mich in Demut / Mich verneigen dem Herren mein” (“Let me in devotion, / Let me in humility / Bow to my Lord”). Perhaps neither vein of religiosity appeals to us today, but one thing Chamisso achieved was an emphasis on the human rather than the divine; he focuses our attention on the young woman and her personal relationship with the man. Furthermore, Chamisso made the language of his poetry less sententious and more natural. The personality of the young woman comes through, and we sense her growing maturity from poem to poem. Chamisso even added suggestions of erotic thought. In Frauenliebe 3, the young woman says: O lass im Traume mich sterben, Gewieget an seiner Brust, Den seligsten Tod mich schlürfen, In Tränen unendlicher Lust.

O let me die in this dream, Rocked against his chest, Let me taste the most blessed death, In tears of unending pleasure.



The poetry

This can hardly be understood as anything other than an expression of her sexual fantasy. And Frauenliebe 5 alludes to the corresponding yearning on the part of the man: Als ich befriedigt, Freudiges Herzens, Dem Geliebeten im Arme lag, Immer noch rief er, Sehnsucht im Herzen, Ungeduldig den heutgen Tag.

As I, satisfied, And with joyful heart, Lay in my beloved’s arms, He kept on calling, Longing in his heart, Impatiently for today.

Indeed, Chamisso may have come much nearer to the edge of acceptability in these lines; most allusions were much more guarded. Observing the general restraint in passages such as this, Eda Sagarra writes, “The nearest overt reference to such matters is [a] young girl’s expressed desire to submit herself utterly, to merge her identity with that of her future husband.”23 With their third-person voice and earnestness of tone, Wendt’s poems sound prescriptive, while Chamisso’s monologues, with their flashes of psychological realism, humor, and sharp feeling, come across, by comparison, as descriptive – humanity observed and recorded. Wendt’s poems come across perhaps as something akin to that Festgedicht mentioned in Rosa Maria’s “Am Hochzeitsmorgen.” It is hard to resist the conclusion that Chamisso saw different possibilities implicit in Wendt’s cycle, and set out to create a very different cycle based on similar themes.24 It seems to me that Chamisso made use of the following things he found in Wendt’s Bilder: 1 the topic: the Bilder of a woman’s love and life; 2 the idea of a cycle of poems based on a narrative backdrop; 3 a number of particular situations, images, wordings, and even an unusual strophe form; 4 finding the dénouement of the cycle in death and remembrance.

23 24

Sagarra, A Social History of Germany, 414. Of course, one might more generously appraise Wendt’s cycle as throw-away occasional verse, concocted for an actual wedding, hence the prescriptive and ceremonial tone. Chamisso himself wrote a lot of occasional verse. He penned a poem, for example, for his wedding to Antonie that is addressed to her foster parents, whose own wedding had occurred on the same day twenty-eight years earlier (Werke 699). There is little to this poem, which consists of two octaves, one spoken by Antonie and one by Adelbert, other than conventional sentiments.

Chamisso’s poems about women


It may even be that Wendt’s poems were the instigation not for Frauenliebe alone, but also for the very idea of a cycle of poems, because all of Chamisso’s cycles follow his encounter with the Bilder des weiblichen Lebens. Though Wendt’s Bilder may have given Chamisso the initial idea for Frauenliebe und Leben, Chamisso greatly altered his model. By putting all the poems in the first-person lyric voice, by crafting a more detailed narrative line and more psychologically perceptive characterization, and by writing much more attractive and expressive verse free of sententious language and conventional sentiment, Chamisso created in his lyrisch epische Gedichte what Hermann Tardel called “Novels in verse, poetically transfigured depictions of the ordinary human lot.”25 About a year later Chamisso penned “Die Braut” (The Bride, 1831; Werke 733), in which father, mother, and sisters are all equally addressed. It is worth quoting here if only to note the resemblances to parts of Frauenliebe: Wie wohlgefällig hat auf mir Des teuren Vaters Auge geruht! Wie sprach der stummer Blick doch schier: Bist meine Lust, ich bin dir gut.

How kindly on me My father’s eye dwelt! Yet how clearly his mute glance spoke: You are my joy, I’ll always care for you.

Wie hat die Mutter früh und spät Für mich bemühet so liebereich! Und was sie geschäftig doch alles tat, Wie war ihr Segen auf mir zugleich.

How my mother early and late So lovingly fussed over me! And though she was always busy, She gave me her blessing at the same time.

Wie sehen die lieben Schwestern mich So trauernd scheiden aus ihrer Zahl, Die, feuchten Auges, heute für dich Mich noch geschmückt zum letzten Mal!

How my dear sisters look at me As I sadly take leave of their company, They who, with moist eye, today for you Adorned me once again for the last time!

Wie glücklich war ich im Mutterhaus! Wie haben alle mich doch geliebt! Und dir, Geliebte, folge ich hinaus, Dich hab ich mehr als alle geliebt.

How happy was I in my mother’s house! And how all have loved me so! And you, beloved, I follow from now on, You more than anyone else have I loved.

Ich werde, Geliebter, dir untertan Und werde dir dienen in treuer Pflicht. Was ich verlassen, was ich getan Für dich, du Guter, vergiss es nicht.

I shall, beloved, subject myself to you And shall serve you in true dutifulness. What I have left behind, what I have done For you, you good man, do not forget.


“Romane in Versen, poetisch verklärte Schilderungen gewöhnlicher Menschenschicksale.” Tardel, “Die Frau in der Lyrik Chamissos,” 493.


The poetry

It is true, of course, that the underlying assumption of both Tränen and Frauenliebe, regardless of their distinct content, is that marriage and childbearing are the conventional and accepted goals of a woman’s life. And with the socio-economic conditions of the era, marriage was indeed the primary option for most young middle-class women. For Chamisso to write about this may be seen as prescriptive, but it can just as easily be understood as descriptive. As Tränen sympathetically presents the cruel side of domestic reality, Frauenliebe poems give voice to the exultation in happy courtship and marriage that many women enjoyed or longed for. Chamisso may not be speaking for the most progressive women of his era, but he does project the common experiences of many. As Herbert Hopfgartner observes, “In contrast to many other romantic poems and song cycles Frauenliebe und Leben describes happy love rooted in middle class everyday life.”26 In this chapter, my aim has been to demonstrate, first, that Chamisso portrayed a large array of women in his poetry and that the Frauenliebe poems cannot be taken as his single or chief perspective. Second, the poetry of some women poets of the day, though limited, deals with some of the same circumstances that Chamisso addresses and reveals that in these instances – such as a marriage against a young woman’s will – Chamisso’s sympathetic portrayal was clearly in line with how women felt. Finally, my point with the Wendt Bilder is simply to show how poorly the subject matter of a woman’s life could be dealt with in the hands of a decidedly inferior writer; so poorly, in fact, that these poems may have screamed out to Chamisso to create an alternative. None of these ameliorative arguments responds, however, to one of the central problems some modern readers have with Chamisso’s poems. For them, the fact that Chamisso composed the poems in the voice of a woman is in itself illegitimate and subversive. According to this point of view, having the titled protagonist speak in the first person encourages female readers – at least nineteenth-century ones – to identify with “her” and to accept “her” views of relationship and marriage as their own, even though these views were penned by a man. This is a central hypothesis of Ruth Solie’s essay on Frauenliebe und Leben,27 which accuses Chamisso of a “spurious autobiographical act,” projecting his and patriarchal society’s notions of femininity into these poems. This line of reasoning apparently 26


“Im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen romantischen Gedichten und Liederkreisen beschreibt ‘Frauen-Liebe und Leben’ eine im bürgerlichen Alltagsleben verwurzelte glückliche Liebe.” Herbert J. Hopfgartner, “Adelbert Chamisso. Revolutionär oder Biedermann? Der Liederkreis Frauenliebe und Leben im soziokulturelle Diskurs,” Studia Niemcoznawcze 37 (2008), 120. Solie, “Whose Life?”, 219–240.

Chamisso’s poems about women

accepts that writers may freely write about characters different from themselves in epic (narrative) or dramatic literature, depicting persons of different ages, economic or social status, nationalities, ethnic backgrounds, looks, gender, etc., in stories and on the stage, but that they may not legitimately write in the lyric voice from any perspective other than their own. This is apparently the sine qua non of the lyric voice. But perhaps few understand Chamisso’s poems to be lyric in this sense. There is a widely recognized category of German verse known as Rollengedichte or role-playing poems.28 This designation does not neatly square itself with the classic categories of epic, lyric, and dramatic. The poems are in the first person, but they are patently not in the author’s own lyric voice, nor are they strictly dramatic.29 This is perhaps part of the reason Chamisso referred to them as lyrisch episch, a mixed lyric and epic genre. No, Chamisso cannot truly voice his own personal feelings as a woman, but he can assume her identity as a role. To deny a writer the freedom to “impersonate” someone else’s thoughts and feelings, even in verse that “poses” as lyric poetry on some level, appears to be an unjustified restriction on his or her artistic freedom.30 Furthermore, the strict definition of lyric poetry as the poet’s own personal utterance ignores the now widely accepted notion of persona. This idea posits that the speaker in a lyric poem is not the poet him- or herself, but rather a creation by the poet. The poet is always a poseur, the lyric “I” always an imagined self speaking.31 Chamisso composed the Frauenliebe poems as part of an unconscious “project” to depict many different characters from contemporary German middleclass society, including women; because few women were publishing verse that


29 30


Poet Robert Browning’s dramatic monologues come to mind as analogous instances in English verse. Browning’s monologues, it should be said, are cast in the voices of specific characters, whereas Chamisso’s are more generalized types. But, as I have shown, Chamisso does not cast the protagonist of Frauenliebe as the only prototypical woman, but gives equal weight to the unfortunate daughter in Tränen. Unless one counts the dialogue Rollengedichte as terse dramas. By sheer coincidence I recently came across an essay by American author Cynthia Ozick on “Literature and the Politics of Sex,” in which she writes, “In art, feminism is that idea which . . . declares that the imagination cannot be ‘set’ free, because it is already free. I am, as a writer, whatever I wish to become. I can think myself a male, or a female, or a stone, or a raindrop, or a block of wood, or the leg of a mosquito.” Quoting her own essay (Ms. 6 (1977), 79–80) in a New York Times op-ed article “Prize or Prejudice” (June 7, 2012, A27). See Edward T. Cone, The Composer’s Voice, Berkeley: University of California Press (1974), for a discussion of persona.



The poetry

proclaimed women’s thoughts and feelings; and because he found Wendt’s Bilder utterly regrettable and knew he could do something much better in the same vein. There is also another circumstance that may have motivated Chamisso to write the Frauenliebe poems. It concerns a young writer, scholar, and artist who may have been a protégé of Chamisso’s in the Wednesday Society and who was beginning to court one of Eduard Hitzig’s daughters. His name was Franz Kugler, and since his involvement in this story concerns the initial publication of the Frauenliebe poems in his own book and in his musical settings, we shall take this up in the next chapter.

part ii

The music


The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

Das Volk singt meine Lieder, man singt sie in den Salons, die Komponisten reissen sich danach, die Jungen deklamieren sie in den Schulen, mein Porträt erscheint nach Goethe, Tieck und Schlegel als das vierte in der Reihe der gleichzeitigen deutschen Dichter. Chamisso (1832) (People sing my songs, they are sung in the salons, composers scramble for them, children recite them in school, my portrait appears after Goethe, Tieck and Schlegel as the fourth in the row of contemporary German poets.)

Within a period of a year and a half, Chamisso wrote five cycles about middle-class love and marriage.1 Frauenliebe und Leben was the first, in late 1829 and early 1830. Tränen (Tears) followed in May. The next year he wrote the longest cycle, the twenty-two poems of Lebenslieder und Bilder (Songs and Pictures of Life, February 1831), and then “Die Braut” (“The bride,” March), and “Die Blinde” (“The blind girl,” August). Except for the poems by the male figure in Lebenslieder (alternating with those by the female), these poems are cast in the first-person, female voice. With these cycles Chamisso provided an array of women’s monologues, bringing depth and sympathy to his portrayals of feminine perspectives. Chamisso is known for his warm-hearted and sometime sentimental portraits of many characters, but there is a greater immediacy to the portrayals when the characters speak to the reader in the first person, in their own voice, as it were. Chamisso’s Frauenliebe und Leben was published in three different places within a year of its creation – in the Musenalmanach (1830), and in the first editions of his collected poetry and of his complete works (both in 1831). Within months of its creation, probably even before its literary publication, it received its first, published musical setting – a fascinating circumstance to which we shall return. In the years following, it appeared in two other 1

See Table 3.1, p. 81. There are a few female monologues in earlier years, but no cycles. These datings are taken from Volker Hoffmann’s annotations in the modern edition of Chamisso’s works: Sämtliche Werke (1975), vol. I (see bibliography).



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complete (or nearly complete) musical incarnations, the cycles by Carl Loewe (1837) and Schumann (1843). There were also dozens of individual songs based on poems from the cycle. The poetry alone was published in a number of de luxe, illustrated editions as the century wore on. In short, Chamisso’s cycle enjoyed widespread appeal. In the late 1820s Chamisso felt he was – to his pleasant surprise – becoming well known and respected as a poet. On the day his first daughter (their fourth child) was born – March 31, 1829 – he wrote to his friend de la Foye with the news and continued: Briefly stated, things are going very well for me. Botany (the [journal] Linnea) takes first place in my daily agenda, and poetry runs a close second. – I am getting recognition, how I don’t know, at a time when verse is like water all around and only dry politics stands out. – My poems are getting a response – are everywhere reprinted, artists make pictures based on them; they are translated into different languages, and now a handsome lithographic portrait of me is available in print shops. (Hitzig, Chamisso’s Werke V, 178)2

In the spring of the next year he expanded on this and added exciting news: I, my dear friend, always have one foot in botany and one in literature. – Germany, it appears, wants truly to number me among its poets; last year a poem by me, “Salas y Gomez,” was designated without opposition as the most praiseworthy creation; more that has been written since will surpass it, and, lastly, book dealers have come to me with the request that I publish my collected poetry, and this will take place in 1831. (Ibid., 180)

Still in August 1831, when his collected poetry was just about to appear, he was incredulous of his success: “In botany always busy, and in poetry so honored, read, and admired, that I can hardly believe it” (Ibid., 184). Frauenliebe und Leben had its first broad dissemination in the Musenalmanach für das Jahr 1831, but even slightly before that it had appeared in 1830 in the pocketbook format Skizzenbuch, published in Berlin by Georg Reimer. The 184-page book is a collection of poems, interspersed with engravings and songs, all by twenty-two-year-old Franz Kugler. Chamisso’s Frauenliebe poems occur there for the very first time in Kugler’s musical settings as an appendix.3 Kugler knew Chamisso from the

2 3

Hitzig, Adelbert von Chamisso’s Werke (see Bibliography); vols. v–vi are biographical. Franz Kugler, Skizzenbuch, Berlin: G. Reimer (1830). I first came across this volume at the Library of Congress. Today you can find Kugler’s Skizzenbuch online: http://digital.bibliothek.; the musical appendix with his Frauenliebe songs begins on p. 255 of Skizzenbuch.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

Wednesday Society and may have become something of a protégé. It is clear that he held the older poet in high esteem (see online resources). The whole volume, notably, is dedicated to Chamisso, with a poem including these lines: In der Natur geheimes Walten Hast Du mit ernstem Sinn geschaut; Du bist mit den verborgnen Falten Des Menschenherzens wohl vertraut. ... In Deinen Liedern spricht lebendig Der Mensch in seiner Menschlichkeit; Was jezuweilen uns nothwendig Bedünken will in dieser Zeit. (You have peered earnestly into the secret laws of nature; you are entrusted with the hidden recesses of people’s hearts . . . In your songs people speak vividly in their humanity, which seems a very good and needful thing from time to time in this age of ours.)

In the previous chapter we considered some of Chamisso’s possible motivations for writing Frauenliebe und Leben, including his encounter with Amadeus Wendt’s cycle Bilder des weiblichen Lebens, but one wonders if there may have been something more personal as well. As for Adelbert and Antonie, they had long since experienced many of the milestones recounted in these poems. They had been married for a decade, four children had been born (their first son within the first year of their marriage), and, furthermore, their reconciliation after Adelbert’s extra-marital affair (1821) was long past. But some of the lyrics about young love may have partly been to do with the personal circumstances of Franz Kugler. Kugler (1808–1858), though obscure today, is an intriguing, multifaceted, and accomplished fellow in his own right, and he merits a brief biographical sketch.4 As a youngster, he studied music (including composition with none other than Carl Loewe), taught himself drawing and painting, and developed an abiding interest in the middle ages. He studied philology and art in Berlin (1826) and in Heidelberg (1827), paying particular attention to Minnesänger poetry and music. In the latter city he joined the choral ensemble (Singverein) of Anton Thibaut just one year before Robert Schumann did


Biographical data largely drawn from ADB, (5 June, 2013).



The music

the same.5 Back in Berlin he made the acquaintance of Mendelssohn and subsequently of Chamisso, at whose house he became a frequent guest and a regular participant in the Wednesday Society (Mittwochsgesellschaft). In 1831 Kugler finished his dissertation on medieval poetry (a body of verse from the twelfth-century Benedictine monastery on the Tegernsee). In the following year he became engaged to the daughter of Eduard Hitzig (whose foster daughter Antonie Piaste had become Chamisso’s wife) and embarked on the preparation of an art history book. In 1837 his Handbuch der Geschichte der Malerei seit Constantin der Grossen (Handbook of the History of Painting since Constantine the Great) was published; it proceeded, in many successive editions and reworkings, to become the standard German art history text of the nineteenth century, and in the course of time came to be referred to simply as “Kugler.” Young Jacob Burckhardt, later a prominent historian of the Renaissance, was a student of Kugler’s, and it was he who prepared the revised, second edition of the Handbuch, published in 1847. Kugler founded, edited, and contributed to Museum, Blätter für bildende Kunst (1833–1838), and later worked on the Munich-based Kunstblatt (1842) and the Deutscher Kunstblatt (1850–1858). He also published a history of Frederick the Great (1840–1842) and began a history of architecture, of which he completed only the first volume (to the end of the middle ages). (Both the book on art history and the one on Frederick the Great are still in print.) Meanwhile Kugler also sustained his secondary interests in poetry and music. After Skizzenbuch (1830), he brought out Liederbuch für Deutsche Künstler (1833) with poet-painter Robert Reinick, and published his Gedichte in 1840 and Fünf Liederhefte in 1852–1853 (in which his Frauenliebe songs reappear). The music of both song compilations consisted of Kugler’s compositions and of folk songs and popular melodies he had collected, the texts chosen from the poetry of Chamisso, Rückert, Goethe, Eichendorff, Schiller, Heine, Uhland, Wilhelm Müller, and others. There were also selected songs by other composers (e.g. Mendelssohn, Luise Reichardt, Zelter). The Liederhefte contained Kugler’s portraits, drawn from life, of Chamisso, Emmanuel Geibel, Robert Reinick, and Eichendorff. Kugler’s songs did not 5

See Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (June 5, 2013); GroveMusicOnline (June 5, 2013). Anton Friedrich Justus Thibaut (1772–1840) was a legal scholar and amateur musician. In the latter capacity he collected vocal music of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and trained and conducted an amateur chorus performing this repertory. He praised the purity of older polyphonic sacred music in his book Über die Reinheit der Tonkunst (1825). For Schumann’s participation, see any biography of the composer.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

make it to the salons, but they were popular as Hausmusik. Some of his songs became so popular they blended into Volkslieder; for example, the popular student song “An der Saale hellem Strande” (“On the bright banks of the Saale”). Kugler is the author of the poem “Ständchen” (“Der Mond steht über den Berge”), familiar in Brahms’s setting (Op. 106/1).6 Skizzenbuch is for the most part an anthology of over one hundred of Kugler’s poems, interspersed with his etchings and lieder. Besides the Frauenliebe songs, there are settings of lyrics by Wilhelm Müller, Ludwig Uhland, Clemens Brentano, Heinrich Heine, and others, as well as other poems by Chamisso. There is also a group of Minnesänger melodies, transcribed from the original manuscripts and harmonized for keyboard by Kugler. The peculiar placement of the Frauenliebe songs in a “Musikalischer Anhang” may indicate that Kugler decided on their inclusion at an advanced stage in the printing process, which, in turn, would imply that he may have acquired the poems soon after Chamisso finished them early in 1830, presumably copying them from Chamisso’s manuscript (since they were not yet in print), hurriedly setting them to music, and inserting them into the otherwise complete Skizzenbuch, published a bit later the same year. Though perhaps an afterthought, the fact that Kugler took pains to include Frauenliebe und Leben may indicate an express purpose. The last poem preceding the appendix is a sonnet headed “Zum Schluss. An _____” (“In Conclusion. To _____”). The poem tells us that whereas Kugler has in the past taken delight in the “Spiel der Reime” (play of rhyme), poetry no longer satisfies him. His life has been renewed by something “was mich ängstiget und was mich freuet” (“that frightens and gladdens me”), but which he will not yet reveal. Then follows the musical appendix of the Frauenliebe songs.7 In 1830 Kugler was nearing the completion of his university degree and had surely made the acquaintance of Hitzig’s daughter, to whom he was to become engaged and married within two years. She is likely the anonymous dedicatee of the sonnet for whose sake he included his settings of Chamisso’s cycle on marriage. It is not out of the question that part of Chamisso’s own motivation for penning the Frauenliebe poems was the love he saw blossoming between these two young people of his personal acquaintance. Eduard Hitzig was, after all, an old friend and the foster father of his wife Antonie; Chamisso 6


Kugler is the subject of a recent book of historical essays: Franz Theodor Kugler. Deutscher Arthistoriker und Berliner Dichter. Michel Espagne, Benedicte Savoy, and Celine Trautmann-Waller, eds., Berlin (2010). Kugler republished his cycle in 1853 in a more handsomely engraved edition in his series of Liederhefte; see further below.



The music

was regularly in touch with the Hitzig household. Since Kugler, as previously mentioned, was a member of the Wednesday Society, and clearly a sincere and articulate admirer of the older poet, Chamisso must have been aware of the courtship between his young friend and Hitzig’s daughter. Chamisso had continued dealings with Kugler. He had some poems published in Museum, Blätter für die bildende Kunst, edited by Kugler, in 1833 and 1834; and in his collected poetry (1831) he chose an aphorism from Kugler’s Skizzenbuch to preface the republication of his earlier translations/adaptations of a passage from the Saemundar Edda (Werke 511, 847). He and Kugler probably continued to see one another frequently at the weekly Wednesday Society. And thus Chamisso’s cycle first greeted the world in the humble musical settings of Franz Kugler, stuck in the back of the young man’s Skizzenbuch. It did not take long for the poems to reach a wider audience. After their appearance in the Deutscher Musenalmanach in the same year (the 1831 edition appeared late in 1830), they were published in Chamisso’s collected poetry (Gedichte von Adelbert von Chamisso, Leipzig: Weidmann, 1831), and five years later in his collected works (Adelbert von Chamissos Werke, Leipzig: Weidmann, 1836). In both of these last two publications they stood at the head of the large section entitled “Lieder und Lyrisch Epische Gedichte” (“Songs and Lyric-Epic Poems”). Chamisso, or his publisher, or both, apparently held these poems in high esteem and believed the public would do so as well. And the reading public obliged. Sales of Chamisso’s poetry, evidenced by the number of reissues and of subsequent complete editions, made him one of the most popular German poets of the century. Later years even saw special de luxe, illustrated editions of Frauenliebe und Leben and Lebenslieder und Bilder (see further below). Chamisso’s poems found wide currency as texts for lieder. The first attempt at a comprehensive identification of the musical settings was by Hermann Tardel, whose edition of Chamisso’s works (1907–1908) not only provided the most thorough scholarly edition to date, but also included the editor’s painstakingly detailed annotations, among them his listings of translations, illustrations, and musical compositions of the poetry.8 It was based on Tardel’s catalogue and on personal searches in German libraries that I originally collected most of the songs I shall discuss here. Recently 8

Chamissos Werke, ed. Tardel (see bibliography). The extensive annotations appear in vol. II, 387–418. This is a dated, but still useful listing of musical settings of Chamisso’s poems. See also Suzanne Summerville’s partial listing in “Chamisso als Liederdichter,” in Bździach, ed., Mit den Augen des Fremden (2004), 195–208. See further below about Sharon Krebs’s work identifying Chamisso settings.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

Sharon Krebs has compiled a more comprehensive catalogue of the musical settings of two cycles, Frauenliebe und Leben and Tränen, adding significantly to the songs that Tardel had tracked down for these poems.9 (See Appendix 1 for the musical settings of Frauenliebe.) Lieder based on Chamisso’s poetry are nowhere near as numerous as those based on the verse of Goethe, Heine, and Rückert, but they are still plentiful. Among the most frequently set poems are, unsurprisingly, Frauenliebe und Leben, both as a cycle and as individual songs. In the nineteenth century, there were four song cycles and over seventy settings of individual poems.10 The settings of Tränen, interestingly, are more numerous; Krebs has found about half again as many songs for this cycle as for Frauenliebe. Other poems popular with composers, as revealed by Tardel’s lists, were “Tragische Geschichte,” “Katzennatur,” “Verratene Liebe,” and “Der Soldat” (after Andersen). All told, there are probably around 350 settings of Chamisso poems, approximately half of them based on the two cited cycles.11 The various Frauenliebe songs appeared in the greatest concentration in the decades 1830–1860, and more sparsely through the rest of the century.

Of song cycles In Das deutsche Lied Ernst Bücken admits that compared with the exuberance of Loewe’s and Schumann’s “boundless Romanticism,” Kugler’s Frauenliebe songs manifest a certain “confined happiness” (Stübchensglück), and yet he regards their modest musical means as “saturated with feeling.”12 Leopold Hirschberg looks more favorably on Kugler’s settings: “Even if they do not stand up to a comparison [with the Loewe or Schumann songs], they have 9




I am extremely grateful to Sharon Krebs for sharing with me her detailed listings of these settings. Her article “Chamissos Thränen. Die musikalische Rezeption des Gedichtzyklus,” appears in Marie-Thérèse Federhofer and Jutta Weber, eds., Korrespondenzen und Transformationen: Neue Perspektiven auf Adelbert von Chamisso, Göttingen: V & R Unipress (2012), 239–258. In her article Krebs explains how she traced these settings by combing the online versions of Ernst Challier’s Grosser Lieder Katalog and of the Hofmeister publishers’ catalogues. Her list includes composer, title of whole publication, listing of individual songs, opus number, publisher, and date. Sharon Krebs has identified a setting of Frauenliebe published in 1999 by Elizabeth R. Austin (1938–). There are also scattered individual settings of others of the poems after 1900. It is somewhat surprising that so few songs (only nine, according to Tardel) were composed on poems from Lebenslieder und Bilder. One might expect that the twenty-two poems of this cycle, alternating “Er” and “Sie” might have inspired some composer(s) to undertake a song cycle for a female and male singer. Certainly the indefatigable Vesque von Püttlingen, who set all eighty-eight poems of Heine’s Heimkehr as a huge cycle, could easily have managed it! Ernst Bücken, Das deutsche Lied. Probleme und Gestalten, Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt (1939), 114.



The music

many beautiful moments; individual sections that are satisfying in neither the Schumann nor the Loewe are surprisingly successful in Kugler.”13 Despite Hirschberg’s generous enthusiasm, we can probably best regard Kugler’s songs as Hausmusik in the mold of older, eighteenth-century lieder. They place no great demand on singer or pianist; indeed one can imagine an amateur soprano singing and accompanying herself at the keyboard. They are pleasant and each responds to the text’s initial or overall mood. Changes in the mood or attitude of the protagonist in different stanzas are therefore not reflected in Kugler’s music, and this is particularly problematic for poems 2, 3, 4, and 5. (The songs are notated in the manner of older song publications: the first stanza(s) of the text are printed under the vocal melody, and the remaining text is printed in an adjacent space, leaving it to the singer to coordinate words and notes.) Kugler set all nine poems of Chamisso’s cycle, and some twenty years later he republished these songs, newly engraved, in one of his five Liederhefte (1852–1853). (A modern transcription of Kugler’s song cycle can be found in the online resources.) Kugler’s songs will be considered individually in Chapter 6 (section 2), but here we will take a look at his collection as a cycle. We have come to think of a cycle as containing songs that are related not only by the poetic texts, but also by musical means. One of the typical features we are accustomed to discovering in multipartite musical compositions is the relatedness of the keys. Kugler’s cycle will perplex or simply disappoint us in this regard (see Table 4.1). We should bear in mind that our notion of key relatedness stems first from instrumental compositions; the same attention to tonal planning in the new Table 4.1 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben in outline Song




1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen” 2 “Er, der herrlichste von allen” 3 “Ick kann’s nicht fassen” 4 “Du Ring an meinem Finger” 5 “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern” 6 “Süsser Freund, du blickest” 7 “An meinem Herzen” 8 “Nun hast du mir. . .” 9 “Traum der eignen Tage”

C major B minor A minor E major D major F] minor A major A[ major A[ major

3/8 Ȼ Ȼ Ȼ 12/8 6/8 6/8 Ȼ 6/8

Andante Con moto Agitato Moderato Allegro Andante Allegretto Larghissimo Larghetto


Leopold Hirschberg, “Franz Kugler als Liederkomponist,” Die Musik 2(8) (1903), 111.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

genre of the song cycle developed later and sporadically. The earliest wellknown example of a discernible key plan in a song cycle is Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte (1816), but it remains an isolated example. Schubert’s cycles (Die schöne Müllerin, 1823–1824, and Winterreise, 1827–1828) do not manifest such strong or observable tonal coherence. Schumann’s tightly organized plans, probably influenced by Beethoven, began to appear, of course, only in 1840. Kugler’s choice of successive keys is nevertheless odd in some respects. Falling a semitone from the initial song’s C major to B minor in the second is disconcerting. Equally jarring are the stepwise moves from song 2 to song 3, song 4 to song 5, and another half step from song 7 to song 8. Nor do any internal groupings of keys (such as we shall see in Loewe’s cycle) make particular sense. One tends to attribute the choice of keys here to indifference on the part of Kugler rather than to incompetence. His concern may have been more related to vocal range and tessitura, pianistic ease, and, perhaps, individual key characteristics. Matthias Walz suggests that Kugler’s disconcerting move from A major in song 7 to A[ major for song 8 may be an intentionally abrupt effect to portray the protagonist’s reaction to her husband’s death; similarly he hears the eighth song’s piano prelude – the only one in his cycle – as a reflection of the widow’s initial speechlessness.14 But given the otherwise erratic nature of the key relations, there appears little reason to dwell on them. More interesting are Kugler’s thematic connections. Possibly because he noted the similar stanza structure, meter, and rhyme scheme of poems 1, 5, and 9, Kugler composed these songs to similar melodies. The last song is a forthright variation of song 1, and song 5 has the same opening melodic gesture as the other two (see Ex. 4.1).15 Furthermore, a phrase in song 6 (“Lass den feuchten Perlen,” mm. 9–10) is nearly identical with a phrase in song 1 (“Wie im wachen Traume,” mm. 13–15), although this may be a chance resemblance. Thus, even though Kugler disregarded key coherence, he did seek to bind his cycle together by book-ending it with the same tune, a kind of prefiguration of what Schumann was to do in his cycle. Otherwise,



Walz, “Frauenliebe,” 113. His comparative discussion of Kugler, Loewe, and Schumann is found on pp. 107–115. Heinrich W. Schwab, “Carl Loewes Vertonung von Adelbert von Chamissos Gedichtzyklus Frauenliebe und Leben. Ein Vergleich mit weiteren Vertonungen,” in Konstanze Musketa and Götz Traxdorf, eds., Carl Loewe 1796–1869. Bericht über die Wissenschaftliche Konferenz anlässlich seines 200. Geburtstages vom 26. bis 28. September 1996 im Händel-Haus Halle, Halle: Händel-Haus (1997), 15–51. 25–26, includes Kugler’s song 6 in this comparison as well.



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Ex. 4.1 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, incipits of songs 1, 5, and 9.

Kugler’s “schlichte Lieder” (“plain songs,” Hirschberg) tend to catch a little something of each of Chamisso’s poems, but not much more. In 1836 Carl Loewe (1796–1869) composed his cycle for alto, published the following year as Frauenliebe. Ein Liederkranz von Adelbert von Chamisso.16 (Loewe’s song cycle can be found in the online resources.) Loewe made his career as composer, singer, and conductor. He began singing as a choirboy in Cöthen, studied in Halle (from 1809), where he sang in the Singakademie and composed his first songs. He traveled widely in 1819–1820 and made the acquaintance of many literary and musical notables at the time (including Goethe and Weber). He was appointed as a teacher at the Gymnasium and organist at a church in Stettin in 1820. The following year he became the musical director of the city, where he remained until he retired from these positions in 1866. While based in Stettin, Loewe traveled all over Germany (Berlin, Düsseldorf, Mainz, Hamburg among others), as well as to London and into Sweden and Norway, performing as a singer/pianist and conductor. He established a wide and respected reputation as a composer, especially of ballads (such as his dazzling setting of Goethe’s Erlkönig and his coarse, blunt rendering of the English ballad Edward), which he himself performed. His lesser known lyrical songs, including some of the earliest songs on Rückert’s poetry, are not without charm, though there are many fewer than the narrative creations. Loewe’s Frauenliebe is seldom performed, but in recent times it has been recorded twice by distinguished musicians.17 He also composed operas, oratorios, and solo piano works. 16


Carl Loewe. Gesamtausgabe der Balladen, Legenden, Lieder und Gesänge, ed. Max Runge, Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 17 vols. (repr. Gregg International, 1970), vol. XVII Liederkreise, 32–60. First by Brigitte Fassbaender and Cord Garben (Deutsche Grammophon, 1996); this is a sensitive and committed performance which is, at this writing, still available as a custom CD reissue (Carl Loewe. Lieder. Frauenliebe. DGG 423–680–2). Another fine recording was made by

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

Although Loewe set all nine poems of Chamisso’s cycle, he published only the first seven as his Op. 60; the death poem (no. 8 “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan”) he published much later, and his setting of no. 9 (“Traum der eignen Tage”) appeared posthumously. (All nine songs appear together in the complete edition of his Lieder and Balladen.) Loewe’s cycle was well received, including a positive, if brief review in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. It is part of a longer review article by Schumann’s chief lied reviewer Oswald Lorenz entitled “C. Löwe’s neueste Balladen und Lieder”:18 Aside from [remarking on] his customarily deeply poetic conception and perfect execution, and so forth, I could hardly say anything else about these songs, except to regret that so few will be able to enjoy their delights; I mean, because they are written for the rare alto voice. And yet, as they are, they seem so convincingly and necessarily conceived for this voice, that in this regard one would not wish them otherwise for any price. Therefore may talented and sensitive altos entertain themselves and others with this bouquet of fragrant flowers, as many times and as often as they can.

Loewe’s songs are indeed in the main attractive, and will be discussed individually later. His cycle is curious for being truncated in its original publication. Since he had composed all nine songs, why did he not publish them all together? One wonders if he omitted songs 8 and 9 because he preferred to end on the happier note of mother and infant. This left him in the somewhat awkward position, however, of beginning his cycle in A major and ending it with song 7 in G[, and furthermore, of proceeding to the latter key directly from F. Up until that point, Loewe’s cycle demonstrates an interesting and logical progression of keys (see Table 4.2). The first three songs are about the young woman alone, being infatuated with the man, not believing she could be worthy of him, and finding herself incredulous at his proposal of marriage. These three songs form a closely related group (I–V–I). The next three songs make up another harmonically interrelated group (I–V–I again, a major third lower than the first group); this second trio concerns the couple’s engagement, wedding, and their marital intimacy and prospective parenthood. Then comes the awkward


Felicity Lott and Graham Johnson (Hyperion, 2006); it is subtitled “A Liederspiel directed by Graham Johnson” and consists of Schumann’s and Loewe’s Frauenliebe songs interspersed with one another and with other love-related songs. Elissa Guralnick (“‘Ah Clara, I am not worthy of your love’: Rereading ‘Frauenliebe und Leben,’ the Poetry and the Music,” Music & Letters 87(4) (2006), 580–605) mentions another recording by Iris Vermillion, also with Cord Garben on piano (Loewe. Lieder und Balladen, vol. VIII, CPO 999416). NZfM vol. VII, no. 36, 3 November 1837, 141–142.



The music

Table 4.2 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, key scheme Song Key

1 2 3 A E A └────────┘

4 5 6 F C F └────────┘

7 G[

[8 [D minor

9] A minor/C]

juncture with the seventh song. This seems particularly peculiar because Loewe’s eighth and ninth songs, in D minor and A minor/C major, would have made good sense in terms of the overall scheme.19 Loewe’s cycle was also reviewed in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung in 1837 by a writer named J. A. Lecerf.20 The critic uses the opportunity to bemoan the fact that since so little is demanded of German composers and since so few good German opera libretti or oratorio texts are available, composers try their skills at lieder. He is thankful that poets have responded with good “musical poetry,” and that the public have taken such a liking to lieder. But he finds in general that in their attempts to write songs, composers “splinter their powers on small things, and since good lieder texts do not multiply according to the needs of composers, the latter choose poems that are less well suited to composition, just because they come from good poets.” Lecerf continues: Many, especially among the more recent compositions of our ingenious Löwe, may well have originated in this way, rather than through truly inner intention and inspiration, and I would include these songs [Frauenliebe] among them. For while individual poems of this cycle may indeed invite musical treatment . . . they are nevertheless as a whole sequence not favorable material for song composition. The feelings that the girl has on first sighting the beloved, her humble looking up to him, her anxiety and shyness, her delight when he returns her love, her bliss when she imagines herself a bride, the calmer happiness of the wife, the gentle understanding of pregnancy, the ecstasy as she nurses her first baby – All this, expressed sincerely and charmingly by the poet in these first seven blossoms of the garland (if perhaps too personally [individuell] and also perhaps not free of mannerism) is in part too confining and of too delicate a nature; it takes place too much within the narrow sphere of the household and daily life; and it denies to the seven consecutive songs too much the necessary intensification and contrast that they need in order not to 19


Schwab, Loewe, 39, states that Loewe differentiates his songs by key based on the gender association of the poem: sharp keys for men, flat keys for women. The keys of A and E are appropriate for songs 1–3, dominated by the male figure; the keys of F and C suit the feminine associations of poems 4–6. Therefore poem no. 7, which celebrates motherhood, is appropriately set in an extremely flat key, G[. AMZ 39, no. 51, December 1837, 844.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

become monotonous. It ought to be possible for such a significant talent to breathe real life into this material. Yet our Löwe has in no way achieved this. And even though individual ones of these compositions, namely No. 6 and 7, are well conceived, interesting, full of feeling, and worthy of the master, the majority, on account of their attendant artificial diversity, succumb to a mannered treatment.

This is quite a mouthful, and it is difficult to discern whom Lecerf blames more for the shortcomings – the poet or the composer. Some of the things for which he faults the poet are the very things that made Chamisso’s verses so popular – their particularity, their everyday-ness, the fact that they addressed the experiences and thoughts of female readers directly and explicitly. Lecerf appears squeamish about the “delicate” nature of some of the poems, seemingly finding the portrayal of a woman’s passionate and intimate thoughts inappropriate for poetry. Today, ironically, one might find Lecerf’s condescension to the subjects in the poems sexist; he writes as though it is fine for a man’s intimate thoughts to be portrayed, but not those of a woman. Nevertheless his judgment of Loewe’s songs may not be wide of the mark. A few songs are charming; I concur with Lecerf ’s favorites – nos. 6 and 7. Lecerf’s challenge, that the right composer ought to be able to “breathe real life into this material,” conveniently sets us up to consider Schumann’s songs. His cycle would seem an answer to Lecerf’s prayers. When Lorenz reviewed the Loewe cycle, Schumann was still composing almost exclusively for solo piano. Although he had penned some songs in 1827–1828, he had then turned his back on that genre for over a decade. He even remarked as late as 1839 that he had never considered vocal composition to be a great art form.21 This was only a few months before he rather abruptly became an enthusiastic composer of songs himself. Schumann called 1840 his Liederjahr (song year) because he composed approximately two-thirds of his some 250 songs during the period from the winter of 1839– 1840 through the following winter (early 1841).22 Among many other songs, his best-known cycles stem from this time; they are listed below in the order of composition (see Table 4.3). By the time Schumann composed Frauenliebe he had already had much experience constructing cycles of piano pieces and, more to the point, of 21


“Have you perhaps, like me, never considered vocal composition to be a great art form?” (“Sind Sie vielleicht wie ich, der ich Gesangskomposition . . . nie für eine grosse Kunst gehalten?” Robert Schumanns Briefe. Neue Folge, ed. Gustav Jansen, 2nd edn., Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel (1904), 143. For a discussion of the Liederjahr, see my chapter “Robert Schumann: The Poet Sings,” in R. Hallmark, ed., German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century, 2nd edn, New York (2009), 93–141.



The music

Table 4.3 Schumann’s major song cycles of 1840–1841 February 1840 February–March Early May Mid-May Mid-July

Liederkreis (Heine) Myrthen (multiple poets) Liederkreis (Eichendorff) Dichterliebea (Heine) Frauenliebe und Leben (Chamisso) November–December Zwölf Gedichte (Kerner) January 1841 Zwölf Gedichte (Rückert)

Op. 24, published 1840 Op. 25, 1840 Op. 39, 1842; rev. edn. 1850 Op. 48, 1844 Op. 42, 1843 Op. 35, 1841 Op. 37, 1841

Note: a

Schumann originally created a set of twenty Heine songs (Zwanzig Lieder), but shortly before he published them, four years later, he removed four of the songs and gave the cycle its familiar title. For a detailed discussion of this, see Beate Julia Perrey, Schumann’s ‘Dichterliebe’ and Early Romantic Poetics: Fragmentation of Desire, Cambridge University Press (2002), 111–130; and Rufus Hallmark, The Genesis of Schumann’s: Dichterliebe: A Source Study, Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan (UMI) Research Press (1979), 110–128.

song cycles. He had composed both of his Heine groups, the Liederkreis Op. 24 and the twenty songs that were to become Dichterliebe Op. 48; he had also completed the Eichendorff Liederkreis Op. 39. All of these cycles display a readily perceptible sequence of keys. The secondary literature on the tonal plans of Schumann’s song cycles is large; not everybody agrees on how to explain or understand the musical logic of Schumann’s schemes, but everyone agrees that they exist.23 It comes as no surprise that Frauenliebe und Leben also displays a coherent plan (see online resources). There is no mistaking the perfect symmetry of the first five songs in his cycle (see Table 4.4). Noteworthy in this connection is that in her performances of Frauenliebe und Leben with various singers, Clara Schumann often ended the cycle with song 5. A number of concert programs and announcements in the Schumann-Haus, Zwickau, attest to this as a feature of her performances. If one is excerpting, this clearly makes good sense; it takes the young protagonist 23

Studies of the tonal scheme in Dichterliebe include Arthur Komar, “The Music of Dichterliebe: The Whole and Its Parts,” in Komar, ed., Dichterliebe, New York: Norton (1971), 63–94; Rufus Hallmark, The Genesis of Schumann’s Dichterliebe: A Source Study, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Research Press (1976), 135–145; David Neumeyer, “Organic Structure and the Song Cycle: Another Look at Schumann’s Dichterliebe,” Music Theory Spectrum 4 (1982), 95; Fred Lerdahl, Tonal Pitch Space, Oxford University Press (2001), 138f.; Berthold Hoeckner, “Paths Through Dichterliebe,” 19th-Century Music 30 (2006), 65–80.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

Table 4.4 Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben, key scheme 1 B[

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 E[ C minor E[ B[ G D D minor; B[ └──────┴──────┘ └─────────────┘ └────────────────────────┘∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙∙┘

from initial infatuation through her wedding day, and there it ends, in a neat package of closely related keys.24 But thereafter the complete cycle veers off to the sharp side, first to G (the major submediant) for the sixth song, and then to its dominant D for the seventh. Song 8 follows in a stark, parallel D minor for the husband’s death, the first part of which ends on its dominant A, and then by a common-tone modulation returns via F (V7) to B[ for the postlude. One can construe the breaking out of the flat keys as the expansion of the family to include the expected baby (song 6) and the nursing infant (song 7).25 In addition to this compact tonal scheme, Schumann’s cycle has the wordless reprise of the first song at its conclusion. The critic Lecerf would also probably agree that Schumann’s settings avoid the artificiality and mannerism he found in Loewe’s songs. Schumann’s tonal plan is indeed an extremely coherent scheme of a limited number of keys. Some commentators have seized on this observation to argue that Schumann’s choice of keys portrays a woman’s “sphere” as a confined one. Her realm is B[ major, its subdominant E[, and C minor, the relative minor of E[ – her husband and her home, the interior world of her daily life. Her pregnancy and baby, in songs 6 (G major) and 7 (D major) grant her temporary relief from this restricted and symmetrical space, but in the end, after she mourns her husband’s death in D minor, the music reverts to B[ for the postlude, a wordless reprise of song 1, as she retreats to thoughts of her husband. Trapped in an endless circle of B[–related keys, she is essentially repeatable or, as Ruth Solie puts it, “iterable.”26 24



This abridgment also allows the performers, in this case two women, to avoid what some found indelicate in poems 6 and 7 (marital intimacy and nursing an infant), and to end the cycle on an upbeat note by omitting the death poem. Whether Clara would have been bothered by the purported indelicacies is not known, but she certainly may have wished not to perform a song about the death of a husband. Solie, “Whose Life?”, 232 notes this and welcomes another character into the story. She regrets the exclusion by Schumann of the protagonist’s mother from the cycle by the omission of a stanza from poem 6 and the suppression of the last poem altogether. Solie asserts that this minimizes the opportunity for the woman to turn her attention to anyone other than the beloved man. See Solie, “Whose Life?”, 228.



The music

To this interpretation, I have three perspectives to offer. First of all, Frauenliebe is the shortest of Schumann’s major cycles. The cycles on poems by Eichendorff, Kerner, and Rückert (Opp. 39, 35, and 37) have twelve songs each, and the first Heine Liederkreis Op. 24 has nine songs. The second Heine cycle, eventually published as Dichterliebe Op. 48, has sixteen songs (trimmed from the original set of twenty). In Frauenliebe, with only eight songs (and a postlude that reprises the first song), Schumann had one of his smallest expanses to fill, and thus a limited variety of keys is not remarkable or inappropriate in and of itself. Second, Frauenliebe is the tightest narrative of Schumann’s cycles, and therefore perhaps ideally suited for a closely integrated set of keys. The Eichendorff poems were chosen from different sources, and Schumann’s selection has never been construed as tied to a narrative; indeed it is today regarded as a series of Romantic “fragments.”27 Liederkreis Op. 24 is based on a group of nine poems published together by Heine; but these poems do not suggest a narrative outline any more than the Eichendorff.28 The Kerner (Op. 35) and Rückert (Op. 37) songs are based on Schumann’s choices, and in the case of Op. 37, also Clara’s, of poems from larger collections; these groups have coherence as Wanderlieder and love songs, respectively, and each manifests a progression, but neither approximates a story line.29 Dichterliebe is a set of initially twenty, and subsequently sixteen, songs based on poems that Schumann chose from Heine’s Lyrisches Intermezzo, a compilation of sixty-six poems in the poet’s Buch der Lieder. Arguably Schumann imposed a quasi-narrative sequence with his selection and ordering of the poems, but the ambitious expansiveness of this cycle called for greater tonal variety.30 27




See David Ferris, Schumann’s Eichendorff Liederkreis and the Genre of the Romantic Cycle, Oxford University Press (2000). See my study comparison of Op. 24 and 48: “Why Dichterliebe Twice? The Case of Schumann’s Opus 24 and Opus 48,” in J. Thym, ed., Of Poetry and Song: Approaches to the Nineteenth-Century Lied, University of Rochester Press (2010), 390–408 (English language version of “Warum. . .” 2007, below); originally published as “Warum Zweimal ‘Dichterliebe’? Opus 24 und Opus 48,” in Übergänge zwischen Künsten und Kulturen. Kongress zum 150. Todestag von Heinrich Heine und Robert Schumann (Düsseldorf, May 7–10, 2006), Stuttgart: Metzler (2007), 229–247. On Op. 35, see Jon W. Finson, Robert Schumann: The Books of Songs, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (2007), 71ff. On Op. 37, see Rufus Hallmark, “The Rückert Lieder of Robert and Clara Schumann,” 19th-Century Music 14 (1990), 3–30; Melinda Boyd, “Gendered Voices: The Liebesfrühling lieder of Robert and Clara Schumann,” 19th-Century Music 23 (1999), 145. See Hallmark, “Why Dichterliebe Twice?,” 390–406 (see particularly 398–404). For a distinct point of view, arguing against narrative, see Beate Julia Perrey’s distinguished book, Schumann’s Dichterliebe and Early Romantic Poetics: Fragmentation of Desire, Cambridge University Press (2002).

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

Table 4.5 Key ratios in Schumann’s major song cycles of 1840 Cycle

Keys useda

Ratio of keys used: 24 keys

No. of songsb

Ratio of Keys: songs

Op. 24 Op. 39 Op. 42 Zwanzig Lieder Op. 48 Op. 35 Op. 37

7 8 6 17 17 7 7

7:24 = .29 8:24 = .33 6:24 = .25 17:24 = .71 17:24 = .71 7:24 = .29 7:24 = .29

9 12 8+1 20+1 16+1 12 12

7:9 = .777 8:12 = .666 6:9 = .666 17:21 = .81 17:17 = 1.00 7:12 = .58 7:12 = .58

Notes: a Listed here are the keys of the songs of each cycle, first in the published order song by song, and then in a consolidated, systematic listing (parallel major and minor modes on the same tonic are construed as two keys: lower case indicates a minor key). Op. 24: D, b, B, e, E, E, A, d, D; or: D, d, B, b, E, e, A; Op. 39: f], A, E, G, E, B, e/E, a, E, e, A, F]; or: F], f], A, a, E, e, B, G; Op. 42: B[, E[, c, E[, B[, G, D, d, B[; or: B[, E[, c, G, D, d; 20 Lieder: f]/A, A, D, G, E[, g, b, e, C, a, d, g, E[, B[, g, B[, e[, B, E, c]/ D[; or: f]/A, A, a, D, d, G, g, B, b, E, e, C, E[, e[, B[, D[, c]; Op. 48: f]/A, A, D, G, b, e, C, a, d, g, E[, B[, e[, B, E, c]/Db; or: f], A, a, D, G, g, d, B, b, E, e, C, E[, e[, B[, D[, c]; Op. 35: E[/e[, A[, B[, g/G, g, E[, B[, E[, E[, C, A[, A[; or: A[, E[, e[, B, g, G, C; Op. 37: A[, f/A, A[, D[, F, A[, A[, B?/f], B, B, A[, E[; or: A[, f, F, D[, E[, B, f]. b Op. 42 and the Zwanzig Lieder / Op. 48 have postludes which are counted as additional songs.

Last but not least, and contrary to what one might at first believe, the keys of Frauenliebe are, in fact, not so restricted when compared with the other cycles, except for Dichterliebe (see Table 4.5). When one counts the number of different keys employed in each cycle and compares this both with the twenty-four available keys and with the number of songs, then it is evident that even though Op. 42 uses the fewest different keys, it has, proportionately, the same ratio of keys to songs as Op. 39, a higher ratio than both Opp. 35 and 37, and an only slightly lower ratio than Op. 24. By contrast, when one considers the second Heine cycle, in its original and final (Dichterliebe) versions, one sees that both the ratios of keys used to all twenty-four possible keys and likewise the ratio of keys used to the number of songs are extremely high; indeed, in the final version, no key is used twice! Thus the tonal “density” of Dichterliebe is far greater than in any other cycle. This is arguably the most ambitious and complex of Schumann’s cycles, and so it is not an apt comparison with any of the other 1840 cycles in terms of length, key variety, and tonal scheme. There is also a corollary here: if the restricted range of keys in Frauenliebe symbolizes the confined “sphere” of a



The music

woman, then the similarly limited key ranges of Opp. 24, 35, 37, and 39 must likewise imply the restricted domain of the protagonists of those cycles, which are mostly male by inference. To put it neutrally, Schumann’s arrangement of keys in his song cycles seems to be related less to the protagonist’s gender or other qualities than to the number of songs.31 Frauenliebe und Leben does of course recall the first song, without its text, as the piano postlude of the cycle, implying a certain circularity. But Schumann also used thematic reprise in Dichterliebe, recalling song 12 in the postlude to the concluding song 16. And writers note that the key of the cycle’s postlude, D[ major, is enharmonic with C] major, the dominant of F] minor, with which song 1 opens, thus implying that this cycle, too, could return to its beginning and recur again and again. Even without thematic return, Op. 24 begins and ends in the same key, Op. 39 begins and ends with the same tonic pitch (minor and major), and in Opp. 35 and 37, the opening and closing keys are related by a fifth. To go beyond Schumann’s domain for a moment, think of Beethoven’s song cycle An die ferne Geliebte; the key scheme of its six songs is very limited and tight (E[, A[, A[, C, E[, E[ – only three of twenty-four possible keys, and the ratio of keys to songs is 3:6 or .5); the songs flow without break from one into another, and the final stanza of the last song recalls the melody of the first. When a gendered interpretation based on the allegedly restricted tonal palette and thematic recall of Schumann’s Frauenliebe is closely examined, then, it tends to dissolve. It is difficult to argue that Schumann’s music portrays a woman’s sphere as restricted when his other (male) cycles adhere to similarly limited musical materials. Schumann’s lieder were slow to become known and prized, despite how highly we esteem them today. An essay on Schumann’s music from 1850 refers to Dichterliebe, Myrthen, and Frauenliebe und Leben as his “lovely and passionate songs, that unfortunately are so little known.”32 The writer speculates that it is the peculiarities of Schumann’s piano notation, the confusing look of it on the page, that has contributed to the unpopularity of his songs. The critic goes on to praise the composer’s delicate and brilliantly intimate (“fein und geistreich innig”) melody and fully romantic harmonies; but he says that there is something so original about Schumann’s songs that to 31


Cf. Robert Samuels, “Narratives of Masculinity and Femininity: Two Schumann Song Cycles,” in Delia da Sousa Correa, ed., Phrase and Subject: Studies in Literature and Music, Oxford: Legenda (2000), 135–145. Though with an approach quite distinct from Solie’s, Samuels also argues that the more complex nature of the Dichterliebe key plan distinguishes it from that of Frauenliebe. Louis Ehlert, “Robert Schumann,” Dresdener Journal, January 12, 1850, 13.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

understand them an elevated taste and honest engagement with the material are required. Yet another critic, writing the same year, disagreed: The objection that the piano accompaniment is too difficult simply collapses wherever modern piano technique has spread. Even less valid is the objection that the voice part is unsingable; this is bruited about by professional singers who are not pleased by the new serious manner, which does not agree with the “gargling” that they have learned from the degraded opera music of the last decade.33

This writer does not contest the relative unfamiliarity of Schumann’s songs, only the other writer’s rationale for that circumstance. By the 1860s Schumann’s lieder had measurably gained in public esteem, judging by their greater frequency on concert programs, and the Frauenliebe songs took a favored place among them.34 The noted dramatic soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient sang selections from Frauenliebe a number of times in the late 1850s, and Clara Schumann regularly accompanied singers performing selections during the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s. Concert programs featured excerpts of one, two, or three songs from the cycle, heard across German-speaking Europe in Leipzig, Berlin, Dresden, Cassel, Königsberg, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Vienna, and also in Copenhagen, Utrecht, Basel, and Riga. The most frequently excerpted songs were “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (no. 2), “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” (no. 3), and “Seit ich ihn gesehen” (no. 1). On some occasions songs 1–5 were performed as a unit (as mentioned earlier); the symmetrical grouping of keys complemented the narrative arc proceeding from first infatuation through the wedding. The first performance of the whole cycle was by Julius Stockhausen, the esteemed baritone (!), accompanied by Clara Schumann.35 Stockhausen had also premiered the complete Dichterliebe (and had given the first complete public performance of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin as well). A number of editions of the cycle appeared with French, Italian, and English translations of the texts.36 In 1865 the publishing house of Heinze in Leipzig saw fit to bring out a de luxe edition of Frauenliebe und Leben, with a photograph of Schumann and an



35 36

Anonymous essay, Die Grenzboten. Zeitschrift für Politik und Literatur, vol. IX, no. 39, September 20, 1850, 495. The following data is drawn from an examination of the photocopies of concert programs archived at the Schumann Forschungsstelle in Düsseldorf and at the Schumann-Haus in Zwickau. Reich, Clara Schumann, 208 and 251. Herbert Schneider, “Die Übersetzungen von Chamissos und Schumanns Zyklus “Frauenliebe und Leben” ins Französische und Italienische,” paper read at Korrespondenzen und Transformationen. Internationale Chamisso-Konferenz, Paris, June 8–11, 2011.



The music

appreciative essay, the album clothbound and engraved in gold.37 Only in the third edition of his biography (1880) did Wasielewsky bring himself to write confidently about the place of Schumann’s lieder among those of other composers, and in doing so he singles out Frauenliebe: What especially distinguishes Schumann as a song composer from the other epochmaking masters is that noble effusion of feeling, which one could describe as genuinely feminine. The Chamisso song cycle “Frauenliebe und Leben” provides a shining example. Therein the emotions and soulful moods of the loving maiden, of the happy bride, and of the wife in joy and sorrow are brought to such profound, true-to-life, and effusively excited expression, as though it spoke to us directly from the loving heart of a chaste femininity. To voice this tone with such purity, fidelity, and poetically transfigured truthfulness has been achieved in this measure by no other master.38

There may be many ways to impugn Wasielewsky’s pronouncement, but it stands as a contemporary opinion. Notably, with this statement he means to characterize all of Schumann’s songs; Op. 42 is merely an example. A fourth cycle by Hilarius von Siegroth was published in 1862 as his Op. 15, but no copy of his songs has been found.39 Its existence is attested in Tardel’s listings and by a review in the Deutsche Musik Zeitung 1862. In passing, the review confirms the preeminence of Schumann’s cycle. The reviewer begins by declaring the awkwardness of any attempt to set Chamisso’s poems after Loewe and Schumann. He says it is one thing to recompose a single poem already set by eminent composers, but quite another to take on a complete work: We’re speaking . . . of an entire song cycle . . . that was set once by the genial Carl Löwe . . . and then a second time given such a musical rebirth by Rob. Schumann that not only do we number it among his most beautiful works, but also we count it among the most beautiful works that the lyrical muse has ever offered.40 37 38



Announcement in the Signale für die musikalische Welt, vol. 23, no. 51, December 8, 1865. Joseph Wasielewsky, Robert Schumann. Eine Biographie, 3rd edn., Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel (1880), 159–60. Von Siegroth’s cycle consists tantalizingly not of nine, but of ten songs, and the title page reveals the reason for this count: the composer divided poem no. 2 into two equal parts of three stanzas each and entitled them, respectively, “Er, der herrlichste von allen” and “Höre nicht mein stilles Beten.” Title-page information is furnished in the Challier Grosser Lied Katalog (Ernst Challier’s Grosser-Lieder Katalog. Ein alphabetisch geordnetes Verzeichniss sämmtlicher Einstimmiger Lieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte sowie mit Begeleitung des Pianoforte und eines oder mehrerer anderer Instrumente, Berlin: Ernst Challier’s Selbstverlag [1885]). Deutsche Musik Zeitung, III. Jahrgang, no. 38 (September 22, 1862), 299. I am grateful to Heinrich W. Schwab for calling this review to my attention; see his essay on Loewe’s Frauenliebe, 17.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

The same review demonstrates that tonal ordering of a cycle was by now considered a standard and important feature. In discussing Siegroth’s songs, the reviewer writes: Is a song cycle not an integral whole, and designed to be sung in sequence? And if so, does it not matter which keys follow one another and how they do it? Can I leap from a C major triad directly into one on E flat major (song 5 and 6), from this onto a 6/4 chord on E (A major, song 7), from an A major triad back to one on E flat, etc.?

The thoroughly scathing review takes Siegroth to task for all sorts of things, from inappropriate text setting to poor or illogical musical orthography, and ends with a lament about the present condition of German song composition.41 Two reviews of performances of Schumann’s songs in 1869 and 1879 are worth quoting for their distinct perspectives on this cycle. The first is in harmony with Wasielewsky’s appraisal of Schumann’s expressiveness, but it reaches an unexpected conclusion: At the conclusion of the first part Frl. Nanitz42 sang the song cycle “Frauenliebe und Leben” of Rob. Schumann. I consider this selection an altogether bad mistake, in which Frl. Nanitz and the Gewandhaus hardly stand alone. Are these songs for the concert hall? can an artist sing these most intimate and holy mysteries of a woman’s love for husband and child with full confidence before a large audience? Will she not always feel that this artistically most perfect rendering of the innermost emotional life of a woman in her young innocence must either be presented dramatically on the stage, where the separate illusory world and situation justify it, or must seek refuge in a small and quiet room of a house? Our public is not very sensitive, and yet I would be surprised if one or another mother among the listeners was not overcome with a feeling of profanation, when the sixth [fifth] song “An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust” rang out before an audience of 400.43

The other review concerns the singer Amalie Joachim,44 who frequently programmed the cycle; she often performed it with Clara Schumann at the piano, but here was accompanied by the pianist, composer, and conductor 41

42 43


This review discusses Siegroth’s songs in detail; but without the score, the exposition here of such matters seems extraneous. Mezzo-soprano Minna Nanitz (1842–1903) was primarily an opera singer. Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (AMZ), IV. Jahrgang, no. 12, March 1869, 93. Interestingly, the review goes on to criticize the performer for singing none of the songs with lightness and happiness, as though she should be uttering them retrospectively, overshadowed by the death of her husband. (The reviewer misnumbered this song as the sixth.) Amalie Joachim (née Schneeweiss) (1839–1899) was an Austrian-born alto and wife of Joseph Joachim, the foremost violinist of his day, who was a friend and artistic collaborator with Schumann and Brahms, for whom the latter composed his violin concerto.



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Carl Reinecke. This reviewer to some extent shares the previous writer’s qualms, but overcomes his reservations about public performance of the cycle: Amalie Joachim sang Schumann’s “Frauenliebe und Leben.” It is unnecessary to remark that the highly poetic or rather authentically warm and human interpretation of this singer brought Schumann’s songs, perhaps the most beautiful ones there are, to such an advantageous conclusion that the listening audience completely forgot their surroundings; many an eye was moist. These songs, sung like this, are almost too beautiful for concert performance; and yet, on the other hand, one might like the whole world to be present and share in this deep spiritual pleasure.45

Of individual songs and illustrated editions Did Loewe compose his cycle in response to the fresh appearance of the Frauenliebe poems in Chamisso’s complete works in 1836? It is possible neither to corroborate nor dismiss this speculation, but the composition of songs on these poems in general picked up notably around this time. In the first five years of their existence, the Frauenliebe poems had attracted four composers; from 1836 through 1840 they engaged thirteen composers (including Schumann who composed his cycle in 1840, although he did not publish it until 1843). This first decade of songs includes settings of the lyrics by the Munichbased opera composer and conductor Franz Lachner,46 the Dresden Kapellmeister Carl Gottlob Reissiger,47 and the virtuoso pianist and Liszt

45 46


AMZ, XIV. Jahrgang, no. 6, February 1879, 93. Franz Lachner (1803–1890). Lachner achieved appreciable success in his day as an opera composer. Having worked as Kapellmeister at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna (with Conradin Kreutzer) and at the Mannheim Court Opera, he was the conductor of the Munich opera from 1836 until his retirement in 1868. He prepared and conducted the Munich premieres of Wagner’s Tannhäuser (1855) and Lohengrin (1858), introducing many works to the repertory and bringing better disciplined playing to the orchestra. His own operas are more in the mold of French grand opera, and his Catarina Cornaro and Bevenuto Cellini held their popularity for much of the nineteenth century. Schumann criticized his symphonies, but recognized the kinship of some of his music with Schubert. C. G. Reissiger (1798–1859). A conductor, composer, pianist, and teacher, he succeeded Weber as director of the opera in Dresden in 1824, and then became Kapellmeister of Dresden’s whole musical establishment in 1828, a post he held until his death. He won the esteem of many, Berlioz and Schumann among them. Considered the champion of German classicism in the early nineteenth century, he was a prolific composer (ten operas, twelve masses, c. eighty solo piano works and as many song collections, plus orchestral and chamber music). A number of his songs used an obbligato instrument.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

rival Sigismond Thalberg,48 among others. Their songs, as we shall see in Chapter 5, reflect their primary musical interests. In the next two decades, 1841–1860, over twenty more composers were drawn to one or more of these poems. The new offerings include songs by the opera composer and conductor Heinrich Marschner,49 the conductor, composer, and founder of the Cologne music school Ferdinand Hiller,50 the Viennese violinist, conductor and church musician Heinrich Proch,51 and the virtuoso violinist and concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra Ferdinand David.52 Many other 48





Sigismond Thalberg (1812–1871) was one of the greatest virtuoso pianists of the nineteenth century. He made his debut as a pianist at age fourteen, and began his international career of concert tours in 1830 and studied with Pixis and Kalkbrenner in Paris. He and Liszt were great rivals, a competition abetted by composers and critics taking sides, e.g. Fétis and Schumann for Thalberg, Berlioz for Liszt. The two virtuosos were eventually reconciled in a symbolic joint concert. Thalberg was said to combine brilliant piano technique with a singing style; indeed he wrote a treatise on L’art du chant appliqué au piano. He was best known, as was Liszt, for playing his own compositions (such as fantasias on opera themes and original works). His larger works were not particularly well received, but he published eight collections of lieder. Heinrich Marschner (1795–1861). While studying in Leipzig, he made the acquaintance of the critics Amadeus Wendt (who figured in our discussions earlier) and Friedrich Rochlitz, the founding editor of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung. He made his living at a series of posts across Germany and in 1827 scored his first big success with Der Vampyr. This was followed by his two other popular operas Der Templar und die Jüdin (1829, indirectly modeled on Scott’s Ivanhoe) and Hans Heiling (1833). His reputation rests on the quality of his three successful German romantic operas and their mediation between Weber’s Der Freischütz and Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer. He composed much music for male chorus (still sung today by German men’s choirs) and some 300 lieder. Ferdinand Hiller (1811–1885). A prominent and well-respected conductor, composer, teacher, and concert pianist. He studied with Hummel in Weimar and later replaced Mendelssohn as director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester for a year (1843–1844), founded a subscription concert series in Dresden, and conducted in Düsseldorf (1847–1850), preceding Schumann’s service in that post. Hiller was a close friend of the Schumanns. Both Heine and Schumann wrote positive reviews of his music. In Cologne he founded a conservatory on the model of Leipzig’s, which he served as director until 1884. He achieved moderate success (six operas, two oratorios and other choral-orchestral works, and chamber music). He composed approximately 150 lieder, and he accompanied lied performances, including, for example, a recital with Julius Stockhausen of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin. Heinrich Proch (1809–1878) was an Austrian violinist, conductor, and composer, and a long-time member of the Vienna court chapel (1834–1867). He conducted at the theater in Josefstadt (1837–1840) and then at the Kärntnertortheater (1840–1870). He composed operas, orchestral works, church music, and over 200 lieder, many of which were among the most popular songs of his era, but quickly forgotten. Ferdinand David (1810–1873) was an outstanding violinist, teacher, and composer. He studied violin with Louis Spohr and theory and composition with Mortiz Hauptmann. In 1836 he became concertmaster of the Gewandhaus and opera orchestras in Leipzig, a post he held for thirty-six years. He became part of the history-making creative circle that included Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, premiering, among other things, Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. He taught violin at the Leipzig Conservatory, and Joseph Joachim was one of his earliest students. His reputation was that of a consummate and thoughtful artist, rather than a dashing virtuoso. He became interested in older music and published an anthology of violin



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composers of lesser note also composed songs to Chamisso’s Frauenliebe lyrics. Siegroth’s cycle (see above) falls in this period. After 1860 the frequency of musical settings subsides and only around twenty more Frauenliebe songs were composed in the last four decades of the century, none by any composers who have name recognition today. We shall take a look at a number of these settings of Chamisso’s poems when we move on to a closer study of Schumann’s cycle. Another measure of the popularity of Chamisso’s poetry is furnished by the several de luxe illustrated editions of Frauenliebe und Leben that appeared in the nineteenth and even into the early twentieth centuries. The earliest and in some ways the most elegant, and easily the most successful, is the edition with plates by illustrator and painter Paul Thumann (1834–1908), first published in 1879 and reissued in at least thirty more printings through 1910.53 Thumann studied in Berlin, worked as illustrator in Dresden and Leipzig, and later as professor of painting in Weimar.54 The book is in quarto format, printed only on the recto sides of heavy, coated stock. Each poem is furnished with Thumann’s illustration (each printed separately and mounted on its separate page), preceded by a leaf with a cherub or fairy holding the number of each poem, and followed by the poetic text printed with a decorative, usually floral, border. This edition was issued in octavo format in 1898. In 1897 these Frauenliebe plates were published in tandem with Thumann’s seventeen illustrations for the Lebenslieder und Bilder cycle. Thumann also illustrated editions of Goethe’s Wahrheit und Dichtung and Heine’s Buch der Lieder. Alexander Zick (1845–1907) created thirty-one illustrations for a joint edition of Frauenliebe (nine) and Lebenslieder (twenty-two) in 1894 (Berlin). Zick was a contributing artist for Die Gartenlaube. Illustrirter Familienblatt (The Garden Arbor. Illustrated Family Newspaper), a periodical founded in Leipzig in 1853 (and later moved to Berlin) and in nearly continuous publication ever since. Die Gartenlaube was one of the first illustrated weeklies and enjoyed a large circulation.



music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He composed much solo music for the violin, plus concerti and chamber works, but only a handful of lieder. Leipzig: Adolf Titze. For Thumann’s illustration of poem no. 4, “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” see the cover of this book; for more of Thumann’s illustrations, go to the online resources for this book. Information from New York Times article on his painting “The Sirens” (January 28, 1975), as seen on, November 1, 2012. Some information was also taken from the well-researched and supported entry on Thumann in the German Wikipedia (November 1, 2012) as well as Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliographie.

The musical reception of Frauenliebe und Leben

Next appeared an octavo edition of Frauenliebe illustrated by E. Klein and R. E. Kepler (Stuttgart, Greiner & Pfeiffer; the fifth printing appeared in 1900). About the same time R. Schoebel provided illustrations for another quarto-sized book (Leipzig, Literaturwerke Minerva, 1897). Finally there was a quarto edition (Berlin, Neufeld & Henius, 1910) with illustrations by Friedrich Klein-Chevalier (1861–1931). Klein-Chevalier’s brightly colored illustrations appear to be reproduced from oil paintings in the sketchy, halffinished look cultivated at the time. He furnished only seven pictures, providing none for poems 2 or 7.55 All of this work remains in the realm of book illustration and commercial art, but it testifies nevertheless to the successful dissemination, popularity, and longevity of Chamisso’s poems. It is clear that in his time, and for much of the nineteenth century, Adelbert von Chamisso and his poetry were popular and respected. As an incredulous Chamisso himself said, “I have the favor of the public, and the factions that tear each other to pieces in our literature, or sling excrement, do not fail to tip their hats when they pass me. – For birthday, godparent, Christmas, and bridal gifts, 1000 [editions of] Uhland and 500 [editions of] Chamisso are needed each year in Germany.”56 It is instructive to contrast Chamisso’s statement with the quotation at the head of this chapter, in which he brags that his portrait appears with those of Goethe, Ludwig Tieck, and Friedrich Schlegel. The two statements reflect the poet’s own ambivalent estimations of his literary standing. On the one hand, he paired himself confidently with the popular romantic poet Ludwig Uhland (1787–1862), whose collected poetry went through fortytwo editions in his lifetime and was frequently the source of lied texts. Esteemed equally for his lyric and narrative verse, Uhland’s most celebrated poems are the idyll “Frühlingsglaube,” well known in Schubert’s setting, and the ballad “Des Sängers Fluch,” which Schumann composed for chorus and orchestra. For Chamisso’s collected poems to sell half as well as Uhland’s was truly an accomplishment. On the other hand, while Chamisso knew that his likeness was as recognizable as the faces of those more prestigious writers, he imagined that his works, like Uhland’s, were perhaps more casually regarded by the general populace as appropriate gifts for children



Much of the basic publication information is taken from the list in Tardel, 390. He does not list the Klein-Chevalier, a copy of which I acquired through the German The Zentrales Verzeichnis Antiquarischer Bücher (ZVAB) lists many copies of these illustrated editions. (I thank Matthew Cron for bringing this website to my attention.) Feudel, Chamisso, 195–196.



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and brides. He never ranked himself with the likes of literary giants such as those to whose portraits his was linked. Chamisso could never shake his feeling that he was a newcomer, an amateur, someone not fully at home in the world of German letters. Despite this, he was, for the better part of the century, one of Germany’s favorite writers.


Schumann at work on his songs

Before launching into a detailed examination of Schumann’s cycle, it will be helpful to provide an idea of how he went about composing songs. Clarification of Schumann’s procedure and familiarity with the primary sources for Frauenliebe und Leben will enable readers to understand the steps in the composition, emendation, and publication process to which my discussion will refer. For most of the 1830s Schumann had been composing solo piano music almost exclusively. That decade includes his first twenty three published works, among them his best-known piano cycles Papillons (Op. 2), Davidsbündlertänze (Op. 6), Carnaval (Op. 9), Kinderszenen (Op. 15), plus his Symphonic Etudes (Op. 13), Fantasie (Op. 17), and two sonatas (Op. 11 in F] minor and Op. 22 in G minor). He also founded and edited the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (1834), for which he wrote many reviews and assembled an able staff of contributors.1 Schumann had composed a few songs in 1828–1829, but none since. The lied, outside Schubert’s efforts, had not greatly impressed him, and he had no designs on that genre. He entrusted most reviews of song publications to his colleague Oswald Lorenz. Yet in the winter of 1839–1840, there unexpectedly began an intense outpouring of lieder that lasted through the following winter.2 The sudden turn and prolific output surprised and delighted him. The year 1840 has justifiably become known as his Liederjahr (the year of song), when Schumann composed around 150 songs, including all the famous cycles. As he worked his way into this new mode, Schumann sampled a number of different poets, many of whom he continued to favor through the years. But he was particularly drawn to Heine, and his first published songs in 1840 are his Heine Liederkreis Op. 24. The very next published work is a collection of 1


Schumann’s reviews fill several volumes. See Gesammelte Schriften über Musik und Musiker, afterword by Gerd Nauhaus, 4 vols., reprint of Leipzig 1854 edn., Wiesbaden: Breitkopf und Härtel (1985). For a discussion of and bibliography on Schumann’s early songs and his “conversion” to song composition, see Finson, Schumann: The Book of Songs 3–21, and Hallmark, “Robert Schumann: The Poet Sings”, in Hallmark, ed., German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century 2nd edn, New York: Routledge (2009), 93–96.



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twenty-six songs based on poems by (in alphabetical order) Burns, Byron, Chamisso, Fanshawe, Goethe, Heine, Moore, Mosen, Rückert, Willemer – a grab-bag of writers. He dedicated this collection to Clara and gave it to her as a wedding “bouquet” (Myrthen, or myrtles) of songs in September 1840. About half the songs of the Liederjahr belong to cycles, including the well-known Eichendorff, Heine, and Chamisso groups, and Schumann stretched out their publication over five years, from 1840–1844 (see Table 4.3, p. 124). Songs were not only a largely new genre for Schumann, they also represented a new approach to composition. The procedures he followed in composing songs are revealed in the original sources. To someone like myself who has spent much enjoyable time and effort studying Schumann’s manuscripts, it is almost unthinkable to skip over them. It is my conviction, though not everyone agrees, that valid and useful insights into the music can be gleaned from or suggested by such study of preliminary sources. Some maintain that any observations about a composition can and should be based solely on the composer’s published work, the final version that the composer sent into the world. Rather than engage in a philosophical argument here, I shall trust readers to judge for themselves whether this chapter – a look into the stages of Schumann’s composing – and the inferences that I shall draw from them will have enhanced their understanding and enjoyment of his finished cycle. In the next chapter I shall draw on the compositional stages I discuss in detail here to help substantiate some of the analytical observations I shall make there. As many of his manuscripts attest, Schumann often began to compose a song by first jotting down the vocal melody that had formed itself in his mind as he read and recited a poem to himself. These sketches are often complete or nearly complete notations of the tune, and often they are very close to the final version. If Schumann’s tiny and cramped sketch hand were more easily legible, a singer could in many cases perform from his sketch. These vocal sketches, however, are most fascinating precisely where they are not exactly the same as the final version. The discrepancies reveal not only the earlier stages of the published melody that we know, but also, by inference, some of the reasons for the changes that produced the final version. Sometimes they indicate a wholly other path the song might have taken. The earliest manuscript for Frauenliebe und Leben is just such a set of sketches; they are part of a collection of music manuscripts at the J. Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Readers can look at this sketch manuscript; see online resources.3 3

Mary Flagler Carey Collection, Carey 68–69, the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, www.

Schumann at work on his songs

It would be a mistake to assume on this evidence that the conception of the piano part was secondary for Schumann. The vocal sketches, with empty measures and a piano figure notated here and there, bear witness to the fact that Schumann was thinking about the piano music at the same time as he jotted down the voice part. Presumably the pianist in him trusted his fingers to remember the keyboard part, but wanted to jot down the vocal melody and text on paper. The next step was a complete draft of a song, a manuscript into which Schumann copied his sketched vocal melody – sometimes making changes as he copied – and to which he then added the piano music. This manuscript is the autograph, the writing down of the complete work by the composer. In many instances Schumann made substantive and even radical changes in the songs as he wrote out the autograph, or entered additions, deletions, or alterations later. As with the sketches, these discrepancies from the published songs often provide insight into Schumann’s thinking and help us appreciate his final choices all the more. The autograph of the Frauenliebe songs is found in the second of three large Liederbücher in the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. These song albums are the separate autographs of Schumann’s songs that the composer collated and had bound into three volumes. The autograph of Frauenliebe und Leben is found in the second album. But these drafts still do not contain the final version of the songs. (Readers may also consult this manuscript: see online resources.)4 Schumann’s handwriting in the autograph is larger and more legible than in his sketches, for he knew a copyist would use it to make a “clean” copy of the songs, which would then go to the publisher. The engraver would need as clear and unambiguous a model as possible from which to work. But the copy manuscript was not the end of the process, for Schumann checked through this manuscript to correct mistakes, and in so doing he frequently made still further alterations in his music. One is not surprised to find that the copyist often had trouble reading Schumann’s script and transferred erroneous text; Schumann corrected these errors for the most part. Sometimes, surprisingly, substantive changes took place at this stage. Today this copy of the Frauenliebe songs, bearing Schumann’s corrections, is in the Morgan Library in New York together with the sketches (see the online resources).5



Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Sign. Mus. ms. autogr. R. Schumann 16/1–3; the Frauenliebe songs are in the second album, pp. 112–130 (see the online resources). Mary Flagler Carey Collection, (see the online resources).



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The printer’s proofs were the next step in the pre-publication process. Corrected proofs are relatively rare sources, and none exists for Frauenliebe und Leben. But we know that Schumann must indeed have emended these proofs, for there are discrepancies between the corrected copy and the first edition that, logically, must have resulted from the composer’s alterations at the proof stage. And this brings us to the first edition. Schumann was usually involved in the planning of the lay-out and title pages of his music, and Frauenliebe und Leben was probably no exception. The title page for this cycle has no illustration, but it is decorated with an intricate and handsome border and enlivened by as many different type fonts as there are lines of print (see the online resources).6 Schumann usually dedicated his published works to individuals, and he dedicated Op. 42 to “his friend Oswald Lorenz.” At the Neue Zeitschrift Lorenz was the “Minister of Lieder,” the fanciful designation Schumann gave him since Lorenz was charged with writing most of the song reviews, including that of Loewe’s Frauenliebe in 1836 (see Chapter 4, p. 121). One is tempted to speculate that with this dedication Schumann may have acknowledged Lorenz’s role in engendering the composer’s interest in Chamisso’s cycle. Perhaps Lorenz encouraged Schumann to try his hand at setting these poems. Schumann refers to most of these sources obliquely in his Haushaltbuch. This was the composer’s household accounts book, in which he kept track of expenses such as rent, and including things like his and Clara’s weekly allowances, purchases at the Kaffeebaum (a Leipzig café that was a favorite haunt of many musicians and writers), music paper, cigars, newspaper ads for Clara’s local concerts, and the like. In among the expenses, Robert jotted down what he and Clara did each day, whom they saw, music they played or heard. He also noted what music he had worked on each day. On July 11, 1840, he wrote, “Nachmittag 5 Ged[ichte]. v. Chamisso” (“afternoon 5 poems by Chamisso”), and on the following day, “Nachmittag 3 Ged. v. Chamisso.”7 The sketch manuscript for the songs bears the following inscription in the upper left corner of the first page: “11. Juli 1840. 1–5.” and before each of the sketches for songs 6, 7, and 8, we find “12. Juli.” The eighth song is also parenthetically labeled “Letztes” (“last”), explicitly indicating that Schumann’s plan was to end his cycle with this song and not to set Chamisso’s ninth poem. Schumann also redundantly wrote “12. Juli. 1840” again at the very end of these sketches. The household book and 6


The title pages of all of Schumann’s first editions are reproduced in Kurt Hoffman, Die Erstdrucke der Werke von Robert Schumann, Tutzing: Schneider (1979). Robert Schumann. Tagebücher, eds. Georg Eisman and Gerd Nauhaus, Vol. III, Haushaltbücher, Part 1 (1837–1847) 3 vols., Leipzig: Deutscher Verlag für Musik (1971–1985), 155–156.

Schumann at work on his songs

sketch manuscript thus confirm one another with respect to the initial creation of the eight songs of Frauenliebe in mid July. The autograph manuscript of Frauenliebe bears the dates “11. u. 12. Juli 1840.” But the circumstances and handwriting strongly suggest that this annotation was probably inserted later, as the composer went through the whole album, adding dates to every set of songs, and that his dating here refers to his initial work on this cycle. On the front side of the leaf on which he began his Frauenliebe autograph Schumann had drafted the song “Der Page” (Op. 30/2), and the Haushaltbuch places the composition of this song on August 2.8 This probably allows us to infer that Schumann began to write down his Frauenliebe draft on or after that date.9 Frauenliebe und Leben was part of a larger Chamisso project. While Schumann was drawn to some poets – such as Heine, Eichendorff, Kerner, Rückert – over and over again, his involvement with Chamisso’s verse, except for a single song back in February (“Was soll ich sagen,” Op. 27/3), was confined to a short and intense compositional period of eight days when he composed Frauenliebe and all the rest of his Chamisso settings. Here is how this whole spurt of activity looks in his Haushaltbuch:10 11 . . . Afternoon 5 poems by Chamisso [Frauenliebe, Op. 42/1–5] 12 . . . Afternoon 3 poems by Chamisso [Op. 42/6–8] 13 . . . [Die] Löwenbraut [Op. 30/1] 14 . . . [Die] Kartenlegerin and Die rothe Hanne [Op. 30/ 2. 3] 15 . . . [P]layed my ballads with Clara [presumably the three preceding songs] 16 . . . Märzveilchen, Muttertraum and two more [Der Soldat, Der Spielmann, Op. 40/1–4] 18 . . . Verratene Liebe [Op. 40/5]

Fascinatingly, just after the Haushaltbuch note on July 12, Schumann wrote, “Bitterer Abend mit Klara, doch ich verschuldet” (11 Bitter evening with Clara, but I was at fault). So just after he had been immersed for two afternoons in the composition of songs about a marriage, ironically he and his fiancée exchanged angry words. Interestingly he blamed himself for this incident. Four days later Schumann had already launched himself into a new lied project, setting poems by Robert Reinick that would be published as Sechs Gedichte Op. 36 in 1841.

8 9


Ibid., 157. See Robert Schumann. Frauenliebe und Leben, ed. Kazuko Ozawa, Henle (2002), preface, v (vii, ix). Schumann. Tagebücher, vol. III, Haushaltbücher, part 1, 155–156.



The music

Many of the Chamisso poems Schumann composed may have held personal significance for the composer. His setting of “Was soll ich sagen,” a bittersweet poem the thirty-seven-year-old Chamisso addressed to his nineteen-year-old bride Antonie, was included in Myrthen, the collection of songs thirty-year-old Schumann was to dedicate to his bride Clara, nine years his junior, and present her as a gift on their wedding day. In the two days following the composition of Frauenliebe, Schumann tackled Chamisso’s ballad “Die Löwenbraut” and the poet’s translations from French of Béranger’s ballads “Die Kartenlegerin” and “Die rote Hanne.” (The sketch manuscript of Frauenliebe also contains the sketches for “Die Löwenbraut” and “Die Kartenlegerin.”) According to the household book, Robert and Clara together read through these songs the following day. These three songs were published together as Op. 31/1–3, in 1841. Schumann may well have associated all three songs, along with Frauenliebe, with Clara and their marriage prospects. They are all either in the voice of a woman or about a woman, and all concern the lot of young women of marriageable age. The young girl reading her tarot cards (“Die Kartenlegerin”) hopes for love, but just as that prospect reveals itself in the cards, they also predict an old woman, whereupon the girl’s mother enters her room, fussing at her to put away her cards and go to sleep. Comic tone turns more serious with “Die Rote Hanne,” a poor red-headed girl whom no one would marry because she had no money. She ended up with a hapless man, but he has been arrested and jailed for poaching game to support his family. Now Hanne lacks the wherewithal to care for herself and her children, who are without food and shelter in the winter. The “lion’s bride” is the zookeeper’s daughter, who has known the lion since her childhood and has treated him like a family pet. She comes into his cage to announce her impending marriage and introduce the lion to her fiancé. The beast, who has until that moment always been gentle with the young woman, becomes enraged with jealousy and mauls and kills her. Her fiancé, entering just too late to save her life, shoots the lion dead. One is tempted to think that all of these tales were swirling around in the mind of Schumann, who certainly entertained trepidation about his approaching marriage. Would Clara’s father successfully intervene to prevent the marriage, as the mother interrupts her card-reading daughter’s romantic fantasy? Would the charges brought against Schumann by Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck, lead the court to rule against the marriage, as the poacher is convicted in “Rote Hanne”? Might “Die Löwenbraut” portray Schumann’s fantasized homicidal rage against old Wieck for trying to prevent his marriage to Clara? Both John Daverio and Jon Finson have conjectured about the

Schumann at work on his songs

possible autobiographical significance of “Die Löwenbraut,”11 and perhaps the extension of the conjecture to these other temporally and topically related songs strengthens this psychological interpretation.12 Schumann put the Frauenliebe songs aside for the time being, as he also did with the Zwanzig Lieder aus Heines Lyrischem Intermezzo (later Dichterliebe), which he had composed in May.13 Whether he wanted to allow these songs to season a bit more or decided, with an eye to sales, to space out his song publications, we do not know. In any case, he did not pull things together for Frauenliebe until the spring of 1843. The Haushaltbuch entry for May 7, 1843 reads “den Chamisso’schen Liederkreis in Ordnung gebracht” (“the Chamisso song cycle put in order”),14 which may refer to his corrections and final preparation of the copyist’s manuscript. He promptly offered the songs the very next day to the Leipzig publisher Whistling. Schumann’s accounts book records that on May 16 he received 44 Thaler “Von Whistling für die Lieder Op. 42.”15 Later Schumann sent along a draft for a title page, to which the publisher added the remark “Gesehen. W.” (“Seen. [approved?] W[histling]”). It was apparently only after he had submitted this title page that Schumann decided on the dedication “Seinem Freunde Oswald Lorenz zugeignet” (“Dedicated to his friend Oswald Lorenz”). This addition is in another hand (possibly Whistling’s) on the title page draft; Schumann presumably communicated this desideratum to the publisher orally or by letter, with the request to insert it into the text. The cycle went on sale in July. The turnaround time for publication was a scant two months.

From sketches to final version: song 1 One’s first impression of Schumann’s vocal sketches for Frauenliebe is of a cramped handwriting of bewildering illegibility.16 And yet the off-white 11


13 14 16

Daverio, Robert Schumann:, 207: “Just as the raving lion (a figure whom Schumann must have associated with Wieck) goes berserk, so too does the music”; Finson, Schumann: The Book of Songs, 95: “We could even project a biographical subtext onto the song with Friedrich Wieck as the beast unwilling to part with his companion and Schumann as the youth who eventually slays the vengeful animal . . .” Elissa Guralnick, who finds much self-doubt in Schumann’s letters and diaries, and who finds it turning up even in his songs, would likely subscribe to this interpretation. See Guralnick, “Ah Clara!” Hallmark, The Genesis of “Dichterliebe,” and “The Sketches for Dichterliebe.” Schumann. Tagebűcher, vol. III, Haushaltbűcher, Part 1, 250. 15 Ibid., Part 2, 671. Readers are strongly encouraged to consult the sketches, corrected copy, and autograph of these songs; see the online resources.



The music Ex. 5.1 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” sketch.

color of the early nineteenth-century rag paper, together with the printed staff lines and the tiny notes and scribbled text in black ink fading to brown, seem to invite us to linger and puzzle out what is on the page, especially since we know that these hieroglyphs carry the composer’s first notations of these beautiful songs. On an initial encounter with the sketch of song no. 1, “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” one recognizes the familiar melody, but bit by bit one becomes aware that there are a few things faintly out of kilter here. The tempo is Andante instead of Larghetto, there are two measures of rest between phrase two and three where there should be none, the text underlay is skewed here and there, the voice sings the cadential phrase twice (ending the first phrase on d2), and consequently there is neither an interlude between the stanzas nor a postlude. All these things should be apparent in the Morgan Library sketch manuscript to an unpracticed eye, but a transcription is furnished here to help acclimate the reader to Schumann’s hand (Ex. 5.1). We have entered (some might say trespassed) into Schumann’s first written ideas of how these songs will go. We shall witness Schumann modifying these early ideas in the full draft autograph and even in the copyist’s manuscript. We need not dwell on the sketch version here, for it will come up in our examination of later sources; but I want to call attention to one initial idea that is later abandoned – the linking of the first phrase of the song to the second. In the sketch, Schumann asks the voice to wail a three-note, syncopated melisma – d1–a[1–g1 (eighth, quarter, eighth) – on “sein” of “blind zu sein” in stanza one (as well as on “her” of “um mich her” in stanza two).

Schumann at work on his songs

In his autograph manuscript, Schumann is workmanlike.17 He has changed to oblong (or landscape) format music paper specifically printed for the notation of songs, the staves printed in groups of three with extra space between the first and second staves of each group to facilitate the insertion of text. Schumann used this space maximally by writing both text stanzas of the first poem under the first staff, in what one might dub “strophic” notation, thereby circumventing the necessity of writing out the music twice. But when he did this, he had to accommodate the differing text underlay of the two stanzas on a single staff. Realizing that this shorthand solution would be too cluttered and potentially confusing in the end, he added a note to the copyist in the lower left corner of the page: “NB. der 2te Vers/ mit Abänderungen auszustechen beim Druck” (“NB: the second stanza/ with variants is to be separately engraved for publication”). In this autograph Schumann’s handwriting is larger, the musical notation is much easier to read, and, if one is at all familiar with the orthography of old German script, the text is more easily legible. The spacing, too, of the autograph is more regular; the composer wrote six almost identically proportioned measures in each system. Whereas Schumann jotted down his sketches for his own eyes, he penned the autograph for the copyist to read (though this does not mean the copyist never makes copying errors). His hand nevertheless retains its characteristic energetic look. Right away we note changes from the sketch and also understand some of the sketch’s anomalies. The autograph bears the tempo marking Larghetto, plain and simple; the original Andante never made it into this manuscript. We immediately perceive the reason for the two-measure rest in the voice after the first two phrases: in the sketch and autograph, Schumann intended that the piano should anticipate the third vocal phrase – the one that rises to the e[2 – and only afterward that the vocalist should re-enter singing this arching melody. (He subsequently removed these two measures.) At the end of each stanza we see that the voice, rising to d2, accompanies the piano’s deceptive cadence, with its delicious F] appoggiatura to the G minor/vi chord in the bass, and then settles to b[1 when it repeats the phrase for the authentic cadence. The wailing (m. 4) noted in the sketch has been added to the piano in the autograph; Schumann has removed it from the voice in stanza one, but retained it in stanza two, where it anticipates the protagonist’s “weinen” (“crying”) five bars later. Eventually this detail will be eliminated from the voice altogether. We shall see that this figure is involved in the elision of the 17

See the first page of the autograph through the website link.



The music Ex. 5.2 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” autograph.

first two phrases and plays a more generally expressive role in the song than merely a sighing utterance by the protagonist. We discover in the autograph that Schumann’s initial counterpoint in the piano for mm. 12–13 (also 28–29, using the numbering of the published song) is curiously weak. At this climactic point in each stanza, on the words “tiefstem” and “Dunkel” in the first stanza (“ihn” and “gesehen” in the second), we await the published song’s pungent ^7  ^6 suspensions on the downbeat of these two measures. But in the initial notation of this passage, the composer did not introduce the dissonance until the second beat of the measure, leaving the downbeat consonant and rhythmically unmarked in the piano. He changed his mind while working on the draft and chose the more conventionally constructed suspension dissonance on the first beat, creating a more expressive phrase (see Ex. 5.2). The copyist wrote his manuscript in an almost schoolboyishly neat hand. The noteheads are uniformly round, straight-stemmed and flagged; the alignment of piano and voice is nearly perfect; the literary text runs straight across the page as though the copyist were using invisible guidelines. He also used a wider pen nib and held his stylus to distinguish thick and thin strokes. The careful, deliberate copying lacks the passion of the composer’s swift hand. Schumann wrote in haste to record his ideas; the copyist took plenty of time to reproduce them carefully and legibly. Schumann’s subsequent emendations to this manuscript therefore stand out as incongruously messy pencil markings (see Morgan Library manuscript). In the copy, the vocal lines of the two stanzas occupy two different staves, though the piano is written out only once. This allows for notating the differing text underlay in the two stanzas without resorting to fussy up and down stems. The copyist indicates to the engraver, however, that the piano music is to be newly engraved for the second stanza: “NB. zum 2ten Vers die Pianofortestimme wieder auszustechen.”

Schumann at work on his songs

The copyist faithfully carried over from the autograph the two-measure piano interlude after the first two phrases of the song, but Schumann decisively crossed it out. Similarly he canceled the repetition in the voice of the cadential phrase (“heller nur empor”), altering the voice’s concluding note to the tonic (b[1 instead of d2), and allowing the piano to sound the authentic cadence alone (the second stanza followed of course by the short coda). Another easily overlooked but significant detail that Schumann improved is the link between stanza one and stanza two. If one reads the sketch and the autograph literally, there is a measure of “vamping” on the opening piano gesture (I–IV–V) before the voice begins the second stanza. When the voice’s repeated cadence is removed (in the copy), then there are two measures of the vamp figure before the voice begins the second stanza (“Sonst ist licht- und farblos”). This is implicit in the sketch and clear in the autograph. This became apparent to Schumann when he was proofreading the copy, and he indicated that the dal segno at the end of stanza one send the performers back not to m. 1, but to m. 2, eliminating the now pointless extra bar. In the next chapter the reader will understand how these observations about the evolution of this song can contribute to, or enhance, our analytical understanding and interpretation of the music and text. Having established the nature and interrelations of the sources with this detailed discussion of the first song, we shall now proceed through the others more quickly.

Song 2 In the sketch of song no. 2, “Er, der herrlichste von allen,” one notices immediately that Schumann notated this song in Ȼ rather than in C and that the melody proceeds in half the final note values, each measure of the sketch equaling two measures of the later version. The autograph is written in the final meter and note values, however, with no trace of the conversion from the sketch. One notices, too, that in the fifth stanza the vocal line does not rise to the high g[2 we expect to see/hear at “soll beglücken deine Wahl.” Most interesting is the fact that this sketch is unfinished, or at least appears to be, since it abruptly breaks off at the end of the fifth stanza of Chamisso’s six-stanza poem at “viele tausend Mal.” That phrase ending, although it is similar to the later version in rising from f1 to c2, is subtly



The music Ex. 5.3 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 2 “Er, der herrlichste von allen,” sketch, ending with hypothetical harmony.

different (see Ex. 5.3). The c2 appears not to be the main note, but an appoggiatura to b[1, suggesting a harmonic retransition to the dominant B[ in preparation for a return to the tonic E[. A hypothetical reconstruction of the harmony demonstrates that a half diminished chord (altered ii43 in E[) to the dominant would fit nicely. Additionally, the duration of these melodic notes to the end of the measure would exclude the beginning of the next phrase as an upbeat to the following measure, as in the final version (“will mich\freuen”). So for several reasons we are left wondering how Schumann at this stage meant the song to continue. In the autograph and final version Schumann sets the sixth stanza as a nearly exact transposition of the preceding stanza a minor third lower, but in the sketch Schumann has not yet decided on this course. One is drawn, almost ineluctably, to the inference that, at the sketch stage, Schumann intended a return here to the original melody. What we cannot surmise is whether he meant to use this musical return for stanza six or, eliminating the poem’s last stanza altogether, for an early reprise of stanza one. In either case, in the sketch Schumann already has in mind the rondo-like form of this song. What we find in the autograph is that not only does Schumann override the return to E[ implied at the sketch’s ending and set stanza six to a transposition of stanza five, but also, when he reaches the return to the tonic, he reprises both stanzas one and two (see online resources)! The beginning of the reprise of stanza one is written out, of course, because the retransition from the end of stanza six (on the A major triad, V of D major) has traversed only the keys of D and G and has not reached E[ by the time the voice begins to sing; the circle of fifths continues through C, F, and B[ before reaching E[, and only from that point can the music of stanza one be literally reprised. After this, for the continuation (mm. 61ff.), Schumann employed a convenient shorthand. First he labeled mm. 6–16 (beginning “Lippen”), the music to be literally reprised, as

Schumann at work on his songs

Table 5.1 The evolution of the rondo-like form of song 2 of Frauenliebe. Poem stanzas 1 Sketch Autograph Corrected copy


2 A A A

3 B B B


Musical sections 5


A A0 A0





A A0



[A ?] C0 C0

“1–11,” then copied these numbers into eleven empty bars, thereby indicating to the copyist what music to insert at this point. These eleven measures include stanza two as well as stanza one, and at the conclusion of the reprise of stanza two, Schumann placed the full, authentic cadence from the end of stanza four (final version, mm. 36–38), texted with “hell und herrlich, hoch und fern.” He also wrote out the piano postlude in the autograph. Schumann did not arrive at the final version of the song’s ending until he emended the copyist’s manuscript. There he boldly crossed out the second stanza reprise and elided the end of the reprise of stanza one with the authentic cadence, substituting “wie so milde, wie so gut” as the text for the authentic cadence. So this song’s rondo-like form went through several stages before reaching its final version (see Table 5.1). We shall discuss the possible implications of the song’s form later. A few other discrepancies in the early versions of the song beg to be mentioned briefly. In the autograph the passage in mm. 18–20 – where the piano plays the opening of the rondo theme alone, leading into stanza three – is furnished with a chromatic bass line: d, d[, c, c[, B[. In the copy manuscript, the composer decided to alter these harmonies to the final, diatonic version (more or less like those in stanzas one and two), and thereby to save the more intensified chromatic progression for the point at which the rondo music returns with the voice for stanza four. In stanzas five and six, the autograph still keeps the voice on the d[2 in m. 42 (“Wahl”), although the piano sounds the high g[2 on the second beat of the measure. In the analogous passage in m. 50, the voice sings b[1 (“dann”) while the piano leaps to e[2. In the copyist’s manuscript Schumann emended the vocal line by substituting these higher notes. Also, a parallel alteration: in the autograph, the vocal line of stanza five ends with a semitone descent to e1 (“tausend Mal”) and that of stanza six to c] (“was liegt daran?”). In the copy, Schumann ended both phrases with the rise of a fifth (f1–c2 and d1–a1), thus reverting to the sketch ending of stanza five, albeit with an altered harmonic premise.



The music

Song 3 The sketch for song 3 greets us with another metrical discrepancy: Schumann initially notated it in 6/8 rather than in 3/8.18 The autograph appears to have been written unhesitatingly in 6/8, yet the vestige of the original meter is nevertheless perceptible in the harmonic rhythm, which proceeds in groups of two 3/8 bars. In the opening section the chord in each odd-numbered bar is the principal harmony, while that in each even-numbered bar is a passing harmony, and at the end of the first phrase one chord is held for two bars. The odd-numbered bars are therefore more strongly weighted and retain something of their former “downbeat” quality. We shall return to this feature, which together with the double bar (m. 15) discussed below may bear on performance. We shall also examine a debatable alteration of Chamisso’s text. An anomaly of the published version of this song is the double bar in m. 15 of the published score. This occurs neither in the sketch nor in the autograph, but turns up in the copy. Its presence there is easy enough to understand if we start with the autograph. There, rather than troubling to write out the reprise of the first stanza toward the end of the song, Schumann resorted to a shortcut. He wrote the upbeat “Ich” (in m. 52 of the published song) and then wrote “Fort mit 1 bis 14” (continue with measure 1 through 14), and followed this instruction with the very ending of the stanza – the pitch c1 and the syllable “-glückt” (of “beglückt”) followed by the coda. When the copyist made the clean copy of this song, he used a different shorthand for the reprise of the first stanza. When he arrived at this point, he wrote “D.C. bis Fine dann Schluss” (“D[a] C[apo] to “Fine” then the conclusion”). He labeled m. 15 “Fine” and there he drew a double bar, indicating to the engraver that at this point he, having re-engraved stanza one as a reprise, should then return to the second page of the copy and continue with the music labeled “Schluss” (the coda). The double bar in m. 15, intended as a mere practical signal to the engraver and not meant to be printed, was erroneously engraved in the plate. Schumann the proofreader did not catch this unintended double bar in the clean copy, and it made it into the first and many subsequent editions of the song.19 We shall later explore an unfortunate effect of this oversight. 18


The sketch for song 3 is on folio 1v of the Morgan Library manuscript, occupying the first six staves. Similarly, the original published version of “Waldesgespräch” of the Eichendorff Liederkreis (Op. 39/3, 1843) is notated in 6/4. For the revised edition (1851), Schumann recast it in 3/4. The double bar appears in the first edition, but not in the collected works edition. It is retained in Friedländer’s edition (Peters) and Ozawa’s edition (Henle).

Schumann at work on his songs

Another consequential issue in the sources is whether the second word in the third line of stanza three is “seligen” or “seligsten” – whether it is the nominal or superlative form of the adjective for “blessed” or “blissful.” In the sketch Schumann clearly wrote “seligsten,” faithfully reproducing Chamisso’s poem.20 Even in his tiny, crimped hand, the letters “-st-” are clear in German script, because the old German script “s” extends well below and above the base line level. In the autograph, admittedly, the word is ambiguous; but it does not look simply like “seligen,” which is nevertheless how the copyist read it. A case can be made that the word in the autograph is Schumann’s hasty miswriting of “seligsten.”21 When he proofed the copy, however, Schumann failed to emend the copyist’s “seligen.” Perhaps he did not even notice this discrepancy because a number of music-related errors in the same vicinity distracted his attention from this textual anomaly. Why the fuss over the little word? Its significance will be discussed later. Another emendation process in this song deserves mention. In the second stanza (mm. 47–51, “schlürfen in Tränen unendlicher Lust”) of Schumann’s sketch, the voice leaps down from f2 to g1 on the word “schlürfen” and then continues in that register to the end of the phrase. The sketch melody in the next bars – f 1–f]1–g1 – suggests the harmonization bracketed in Ex. 5.4. In the autograph Schumann wrote down the melodic line as g1–f]1–g1 and wrote the piano harmony (first layer). Not happy with this he altered the melodic line further to f]1–f]1–g1 and also modified the harmony of this second layer. Finally, Schumann substituted his final reading (third layer), in which he maintained the vocal line in the higher register of the previous phrase (removing the seventh leap down), gave it a much more expressive melody that emphasizes the text more effectively, and simplified the piano to less attention-grabbing chords. In this final emendation the harmony does not progress directly to V in the next bar, but first to I64 and then to V. It is fascinating how much labor this short little passage cost Schumann, but how right he got it in the end.

Song 4 In the sketch the strict rondo form of this song is clear, which is no surprise given the rondo-like quality of the poem.22 Stanzas one, three, and five all 20 21


See the fifth staff on f. 1v of the sketch, the second measure. In writing “seligen” in script, the pen would rise from the bottom of the “g” loop only as to the base line level for the “-en” termination. But Schumann’s line extends upward noticeably above the base line level, just as if he were going to write a script “-st-”. Morgan Library, sketch manuscript, f. 1v, bottom seven staves.



The music Ex. 5.4 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 3 “Ich kann’s nicht fassen”: sketch with hypothetical harmony; autograph, original harmony; autograph, emended harmony.

begin with the phrase “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” and the first and last stanzas are identical. Moreover, stanzas two and four are not addressed to the ring, but directed inward, the one contemplative of the past, the other of the future. It was a straightforward choice for Schumann to compose his song in a modified ABABA design. The sketch is, in fact, not complete, but the form is nevertheless clear. The vocal melody is written out for stanzas one, two, three, and the beginning of

Schumann at work on his songs

Ex. 5.5 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 4 “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” evolution of melody for second stanza.

four (ll. 1,2), and four blank measures provide sufficient space for the conclusion of this stanza. The return to the music of the opening melody is assumed for the conclusion, though it will require an adjustment of the ending from a half to a full cadence. The sketch gives the impression the composer may have abandoned his sketching at this point to proceed directly to the full draft. The composition of this song apparently went quite smoothly for Schumann. The notes and rhythms are fairly stable from sketch through corrections in the copy. This calls all the more attention to the few alterations that he did make, such as the several changes of detail in the melodic line for stanza two. The sketch, corrected autograph, and corrected copy show gradually evolving versions of this melody, which also involves the addition, in the copy, of the word “schönen” (beautiful) to Chamisso’s text (see Ex. 5.5). These adjustments seem minor, but pay attention to them, for they add up to an ingenious and subtle bit of word painting, which will be discussed in Chapter 6.

Song 5 Like the preceding poem, “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern” seems to call for a rondo-like treatment. The first, third and fifth stanzas are each addressed to the bride’s sisters in the imperative voice, while the second and fourth are



The music

reveries about the beloved. In his sketch Schumann shows no hesitation in notating the rondo melody nearly in its final form.23 Some alterations merit our attention. We notice in the sketch that there is an empty measure in the middle of stanzas one and three. We assume these bars were left blank because Schumann had solo piano music in mind, and the autograph confirms this: he initially had the piano echo the closing measure of the vocal phrase (see the autograph). These measures were carried over into the copy, but there Schumann crossed them out.24 The bustle of the music, mirroring the nervous excitement just before the wedding ceremony, is not to be slowed by this break. In the concluding stanza Schumann decided to add two bars of piano music in the autograph where none had been implied (by rests) in the sketch. Before the voice’s phrase in G[ (final version mm. 41–42), he inserted an anticipation of that phrase and key by the piano. He subsequently drew a bracket above these measures and wrote in the margin below: “D[iese] 2 Tacten können wegbleiben” (“These 2 measures can be omitted”). The copyist dutifully included them (since they are not expressly canceled), and then Schumann decided to follow his impulse and crossed them out in the copy. This means that the momentary turning of the bride to bid her sisters farewell in this G[ major digression occurs suddenly, without being foreshadowed by the piano music. Schumann similarly altered the ending of this two-measure digression so that it reverts just as suddenly to the main key. In the autograph, the retransition to B[ begins at the word “Wehmuth” (melancholy, wistfulness) on the last quarter note of this phrase, where the composer has the bass sink from D[ to C as the voice sings e[1–f1 and the harmony progresses from vii7/V–V (F major). In the downbeat of the next bar the chromatic bass retransition continues through C[ to B[ followed by a ii–V–I cadence (see Ex. 5.6). With his emendations in the copy, Schumann brought this retransition to its final form. Now the foreign D[ harmony continues to the very end of m. 42, and – without any buffering – the key shifts cleanly back to B[ on the downbeat of m. 43. To enhance this effect, the composer added pedaling to the piano dynamic and ritardando of mm. 41–42 and marked the new phrase in m. 43 a tempo.

23 24

Ibid., f. 2r, staves 1–11. The piano echo in the middle of stanza one is also crossed out in the autograph, which indicates that the composer made this change only after the song had been copied. He must have canceled it in the copy, then returned to his autograph to cancel it there as well.

Schumann at work on his songs

Ex. 5.6 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 5 “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern,” autograph, mm. 41–44 with extra measures preceding

One notices in stanza two of the published song that the word “sonst” has been added to Chamisso’s text. In all three manuscript sources – sketch, autograph, and copy – the phrase lacks this addition. Why did Schumann make this change? It may be that his motivation here was less to tweak the meaning than to strengthen a rhythmic and accentual weakness.25 With Chamisso’s text unaltered, Schumann begins the line “dem Geliebten im Arme lag” (“lay in my beloved’s arms”) with two eighth notes (“dem Ge-”) on the second beat, arguably to avoid an unnatural downbeat emphasis for the article “dem,” only a secondarily accented syllable. Schumann decided at some point after he corrected the copy that he wanted the rise to e[2 to begin on the downbeat and in unison with the piano, a stronger musical gesture in itself and one that would match the analogous rise to g2 (m. 17). To do this he needed a more strongly accented syllable to begin line 3; this need is met with the insertion of “sonst.” Since the text addition and rhythmic alteration appear in none of the manuscript sources, this is a change the composer


The word may add nuance to the meaning of the line; “sonst” can mean “earlier, formerly” and also “usually or customarily.” Since the past tense already denotes the former, one might read the emended line as “When I, content and with a joyful heart, used to lie in my beloved’s arms,” connoting repeated action.



The music

Ex. 5.7 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 5 “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern,” autograph, mm. 27–28, 31–32.

must have made when he was reading through the engraver’s proofs. He continued to emend his songs up to the last possible moment. Whereas the vocal sketch for stanza two is very close to the final version, and closely modeled on the refrain melody, the sketched melody for stanza four will undergo a number of small changes. The curious reader can see many of these by comparing the sketch with the corrected copy. It is also interesting to know Schumann’s original chord voicing for the chord on the second half of mm. 28 and 32: the first layer of the autograph shows root position dominant chords on G and A (see Ex. 5.7). But Schumann subsequently altered the bass notes to F and G, changing these chords to V42 chords. These inversions correspond to those in the second half of mm. 27 and 31, and the only chord we hear in root position in this stanza is the dominant F (in mm. 27, 30, 34). This harmonic intensification together with the increased rhythmic motion of repeated eighth-note chords, contrasts with the comparative simplicity of stanza two and builds to the climactic return of the rondo theme (m. 34). And Schumann altered the last phrase of this stanza to end on the high f2 rather than on c2, thus enabling the voice to hold its triumphant note through the next bar, B[, which would not have accommodated the C (see the autograph manuscript). The sketch contains no hint of the suggestive, march-like piano postlude, which seems to flow effortlessly from the composer’s pen at the end of the full autograph draft of this song.

Song 6 Compared with the seeming incompleteness of the previous song, the sketch for “Süsser Freund” is detailed, right down to leaving blank bars

Schumann at work on his songs

for the voiceless piano interludes of the song and even the “dein Bildnis” tag at the very end.26 There is no trace of Chamisso’s third stanza; that is to say, Schumann must have known before he set pen to paper that he was going to leave it out. As with other songs, the “refrain” material of song 6 – the melodic material that recurs several times – remains fairly constant through the various manuscript versions. The contrasting music for the last couplet of stanza three (Chamisso’s stanza four), however, undergoes much alteration. Especially interesting is Schumann’s indecision about the internal repetitions and arrangement of these lines. Here is the progress of this text: sketch: “Dass ich fest, das ich fest und fester, [dass ich] fester nur dich drücken mag” autograph (1): “Dass ich fest und fester, dass ich fest und fester nur dich drücken mag” autograph (2): “Dass ich fest und fester, dass ich fest und fester dich nur drücken mag” corrected copy/published version: “Dass ich fest und fester nur dich drücken mag, fest und fester”

The final version actually keeps Chamisso’s line intact, and adds repetition of the adverbial phrase afterward.27 It also trails off a few notes sooner than the earlier versions of the passage, leaving the piano to play the melody notes c2–a1–g]1–g\1. Schumann must have added the exclamation point (not in Chamisso) to this phrase in the engraver’s proofs. In autograph and copy the composer marked a (ritard.) for this phrase ending (m. 42), but he then canceled this marking in the copy, allowing this phrase to plunge ahead at tempo into the retransition marked dim[inuendo] (m. 43).28

Song 7 Chamisso’s poem is in rhyming couplets, but Schumann paired the eight couplets into four quatrains and composed, in effect, a kind of modified strophic song. Each of the first three stanzas is open ended, pushing the excited song right along to its conclusion. Every stanza sets the initial couplet to essentially the same melody (beginning with the rising a–d2 26 27 28

Morgan Library, sketch manuscript, f. 2r, bottom four staves, f. 2v, top eight staves. This correction process can be seen in the copy, Morgan Library manuscript, p. 17, top staff. This begs the performance question, of course, because there presumably needs to be a return to the initial “Langsam” for the reprise of the original melody.



The music

Ex. 5.8 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 6 “An meinem Herzen,” autograph, mm. 18–19: (a) hypothetical; (b) autograph; (c) corrected copy.

fourth), and the modifications largely occur in the music for the second couplet of each pair. The most consequential compositional changes Schumann made were in stanza two (mm. 10–17). The sketch of the second couplet of this stanza repeats nearly the same melody (b1–a1–g1) for each measure.29 The G\ of this sketch melody (m. 17) would have precluded the E major secondary dominant that we find in the final version. In that case, Schumann would presumably have left the E minor ii chord to precede the 6 inverted dominant seventh (A 24 ) at the beginning of the next stanza (m. 18). Schumann modified the tune in the autograph, carrying it down to e1 in m. 16 and adding the rising fifth e1–b1 in m. 17, and arpeggiating the V/V in the piano. This revision may be related to the sense of the text, to be discussed later. From the beginning of the song, the bass line for the opening of each stanza had been the figure c]–d–g–f] twice, in dotted quarters. At the beginning of stanza three (“Nur eine Mutter”) in the autograph, Schumann reversed this sequence, writing g–f]–c]–d, possibly to create smoother voice-leading from the g] bass note in the second half of m. 17 (the V/V) to the g\ in m. 18. This necessitated altering the vocal melody (m. 19) to avoid parallel octaves between bass and voice (C]–D); he therefore continued the melody up to f]2. In the copy, he reverted to the original vocal line, keeping it the same as all the others, and avoided the parallel octaves by replacing the c]–d bass figure with a repetition of g–f] bass figure in m. 19 (and also 20 and 21); see Ex. 5.8 and autograph manuscript. Schumann also made a few text changes.30 Chamisso’s poem employs the adjective “überglücklich” (“overjoyed”) twice in succession (couplet 3), and so did Schumann in the sketch; but in the autograph he clearly wrote



See Morgan sketch manuscript, 2v, beginning in the last measure of staff 11, “nur die da säugt.” The reader can get a good idea of the changes by comparing the sketch (f. 2v, bottom seven staves) with the copy and its corrections (pp. 19–20), even though the middle stage of the autograph is missing.

Schumann at work on his songs

“überschwenglich” (“effusively”) in m. 10 and “überglücklich” in m. 12.31 In the penultimate couplet Schumann’s sketch reads like Chamisso: “Du schauest mich an und lächelst dazu,/ Du lieber, lieber Engel du,” but ultimately he reversed these two lines when he notated the autograph.

Song 8 The sketch melody of this song is remarkably close to the final version.32 Given how thorny the harmony of the second stanza is, it is fascinating that Schumann seems to have been absolutely certain of the progression from the outset, judging by his sure-footedness in writing out the voice’s pitches. The other surprising feature of this sketch is that Schumann troubled to notate the piano postlude here – the reprise of song 1. Was he afraid he would forget? If that were the case, he could simply have written himself a reminder, such as “Hier das 1. Lied als Nachspiel” (“Here the first song as postlude”). He marked the transitional measure (23) Adagio, but provided no tempo marking for the postlude. He also drew double bars at the beginning and ending, apparently meaning that the music is to be repeated.33 He has also drawn a horizontal bracket over the third phrase, which was the piano’s anticipation of the rising line, and this bracket may be his reminder to repeat this phrase. At the bottom right, he wrote what appears to be his first conception of the final bars of this postlude; they do not match his final solution. If we are interpreting the double bars correctly as repeat signs, then the conclusion at the bottom right could come directly after the double bars. Why did Schumann leave the bulk of five music staves blank between the double bars and the sketched final cadence? Do the empty intervening staves suggest Schumann had more music in mind for this postlude? Or was it merely a whim, as though staking out the whole page to declare that the cycle was finished? While these anomalies cannot be explained with any certainty, we can confirm in the autograph and copy that Schumann unequivocally intended that the postlude consist of the two stanzas of piano music of song 1. In the autograph he notated one stanza, then started the first measure again, marked it pp, numbered the preceding bars 1–16 and wrote “2–16” in a 31

32 33

Unlikely as it seems, the copyist comically misread Schumann’s “überschwenglich” for “überschrecklich” (overly dreadful!); Schumann caught this and restored his word choice. See Morgan Library, sketch manuscript, f. 3r. The sketch goes as far as reaching the dominant (m. 14 in the final version), but does not include the deceptive cadence, and the double bar indicates that the repeat occurs from this point.



The music

blank bar, indicating that the music was to be repeated. He then wrote out the final version of the concluding cadence, abandoning the cadential idea notated at the bottom right of the sketch. For the repeat, the copyist used the shorthand method of double bars and repeat signs (as Schumann had in the sketch).34 Inexplicably, the copyist wrote Tempo vivace [!] for the postlude. When Schumann went over the copy, he made the decision for a wordless reprise of a single stanza of song 1 and crossed out the double bars and double dots. He also crossed out the erroneous vivace and after Tempo added “wie das erste Lied” (“like the first song”). From this brief tour of the manuscript sources, the reader should have formed a good idea of Schumann’s song-composing procedure. I have reported only a fraction of the emendations, but as the details grow in number, their fascination for anyone but an editor or avid fan diminishes. It is time to turn away from the minutiae of the sources to consider the songs as finished creations, and to compare Schumann’s musical treatment of Chamisso’s poems with those of other composers. Some of the alterations detailed in this discussion (and still others) will yet prove enlightening to our appreciation of Schumann’s finished songs.


Here’s a curiosity: when Schumann wrote out the postlude in the autograph, he included the extra statement of the phrase in mm. 8–9, the anticipation by the piano of the rising line in the voice. But in numbering the bars, he skipped this extra phrase, not assigning numbers to these two measures. Had he assigned them numbers, his indication of the repetition would have read “2–18.” The implication is that Schumann had already decided to omit this phrase, but had neglected to cross these bars out explicitly. The copyist therefore included them in his manuscript, and it remained for the composer to cancel them in the copy. Even though this shows that the decision to eliminate this phrase was made while Schumann was still working in the autograph, it apparently did not occur to him to go back and eliminate this anticipatory phrase from the first song. What we infer is that the compositional process was still very much in flux.


Schumann’s cycle: analysis and comparative interpretation

“And when evening came, we sat quietly at our ease and listened to our mother at the piano, singing the serene and lovely song-cycle of Frauenliebe und Leben. Thomas Mann1

If Schumann’s settings of Chamisso’s Frauenliebe poems are still to be performed, then modern performers and audiences alike, if they have qualms, must somehow make their peace with them. From a musical point of view this need not be a whole-hearted acceptance of Chamisso’s poetry, although I have tried to win readers to him by presenting the poet and his work sympathetically in biographical, historical, and literary perspective. As musicians we are dealing with Schumann’s music, enjoyable in its own right, and with his songs’ individual interpretations of the poems. Schumann’s songs are not simply Chamisso’s poems “dressed up” in music, any more than Chamisso’s poems are simply ideas dressed up in verse (though some argue that this is the case). Rather the songs are one possible portrayal in music of the protagonist and of her reactions to her experiences. Schumann’s music is a medium through which we receive Chamisso’s poems; he is the director of the dramatic reading that we as performers execute or as listeners experience. In the following discussion I shall try to keep myself and the reader aware of how Schumann is not just “setting” the texts, but is particularizing or individualizing his reading of the poems while at the same time enlarging and transcending them through various means. The appreciation of these nuances is often enhanced by comparing Schumann’s songs with others based on the Frauenliebe poems. Regardless of a composer’s level of compositional skill, one can generally infer and discuss the interpretation placed upon a poem by a particular musical incarnation; one can still hear how a composer reads and projects the poem and can therefore compare the expressive content of the various readings.


Mann, “Chamisso,” 242.



The music

Song 1: “Seit ich ihn gesehen” A dramatic song temperament could have surrounded [Chamisso’s verses] with an atmosphere full of intensifications, contrasts, contradictions. Schumann’s lyricism sets them to music in and for themselves without such associations, picks them like flowers, trims or augments them, binds them into a bouquet. (Oscar Bie)2

Two images recur through the Frauenliebe poems – light and dreams – and both are introduced in the first poem. The protagonist finds that since she first saw the man she believes that she is blind and that his image is always before her as in a waking dream. Though she does not make the metaphor explicit by calling him the bright light that blinded her, this meaning is implicit. And the dream is a “waking dream,” a daydream or reverie.3 The lover’s image of the beloved as an image that is etched on the mind’s eye is common enough to be unremarkable in itself. Here, for example, from Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, is a description of Charlotte as a tenacious visual image in the title character’s mind: How her image haunts me! Waking or asleep, she fills my whole soul. Here, when I close my eyes, here, in my brain, where the power of inner vision is concentrated, are her black eyes. Here! I cannot express it. If I shut my eyes, then they are there; like an ocean, like an abyss they stand before me, in me, fill the sense of my brain.4

Similar instances could doubtless be adduced. What is perhaps distinctive about Chamisso’s metaphor is its more nearly scientific description of the experience. Goethe describes an obsessive visual memory; Chamisso describes a physiological phenomenon. In his poem the image of the beloved is like a bright light that has stunned the girl’s sight and exhausted her color vision so that everything else is “licht- und farblos” (“lightless and colorless”). The image of the bright light itself is retained on the retina and is ever present to the mind no matter where the eye’s glance is 2



“Ein dramatisches Liednaturell konnte sie mit einer Atmosphäre umgeben voller Steigerungen, Gegensätze, Widersprüche. Schumanns Lyrik setzt sie ohne solche Beziehungen für sich in Musik, pflückt sie als Blumen, bescheidet oder ergänzt sie, bindet sie zum Kranze.” Oscar Bie, Das deutsche Lied, Berlin: Fischer (1926), 102. Muxfeldt, “Frauenliebe und Leben,” 41. “A pervasive image of inner visioning, the dream, turns up in five of Chamisso’s nine poems, a clear measure of the priority that states of imagination, both fantasy and memory, are granted in the cycle.” “Wie mich die Gestalt verfolgt! Wachend und träumend füllt sie meine ganze Seele! Hier, wenn ich die Augen schliesse, hier in meiner Stirne, wo die innere Sehkraft sich vereinigt, stehen ihre schwarzen Augen. Hier! Ich kann Dir es nicht ausdrücken. Mache ich meine Augen zu, so sind sie da; wie ein Meer, wie ein Abgrund ruhen sie vor mir, in mir, füllen die Sinne meiner Stirn.” Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Gedenkausgabe der Werke, Briefe und Gespräche, ed. Ernst Beutler, vol. IV, Zürich (1953), 475.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

directed; when the eyes are shut, the image is present against a dark background, as an afterimage. Another interesting thing about Chamisso’s poem is that the word love is never used. The protagonist in fact does not express any feelings toward the man. She says only that since she first saw him she can see nothing else and that since that time she cares little for her sisters and childhood games. Her fixation is underscored by the return of the opening couplet at the end. Chamisso’s poem then is a remarkably unemotional lyric, plain to the point of being stark. She reports her experience without interpreting or reacting to it. She sits alone and cries, but does not explain whether out of joy or sadness, though one suspects she cries because she is bewildered by an experience for which she has no name. Given this remarkable emotional neutrality of Chamisso’s poem, the interpretation is almost entirely determined by the reader. In the case of a song, this is the composer, and Schumann has maintained an emotional restraint similar to Chamisso’s. The song is cast as a dance at a moderate tempo, a sarabande, the range of the voice remains within an octave, and the dynamic level does not rise above piano. Schumann’s phrase structure, however, departs from the sarabande model. The opening four bars of music – including the piano’s opening measure, integral to the phrase – reproduce a motivic structure typical of eighteenth-century sarabandes: two single bars repeating the same figure followed by a two-bar unit.5 Given this recognizable opening gesture, one expects these four bars to be answered by a harmonically complementary phrase of equal length. But Schumann chose rather to elide the second phrase to the first by allowing the upper neighbor gesture (g1–a[1–g1) of this sequential phrase to intrude in m. 4.6 The result is that the first phrase is curtailed from its expected full four measures, and the second phrase is still shorter. These are followed by two even shorter two-bar phrases (mm. 8–9, 10–11) for lines 4 and 5 (“Wie im wachen Traume. . .”). These coincide with the line rising to the highest note (e[2) of the song and the prolongation of the dominant chord. Following all this, the music relaxes into a four-barlong cadential phrase, which is further extended by the deceptive cadence 5


Eighteenth-century sarabandes that Schumann would likely have known, such as Bach’s, open in one of two ways: 1 bar + 1 + 2, as here, or 2 + 2. One finds the former, for example, in Bach’s English Suites III and IV and in French Suite IV. Brahms also employed this structure in his two piano sarabandes composed in 1855, one of which was later incorporated into his F Major String Quintet, Op. 88, as the slow movement. This produced the rising diminished fifth (d1–a[1) sighing gesture in the vocal line in the sketch and autograph.



The music

(mm. 12–16). So within an understated musical frame, Schumann has created a subtle build to a modest climax and dénouement.7 The emotional arc of the music thus corresponds to that of the poetic text. Each stanza reaches its climax in the fifth and sixth lines, where in the first stanza the man’s image appears in the young woman’s waking dream, and in the second she cries in the solitude of her room. Schumann’s change of the song’s tempo from Andante (sketch) to Larghetto (autograph) and his addition of the ritard. in m. 7 – or at least the way many performers interpret these instructions – seem at odds with the rhythmic momentum described above. The new tempo marking appears to indicate a tempo significantly slower than the original one, perhaps too slow to make the cumulative effect of the decreasing phrase lengths perceptible, and the ritard. can utterly interrupt its progress. But is this interpretation of the performance markings correct? A consultation of early nineteenth-century German music treatises indicates that larghetto should not necessarily be interpreted as a tempo slower than andante. Heinrich Koch (Musikalisches Lexikon, 1802) equated the two tempi.8 Gustav Schilling (Lehrbuch der allgemeinen Musikwissenschaft, 1840) divided tempi into five categories; the first two are “langsame Bewegung” (slow movement) and “mässiglangsame Bewegung” (moderately slow movement). Schilling places larghetto not in the first category with largo, adagio, lento, and grave, but in the second with andante, andantino, and sostenuto.9 He describes larghetto and andante respectively as “etwas breit” (somewhat broad) and “gemächlich” (leisurely). Hermann Mendel (Musikalisches Conversations-Lexikon, 1876) wrote: “A slight modification of L[argo] is Larghetto, which indicates a less slow movement (in fact more the tempo of Andante).”10 Larghetto, then, is to be understood more in relation to andante than to largo, and one should think more of a lighter, moderate movement rather than of a heavy, slow one. Recordings testify that many performers treat larghetto too much like its namesake largo and the ritard. in m. 7 almost like a fermata. A lugubrious tempo from the outset and a near standstill in the seventh bar are deleterious to the musical effects Schumann composed. Performers should choose 7

8 10

Now we perceive why Schumann might have removed the piano’s anticipatory phrase (see above in Part I): it would have to some extent vitiated the effect of the progression of shortened phrases by prolonging this portion of it. Perhaps the solo piano alone had represented the man’s image. 9 Reprint 1964, Karlsruhe: Groos (1840), 302, 307, p. 889–890. Ibid., 302. “Eine kleine Modification des L[argo] ist das Larghetto, welches eine minder langsame Bewegung (mehr schon das Tempo des Andante[!]). . .bezeichnet.” Hermann Mendel, Musikalisches Conversations-Lexikon, Berlin (1876), vol. 6, 249.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

a tempo nearer andante and observe only a slight slowing in m. 7, returning to the original tempo in the next phrase, and the singer should try to take mm. 8–11 in a single breath and without a diminuendo in bars 10–11. A performance should take the overall rhythmic sweep of the stanza into account. The poem and song portray a pensiveness born of the shock of new experience, but not of ponderous introspection. If the phrase structure portrays the repressed excitement of the poem, the voice-leading arguably takes its cue from a detail in the text. Chamisso’s first stanza (from line 5), literally rendered, says, “As in a waking dream, / his image floats before me, / thrusts from deepest darkness / more brightly upward.” Chamisso draws what a modern reader will most readily think of as a cinematic image, a shot of a disembodied face appearing against a dark background. Schumann, it can be argued, has created a close, but subtle analogy to the poetic image with his music. The piano and voice establish the mid-register f1 as the top and rather static line at the outset. In the piano, the upper neighbor g1 (mm. 5–6) returns via g[ to the f1 in m. 6–7. In mm. 8–9 voice and piano break away from this line, “thrusting upward” like the man’s image (mm. 7ff.) (Ex. 6.1). Contrapuntally the line has leapt up from an inner voice, which is restored to that register in the piano (mm. 9–10), and from this point the piano traces a clear ^5  ^1 descent from the mid-register f1. The vocal melody makes its own descent from e[ 2 to b[ 1 (10–15), but its arrival on b[1 is not supported by the tonic chord, but by a deceptive cadence. The principal line is in the piano, descending by deliberate dotted half notes from f1–b[ (mm. 11–17) and arriving at an authentic cadence. This is all even more apparent in the postlude to song 8, when the voice is absent.11 Muxfeldt, too, without deploying an analytic graph, emphasizes the expressive implications of the various ranges in this song and of the discrepancy between the voice and piano.12 11


This is, admittedly, a rather unorthodox interpretation of the voice-leading, and a more straightforward reading might hear a ^3–^2–^1 line from the voice’s d2 in m. 8, even though this D has weak bass support and is more of a passing tone over V. (Much appears to ride on whether one hears m. 8 as I or as V.) In any case, there is a strong ambiguity of primary lines here, enough of one to concede the possibility of the melody “thrusting up” from an inner voice and subsiding back into it. I wish to thank my former colleague Charles Burkhart for entering into a stimulating and extended correspondence with me over this question. Burkhart understood how one might construe the piano’s mid-register f1 as the primary tone. He came to feel more strongly about the other interpretation, resisting the possibility that the uppermost, vocal line could have no role in the main descent. Yet he regarded my reading as “defensible,” adding that “it would seem to be confirmed by the piano epilogue at the cycle’s end” (private correspondence). Muxfeldt, “Frauenliebe und Leben,” 45–47.



The music

Ex. 6.1 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” voice-leading graph.

At the final cadence of each stanza (bars 16–17, 32–33) the melody leaps back to the f1 rather than settling on the tonic toward which it had headed. Though the cadence closes the song harmonically, this reappearance of the original motive and of the f1 – poised as if ready to launch into a third stanza – evokes a feeling of continuation, even of perpetuity. This has been noted by nearly all observers and variously interpreted. Kofi Agawu writes, “We sense the circular element even as we experience a linear fulfillment. In my ending is my beginning.”13 When linked with the reprise of this music at the end of the cycle, it takes on even more significance. Robert Samuels calls the cycle a “closed circle of experience.”14 For Ruth Solie, it stresses “the endless repeatability of the woman’s experience, the ‘all-encompassing and infinite’ time that . . . represents the feminine in many cultures throughout history . . . Schumann’s heroine retains only a ritualized, mythic existence . . . which she . . . is doomed to repeat each time it comes to an end.”15 This strong interpretation of the music is not the only possible way to construe its circularity. Muxfeldt hears the music suggesting a dream state: “The singer’s words issue forth from the hypnotic chord changes as if caught in a daydream.”16 And significantly she furthermore argues that “the postlude [of the cycle] is not merely a rote transcription of the accompaniment of the first song,”17 thereby undercutting the assumptions of the preceding arguments and laying the groundwork for a different interpretation. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. We shall return to this discussion later. This brings us back to our opening thoughts about this poem (and song): the lyric is not emotional and it does not speak about love. Here I disagree 13

14 16

Kofi Agawu, “Theory and Practice in the Analysis of the Nineteenth-Century Lied,” Music Analysis 11(1) (1992), 21. Samuels, “Narratives of Masculinity and Femininity,” 140. 15 Solie, “Whose Life?”, 228. Muxfeldt, “Frauenliebe und Leben”, 41. 17 Ibid., 45.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Table 6.1 Settings of “Seit ich ihn gesehen” Composer

Key Meter and tempo


Text repetition (lines)

Kugler Loewe Reissiger Hiller Marschner Lachner Schumann

C A G F E[ B[ B[

Strophic Modified strophic Strophic ABA0 Modified strophic ABA0 Strophic

None Modest None Extensive Extensive Extensive None

3/8 Andante 6/8 Andante espressivo 2/4 Allegretto [2/2] Mit Feuer 3/4 Etwas bewegt [4/4] Allegro moderato 3/4 Larghetto

with Barbara Meister, who declares that this song “describes the young girl’s adoration of her beloved.”18 Nor do I concur with the great singer Lotte Lehmann, who advises a prospective singer about approaching the first song of Frauenliebe as follows: “Out of the great melody of love which floats up from your heart, the restrained chords rise with a shy subtlety like trembling sighs. Begin as if with a deep sigh.”19 Lehmann comes much closer when, a few sentences later, she writes, “You cannot quite understand the power of this magic spell which has possessed you. You cannot understand how even your dearest friends can seem so far away from you.”20 Chamisso’s poem transparently relates what the young woman is experiencing, without reacting to it emotionally, without naming its cause. And Schumann’s music is true to the poem. It hovers, like the image, and will not go away. The deft neutrality of Schumann’s song can perhaps best be appreciated by comparing it with settings of “Seit ich ihn gesehen” by other composers, from the cycles by Franz Kugler and Carl Loewe and individual settings by Carl Reissiger, Heinrich Marschner, Ferdinand Hiller, and Franz Lachner. Though the scope of this study permits only the barest presentation and commentary on other songs, this will be sufficient to demonstrate the range of musical moods and thus to provide a richer context for appreciating Schumann’s reserved manner. All of these songs are in major keys; the large distinctions in their character are determined by meter and tempo, form and text repetition, melodic style and accompaniment. Some of these features are summed up in Table 6.1. Kugler’s song is by far the simplest. It has a very limited harmonic vocabulary (just I, V, and IV in C major). The springiness of its 3/8 meter, andante tempo, and repetitive tune dwelling on the third degree (e2) 18 19

Barbara Meister, An Introduction to the Art Song, New York: Taplinger (1980), 74. Lehmann, Eighteen Song Cycles, 93. 20 Ibid., 94.



The music

Ex. 6.2 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen” (mm. 1–12).

manage to impart an air of contentment. The piano accompaniment doubles the vocal melody and provides chords on first and third beats for the first eight lines of the stanza (mm. 1–12) and accompanies with arpeggiated chords in sixteenth notes in the left hand for the last eight lines. His setting is so plain as to lack even enough musical character to register as pleasant or trite. It is difficult to decide whether it is artless or amateurish. One detail slightly ripples this neutral surface. Each couplet of the poem is set to a six-bar phrase, and within each phrase the first four bars each carry one accented syllable on the downbeat, while the fifth bar unexpectedly carries two (on the first and third beats); this is followed by an echo of the last bar in the piano. The shortened vocal phrase, the slight awkwardness of two accents squeezed into the fifth bar, and the instrumental echo produce a hint of excitement21 (see the song’s opening bars in Ex. 6.2). Matthias Walz credits Kugler with sensitively reflecting the young girl’s confusion within the modest means of his rhythmic contractions and pauses.22 These barest suggestions of happiness and excitement are magnified in Loewe’s song (Ex. 6.3).23 Its lilting compound meter, decorated with 21 22 23

We shall see how Kugler irons out this crowded text-setting later in the cycle. Walz, “Frauenliebe und Leben Op. 42,” 109. Op. 60, No. 1, in Carl Loewe. Balladen und Lieder, Farnborough: Westmead (1970), vol. XVII, 32–60.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.3 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen” (mm. 1–9).

syncopation in the half cadence at mid-stanza (m. 8), and assertively positive melody project a decidedly cheerful mood. The shift from the dominant (E) down a major third (to C) at the words “Wie im wachen Traume,” the octave and minor ninth leaps and appoggiaturas embedded in the following progression on “Taucht aus tiefstem Dunkel,” and the rising line on “Heller nur empor” are all effective musical expressions of the poetic lines and dispel the complacent joy of the earlier music. But the joy returns with the second stanza, and the protagonist cheerfully relates that “Sonst ist licht- und farblos” to the A major tune. Appropriately the sudden V–[ III shift this time accompanies “Möchte lieber weinen,” and the word-painting leaps and dissonances are replaced in this modified second strophe with simpler music bringing the song to a conclusion in the tonic. “Unlike Schumann, Loewe sees only a bright-eyed young girl enthralled by love,” wrote Barbara Turchin.24 Loewe’s song is pretty, but the sweetness of the tune, too richly harmonized with a secondary dominant ninth chord sounding three times in the first eight bars, begins to cloy. The harmonic progression of the next eight bars dissolves this sugar coating, but unfortunately it does more. The contrast implies that the image of the man’s face


Barbara Turchin, “Robert Schumann’s Song Cycles in the Context of Early Nineteenth-Century ‘Liederkreise’,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University (1981), 206.



The music

hovering before the girl is both startling and different from the experience described in the opening lines of seeing him everywhere. Yet in Chamisso’s poem these are all part of the same, bewildering experience, as are the colorlessness of objects and the ebbing of interest in children’s games. Loewe has set the song couplet by couplet, compartmentalizing the poem rather than making the music, like the poem, all of one piece. For Walz, Loewe reacts insensitively to the poem. Despite rich harmony here and tone-painting there, the song’s autonomous 6/8 melody unequivocally communicates the gushing raptures of the young girl. Loewe reads the poem as did many in the nineteenth century: tender and emotional femininity consumed with feelings for “him.”25 Both Kugler’s and Loewe’s songs basically project a cheerful mood, even if this positive note is harmonically undercut at points in the Loewe. These composers betray how they as forgetful adults look on young love: as an essentially happy and relatively unproblematic experience. This is certainly the reading they give to the poem in their songs. Carl Gottlob Reissiger’s setting, entitled “Erblicken!” (Sighted!), owes its interest to an attractive piano prelude and to the varied recurrence of this music within the song. Reissiger may have thought of the piano’s initial rising line as a foreshadowing of the beloved’s image arising from darkness (Ex. 6.4(a)). Indeed, when the song reaches these lines in the second half of the stanza, the introductory music comes back in harmonically altered form, sounding both familiar and strange – an effective gesture (Ex. 6.4(b)). Yet Reissiger’s rather humdrum and incessant piano figuration detracts from the setting, and on repetition for stanza two, the introduction – and especially the melody in octaves and the forte rolled chord at the end (like a slap on the knee) sounds hackneyed. The song has flashes of originality; the phrases begin expressively, but lapse into ordinariness. This brings us to the very different emotional character of the Hiller, Marschner, and Lachner songs. If the poem has nestled rather contentedly in the settings by Kugler, Loewe, and Reissiger, it takes on more passion, or at least excitement, in the next three. The tempos are faster and the composers of these songs have to varying degrees enlarged Chamisso’s poem with extensive text repetition. Both Hiller and Lachner made ternary forms of their songs and obviously took their cue from Chamisso’s reprise of the poem’s opening couplet at the end of the second stanza. Both songs end their middle sections with the third couplet of the second stanza (“Möchte lieber weinen/Still im 25

Walz, “Frauenliebe und Leben Op. 42.”

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.4 Carl Reissiger, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 1 “Seit ich ihn gesehen”: (a) mm. 1–12; (b) mm. 17–20.

Kämmerlein”) and begin their wholesale musical reprise and repetition of Chamisso’s complete first stanza from this point, where the poet merely repeated the opening two lines. Ferdinand Hiller’s setting is a both admirable and likeable song and a convincing interpretation of the poem (Ex. 6.5(a)). Marked to be played “with fire,” the insistent, unaltered figuration and low, dark register of the piano give the song great drive. The first two phrases (beginning dolce but continuing with a crescendo) insinuate a slight intensification. Although the



The music

Ex. 6.5 Ferdinand Hiller, Frauenliebe und Leben, “Seit ich ihn gesehen”: (a) mm. 1–10; (b) mm. 26–40.

music for the last two lines (“Taucht aus tiefstem Dunkel/Heller nur empor”) includes a stepwise ascent through an octave, this serves as the climax for the integrated vocal melody and does not sound like mere word-painting. The second stanza (its first six lines) is set to contrasting music (Ex. 6.5(b)),

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

beginning in the relative minor key (D). The declamation rhythm, in quarter notes before, is augmented to half notes. The accompaniment pattern changes, too. Gone are the eighth-note arpeggios, replaced by a roving and unsettled bass line, making a telling contrast with the nearly static vocal melody. All of this evokes a feeling of listlessness and uneasiness as the protagonist speaks of her lightless and colorless world and of the faltering appeal of childhood games. Hiller takes a false cue from Chamisso’s repetition of the poem’s opening couplet to repeat the whole first stanza of his song. After this fairly literal reprise there is a coda, with a harmonic foray into D[ major ([VI). I find Hiller’s song appealing, even though its tone is more emotional than the poem warrants. Hiller projects a maturity or seriousness on this girl that is beyond her years. If the mood of the F major first stanza and reprise resists the simple cheerfulness of Kugler’s and Loewe’s more saccharine renditions, Hiller’s music strays into a passionate yearning that is equally misplaced in this poem. One should bear in mind, however, that Hiller’s song is not the beginning of a cycle, but a stand-alone piece; it need not take its place in the context of the narrative progression. The same could be said of Franz Lachner’s setting of “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” which is far more a Konzertstück than a lied (Ex. 6.6(a)). The brilliant obbligato clarinet almost steals the show, especially in the nineteen-bar long introduction (!), varied reprise, and closing. The piano accompaniment is merely conventional, playing stock figurations in medium and low registers while avoiding any motivic or registral interplay with the voice or clarinet. The melodic and rhythmic style of the vocal melody and its excessive text repetition give it the character of an arietta (Ex. 6.6(b)).26 The B section of the song is based on the same melodic material (now in D[, the subdominant, and its subdominant, G[) and has the same undistinguished piano accompaniment. Unlike Hiller’s ternary form, then, Lachner’s offers no real contrast of music or mood; his protagonist is just as effervescent over the dramatic emotional changes in her personality as she seems to be over her inability to get the man off her mind. The clarinet introduces a motive that is subsequently modified by the voice. One could perhaps argue that the clarinet represents the image of the


Repeated lines are bracketed in the following schema: stanza I: A 1–4 [3–4] 5–8 [1–4, 3–4] stanza II: B 1–6 [6, 6, 6, 1–6] reprise: stanza I: A 1–6 [5–6] 7–8 [1–2, 2, 1–2, 2, 1–2]



The music

Ex. 6.6 Franz Lachner, “Seit ich ihn gesehen”: (a) mm. 1–6a; (b) mm. 20–23.

man and that the occurrences of the motive in the voice are the protagonist’s musical allusions to him. The clarinet is assuredly “bright” (hell) and always “hovers” (schwebt) before the singer. The increasing amount that the voice and clarinet play and sing together as the song progresses might then have dramatic significance. Even if a case could be made for this interpretation,

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

the music would leave us with rather unappealing characters: a self-centered show-off of a man and a coquettish protagonist enamored of herself, both of them rather superficial and unsympathetic.27 What was merely unadorned in Chamisso’s verse has become hollow in Lachner’s music. Heinrich Marschner’s song is the most exuberant and joyfully passionate of all the settings (Ex. 6.7). Its liberal text repetition (though much less than Lachner’s song), its pulsating triplet accompaniment, and repeated and prolonged cadences seem influenced, too, by operatic style. This influence, however, has provided the piece with dramatic power without robbing it of a certain intimate and song-like quality lacking in the Lachner. The unexpected extension of the second vocal phrase, common-tone modulation by a third (from B[ to G), and sudden drop in dynamic level, for example, are nuances not dreamed of by Lachner.28 It may be over-excited, but it is assuredly not vapid. Where does Schumann’s song stand in relation to all of these settings? Schumann’s is without a doubt the most subdued musical setting of all. It aptly illustrates Oscar Bie’s assessment quoted at the head of this discussion. It manifests neither the contentedness of the Kugler and Loewe, nor the passionate exuberance of the Hiller and Marschner, and certainly not the ostentation of the Lachner. Only the Reissiger comes close to Schumann’s restrained mood, but despite the originality and attractiveness of some of Reissiger’s musical invention, the expressiveness of his song is inhibited by its strict periodic form and related melodic formulae. Matthias Walz says of Schumann’s song, “Schumann proceeds with the psychology of the experience of love, hence the restrained, austere, uncertain tone of the song.”29 Schumann’s reading of the poem stands alone. As Walz puts it, “Schumann reads this poem differently, very differently.”30 It is reserved and pensive, and yet at the same time carries a certain restrained excitement. The slow tempo, quietness, and restricted vocal range contribute to the former qualities; the irregular phrase structure, rising line and prolongation of the dominant (bars 7–16) contend with these constraints and contribute to the latter. His song portrays a young girl experiencing sexual attraction and affection toward a man for the first time, though she is unable to name 27



An argument against such an interpretation is that many of Lachner’s songs have obbligato parts and may have belonged to a genre, along with Schubert’s “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen,” “Auf dem Strom,” Spohr’s songs with clarinet, and so forth. It is not possible to discuss Marschner’s song without noting the interesting, but probably insignificant resemblance between its opening phrase and Schumann’s. Walz, “Frauenliebe,” 110. 30 Walz, “Frauenliebe und Leben Op. 42.”



The music

Ex. 6.7 Heinrich Marschner, “Seit ich ihn gesehen” (mm. 1–15a).

these things yet. It is a new and disquieting experience for her. “Here no swooning love is set to music, but rather a helpless response to emotional shock.”31 She has been taught about marriage and about domestic responsibility, and she has perhaps heard something about love (perhaps even read



Schumann’s cycle: analysis

about it in forbidden novels and poems), but its reality is so different and so strong that she is bewildered. If she is elated, her thrill is held in check by her confusion at her changed reaction to familiar things. She is so unsure of herself that she cannot sing a definite conclusion; her voice stops with the deceptive cadence, leaving the piano to make the authentic cadence alone. It is not that Schumann’s reading of the poem is the only possible one. The Hiller and Marschner settings, for example, in their tempo and vocal range and melody both suggest that the protagonist is blissfully happy in her experience; the Marschner is nearly ecstatic. Though the mood of these settings is entirely a projection of the composers, given the emotional neutrality of Chamisso’s poem, their interpretations are not simplistic; the bliss they depict is by no means a purely pleasurable contentment. Marschner’s girl is very agitated, and Hiller’s minor key and slower declamation in the middle section portray a solemn reaction to the experience recounted in the second stanza. Lachner’s protagonist, by comparison, is proud of rather than in any way moved by her experience; she seems to flaunt her good fortune before those sisters with whom she does not care to play any more. For her the experience is not important in itself, but is merely the sign by which she knows she has won the prize. The changes described in the second stanza only serve as confirmation; she makes a boast of the fact that nothing else interests her. The interpretation, I think, hinges partly on whether one reads Chamisso’s first stanza as a metaphorical or as literal truth. If the protagonist is evoking feeling with conventionalized signals, using metaphors to profess her love – as she might profess it directly to the man, for instance – then her tone in saying these things might well be excitedly joyful. If, however, one reads the poem as an unadorned recounting of her actual experience, then the emotional reaction to be portrayed is more complex. As Muxfeldt notes, only in Chamisso’s ninth poem, “Traum der eignen Tage,” does the protagonist become a narrator – to her granddaughter – of her past experience; the first eight poems are in the present.32 They are her lyric confessions to herself, pages in her secret diary. One might propose, to give some of the other songs their due, that the contentment of the Kugler and Loewe and the excited joy of the Hiller and Marschner are the premature depictions of the full-fledged love that is not yet part of the girl’s experience. But all things considered, I find Schumann’s interpretation the most psychologically incisive and sympathetic.


Muxfeldt, “Frauenliebe und Leben,” 45.



The music

Song 2: “Er, der herrlichste von allen” She is simple, heartfelt, and self-sacrificing, and her kind manners give one the impression, at first, she is very amiable and nothing else; but after a while, you see under this, that there is a strong understanding and very vigorous character.

(Charles Loring Brace)33 The heroine’s high spirits have outrun her aspirations to humility. . . [She] has ample strength of character. (Elissa Guralnick)34

The second poem, “Er der herrlichste von allen,” illustrates well the problems we have with Chamisso’s cycle. This poem and song make us uncomfortable today because of the young woman’s embarrassingly worshipful regard for the man and her utter self-abasement (in her mind) before him. In her imagery he is a shining heavenly object whose course she follows, but of whose hand in marriage she is unworthy; she bows heart-broken and self-sacrificingly to what she assumes will be his choice of another, more fortunate young woman. Let us consider the poem and song more closely.35 Some of these feelings are again expressed in terms of light imagery. In the second stanza the protagonist compares the man to a bright and lordly star; in her heaven he is high and distant. We are vaguely troubled by the protagonist in the next stanza when she tells her star to “wander his paths,” for stars do not appear to move. This apparent inconsistency is not, however, Chamisso’s way of depicting the protagonist’s meager education. “Wandelstern” (wandering star) is an old popular German term for a planet, which “wanders” in an orbit. This knowledge not only removes the anomaly, but also introduces a range of possible connotations for the man’s “lordliness,” depending on which planet and which associated pagan god one imagines the girl may have in mind (more about this shortly).

33 34


Brace, Home-Life in Germany, 197. Brace wrote as an American of his travels in Germany. Guralnick, “‘Ah Clara, I am not worthy of your love’: Rereading ‘Frauenliebe und Leben,’ the Poetry and the Music,” Music & Letters 87(4) (2006), 596. My first response to a reading that emphasizes these features of the poem is to point out that the Mädchen at the beginning of this cycle could well have been a young adolescent girl thirteen to fifteen years old, just entering her Wartezeit, while the man would have likely been some years older, already established in his profession. These circumstances might partially account for her awe of him. Furthermore, her deference might be compounded if hers is a slightly lower socio-economic station than the man’s. And, finally, one might well attribute to such a young person a good measure of self-dramatization. These considerations should be held in mind when one interprets Chamisso’s poems and Schumann’s songs (see the Prologue, Chapter 1 above).

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

In the following stanzas, she prays for the man’s well-being, humbly and unselfishly wishing that he may find one worthier than she, and exclaiming that his happiness with someone else will gladden her even though her heart may break. Can we discern in Schumann’s setting an interpretation that rises above the sentimental stereotypes? Here I mean the stereotype of both the woman and the man. For in forming our impression of the character speaking, it is not only that she looks up to the man, but that the way she characterizes him is also important. Thus the portrayal in the music of her image of him is crucial, too. Before we discuss Schumann’s musical setting of this poem, let us consider the first stanza of both Kugler’s and Loewe’s songs. Unmistakably, Kugler and Loewe have both set the text as a march. The clear marching cadence is heard in the tramping footstep of Kugler’s accompaniment (Ex. 6.8) and in the punctuating drumbeats of Loewe’s (Ex. 6.9). Both have fastened on a military image, if not literally to portray the man as a soldier, then at least to invest him with the masculine virtues a military figure might be thought to symbolize. For both of these composers the “Wandelstern” is unmistakably Mars.

Ex. 6.8 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 1–5).

Ex. 6.9 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 2 “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 1–4).



The music

When we listen to the beginning of Schumann’s song directly after having heard these others, we are struck by two things: Schumann’s melody is also a march (the rhythm of its first two measures is virtually identical to Loewe’s); but at the same time, the march-like quality, compared with the other two settings, is attenuated. Instead of quarter-note footfalls in the piano accompaniment, we hear repeated eighth-note chords in the right hand and octaves in half notes in the left – a recognizable Schumann texture and certainly not a march-like figure.36 We also notice a third distinction of Schumann’s song. Whereas the march rhythm infects the whole of Kugler’s and Loewe’s opening melodies, it is confined to the first and third lines in Schumann’s song. Lines two and four are set to a different kind of melody. Phrases 1a (mm. 2–3) and 2a (5–6) include dotted rhythms and disjunct triadic writing; phrases 1b (4–5) and 2b (8–9) are more legato and conjunct, and they include the decorative turn figure. In phrase 1b the arrest of bass motion adds to the contrast. We are so used to Schumann’s song as an entity that we miss this contrast, which calls attention to the second line, “Wie so milde, wie so gut.”37 Chamisso’s poem suggests that the protagonist is drawn not only to the man’s “lordly” qualities, but also to his tenderness; perhaps goodness and gentleness are even part of his lordliness. Schumann’s song, through its sublimation of the march rhythm and contrasting melodic writing, manages to avoid the stock character quality of Kugler’s and Loewe’s man and to underline “his kindlier virtues.”38 What of the feminine character portrayed in this song? Ruth Solie has argued that the cyclic nature of Schumann’s cycle – the recurrence of the first song in the last song’s postlude – is intensified by cyclic features on other levels: the rondo and ternary forms of many of the songs and the very limited range of keys the songs inhabit. She reads in this the circumscription of the protagonist’s world by the dominating patriarchal male, the returning music and keys reinforcing the returning always of her thoughts and feelings to him.39 She sees in “Er, der herrlichste von allen” a prime example of this tendency.40 I would like to propose another interpretation for the rondo returns of this song, especially the reprise of the first stanza at the end.



38 40

E.g. “Widmung,” Op. 25/1, middle section; “Die Lotosblume,” Op. 25/7; “Ich grolle nicht,” Op. 48/7. The recorded performance by Janet Baker and Martin Isepp is especially sensitive to this musical contrast. Guralnick, “Ah, Clara,” 596. 39 I have discussed the limited range of keys in Chapter 4. Solie, “Whose Life?”, 229–232.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Table 6.2 Form in settings of “Er der herrlichste von allen” Stanza





1 2 3 4 5 6 [1] strophic

A A A A A A – through-composed,

A A B C A D – rondo-like

A A B A C C0 A ternary

A1 A2 B [omitted] A10 A20 – (one rondo-like return)

First we must consider the formal organization of all the songs under consideration here (see Table 6.2). Schumann’s song is the only one that has so many rondo-like returns, but Loewe’s veers in that direction. By contrast, Kugler’s is strophic (as are all of his songs), and the later Lachner setting is musically ternary. None of these other songs indulges in any textual reprise. Solie is indeed justified in calling attention to Schumann’s rondo form and to his recall of Chamisso’s first stanza.41 There is no compelling textual reason for a rondo theme return at the end of “Er, der herrlichste von allen.” There is, to be sure, a resemblance between the poem’s opening line and the first line of stanza five (1,1: “Er, der Herrlichste von allen” ≈ 5,1: “Nur die Würdigste von allen”), which might engender a musical return at this point, such as Loewe indeed composed. But Loewe does not continue his march music into stanza six, and his new music throws the protagonist’s broken-heartedness into relief. On this bleak affect he ends his song.42 Schumann disregards the parallelism between stanzas one and five. For Schumann, stanza five is the beginning of his longest digression away from his main theme, rather than, as for Loewe, a return to it. What is the effect of Loewe’s return at this point? In Chamisso’s textual parallelism, the superlatives “lordliest” and “worthiest” are attributed to the worshiped man and to the awesome (and envied) imagined other female. As we have heard, Loewe (and Kugler) clothed the notion of “lordliness” with a march. What 41


Ibid., 230. Solie mistakenly states that “Schumann adds recapitulatory roundings to four of the texts.” The composer did reprise the first stanzas of poems 2 and 3 in his songs, but the returns of the first stanzas of poems 4 and 7 are the poet’s own device. Lachner, too, recalled his opening music for stanza five and then continued on into stanza six as part of his varied reprise of his two-stanza-long A section, creating a ternary form that more or less disregards the glum conclusion of the poem.



The music

Ex. 6.10 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 2 “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 25–29).

are we to make of the reuse of the same music by Loewe for “the worthiest [woman]” in stanza five, besides the mere textual parallelism? Perhaps Loewe means to draw an analogy between the other woman’s worthiness and the man’s lordliness; to indicate that their superlative characteristics, while different in kind, are alike in degree. We may then infer that the protagonist imagines herself inferior to any other female on whom the man might bestow his affection. Loewe’s music tells us that both this imagined rival and the man are well matched in their exemplary nature. The stanzas that describe them employ the march music in a major key (E) and with distinct, full cadences. By contrast, the protagonist, describing herself in stanza three, has been largely abandoned by the march and sings in a solid C] minor. When this stanza approaches a full cadence, the piano evades the tonic and moves on to the key of A major. Loewe then sets stanza four, for which Schumann reprises his opening music, as a retransition to the opening march tune. Here the music begins to revive the march rhythm while the voice sings a line of leaping octaves and minor sevenths as the harmony rises sequentially by step; perhaps this is the protagonist’s attempt to assume a brave tone as she renounces hope (see Ex. 6.10). There follows the march reprise for the “worthiest woman.” For the final stanza a march-like rhythm is vaguely maintained at first, but the music devolves into quasi-recitative. No authentic cadence marks the end of the song; only a plagal cadence from the minor subdominant, as the young woman poses her question “Was liegt daran?” The protagonist is reconciled to her lot, as the music to the key, but with a less than fully satisfying emotional or tonal conclusion. Interestingly, the closing melody is the same figure that Schumann uses for the ends of stanzas 5 and 6 – a stepwise descending minor third and upward leap of a fifth. In Schumann’s song, however, this melody is harmonized as a half cadence approached through

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.11 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 2 “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 49–55).

its diminished vii7, and we hear it twice, only the second instance of which corresponds to the question (see Ex. 6.11). In great contrast to Loewe, Schumann ends his song on an exuberant note, with a reprise of the first stanza. Schumann seldom distorts a poet’s creation by composing a reprise of an earlier stanza without achieving some expressive end.43 So what may we discern here as the affective significance of the return, especially in a case – as mentioned earlier – in which the text of the poem does not itself suggest a return? In her feminist critical reading, Ruth Solie asserts that the piano music and harmonic structure represent the man, masculinity, and patriarchal society, all three.44 In her view the young woman protagonist of the cycle is controlled by these forces. One may, however, choose to construe these musical features rather as a projection of the young woman’s thoughts.45 According to Solie, the key of E[ major and the Heldenmusik of the dotted, 43



Citing inexorable musical reasons for such formal manipulation is tautological or fallacious, i.e. the music would not “demand” or “require” a return if Schumann had not composed it so. Solie does not elaborate this unexamined premise, but she draws on the idea in several instances, e.g. 229, 238. This issue, of course, deserves more discussion, but for the sake of a compact argument here, let us accept these two interpretations as alternative points of view. A longer discussion might begin with Edward Cone’s book, The Composer’s Voice and subsequent discussions of its ideas by him and others.



The music

triadic figures represent masculinity. Yet this idea is introduced not by the piano, but by the voice, while the piano plays repeated eighth-note chords. And when the piano plays a dotted figure in m. 6 and elsewhere, it is an immediate response to the same figure sung first by the voice (“Holde Lippen, klares Auge,” etc.). Moreover, the opening figure is quickly followed by a conjunct melody ornamented with a turn figure for the text “Wie so milde, wie so gut!”46 I shall counter Solie’s thesis with the proposition that both phrases together portray the young woman’s perception of the man, revealing that her impression is nuanced; not only does she find him “herrlich” in the dotted, triadic figure, but also “gut” and “mild” in the second phrase; in her mind he combines both “masculine” and “feminine” qualities47 (see Table 6.3 comparing Solie’s interpretations of this song with mine). In the transition (m. 17) to the B section the piano music at first prepares us to expect a third stanza like the first two (mm. 2–9, 10–17), as though this were to be a strophic song. The voice, however, does not enter when we expect it, but is replaced by the piano playing the original melody for three measures. It is as if the protagonist was ready to sing another stanza in praise of the man, but is distracted and made pensive by her self-doubts. In this B section, says Solie, the woman “lapses into self-abasement.” And of the return of the A music for stanza four (m. 29), Solie writes that Schumann’s song “oddly reintroduces the heroic figure . . . preempting the ‘nied’re Magd’ with its militaristic rhythm.”48 I assert to the contrary that, despite her doubts and anxieties, the return of the A music depicts her inability to suppress her own excited thoughts about him. In the B section, her unwanted thoughts lead her away from E flat major toward a cadence in G minor with IV–I64 –V7 progression at the word “traurig.” This cadence is narrowly averted, and her positive feelings about the man return with the rondo melody in E[, even though she believes he has not noticed her. Solie, as others, refers to the form of the whole song as a rondo. This is to some extent true, but the actual form is more dynamic and idiosyncratic. The distinctive and emphatic authentic cadence in m. 38 tends to make the song sound complete as a conventional AABA form at that point. Yet two stanzas of the poem remain, and up to this moment the protagonist has 46

47 48

Solie asserts that appoggiaturas in the piano in this phrase (E[ –D, F–E[) represent the young woman and will return as her motive in later sections of the song, yet this contradicts her claim that the piano represents the man. Guralnick also finds the music portraying a more multifaceted view of the man. Solie, “Whose Life?”, 230. While the dotted rhythm is certainly march-like, and may be heard as military or martial, it is a wily debater’s trick to characterize it as militaristic.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

mentioned nobody other than the man. It is now that her thoughts about another woman (“die Würdigste”) intrude, and Schumann composes correspondingly new music for the next two stanzas, music that begins by cutting short the cadence in m. 38. Here Solie notes that the appoggiatura motive, which she hears as emblematic of the woman, reasserts itself, now in the vocal line, preceded by the dramatic leaping sevenths. According to Solie, the protagonist dares to imagine herself as “die Würdigste,” which she ponders with “mounting hysteria . . . [H]er distraught energy gradually takes control of the harmonic structure of the piece” and modulates “to the absolute of alienation, the key of the tritone [A major].”49 By contrast, in my interpretation, the new music is the intrusion of pessimistic thoughts in the protagonist’s mind. Feeling her hopes groundless, she strains to convince herself that someone more worthy than she will become the man’s wife and that she will rejoice in his happiness and eventually recover from her broken heart. These thoughts are a struggle for her. Listen to the leaping sevenths, the tense vocal line, the accelerated harmonic rhythm, and the inconclusive, questioning cadences. In straining against her true feelings she alienates herself from her own home key; the distant modulation away from E[ to an implied D minor (the A major is its dominant) strands her in an artificial emotional world. It is like an airless space where she cannot breathe. This is not her authentic voice.50 Of course this is the end of Chamisso’s poem, but Schumann reprises a modified version of the first stanza. In this reprise, Solie says, “patriarchal rule reasserts itself; her crazy tonality is tamed and recaptured by the original, triadic motive, which pulls it into an inescapable, rule-governed circle-of-fifths progression . . . that reintroduces the ‘Herrlichste von Allen’ in place of the neurotic, presumptuous ‘Würdigste’.”51 According to my reading, the exhilarating return to E[ through the circle of fifths is her own irrepressible excitement and returning hope. She will not deny her dreams. She cannot even wait for the actual arrival back in E[, but begins to sing the reprise three measures too soon (as the music passes through C major). At the end of this stanza Schumann reverts to a modification of the A0 version (mm. 29–38) with its distinctive and now actually conclusive cadence. To text its extra musical phrase, instead of repeating “heller Sinn und fester

49 50


Ibid., 238. If one wanted to argue by key associations, one might well note that D minor, here implied by its dominant, is also the key associated with death in song 8. Therefore her denial of her true, E flat self is tantamount to her own emotional death. Solie, “Whose Life?”, 238.


Table 6.3 Comparative analytic chart for Schumann, “Er, der herrlichste von allen” Chamisso’s poem







Er, der herrlichste

So wie dort in blauer

Wandle, wandle

Höre nicht mein

Nur die Würdigste

Will mich freuen

7 Er, der herrlichste von allen Wie so milde, wie

von allen, Wie so

Tiefe Hell und

deine Bahnen;

stilles Beten

von allen Soll

dann und weinen,

so gut! Holde Lippen, klares Auge Heller

milde, wie so gut!

herrlich, jener

Nur betrachten

Deinem Glücke


Selig, selig bin ich

Sinn und fester Mut, Wie so milde, wie so

Holde Lippen,

Stern, Also er an

deinen Schein,

nur geweiht;

deine Wahl, Und

dann, Sollte mir


klares Auge,

meinem Himmel,

Nur in Demut ihn

Darfst mich,

ich will die Hohe

das Herz auch

Heller Sinn und

Hell und hehrlich,

betrachten, Selig

niedre Magd,

segnen, Segnen

brechen, Brich, o

fester Muth.

hoch und fern.

nur und traurig

nicht kennen

viele tausend Mal.

Herz, was liegt



Hoher Stern der


Herrlichkeit! [Hoher Stern der Herrlichkeit!] Schumann’s song










10–17 + 18–20




46–54 54–56



E[, to half cadence

E[, to half cadence

rising & descending

E[, to authentic

║end? new figure

modulating, B[,

↓5ths seq: D, G, C, F, 7th leaps, then

A (V/D)

repeated eighth-


cadence; music is

cuts cadence

note chords

modulating . . .



arpeggio figure

→ G minor? (27)

stronger than

modulating, D[, C

and appoggiatura

the A melody


(V/F) rising,

begins in piano,


triadic arpeggio = “heroic figure” = the man


polyphony based


on turn figure


but is interrupted A feminist reading

B[, E[E[ authentic

sequence “heroic figure”

“mounting hysteria,” modulation = her

“patriarchal rule reasserts itself; her crazy

appoggiatura = the woman

preempts “niedre

control of harmony, reaches “abolute of

tonality is tamed and recaptured . . .

“militaristic” figure in piano (6ff, LH)


alienation” (A = tritone from E[) She

inexorable, rule-governed circle-of-fifths

believes she might be “die Würdigste”; her

progression” = “Herrlichste” replaces





An alternative, psychological reading


doubts, humility



arpeggio and turn/appoggiature = her idea of attempts self-denial

her thoughts still

↓ MODULATION = ALIENATION FROM HERSELF reality breaks in, she tries to renounce him,

↓ SHE REVERTS TO HER OWN TRUE FEELINGS irrepressibly her own excitement, infatuation,

him with both masculine/heroic and

(G minor), but

fixed on him,

tries to make herself believe she will

hopes return; she cannot deny her dreams

feminine/compassionate traits

fails, finally


approve of his choice of another and that

of/ desire for him

returns to E[

unlikelihood of

she’ll recover from her broken heart; her

match; music

own “heroic” 7th leaps (to appogg.) reveal

indicates that she

her effort

continues to enjoy fantasy which is harmonically more intense Notes: Numbers and letters represent poetic stanza and musical strophe. Italic type indicates text changes (substitutions and repetitions made by Schumann); crossing out indicates a word omitted by Schumann 1,2 (A,A): The piano is a neutral “ground,” it is not the piano, but the voice of the young woman that introduces the triadic arpeggio and the turn-decorated appoggiatura. Both the marchlike rhythm of the former and the smooth, ornamented conjunct motion of the latter are her ideas. The origin of the two figures in the voice makes it difficult to argue that the piano embodies the man, is the “voice” of the man. Rather they are her notions of him. Also note that the “militaristic” figure in the piano’s left hand is in response to the same rhythmic figure first sung by the voice; it is evoked by the voice. Besides, Solie does not recognize how Schumann has softened or partially neutralized the march rhythm with the piano music. 3 (B): This prefigures 5,6 (CC0 ) in sequential structure and modulation away from tonic. Note that there is no mention of a possible rival at this point, only her assumption of the man’s unreachability. But she signals her resistance to this pessimism by sidestepping the approaching cadence in G minor, and returns to E[ major. Possible grounds for her feelings of inadequacy are (a) her young age, (b) her lower socio-economic status. 4 (A0 ): Still no mention of another woman; she prays for his happiness, but doubts he would consider one so lowly as she; but musically she cannot deny her romantic wish-fulfillment dream. The repeated line of text and musical extension and decisive cadence suggest that with these four stanzas and AABA form, the song is complete; it could end here. This may suggest that the protagonist has summed up her feelings, but that unwelcome thoughts of another woman will intrude on them in the following stanzas, and she will be forced to deal with them. In so doing, she represses her true feelings and impulses. 5,6 (CC0 ): The first admission of the possibility of someone else gaining his affection; the protagonist strains to displace herself with notions of one more worthy of him than she. Solie believes her true feelings struggle with Chamisso’s words here, that the modulation is her personality breaking out of E[ major, apparently suggesting that Chamisso’s literal text alone portrays low self-esteem, while Schumann’s modulating music offers her a glimpse of her true self worth. Yet it, too, gives way to the earlier music and original tonic key, where she is supposedly constrained within his superiority and her hopelessness. (Solie’s argument here is problematical and internally inconsistent. Stanzas 5 and 6 are gaining independence from the man, but the man is at the same time the one of whom she hopes she may be worthy!) 6 (A00 ): Schumann’s return to (1(A00 )) and E[, if it is not only the triumph of her desire, but also a burst of confidence, may pose a problem – it may reduce or undercut her surprise in the next poem/song when she learns he has indeed chosen her. But mainly the return is a recognition of and acceptance of her desire; she’d rather live with it than give up on the man prematurely.


The music

Mut,” he returns to line 2 of the stanza, “Wie so milde, wie so gut,” underlining her rounded perception of the man’s qualities.52 The rondo refrain, then, I would argue, is Schumann’s reading into his song of the protagonist’s refusal to give in to her perhaps hyperbolic despair. Following on the heels of the first song, which announces her consuming fixation on the man, the high spirits of the second song can be read as her excitement at the prospect of winning him. And Schumann’s choice not to end with the broken heart in stanza six, but to bring back the initial text and music, changes Chamisso’s weeping, self-renouncing protagonist into one full of hope and confidence. If she momentarily succumbed to a moping self-doubt, she puts that behind her now. This is perhaps confirmed subtly in the piano postlude, where the first figure we hear is the leaping sevenths of the self-denial motive from the head of stanzas five and six (mm. 66–67), but which is followed and superseded by an ornamented version of the cadential phrase “wie so milde, wie so gut” intertwining with itself (mm. 68–71). Like the passionate C minor “Chiarina” in Carnaval, the protagonist of this song is capable of selfdramatization. Clara was just fifteen when Schumann composed his carnivalesque portrait of her, just about the right age for the protagonist of Chamisso’s second poem.53 Schumann subverted the ending of Chamisso’s poem, or at least reinterpreted it, just as an actor, with vocal inflection, movement, and facial expression, might undercut a playwright’s words or give them a fresh interpretation that is not their obvious meaning. Schumann’s music in this song is exuberant, irrepressible, and I hear this as the composer’s portrayal of the protagonist’s energy, enthusiasm, and resolve. In Schumann’s song we discern a personality similar to that of the young woman Charles Loring Brace encountered in his travels in Germany. Franz Lachner’s setting of this poem has the same operatic tendencies as his “Seit ich ihn gesehen.” The obbligato instrument here is a cello, and it has more interaction with the singer than did the clarinet in the earlier song, sharing the same register and engaging in voice crossing. The climactic vocal phrase is sung twice, reaching a2 in the first and then b2 in the second (Ex. 6.12). Lachner’s protagonist sounds determined, too, but her 52


I remind the reader that Schumann originally reprised both stanzas one and two at the end, using the last line of stanza two – “hell und herrlich, hoch und fern” – for the repeated, cadential phrase. See the discussion of song 2 in Chapter 5. As an experiment, I asked a class who were studying Carnaval to describe the personality or mood of “Chiarina,” and the students’ responses included: “serious,” “intense,” “passionate,” “overdramatic,” “adolescent angst.”

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.12 Franz Lachner, “Er, der herrlichste von allen” (mm. 85–95).

determination is perhaps that of a stoic acceptance of her fate rather than a joyful confidence that she will overcome the odds against her.54 In this Lachner may be closer to the literal surface of Chamisso’s poem. But Schumann’s song tells us he believes that Chamisso’s young woman had 54

One cannot help but notice the large and similar leaps in the melodic line in the Loewe (mm. 26ff.), Schumann (mm. 38–39, 46–47), and Lachner (mm. 86–87) songs.



The music

been posturing in stanzas five and six, and he reveals her true self by returning to the original key and reprising the first stanza. My interpretation of Schumann’s reading of “Er, der herrlichste von allen,” that it is intentionally “defective” and keeps the protagonist’s hope alive contrary to Chamisso’s original ending, may pose one problem: namely, if the young woman remains confident and excited in the second song, how can she be so incredulous in the next song that he has proposed to her? This inconsistency is more apparent than real, for to remain positive and eager in one’s own thoughts is not the same as experiencing one’s farfetched hopes as reality. A dream is quite different from a dream come true.

Song 3: “Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben” I still cannot grasp it, you so noble, so lofty, I so lowly. (Henriette Schleiermacher)

The third poem, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben,” brings back the dream as an image and employs it in each of the three stanzas. The protagonist doubts reality and thinks she must be dreaming; when she recalls the man’s declaration, she still believes what she hears is a dream; finally she wishes she could remain forever in her dream. The third stanza, in which this wish is expressed, is the poem’s climax, and it is prepared by the turn taken in the second, where Chamisso employs elements of naturalistic speech. “A dream has deceived me,” says the protagonist in the first couplet of the first stanza; then disbelievingly she asks, “How could he have elevated and blessed poor me?” In the second stanza the protagonist, still doubting her experience, says “It was as though he said, ‘I am yours forever.’” She begins – “Es war” – to recall something else, but there is a dash, and shaking her head she says “I’m still dreaming; it can’t be so.” The direct quotation of the man by the protagonist and her interruption of herself lend the poem a realistic, spontaneous air. One encounters the criticism of Chamisso’s verse that his language is flat, lacking poetic elevation; the converse of this is that Chamisso was among the first to write for and about the newer urban middle class and that he therefore uses simple, direct language. Another way to hear language such as the poet uses here, therefore, is to construe it as naturalistic speech. Declaring it cannot possibly be so, the protagonist suppresses the rest of her recollection of her actual encounter with the man and returns to her

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.13 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 3 “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” (mm. 1–4a).

dream world. Here, in stanza three, she ends with a sexual fantasy – rather explicit for its time: “In my dream let me die, cradled upon his chest, and taste the most blissful death [den seligsten Tod] in tears of unending pleasure.” Let us take a brief look at the songs by Kugler, Loewe, Reissiger, Marschner, Lachner, and Schumann and consider particularly how each composer handled the turning point (stanza two) and climax (stanza three) in their musical readings of this poem. Kugler’s setting alone of all the other songs is in a minor key like Schumann’s, and its opening melody prefigures Schumann’s with its 5–6[ –5 inflection (Ex. 6.13). The harmonic shift (A minor to C major) probably provides about as well as one can in a strophic setting for the second couplet of each stanza, but the repetition of these lines back in the tonic and ending the song on the dominant seem crafted for the question at the end of stanza one and fit the other two less well. The dramatic stages of this poem – excited disbelief ending with a question, a breathless recollection cut off by incredulity, and a sexual fantasy – suffer in a purely strophic musical reading.55 Loewe’s song is ternary (Ex. 6.14). The third stanza is set to a varied reprise of the first; the middle stanza is in a different key and begins differently, but has the same music (transposed) for its second half as the outer sections. For this reason Loewe’s reading has some of the same disadvantages as a strophic setting. The major key (A), the meter (6/8, without tempo marking), and the melodic line (repeatedly rising to the ^3) all impart a 55

Walz notes that the central narrative strophe of this poem is framed with an opening and closing strophe of dreaming, thus making the poem compatible with ternary musical form. Kugler does not achieve this since he sets the poem (as he does all of them) strophically. Yet the form of each musical strophe is tripartite in its tonality (A minor, C minor, A minor), which the composer manages by repeating lines 3 and 4. Thus, Walz concludes, Kugler manages to project the ternary form of the whole poem in each individual strophe. Walz, “Frauenliebe und Leben. Op. 42,” 110.



The music

Ex. 6.14 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” (mm. 1–10a).

relaxed, pleasant mood. A chromatic harmonic sequence momentarily infuses the music with tension, but this is quickly dissipated by the quick return to the tonic. Hearing the third stanza sung to the same blithe music as the first robs it of climactic excitement and is hardly appropriate for the poem’s imagery. Marschner’s setting (Ex. 6.15) opens with a rising chromatic line and chords in the piano similar to and arguably modeled on Schubert’s “Nähe des Geliebten” (D. 162, Goethe). Although Marschner’s song is in C major, the flattened sixth degree of his melodic line, like Kugler’s, resembles Schumann’s. The harmony of the opening phrase (vii7 and diminished seventh appoggiatura on ii) complements the melody. The elements all combine to produce appropriate tension and excitement. But the form of Marschner’s song is curiously disproportionate and undramatic. Musically the song is a rondo in five parts, with the third stanza

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Table 6.4 Heinrich Marschner, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen,” form diagram Music Poem

A 1

B 2

A0 3

B0 3

A0 3+3

coda (l. 3–4)

Ex. 6.15 Heinrich Marschner, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” (mm. 1–7a).

of the poem set three and a half times. In a performance one might even wonder whether the singer had forgotten the rest of the words and was repeating herself. (See Table 6.4.) Actually one does almost wonder if this is a contrafactum from a setting of a different poem; there are not only too many strophes of music for the poem, but also too many notes for the words in each line, making for some awkward text repetition. Though some of the musical ideas are quite nice, all in all this song is not as felicitous as Marschner’s setting of the first poem.



The music

Lachner’s piece, entitled “Ihr Traum” (Her dream), is another Konzertstück with obbligato cello. The key is F major, the meter 3/4 and the tempo “Ziemlich bewegt.” The form is a kind of modified ternary, with a twenty-four-bar cello and piano prelude, interludes, and coda. The opening vocal phrase is accompanied by the cello’s headmotive of the introduction (see Ex. 6.16(a)). There is much, often nearly literal, repetition of lines within each section. Lachner’s setting of stanza two, sensitive to the halting speech of the incredulous protagonist, stands out from the preceding music, being less lyrical and more agitated and involving less text repetition. Stanza three begins with a slightly varied reprise of the music of stanza one. But, to his credit, Lachner’s setting of the third crucial line (“Den seligsten Tod mich schlürfen”) is markedly distinct: the melody, now pianissimo, descends in slower, dotted half notes, with the cello in parallel thirds above, a new accompanimental figure in the piano, and an abrupt turn to the subdominant (B[), a tonal area not visited until this moment. Yet this effect is undercut by the lilting singing of the stanza’s conclusion (“In Tränen unendlicher Lust”) (see Ex. 6.16(b)). Lachner’s protagonist registers a certain effervescent joy, but hardly breathless incredulity

Ex. 6.16 Franz Lachner,“Ich kann’s nicht fassen”: (a) mm. 24–32a (b) mm. 108–124

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.16 (cont.)

and passionate anticipation. It is as though Chamisso’s words are merely hackneyed figures of speech, as if the protagonist is chattering to a friend, “I simply can’t believe it! Pinch me, I must be dreaming. Oh, I’m going to die!” Reissiger treats Chamisso’s poem with a bar form (AAB), coordinating the third stanza’s climax with the contrasting Abgesang after the initial stanzas have been sung to the two Stollen. The third stanza of the poem is



The music

Ex. 6.17 Carl Reissiger, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” (mm. 25b–37a).

sung twice in the Abgesang, the first time taking off immediately from the dominant at the end of stanza two and proceeding with noteworthy harmonic richness. The first four bars of the Abgesang melody, for example, could easily have been harmonized with a simple dominant seventh (which Lachner would doubtlessly have settled for), but Reissiger treats us instead to an array of passing chords (see Ex. 6.17). The music for the repetition of the text of stanza three is intensified with surprising shifts to C and F major before returning to cadence in A[ major. The chromatic intensity of the

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Abgesang is a musical analogue for the raised sensual temperature of Chamisso’s verse. New or considerably varied music for each stanza and a rich harmonic palette are also found in Schumann’s setting. Though Schumann’s setting has a literal musical and textual reprise of stanza one, this occurs only after the third stanza has been sung to new music. This “new” music for stanza three is, of course, largely a transposition to E[ major of the C minor music of stanza one, but several things combine to give it freshness. Paramount are the major mode and higher register; the way the second stanza leads melodically and harmonically up to stanza three; and the emphasis given to “sterben” at the beginning of stanza three by lengthening the e[2 to a whole bar’s duration (cf. “glauben” in m. 3). The quiet dynamic level and held chords of the transitional second stanza are belied by its unsettled harmony and rhythmic energy. At first the music seems to make a straightforward move to the relative major, and the quotation (“Ich bin auf ewig dein”) is bracketed as a static E[ chord over a B[ pedal. But then comes the interruption in Chamisso’s verse, and Schumann abruptly moves away from E[. What could have been a simple continuation, proceeding either to an authentic cadence or to V, is instead a chromatic move to G minor (iii) and through E[7 to A[ (IV) before finally reaching B[ (V), approached through the minor subdominant. Perhaps as in song 2, Schumann’s protagonist struggles in this tortuous harmony to deny her own fondest hopes. To appreciate the restlessness of stanza two all the more, one should recall the original 6/8 meter in which Schumann composed this song. Though the song is now in 3/8 meter, one nevertheless perceives the two-bar harmonic rhythm of stanza one (noted in Chapter 5, p. 150): mm. 1, 3, and 5 – the odd-numbered bars – carry the more stable chords and generally the more important words (“Ich kann’s nicht . . . glauben,” “Es hat mich . . . berückt,” “Wie hätt’ er . . . unter allen mich Arme . . . beglückt”), including the rhyming words, while mm. 2, 4, and 6 – the even-numbered measures – contain the passing harmonies and mostly secondarily accented words.56 This alternation changes with the diminished seventh chord in m. 7, which is sustained for two bars, but it and the similarly sustained first inversion of the dominant seventh chord in the next two bars (mm. 9–10) continue the two-bar harmonic rhythm. This is followed by a conventional four-bar cadential pattern. Through this passage, one feels the odd-numbered measures as the stronger. And the stanza ends on an odd-numbered bar (m. 15). 56

The words “fassen,” “Traum,” and “erhöht” are exceptions to this, but the words in the oddnumbered bars arguably exceed these words in importance.



The music

At this point the unfortunate double bar intrudes between mm. 15 and 16, implying a break, this notion reinforced by the ritard. in m. 14. But this “break” should not happen; the double bar was the copyist’s device, not the composer’s specification; it should be removed.57 If the two-bar rhythm is heard to carry across this barline, as I believe it should, then we perceive a rhythmic tension in the next stanza between the expected strong “downbeat” and weak “upbeat” bars. For it is at this point that the piano begins to lead, first revoicing the C minor chord in even-numbered m. 16, a chord that is held for two bars through the normally accented odd-numbered m. 17, thereby providing a new rhythmic ictus before the voice begins the second stanza. Then the piano moves to attention-catching chromatic chords in the next two even-numbered measures (18, 20), while the voice sings its primary accents (“Mir war’s, er habe ge-spro-chen”) on the oddnumbered bars (17, 19) according to the foregoing pattern. The piano and voice are thus set in rhythmic conflict. There is a moment of stasis on E[ for the recollection of the man’s pledge of himself to the protagonist. Then the chromatic harmonic climb and rhythmic tension return as she disbelieves what she has heard and thinks she is still dreaming. The piano’s variously configured chromatic chords in the even-numbered measures are in effect syncopated against the voice’s strong accents in the odd-numbered ones. These harmonic accents are also reinforced by other means: the low D in m. 28 and the explicit accent in m. 30. In this way Schumann builds excitement and leads to the climactic and elongated e[2 (“sterben”) at the beginning of the next stanza. The vocal and piano accents come back into phase again at the moment the original melody returns in the relative major key; the major mode projects the excitement of her dream.58 In the previous chapter I pointed out that in his sketch Schumann quite clearly wrote “den seligsten Tod” (most blissful death), the superlative form of the adjective, although in copying the vocal melody and text into his autograph full draft manuscript, his hand is less clear. It looks rather as though Schumann began to write “st” and was distracted. The copyist read it as “seligen,” and the composer, perhaps preoccupied with several other 57


See my explanation in Chapter 5 (p. 150). The double bar is in the first edition, but was edited out, correctly (in my view) in the nineteenth-century complete works editions. It has nevertheless reappeared in subsequent performance editions of the song. When Schumann emended mm. 34–36 in his inked autograph, he penciled in the c and cb in m. 34 and moved the bass A[ in mm. 35–36 up an octave. This progression – the chord, voicing, and register – reproduces that of mm. 6–7 in song 1, transposed from B [ to E [. It is just such motivic recurrences to which Martin Bresnick draws attention. Bresnick traces the purely melodic motives, but they also frequently carry identical harmonic implications. He apparently missed this instance of the motive he labels “X” (182).

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

musical errors in the copy in this vicinity, did not notice this textual discrepancy and neglected to emend the word. One is tempted to restore Chamisso’s text, as does the old Gesamtausgabe, and as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf also does in a recording of the cycle.59 What is riding on this decision? Perhaps only a pleasing poetic subtlety. In either case, whatever degree of the adjective, we are bound to interpret death here in its age-old sexual sense, rather than as a fatuous, literal preference to expire happily in her dream. The superlative degree, however, adds a pointedness to the expression. It is the same spirit of hyperbole that led a sixteenth-century Italian poet to wish for “mille morte” (a thousand deaths) rather than one.60 Two other features of Schumann’s song need to be addressed – the return of the first stanza and the coda. If the key of Eflat in stanza three is the tonal realm of the dream, then C minor – the original tonic – is reality, and the reprise of stanza one signals that the protagonist has left her dream and come back to reality. Though Eflat has been firmly established by the long preparation and by the fact that most of stanza three is in this key, this stanza – the dream – has no final cadence of its own. The cadential progression has begun, but it is interrupted; the bass line halts on A[ and what had been a II65 in stanza one becomes an augmented sixth chord moving to V of C, ushering in the reprise. There the protagonist finds herself back in reality, still incredulous. The coda combines the “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” motive (top register) with the “es hat ein Traum mich berückt” motive (alto register). The final line in the voice picks up the high register of stanza three and brings that e[2 to a cadence in C major, combining the original tonic note with the mode of the relative key. The realms of dream and reality are now joined.61

Song 4: “Du Ring an meinem Finger” The nearest overt reference to [sexual] matters is the young girl’s expressed desire to submit herself utterly, to merge her identity with that of her future husband.62


60 61


Frauenliebe und Leben, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf with Geoffrey Parsons, Angel S-37043. Though the LP sleeve notes contain the emended text, Ms. Schwarzkopf’s distinct sibilance makes it clear that she is singing “seligsten.” Cf. Cipriano de Rore’s “Ancor che col partire.” Because of the difference in timbre and envelope between singer and pianist, it is difficult to make the voice’s e[2 and the piano’s f2 clash on the downbeat of m. 79. Yet one suspects that this dissonance is no accident and that performers should do their best to bring it out. E. Sagarra, A Social History of Germany, 414.



The music

Chamisso’s poem exhibits rondo-like form. The first, third and fifth stanzas address the ring; moreover, the first and last are identical, while the middle stanza begins with the same first line. The second and fourth stanzas do not address the ring, but speak of the past (stanza two) and the future (four). Schumann’s response of composing a musical rondo seems a natural choice, but only one other setting discussed here, Heinrich Proch’s, uses rondo form, and it is not as pure as Schumann’s. Another, Sigismund Thalberg’s, uses the same music for the outer, identical stanzas. The other settings, Kugler’s and Loewe’s, are strophic. Chamisso’s fourth poem manifests more sensuality and arguably contains a second veiled sexual reference. In the first (and last) stanzas, the protagonist presses the ring, which is of course a stand-in for the man, to her lips and to her breast. And the fourth stanza, which many read as one of the most sexist passages in the cycle, may also be one of the most sexual. Noting that the depiction of women as lovers and explicit sexual accounts are curiously absent from nineteenth-century German literature, Eda Sagarra makes the comment posted as the motto above. The penultimate stanza of this poem is a prime example of such yearning. Kugler’s simple E major melody (4/4, Moderato) is artlessly beautiful (Ex. 6.18), and its attractive simplicity bears comparison with Schumann’s. The figuration and harmony of its accompaniment pale, of course, beside that of the master composer. Kugler’s melody eerily prefigures Schumann’s in its opening melody and rhythm (with the rondo words “Du Ring . . .”) and when the second couplet of stanza two (“Ich fand allein mich verloren . . .”) is sung to the rising sixth in the musical strophe’s third phrase (mm. 4–6) . These bear an uncanny resemblance to Schumann’s first (mm. 1–4) and second (mm. 13–16) stanzas. In the end, Kugler’s strophic form and his repetition of the second couplet of every stanza for the cadential phrase renders his setting tedious. Ex. 6.18 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 4 “Du Ring an meinem Finger” (mm. 1–4).

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.19 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 4 “Du Ring an meinem Finger” (mm. 1–10).

Loewe’s tune (F major, 6/8, Un poco sostenuto) is ingratiatingly pretty and at the same time has a certain gravity suited to the poem (Ex. 6.19). Unfortunately, Loewe’s setting is also strophic, and the sweetness of the music becomes treacly when we hear it again and again, especially as there is no interlude between stanzas. Neither Loewe’s nor Kugler’s strophic song affords any individualized readings of the second and fourth stanzas. Sigismund Thalberg’s setting is an excellent lied; it should take a place with Hiller’s setting of “Seit ich ihn gesehen.” Its pianism also betrays the composer’s virtuosity. The key is C minor, and the piano has a distinctive motive with urgent sixteenth notes and a sighing appoggiatura. The rhythm and inflection of the piano figure suggest that Thalberg derived it from the poem’s opening words. This figure is unrelenting; it appears in nearly every



The music

Ex. 6.20 Sigismund Thalberg, “Du Ring an meinem Finger”: (a) mm. 1–5; (b) mm. 9–13.

bar of the song, and always in the right hand except for three telling appearances in the bass (end of the introduction, before the last stanza, and at the song’s close) and once in the voice. Yet its melodic and harmonic reinterpretations and the tonal variety of the song prevent its becoming taxing; it remains eloquently insistent (see Ex. 6.20). Another mitigating factor is that the vocal melody is almost entirely independent of the piano motive (with a single exception noted below). This is an estimable effect of the song, for one almost expects when the voice enters after the introduction that it will sing the text to this motive; thus its entrance to a distinct melody is refreshing. Not only is the vocal melody

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

new, but also it moves at an expanded declamation rate, its melody taking two bars per poetic line.63 The keys and modes of Thalberg’s setting are well chosen for the form and content of the poem. With the minor key and piano motive Thalberg endows the protagonist with a serious cast of mind; she does not undertake a marriage engagement lightly. She ponders its implications and introspectively considers her own emotions. She sings of being lost in a bleak, infinite space in E[ minor, and this key continues into stanza three. The mode turns major as her meditation on marriage draws her out of that mood. It is at this point that the voice, to the words “hast meinem Blick erschlossen,” sings the motive in unison with the piano, lending emphasis to the poem’s central message. At the beginning of stanza four, passionately (tempo is marked “sehr bewegt” and “steigend”) she turns back to C minor (“. . . ihm angehören ganz . . .”), then the mode shifts suddenly to C major as she sings fortissimo that she feels transfigured (see Ex. 6.21). Here then we find a deliberate musical response to the imagery, and though one cannot claim that Thalberg’s musical gestures support a specifically sexual interpretation, the crescendo and quickened tempo seem to suggest something other than wifely devotion and philosophical elation. The last stanza is back in the tonic minor, but the final cadential melody, with a held g2 before the close (matching the melodic cadence of stanza four), plus all that has happened in the interim, suggests a strong and positive concluding attitude untinged with regret for the serious step she is about to take. All in all, Thalberg’s song traverses an interesting tonal terrain (see Table 6.5). Heinrich Proch’s parlor song (B[ major, 3/4, Allegretto) need not detain us long. Its form is a rondo, with the same or similar music for the oddnumbered stanzas (the third stanza is varied and not in the tonic key). The glittering sound of the piano introduction, with the melody played an octave above the treble staff, suggests that Proch has read the poem as latter-day greeting card verse, responding to the image of the “little golden ring” (see Ex. 6.22). Proch is not, however, insensitive to some mood changes. For the end of stanza two he modulates to C minor (“im öden unendlichen Raum”); the third stanza, in C major, makes a breathtaking turn to E major for its conclusion (“des Lebens unendlichen Wert”); and he clearly treats the fourth stanza as the climax, in more than one sense, building (più lento, sempre ff) to a ringing cadence in F, the voice pausing on a high a2 before 63

One can perceive, in fact, a four-tiered rhythmic layering: a pacing of eighth notes in the piano’s repeated chords, of quarter notes in the piano’s right hand, of half notes in the voice, and of whole notes in the piano bass.



The music

Table 6.5 Sigismund Thalberg, “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” analytic diagram Stanza Music Key

1 A C minor

2 B A[→E[ minor

3 C E[ minor, E[

4 D C minor, C

5 A’ C minor

Ex. 6.21 Sigismund Thalberg, “Du Ring an meinem Finger” (mm. 27–35).

descending to the tonic. Proch’s song is slight in its musical substance and undeniably sentimental in tone. The climax in stanza four seems therefore disproportionately strong and thus hyperbolic. Schumann’s song, marked Innig, begins with a simple string of notes that tenderly encircle the tonic E[ as the ring encloses the protagonist’s finger. Also noteworthy is the pleasing asymmetry that Schumann has composed into the two large phrases of this musical strophe (1–4 and 5–8). Whereas the first

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.22 Heinrich Proch, “Du Ring an meinem Finger” (mm. 1–16a).

phrase ends on the downbeat of m. 4, the second, answering phrase is extended and does not conclude until the third beat of m. 8. To accommodate the extra notes, the composer repeats words: “Ich drücke dich fromm an die Lippen,/ Dich fromm an die Lippen, an das Herze mein.” The repetition lightly underscores the sensuousness of the vicarious kiss. In the same place in stanza three, Schumann added the word “tiefen” (deep, profound), similarly heightening the protagonist’s thoughts on the importance of life.64 64

Careful listeners will hear in m. 4 (also in mm. 19 and 35) the same feint toward G minor and last-second swerve to E flat major that Schumann used in m. 27 of song 2. Like Martin Bresnick in his study “Convention and Hermetic in Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben,” I don’t place any particular interpretive meaning on the recurrence of this and similar motives, but find them nevertheless fascinating details.



The music

Ex. 6.23 Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 4 “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” melodic inversion in stanza two.

Schumann’s addition of the word “schönen” in line 2 of the second stanza also heightens the meaning – “the peacefully beautiful dream of childhood,” but its insertion was made not in the initial act of composition (as was the extension of the phrase in the rondo refrain), but in the autograph, when Schumann was monkeying around with the melody. The sketch melody had ended on b[1 on the word “Traum,” but Schumann decided to tack on an e[1 in the autograph so that the phrase ends with a falling fifth. To accommodate the extra length, he added “schönen.” He also added the passing notes f1 and g1 so that the melody does not leap from e[1 to a[1 (“friedlich,” m. 11). In the next phrase, Schumann recomposed the opening so that the e[1 is repeated (“Ich fand al-”) before the leap to the c2 (“-lein”). Although the sketch of this phrase ends on b[1, in the autograph Schumann wrote this note an octave lower (b[); but he reverted to the higher note when he corrected the copy. I am taking the reader through these detailed alterations (some of which are reminders from Chapter 5) because the ultimate result is fascinating. The second stanza of Chamisso’s poem contrasts the protagonist’s past and future, her awakening from the dream of childhood and her entering adulthood, a strange, infinite space where she feels lost. She exchanges comfort and security for uneasiness and vulnerability, the known for the unknown. Schumann couches this contrast in a musical metaphor, one that only gradually took shape during the compositional process, but the germ of which was there all along. With all of his adjustments of pitch in place, the vocal melody in the second half of stanza two is an exact inversion of its composite first half. The protagonist’s world has been turned upside down (Ex. 6.23). It remains perhaps only to note Schumann’s response to stanza four. There he marks the score “Nach und nach rascher” (faster and faster) and brings back almost verbatim a passage from the second song, as Eric Sams has noted.65 We hear the repeated eighth notes of the piano playing first a 65

Eric Sams, The Songs of Robert Schumann, 3rd edn., Bloomington: Indiana University Press (1993), 133.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

sequence of rising progressions (25–28) similar to that in song 2 (21–24) and then a similar chain of inverted seventh chords resolving in a progression of falling fifths – F–B[–E[–a–D–g–c–F–B[ and a cadence back to E[ (song 4, 29–32 and song 2, 25–29). In song 2 the protagonist was humbly regarding the man from afar, and now in song 4 she says she will serve him, live for him, belong to him. Thus a common thread in the passages is her subservience. But it should also be noted that in both passages she alludes to him in terms of a pervasive light imagery. In song 2 she will behold his “Schein” (glow); in song 4 she feels transfigured by his “Glanz” (splendor). So it is equally arguable, if one should look for a text-based cause for the shared musical material, that her passion is aroused by his looks. In any case, the fourth stanza of “Du Ring” is the musical climax of Schumann’s reading; and given our understanding of its likely veiled meaning, the excited music is open to the interpretation of her sexual arousal.

Song 5: “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern” And so it will be this year that I shall bind myself forever with my Robert, and lay my whole destiny in his hands – a bold step, the most important of my life!. . . I feel . . . so deeply what a beautiful meaning the word “wife” has – a loving wife is the most beautiful in the world! (Clara Schumann’s diary, January 1, 1840)

In 1819, the year of his marriage to Antonie, Chamisso wrote “Der Braut spricht,” a poem in which he contrasts a bride’s ill ease (Bangen) with the groom’s eager desire.66 We hear of this contrast again in the fifth poem of Frauenliebe. In the second stanza the protagonist recalls that while she lay in the arms of her beloved he wished eagerly for the wedding day. And in the following stanza she hopes to banish her own “foolish anxiety” so that she with a clear eye, that is without any shyness or reluctance, may receive him, the source of all joy. Recalling the fairly explicit sentiments of “Die Braut spricht,” taking the second and third stanzas of this poem together, and keeping in mind the literal as well as the figurative meaning of “Quelle” (spring, fountain, well), it is clear that this passage is referring to the sexual union of the wedding night. It is perhaps useful to remind ourselves that the young bride of these poems not only would have been a virgin, but also would have had very little physical contact with a man. It is almost surprising that the protagonist here says that she has lain in her beloved’s arms. One imagines this may suggest a secret intimacy, since conventionally 66

See Chapter 3.



The music

young women were permitted to be in the company of men only when chaperoned and then to engage only in conversation or social pastimes, like dancing. In March 1831, a little over a year after he wrote Frauenliebe und Leben, Chamisso penned another bridal monologue, “Die Braut.” Here many of the sentiments of “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern” are again expressed: the departure from her sisters’ company, their helping her to get dressed for the wedding, her submission to her beloved. This poem adds references to the bride’s father and mother as well. And with a touch of self-assertion, the protagonist ends her monologue with an injunction to her groom: Ich werde, Geliebter, dir untertan, Und werde dir dienen in treuer Pflicht. Was ich verlassen, was ich getan Für dich, du Guter, vergiß es nicht.

I shall, Beloved, submit to you, And shall serve you in faithful duty. What I have left behind, what I have done For you, good man, do not forget. (Werke 733)

Kugler and Loewe each responded to the outward circumstance of poem 5 of Frauenliebe – a wedding – and composed festive ceremonial music. Both songs are in 12/8 time and employ piano figurations of pulsating eighth notes. Both come close to Lachner’s style of arietta or Konzertstück featuring purely instrumental music. Kugler’s strophic song, alone among his slight Frauenliebe settings, has a piano interlude (bars 4–8) that provides a colorfully ornamented variation of the voice’s opening phrase and a two-bar postlude that echoes the interlude. The instrumental music suggests an orchestra; one can almost hear violins and flutes on the melody over repeated chords in woodwinds, with the b[–a figures (bar 7) played by snarling brass in a lower octave and punctuated with cymbal clashes (Ex. 6.24). Loewe’s song is, to my mind, the one total miscalculation in his cycle. His modified strophic setting is on a very broad scale (eighty-two bars), with piano introduction (eight bars), interludes (four bars each), and a postlude (nine bars); the first three stanzas are of equal length (eight bars), but the fourth and fifth are each extended (twelve and thirteen bars). The key is C major, but the introduction and interludes (except the last) end in A minor and the voice enters in that key (except in the fifth stanza). Like the Kugler setting, Loewe’s piano music suggests an orchestra; one easily imagines strings playing the repeated chords (perhaps backed up with sustained woodwinds) and a solo clarinet playing the melody (Ex. 6.25(a)).

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.24 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 5 “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern” (mm. 1–8).

The stately bearing of the music and perhaps also the rich alto voice required for a good performance (most stanzas beginning on a below the staff and continuing in a low tessitura) together project an older protagonist. One is tempted to think comically of a matronly woman coming to marriage finally in her middle age, all gussied up to pretend a youthfulness she no longer possesses and disingenuously mouthing the sentiments intended for a young bride. I do not think my remark far amiss when I read the following passage in a contemporary review of Loewe’s cycle: How can words like the . . . bridal [words] in No. 5 . . . give occasion to such a melancholy minor melody in such a deep vocal register . . .? and how can a deep alto voice be supposed to sing at all these monologues and effusions of the heart, these most feminine femininities of the most feminine female from



The music

Ex. 6.25 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 5 “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern”: (a) mm. 1–5; (b) mm. 8–12.

the German-virginal times of the Befreiungskrieg [“war of liberation” against Napoleon]?67

Schumann’s song (Ziemlich schnell, 4/4) bursts upon us very much in the manner of the ecstatic “Widmung” (Op. 25/1), with rushing rising and falling arpeggios.68 This ushers in the rondo music that Schumann uses for the first, third and fifth stanzas of Chamisso’s poem. The key is the same as the first song (B[), and so is the opening melodic motive. The second and fourth stanzas use contrasting music, although the melodies for both are motivically related to the rondo material. Yet the fourth stanza departs more quickly and decisively from the model, and this together with the repeated eighth-note chords (like those in song 2 and in the fourth stanza of song 4), intensified harmony (especially the V42 chords), and vocal conclusion on f2 make this stanza the highpoint of the song. This climax accompanies pledges by the protagonist of devotion and humility, as in songs 2 and 4 and also, as in those songs, it occurs together with an image of light: “Bist, mein Geliebter,/ Du mir erschienen,/ Giebst du, Sonne, mir deinen Schein?”69 The man, whom – it should be noted – she addresses here directly for the first time, is now identified metaphorically 67



Allgemeine Musikalishe Zeitung, 39 (December 1837, no. 51), col. 844, a review by J. A. Lecerf in Berlin. The “war of liberation” refers to the end of Napoleonic domination and the years following, in short, to the Biedermeierzeit. Guralnick finds song 7 to be the only one of Schumann’s cycle to match the excitement of “Widmung.” Schumann inverted “Sonne” and “mir.”

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.25 (cont.)

with the sun, a source not only of light, but of heat.70 The imagery of the poem in which she first explicitly refers to desire adds warmth to light. She asks the “sun” if he will share his warming light with her, and in the next lines she says she will bow before her “Lord.” The anticipation of physical intimacy seems clear. The most remarkable thing about Schumann’s setting of “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern” is its overall psychological aptness as an expression of the bride’s nervous tension as she makes last-minute preparations and entertains bothersome, fleeting thoughts. Asking the bridesmaids to wind the traditional myrtles in her hair, the bride’s thoughts roam to a recent occasion when her fiancé, holding her in his arms, yearned impatiently for the wedding day. This in turn moves her to ask the bridesmaids to calm her anxiety about what she will soon experience. Then she hopes to warm to his love and pledges commitment. Her thoughts are interrupted as the procession is about to begin. She reminds the bridesmaids they are to strew the flowers and wistfully takes leave of them. Schumann’s song captures her emotional turmoil. By comparison, Kugler and Loewe seem to have provided ceremonial music of a rather pompous nature to accompany the wedding rather than to


Furthermore, he is no longer a wandering planet (song 2), but the center of the solar system.



The music

portray the bride’s feelings as delineated by Chamisso. Their songs would be more appropriate for the tone and sentiments of Amadeus Wendt’s “Hochzeit” poem from his Bilder des weiblichen Lebens, which contains formal greetings for the bride and groom from all the wedding guests.71 The sudden call for a piano dynamic in m. 35 of Schumann’s song might be construed as signifying the church doors opening and the solemnity of the ceremony beginning. It is now that the bride instructs the maids to scatter rose petals down the aisle as the procession is about to start. After her whispered words (or farewell thoughts) to her friends, she steps forward, and to a less hurried tempo (ritard. m. 46) the wedding march begins to a transformation of the song’s opening melody.

Song 6 “Süβer Freund” You have changed. . . you are a woman now who has . . . experienced the ecstasy of love in a sensual way. You are awakened, You know the power of passion. You know desire and fulfillment. (Lotte Lehmann)72

Lehmann’s characterization is apt, for this text carries many signs of marital intimacy. The protagonist directly addresses her husband, and calls him “sweet friend.” In Chamisso’s poem she casts her eyes down, and happy tears glisten in her eyelashes; but Schumann changed “Wimpern” to “Auge” and thereby has her looking frankly into her husband’s eyes. A moment later she tells him to bury his face on her breast. This is a difficult position for him to assume unless either he is shorter than she is, or he is sitting and she standing, or he is lying with her in bed. This last assumption appears to be confirmed by subsequent lines. After she has explained her tears, she tells him to remain against her heart to feel its beating and to let her hug him tighter, and she tells him there will be room for a cradle “here beside my bed.” This warmer and more intimate relationship between husband and wife is just as important a feature of the poem as the announcement of the pregnancy. Chamisso cast this poem in the same form as “Seit ich ihn gesehen” (stanzas of eight, three-foot, trochaic lines, with alternating feminine and masculine endings and the even-numbered lines rhyming aabb). Kugler’s response to the similarity was to set this poem to a free variation of his tune for the first song (Ex. 6.26). The accompaniment even changes from eighthnote chords to sixteenth-note arpeggios at the midpoint. 71 72

See discussion of Wendt’s Bilder in Chapter 3 (pp. 96–105). Lehmann, Eighteen Song Cycles, 99.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.26 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 6 “Süsser Freund, du blickest mich” (mm. 1–8).

Although Kugler’s music therefore “fits” the words, the song does not otherwise seem well suited to the poem. The F] minor sets a rather somber mood at beginning and end, and the deflection back from the relative major (m. 13) with the direct chromaticism e2–e]2 in the vocal line creates a heightened moment with little apparent correlative in the text. Loewe’s song (Ex. 6.27) has some of the most felicitous music of his cycle. A repeated-note motive in the right hand of the piano arrests our attention, suggesting the quiet excitement underlying the situation, and the voice sings a tender melody that the left hand accompanies in parallel sixths over a tonic pedal. For the second half of the stanza the repeated-note motive moves to the bass, where it is expanded to the open fifth of the dominant chord. A melodic leap down a seventh (“erzittern,” m. 9) and a chromatic lower neighbor harmony add spice to the music before the gently melismatic cadential phrase. Loewe’s song is strophic and, as in his fourth song, four repetitions of this music wear a little thin. The stanza in this song, however, is longer than that in the earlier one, so we do not hear recurring music in as short a span of time. Furthermore, Loewe varies the accompaniment and the cadence pattern in the third and fifth stanzas.



The music

Ex. 6.27 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 6 “Süsser Freund” (mm. 3–11a).

Schumann’s setting is less a song than a recitation, at least until its third stanza. The meter is unpronounced and even a bit ambiguous on account of the phrase beginnings on the second beat in piano and voice and the chords sustained through the strong beats (mm. 9–11); the repeated pitches and the flexible rhythmic declamation of the vocal line resemble recitative. The slow tempo (Langsam, mit innigem Ausdruck), held chords, and expressive low register of the piano give the setting more the character of an arioso. The opening melodic figure in the voice, the diminished fourth and its resolution

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

(d2–a]1–b1), contribute a strong flavor to the song, as does the circling harmonic progression of the first eight bars (||:V – I – V/V – V:||).73 All these features – slow tempo, lack of regular rhythmic motion, chromatic melodic motive and suspended harmonic motion – also give the song a certain languor and combined with the reading of the text given above, would suggest that Schumann’s song is an intimate conversation between the married couple in bed. As is well known, Schumann skipped over Chamisso’s third stanza. In this omitted stanza the protagonist reports the conversation with her mother, who taught her to read the signs of her pregnancy and told her it was time to get a cradle. Some believe Schumann omitted the stanza because he thought it was in questionable taste. While this must remain a moot point, I would like to put forward some other possibilities. One is that Schumann did not want to portray such a level of naiveté in his protagonist. Another possible reason has to do with length and proportion. Given the number of lines in this poem and given Schumann’s tempo, retaining stanza three would have produced a very long song. Assuming he would have set the third stanza to the same music as the first two, Schumann would have run the risk that his languorous music, fine for two successive stanzas, might overstay its welcome and, without some relief, bore the listener.74 Solie suggests that Schumann wanted to remove the reference to the mother from the cycle (just as he removed the granddaughter by cutting the last poem) in order to concentrate attention on the two central characters.75 Whatever the reason, Schumann proceeded directly from the second to the fourth stanza, which he set as a startling contrast and treated as the climax of the song. The contrasting music is drawn from earlier songs; it consists of the by now familiar repeated eighth-note chords already heard in songs 2, 4, and 5. Note that the earlier languorous mood is only gradually broken; the right hand begins the eighth notes, but the left hand continues to muse on the main diminished fourth melodic motive (f–c]–d, and sequentially g, d], e, mm. 26–29). In m. 31 the music is intensified by placing the repeated chords in both hands, and the passage in mm. 39–42 resembles the 73



This figure may be derived from song 2, where the protagonist refers to the man’s brightness (“Schein,” bar 23–24, e[2–[1–c2). Some other non-strophic songs in which Schumann sets as many as three stanzas to the same music before introducing contrast are composed in popular Lied genres such as ballade (“Die rote Hanne,” Op. 31/3) and Wanderlied (“Wanderlied,” Op. 35/3; “Frühlingsfahrt,” Op. 45/2). The musical material in these songs is neutral or conventional enough to bear strophic repetition, whereas “Süßer Freund” is a very individualized setting. Solie, “The Gendered Self,” 234. Solie argues that Schumann was eliminating all other characters and denying the protagonist any focus point for her attention other than her husband.



The music

progression heard in bars 25–28 of song 4. There the chords accompany the text “Ich will ihm dienen, ihm leben,/Ihm angehören ganz,” a statement arguably meant to be understood as a sexual metaphor. In song 6 this chordal accompaniment carries the last four lines of the fourth stanza of the poem: “Bleib’ an meinem Herzen,/Fühle dessen Schlag,/Daß ich fest und fester/Nur dich drücken mag.” The reuse of this music from song 4 with the more nearly explicit text in song 6 tends to confirm a metaphorical interpretation for the earlier passage. The melodic fragment that the piano plays in the middle of this stanza (Lebhafter, bar 32ff.) is often said to be a quotation from Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte (“Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder”). An allusion to a song cycle about a “distant beloved” hardly seems appropriate for an intimate moment between husband and wife. It could, of course, be a neutral homage to the great predecessor whose song cycle informed features of Schumann’s. It could just as well be an allusion to Schumann’s own piano Fantasy, which quotes this same theme from Beethoven.76 In any case, what may be as significant as the theme’s source is how it is used in this song. After the piano has played the tune, the voice sings it back, and then both piano and voice perform it together: a dialogue between separate voices and then a unison duet lead into the passionate passage. Schumann originally marked the retransition to the opening music with ritard., but then he eliminated this tempo marking. Performers ought therefore to resist the temptation to slow down at this point. Schumann’s music, after all, moving from repeated eighth notes to half notes, applies the brakes to this passage. We should not interrupt the couple’s passionate moment. Solie hears the closing melodic gesture on “dein Bildnis” (mm. 57–58) as a reference back to the appoggiatura at the end of song 2 (mm. 69–71). Since she hears the earlier song as being all about the lordliest man, Solie interprets these notes as connoting the male gender of the unborn child. This assumption fits poorly with the evidence of Chamisso’s ninth poem, where the old widow is talking to “the daughter of my daughter.”

Song 7: “An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust” Gern litt ich und werde, mein süßes Licht, Viel Schmerzen um dich noch erleben. Ach! lebt von Schmerzen die Liebe nicht, Und nicht von Liebe das Leben? (Gladly I 76

Especially as the key here is C major, as in Schumann’s Op. 17.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.28 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 7 “An meinem Herzen” (mm. 1–8a).

suffered much pain for you, my sweet light, and shall yet endure more. Ah! does love not live on hardship, and life not thrive on love?) (Chamisso, “Der Klappersorch”)

In “An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust” the protagonist is now a mother with her baby. Are her sentiments the platitudes of motherhood placed in her mouth by a man, or are they the genuine emotions of her first experience of mothering her infant? Chamisso chose to couch this poem in the rather unusual form of detached couplets, perhaps more suggestive of breathless, excited utterance than of staid, conventional pronouncements.77 In their cycles, Kugler and Loewe both wrote lullabies for this text, as is appropriate and reasonable. After all, the protagonist is holding her baby to her breast, arguably even nursing it. Adding the gentle, rocking motion of a lullaby is in the respected tradition of the lied, wherein the piano accompaniment provides pictorial stage-setting, like Gretchen’s spinning wheel. Kugler’s song is in A major and 6/8, marked Allegretto assai dolce (Ex. 6.28). As elsewhere, the strophic form of Kugler’s song wears thin; hearing all eight couplets sung to the same sixteen-bar melody and sparse accompaniment begins to pall. Loewe’s lullaby (G[ major, 3/4, Andantino) is not only appropriate; it is the cycle’s most lovely song (Ex. 6.29). Its ingratiating tune seems to have 77

It is hardly Chamisso’s fault that some lifted his couplets to serve the purpose of aphorisms, almost like greeting card inscriptions. See Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann, Frauenleben im 19. Jahrhundert, Munich (1988), 160. This emblem is also cited by Solie, “Whose Life?”, 236–237.



The music

Table 6.6 Form of Loewe’s song 7, “An meinem Herzen” Couplet Voice Piano Measure

1 2 3 Ax Bx Cx Figuration 1 └──────────┘ 1–14

4 5 6 D D E Figuration 2 └─────────┘ 14–26

7 8 Ax Ay Figuration 1 └────────┘ 26–36

– coda


Ex. 6.29 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 7 “An meinem Herzen” (mm. 1–6a).

impressed itself on Schumann. In the autograph manuscript Schumann originally wrote a melody curiously similar to Loewe’s for his third stanza – the line rising from tonic to mediant (see discussion in Chapter 5, p. 158). It is tempting to believe that Loewe’s tune was lurking subconsciously in Schumann’s mind and came forth unbidden, even though we know that the composer probably composed this (temporary) version of his tune to avoid parallel octaves with the bass. There is no stark contrast within Loewe’s song, but he has imposed a ternary design upon Chamisso’s poem, grouping the couplets 1–3, 4–6, 7–8 (see Table 6.6). Couplets 1–3 and 7 all share the same cadential melody, labeled “x” in the table (mm. 4–6, 8–10, 12–14, and 28–30). Couplets 4 and 5

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

have the same melody, while the melody of 6 is different. This central section of the song also its own accompaniment pattern, a piano figuration distinct from that of the outer sections. This design corresponds to the content of the couplets. In the opening three and the closing pair the protagonist addresses the infant and speaks of her happiness, and the first couplet returns as the last. In the central three couplets she celebrates motherhood. Loewe’s form is an observant and intelligent musical setting of the poem’s content. Walz goes further. He reads in couplets 4–6 the glorification of motherhood, setting it up, almost ideologically, as the woman’s assigned role which the man cannot understand or appreciate. And he hears the central section of Loewe’s song – the static melody and oscillating pair of chords (mm. 14–22) – inscribing this as a pronouncement. “The feminizing of the woman has been turned into sound.”78 The form of Schumann’s song reflects the grouping of couplets according to content less well than Loewe’s, but thankfully Schumann does not treat each one as a separate musical statement (as does Kugler). Rather he combines pairs of couplets into four-phrase stanzas, and each of the first three eight-measure stanzas is open ended, pushing the excited song right along to its conclusion. Though this regular, binary grouping does not cluster the three couplets that glorify motherhood (4–6), the only juncture at which Schumann’s pairing might seriously disturb a close connection inherent in Chamisso’s sequence is between couplets 4 and 5, that is, between Schumann’s stanzas two and three (mm. 15–18). A strong break here would split a grammatical unit. Hearing the two noun clauses “Nur die da säugt, nur die da liebt/ Das Kind dem sie die Nahrung gibt” in couplet 4, one needs to connect these to the following, independent clause in couplet 5 (“Nur eine Mutter weiss allein / Was lieben heißt und glücklich sein”), making a sequence of three nominatives preceding the predicate which completes the thought. Schumann overcomes this potential problem to some extent by binding stanza two closely to stanza three by means of his harmonic progression. Instead of making a simple half cadence on A, as with the endings of stanzas one and three, here the music, already diverted to the subdominant (m. 13), progresses from vi65 of G (= ii65 of D) to V/V (E). The strong harmonic pull of this chord toward the v65 (A) at the beginning of stanza three helps link the subjects of couplet 4 with the predicate of couplet 5, and the familiar returning melody gives weight to the main clause and its proud celebration of the exclusivity of motherhood. 78

Walz, “Frauenliebe und Leben Op. 42,” 112.



The music

It might be just as strongly argued that the move to IV and this arrival on V/V demarcates a strong caesura in the middle of this song, creating a semblance of binary form. Hearing it this way admittedly weakens the linking of couplet 4 to couplet 5. The ritard. at this juncture (mm. 16–17) and the a tempo for the next couplet (m. 18) support this reading. It may be that this song, when closely examined, is not as successful in matching musical to poetic form as the others in Schumann’s cycle. Nevertheless, Schumann’s song captures the exuberant mood of the poem more honestly than the other settings. Though written in 6/8 and with a lilting accompaniment figure, his song is by no means a lullaby. It opens with a loud dominant 65 chord (and a quieter echo), proceeds with a quasiostinato figure in the bass, becomes schneller and noch schneller and at the latter point abandons the rushing sixteenth-notes altogether for clipped quarter-note chords. The voice plunges to its final cadence, and the rhythmic exuberance exhausts itself in the postlude.79 It is hard to escape the following conclusion: Kugler’s and Loewe’s songs depict the exterior circumstance of the lyric. We are made to look in on the mother rocking her baby and singing a lullaby. Its musical character is determined by a genre, and we think of a lullaby’s text as traditional words that are repeated over and over. A lullaby is less a lyric sung to a baby than, as Mark Booth notes, “a work song for mothers.” 80 The actual meaning of the words then is less important than the lulling sound for the baby and the pastime for the mother. Schumann’s song pays attention to the meaning of the words. His setting is marked Fröhlich (cheerful) and innig. The latter term, ubiquitous in Schumann songs, can mean both “sincere” and “ardent.” The ghost of a lullaby hovers somewhere, but Schumann’s song does not depict the actual rocking. (If it did, we would have to imagine the baby wide awake, catapulted crying to the floor before the song ends!) Rather it is a portrayal of the bliss of a mother holding her first-born infant, beside which the words of the monologue are only a verbal shadow. Kugler’s and Loewe’s songs serve the stereotype of female as mother, beheld from outside, uttering conventional expressions. Schumann’s delves within the character, portraying an individual woman’s fervently happy experience of her first baby. She is not identified by a musical genre as a type. Or better – the lullaby is rhythmically suggested, but transcended, thereby 79


Incidentally, the woman’s excitement here is quite similar to the man’s excitement at the end of the third song in Dichterliebe, “Die Rose, die Lilie” (cf. Op. 42/7/bars 30–41 and Op. 48/3/ bars 13–22). Mark Booth, The Experience of Songs, New York: Yale University Press (1981), 199.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.30 Franz Lachner, “An meinem Herzen” (mm. 36–44).

separating this character from a mere type and distinguishing her as an individual. Solie reproduces a piece of nineteenth-century decorative needlework showing a mother holding her baby and inscribed with Chamisso’s couplet “Nur eine Mutter weiss allein, Was lieben heißt und glücklich sein.”81 One can almost hear Kugler’s and Loewe’s songs as musical counterparts to this sentimental needlework; but Schumann’s song is light years away. As Walz comments, “Schumann sets to music . . . not the feminine as ideology, but the climax of a chain of psychological experiences . . . He knows the joy, the satisfaction of the woman without a gendered, ideological barrier.”82 Franz Lachner’s setting is in F major and 9/8 meter; its Allegro tempo together with the occasional high vocal writing, chromaticism, and liberal text repetition – especially at the climax – certainly prevent his song from sounding at all like a lullaby, but they, as with Lachner’s other songs, make it nearly operatic (see Ex. 6.30). This overwrought close is repeated. His setting distances itself from the realm of the lied and makes it difficult to compare with the lyrical settings. It is nevertheless clear that Lachner, too, is trying to infuse his setting with passion; the problem is that, with gestures like the high a[2 and fortissimo augmented sixth chord near the end, he goes too far. 81

Solie, “Whose Life?”, 236–237.


Walz, “Frauenliebe und Leben, Op. 42,” 112.



The music

In October 1830, within a few months of finishing Frauenliebe, Chamisso wrote the comic poem “Hans Jürgen und sein Kind.” It is difficult to read the seventh poem of Frauenliebe or to hear a musical setting of it without thinking of this poem, for at the climax of the story the title character amusingly quotes from this Frauenliebe poem (see Chapter 2). As the drunken title character emerges from the pond carrying what he believes to be the baby he has rescued, he cries (in quotation marks, no less): “An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust, “Upon my heart, upon my breast, Du meine Wonne, du meine Lust!” You my delight, you my joy!” Elissa Guralnick argues throughout her essay that Chamisso’s poems, if read closely, do not portray a young woman in the thrall of a patriarchal society, but one who exerts a lot of independence and who, what is more, moves away from her adoring attitude toward her husband. Not he, but her child becomes the main object of her love and care. She even pities the man for not being able to experience motherhood as a woman does.

Song 8: “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan” Viduae Caroli Mülleri ipsissima verba post illius obitum: daß ist der erste Schmerz, den Du mir gemacht hast, aber der trifft. (Chamisso) Ah! when the thought comes over me that I might one day lose him, then my mind is suddenly confused – may Heaven protect me from such a misfortune, I could not bear it. (Clara Wieck’s diary, the night before their wedding)

The words of the first motto above are found in a Latin notebook that Chamisso kept.83 Their context is made clear by a letter he wrote to his friend de la Foye (1814): A friend of mine here died not long ago, who gladdened and brightened my life, a dear, stout-hearted man whom I had recently met, a certain merchant Müller, who lived with a dear, lovely wife in the most beautiful marriage I have ever seen, next to Edward’s [Hitzig], – now she lives a young widow after a year and a half of happiness . . .84



Tardel, Chamissos Werke, vol. II, 389. The Latin translates as “The very words of Carl Miller’s widow after his death.” Quoted in Edward Schubotz, Chamisso’s Gedichte. Eine Stiluntersuchung, Cassel: Druck von Weber & Wiedermeyer (1910), 14 (author’s translation).

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Sixteen years later Chamisso paraphrased Müller’s widow’s words in the eighth poem of Frauenliebe: Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan, Der aber traf.85 This information is useful for two reasons. First, we see a concrete instance in the Frauenliebe poems of Chamisso’s penchant for using incidents from real life as subjects for or elements in his poetry. Second, we learn of an actual case of a woman being widowed soon after her marriage. The latter is helpful because the earliness of the husband’s death in Frauenliebe und Leben is often objected to, with good cause. Not only does the cycle come to an abrupt halt, but also the cycle seems to imply that outside of marrying and child-bearing, little of significance happens in a woman’s life except the loss of her husband. Chamisso’s Lebenslieder und Bilder concludes, too, with the husband’s death. Amadeus Wendt also ended his Bilder des weiblichen Lebens with an early death, albeit in his case the woman’s. The death of Chamisso’s friend Müller serves to remind us that sudden and early death was still much more common in the nineteenth century than it is today. In fact in 1830 a cholera epidemic swept Berlin and killed thousands. The death of the husband /father in Lebenslieder, it is strongly insinuated in the poem, is a result of his participation in military action in a good cause, perhaps even a reference back to the Befreiungskrieg, the war of liberation from Napoleon’s conquest. Though we may still permit ourselves regret that Frauenliebe ends as it does, its conclusion would probably not have seemed as much a lack of verisimilitude to Chamisso’s contemporaries as it does to us. Clara was very much aware of Robert’s precarious mental states and of his occasional thoughts of suicide, an awareness to which the quotation from her diary above bears witness.86 Guralnick argues in favor of a metaphorical interpretation of the husband’s death, asking us to consider her suggestion that the man may not literally be dead, but has through some offense to his wife become dead to her.87 She bases her interpretation partly on the parallels between the man




Kristina Muxfeldt also points out the derivation of these lines from an actual remark; Muxfeldt, “Frauenliebe und Leben,” 35. “[A]ch! der Gedanke, ich möchte ihn einmal verlieren, wenn der über mich kommt, dann verwirren sich gleich alle meine Sinne – der Himmel schütze mich vor solchem Unglück, ich trüge es nicht.” Clara’s Tagebuch 9, 214. Robert-Schumann-Haus, Zwickau, Germany. I am obliged to Thomas Synofzik and Nancy Reich for permission to read and quote from their transcript of Clara’s diary. Guralnick, “Ah, Clara,” passim.



The music

in Frauenliebe and Peter Schlemihl, Chamisso’s man without a shadow, who abandons Mina, the young woman who loves him, and thereby deals her “den ersten Schmerz.” He does not die, but in deserting her he is as good as dead to her. Guralnick sees this as a potential reading in Chamisso’s poems that is actualized in Schumann’s songs. Her reading of the whole cycle is grounded in a close examination of the relationship between Robert and Clara. She senses much insecurity on the part of Robert, who was beset from time to time with feelings of inadequacy, and who feared his mental instability might someday take him from Clara. After Robert’s actual death, Clara was devastated, of course, but she rallied and continued with her career, and, in so doing, also kept his musical memory very much alive. Guralnick’s slant is worth considering, for she argues from penetratingly close readings of the poems and the songs. Still, a literal reading of Chamisso’s poem – that the man has truly died, and perhaps suddenly, and at a relatively young age as well – is not at all farfetched. In Lebenslieder und Bilder there is slightly more development after marriage and before the cycle concludes with the husband’s death. Each parent has a poem addressed to a child, the mother to her son, the father to his daughter. Next the wife and husband have an exchange of ideas about love and marriage. Then the wife expresses her concern about how upset her husband is; the cause of his anxiety is revealed in the next poem, in which he explains to his son that he must take up arms on the side of right. The cycle skips from his quasi-farewell to the widow’s bitter, tearless lament over his death. If the arrival of death in the eighth poem in Frauenliebe seems abrupt, still the poem itself – starting with a reworking of the young widow Müller’s own words – stands up well. The protagonist passes through several stages of reaction to death: anger, loss, despair, mourning, and memory. The unusual alternation of five- and two-foot lines (stemming directly from Widow Müller’s locution) sets this poem apart from the others, as the protagonist feels set apart from others by her grief. The words “the veil falls” has a double meaning: the widow dresses and covers her face in the traditional garments of mourning and a figurative veil falls between her and the world as she withdraws into herself for a time in order to adjust to her altered circumstances. Kugler’s strophic setting of “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan” is in A[ major (Ex. 6.31). It is basically in common time, with two shorter bars (2/4) inserted; its tempo is Larghissimo. The simple melody in a confined range (a fifth, g1–d2) and plain accompaniment pattern make

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.31 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 8 “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan” (mm. 2–12).

this a relatively moving, benumbed reading of the widow’s lament. Kugler’s declamation, his turn to the relative minor key, and the central harmonic progression via diminished seventh chord and dominant to the remote G minor all suit the first and third stanzas of the poem, but work less well for stanza two. Loewe’s song (which was not published with the first seven) uncannily anticipates Schumann’s in some ways (Ex. 6.32). It is in D minor, in common time, and the voice declaims the text with a similarly relentless tone as the piano accompanies with stark chords. Beyond these resemblances, however, the character of Loewe’s song is quite different. His setting is strophic, and each stanza is concluded by a dramatically arching piano melody in dotted rhythms that imparts a theatrically funereal quality to the song. Once again Loewe seems to have written music fit for the external circumstances of the poem: a solemn funeral procession.



The music

Ex. 6.32 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 8 “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan” (mm. 1–14a).

Schumann’s setting of the eighth poem is much bleaker than Loewe’s. He does not, for example, release any of the pent up grief as does Loewe with the piano’s outcry. And the harmonic progression of his through-composed form portrays an almost unbearable sense of desolation and despair. After paired phrases of a dirge-like melody88 over a standard i–iv6–V progression for the first stanza, the song embarks on a brief, but excruciating search for stability (stanza two). This is one of the most tonally striking passages in all of Schumann’s songs. Its chromaticism and extraordinary voice-leading imply, but skirt, several keys, producing a tonal analogy for the emptiness


The a–d–e–f motive is a common if not stock minor key pattern; other prominent occurrences are in the overture to his opera Genoveva and in songs 7 and 8 of the Eichendorff Liederkreis, Op. 39.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

and isolation the protagonist feels. Of this song, Solie writes that its music at times “veers dangerously close to the nonfunctional and thus forms quite an exceptional passage in this cycle”; she finds some of the harmonies “not fully interpretable.”89 In the third stanza, the widow recovers her composure as the music reorients itself to the tonic key with an unambiguous progression to the dominant. Some features of the voice-leading deserve further comment. Though a rather conventional background may be seen to emerge, one’s attention is captured by the provocative foreground events, especially in the central stanza. Twice the music makes a feint toward a key whose arrival is thwarted. The D major/minor ninth chord in bar 7 implies a move to the subdominant, G, but the chord moves instead to E[, heard in the second half of mm. 8 (over a pedal D) and 9, in both instances resolving appoggiatura chords, the second time to E[ minor. The E[ is inverted to the topmost voice (piano, m. 9), and momentarily the music loses its bass register altogether (which it only slowly and gradually regains). The bass motion to F and the completely unprepared d[2 in the voice startle us with an implied move to the foreign key of B[ minor (m. 10) as the protagonist declares “Die Welt ist leer,” but then its dominant (F major, second half of m. 10) turns into an F minor chord after a passing diminished seventh (m. 11). Now a recognizable progression to C minor sets in, though this is not a logical goal in the key of D minor, a key that seems barely alive at this point (“Ich bin nicht lebend mehr”). The progression starts (mm. 12–13) melodically like a transposition and continuation of the feint toward G minor at the stanza’s beginning (bars 8–9), but this time the motion to the implied goal is carried through. After this momentary cadence to C minor (mm. 14–15), the music moves decidedly back to the realm of D minor, with a G minor as its prominent IV. During this progression – accompanying the words “Ich zieh’ mich in mein Inn’res still zurück” (I draw quietly into my inner self) – the vocal melody withdraws into an inner voice (alto) while the piano continues to play the top line (sustained g1). Schumann’s song, then, is firmly rooted in D minor at the beginning and the end, but it strays from this key in the middle, before it regains its path.90 At the end of the setting of the poem, the A of the dominant chord is reinterpreted as the third of a V chord on F, and the e1 of the melody is 89 90

Solie, “Whose Life?”, 232. My thanks to Charles Burkhart, again, for discussing the song with me. Burkhart finds a traditional Schenkerian ^5^4^3^2^1 descent in song 8, but a long interruption between 5 and 4 in the center, with a digression in mm. 9–12, where the line “strays” and then “regains path” (private communication).



The music

Ex. 6.33 Franz Kugler, Frauenliebe und Leben, no. 9 “Traum der eignen Tage.”

flattened to become the seventh, preparing for the postlude in B[.91 We shall consider Schumann’s postlude together with Kugler’s and Loewe’s settings of the ninth poem.

Song 9: “Traum der eignen Tage” and Schumann’s postlude to song 8 Schumann did not set Chamisso’s ninth and final poem, “Traum der eignen Tage,” but Kugler and Loewe did. Kugler recognized that not only the content, but also the form of this poem recall the first poem. The protagonist, now a grandmother, recalls her love, and she does so in the same stanza form used in the first poem. To achieve something analogous in his music, Kugler set the ninth poem to a variation of his first song, now in A[ major (Ex. 6.33). All the elements are there, including the switch from eighth to sixteenth notes in the piano at the midpoint. In song 9, however, Kugler smoothes out the text-setting rhythms of his first song, giving this 91

This echoes the fleeting progression in songs 2 and 4 when the music momentarily heads to G minor via its dominant D, but the pitch d becomes the third of a V7 on B[, which leads back to the tonic E[.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

Ex. 6.34 Carl Loewe, Frauenliebe, no. 9 “Traum der eignen Tage” (mm. 1–8a).

concluding grandmother’s pronouncements a more staid feeling. His little cycle then, as simple and sometimes amateurish as it is in many ways, has this touch of real musical sophistication. One cannot help but wonder if Schumann got the idea for the postlude to his last song from Kugler’s cycle. It is certainly possible that Schumann may have seen Kugler’s Skizzenbuch, which was brought out by a well known Berlin publishing firm in 1830. At the same time, there is not one scrap of evidence – independent of this musical coincidence – that Schumann knew Kugler’s songs. Just posing the question jars us into the realization that Schumann had no need of Kugler’s example. Not only did he know Beethoven’s cycle An die ferne Geliebte with its famous reprise, but he himself had already closed a song cycle, Dichterliebe, with a recollection of music from an earlier song. Schumann could, of course, have taken the hint from the formal resemblance of Chamisso’s first and last poems independently of Kugler. Loewe’s setting (which was not published with the cycle, but appeared in 1868) is a strophic song in A minor (Ex. 6.34), returning to the minor version of the key in which his cycle opened. It is the sixth of Loewe’s nine songs to be written in a compound meter (6/8; Moderato), and the unvaried eighth-note accompaniment is marked sempre piano e tenuto. The melody, a lackluster tune moving back and forth between the minor tonic and its



The music

relative major, sings every line to exactly the same rhythm.92 The song does Loewe no credit, and he was wise to omit it from his cycle. The strophic form of both Kugler’s and Loewe’s songs begins to wear on one after only two of the five stanzas. Schumann got around this problem, of course, by concluding his cycle with a recollection of his first song by the piano alone. This reprise restores the original and most prominent key of the cycle and provides a more melodious and harmonically subdued musical afterthought to balance the intensity of the eighth song. But the postlude patently does more than that. Ruth Solie maintains that Schumann’s postlude, in the spirit of Chamisso’s poem but much more strongly, is “a representation, perhaps one might say a symptom, of cyclicity itself and of the Ewigkeit that mythically stands for the feminine” and stresses “the endless repeatability of the woman’s experience.”93 Moreover, the omission of the ninth poem, Solie points out, deletes the protagonist’s relation to her granddaughter just as the omission of the third stanza of poem 6 similarly removed mention of her relation with her mother; this leaves her “torn from all connection to women’s culture.” The return of B[ obliterates the keys on the sharp side – the G and D major that had briefly released the cycle for the purely feminine experiences of pregnancy and motherhood – and restores the flat keys associated with the male-oriented texts. The protagonist’s life is musically circumscribed and dominated by the man. I shall return to Solie’s argument. In Chamisso’s ninth poem the protagonist, addressing her granddaughter as the “dream of my bygone days,”94 shares her memories of her own love and marriage with the young girl who, it seems, is about to be married. She rejoices in her love and pronounces: “Glück ist nur die Liebe, Liebe nur ist Glück” (Good fortune is only love, only love is good fortune), a sentiment expressed in almost the same words in poem 7. She says that when the one she loved was buried, she faithfully preserved her love inside herself; it is love that keeps her going. Though Chamisso’s text is a poem spoken by the aging protagonist and not a philosophical essay, it seems clear that the love she keeps alive within herself is not merely a memory of and pining for her dead husband, but a guiding and supporting outlook or conviction: love itself rather than its attachment to a single person. 92

93 94

One can sympathize with Brigitte Fassbaender’s attempt to relieve Loewe’s monotony by speaking one stanza as melodrama (with Cord Garben, piano; DGG compact disk, 423 680–2, 1988). Ruth Solie, “Whose Life?”, 228. Cf. poem 6 and the description of the baby’s birth as the awakening of a dream.

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

By the same token, Schumann’s postlude is also not merely a reminiscence. But is it more than the musical symbol of cyclicity that Solie posits? Does it carry any of the deeper meaning of Chamisso’s ninth poem? Does it enlarge the scope from fixation on the man to love itself? This is perhaps asking too much of Schumann’s music. Given the popularity of Chamisso’s poems, however, one can speculate that Schumann might have expected the performers of his cycle to know the literary original and to supply from their own knowledge the sentiments of the ninth poem. But without such foreknowledge, what does the reprise of the first song portend? It depends heavily on how one has understood the first song and on how one hears any return in a musical composition. If we read the first poem as Solie does, for instance, as a statement that the protagonist is blinded forever to everything but the man, that her life is fixed upon him and on him alone, then we shall have difficulty hearing the music of Schumann’s setting as signifying anything other than that in the postlude. Such a reading seems to have the female protagonist drawn more and more into subservience to the man until she has virtually no independent existence. Though the poetry is incontestably worshipful of the man, and though such an ideological meaning as Solie’s can be read into Chamisso’s poems and Schumann’s songs, it ignores some points in the text. The poems suggest contrariwise that the protagonist grows and changes, and Schumann’s songs enhance this development. In the first poem she is entranced by the man; it is an adolescent infatuation. Her loss of interest in “Schwestern Spiele” indicates that she has grown out of childhood and that her sexual consciousness has been awakened. Schumann’s music suggests the uncertainty and slight bewilderment with which she greets these experiences. In the second poem she idolizes and idealizes the man, thinking herself – in adolescent self-dramatization – not good enough for him. The song shows how she has puffed him up and also introduces the kind of harmonic progression in repeated eighth-note chords that portrays the arousal of her passionate feeling throughout the cycle. Schumann’s reprise of the first stanza weakens the self-abnegating close of Chamisso’s poem and gives the protagonist an appealing streak of self-confidence. In the third poem she expresses her incredulity at his avowal of love and enjoys an erotic fantasy. Schumann’s music builds to a climax for the dream and suggests the uniting of dream and reality in its reprise and coda. In the fourth poem the protagonist, who has not yet addressed the man directly in the poems, speaks to him vicariously through the ring he has



The music

given her. She describes the limbo of feeling in which she had felt lost, but declares that love is teaching her life’s meaning. The rondo music of Schumann’s song portrays for the first time a sense of contentment; at the same time, the music of stanza four shows that her passion is growing, too. On her wedding day in the fifth poem, the protagonist acknowledges the man’s sexual desire; she also addresses him directly for the first time and as she pledges commitment to him at the same time anticipates with some anxiety the consummation of their marriage. Schumann’s music mixes her own keen yearning with her anxiety. The sixth poem is an extended conversation between the protagonist and her husband about her pregnancy; after she has shared the news, she refuses to let her husband leave and presses him against her breast. Schumann’s song begins as a languorous bedroom scene, and then passionate music rises to a climax and subsides. The seventh poem is her discovery of the joy of mothering an infant, an experience she pities men for being unable to share. Schumann’s song portrays her exuberance. In the eighth poem, reacting to her husband’s death, the protagonist is at first angry that he has deserted her, then desolate, and then begins to mourn. Schumann portrays her despair with music that acts erratically and seems momentarily to lose its sense of direction. Within the social and ideological confines of his time, which the poet accepted, and within the literary constraints he set himself (e.g. a short series of monologues by a single character), Chamisso created a plausible character who develops from adolescence into womanhood. That character is emblematic, admittedly, and it is also true that her development is mostly in reaction to experiences. But with her strong emotional life, she could not be described as passive. Schumann breathes new life – musical life – into Chamisso’s character. And, as we have seen, he does it so much more than many other composers who set these poems. While it was a foregone conclusion that Schumann’s songs would “win,” it is a useful exercise to understand better, through comparisons with the other songs, how he did so. Schumann depicts the inner psychological reality of the protagonist’s experience, not the external circumstances. Just as Chamisso’s poems are soliloquies of the protagonist and not, like Amadeus Wendt’s Bilder des weiblichen Lebens, commentaries from second parties, Schumann’s songs are empathetic expressions of her inner feelings rather than background music for tableaux. Matthias Walz gives the poet much credit for this: “What Chamisso’s Frauenliebe und Leben emphasizes above the mass of contemporary [sentimental love poetry] . . . and what is easy to overlook amidst ideological contention, is a certain psychological realism behind the

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

biedermeierish superficialities.”95 As we have seen, a handful of the other songs are good, and worthy of performance. I am thinking of selections from Loewe’s cycle, and the Hiller, Marschner, and Reissiger songs. That Schumann’s settings are still better does not detract from their own qualities, but few of them match the nuanced expressiveness of his songs. The return of the first song at the end of the cycle is not merely a reminiscence of the protagonist’s initial experience of as yet unnamed love. In general a musical return not only focuses our attention on itself, but also reminds us that something else has transpired in the meantime. In recognizing music we have heard before, we are acknowledging that some contrasting music has intervened. Thus Schumann’s reprise recalls the other songs as well as the first one, a series of vignettes in which the protagonist not only “fell in love” with a particular man, but learned from that individual experience about love itself. Through her experience of finite love for another person, she became aware of the infinite value of life. “Du,” she tells the ring in poem 4, “hast meinem Blick erschlossen/ Des Lebens unendlichen Werth.” Schumann’s postlude, then, may communicate an important thought from Chamisso’s ninth poem (also voiced in poem 7): “Glück ist nur die Liebe,/ Liebe nur ist Glück” (“Good fortune is only love, Love only is good fortune”). Kristina Muxfeldt suggests that the postlude “may be thought to represent a memory, and not merely a symbolic or formal return.” But this memory is imperfect. Calling attention to the several subtle differences in rhythm and pitch between this reprise and its model in song 1 and to the absence of the voice, Muxfeldt believes that the postlude may be taken to imply the difficulty of recalling the man and her original feelings toward him. “The very inaccuracy of the repetition . . . imitates the perceptual mechanisms of a memory that has no hope of being revitalized by physical proximity.” The inexactly recalled melody (which does not match its original text), the disappearance of the top melodic line when it withdraws into an inner voice of the piano, the missing major seventh leap down – these suggest forgetfulness; they leave the listener, too, trying to remember how the song went. Thus the act of remembering is tinged with sorrow and a realization of human finitude.96 95 96

Walz, “Frauenliebe,” 107–108. Muxfeldt, “Frauenliebe und Leben,” 47. Also to be noted here is that in the sketch, where Schumann wrote out the solo piano rendition of song 1 at the bottom of the page where he had sketched song 8, he had already composed into it some of these changes. Obviously, to begin with, the voice is absent, but also the more rhythmically pointed appoggiatura figure (B[–A, in what would become m. 30) is present. Interestingly, the sketch also includes the melodic leap down of a seventh d1 to e[ (m. 35).



The music

Yet, if we have read Chamisso’s poems closely and listened intently to Schumann’s music, we know that this woman will have the strength to persevere. We know that as a widow with children in nineteenth-century German society she has a hard road ahead of her, but we are confident that she will manage. We do not hear the postlude to song 8 as a despairing retreat into the past, then, but perhaps as a bidding farewell to that past, while holding on to its lessons. The protagonist does not sing the song, but recalls a consoling and inspiriting memory. At the very end, as the piano seems to begin again, the music and she are poised for a new continuation. In the autograph manuscript, Schumann wrote out a reprise of both stanzas of song 1 as the postlude; but he canceled the repetition by crossing it out in the copyist’s manuscript, leaving only the single pass through the voiceless song at the end. Twice through would have been too long, one might casually think; but it is also plausible that hearing both stanzas might have more firmly imprinted the idea of reprise as retreat and regression by returning us more fully to song 1. We must not overlook the preconceptions we bring to this cycle. Knowing it so well, we may be inclined to hear a performance of song 1 and its reprise simply as “young love.” Yet, according to the interpretation of poem/song 1 for which I have argued, this lyric is not a joyous poem about love, but a tentative, restrained reaction to new and unsettling emotions. The young woman feels confusion and uncertainty. She feels excitement as well, but with apprehension, as new and unknown experience beckons to her. At the end of the cycle, the widow feels herself again facing an unpredictable future. Had Schumann composed a basically cheerful setting for poem 1, as did most of the other composers who set it, its reprise here would not ring true. And herein lies part of Schumann’s genius: his “Seit ich ihn gesehen” can be used convincingly to conclude the cycle.97 My apologia for Chamisso’s poems and Schumann’s songs will doubtlessly not have won over every reader. But I hope to have provided a broader and more substantial background for considering the literary and musical qualities of Frauenliebe und Leben. Considered in literary and historical context, the poems are less maudlin and more realistic than they are often 97

Kugler, as we have seen, does bring back the melody of his first song, not as an instrumental postlude, but to set poem 9 “Traum der eignen Tage.” His reprise is significantly altered. It is in a different key (A[ instead of C), a different meter (6/8 instead of 3/8), and its clipped, unbalanced phrases are relaxed into a succession of symmetrical ones. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Kugler’s protagonist has matured into rather staid old age

Schumann’s cycle: analysis

taken to be; and the songs, studied in detail and compared with other settings of these poems, are wonders of nuanced expressiveness. Chamisso’s keen and sympathetic portrait of a young woman of early nineteenth-century Germany is brought to life by Schumann’s masterful musical mood pictures.



At one point in my research, I came across the fact that some poems of Chamisso in English translation had been published by the nineteenthcentury American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and this led me to read more about him. Soon I began to perceive a number of similarities between these two writers. What struck me the most was how both had been popular and respected literary figures in the nineteenth century, but had plummeted in the regard of readers and literary historians and critics in the course of the twentieth century. Longfellow was still read, taught, anthologized, and memorized by schoolchildren – I was one such schoolchild – in the 1950s, but since then, and even before then, his name has virtually disappeared from the annals of mainstream American literature, very like what became of Chamisso’s reputation.1 This in itself would not be worth calling attention to except for a number of other parallels, parallels that I believe may enhance our perspective on Chamisso. Chamisso (1781–1838) and Longfellow (1807–1882) were, of course, not contemporaries; Longfellow lived a generation later. Chamisso was born French, but grew up and made his career in Germany; Longfellow was born in the United States, but traveled extensively in Europe; Germany was his favorite European country. He had many friends and acquaintances there with whom he stayed in touch, and though he read many languages and translated poetry from them, he steeped himself the most in nineteenthcentury German poetry. Chamisso voyaged around the world and published a travelog of his experiences; Longfellow produced a prose work chronicling in fictional guise his experiences in Germany and the rest of Europe (Hyperion). Chamisso and Longfellow both had great facility for meter, rhyme, and verse forms. Chamisso, for example, cultivated a confident and 1


There was a children’s card game called “Authors,” a literary form of “Go Fish,” in which the object was to assemble in one’s hand a complete collection of the listed works by one or more of the pictured authors. These included James Fennimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Nearly all the members of that collection maintain varying degrees of readership and critical respectability today except Longfellow.


effective terza rima for many narrative poems; Longfellow famously adapted the stanza form and meter of the Finnish saga The Kalevala for his long narrative poem Hiawatha. Both were accomplished sonneteers. Both love to tell versified tales. More like Chamisso’s short stories in verse are Longfellow’s Tales of the Wayside Inn, which include his famous “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Both poets produced some poems of a rather sentimental caste about people of the lower and middle class; Chamisso wrote, for example, of “The Old Washerwoman”; Longfellow, of “The Village Blacksmith.” Both poets translated and adapted and “cribbed” material from other poets; Chamisso translated many poems from his native French (e.g. from the poet Béranger), but also from Danish (Hans Christian Andersen), Greek, and other tongues; Longfellow published a nearly 800-page anthology of The Poets and Poetry of Europe (1849), with translations by himself and many other contributors. Longfellow also made the first complete English translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He clearly made common cause with Goethe’s promotion of world literature. Chamisso was politically liberal and progressive, but not radical; he believed in gradual change for the better, and he wrote about its inevitability in a number of poems. Longfellow held liberal views and was an ardent abolitionist, but he was not outspoken; his socially conscious work consists of a handful of poems in protest against slavery.2 Both poets enjoyed the fellowship of their literary peers and participated in their respective “Wednesday Societies,” in Berlin and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Longfellow was the far more ambitious and prolific poet; his works (excluding the translations) fill ten volumes; and some of his individual poems – like Evangeline and Hiawatha – are much greater in scope than any of Chamisso’s. Perhaps partly because Chamisso pursued a dual career as writer and scientist, he produced only two volumes of literary creations. Chamisso and Longfellow were both lionized during their lifetimes, and by all accounts they much enjoyed their popularity with readers. I believe that both realized they were not the most elevated poets of their day, but they reached out to a broadened, middle-class readership and provided them with imaginative, appealing, well-made, and sometimes thought-provoking poems. Another parallel between Chamisso and Longfellow is that both are enjoying a resurgence of interest. A number of new books on Longfellow – biographies and critical studies – have appeared recently; an anthology of his work has been published in the Library of America series.3 There is a 2


See Harvard professor Jill Lepore’s “Paul Revere’s Ride Against Slavery” in The New York Times, December 19, 2010, Sunday Opinion, 8. See Robert Gale, A Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Companion, Westport CT: Greenwood Press (2003); Charles C. Calhoun, Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life, Boston: Beacon Press (2004);




renewal of research on Chamisso, too, for his scientific as well as for his literary accomplishments, the latter including new attention to his account of his voyage around the world.4 A handful of new studies, books and articles, have appeared; an exhibition and collection of essays appeared in 2004,5 and international conferences were held in 2011 and 2013;6 modern critical editions of his work appeared in both West and East Germany.7 While we do not expect Chamisso and Longfellow to set their respective literary worlds of readers and scholars on fire, one can confidently say that they are making something of a comeback. Having survived the adversities of falling from popularity and suffering critical disdain, they are regaining something of their reputations. Their literary skill can perhaps be better recognized and valued in and for itself nowadays, their borderline sentimentality can be appreciated as responding, but not catering or pandering, to the middle-class readership. Their other accomplishments can be regarded as genuine and worthwhile achievements in their own right, such as Longfellow’s promotion of modern European languages at Harvard and Chamisso’s extensive contributions to botany and marine biology, their travel writing, and their work as editors of other poets’ work. In both cases all these things flesh out the whole person, so that each may be viewed with his many and varied achievements in the rich and contradictory fabric of nineteenth-century culture.

4 6


Christopher Irsmscher, Longfellow Redux, Champaign IL: University of Illinois Press (2006); Irmscher, Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200, Cambridge MA: University of Massachusetts Press (2009); Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings, ed. J. D. McClatchy, Library of America vol. XVII New York: Penguin Books (2000). Longfellow has even appeared in a murder mystery, The Dante Club, by Matthew Pearl, New York: Randon House (2006); the plot revolves around his Wednesday meetings with colleagues to discuss his translation of The Divine Comedy. See Liebersohn, The Travelers’ World. 5 See Bździach, Mit den Augen des Fremden. The 2011 conference proceedings have been published as Korrespondenzen und Transformationen. Neue Perspektiven auf Adelbert von Chamisso, eds. Marie-Thérèse Federhofer and Jutta Weber, Göttingen (2012). See the editions in the bibliography edited by Jost Perfahl and Volker Hoffmann (1975) and by Werner Feudel and Christel Laufer (1981).

Appendix 1 Chronological listing of nineteenth-century Frauenliebe und Leben settings

Boldface type indicates a cycle; underlining indicates songs discussed in this book. This table is based on the comprehensive list of all Frauenliebe und Leben settings compiled by Sharon Krebs (unpublished); her list supersedes Tardel’s (see bibliography). I am indebted to Krebs for her generous permission to draw on her research. Publication date Notes


Poems Opus

Franz Kugler Franz Lachner

1–9 3

– Op. 27/3

1830 1830

Commer Carl G. Reissiger Carl Loewe

3 1, 3 1–9

3 Lieder/3 Op. 104/1 Op. 60

1835 1835 1836

Claudius Gross Lehmann Franz Lachner Huth

4,8 1 1, 3, 5 7 1–4

Op. 18/4,5 Op. 25/1 Op. 34/1–3 Op. 35/1 Op. 16

1837 1837 1837 1837 1838

Möhring Sigismund Thalberg Sigismund Thalberg Zimmermann Franz Lachner Becker Alvensleben Wiseneder G. Wolff Tiehsen Robert Schumann Ferdinand Hiller Heinrich Proch Eckhardt

1 9 4 1 2 1 3,4 3 1 4 1–8 1 4 4

Op. 2/3 Op. 24/v/6 Op. 25/vi/6 Op. 18/1 – Op. 15/4 Op. 1/ 4,5 Vier Lieder Op. 1/3 Op. 12/2 Op. 42 Op. 26/4 Op. 105 Op. 2/5

1838 1838 1838 1838 1839 1839 1840 1841 1841 1842 1843 1843 1844 1845

In Skizzenbuch “Ihr Traum” von Chamisso

1–7 as cycle; 8 and 9 published separately later In Skizzenbuch

Quasi-cycle, titled Frauen-Liebe und Leben

Attribution uncertain

Composed 1840

Mein goldnes Ringelein



Nineteenth-century settings


Poems Opus

Publication date Notes

Krigar Siebert Böie Franz Lachner

3 4 3 1

Op. 5/2 Op. 7/4 Op. 10/4 Op. 82

1846 1846 1847 1847

Hauser Scheller Siemers Stein Stoll Boh David Klein Heinrich Marschner Hilarius v. Siegroth Preyer Meyroos Bohrer Schmidt Stark

3 1 4 4 1 1 3 1 1, 3

Op. 8/ii/2 Op. 2/3 Op. 5/3 Op. 3/2 Album. . ., 1 Op. 23/1 Op. 29/4 3 Gesänge/1 Op. 156/1,2

1849 1849 1850 1850 1850 1851 1851 1851 1852


Op. 15/1–10


1 3 1 4 1

Op. 61 Op. 1/2 6 Lieder/5 Op. 2/2 Op. 46/2

1855 1862 1864 1864 1866

A. Wagner Heinefetter Lüdecke Lammers

1 6 1, 3 3

6 Lieder/2 Op. 30/5 Op. 14/1,2 Op. 8/5

1869 1873 1873 1877

Ander Umlauft Schwartzkopff Dannehl Brandt Farkas Fielitz Esfonde Sulzbach Blon Bohm

3 3 1 9 3 4 3 8 3 4 3

Op. 2 Op. 6/3 Op. 21/1 Op. 9 Op. 16 Op. 2 Op. 8 Op. 4/2 Op. 23/2 Lieder. . ./8 Op. 349/1

1878 1881 1889 1890 1891 1891 1891 1892 1894 1895 1895

Rudnick Schuchart

3 4

Neue. . ./4 1900 “Das gold’ne 1900 Ringelein”. . .

Der Ring Obbligato clarinet or cello

Poem 2 split into two songs; cycle

Aus Chamisso’s Frauenliebe

“Mein” “Ich kann’s nicht fassen”

“Mutterseelenallein” “Ich kann’s nicht fassen” “Das gold’ne Ringelein”

Appendix 2 Poetry in the original German and in English translation



Poetry in German and English translation

Frauenliebe und Leben (Woman’s Love and Life) Adelbert von Chamisso 1 Seit ich ihn gesehen, Glaub’ ich blind zu sein; Wo ich hin nur blicke, Seh’ ich ihn allein; Wie im wachen Traume Schwebt sein Bild mir vor, Taucht aus tiefstem Dunkel, Heller nur empor.

Since I first saw him, I believe myself blind; Wherever I look, I see only him; As in a waking dream His image floats before me, Plunges from deepest darkness, Ever more brightly upward.

Sonst ist licht- und farblos Alles um mich her, Nach der Schwestern Spiele Nicht begehr’ ich mehr, Möchte lieber weinen, Still im Kämmerlein; Seit ich ihn gesehen, Glaub’ ich blind zu sein.

Otherwise everything around me Is without light and color, Playing games with my sisters Is no longer my desire, I would rather cry Quietly in my room; Since I first saw him, I believe myself blind. 2

Er, der herrlichste von allen, Wie so milde, wie so gut! Holde Lippen, klares Auge, Heller Sinn und fester Mut.

He, the most marvelous of all, How gentle, how good! Sweet lips, clear eyes, Bright spirit and strong heart.

So wie dort in blauer Tiefe, Hell und herrlich, jener Stern, Also er an meinem Himmel, Hell und herrlich, hoch1 und fern.

As up there in the blue depths, Bright and marvelous that star, So he, in my heaven, Bright and marvelous, high and far away.

Wandle, wandle deine Bahnen, Nur betrachten deinen Schein,

Go, go on your way, I’ll just contemplate your brilliance,

English translation by Rufus Hallmark, adapted from many earlier translations, principally that by Philip L. Miller in his The Ring of Words, New York, Norton (1973), 6–19. 1 Schumann changed “hoch” to “hehr.”

Poetry in German and English translation


Nur in Demut ihn betrachten, Selig nur und traurig sein!

Just contemplate it in humility, Only be blessed and sad!

Höre nicht mein stilles Beten, Deinem Glücke nur geweiht; Darfst mich niedre Magd nicht kennen, Hoher Stern der Herrlichkeit!

Don’t hear my silent prayer, Dedicated only to your happiness; You may not notice me, a lowly maiden, High and magnificent star!

Nur die Würdigste von allen Soll2 beglücken deine Wahl, Und ich will die Hohe segnen, Segnen3 viele tausendmal.

Only the worthiest of all Must be gladdened by your choice, And I shall bless this exalted one, Bless her many thousand times.

Will mich freuen dann und weinen, Selig, selig bin ich dann; Sollte mir das Herz auch brechen, Brich, o Herz, was liegt daran?4

Then I shall be joyful and weep, Blest, blest will I then be; If it should break my heart, Break, o heart, what does it matter? 3

Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben, Es hat ein Traum mich berückt; Wie hätt er doch unter allen Mich Arme erhöht und beglückt?

I cannot grasp it, nor believe it, A dream must have beguiled me; How could he from among all of them Have uplifted and favored lowly me?

Mir war’s, er habe gesprochen: Ich bin auf ewig dein – Mir war’s – ich träume noch immer, Es kann ja nimmer so sein.

It seemed to me as if he had spoken: I am yours forever – It seemed to me – I’m still dreaming, It cannot ever be so.

O laß im Traume mich sterben, Gewieget an seiner Brust, Den seligsten5 Tod mich schlürfen In Tränen unendlicher Lust.6

O let me die in my dream, Cradled on his breast Let me savor the most blessed death In tears of endless bliss. 4

Du Ring an meinem Finger, Mein goldenes Ringelein, 2 4 6

Thou ring upon my finger, My little golden ring,

“Soll” to “Darf.” 3 Schumann omits “Segnen.” Schumann repeats the first stanza at the end. 5 First edition has “seligen” for “seligsten.” Schumann repeats first stanza at the end.


Poetry in German and English translation

Ich drücke dich fromm an die Lippen, Dich fromm an das Herze mein.

I press you devoutly to my lips, Devoutly to my heart.

Ich hatt ihn ausgeträumet, Der Kindheit friedlichen Traum,7 Ich fand allein mich, verloren Im öden, unendlichen Raum.

I had finished dreaming The peaceful dream of childhood, I found myself alone, lost In a barren, endless space.

Du Ring an meinem Finger, Da hast du mich erst belehrt, Hast meinem Blick erschlossen Des Lebens unendlichen, tiefen Wert.

Thou ring upon my finger, Thou hast first taught me, Hast opened to my eyes Life’s infinite, profound worth.

Ich werd’8 ihm dienen, ihm leben, Ihm angehören ganz, Hin selber mich geben und finden Verklärt mich in seinem Glanz.

I shall serve him, live for him, Belong wholly to him, Give myself over to him and find Myself transfigured by his light.

Du Ring an meinem Finger, Mein goldenes Ringelein, Ich drücke dich fromm an die Lippen Dich fromm an das Herze mein.

Thou ring upon my finger, My little golden ring, I press you devoutly to my lips, Devoutly to my heart. 5

Helft mir, ihr Schwestern, Freundlich mich schmücken, Dient der Glücklichen heute mir, Windet geschäftig Mir um die Stirne Noch der blühenden Myrte Zier.

Help me, my sisters, As friends to adorn myself, Serve me, the fortunate one, today. Wind busily Around my brow The wreath of blossoming myrtles.

Als ich befriedigt, Freudigen Herzens, Dem Geliebten9 im Arme lag, Immer noch rief er, Sehnsucht im Herzen, Ungeduldig den heutigen Tag.

When I at peace, With a joyful heart, Lay in the arms of my beloved, He always called, With longing in his heart, Impatiently for this very day.

Helft mir, ihr Schwestern, Helft mir verscheuchen

Help me, my sisters, Help me chase away

7 9

8 Schumann has “friedlichen schönen Traum.” Schumann changes “werd” to “will.” Schumann changes “Dem Geliebten” to “Sonst dem Geliebten.”

Poetry in German and English translation

Eine törichte Bangigkeit, Daß ich mit klarem Aug’ ihn empfange, Ihn, die Quelle der Freudigkeit.

A foolish anxiety, So that I with a clear Eye may receive him, Him, the source of happiness.

Bist, mein Geliebter, Du mir erschienen, Giebst du Sonne, mir deinen Schein?10 Laß mich in Andacht, Laß mich11 in Demut, Mich verneigen dem Herren mein.

When you, my beloved, Have appeared to me, Will you give me, sun, your light? Let me in devotion, Let me in humility, Bow down to my lord.

Streuet ihm, Schwestern, Streuet ihm Blumen, Bringt12 ihm knospende Rosen dar, Aber euch, Schwestern, Grüß ich mit Wehmut Freudig scheidend aus eurer Schar.

Strew to him, sisters, Strew to him flowers, Bring to him budding roses, But you, sisters, I greet with melancholy, Joyfully parting from your company.

6 Süßer Freund, du blickest Mich verwundert an, Kannst es nicht begreifen, Wie ich weinen kann; Laß der feuchten Perlen Ungewohnte Zier Freudenhell erzittern In den Wimpern mir.13

Dear friend, you look At me with wonderment, Can you not comprehend How I can cry? Let the unaccustomed ornament Of these moist pearls Tremble with bright happiness In my eyelashes.

Wie so bang mein Busen, Wie so wonnevoll! Wüßt ich nur mit Worten, Wie ich’s sagen soll; Komm und birg dein Antlitz Hier an meiner Brust,

How anxious my breast, How bliss-filled! If only I knew how to Put it into words; Come and bury your face Here on my breast,

10 11 13

In the Schumann “Gibst du Sonne.” Becomes “Gibst du mir, Sonne.” “Laß mich” becomes “Lass mich.” 12 “Bringt” becomes “Bringet.” Schumann changes to “Freudig hell erzittern in dem Auge mir.”



Poetry in German and English translation

Will in’s Ohr dir flüstern Alle meine Lust.

I’ll whisper in your ear All my joy.

Hab’ ob manchen Zeichen Mutter schon gefragt, Hat die gute Mutter Alles mir gesagt, Hat mich unterwiesen, Wie, nach allem Schein, Bald für eine Wiege Muss gesorget sein.14

About certain signs I have Already asked mother, And my good mother Told me everything, She explained to me How, according to all indications, Soon we’ll have to Provide a cradle.

Weißt du nun die Tränen, Die ich weinen kann? Sollst du nicht sie sehen, Du geliebter Mann? Bleib an meinem Herzen, Fühle dessen Schlag, Daß ich fest und fester Nur dich drücken mag.

Now do you understand the tears That I am shedding? Ought you not to see them, Beloved husband? Stay against my heart, Feel its beating, So that tight and tighter I may press you.

Hier an meinem Bette Hat die Wiege Raum, Wo sie still verberge Meinen holden Traum; Kommen wird der Morgen, Wo der Traum erwacht, Und daraus dein Bildnis Mir entgegen lacht.

Here at my bedside There’s room for the cradle, Where it will quietly shelter My precious dream; Morning will come, When the dream awakes, And from it your image Will smile at me. 7

An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust, Du meine Wonne, du meine Lust!

Against my heart, against my breast, You my delight, you my joy!

Das Glück ist die Liebe, die Lieb’ ist das Glück, Ich hab es15 gesagt und nehm’s nicht zurück.

Happiness is love, love is happiness,


Schumann omitted this stanza.

I have said it and won’t take it back.


“hab es” becomes “hab’s.”

Poetry in German and English translation


Hab überglücklich16 mich geschätzt Bin überglücklich aber jetzt.

I thought myself overjoyed, But now I am even more overjoyed.

Nur die da säugt, nur die da liebt Das Kind, dem sie die Nahrung giebt;

Only she who nurses, only she who loves The child, to whom she gives nourishment;

Nur eine Mutter weiß allein Was lieben heißt und glücklich sein.

Only a mother knows alone What it means to love and to be fortunate.

O, wie bedaur’ ich doch den Mann, Der Mutterglück nicht fühlen kann!

Oh, how I pity the man, Who cannot feel a mother’s bliss!

Du schauest mich an und lächelst dazu, Du lieber, lieber Engel, du!17

You look at me and smile, too, You dear, dear angel, you!

An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust, Du meine Wonne, du meine Lust!

Against my heart, against my breast, You my delight, you my joy! 8

Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan, Der aber traf. Du schläfst, du harter, unbarmherz’ger Mann, Den Todesschlaf.

Now you have caused me the first grief, But it hurt me deeply. You sleep, you cold, unmerciful man,

Es blicket die Verlaßne vor sich hin, Die Welt ist leer. Geliebet hab ich und gelebt, ich bin Nicht lebend mehr.

The abandoned one looks before her, The world is empty. I have loved and lived, but I am No longer alive.

Ich zieh mich in mein Innres still zurück, Der Schleier fällt, Da hab ich dich und mein verlornes Glück, Du meine Welt!

I withdraw quietly into my inmost self, The veil falls, There I have you and my lost happiness, You, my world!

The sleep of death.

9 Traum der eignen Tage, Die nun ferne sind, Tochter meiner Tochter, Du mein süsses Kind, 16 17

Schumann changes to “überschwenglich.” Schumann reverses the order of the lines in this couplet.

Dream of my own days, That now are far away, Daughter of my daughter, You my sweet child,


Poetry in German and English translation

Nimm, bevor die Müde Deckt das Leichentuch, Nimm in’s frische Leben Meinen Segenspruch.

Take, before weariness Pulls the shroud over me, Take with you into fresh life My words of blessing.

Siehst mich grau von Haaren, Abgezehrt und bleich, Bin, wie du, gewesen Jung und wonnereich, Liebte, wie du liebest, Ward, wie du, auch Braut, Und auch du wirst altern, So wie ich ergraut.

You see me with gray hair, Thin and pale, I, like you, was once Young and blissful, I loved, as you love, Became, like you, a bride, And you, like me, will age, Will turn gray as have I.

Lass die Zeit im Fluge Wandeln fort und fort, Nur beständig wahre Deines Busens Hort; Hab ich’s einst gesprochen, Nehm’ ich’s nicht zurück: Glück ist nur die Liebe, Liebe nur ist Glück.

Let time in its flight Change more and more, Just constantly maintain Your heart’s treasure; If I have said it once, I shall not take it back: Good fortune is only love, Love only is good fortune.

Als ich, den ich liebte, In das Grab gelegt, Hab’ ich meine Liebe Treu in mir gehegt; War mein Herz gebrochen, Blieb mir fest der Muth, Und des Alters Asche Wahrt die heil’ge Gluth.

When I laid the man I loved In the grave, I preserved my love Faithfully within me; If my heart was broken, I never lost heart, And the holy flame Warmed the ashes of my age.

Nimm, bevor die Müde Deckt das Leichentuch, Nimm in’s frische Leben Meinen Segenspruch: Muss das Herz dir brechen, Bleibe fest dein Muth, Sei der Schmerz der Liebe Dann dein hochstes Gut.

Take, before weariness Pulls the shroud over me, Take with you into fresh life My words of blessing: If your heart must break, Do not lose heart, May the pain of love Be your highest good.18


Schumann omitted poem no. 9.

Poetry in German and English translation


Tränen (Tears) Adelbert von Chamisso 1 Was ist’s, o Vater, was ich verbrach? Du brichst mir das Herz, und fragst nicht danach.

What is it, Father, that I have done wrong? You’re breaking my heart and don’t care about it.

Ich hab ihm entsagt, nach deinem Befehl,

I have renounced him, according to your order, But have not forgotten him, I make no secret of that.

Doch nicht ihn vergessen, ich hab es nicht hehl. Noch lebt er in mir, ich selbst bin tot, Und über mir schaltet dein strenges Gebot.

He lives in me still, I myself am dead, And your strict command holds sway over me.

Wann Herz und Wille gebrochen sind, Bittet um eins noch dein armes Kind.

Now that heart and will are broken, Your poor child asks just one more thing.

Wann bald mein müde Auge sich schliesst, Und Tränen vielleicht das deine vergiesst;

When my weary eye soon closes, And tears perhaps flow from yours;

An der Kirchwand dort, beim Holunderstrauch, Wo die Mutter liegt, da lege mich auch.

Beside the church wall there, by the elder bush, Where mother lies, there lay me, too. 2

Ich habe, bevor der Morgen Im Osten noch gegraut, Am Fenster zitternd geharret Und dort hinaus geschaut.

I have, before morning Yet grayed in the east, At the window, shivering, waited And from there peered out.

Und in der Mittagsstunde, Da hab ich bitter geweint, Und habe doch im Herzen: Er kommt wohl noch, gemeint.

And in the midday hour Then I bitterly wept, And in my heart yet Believed: He’ll still come.

English translation by Rufus Hallmark, with suggestions from Harald Krebs and Christina Bodemann.


Poetry in German and English translation

The night, the night has come, Before which I felt dread; Now the day is over, To which I looked forward with joy.

Die Nacht, die Nacht is kommen, Vor der ich mich gescheut; Nun ist der Tag verloren, Auf den ich mich gefreut. 3 Nicht der Tau und nicht der Regen Dringen, Mutter, in dein Grab, Tränen sind es,

Not the dew and not the rain Soak, Mother, into your grave, It’s tears,

Tränen deines armen Kindes Rinnen heiss zu dir hinab.

Tears of your poor child Are flowing hot toward you.

Und ich grabe, grabe, grabe; Von den Nägeln springt das Blut, Ach! Mit Schmerzen, Mit zerrissnem blut’gem Herzen Bring ich dir hinab mein Gut.

And I dig, dig, dig; From my nails springs blood Ah! with pain, With torn and bleeding heart I bring you my possession.

Meinen Ring, sollst mir ihn wahren, Gute Mutter, liebevoll; Ach! Sie sagen, Dass ich einen andern tragen, Weg den meinen werfen soll.

My ring, you must keep it for me, Good Mother, lovingly; Ah! they say That I should wear another, Should throw mine away.

Ring, mein Ring, du teures Kleinod! Muss es den geschieden sein? Ach! ich werde Bald dich suchen in der Erde, Und du wirst dann wieder mein.

Ring, my ring, you dear treasure! Must we then be parted? Ah! I shall Soon seek you in the earth, And then you will be mine again. 4

Denke, denke mein Geliebter, Meiner alten Lieb und treue, Denke, wie aus freud’gem Herzen, Sonder Harm und sonder Reue, Frei das Wort ich dir gegeben, Dich zu lieben, dir zu leben – Suche dir ein andres Lieb!

Remember, just remember, my beloved, My old and faithful love, Remember how I, with joyful heart, Without sorrow and without regret, Freely gave you my word, To love you, to live for you – Find yourself another love!

Poetry in German and English translation


Ach! er kam, besah die Felder Und das Haus, der Mutter Erbe, Sprach und feilschte mit dem Vater Der befahl gestreng und herbe. – Eitel war das Wort gesprochen, Herz und Treue sind gebrochen – Suche dir ein andres Lieb!

Ah! he came, inspected the land And the house, my mother’s inheritance, Talked and haggled with Father, Who dictated strictly and sharply. – In vain our pledge was spoken, Heart and faithfulness are broken – Find yourself another love!

Und der Priester mit dem Munde Sprach den Segen unverdrossen, Unerhöret, einem Bunde, Der im Himmel nicht geschlossen. – Zieh von hinnen! Zieh von hinnen! Andres Glück dir zu gewinnen, Suche dir ein andres Lieb!

And the priest with his lips Spoke the blessing, unhesitatingly, Scandalously, on a union, That was not made in heaven. – Go away from here! Go away from here! To win yourself a different fortune, Find yourself another love!

5 Die, deren Schoss geboren, In Wonn und Lust verloren, Ihr Kind in Armen halt, Sie gibt dir Preis und Ehren, Und weint des Dankes Zähren Dir, Vater aller Welt.

She, from whose womb a child is born, Lost amid bliss and happiness, Holding her child in her arms, She gives you praise and honor, And weeps tears of thankfulness To you, Father of the whole world.

Und, welcher du verneinet Des Leibes Segen, weinet, Und grämt und härmet sich, Sie hebt zu dir die Arme Und betet: ach! erbarme, Erbarme meiner dich!

And she, to whom you have denied This blessing for her body, weeps And grieves and pines, She raises her arms to you And begs: Ah! have mercy, Have mercy on me!

Ich Ärmste nur von allen, In Schuld und Schmach gefallen, Bin elend grenzenlos; Ich bete: – weh mir! – mache, Aus Mitleid oder Rache, Unfruchtbar meinen Schoss.

I the most wretched of all, Fallen into disgrace and humiliation, Am miserable beyond measure; I pray: – woe is me! – either Out of compassion or vengeance, Make my womb barren.


Poetry in German and English translation

6 Ich hab ihn im Schlafe zu sehen gemeint, Noch sträubt vor Entsetzen mein Haar sich empor, O hätt ich doch schlaflos die Nacht durchweint, Wie manche der Nächte zuvor.

I thought I saw him in my sleep, From dread my hair still stands on end;

Ich sah ihn verstört, zerrissen und bleich, Wie er in den Sand zu schreiben schien, Er schrieb unsre Namen, ich kannt es gleich, Da hab ich wohl laut geschrien.

I saw him troubled, worried and pale, As he appeared to write in the sand; He wrote our names, I knew it straightway,

Er fuhr zusammen vom Schrei erschreckt, Und blickte mich an, verstummt wie das Grab, Ich hielt ihm die Arme entgegen gestreckt, Und er – er wandte sich ab.

He started, horrified by my cry, And looked at me, silent as the grave,

Oh if only I had cried sleeplessly through the night, As on many a previous night.

And I cried out loudly.

I held my arms out to him, And he – he turned away. 7

Wie so bleich ich geworden bin? Was willst du fragen? Freue, freue dich immerhin, Ich will nicht klagen.

Why have I become so pale? Why do you ask? Be happy, be happy in any case, I shall not lament.

Hast das Haus und die Felder auch, Und hast den Garten, Lass mich unterm Holunderstrauch Den Platz erwarten.

You own the house and the fields, too, And you own the garden, Let me wait for a place Under the elder bush.

Tief das Plätzchen und lang und breit Nur wen’ge Schuhe, Leg ich dort mich zu guter Zeit Und halte Ruhe.

Deep that little place, and only A few feet long and wide, There I shall lay me in good time And hold my peace.

Poetry in German and English translation

Bilder des weiblichen Lebens (Pictures of Wifely Life) Amadeus Wendt 1 Geburt

1 Birth

Es hallet durch das kleine Haus Weithin ein Freudenton: Der bangen Hoffnung Fessel sprang, Da ist Erfüllung schon.

All through the little house There sounds a tone of joy The bonds on pale hope are sprung. There is fulfillment

Nun regt sich alles doppelt leicht Beim jungen Tageslicht, Das, wie die Mutter, zärtlich schaut Dem Säugling ins Gesicht.

Now everything is twice as easy By the early morning light, Which, like the mother, tenderly Beams on the nursing baby’s face

Die Brüder hüpfen auf den Ruf Zum Kämmerchen herein, Wo ihnen stumm die Mutter zeigt Die liebe Schwesterlein.

The brothers hop when called Into the little room, Where hushed the mother shows The dear little sister.

Der Vater schaut zum Himmel auf Mit feierlichem Blick: “Gieb, Herr und Gott, dem lieben Kind Ein freundliches Geschick!

The father peers up toward heaven With a solemn look: “Grant, Lord God, to this dear child A friendly fate!

“Lass wachsen dieses Bäumchen zart, Im milden Sonnenschein, Die Blütenkrone nimm dereinst In deinen Himmel ein!”

“Let this tender little tree grow In mild sunshine, And one day take this crowning flower Into your heaven!”

2 Kindheit

2 Childhood

Sie spielt in ihrer Brüder Kreise, Sie wieget, wie’s die Mutter tut, Ihr Püppchen ein, und summet leise: Ich bin dir, Kindchen, doch so gut!

She plays in her brothers’ company She rocks, as her mother does, Her doll to sleep, and hums quietly: I am so good to you, little child!

Dann macht sie, treu den holden Winken, Sich von dem Spiel der Brüder los, Und hüpft mit heitrer Augen Blinken Der lieben Mutter in den Schooss;

Then, obedient to a kind nod, She takes leave of her brothers’ play, And hops with happy eyes a-blinking Into her loving mother’s lap.

Deutscher Musenalmanach 1830, 274–288. English translation by Rufus Hallmark.



Poetry in German and English translation

Und wandelt still an ihrer Seite, Hin wo des Frühlings Blumen blühn, Und sieht entzückt in ferner Weite Die milder Abendsonne glühn.

And wanders quietly at her side, There where spring’s flowers are blooming. And delighted sees in the distance The mild evening sun aglow.

Und fasst ins Herz den grossen Namen Des, der die Pracht der Sonne schuf, Und winkte, dass die Sterne kamen; Durch alle Welten klingt sein Ruf!

And holds in her heart the great name Of Him who created the sun’s glory, At whose nod the stars appeared; Through the universe sounds his name!

Andächtig faltet sie die Hände So wie’s die fromme Mutter tut, Bei der sie nach des Tages Ende Geschmiegt in süssem Schlummer ruht.

Devotedly she folds her hands, Just as her devout mother does, Beside whom at the day’s end Snuggled in sweet sleep she rests.

3 Die Jungfrau Von des Lehrenden Wort, der das Gute mit sorglicher Seele Treu gepflegt und genährt ihr in der fühlenden Brust, Tritt nun die Jungfrau geweiht in den Frommen heil’ge Gemeinde, An den heiligen Tisch, zu dem gesegneten Mahl; Und die Eltern, sie schaun mit Inbrunst zum ewigen Vater, Blicken mit rührender Lust hin auf das blühende Kind; Denn was im Fluge der Zeit Natur so gütig gestaltet, Unsichtbar und getreu hat es vollendet der Geist, Und geheiligt das Band, das in dunkler Ahnung gewoben, Noch über irdischen Lauf ewige Seelen vereint. Aber die Jahre sie nahn, wo das Mädchen, dem Jüngling ergeben, Folget dem fremden Geschick, fern von dem traulichem Haus.

3 The Maiden From the Teaching Word, with which the caring soul has Truly cultivated and nourished goodness in her feeling heart, Now the maiden, consecrated in the faithful congregation, Steps to the holy table, to the blessed meal; And her parents look with ardor to the eternal Father, Glance with loving contentment on the blossoming child; For what in the flight of time nature has so well shaped, Invisibly and surely the Spirit has completed, And sacred the ribbon, woven in dark anticipation, That yet unites eternal souls on their earthly journey. But the time is near, when the maiden, given to a young man, Will follow an unknown path, far from her familiar house.

Poetry in German and English translation

Sel’ge Gewohnheit des Umgangs, da in der Gespielinnen Mitte Süsser Geschwättzigkeit Laut füllte den freundlichen Raum, Ach wie rasch du entflohst! Noch tönen die lieblichen Stimmen, Aber wie bald, und es steht schweigend und öde das Haus! Zwar bleibt ewig vereint, was heilige Sitte verbunden, Doch mit des Anblicks Verlust rinnet die Thräne mit Recht.

4 Liebeserwachen


Blessed familiar surroundings, there amidst your playmates The sound of sweet chattering fills the friendly space, Ah, how swift you will fly away! Lovely voices still sound, But how soon, and the house will stand quiet and bare! Truly, what holy custom has bound will remain united forever, Yet when they are out of sight, tears will justifiably flow. 4 Love’s Awakening

“Wo bin ich, ist es noch die Erde, Die meinen Fuss geflügelt trägt, Und steh’ ich noch am heil’gen Heerde Des Hauses, das mich treu gepflegt?

“Where am I, is it still the earth That bears my winged foot, And do I yet stand on the holy hearth Of the house, that cared for me so well?

“Mich dünkt, ich schau’ von hohem Sterne

Erscheint mir meiner Kindheit Tal.

“I think, I, transfigured, gaze from a distant star On the lighted realm of worlds, And as though from the distance of a long time Appears the valley of my childhood.

“Mir ist, als sprächen Geisterzungen In jedem Blatt, in jedem Wehn, Und was in Ahnung mir erklungen, Das glaub’ ich wirklich jetzt zu sehn.

“It seems to me as if spirit tongues Speak in that leaf, in that breeze, And what came to me as premonition, I now believe I really see it.

“Und wenn ich wieder mich besinne, So ist’s die alte Erde doch, Der Frühling ist’s, den ich beginne, Der Erdenfrühling ist es noch!

“And when I ponder it again, It is still the same earth, It’s spring, that I am beginning, It is the springtime of the earth!

“Doch alles hat sich umgestaltet, Und was in Blatt und Knospen drängt, Was in der Erde Schoosse waltet, Das hat sich ganz in mich versenkt;

“Yet everything has changed, And what pushes its way into leaf and bud, What is at work in the earth’s womb, Has fully planted itself in me.

Verklärt der Welten lichten Saal, Und wie aus langer Zeiten Ferne


Poetry in German and English translation

“Und ob auch jetzt die Welt erweitert Vor meinem trunknen Blicke schwebt, Ein Aug’ ist’s nur, das mich erheitert, Ein Blick nur ist’s, der mich belebt.

“And if the enlarged world Sways before my drunken glance, One eye alone gladdens me, One look alone that enlivens me.

“Mir hat sich dieses Aug’ erschlossen, Ich hab’ in diesen Blick geschaut, Und nun sich Herz in Herz ergossen, Ist mir die ganze Welt vertraut!”

“That eye opened itself to me, I peered into its gaze, And now one heart flows into the other, The whole world is my good friend!”

5 Hochzeit

5 Wedding

Gäste Wir bringen dir, Holde, Des Jünglings Erwählte, Am festlichen Tage den festlichen Sang. Frei walte der Jubel, Weit schalle die Freude. Von fröhlichen Tänzen erzittre das Haus!

Guests We bring to you, dearest, The young man’s betrothed, A celebratory song on the celebratory day. Let jubilation reign, May joy far resound, Let the house shake with happy dance!


Young Men

Heil dir, O Jungfrau, du liebliche Rose, Aufgeblüht zu der Menschen Lust, Dieses Hauses gesegnete Lose, Trägst du im Herzen, dir unbewusst. Seelengenuss und himmlischen Frieden, Bringst du dem Jüngling, von Gott beschieden.

Hail to you, o maiden, you lovely rose, Fully blossomed for man’s pleasure, The blessed fate of his house You carry in your heart, unbeknown to you. Soul’s pleasure and heavenly peace, You bring to the man, sent from God.

Fernhin schweifte des Jünglings Streben,

The young man’s aspirations took him far away, He pressed over mountains, went over the sea, Beheld the busy life of humanity, And people’s boisterous commerce, And with his bags filled with knowledge,

Drang über Berge, ging übers Meer, Schaute der Menschen bewegliches Leben, Und der Völker lauten Verkehr, Und mit des Wissens Beute beladen,

Poetry in German and English translation


Wandelt er eilend auf schwindelenden Pfaden.

He wandered hurrying on dizzying paths.

Denn von des Westwinds Lüften gekoset, Brennet im Busen ein wechselnder Schmerz. Wellen, die ihr sein Schifflein umtoset, Nach der Heimat traget sein Herz! Hin nach des Vaterlands freundlichen Zonen,

Then caressed by the west wind’s breezes, A different soreness burned in his breast.

Wo ihm die Bilder der Kindheit wohnen! Und er kam mit des Frühlings Grusse In das befreundete Haus zurück, “Doch was fehlt dir zum Erdengenusse?” Fragt ihn der Eltern sorglicher Blick; – Aber mit kindlichfrommer Gebärde, Senkt er schweigend das Auge zur Erde.

Waves, that toss his ship about, Draw his heart back to his home! Toward the friendly soil of the Fatherland, Where for him the images of childhood dwell! And he came with spring’s greeting Back into to the friendly house, “Do you still lack something of earth’s delights?” His parents ask him with concern in their gaze; – But with gestures of childlike innocence, He silently lets his glance fall to the ground.

Da, da erschaut in des Lenzes Prangen, Rose, dein Blick ihm zum ersten Mal, Und in der seligen Eltern Mitte Kehret die Freude mit fliegendem Schritte.

And with longing filled with anticipation, He wanders quietly through the familiar valley, There, in springtime’s glory, he spied, Rose, your face for the first time, And to the blessed parents Joy returned with flying steps.

Die Jungfrauen

The Young Women

Nimm, O geliebte, am Tage der Wonne Tränenbenetzet das Myrtenreis, Denn umglänzt von der Liebe Sonne Trittst du jetzt scheidend aus unserm Kreis, Und dem Geliebten dahingegeben, Lebst du ein neues beseligtes Leben.

Take, O beloved, on the day of bliss The myrtle wreath moistened with tears, For brightened by the sun of love You now step away from our circle, And, given to the beloved, You will live a new, blessed life.

Hoch, fürwahr, ist der Jüngling zu loben,

High, in truth, is the young man to be praised, Who with restlessly driving strength,

Und mit ahnungsvollem Verlangen, Wandert er still durch des heimische Tal,

Welches mit rastlostreibender Kraft,


Poetry in German and English translation

Immer gewendet den Blick nach oben, Aus sich selbst seine Schicksal erschafft. Prüfend des Geistes gewaltige Schwingen Darf um den Preis er, den köstlichsten, ringen!

His gaze ever fixed above, Of himself creates his own destiny. Testing the strength of his spirit’s dominion He may wrest the most exquisite prize!

Und in des Lebens wirbelnden Kreisen, In der bewegten Wogen der Welt, Steht er fest in dem Sinne der Weisen, Stets gerüstet ein mutiger Held, Schirmet und schützet der Väter Sitte, Waltet und herrscht in des Hauses Mitte.

And in life’s whirling circles, In the billowing waves of the world, He stands fast with the mind of the wise, Always armed, a courageous hero, Shades and protects ancestral custom Reigns and rules in his household.

Und zu dem Grossen und Kühnen verbunden Reicht er den Edelsten treulich die Hand, Heilet hülfreich des Elends Wunden,

And bound to greatness and boldness

Rettet und bauet das Vaterland; Sichtbar gedeihet des Guten Saame Und im Heldenlied tönet sein Name. Aber die Jungfrau, der Heimat gewogen, Bleibet daheim in der friedlichen Bahn. Und in der Treue Schatten erzogen, Schliesst sie dem Baum sich, dem stützenden, an. Selig walten der Freundschaft Triebe,

He extends to the noblest his hand in truth, Heals with his aid the wounds of the suffering, Rescues and builds up the fatherland; Visibly thrive the seeds of goodness And his name is heard in heroic song. But the maiden, well disposed to the household, Stays at home on a peaceful path. And raised in the shadow of her true one, She joins herself to this tree, her support.

Aber mächtiger waltet die Liebe.

The motivation of friendship blessedly rules, But more mightily rules love.

Die Eltern

The Parents

Nimmer, obwohl das Höchst’ erstrebet ein kämpfender Jüngling, Fliesst ihm aus männlicher Brust voller Befriedigung Quell; Nimmer, ob himmlische Ruh’ in dem Busen auch wohne der Jungfrau, Kann sie erblühn und gedeihn ferne dem schützenden Stamm;

Although a striving youth strains for the highest, never Flows to him a quaff of satisfaction from his manly breast; Whether heavenly peace dwells in the breast of the maiden, Never can she blossom and thrive far from the protective tree;

Poetry in German and English translation

Drum – so will’s die Natur, es führe der Mann die Geliebte Und es schmiege das Weib treulich dem Freunde sich an; Dann steigt nieder der Himmel, es winken segnend die Ahnen, Und der heil’ge Altar weihet der Menschheit Bund.


And so – as nature wills, let the man guide his beloved And let the wife cling to her friend; Then heaven will come down, the ancestors nod a blessing, And the holy altar consecrates this human bond.

6 Die Hausfrau

6 The Housewife

Sie steht von ihrem Lager Am frühen Morgen auf, Und regelt hold geschäftig Im Hause des Tages Lauf.

She arises from her bed Early in the morning, And busily arranges for the household The course of the day.

Sie putzt und schmückt das Zimmer Den Lieben zum Empfang, Der in der Fremde gehalten Verweilet schon allzulang.

She cleans and adorns the room To receive her beloved, Who, detained far from home Stays away far too long.

Sie pflegt die Blumen im Garten, Zu schmücken des Gatten Brust, Die Dienerinnen umgeben Die Herrin mit stiller Lust.

She cultivates the flowers in the garden, To decorate her husband’s chest, The servants surround The lady in quiet pleasure.

“Ach, spricht treuherzig die eine, “Ich möcht’ wohl die Herrin sein, Wie glänzt’ doch, was sich ihr nahet, Was sie schauet, mit festlichem Schein!”

“Ah, says one sincerely, “I would love to be the lady, How everything she’s near, everything She looks at, gleams with festive shine!”

Drauf spricht die andre: “Gott wahr’ es, Dass ich trüge so stolzen Sinn; Der lieben Frau nur zu dienen Ist meinem Herzen Gewinn.”

The other replies: “God forbid, That I have such a proud spirit; Only to serve the dear woman Is my heart’s desire.”

Die Herrin aber nicht ruhend, Bis dass der Abend naht, Blickt in des Vollmonds Scheine Gar sorglich nach schattigem Pfad.

But the lady, not resting, Until the evening draws near, Looks in the full moon’s glow With concern at the shadowed road.

Der Pfad, der den Lieben soll tragen Zur harrenden Gattin zurück,

The road that should bear her beloved Back to his expectant wife,


Poetry in German and English translation

O dürfte sie selber ihm sagen, Dass bei ihm nur weilet ihr Glück.

O might she herself tell him That her happiness rests only with him.

O dürfte, gerötet die Wange Sie bergen an seiner Brust, Und leise die Lippe verkünden, Welch’ Hoffen ihr einzig bewusst!

O might, her cheeks blushing, She hide on his breast, And her lips quietly tell him, What hopes are known to her alone!

7 Früher Tod

7 Early Death

Die Sterne stehn am Himmelsblau

The stars stand in the blue heavens, The day is over, There under dark gray clouds Her life gently faded away.

Der Tag hat ausgerungen, Da unter düsterm Wolkengrau Ihr Leben sanft verklungen. Was schaut ihr Sterne hell und klar, Vom Himmelszelt hernieder? Es strahlt ihr holdes Augenpaar Doch eurern Blick nicht wieder.

What see you, stars bright and clear, Peering down from heaven’s canopy? Her sweet pair of eyes Do not return your glance.

Doch wie sie in der Kammer ruht – – Schon ist der Geist von hinnen, – Da ist, als wollte innre Glut Das Leben neu beginnen.

Yet as she lies in the room – – Already her spirit has departed, – It’s as if an inner glow would Begin her life anew.

Wie vor dem Aug’, das feiernd wacht, Das Blau des Himmels zittert, Den stillen Lauscher in der Nacht Geheim die Erd’ umschüttert.

And before the eye that solemnly watches The blue of the sky trembles, Around the silent listener in the night The earth secretly shudders.

Und rauscht und bebt nicht überall Erfreuliche Bewegung, Und selbst im Tode zuckt der Stral, Erneuten Daseins Regung.

And does there not rustle and vibrate Everywhere a feeling of rejoicing, And even in death there flashes the ray, The movement of renewed life.

Nein, nimmer kehret die Gestalt, Die einst uns werth erschienen, Und wo du traulich einst gewallt, Da schaun dich Fremder Mienen.

No, never will the form return, That once meant so much to us, And where you once cozily dwelt, Strange faces look at you.

Doch rastlos wirkt des Geistes Macht, Und strebt von Stern zu Sterne,

Yet the spirit’s power works restlessly And strives from star to star,

Poetry in German and English translation

Ihn fesselt nicht der Arm der Nacht, Ihm hält nicht Näh’ und Ferne.

The arm of the night does not bind it, Nearness and distance do not hold it.

Denn ewig wallt des Lichtes Meer, Aus dem die Geisten trinken, Von dem genährt die Welten glühn Und leuchtend untersinken.

For eternally reigns the sea of light From which the spirits drink Nourished by it the worlds glow And though they set, still shine.

Drum zartes Bild, so fahre hin, Dein stets das Herz gedenket, Denn deines Lebens treuer Sinn Wird nicht mit dir versenket.

And so gentle image, take your leave, My heart will always remember you, For the true meaning of your life Will not sink away with you.

Er waltet fort in Lieb’ und Dank, Und bleibt dem Licht verbündet; Die Fackel, die hinieder sank, Ward droben neu entzündet.

It fares forth in love and thanks, And remains bound to the light; The torch, that has gone out here, Was newly lit on the other side.


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Early nineteenth-century Germany: the social and cultural context


Bianquis, Geneviève. Love in Germany, trans. James Cleugh from Amours en Allemagne à l’Époque Romantique, London: F. Muller (1964). Borchardt, Georg Hermann. Das Biedermeier im Spiegel seiner Zeit. Briefe, Tagebücher, Memoiren, Volksszenen und ähnlichen Dokumenten, Berlin: Deutsches Verlagshaus Bong (1913). Borschied, Peter. “Geld und Liebe. Zu den Auswirkungen des Romantischen auf die Partnerwahl im 19. Jahrhundert,” in Peter Borschied and Hans Jürgen Teuteberg, eds., Ehe, Liebe, Tod. Zum Wandel der Familie, Geschlechts- und Generationenbeziehungen der Neuzeit, Münster: F. Coppenrath (1983), 112–134. Brace, Charles Loring. Home-Life in Germany, New York: C. Scribner (1860). Buchheim, Karl. Deutsche Kultur zwischen 1830 und 1870, Frankfurt: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion (1966). Diemel, Christa. Adelige Frauen im bürgerlichen Jahrhundert. Hofdamen, Stiftsdamen, Salondamen 1800–1870, Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag (1998). Duden, Barbara. “Das schöne Eigentum. Zur Herausbildung des bürgerlichen Frauenbildes an der Wende vom 18. und 19. Jahrhundert,” Kursbuch 47 (1977), 125–140. du Plessix Gray, Francine. Madame de Staël: The First Modern Woman, New York: Atlas (2008). Eliot, George. Essays of George Eliot, ed. Thomas Pinney, New York: Columbia University Press (1963). Epstein, Klaus. The Genesis of German Conservatism, Princeton University Press (1966). Evans, Richard J. and W. Robert Lee. The German Family: Essays in the Social History of the Family in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Germany, London: Croom Helm (1981). Figes, Eva. Patriarchal Attitudes, Greenwich CT: Fawcett Publications (1971). Fout, John C., ed. German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History, New York: Holmes & Meier (1984). Freudenthal, Mary. “Bürgerlicher Haushalt und bürgerliche Familie vom Ende des 18. bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts,” in Heidi Rosenbaum, ed., Seminar: Familie und Gesellschaftsstruktur. Materialen zu den sozioökonomischen Bedingungen von Familienformen, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp (1978), 375−398.

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Fuller, Margaret. Woman in the Nineteenth Century, and Kindred Papers Relating to the Sphere, Condition and Duties of Woman, ed. Arthur Fuller, Boston: J. P. Jewett (1855). Hamburger, Klara. Liszt, Budapest: Kossuth (1987). Hausen, Karin. “Family and Role Division: The Polarization of Sexual Stereotypes in the Nineteenth Century – An Aspect of the Dissociation of Work and Family Life,” in Richard J. Evans and W. Robert Lee, eds., The German Family: Essays in the Social History of the Family in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Germany, London: Croom Helm (1981), 51–83. Heine, Heinrich. Die Romantische Schule. Späte Lyrik, Munich: Goldmann Gelbe Taschenbücher (1964). Höllerer, Walter. “Die Poesie und das rechte Leben. Zu Anthologien für deutsche Frauen und für den Hausgebrauch,” in Joachim Bark and Dietger Pforte, eds., Die deutschsprächige Anthologie. Studien zur Philosophie und Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts, 2 vols., Frankfurt: Klostermann (1969), vol. II. Jacob-Dittrich, Juliane. “Growing Up Female in the Nineteenth Century,” in John C. Fout, ed., German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History, New York: Holmes & Meier (1984), 197–215. Joeres, Ruth-Ellen B. “Self-Conscious Histories: Biographies of German Women in the Nineteenth Century,” in John C. Fout, ed., German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History, New York: Holmes & Meier (1984), 172–196. Respectability and Deviance: Nineteenth-Century German Women Writers and the Ambiguity of Representation, University of Chicago Press (1998). Joeres, Ruth-Ellen B. and Mary Jo Maynes, eds. German Women in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: A Social and Literary History, Bloomington: Indiana University Press (1986). Kraemer, Hans and Wilh Cahn. Das XIX. Jahrhundert im Wort und Bild. Politische und Kulturgeschichte, 4 vols., Berlin: Deutsches Verlagshaus Bong (1900). Link, Jurgen. “Zum Anteil der Normalität an der Bifurkation Romantik vs. ‘Biedermeier’,” Zwischen Goethezeit und Realismus. Wandel und Spezifik in der Phrase des Biedermeier, ed. Michael Titzmann, Tübingen: M. Niemeyer (2002), 197–211. Luhmann, Niklas. Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy, trans. Jeremy Gaines and Doris L. Jones from Liebe als Passion. Zur Codierung von Intimität, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press (1986). Möhrmann, Renate, ed. Frauenemanzipation im deutschen Vormärz. Texte und Dokumente, Stuttgart: Reclam (1978). “The Reading Habits of Women in the Vormärz,” in John C. Fout, ed., German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History, New York: Holmes & Meier (1984), 104–117. “Women’s Work as Portrayed in Women’s Literature,” in Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres and Mary Jo Maynes, eds., German Women in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth



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Centuries: A Social and Literary History, Bloomington: Indiana University Press (1986), 61–77. O’Faolain, Julia ed. Not in God’s Image: Women in History from the Greeks to the Victorians, New York: Harper & Row (1973). Perrot, Michelle, ed. A History of Private Life: From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, Cambridge MA: Belknap Press (1990), vol. IV. Petschauer, Peter. “From Hausmutter to Hausfrau: Ideals and Realities in Late Eighteenth-Century Germany,” Eighteenth-Century Life 8 (1982), 72–82. “Growing Up Female in Eighteenth-Century Germany,” The Journal of Psychohistory 11 (1983), 167–207. Riehl, Wilhelm Heinrich. Vom Deutschen Land und Volke. Eine Auswahl, ed. Paul Zaunert, Jena: Diederichs (1922) (excerpts from Riehl, Die Naturgeschichte des Volkes als Grundlage einer deutschen Sozialpolitik, Stuttgart [1853–1867], vols. I−IV). Rousseau, Jean Jacques. Emile; or, Education, trans. Barbara Foxley from Emile, ou de l’Education, London: J. M. Dent & Sons (1911). Sagarra, Eda. Tradition and Revolution in German Literature and Society, 1830– 1890, New York: Basic Books (1971). A Social History of Germany, 1648–1914, New York: Holmes & Meier (1977). Schiller, Friedrich. Sämtliche Werke, Munich: C. Hanser (n.d.). Schopenhauer, Arthur. “Of Women,” Parerga and Paralipomena: A Collection of Philosophical Essays, trans. from the German E. F. Payne, Oxford University Press (1974), vol. II. Sengle, Friedrich. Biedermeierzeit. Deutsche Literatur im Spannungsfeld zwischen Restauration und Revolution, 1815–1848, 3 vols., Stuttgart: Metzler (1971, 1972, 1980). Sidgwick, Mrs. Alfred. Home Life in Germany, London: Methuen (1908). Titzmann, Michael, ed. Zwischen Goethezeit und Realismus. Wandel und Spezifik in der Phase des Biedermeier, Tübingen: Niemeyer (2002). Treitschke, Heinrich. Treitschke’s History of Germany in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Eden Paul and Cedar Paul, 7 vols., New York: McBride, Nast & Co. (1915). Weber-Kellermann, Ingeborg. Frauenleben im 19. Jahrhundert. Empire und Romantik, Biedermeier, Gründerzeit, Munich: C. H. Beck (1983). Willoughby, L. A. The Romantic Movement in Germany, 2nd edn., New York: Russell & Russell (1966). Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, London (1792). Zaunert, Paul, ed. Vom Deutschen Land und Volke. Eine Auswahl, Jena (1922).

Robert Schumann Writings Clara und Robert Schumann: Briefwechsel. Kritische Gesamtausgabe, ed. Eva Weissweiler, 3 vols., Basel: Stroemfeld (1984), vols. I and II.

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Jugendbriefe, ed. Clara Schumann, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel (1885). Robert Schumanns Briefe. Neue Folge, ed. Gustav Jansen, 2nd edn., Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel (1904). Robert Schumann in seinen Schriften und Briefen, ed. Wolfgang Boetticher, Berlin: B. Hahnefeld (1942). Tagebücher, eds. Georg Eisman and Gerd Nauhaus, 3 vols., Leipzig: Deutscher Verlag für Musik (1971–1985), vols. I−III.

Editions of musical scores Frauenliebe und Leben. Für Singstimme und Klavier, Op. 42, ed. Hans Joachim Köhler, Leipzig: Peters (1987). Frauenliebe und Leben. für Singstimme und Klavier, Op. 42, ed. Kazuko Ozawa, Munich: G. Henle (2003). Sämtliche Lieder. Für eine Singstimme mit Klavierbegleitung, ed. Max Friedländer, 3 vols., Leipzig: C. F. Peters, 1900. Robert Schumanns Werke, ed. Clara Schumann, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel (1879).

Schumann and German lieder Agawu, Kofi. “Theory and Practice in the Analysis of the Nineteenth-Century Lied,” Music Analysis 11(1) (1992), 3–36. Bie, Oscar. Das deutsche Lied, Berlin: Fischer (1926). Booth, Mark W. The Experience of Songs, New Haven: Yale University Press (1981). Borchard, Beatrix. Robert Schumann und Clara Wieck. Bedingungen künstlerischer Arbeit in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts, Weinheim: Beltz (1985). “Frauenliebe und Musikleben: Clara Schumann und Amalie Joachim,” Schumanniana Nova. Festschrift Gerd Nauhaus zum 60. Geburtstag, eds. Bernhard Appel, Ute Bär and Matthias Wendt, Sinzig: Studio Verlag (2002), 127–148. Bresnick, Martin. “Conventions and the Hermetic in Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben,” in Leonard G. Ratner, Wye Jamison Allenbrook, Janet M. Levy and William P. Mahrt, eds., Convention in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Music: Essays in Honor of Leonard G. Ratner, Stuyvesant NY: Pendragon Press (1992), 173–193. Bücken, Ernst. Das Deutsche Lied. Probleme und Gestalten, Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt (1939), 114. Challier, Ernst. Ernst Challier’s Grosser Lieder-Katalog. Ein alphabetisch geordnetes Verzeichniss sämmtlicher Einstimmiger Lieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte sowie mit Begleitung des Pianoforte und eines oder mehrerer anderer Instrumente, Berlin: Ernst Challier’s Selbstverlag (1885). Cone, Edward T. The Composer’s Voice, Berkeley: University of California Press (1974). Cusick, Suzanne G. “Gender and the Cultural Work of a Classical Music Performance,” Repercussions 3(1) (1994), 77–110.



Select bibliography Dahlhaus, Carl. “Romantik und Biedermeier. Zur musikgeschichtlichen Charakteristik der Restaurationszeit,” Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 31 (1974), 22–41. Realism in Nineteenth-Century Music, trans. Mary Whittall from Musikalischer Realismus. Zur Musikgeschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts. Cambridge University Press (1985). Daverio, John. Robert Schumann: Herald of a “New Poetic Age,” New York: Oxford University Press (1997). DeLong, Kenneth. “The Conventions of Musical Biedermeier,” in Leonard G. Ratner, Wye Jamison Allenbrook, Janet M. Levy and William P. Mahrt, eds., Convention in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Music: Essays in Honor of Leonard G. Ratner, Stuyvesant NY: Pendragon Press (1992), 197–223. Desmond, Astra. Schumann Songs, Seattle: University of Washington Press (1972). Dunsby, Jonathan. “Why Sing? Lieder and Song Cycles,” in Beate Perrey, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Schumann, Cambridge University Press (2007), 102–114. Finson, Jon W. Robert Schumann: The Book of Songs, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press (2007). Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich. Robert Schumann, Words and Music: The Vocal Compositions, trans. Reinhard Pauly from Robert Schumann, Wort und Musik. Das Vokalwerk, Portland OR: Amadeus Press (1988). Greene, Harry Plunkett. Interpretation in Song, London: Macmillan (1956). Guralnick, Elissa S. “‘Ah Clara, I am not worthy of your love’: Rereading ‘Frauenliebe und Leben,’ the Poetry and the Music,” Music & Letters 87(4) (2006), 580–605. Hallmark, Rufus. “The Sketches for Dichterliebe,” 19th-Century Music 1 (1977), 110−136. The Genesis of Schumann’s Dichterliebe: A Source Study, Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan (UMI) Research Press (1979). “Die handschriftliche Quellen der Lieder Robert Schumanns. Ein Überblick,” in Robert Schumann. Ein romantisches Erbe in neuer Forschung, Mainz: Schott (1984). “Schumanns Behandlung seiner Liedtexte. Vorläufiger Bericht zu einer neuen Ausgabe und zu einer Neubewertung von Schumanns Liedern,” in Akio Mayeda and Klaus Wolfgang Niemöller, eds., Schumanns Werke. Text und Interpretation, Mainz: Schott (1987). “Robert Schumann: The Poet Sings,” in Rufus Hallmark, ed., German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century, 2nd edn., New York: Routledge (2009), 92–141. “Why Dichterliebe Twice? The Case of Schumann’s Opus 24 and Opus 48,” in J. Thym, ed., Of Poetry and Song: Approaches to the Nineteenth-Century Lied, University of Rochester Press (2010), 390–408 (English language version of “Warum. . .” 2007, below); originally published as “Warum Zweimal

Select bibliography ‘Dichterliebe’? Opus 24 und Opus 48,” in Übergänge zwischen Künsten und Kulturen. Kongress zum 150. Todestag von Heinrich Heine und Robert Schumann (Düsseldorf, May 7–10, 2006), Stuttgart: Metzler (2007), 229–247. “Amadeus Wendts Bilder des weiblichen Lebens. Ein Vorbild für Chamissos Frauenliebe und Leben?,” in Helmut Loos, ed., Robert Schumann: Persönlichkeit, Werk und Wirkung. Bericht über die Internationale Musikwissenschaftliche Konferenz vom 22. bis 24. April 2010 in Leipzig, Leipzig: Schröder (2011), 90–112. “Chamisso’s Frauenliebe und Leben in Context: Contemporary Poems about and by Women,” in Marie-Thérèse Federhofer and Jutta Weber, eds., Korrespondenzen und Transformationen. Neue Perspektiven auf Adelbert von Chamisso, Göttingen: V & R Unipress (2012), 219–237. Hartung, Günther. “Schumann und Chamisso,” in Siegfried Bimberd, ed., Dichtung und Musik. Walther Siegmund-Schulze zum 65. Geburtstag, Halle: Abteilung Wissenschaftspublizistik der Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg (1982), 47–53. “Schumanns Lieder auf Gedichte von Chamisso,” Schumann-Tage des Bezirkes Karl-Marx-Stadt, 8 vols., Zwickau: Robert-Schumann-Gesellschaft der DDR (1983), vol. VIII, 76–81. Hirschberg, Leopold. “Franz Kugler als Liederkomponist,” Die Musik 2(8) (1903), 106–116. Hoeckner, Berthold. “Paths through Dichterliebe,” 19th-Century Music 30 (2006), 65−80. Hoffmann, Kurt. Die Erstdrucke der Werke von Robert Schumann, Tutzing: Schneider (1979). Hoffmann-Axthelm, Dagmar. “‘Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan’. Ein Zeugnis Schumannschen ‘Humors’,” in Ares Rolf and Ulrich Tadday, eds., Martin Geck. Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag, Dortmund: Klangfarben (2001), 95–107. Komar, Arthur. “The Music of Dichterliebe: The Whole and its Parts,” in Komar, ed., Dichterliebe, New York: Norton (1971), 63−94. Krebs, Sharon. “Chamissos Thränen. Die musikalische Rezeption des Gedichtzyklus,” in Marie-Thérèse Federhofer and Jutta Weber, eds., Korrespondenzen und Transformationen. Neue Perspektiven auf Adelbert von Chamisso, Göttingen: V & R Unipress (2012), 239–258. Kugler, Franz. Handbuch der Geschichte der Malerei seit Constantin dem Grossen. Nach der von Dr. Jacob Burckhardt besorgten zweiten Auflage, ed. Hugo Freiherr von Blomberg, 3rd edn., Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot (1867). Skizzenbuch, Berlin: Reimer (1830), 219–237. Lehmann, Lotte. Eighteen Song Cycles: Studies in Their Interpretation, London: Cassell/ New York: Praeger (1971). Lerdahl, Fred. Tonal Pitch Space, Oxford University Press (2001). Litzmann, Berthold. Clara Schumann. Ein Künstlerleben, nach Tagebüchern und Briefen, 3 vols., Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel (1910).



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Meister, Barbara. An Introduction to the Art Song, New York: Taplinger (1981). Miller, Richard. Singing Schumann: An Interpretive Guide for Performers, New York: Oxford University Press (1999). Muxfeldt, Kristina. “Frauenliebe und Leben Now and Then,” 19th-Century Music 25(1) (2001), 27–48. Nauhaus, Gerd. “ ‘Schwere Abschiede’. Neuentdeckte autobiographische Dokumente Schumanns aus den Jahren 1836 und 1838,” Schumann Studien 5 (1996), 7−24. Neumeyer, David. “Organic Structure and the Song Cycle: Another Look at Schumann’s Dichterliebe,” Music Theory Spectrum 4 (1982), 95. Ostwald, Peter. Schumann: The Inner Voices of a Musical Genius, Boston: Northeastern University Press (1985). Ozawa, Kazuko. Quellenstudien zu Robert Schumanns Liedern nach Adelbert von Chamisso. Europäische Hochschulschriften, series 36, Musikwissenschaft, Frankfurt: Lang (1989), vol. XVIII. Perrey, Beate Julia. Schumann’s ‘Dichterliebe’ and Early Romantic Poetics: Fragmentation of Desire, Cambridge University Press (2002). Raabe, Paul. “Einige Anmerkungen über Franz Kuglers Anteil an der Geschichte der Buchillustration,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 57 (1994), 474–479. Reich, Nancy. Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman, rev. edn., Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press (2001). Sams, Eric. The Songs of Robert Schumann, 3rd edn., Bloomington: Indiana University Press (1993). Samuels, Robert. “Narratives of Masculinity and Femininity: Two Schumann Song Cycles,” in Delia da Sousa Correa, ed., Phrase and Subject: Studies in Literature and Music, Oxford: Legenda (2006), 135–145. Schulte, Krischan. “. . .was Ihres Zaubergriffels würdig wäre!” Die Textbasis für Robert Schumanns Lieder für Solostimmen, Schumann Forschungen, 13 vols., Mainz: Schott (2005), vol. X. Schumann, Clara. “Clara Schumann. Jugendtagebücher 1827–1840,” eds. Gerd Nauhaus and Nancy Reich, in preparation, D-Zsch, Archiv 4877: 1/2/ 3/4-A3 (Robert Schumann House, Zwickau). Schwab, Heinrich W. “Carl Loewes Vertonung von Adelbert von Chamissos Gedichtzyklus Frauenliebe und Leben. Ein Vergleich mit weiteren Vertonungen,” in Konstanze Musketa and Götz Traxdorf, eds., Carl Loewe 1796–1869. Bericht über die wissenschaftliche Konferenz anlässlich seines 200. Geburtstages vom 26. bis 28. September 1996 im Händel-Haus Halle, Halle: Händel-Haus (1997), 15–51. Solie, Ruth A. “Whose Life? The Gendered Self in Schumann’s Frauenliebe Songs,” in Steven Paul Scher, ed., Music and Text: Critical Inquiries, Cambridge University Press (1992), 219–240. Stein, Jack M. Poem and Music in the German Lied from Gluck to Hugo Wolf, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press (1971).

Select bibliography Summerville, Suzanne. “Adelbert von Chamisso: The Poet of Marriage and the ‘Frauenliebe und -leben’,” National Association of Teachers of Singing Bulletin 40(3) (1984), 8–11. “Chamisso als Liederdichter,” in Klaus Bździach, ed., Mit den Augen des Fremden. Adelbert von Chamisso − Dichter, Naturwissenschaftler, Weltreisender, Berlin: Gesellschaft für interregionalen Kulturaustausch (2004), 195–208. Turchin, Barbara. “Schumann’s Song Cycles: The Cycle within the Song,” 19thCentury Music 8(3) (1985), 231–243. Walker, Alan and Frank Cooper, eds. Robert Schumann: The Man and His Music, New York: Barnes and Noble (1972). Walsh, Stephen. The Lieder of Schumann, New York: Praeger Publishers (1971). Walz, Matthias. “Frauenliebe und Leben Op. 42. Biedermeierdichtung, Zykluskonstruktion und musikalische Lyrik,” in Gerd Nauhaus, ed., Schumann Studien 15. wissenschaftliche Arbeitstagung zu Fragen der Schumann-Forschung, Zwickau 1992, Cologne: Studio (1996). Wasielewsky, Joseph. Robert Schumann. Eine Biographie, 3rd edn., Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel (1880).

Adelbert von Chamisso Editions of poetry Adelbert von Chamisso’s Werke, ed. Julius Eduard Hitzig, 6 vols., Leipzig: Weidmann (1836) (incl. Hitzig’s biography, vols. V and VI). Chamissos Werke, ed. Hermann Tardel, Kritische und durchgesehene und erläuterte Ausgabe, 3 vols., Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut (1907). Gedichte von Adelbert von Chamisso, Leipzig: Weidmann (1831). Reise um die Welt, ed. Matthias Glaubrecht, Lithography Ludwig Choris, Berlin: Die Andere Bibliothek (2012). Sämtliche Werke in Zwei Bänden, ed. Jost Perfahl, bibliography and annotations Volker Hoffmann. Vol. I: Prosa, Dramatisches, Gedichte, Nachlese der Gedichte, Anhang. Vol. II: Reise um die Welt. Aufsätze, Munich: Winkler (1975). Werke in Zwei Bänden, ed. Werner Feudel and Christel Laufer, Leipzig: Insel-Verlag (1981), vols. I−II.

Illustrated editions of poetry Frauenliebe und Leben. Neun Bilder von Paul Thumann zu der gleichnämigen Lieder-Cyklus von Adelbert von Chamisso, illus. Paul Thumann, Leipzig: Adolf Titze (1880). Frauenliebe und Leben von A. von Chamisso, illus. Prof. Friedrich Klein-Chevalier, Berlin: Neufeld & Henius (1910).



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Frauenliebe und Leben. Ein Lieder-Cyklus von Adelbert von Chamisso, ed. E. Klein und R. E. Kepler, Stuttgart: Greiner & Pfeiffer (n.d.). Frauen-Liebe und Leben. Ein Lieder-Cyklus von Adelbert von Chamisso, illus. R. Schoebel, Leipzig: Literaturwerke Minerva (1910).

Chamisso and German literature Borsch-Supan, Helmut. Caspar David Friedrich, New York: George Braziller (1974). Bździach, Klaus, ed. Mit den Augen des Fremden. Adelbert von Chamisso − Dichter, Naturwissenschaftler, Weltreisender, Berlin: Gesellschaft für interregionalen Kulturaustausch (2004). Closs, August. The Genius of the German Lyric: An Historical Survey of its Formal and Metaphysical Values, London: Cresset Press (1962). Dobbs, David. Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral, New York: Pantheon Books (2005). Eggers, Friedrich. “Franz Theodor Kugler: Eine Lebenskizze,” in Hugo Freiherr von Blomberg, ed., Franz Kugler’s Handbuch der Geschichte der Malerei seit Constantin dem Grossen: nach der von Dr. Jacob Burckhardt besorgten zweiten Auflage, 3rd edn., Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot (1867), 4–34. Eisbrenner, Bettina. “Über das Verlangen, die Welt zu forschen. Zur Biografie des Dichters und Botanikers Adelbert von Chamisso,” in Klaus Bździach, ed., Mit den Augen des Fremden. Adelbert von Chamisso − Dichter, Naturwissenschaftler, Weltreisender, Berlin: Gesellschaft für interregionalen Kulturaustausch (2004), 42–56. Federhofer, Marie-Thérèse and Jutta Weber, eds. Korrespondenzen und Transformationen. Neue Perspektiven auf Adelbert von Chamisso, Göttingen: V & R Unipress (2012). Feudel, Werner. Adelbert von Chamisso. Leben und Werk, 2nd edn., Leipzig: P. Reclam (1980). Frank, Horst Joachim. Handbuch der deutschen Strophenformen, Munich: Hanser (1980). Fulda, Karl. Chamisso und seine Zeit, Leipzig: C. Reissner (1881). Glaser, Horst Albert and Bernd Witte, eds. Zwischen Revolution und Restauration. Klassik, Romantik 1786–1815 and Vormärz. Biedermeier, Junges Deutschland, Demokraten 1815–1848, Deutsche Literatur: Eine Sozialgeschichte, 9 vols., Hamburg: Rowohlt (1980), vols. V−VI. Hopfgartner, Herbert J. “Adelbert Chamisso: Revolutionär oder Biedermann? Der Liederkreis Frauenliebe und Leben im soziokulturelle Diskurs,” Studia Niemcoznawcze 37 (2008), 113–129. Klussmann, Paul Gerhard. “Das literarische Taschenbuch der Biedermeierzeit als Vorschule der Literatur und der bürgerlichen Allgemeinbildung,” in YorkGothart Mix, ed., Almanach- und Taschenbuchkultur des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag (1996), 89–111.

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Kossmann, Ernst Ferdinand. Der deutsche Musenalmanach, 1833–1839, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff (1909). Kroner, Peter A. “Adelbert von Chamisso,” in Benno von Wiese, ed., Deutsche Dichter der Romantik, Berlin: Schmidt (1971), 371–390. Lahnstein, Peter. Adelbert von Chamisso. Der Preuße aus Frankreich, Munich: List Verlag (1984). Liebersohn, Harry. The Traveler’s World: Europe to the Pacific. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press (2006). Liptzin, Solomon. “Chamisso as a Social Poet,” Philological Quarterly 5 (1926), 235–241. Lyric Pioneers of Modern Germany: Studies in German Social Poetry, New York: Columbia University Press (1928). Mann, Thomas. “Chamisso,” in Adel des Geistes. Sechzehn Versuche zum Problem der Humanität, Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer (1945), 23–46 (English trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter, Mann: Essays of Three Decades, New York: A. A. Knopf [1947], 241–258). Miller, Norbert. “Chamissos Schweigen und die Krise der Berliner Romantik,” Aurora 39 (1979), 101–119. Müller, Reto. “Über Amadeus Wendt und das erste deutsche Rossini-Buch,” Rossini’s Leben und Treiben. Vornehmlich nach den Nachrichten des Herrn von Stendhal geschildert und mit Urtheilen der Zeitgenossen über seinen musikalischen Charakter begleitet von Amadeus Wendt, Hildesheim: Olms (2003), 489. Reimann, Paul. Hauptströmungen der deutschen Literatur, 1750–1848. Beiträge zu ihrer Geschichte und Kritik, Berlin: Dietz (1963). Schubotz, Eduard. Chamissos Gedichte. Eine Stiluntersuchung, Cassel: Druck von Weber & Weidenmeyer (1910). Schüppen, Franz. “Adelbert von Chamisso als Herausgeber und Beiträger des Deutschen Musenalmanachs,” in Paul Gerhard Klussmann and York-Gothart Mix, eds., Literarische Leitmedien. Almanach und Taschenbuch im kulturwissenschaftlichen Kontext, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz (1998), 166–182. Schweizer, Niklaus R. A Poet among Explorers: Chamisso in the South Seas, Bern: Herbert Lang (1973). Sengle, Friedrich. Arbeiten zur deutschen Literatur, 1750–1850, Stuttgart: Metzler (1965). Tardel, Hermann. Quellen zu Chamissos Gedichten, Graudenz: G. Röthes Buchdruck (1896). Studien zur Lyrik Chamissos, Bremen: A. Guthe (1902). “Die Frau in der Lyrik Chamissos,” Janus. Blätter für Literaturfreunde 1 (1903), 491–501. Treziak, Ulrike. “‘Ich bin nach Weisheit weit umhergefahren.’ Chamissos Reise um die Welt,” in Klaus Bździach, ed., Mit den Augen des Fremden. Adelbert von Chamisso − Dichter, Naturwissenschaftler, Weltreisender, Berlin: Gesellschaft für interregionalen Kulturaustausch (2004), 13–41.



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Walzel, Oskar. German Romanticism, trans. Alma Elise Lussky from 5th edn. Deutsche Romantik, New York: F. Ungar Publishing (1965). Zuber, Margarete. “Die deutschen Musenalmanache und schöngeistigen Taschenbücher des Biedermeier 1815–1848,” Börsenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandlung. Frankfurter Ausgabe, Neue Folge 13 (1957), 869–964.


Agawu, Kofi, 166 Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 122 Andersen, Hans Christian, 66, 71, 117, 237 Arnim, Achim von, 33, 47 Beethoven, Ludwig van: An die ferne Geliebte, 119, 128, 216, 229 Béranger, Pierre de, 49, 53, 62, 71, 142, 237 Bie, Oscar, 162, 175 Biedermeier, 7, 9, 12, 37 Borries, Sophie, see Diotima Brace, Charles Loring, 16, 178, 188 Brentano, Clemens, 12 Bücken, Ernst, 117 Cervantes, 33 Chamisso, Adelbert von and Berlin University, 36 botanical garden (Berlin), 41 compared to Longfellow, 236–238 Deutscher Musenalmanach, editor and contributor, 66, 74, 97 in England, 39 Frauenliebe und Leben Antonie as model for, 74–78 de luxe editions, 129, 134–135 Mina as model for, 78–80 Tränen compared with, 83–85 Wendt’s Bilder des weiblichen Lebens as model, 96–105 and Grüner Musenalmanach, 31 and Halle University, 31 Heine’s opinion of, 63 and humor, 60 and Mme de Staël, 33, 34, 36 and Marianne Hertz, 47 marriage, 41, 47 Mittwochgesellschaft (Wednesday Society), 47, 48, 113, 114, 116, 237 morbid vein in his poetry, 57–59 as naturalist, 36, 38–41 and Nordsternbund (Polar Star Union), 31, 32 other poems about women, 80–83, 88–91

and sonnets, 52, 59, 72, 76, 102, 237 and terza rima, 59, 63, 67, 68, 102, 237 poems of domestic life, 66 poems and other writings “Adelbert an seine Braut,” 75 Adelberts Fabel, 32 “An Antonie,” 74 “An die Apostolischen,” 43, 102 “Der alte Müller,” 44 “Die alte Waschfrau,” 68, 80 “Der Bettler und sein Hund,” 51, 53, 70, 71 “Die Blinde,” 111 “Die Braut,” 105, 111, 208 “Die Braut spricht,” 76, 207 “Das Burgfräulein von Windeck,” 80, 89 “Das Dampfross,” 71 “Der Dichter und der Leser,” 52 “Don Quixote,” 53 “Die drei Schwestern,” 81 “Zur Einleitung,” 67 “Der Frau Baser Kluger Rat,” 81 “Ein Gerichtstag auf Huahine,” 68 “Die Giftmischerin,” 57, 80, 88 “Die Goldene Zeit,” 46 “Hans Jürgen und sein Kind,” 60, 222 “Der Invalid im Irrenhaus,” 53 “Die Kartenlegerin,” 71, 141, 142 “Katzennatur,” 117 “Die Klage der Nonne,” 81 “Das Krucifix,” 59 “Lass ruhn die Toten,” 54 Lebenslieder und Bilder, 12, 85–88, 111, 223, 224 “Die letzte Sonette,” 72 “Ein Lied von der Weibertreue,” 14, 80, 88 “Die Löwenbraut,” 58, 141, 142 “Das Mädchen und das Rebhuhn,” 90 “Mahnung,” 71 “Märzveilchen,” 71, 141 “Memento,” 63 “Die Mutter und das Kind,” 80 “Muttertraum,” 71, 141 “Nacht und Winter,” 31




Chamisso, Adelbert von (cont.) “Nachtwächterlied,” 49 Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte, 36–38, 41, 70, 78–80 “Recht Empfindsam,” 8, 82 “Rede des alten Kriegers Bunte-Schlange,” 68 Reise um die Welt, 40, 70 “Das Riesen-Spielzeug,” 64 “Die rothe Hanne,” 71, 141, 142 “Salas y Gomez,” 59, 102, 112 “Das Schloss Boncourt,” 56 Sie und Er, 76 “Der Soldat,” 71, 117, 141 “Sophia Kondulimo und ihre Kinder,” 80, 89, 90 “Der Spielmann,” 71, 141 “Der Stein der Mutter,” 89 “Tragische Geschichte,” 45, 117 Tränen, 83–85, 106, 111, 117, 249–252 “Traum und Erwachen,” 70 “Verratene Liebe,” 91, 117, 141 “Was soll ich sagen,” 42, 75, 141, 142 “Die Weiber von Winsperg,” 89 “Wer kaufet Liebes-Götter,” 82 “Winter,” 35 poetry as texts for lieder, 116 publication of Frauenliebe und Leben, 111, 112 socio-political sentiments, 43, 44, 46, 48, 51, 55, 63–66, 68, 69 world voyage, 38–40 writing in the voice of a woman, 106–108 Chamisso, Antonie née Piaste, 10, 41, 42, 47, 70, 72, 74–78, 92, 104, 113, 114, 115, 142, 207 Chézy, Helmina von, 33 Cruikshank, George, 38 Dante, 33, 237 Daverio, John, 142 David, Ferdinand, 133 Des Knaben Wunderhorn, 33 Deutscher Musenalmanach, 66–67, 72, 74, 91, 92, 97, 116 Diotima, 67, 91, 92, 96 “Aussöhnung,” 94 “Der welke Kranz,” 94 Droste-Hülshoff, Annette von, 67 Duden, Barbara, 18–20 Duvernay, Cérès, 31, 76 Eichendorff, Joseph von, 47, 48, 54, 67, 114, 124, 126

Feudel, Werner, 29, 48, 69, 77 Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, 14, 16, 19, 31, 32 Finson, Jon, 142 Fowles, John, 6 Foye, Friedrich de la, 31, 36, 41, 63, 72, 112, 222 Frauenliebe und Leben (FLL), poems and songs FLL1, “Seit ich ihn gesehen,” 78, 128, 129, 143–147, 162–177, 242 FLL2, “Er, der herrlichste von allen,” 129, 147–149, 178–190, 242 FLL3, “Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben,” 77, 103, 129, 150–151, 190–199, 243 FLL4, “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” 100, 103, 151–153, 199–207, 243 FLL5, “Helft mir, ihr Schwestern,” 76, 100–102, 103, 104, 153–156, 207–212, 244 FLL6, “Süsser Freund, du blickest,” 102, 156–157, 212–216, 245 FLL7, “An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust,” 131, 157–159, 216–222, 246 FLL8, “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan,” 85, 159–160, 222–228, 247 FLL9, “Traum der eignen Tage,” 95, 228–234, 247 Freiligrath, Ferdinand, 46, 66, 67 Friedrich, Caspar David, 54 Fuller [Ossoli], Margaret, 17, 18 Gaudy, Franz von, 71 Geibel, Emanuel, 67, 114 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 24, 41, 47, 48, 62, 66, 67, 111, 114, 117, 120, 134, 135, 138, 162, 192, 237 Sorrows of Young Werther, 162 Guralnick, Elissa, 4, 121, 143, 178, 180, 184, 210, 222, 223, 224 Hausen, Karin, 19–20 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 14 Heine, Heinrich, 46, 63, 66, 67, 84, 85, 114, 115, 117, 124, 126, 127, 133, 134, 137, 138, 141 Hertz, Frau Marianne, 47 Hiller, Ferdinand, 133, 233 FLL1, 167, 170–173, 177, 201 Hirschberg, Leopold, 117, 118, 120 Hitzig, Eduard, 29, 31, 32, 36, 38, 41, 42, 47, 57, 74, 75, 108, 112, 114, 115, 116, 222


Hoffmann, E.T.A., 38, 48 Hopfgartner, Herbert, 4, 106 Humboldt, Alexander von, 33, 38, 41, 70, 89

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth compared with Chamisso, 236–238 Lorenz, Oswald, 121, 123, 137, 140, 143 Lortzing, Albert, 7

Joachim, Amalie, 131 Junges Deutschland (Young Germany), 48, 52, 63, 64

Mann, Thomas, 41, 57, 59 Marschner, Heinrich, 7, 133, 233 FLL1, 167, 175, 177 FLL3, 191, 192 Meister, Barbara, 167 Mendel, Hermann Musikalisches Conversations-Lexikon, 164 Mendelssohn, Fanny, 25 Mendelssohn, Felix, 24, 25, 114 Mendelssohn, Henriette, 33 Mereau, Sophie, 12, 25 Metternich, 42 Mörike, Eduard, 67 Müller, Wilhelm, 47, 48, 114, 115 Muxfeldt, Kristina, 4, 91, 165, 166, 177, 233

Kant, Immanuel, 14 Kerner, Justinius, 81, 124, 126, 141 Klein-Chevalier, Friedrich, 135 Koch, Heinrich Musikalisches Lexikon, 164 Kotzebue, Auguste von, 38, 42 Kotzebue, Captain Otto von, 38, 40, 70 Krebs, Sharon, 116, 117, 239 Kugler, Franz, 47, 108, 113–116 and Frauenliebe, 3, 4, 117–120, 167 FLL1, 167, 170, 173, 175, 177 FLL2, 179, 181 FLL3, 191 FLL4, 200 FLL5, 208, 211 FLL6, 212 FLL7, 217, 219, 220 FLL8, 224 FLL9, 228 Skizzenbuch, 112, 114, 115, 116 La Fontaine, 80, 88 Lachner, Franz, 132 FLL1, 167, 170, 173, 175, 177 FLL2, 181, 188 FLL3, 191, 194 FLL7, 221 Lahnstein, Peter, 29 Lecerf, J.A., 122 Lehmann, Lotte, 1, 167, 212 Lenau, Nicholaus, 48, 65, 67 Lewald, Fanny, 12 Loewe, Carl, 113, 120 and Frauenliebe, 3, 4, 117, 120–123, 130, 132, 140, 167, 233 FLL1, 168, 173, 175, 177 FLL2, 179, 181 FLL3, 191 FLL4, 200, 201 FLL5, 208, 211 FLL6, 213 FLL7, 217, 219, 220 FLL8, 225 FLL9, 228, 229

Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 22, 25, 121, 137 Novalis, 32 Ossoli, see Fuller, Margaret Ozawa, Kazuko, 4 Piaste, Antonie, see Chamisso, Antonie née Piaste Platen, Auguste, Graf von, 59, 65, 67 Proch, Heinrich, 133 FLL4, 200, 203 Reich, Nancy, 21 Reichardt, Luise, 114 Reimer, Georg, 32, 43, 65, 67, 112 Reinecke, Carl, 132 Reinick, Robert, 114, 141 Reissiger, Carl Gottlob, 132, 233 FLL1, 167, 170, 175 FLL3, 191, 195 Riehl, Wilhelm Heinrich, 15 Rosa Maria, see Varnhagen, Rosa Maria Rückert, Friedrich, 67, 114, 117, 120, 124, 126, 138, 141 Sagarra, Eda, 6, 104, 200 Schiller, Friedrich von, 15, 31, 77, 114 Schilling, Gustav Lehrbuch der allgemeinen Musikwissenschaft, 164 Schlegel, Auguste Wilhelm, 30, 33, 47, 66, 111 Schlegel, Friedrich, 30, 33, 66, 111, 135




Schleiermacher, Friedrich, 11, 12, 31, 32, 43 Schleiermacher, Henriette von Mühlenfels, 11, 12, 13, 190 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 14 Schröder-Devrient, Wilhelmine, 129 Schumann, Clara Wieck as Chiarina in Carnaval, 188 diary entries, 207, 222 performing Frauenliebe, 124, 129, 131 and Robert, 10, 21, 22–25, 138, 140, 141, 142, 223, 224 Schumann, Robert Chamisso lieder “Diekartenlegerin,” 141, 142 “Die Löwenbraut,” 141 “Märzveilchen,” 141 “Muttertraum,” 141 “Die rothe Hanne,” 141, 142 “Der Soldat,” 141 “Der Spielmann,” 141 “Verratene Liebe,” 141 “Was soll ich sagen,” 141, 142 and Clara, 10, 21, 22–25, 140, 141 composition of Frauenliebe and other Chamisso settings, 140–142 conversion to song composition, 123, 137 Frauenliebe und Leben Op. 42, 124–128, see also Frauenliebe und Leben, poems and songs compositional materials, 138–141 first edition, 140 performances in nineteenth century, 129 reviews and evaluations, 130, 131, 132 Haushaltbuch, references to Chamisso lieder, 140, 141 and Oswald Lorenz, 140 piano music, 137 reception of his lieder, 128–130 song cycles Dichterliebe Op. 48, 124, 126, 128 Liebesfrühling Op. 37, 126 Liederkreis Op. 24, 126, 137 Liederkreis Op. 39, 124

Myrthen Op. 25, 128, 138, 142 Zwölf Lieder Op. 35, 126 song cycles, tonal plans, 124–128 Schwab, Gustav, 66, 67, 91, 96 Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth, 199 Siegroth, Hilarius von, 130, 131, 134 Frauenliebe, 130 Solie, Ruth, 4, 77, 106, 166, 180, 181, 183, 184, 185, 215, 216, 227, 230, 231 Staël, Germaine de, 33, 36 Stockhausen, Julius, 129 Tardel, Hermann, 80, 105, 116, 117, 130, 239 Thalberg, Sigismund, 133 FLL4, 200, 201 Thumann, Paul, 134 Tieck, Ludwig, 31, 32, 37, 66, 111, 135 Turchin, Barbara, 169 Uhland, Ludwig, 33, 44, 65, 75, 114, 115, 135 Varnhagen von Ense, Karl August, 8, 30, 31, 32, 33, 42, 47, 66, 67, 75, 91 Varnhagen, Rahel née Levin, 7, 91 Varnhagen, Rosa Maria, 67, 91, 96 “Am Hochzeitsmorgen,” 95, 98, 104 “Wanderlied,” 93 “Wiedersehen,” 93 Walz, Matthias, 4, 119, 175, 232 Wasielewsky, Joseph, 130, 131 Wendt, Amadeus, 9, 66, 67 Bilder des weiblichen Lebens, 74, 96–105, 106, 108, 113, 212, 223, 232, 253–261 Wieck, Friedrich, 21, 22, 25, 142 Wollstonecraft, Mary, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18 Women poets in the Musenalmanach, 91–96 Zelter, Karl Friedrich, 114 Zick, Alexander, 134