Supplementary Appendix: J. D. Gries – Poems to Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel

Johann Diederich Gries, Gedichte und poetische Übersetzungen, 2 vols. (Stuttgart 1829), includes two poems to Caroline and one to Wilhelm Schlegel (verses addressed to Auguste have been lost).

Gedichte und poetische Übersetzungen, 2:9 (Gries’s friend Johann Georg Rist, Aus dem Leben J. D. Gries, 156, wondered who this “most witty and intelligent woman he had even known” really was):

To Caroline (1797). On sending the Ode on the Conquest of Mantua

So quickly was I to flout my oath?
Alas, dear lady friend, alas, who would have thought?
Hardly have I, contrite, presented my offering,
Than I must crown my transgression with perjury!

I do hereby swear aloud to the angry Camenae —
You did witness: — before in new splendor
The young springtime sun does laugh with us again,
Shall no song from my lips resound!

Yet who, pray tell, can resist
The sacred fury that does smolder in the poet's veins?
Then any oath is indeed a transient thing.

And I do confess with brazen pluck:
Though my song may praise the hero well,
Yet never shall remorse and perjury my soul torment.

Ibid., 2:14:

The Three Magi To Caroline With a Pack of Göttingen Sausages (1799)

From the East we come, we kings so wise,
To Jena the star guides us in the skies.
Where shall we seek, where find our Sire?
For those with wisdom do wisdom desire.

But how our gifts he will kindly defer!
Ah, could we but bring him gold, frankincense, and myrrh!
Alas, Blessed Virgin, how far from such, our proffered array!
For not gold and incense, but with sausages do we come today.

False gold does long no longer abound,
Even incense and myrrh can nowhere be found;
Penniless and naked does wisdom now the world traverse.

Though braying of ox and ass do mock our empty purse,
Should you now upon our gifts with favor gaze,
Then sausages indeed shall help us through these days.

Here an illustration of sausage production ca. 1777 (Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 5 [Vienna 1777], plate 12):


Concerning the reception of this poem among the circle in Jena, see Friedrich Schlegel’s letter from Jena to Gries in Göttingen on 28 January 1800 (KFSA 25:51): “You already know through my sister-in-law [letter not preserved] how well received your sonnet was here which accompanied the more edible art works of the fatherland; both she and my brother send their warm regards to you.”

Gedichte und poetische Übersetzungen, 2:11:

To August Wilhelm Schlegel. On Returning his Lebensmelodien (1798)

That I might accompany your sweet song with tones
Such as Orpheus – Mozart might divinely have conceived,
Did I ardently entreat, through half-waking night,
Euterpe to guide my lyre with sure hand.

But, alas! I did see it slip from my hand,
The muse having yielded to the god's stronger power;
Abandoning the offerings I had brought her,
She fled — and the impoverished strings fell silent.

Alas, to what end yet more and different melodies
Than poetry's mighty god has already bestowed upon you?
Who graciously did incline to you, before a thousand others?

Ah, but should you wish to experience for yourself how your song
Might draw in souls through its magical power,
Then have Caroline read it to you aloud.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott