Supplementary Appendix: Friedrich Schlegel – The Withered Garland

Friedrich Schlegel
The Withered Garland [*]




|646| It was yet May when these you broke,
and in those flowers spoke,
yet a blossom yourself,
that which, now blooming, in your own heart
was awakening and,
in sacred wise, did already stir,
that childlike something your friend, ah! so cherished
when she her heart did lay
upon his own,
where now I do eternally weep.

|647| These violets, which as a sign the child did send,
now do so soften my heart
that my eyes
may never bring to an end
the pain they now suck in,
and oft do still to her turn,
now finding but this garland, withered, in my hands.
Like this wreath did she,
chosen early to end,
lose herself self-unbeknownst.

Take hither this lofty, precious gift,
the only thing yet left to me
of the precious one,
that it might her image yet renew
when amid tears
my yearning so willingly flees
into death arms, escaping life’s vain notions.
Though let me first in tears
immerse my sweet remembrance!

We who found life in the pleasure of death,
who boldly nature understood 
amid the flames,
where love and pain together
us unite:
let our foreheads be encircled
by the sign whose sense we have long since found.
For did not from these wounds
oft spring forth roses
in painful caress?

|648| Hence may this girl’s own shadow surround us, hovering,
to melancholy devoted,
till in death as one we may again more intimately live,
and this deep striving wholly unite
those who, smiling, for one another weep.

[*] “Der welke Kranz.” — Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:646–48. Concerning the publication history, textual history ,and variants, see KFSA 25:534fn24. Concerning the poem itself, see also Hermann Patsch, “‘Wir dichten in italiänischen und in spanischen Weisen.’ Friedrich Schlegels Gedicht ‘Der welke Kranz’ und der Cancionero General,” Geistiger Handelsverkehr. Komparatistische Aspekte der Goethezeit, ed. Anne Bohnenkamp and Matias Martinez (Göttingen 2008), 357–76.

The flower garland was a popular literary motif at the time. Illustrations: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, (1) Welch ein Geschenk (ca. 1800); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung (7-526); (2) Es war mir wert darum hob ich ihn auf (1800); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.1028; violet illustrations: (1) Outgert Cluyt et al., Veilchen (1615); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur 6.11 Phys 2° (70); (2): Johanna Helena Herold, Märzveilchen und wilde Veilchen (1698); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur Z 6493.

See also Walzel, 453n1:

Friedrich composed the poem for Dorothea’s birthday taking the theme of a wilted wreath of violets that Auguste had once given him; Wilhelm’s demonstration of approval notwithstanding, at Caroline’s behest [see letter 325 in present edition] he ultimately did not publish it in the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802.

Friedrich had given it to Dorothea for her birthday celebration (24 October 1800) at the home of the Paulus family in Jena amid singing, Johann Wilhelm Ritter’s combustion displays, and a masquerade. Friedrich, who had crowned both Dorothea and the Paulus’ daughter, Sophie, both of whom were rather garishly costumed, with a garland, brought Dorothea “a wreath of wilted violets that Auguste had once sent him, along with an extremely moving poem about it” (for this passage and Dorothea’s descriptions of the evening, see her letters to Schleiermacher on 31 October 1800 [letter 273b] and to Wilhelm on 28 October 1800 [273a]; concerning the garland itself, see Friedrich’s letter to Auguste on 15 May 1798 [letter 200a]).

Wilhelm’s rejection of the poem for the Musen-Alamanch enraged Friedrich, especially after Wilhelm’s initial enthusiasm (see Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm in late December 1800 [letter 277c]). Both Friedrich and Dorothea would not hesitate to voice their ire in attributing the rejection of the poem to Caroline (see Friedrich’s letter to Tieck on 5 November 1801 [letter 329q] and Friedrich and Dorothea’s to Schleiermacher on 25 September 1801 [letter 329h]). See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 10 July 1801 (letter 325) concerning her initial desire to keep the poem out of the Musen-Almanach.

And yet in spite of Friedrich’s inclination to withdraw from the Musen-Almanach project entirely because of this incident, he contributed significantly to the publication, nor (so Erich Schmidt, [1913], 2:623) is there is anything “willful” about any of his contributions. Indeed, Wilhelm writes from Jena to Schleiermacher back in Berlin on 7 September 1801 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:291): “Friedrich has given me a small collection of epigrams and such with the title ‘Saturnalia’ containing some rather delicious things.”

This issue nonetheless caused considerable ill feeling between the brothers. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott