Letter 277c

277c. Friedrich Schlegel to Wilhelm Schlegel in Braunschweig: Jena, late December 1800 [*]

[Jena, late December 1800]

I am writing at least these few lines to you immediately to assure you that Niethammer was already paid the 40 Rth on 12 November. – But regarding the presumed error with respect to the house rent: that is indeed an error, my dear friend; we took a very precise look at things in that regard, and it was indeed reckoned. [1]

Because I really have no idea at all where Hardenberg is, it will probably be best if what you sent I simply forward on to Sidonie. [2] — It is a magnificent poem, perhaps the most profoundly individual you have ever composed. [3] . . .

I am even more delighted that you are pleased with the meter of the “Der welke Kranz,” since it is my own invention, i.e., I tried out a new combination of what are admittedly older romantic elements. [4] I am quite convinced that this is the place in the system of romantic meters where something might be added and even invented anew. My initial attempts are still so uncertain, however, that I quite welcome this sort of confirmation. . . .

Otherwise, everyone here can talk of nothing but your Kotzebuade. Even Schiller said it was a very nice piece indeed, which is really saying something for a writer and art critic as dry as he. [5]

I was enormously delighted by the triolet, especially its having been printed so tidily as a calling card. [6]

You are staying away longer and longer. I yearn to laugh with you again from the bottom of my soul, and to engage in serious discussions as well. I do hope you are planning on living with me, are you not? [7]

Warm regards from Dorothea.


. . .


[*] Sources: Walzel, 452–54; KFSA 25:214–15. Dating according to KFSA 25:554. Back.

[1] In coming letters, financial irregularities with respect to the apartment at Leutragasse 5, the furnishings Caroline had left behind, and even use of the apartment in the first place increasingly become an issue esp. for Caroline, who had not been in Jena since early May 1800 and would not return until 23 April 1801. Although the 40 Reichsthaler paid to Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer cannot be clarified, Friedrich had written to Wilhelm on 24 November 1800 (Walzel, 446; KFSA 25:200:

I will take care of paying the rent immediately tomorrow. . . . Dorothea will also write out a summary of all financial matters. . . . Dorothea quite confidently maintains that she paid for the inkwell from here along with other things before Caroline’s departure [in early May 1800] and even took care of the bill.

Dorothea and Friedrich had been living in a new apartment since approximately late September or early October 1800. Back.

[2] Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis) had been in Dresden since November, gravely ill with consumption (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[3] Presumably the canzone “An Novalis,” in which Wilhelm reflects on the deaths of Auguste and Sophie von Kühn against the background of Hardenberg’s (Novalis’s) Geistliche Lieder. This canzone to Hardenberg is incorporated or appended to the cycle Todtenopfer for Auguste (Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 171–85; repr. in Sämmtliche Werke 1:136–39).

In the Musen-Almanach, Wilhelm’s canzone is followed by an additional poem to the now deceased (25 March 1801) Hardenberg by Wilhelm (p. 186) and a similar one by Ludwig Tieck (pp. 187–88; see below); both, appropriately, are followed there by Hardenberg’s Geistliche Lieder (199–204).

Here as an example is a translation of no. 4 in Hardenberg’s cycle Geistliche Lieder (translation by W. Hastie, from Devotional Songs of Novalis: German and English, ed. Bernhard Pick [Chicago 1910], 68–69):

Of the thousand hours of gladness
Which I found amid life's sadness,
One doth still supreme abide;
One 'mid thousand sorrows glowing,
Taught my heart its highest knowing:
Who for us hath lived and died.

All my world was broken lying; 
As from gnawing canker dying, 
Heart and blossom pined away; 
All my life's possessions cherished 
Every wish in dust had perished, 
But to torture came the day. 

As I thus in silence sickened, 
Longed for death as sorrows thickened, 
And but stayed from frantic fear; 
Then on sudden as from heaven, 
The stone from off the grave was riven, 
And all within was bright and clear. 

Whom I saw, and whom beholden 
By his side in vision golden, 
Ask not: for it still I see; 
But of all life's hours of joyance, 
That hour shall from all destroyance, 
Ever fair and open be.

And here the first two (of six) stanzas of Wilhelm’s canzone to Hardenberg — composed before the latter’s death — to which Friedrich is here referring (pp. 181–82):

To you I lament not, for grief you know:
Know how at flaming pyre
Love does its torch more brightly yet ignite.
For you, too, did such joyous temple collapse,
Wherein then blew but death's cold shudder
Where once love's lofty countenance
A bridal chamber made.
Hence with me now ally,
Beloved friend, to seek that lofty, higher realm,
That through prayer and faith might I myself yet learn
To cheat death of its price so cruel,
Not loudly and for nought accuse deaf fate,
Whose wrath the cup of life so bitter makes
That now I tremble cold such drink to contemplate.

You from bonds of earth did seem escaped,
With phantom lightness tread with steps of grace,
Healed of mortals' fear — and yet not dead.
Through spirit's hands within did conjure pure,
Magician-like with signs and countenance sure,
The vanished belov'd back to embrace of heart.
Hence also grant to me to read
What heaven in your breast disclosed;
Though words do desecrate the realm beyond,
Should that sacred gate one's entry thwart,
He would silent be, hence my eye now
Allow in yours to gaze, when pale I turn,
Reflection pure of blessed spirit realm.

After Hardenberg’s death on 25 March 1801 in Weissenfels, Wilhelm added the poem “To Hardenberg” as a eulogy to him after this present piece, followed by Tieck’s similar poem. Back.

[4] Concerning this poem, which would come to cause such ill feeling between Friedrich and Wilhelm, see also Dorothea Veit’s letters to Schleiermacher on 31 October 1800 (letter 273b) and on 17 November 1800 (letter 274c). Back.

[5] See Goethe’s exchange with Schiller concerning Wilhelm’s piece. Back.

[6] Concerning Wilhelm’s calling-card triolet on Garlieb Merkel, see his letter to Schleiermacher on 22 December 1800 (letter 277b) and esp. (for the text and background to the triolet) supplementary appendix 252.1. Back.

[7] Friedrich and Dorothea had invited Wilhelm to live with them in their new apartment in letters to him on ca. 23 September 1800 (letter 268a) and 30 September 1800 (letter 269a). See also Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm on 10 November 1800 (letter 274a), note 6.

Concerning Wilhelm’s travel itinerary, see his letter to Schleiermacher on 1 December 1800 (letter 276b). Wilhelm moved to Berlin in late February 1801 and did not return to Jena except for approximately three months in August 1801.

That is, Wilhelm never resided in or even saw Jena again after November 1801, and in the spring of 1804 he moved from Berlin to Coppet on Lake Geneva in Switzerland in the company of Madame de Staël (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Elementarische Landkarte von Europa Elementarwerk, in Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xl):


Translation © 2014 Doug Stott