20 November - Anna Louisa Karsch (1722-91) Jul 14, 2008 22:02:46 GMT 2
Post by moira on Jul 14, 2008 22:02:46 GMT 2
Anna Louisa Karsch (1722-91)
Anger at War, When It Lasted Too Long (1764)
I loathe with all my heart the first of men who slew
A human fellow-being when the earth was new.
My spirit shrinks from him who for primeval raids
Made sharp the world's first arrow, honed the first of blades.
For sure that soul rose up from Hades black as sin
That first conceived the thought by murdering to win.
He was by Furies nurtured who with savage lust
First ground gunpowder, first a bullet cast.
He waged his war against all human kind and won,
Oh, he has maimed all Nature with his baneful gun.
He who was first to hone with evil toil the steel
To hold against his brother's throat with barbarous zeal.
Thou scourge, War, for the world! which the Almighty shook
When in his willful blindness Man the Good forsook;
Masked lunacy, thy foot is rough and weighs like lead,
And where it treads, a sea of blood is shed!
(translated by Walter Arndt)
* * *
My Young Days Were Oppressed with Cares
My young days were oppressed with cares,
On summer mornings I sat there,
Sighing my poor stammered song.
Not for a young man was my melody,
No! for God who the crowds of men does see
As if they were an anthill's throng.
Without emotions, as I've often said,
Without affection, I was wed,
Became a mother, as in times of war
A young girl would not trust love's bliss,
On whom a soldier forced his kiss,
Whose army reigned as conqueror.
(translated by S.L. Cocalis)
* * *
In Praise of Black Cherries (1792)
The grapevine's luscious fruit has known
The praise of bards in ardent throng;
Why has the cherry not been shown
Loud voices raised in song?
O fruit in lustrous ruby's guise,
You must, in ripest bloom unfaulted,
Have first been tried by Eden's prize,
Whom Milton once exalted.
No apples so the palate scent
Or flames of thirst allay,
And should they even claim descent
From orchards of Cathay.
Boiled juice of cherries is the giver
Of much the best of summer soups;
Endows with youthful strength the liver
And cools th' arterial loops.
Let him who has been barred from use
Of wine by snarling doctors
Dilute it with red cherry juice,
And banished are the proctors.
However sore his stricken lung,
His breast ploughed up so deep.
Still from this drink his languid tongue
May healing solace reap.
If golden wine of Rhenish flood
And silvery Champagne I shun,
Then lace them, friends, with cherry blood,
Delight to eye and tongue.
Then am I lured from Virtue, much
As Eve the Wisdom Tree embraced
(So wondrous fair to sight and touch)
And longed its fruit to taste.
I drink-and thrice my cheer I raise!
Too often did you poets, merry
Or grave exalt the rose; now praise
The blackness of the cherry!
(Translated by Walter Arndt)
First I thank Annie [Annie Finch] for her kind comments encouraging me to keep this up.
There are many reasons to be interested in Anna Luisa Karsch: she was a rare lower-class woman poet. Although there were some in the 18th century and in England one may name a handful and more, in Germany this was very uncommon. She wrote a short autobiography, and if anyone is inclined to idealize the relationship between a mother and daughter, this is a book he or she should read.
Anna Luisa Durbach was born on a farm in northern Silesia; her mother was a maidservant to a noblewoman (so there is a connection to elite culture) and her father an innkeeper. Upon the father's death in 1728, she was sent to live with a great-uncle who is said to have taught her to read and to write and to have planned to teach her Latin. But her mother, having remarried, demanded the 10-year old Anna return to care for her younger children, and she did so for 6 years. At 16 she was forcibly married to a weaver, a man selected by her women; he beat her, and after 11 years of marriage, divorced and threw her out of his house. In 1749 she managed to remarry and move to a small town, Posen, with her husband, a tailor and alcoholic who could not support their family. She began to write occasional poems to secure an income, and found patrons and moved to a larger city, Glogau in 1755. One local nobleman had her husband inducted into the Prussian army (so much for him); another enabled her to move in 1761 to Berlin where her career flourished. She was seen as a "natural" poetic talent.
Basically she supported herself by giving readings at aristocratic parties and through patrons. This time she was also befriended by a poet, Ludwig Gleim, who helped her publish her first volume of poetry; this was engineered into a real success and the money provided a small income for her for the rest of her life. Major German male critics are said to have paid mild tribute to her in the usual terms: 1) her poetry was somewhat spoilt when she attempted stilted rococo forms and imagery suggested by Gleim or 2) she lacked polish. This was often the way lower-class people who wrote were celebrated. She did have an audience with Frederick the Great who promised to build a house for her; his successor did and she lived there for the last 2 years of her life.
Of her seven children, one daughter and one granddaughter also became writers. Jeannine Blackwell and Susanne Zantop (Bitter Healing: German Women Writers, 1700-1803) write that her autobiography and letters "are written with verve and wit" and mirror her era from the point of view of an "assertive working-class woman." She wrote many of these letters to famous men. (So she promoted herself.) They say her poetic success depended on "naive poems celebrating Frederick's military victories" (but see the first poem above), but that "her autobiographical and nature poems ... attract and still move the modern reader" (p. 128 of the cited book). Karsch's 18th century book, Auserlesene Gedichte (1764) was republished in 1966. The second of the three poems is found in The Defiant Muse: German Feminist Poems, ed, into. Susan Cocalis
* * *
From Fran Z. . .
(a member of my womenWritersthroughtheAges list), her degree is from St. Ann's College in German and French; she lives in southern Germany and teaches German and French literature.
A very belated thank you for this, Ellen.
I can't remember if I sent these links or not the last time Karsch came up on list, so I'll do it now. One is a slightly more extensive bio detailing the difficult circumstances of her beginnings and the somewhat rocky road to patronage and a still precarious existence, the other an interesting paper on Karsch as one calculatingly cast by Gleim in the role of the German Sappho and her ways of both utilizing and distancing herself from this persona and foremother so as to assert her own individual poetic identity.
The quotes are only in German, but they are often paraphrased below, so that shouldn't be such a huge handicap to non-German readers.
Karsch is one of the many female German writers I came across after, not during, my very male-orientated German studies (in fact in relation to a small project on Sappho) but then again Gleim didn't play a role there either and would probably have been himself entirely forgotten if it hadn't for his early championship of Karsch - the ironies of posterity.
* * *
And thank you in return, Fran. I half-remember we did discuss Anna Karsch at some point, but when I looked into my files I could find nothing. The first essay on her life tells yet more devastating experiences than what I found in Bitter Healing and German Feminist Poems; the essay on Sappho shows once again how important is a justification or framing that others accept.
But after all we are here and reading and enjoying ourselves so if progress is very slow, it does happen. Remember the life of the average women in Karsch's time -- here I refer to how medical science has saved us too.