The Peregrina Poems
The material of young Eduard Moerike's most poignant love poetry is past personal experience. The Peregrina
poems were written shortly after Moerike's encounter with a certain Maria Meyer. That story is told by his
biographer, Harry Maync. Maria, whom Moerike met in the spring of 1823 and fell in love with, was a waitress in
a restaurant in Ludwigsburg. The infatuation with her went on until the end of the year and was then suddenly
broken off. All contact ended in spite of Maria's hopeful insistence that they meet again the following spring.
The tragic outcome of this poetic drama of the five Peregrina poems is hinted at in the first poem. The poet
signals this when he has the speaker enter into a forbidden area of a nun whose love is spiritual and devoted to
God. He imagines that the nun's love is meant for him, directed to him through her "trusting eye". But he is
unsure. For what he sees is only "as if" it were gold. To confirm this uncertainty he has the nun, the "unknowing
child", offer the dangerous invitation and thus transforms her role as innocent nun into that of seductress,
confronting him with evil, death and sin.
Agnes, die Nonne
Der Spiegel dieser treuen, braunen Augen
Ist wie von innerm Gold ein Wiederschein;
Tief aus dem Busen scheint er's anzusaugen,
Dort mag solch Gold in heil'gem Gram gedeihn.
In diese Nacht des Blickes mich zu tauchen,
Unwissend Kind, du selber laedst mich ein—
Willst, ich soll kecklich mich und dich entzuenden,
Reichst lächelnd mir den Tod im Kelch der Suenden!
Eduard Moerike 1824
Agnes, the Nun
The mirror of these trusting, brown eyes
Is like a reflection of gold from deep inside;
From the bosom's depths it seems to be drawn
Where such gold on holy grief thrives.
In the darkness of thine eyes I immerse myself,
It is thou who invites me, unknowing child—
Thou wouldst have me light the fire inside us boldly,
Thou reachest death to me smiling in a chalice of sin!
Translation: Charles L. Cingolani Copyright © 2008