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 was a waitress in a restaurant in Ludwigsburg whom Moerike met in the spring
of 1823 and fell in love with. The infatuation with her went on until the end of the year and was then suddenly
broken off in a letter he wrote to her. All contact ended in spite of Maria's hopeful insistence that they meet
again the following spring.
The tragic outcome of the 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, that of a nun whose love is spiritual and devoted
to God. He imagines that the nun's love is meant for him and being directed to him through her "trusting eye".
But he is unsure. For what he sees is only "as if" it were gold. He is deluding himself. As if to confirm his
certainty he has the nun, the "unknowing child" be the one who offers the dangerous invitation thus
transforming her from 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 rise
Where such gold on holy grief thrives.
In the darkness of thine eyes I bury 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