Studies in German Literature, University of Basel, Switzerland
[Dissertation Abstract] Copyright © 2006
Eduard Moerike: Wirklichkeit und Dichtung — Studie zur Dichtung der Frühzeit
by Charles L. Cingolani
English Title: Eduard Moerike: Reality and Poetry — A Study of the the Early Poetry
(Eduard Moerike, German poet 1804-1875, The Swabian School)
This study is concerned with the beginnings - the gradual awakening and rapid development of E. Moerike's lyric
potential. Its method of inquiry combines biography with a close scrutiny of the poetic texts. The study attempts to
show that a tense relationship existed between Moerike's real world and his imagined world and that this tension
proved to be profoundly fruitful as a source of poetic creativity.
The reader is introduced to young Moerike the schoolboy, learns of his home life and of the events which led up to
his entrance into the Protestant Preparatory Seminary in Urach - an event which was to play a crucial role in the
shaping of his future. His first poems, seen as a reaction against seminary life, appear to be experiments in escape.
The thinly disguised, sensitive subject who pities himself all too openly is readily recognizable as Moerike himself.
As young Moerike’s conscious commitment to art grows, his dissatisfaction with seminary life becomes increasingly
acute. Finally, after his ordination, Moerike experiences a total disillusionment with the ministry and takes leave of
his duties to search for a way of life that would allow him to live for poetry alone. Failure forces him to return
voluntarily to his vicariate where he attempts to reconcile his profession with the pursuit of the muse. From this
time on, his poetry begins to reflect something of the inner harmony and balance which that act of acquiescence
helped him to acquire.
Thus, the melancholy subject of the earliest poems begins to give way to a more disguised, less self-indulgent
poetic "I". Moerike's choice of subject matter and the role he assigns to the poetic subject show how his attention
became attracted to the world outside himself. In poetry this development is discernible in the gradual change in the
poetic "I' as he progresses from his initial role of active protagonist to a role of complete passivity.
In a chapter devoted to the Peregrina poetry the author compares Moerike's poetry of experience with his poetry of
reflection. In an analysis of original and revised texts he shows how the mature poet was able to transform a
devastating past experience into a poetic reality that could symbolize love in its most noble aspects. He withdrew
from love's sensual hold to be able to give the experience an ideal, mythical existence. In so doing, the Peregrina
poetry exemplifies how Moerike incorporated life and art: by renouncing one to possess the other.
The final two chapters examine the variations on the ever-recurring themes of the early period: nature and love. As
for the mature poetry, the attempt is made to demonstrate how the poetic "I" in effect coincides with the objective
world, mirroring its sensual properties. Moerike makes us feel what we think we see. His approach to nature is
highly personal, but his presence in each poem is hardly noticeable. This subjective transparency typifies the best of
his mature poems.
The technique is different in the love poetry of the final chapter. Analysed with an eye to his engagement to Louise
Rau, this poetry reveals how the poet attempted to see in her an ideal which in reality did not exist. Less sensuous
than the nature poems, these appeal more to the intellect. At this stage the difference between the young and the
mature poet is marked: increasingly Moerike gains control over emotion; sensuousness and spontaneity give way to
intellect, a greater reliance on form becomes evident. The tension between reality and poetry lessens as the two