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FrL & FPG's 1904/5 'Fanny Essler' Complex (Seven Poems & One Novel)
How to cite this 2005 e-Article

Else von Freytag-Loringhoven & Felix Paul Greve

Felix Paul Greve's & Else von Freytag-Loringhoven's
1904/5 'Fanny Essler' Poems: His or Hers?
Revised e-Edition in Ten Parts
by Gaby Divay, University of Manitoba Archives, ©25Mar2005


There are three explicit references to crafting poems about Greve in Else's autobiography. All three are directly related to the early times of their affair, and they match the situations depicted in the 1904/5 'Fanny Essler' cycle.

Apart from an initial attempt to express her emotions at age fourteen around 1889, she didn't feel inspired again until October/November 1902. She was then in Dr. Gmelin's North Sea sanatorium for having anti-hysteria "wombsqueeze" treatments, and she started dreaming about her husband's friend Greve in Berlin: "About this ti me... I made after an interval of years[27] my first -- for an amateur amazing (sic!) good poem for nature's necessity -- to express love somehow" (Ab 30).

In Palermo (not Tunis), she suffered from Greve's absence after his unexpected imprisonment in late May, 1903, and again, she resorted to poetry for emotional relief: "I had no thoughts about the future other than to see Felix. That was only a year! I was too gloriously in love! The true trouble was physical abstinence -- it was excruciatingly painful to me. I had to make poems again!" (Ab 92).

For a third and last time, she mentions creating poetry as a therapeutic strategy for emotional relief in May 1904, when she was in Rome and on her way to meet Greve upon his release from Bonn prison. Musing about their imminent reunion, she says: "I again began to occupy myself with poetry in the usual half-hearted fashion of the amateur, the only one then possible to me" (Ab 195).

Greve's unilateral claim to the authorship of Fanny Essler's poems in his letter to Gide can be challenged in light of Else's explicit statements alone. They confirm that she did actually create several poems between late 1902 and mid-1904, and that all of them revolved around Greve's absence, which tinges her passionate attachment to him with a certain illusory quality.

Many of her later poems in Maryland are inspired by her relationship with Greve as well. And two of them, namely, "Du" and "Schalk, are directly related to the printed 'Fanny Essler' poems, while "Wolkzug" and "Haideritt" have an obvious thematic connection with them.

"Wolkzug" (3 st./4 l.; facsim., PEd 49 a) is a lyrical representation of clouds, the moon, a fountain and a palace, bearing a strong resemblance to the first wing of Fanny Essler's poems. More importantly, it boasts a unique, narrative note at the bottom of the page: apart from a concrete reference to Palermo and Else's situation there in 1903, it also provides insights into the reason for Greve's arrest, and about his final abandonment of her in 1911:

"Das war in Palermo -- als Felix Paul Greve in Deutschland im Gefängnis war, meinet- d.h. seinetwegen! Ich holte ihn ein Jahr später in Kölln [sic!] ab. Ein Engländer "Freund" (Kilian, gd) hatte ihn hineingebracht. Aus Eifersucht. Von da machte er seine Übersetzercarriere. In Kentucky -- verliess er mich -- in der Einöde -- schickte mir -- verborgen  -- $20 von da -- nichts. Ich konnte kein Englisch -- kannte keine Arbeit -- war hochmütig -- wurde für verrückt gehalten. Else." [28 Facsimile of this poem & note]

The close association of Greve's two sudden disappearance acts in 1903 & 1911 is noteworthy, and justifies the bitterness she expresses in "Schalk" some twenty years after his first unintentional, and roughly ten years after his second, deliberate departure.

Else's poem "Du" is of great importance to the authorship question, as it does more than simply echo Fanny Essler's seventh & final poem. It clearly is, if a somewhat shortened, replica of it:

Wyk auf Föhr <An: F. P. G.>

Einen schneeig blanken Pelz
Prunkt ein jedes Gras heut morgen.
Glasig wunderblauer Himmel
Schwingt sich dieser blanken Welt --

Schwingt sich dieser blanken Welt.
Im koketten Hermelin Rock
Der so leidenschaftlich rein ist
Dass sogar der schwarze Schwanz

Dass sogar das kleine schwarze
Schwanzende lebhaft fehlt!
Je! die Erde die verpönt
Heute jeden dunklen Fleck

Heute  jeden dunklen Fleck
An dem Hermelingezäum --
Alles ist lichtblank weiss und blau --
Lichter Himmel -- blanke Erd.

Freistatt 7, 185-186 (PEd 46-47)
VII. [Husum, Herbst 1902]

Einen schneeigweißen Pelz
Trägt ein jedes Gras heut Morgen,
Und ein wunderblauer Himmel
Leuchtet dieser weißen Welt.

Leuchtet dieser weißen Welt
Im koketten Hermelinschmuck,
Der so leidenschaftlich rein ist,
Daß sogar das kleine Schwänzchen,

Daß sogar das kleine schwarze
Schwänzchenende gänzlich fehlt.
Ja, die Erde - die verschmäht
Heute jedes dunkle Fleckchen,

Heute jedes dunkle Fleckchen
In dem weißen Festgewand
Gestern war ihr Kleid noch grün --
Und ein wenig grau natürlich!

Und ein wenig grau natürlich,
Denn ich bin am Strand der Nordsee
In der Friesen flachem Land
Gibt es keine Farbenhymnen --

Gibt es keine Farbenhymnen
Leise, leise zarte Töne
Gibt es hier, ein wenig traurig
Und sich immer wiederholend --

Und sich immer wiederholend
Wie so manche Melodien,
Welche seltsam uns erregen.
Aber heute ist es lustig.

Heute ist es wirklich lustig
Alles ist nur weiß und blau
Zart gefiedert sind die Pelze
Und die Luft ist frisch und milde

Und die Luft ist frisch und milde
Das man kaum es sollte glauben.
Heute geh ich lange, lange
Durch die weiße Zauberwelt

Durch die weiße Zauberwelt
Bin ich dann dahingegangen
Wie die kleinen Pelze
Um den Fuß, der sie berührte

Um den Fuß, der sie berührte,
Wurden sie zu Silberstäubchen,
Reizend sah das aus, und ich
Freute mich und tat's mutwillig,

Freute mich und tat's mutwillig,
Ja, mein Herz war grad so hell
Wie der Himmel und die Erde
Nur natürlich fehltest du!


Stanzas 5-9 lacking


Lichter Himmel -- blanke Erd.
Geh ich -- klink -- ! dahin!
Blitz! Die weissen Pelze sprühen --
Um den Fuss -- der sie be streift

Um den Fuss  -- der sie bestreift
Wirbeln sie als Silberräder
Reizend sieht das aus -- ich
Freu mich -- tu's mutwillig

Freu mich -- tu's mutwillig  --
Je! mein Herz sprüht grad so blank
Wie der Himmel mit der Erd
Nur -- fehlst -- du.

"Du" exists in no less than five variants. All have seven stanzas fitting neatly on one page. A comparison shows that stanzas one to four (1-4) and ten to twelve (10-12) are essentially identical, and that Else has eliminated stanzas nine to five (9-5) of the original. So, of the twelve stanzas of 'Fanny Essler's' last poem, Else chose to reproduce only seven, for whatever unknown reason.

In the original, stanza five made specific reference to the North Sea and the Frisian setting announced at the beginning, namely, Franziska von Reventlow's and Theodor Storms respective home town Husum, which is on the mainland. "Am Strand der Nordsee" (l. 2) and "in der Friesen flachem Land" (l. 3) remain suitably non-committal to fit Husum as well as any other landscape in the area.

Instead of these vague references, Else placed the precise historic location, "Wyk auf Föhr", and the explicit addressee of her poem, "an F.P.G.", right underneath the title. Föhr happens to be an island not far from Husum, just like "Tunis" on the North African coast stands in for the insular town of Palermo in Fanny Essler's narrative opening flank. Stanzas six to nine (6-9) of Fanny Essler's seventh poem dwelled on the contrast of the narrator's sadness with the bright, cheerful, sunny winter day.[29] In order to maintain a seamless transition of the rondo-like flow after the five-stanza cut, Else repeats the final verse of her stanza 4 in the first line of the original stanza 10.

The very last line of "Du" is a typical illustration of Else's reductionist method: it echoes Fanny Essler's original ending "Nur natürlich fehltest du!", which remains intact in some of Else's earlier variants, in particular, the one entitled "Natur". The fractioned, expressionist "Nur -- fehlst -- du", with its pausing punctuation marks, give this line a breathless quality, almost like a cry for help. The final word "Du" is chosen as title almost like an afterthought, and transferred to the top next to the now crossed-out title "Natur."

If the historic setting of "Du" in 1902 marks the beginning of an impetuous relationship that was to last "almost a decade" as Else puts it (Ab 30), "Schalk" (14 st./2 l.), an old-fashioned term meaning "buffoon," refers to the decline and bitter end in late 1911, only a year after the couple's reunion in America (Ab 72). At the top, Else specifies as location "Sparta, Kentucky, am Eagle Creek", and at the bottom of the first page she states:

"Der Herbst ist -- als Bild -- ein Porträt Felix Paul Greves" ("The Fall is -- as a metaphor -- a portrait of FPG;" tr. & emphasis mine).

This remark reveals that Else deliberately appropriated significant elements of Greve's poetry in a squaring of accounts with him: "Herbst" is a reference to Greve's "Erster Sturm" (1907) in which an allegorical Fall ruthlessly invades the countryside, announcing devastation and death in guise of a major storm. This poem must have been especially dear to his heart, since, as already mentioned, it is extant in three versions in the University of Manitoba Grove archives (PEd 54; transl., 56 & 186). In some of several versions of "Schalk," Else uses "Herbst" as a title. The very term "Porträt" in her note evokes Fanny Essler's "Ein Porträt: drei Sonette," and in the first seven couplets of her poem, Else evidently mimics their accomplished Petrarchan composition, though not in sonnet form. Below, the 1904/5 sonnets are represented on the right, Else's fourteen couplets on the left, and the Greve/Grove's five quatrains underneath:

Der Herbst, im grün und bronzenen Metall,
Sitzt an dem flachen Fluss, beim Wasserfall.

Die Bäume brausen girr, der Wind schwirrt lau
Sein Haar gleisst Flitter Gold, sein Aug glitzt blau.

Sein Mund so rot wie Blut blickt streng wie Wein,
Im Knie gebogen steht sein rechtes Bein.

Um enge Schenkel, alabastertot
Wirft sich der Mantelschwall, verbeenenrot.

Weiss, seine grosse, weite Mörderhand
Streift glänzend um das kniegestützt Gewand.

Geschnitten in geglättetes Gestein,
Erglimmt sein Antlitz, hehr wie das des Kain.

Auf seiner Hochstirn brauner Haselnuss
Karfunkelsteine zucken mit dem Fluss --

Er sitzt, ein roter Specht lacht wie ein Narr,
Sein Aug ist blau, sein Sonnenherz ist starr.

Um seine Scharlachlippen biegt der Gram
Des, der zu schlagen tief, zu töten, kam --

Auf seinem Scharlachmantel liegt die Hand
Die morgen dir zermorscht Getier und Land.

Die, jach, auch dich versehrt, du Mensch - o Wurm,
Es ist der Trüger Herbst - der Tod - der Sturm!
=Greve's "Erster Sturm"+ 'Fanny Esslers' 3d Sonett

Es ist Vernichtung, heulende, in Wut,
Die dir das Blut verdirbt - verdünnt das Blut.

Es ist die Kälte, es ist alles Weh,
Siehst du das Rot? Es ist der Schalkknecht - geh!

Glüht er auch wie ein Vogel, leuchtend schön
Es ist Verwesung, wo sie tritt - Gestöhn.

Faksimile: 1904 'Fanny Essler' Sonnets about Greve's Hands, Eyes, Mouth

Erster Sturm / von Felix Paul Greve

1. Die Dünen fliegen auf mit grünem Schopf,
Sie wogen, branden, türmen sich und kippen,
Und jede rennt mit jähem Widderkopf --
Zerschellend an des Waldes schwarzen Klippen.

2. Da sprengt ein Herold mit gesenktem Stab
Auf gelbem Roß durch die gescheuchte Masse.
Hingellt sein Horn: Bereitet euch zum Grab!
Mir folgt mein Herr. Habt acht vor seinem Hasse!

3. Heraus die Banner: gelb und braun und rot,
Und locker hingehängt! Bestreut den Boden!...
Verachtet eurer einer sein Gebot,
Den wird mitsamt der Wurzel er entroden.

Die Schaubühne 3, Nr. 6 (7.2.1907), 154. (PEd 55; facsim., 59a)

= Greve's "Erster Sturm"(1907)

II. Ein breites, schweres und gewölbtes Lid --
Die Haut verrät des Blutes rote Gänge --
Und wunde Blässe an den Rändern zieht
Um gelbe Wimpern dünne Seidenhänge:
Ein Auge, daß die Müdigkeiten mied,
Das noch vom frechsten Denken Tat erzwänge,
Das hell und unberührt die Dinge sieht
Unter des Lides purpurblasser Länge --
Auf flacher Kuppel weißem Porzellan
Lichtblau ein Stern mit winziger Pupille:
Er leuchtet Speergeblitz und Beutezug --
Doch plötzlich legt sich -- ein gespielter Wahn-
Vor dieses Auge eine vage Brille:
Ein Nebel: ein Gewölk: ein Maskentrug.

III. Sein Mund der feinen und geschwungenen Züge
Wechselt im Spiel von Scherz und Energie --
Die schmale Oberlippe ist, als trüge
Sie herbe Klugheit, leichte Fantasie:

Die untere schweift ein volleres Gefüge
Dem schwere Sinnlichkeit das Zeichen lieh:
Und beide sind der Thron der großen Lüge:
Auf scharlachrotem Kissen lagert sie
Und biegt den bogenhaften Lippenrand,
Schmiegt in den Winkel sich mit leisem Spott
Und lächelt blöder Dummheit später Klage:
Sie ist als Dienerin ihm stets zur Hand,
Denn nicht ist sie ihm Herrin oder Gott:
Sie schüttet bunte Zier in bunte Tage.

I. Aus schmaler Wurzel festgefügtem Bau
Wächst schlank und groß die weiße Hand hervor-
So schimmern weiß die Hände einer Frau --
Ein Netz von Adern hebt die Haut empor:
Darinnen leuchtet kalt ein blasses Blau
Wie Wasser, das in kleinen Flüssen fror --
Die Regung jedes Fingers zeigt genau
Der Rückenknochen dreigezweigtes Rohr:
In spitzer Knöchel hartem Hügelrand,
In breiter Nägel rosig dünnem Horn,
In nervigen Fingern spielt bewußte Kraft:
Jählings errötet die geneigte Hand,
Die Adern schwellen dunkel -- bis im Zorn
Sie marmorn glatt und bleich zur Faust sich rafft.

4. Seht graugepanzert ihr die Schiffe nahn --
Im Westen hoch: sein bauchiges Geschwader?
Schon landet ihn sein Ferge, der Orkan.
Ich muß hinweg: ihr -- meidet seinen Hader!...

5. Und Orgelscherzi heulen schwer und schrill
Zum Flattern bunter Fetzen all der Fahnen,
Mit denen sich der Herbst behängen will
Auf dem Fanfarenritt zu seinen Ahnen.

In exact analogy to the static and timeless centre-piece of the Fanny Essler triptych, Else addresses Greve's eye (steely-blue, st. 2), mouth (poppyleaf-shrill, st. 3), and hand (now chalk-white, murderous, st. 5), but goes on elaborating on his thighs (alabaster-dead, st. 4), his chiseled, Cain-like face (st. 6), his forehead (st. 7), and his golden, metallic hair (st. 8). The Petrarchan, sculptural quality is emphasized with references to metal, stone, and marble, so that this "portrait" of Greve resembles a full-length statue, not unlike Michelangelo's sculptures in the early 16th century. Else was obviously aware that Greve had taken a course on the famous Renaissance artist at Bonn University, along with Byron and oceanography. Both she and Grove refer to him long after their ways parted.

The 'Fanny Essler' sonnets evoked a half-bust of Greve at best, and truly Petrarchan texts in the "dolce stil nuovo" tradition are limited to the depiction of the head in any case, therefore being rather portraits in a stricter sense of the word. At the centre and pivotal juncture of "Schalk" stands his spear-rigid heart, "sein Herz dolchstarr" (st. 8), as if Greve/Fall's fundamental, moral inadequacy and his essential coldness were at the same level of observation as the preceding, superficially physical characteristics. The second half links skillfully all old and new elements to similarly disturbing attributes of the allegorical Fall in "Erster Sturm:" three couplets focus on the destructive effects of his actions, and culminate in a line full of further ominous, allegorical identifications: "Es ist der Schalk -- der Herbst -- der Tod -- der Sturm" (st. 11).

Here, quite apropos, Else inserts her parenthetical note, identifying "Herbst" as "a portrait" of FPG. She then introduces in the remaining three couplets further almost hyperbolic abstractions: he is "Annihilation" and "Rage" (Vernichtung & Wut, st. 12), the "Pain of icy Cold", an "Executioner" (der Kälte eisig Weh, Henker, st. 13), and again "Death" in the seductive guise of colourful, tropical birds (Tod, st. 14).

With this devastating portrait of Greve, Else comes to terms with his sudden, cowardly dismissal in Sparta, Kentucky. The artful combination of several layers of biographical details, and of weaving Greve's, Fanny Essler's, and her own poetry into ever new creations attests that she, who freely admitted to the amateurish quality of her 1902-1904 poetry (Ab 30), was by now in full command of formal mastery. There are two more poems vaguely related to the 'Fanny Essler' poems among Else's papers: "Haideritt" (8 st./4 l.) is an invitation to go horseback-riding, with obvious sexual overtones. "Felix" appears next to the title. There is mention of dikes, dunes, "Watt" (sandy shorebelts), sea, and a "Hünengrab" or cairn. The much reduced variant "Ruf" specifies "Erinnerung an Felix Paul Greve" and, as in Fanny Essler's northern wing, the "Friesenland." An English version called "Kinship, In memory of F.P.G." was sent to Djuna Barnes from Berlin (ca. 1924), but seems to have remained unpublished. Riding excursions also play a role in poems about Palermo (Ab 68) or the North Sea landscape, and, last not least, in the 1905 Fanny Essler novel, where it provides an intertext to the famous seduction scene in Madame Bovary by FPG's admired model Flaubert.The accomplished virtuosity of Else's "Schalk" is a definite triumph over her former lover and mentor. His undoubted technical and cultural superiority, always coupled with a condescending attitude towards her, was always prominently at display, but she knew from first-hand experience that he was dependent on material provided by her or by admired authors from the outside.As usual, "Schalk" exists in several variants, which is illustrative of Freytag-Loringhoven's work-habits: she tends to start out with conventional, well-formed poems she had either created herself or co-created with FPG at the turn of the century. She then systematically crosses out linking terms like articles, conjunctions or prepositions, and arrives after several rounds of progressive purging at versions consisting of not much more than bare columns of mostly nouns, adjectives, and the occasional verb. These are endowed with an amazing power of expression. Often, they are arranged in visually pleasing configurations, written in coloured ink, and punctuated by a lavish use of hyphens. Then they are translated, visually further enhanced in several colours, and sometimes published without the original references to time, place and names.The variant of "Du" presented above shows a relatively early stage of Else's reductive technique. The closely related variant "Natur" is even earlier, showing the words crossed-out and consequently ignored in "Du". Other titles in various stages of elimination are "Naturbild", "Natürlich", and "Freude". Though Else created several original, dadaist, concrete, or sound poems, the majority of her poetry follows this pattern from a traditional to an expressionist poem.

Always keenly aware of artistic innovations "in the air", it is hardly by coincidence that she occasionally used Sturm stationery during her troubled Berlin years from April 1923 to the spring of 1926. This famous avant-garde journal, founded by Herwarth Walden, husband to the other colourful avant-garde figure, Else Lasker-Schüler, championed expressionism in particular. An acute awareness of American, German & French literary trends is manifest in Else's adaptations, and indicates an experimental openness and creative flexibility which stands in marked contrast to Grove's invariably conventional poetry.

[27] She describes (Ab 31) how she was accused of plagiarizing Goethe in school for her childhood poem "Kornblumen" (1 st./5 lines). It is presented in German and English on Ab 32.

[28]"This was in Palermo -- when Felix Paul Greve was in Germany in prison...In Kentucky, he left me -- in the wilderness -- sent me  -- hidden -- 20$ from there -- nothing. I didn't speak English, didn't know how to work -- was proud -- was considered demented -- Else" (transl. mine).

For similar descriptions of Greve's abandonment, see Ab 36: " the midst of the county (sic!) of Kentucky in the small farm country..." , Ab 63 ("terrible, disgraceful"), and Ab 72 about Greve's "absorbing, primitive struggle for life", his lack of interest in sex, and leaving her "in a year's time." Kilian's role is addressed in more detail on p. 85.

[29]The description of the new snow is reminiscent of the only known poem published by August Endell: "Schneetag", in Pan 2, Nr. 3, 1896, p. 215). His two quatrains are, however, more somber in both tone and atmosphere. Reichel (58-61) included them (no. 3, 58) among  fourteen poems by Endell in his dissertation about the architect.

Originally published:
Divay, Gaby. "Fanny Essler's Poems: Felix Paul Greve's or Else von Freytag-Loringhoven's?"
Arachne: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language and Literature, v. 1, no. 2 (1994), 165-197.
How to cite this e-Version:
Divay, Gaby. "Felix Paul Greve's & Else von Freytag-Loringhoven's 1904/5 'Fanny Essler' Poems: His or Hers?"
e-Edition, ©March 2005 at

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