Poems Without Frontiers

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Karoline Louise Brachmann 1777 - 1822

Louise Brachmann was born in Rochlitz, Saxony, to a civil service father and a cultured mother, the daughter of a church minister. She was the middle child with an elder brother and younger sister. After several postings, the family settled in Weißenfels, Halle, when Louise had attained 10 years of age.

The children received their education from their mother and made several contacts with neighbouring families, in particular, with the family Hardenberg, where the mother had been a close school friend of Louise's mother and where the son therein became the celebrated poet, Novalis.

The latter was influential in the girls' aesthetic education and brought Louise's early poetry to the attention of his university professor, Schiller, at Jena. The latter became acquainted with Louise and published some early works in the literary magazines he edited whilst Louise spent her untroubled youthful years quietly at home.

Her life was, however, overshadowed by tragedy in the early and frequent deaths of her near relatives and friends. The three Hardenberg siblings, Schiller, her own parents, and her brother and sister all died within a few years of each other leaving her almost destitute. She also attempted suicide in 1800 following a misjudged love affair; and was trapped in the midst of the Napoleonic wars raging about her that proved injurious to her sensitive nature.

Furthermore, she lacked the classical beauty that could have steered her into a prospective marriage and, as her life advanced, she was touched by mental disorder, growing ever more melancholy and depressed.

After a failed attempt at suicide in September, 1822, she evaded the care of her friends a few days later and leaped into the river Saale and drowned.

Her poetry is in the lyrical style typical of its time and place and was welcomed by the publishers of the day who, however, were meagre in their reward. Despite having been published alongside the great poets of the age, her works fell into the almost forgotten realms of poetry as a result of changing fashion. They have more recently regained some recognition, however. Some of her works have been set to music and she is remembered in Weißenfels in the street name, Louise Brachmann Straße.