: Heidelberg Romanticism / Later Romanticism / High Romanticism
Lines per stanza
: 1-4, 2-4, 3-4, 4-4, 5-4, 6-4
It sang long ago
Arguably the Nightingale,
This was probably sweet sound,
Since we were.
I sing' and can not cry
And spider so alone
The thread clear and pure,
So long, the moon will shine.
Since we were,
There the Nightingale sang,
Now your sound exhorts me,
That drove you from me.
So often the moon may seem,
I commemorative your alone,
My heart is clear and pure,
God wants to unite us.
Driven by me since you,
Always sings the Nightingale,
I think in their sound,
As we were together.
God wants to unite us,
Here I spin so alone,
The Moon is shining clear and pure,
I sing and want to cry!
Summary, analysis and interpretation
„Der Spinnerin Nachtlied“ by Clemens Brentano was published in 1802 in the period of Romanticism. A great number of symbols and motifs can be found that are typical for this period, such as the motif of nature and singing or symbols like the nightingale. The moon, too, is a symbol for desire and, hence, a typical motif of this literary period. Another hint that this poem belongs to Romanticism is the focus on the narrator’s feelings. There is no rational thinking as it exclusively addresses God as a transcendent1 power. It is very significant that the odd stanzas differ from the even ones in content as well as form.
The poem consists of six stanzas, each one is composed of four lines. Its rhyme scheme is a so-called embracing rhyme. While stanzas one, three and five follow the scheme abba, stanzas two, four and six have got the rhyming scheme cddc. That means that there are only four rhyming words. The ones from odd stanzas all include the vowel a, while the even ones have got the vowel ei. The poem is written in iambic lines, which leads to the impression of regularity and calmness as well as the steady desire of the narrator.
The first and fourth line have seven syllables, whereas the second and third line have six syllables. This reflects the use of the embracing rhyme scheme. The stanzas are connected by the use of the preceding stanza in the first line of the following one. Nevertheless, this only occurs between the even and the odd stanzas (I-III-V; II-IV-VI).
While the odd stanzas are written in past tense, the even ones are written in present tense. The ones written in past tense narrate the time together that is now over, the other ones describe the feeling of loneliness as a consequence of this separation. One can see the odd and the even stanzas as two separate poems combined as one. Each stanza consists of one sentence that is often written in inversion2. The language that is used is quite simple and numerous rhetorical devices such as parallelisms are used.
The poem is about a spinner who mourns about her lost love. The title suggests that the narrator is female.
The subject of the first stanza is lost love which is marked by the songs of the nightingale. This bird is a symbol for the fulfilled love. The expression “vor langen Jahren” (line 1) underlines that this love is dated back a long time ago. The alliteration3 “süßer Schall” in line 3 emphasises the sweetness and beauty of these sounds.
In the second stanza the narrator sings about her disability to cry and her unwillingness to release this former love. The person speaking talks about her lonely singing and spinning, the spinning wheel symbolises the ongoing and never-ending rotation of the narrator’s life. These rotations also represent the thoughts of the narrator, which do not come to an end.
Moreover, the person speaking talks about a thread which will be – as long as the moon is shining – clear and pure. This thread can be taken as a symbol of life, which shows that the narrator’s life will be pure but also boring as long as her desire – symbolised by the moon – is strong and there is no hope to new love. At the same time the moon could stand for the night and mean that the narrator finds herself in a depressive mood.
The third stanza refers to the first one by claiming that the nightingale – fulfilled love –only sang when the couple was together. Again, there is a personification4 “und mahnet der Schall” (cf. line 11) that emphasises the reminding role of the singing.
The fourth stanza, on the other hand, is similar to the second one, as the moonshine, which is seen by the lonely narrator, is described. There is also a link to the contents of the second stanza as the moon stresses the loneliness and monotony of the spinner’s life. Again, the moon can be seen as a symbol for desire. The pure thread is now replaced by the heart, which is pure, too. In the last line of the fourth stanza the narrator begs god to reunite the lovers.
Stanza 5, in turn, corresponds to stanzas 1 and 3. Again the subject is the nightingale and her singing. Since the person speaking has been left, she has to think about her love when listening to this music.
The sixth stanza relates to stanzas 2 and 4 by repeating the prayer to reunite the lovers. The narrator stresses her loneliness, refers to the pure moon and expresses her sadness and desperation when listening to the songs of the nightingale. By giving the moon attributes such as purity the impression is created that the narrator’s feeling will continue for a long time.
To sum up, stanzas 1, 3 and 5 as well as stanzas 2, 4 and 6 match in both, content and form. Not only do they have the same rhyme scheme but also the same subjects. Stanzas 1, 3 and 5 describe the singing of the nightingale and its impact on the narrator. While the third line of each stanza narrates explicitly the singing of the nightingale, the fourth line stresses the fact that the relationship is over. The songs of the nightingale is always personified referring to former fulfilled love. At the same time, this line is an epiphora as it ends with the words “die Nachtigall”. The same applies to line 7, 15 and 23 (“klar und rein”).
By contrast, stanzas 2, 4 and 6 deal with the desire of the narrator by mentioning the moon, the loneliness (“Und spinne so allein” line 6) as well as pure objects (“Faden”, “Herz”, “Mond”). However, these stanzas differ in their fourth line. While in stanza 2 the requirement that the thread is only pure as long as the moon is shining is made, in stanza 4 the narrator asks god for reunion. In stanza 6 a desperate exclamation can be found. Whereas in preceding lines the narrator says that she does not want to cry, in the final line she stresses that she actually wants to cry. (“Ich sing’ und möchte weinen” line 24). Overall, the poem contains a great number of repetitions. These repetitions, however, cannot be found on a lexical level as the same ideas are presented in different expressions and syntaxes.
Finally, it can be said that Brentano’s “Der Spinnerin Nachtlied” is about a lonely woman who spins during full moon and mourns about her lost love. Hence, it is a poem typical for the period of Romanticism.
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