• Germany's news in English

Lost Friedrich der Große sex poem uncovered

The Local · 15 Sep 2011, 16:02

Published: 15 Sep 2011 16:02 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

It was just a few weeks after he had reluctantly accepted the crown and become king that Friedrich wrote the poem. Dated July 20, 1740, a note accompanying it said it was the only one he had had time to compose since becoming ruler.

The poem was unearthed by Vanessa de Senarclens, a teacher of French literature at Berlin’s Humboldt University.

Writing in Die Zeit weekly paper, she said that a copy of the poem found its way from Italy to Berlin in 1894 and was quickly put into the royal archive where it was buried.

Even in 1912, when much was done to mark what would have been Friedrich’s 200th birthday, the poem was excluded from a new ten-book edition of his collected works.

“A poem which praised sexual desire as the ruler of the world was difficult to reconcile with the image of the great commander, high patriotic duty and the ideal Prussian monarch, in a time of deepest national seriousness,” wrote Senarclens.

Friedrich had sent the verse to his friend and mentor, the French philosopher Voltaire, having written it in French - the king's preferred idiom and the language of many royal courts of the time. Yet it was written for and about an Italian friend Francesco Algarotti.

“Algarotti prompted it,” Friedrich wrote to Voltaire.

“Its topic is desire. The Italian thought he knew that the inhabitants of the north are not in a position to feel things as our neighbours do on Lake Garda. I have felt, and have and have described it as well as I can in order to show him that despite our constitution, we are capable of feelings.”

He pleaded with Voltaire to review the poem, adding, “Remember, there are moments that are as difficult to describe as the sun in its splendour.”

The rather excited start to the poem describes how Algarotti swims in a sea of pleasures, where he finds his love Chloris, whose perfectly formed body, “increases the new passion of his senses,” and into whose arms he sinks.

The love which joins them heats their kisses,

And leaves them entwined even closer,

Heavenly sensuality! Ruler of the world!

Mother of her pleasures, always fertile springs,

Witness in my verses with your voice,

Her fire, her conduct, the ecstasy of her senses!

Our happy lovers, in their most extreme passion,

In the exuberance of love they knew only themselves,

Kisses, which dissolve in passion, sighing and die,

Arise again in a kiss and become passion again.

Story continues below…

And finally, in a passage which Senarclens suggested illustrated the dichotomy felt by Friedrich between his royal duties and his personal desires, he wrote,

Happy, he whose spirit is never decayed by the pomp of power,

And who knew pleasure,

A moment of passion is, for those who enjoy it,

Worth as much as a century of honour whose appearance deceives.

The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

14:11 September 16, 2011 by germinator
what drivel.
14:00 September 18, 2011 by tychonaut
I thought it was a pretty popular theory that Frederich was gay? Anyone want to .. er.. "enlighten".. me?
18:18 September 19, 2011 by kodok
It would be interesting to have the verses in French , as written by Freddy. I have read he hardly spoke German , only enough to give orders to his servants?

He made quite a fuss when Voltaire left Berlin, accusing him of taking his poems to show them in Paris and make people laugh.

De la nature et des amours

Peux-tu condamner la tendresse

Toi qui ne connais l¦#39;ivresse

Que dans les bras de tes tambours.

Famous verses about Friedrich, but written -perhaps- by Choiseul, French Foreign Secretary. "Tambours" stands for Drummers, not Drums.

The French monarch prefered to rime Amour with Pompadour .
18:59 September 23, 2011 by ErnestPayne
Teutonic sec poetry? Erotic in the way that German stand up comedy is funny. Doesn't exist.
18:38 September 28, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
Although comedy is not one of our strong points, I believe that love isn't just something Germans feel, but it is a German virtue. Listen to Bach, Handel, Brahms, Beethoven, Loewe, and so on.
Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd