Monday, May 16, 2011

Epitaph of Mariana Gryphius, Andreas Gryphius, 1660

Born in flight, ringed with sword and fire,
Smothered in smoke, my mother’s bitter hostage,
My father’s greatest fear, pulled into the light

As the angry flames swallowed my native land:
I looked at this world and left it quickly, 

For in one day all the world’s anguish met me; 

If you count the days, I vanished young;
Very old, if you count what I knew of anguish.

The German port Andreas Gryphius wrote this poem to commemorate his baby niece who was born and died in one day during the Thirty Years War. The Thirty Years’ War was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. The war was primarily a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics (Rickard). Gradually, the war developed into a more general conflict involving most European powers including France, Sweden, and Holy Roman Empire (Trueman). Andreas Gryphius himself was a victim of the Thirty Years’ War. He grew up during the war and witnessed the destruction of large parts of Germany. Andreas lost his parents in his early age and left his native town due to the troubles of the Thirty Years’ War (Wikipedia). It is no surprise that Epitaph of Mariana Gryphius reflects not only his niece’s but also his own misfortunate childhood.
The style of the Epitaph of Mariana Gryphius is very interesting. Andreas wrote the poem from the point of view of his niece. However, through the eyes of Mariana Gryphius, the world in which she is born is not a happy place but rather hell. As Andreas indicates, she was “born in flight, ringed with sword and fire, smothered in smoke.” Childhood was supposed to fill with toys, fairy tales, and fantasies; however, the brutal war took the sweetness of childhood from the poor little Mariana Gryphius and left her sword, fire, smoke, and things that were too cruel for her age. As children opened their eyes, they should see the pleasant and cheerful faces of their parents, but during the war, Mariana saw “my mother’s bitter hostage, my father’s greatest fear.” Mariana was born without the excitement and smiles of her parents. She had to bear the sorrow and fear of her parents while other children in peaceful countries enjoy the love of their parents.
In addition to Mariana’s misfortunate childhood, she lost her home on the day she arrived. “The angry flames swallowed my native land.” Andreas wrote for Mariana. Little Mariana experienced enough misfortune on her first day coming to the world; however, the tragedy was not over yet. “I looked at this world and left it quickly, for in one day all the world’s anguish met me”. Within one day, Mariana not only experienced the horror of the brutal war but also loses her life. The girl did not even have the time to see the beautiful things in the world and passed away. All that Mariana had experienced during her short stay in the world was anguish and sorrow. Through the poem of the unhappy short life of Mariana, Andreas shows brutality of the war and the sorrow and suffering it brings to the innocent people.

Works Cited:
Trueman, Chris. "Thirty Years War." History Learning Site., 2005. Web. 11 May 2011. 

Rickard, J. "Thirty Years War (1618-48)." Military History Encyclopedia., 17 Nov. 2000. Web. 11 May 2011. 

Wikipedia. "Andreas Gryphius." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia., 27 Dec. 2010. Web. 16 May 2011.

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