ABSTRACT

‘Wollustig’ suggests an almost sensual delight in experiences which were at the same time ‘sweet’ and ‘terrifying’. But the preponderating emotion was that shuddering horror which seized her with icy claws and made her blood run as cold as a glacier. It was from such moments that the great supernatural ballads came. Maisegen, the fourth poem, hardly deals with the supernatural, but with Christian belief, for it describes the shepherds setting out by dark on May Day to greet the sunrise on a plateau and ask God’s blessing on their work, and themselves to swear to deal kindly and honestly with man and beast. The only element in the least supernatural is the appearance in the sky of two eagles ‘Als wollten sie den Schwur/Zum Himmelstore heben’. In the 1844 edition of Annette von Droste’s poems, Der Spiritus familiaris des Rosstauschers had at Levin Schucking’s instigation been printed with the three epics under the heading ‘Grossere Gedichte’.