"The abandoned maiden": Grief Partaken

Karen M. Bottge

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Perhaps the most influential abandoned woman to surface in the musical history of the nineteenth century was that conceived by Biedermeier poet Eduard Mörike. Since its initial publication in 1832, his "Das verlassene Ma"gdlein" has engaged the sustained attention of composers, performers, and even music analysts and critics. Not only did his Mägdlein prompt the creation of numerous nineteenth-century volkstümliche varianten throughout Germany and Austria, but she also inspired 130 musical settings dating between 1832 and 1985. Yet, although Mörike is just one of many figures within a long tradition of male poets writing on female abandonment, there seems to be something to this particular poem, that is, to Mörike's Mägdlein, that has compelled composers to retell her tale again and again in song. My discussion begins by first revisiting the poem's original novelistic context, Maler Nolten: Novelle in zwei Theilen (1832). Thereafter I follow Mörike's Mägdlein from her poetic beginnings to two of her best-known musical reappearances: Robert Schumann's "Das verlassne Mägdelein" (op. 64, no. 2) of 1847 and the work it inspired forty years later, Hugo Wolf's 1888 "Das verlassene Mägdlein" (also op. 64, no. 2), perhaps the most renowned setting of them all. Through the juxtaposition of these two settings we may not only uncover their potential textual and musical interconnections, but also gain insight into the tacit cultural understandings and ideologies surrounding those who take up the voice of the abandoned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-192
Number of pages20
JournalNineteenth Century Music
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Abandoned women
  • Eduard Mörike
  • Hugo Wolf
  • Maler Nolten
  • Robert Schumann

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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