Inscription on a Roman tomb – A Piece of Poetry

Context: A short inscription in Latin found on a Roman woman’s tombstone located in Aurelia. It briefly tells us her name, age and mentions a beloved husband and a daughter. These short inscriptions (Carmina epigrapha) became quite popular during 300 BCE up until Late Antiquity. Even if short it captures a lot of information on who she was when she lived. 

Themes: death, rememberance of a beloved one now dead.

CLE 00385

Hic sita sum quae frugiferas cum coniuge terras
Has colui semper nostro dilecta marito.
Myrsina mi nom[en fuerat. quinquennia quinque]
Vixi et quem de[derat cursum Fortuna peregi].
Care marite m[ihi et du]lcissima nata ualete
Et memores nostris semper date iusta sepulchris.

I’m buried here, I who grew these
fruitful fields with my husband,
always beloved
by my husband.
Myrsina was my name.
Five times five years
I lived, and my life granted
to me by Destiny I have fulfilled.
You my husband, my dearly beloved,
and my dearest daughter, goodbye
and remember [me] always and give
suitable sacrifaces to my tomb.


“I loved you first” – A poem by Christina Rosetti

Context:  Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. Her brother was the famous pre-rapahel painter Dante Rosetti. Rossetti was educated at home by her mother and father, who had her study religious works, classics, fairy tales and novels. Rossetti delighted in the works of Keats, Scott, Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. The influence of the work of Dante Alighieri, Petrarch and other Italian writers filled the home and would have a deep impact on Rossetti’s later writing.

Themes: Love and becoming one with the one you love despite any other problem. The narrator isn’t foolish. Pay attention to the lines: “I loved and guessed at you, you construed me And loved me for what might or might not be – Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong. For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’” Take time to notice the words “free love” in the poem. What do you think it means? Pay attention to Rosetti’s own time and society. Her literary circle are the pre-Raphaelites. Who were they? And how did they define love? 

I loved you first: but afterwards your love
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? my love was long,
And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I  loved and guessed at you, you construed me
And loved me for what might or might not be –
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’
With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.

Journals by Lizzie Borden’s lawyer Andrew J. Jennings to be conserved and published

The Jennings’ journals surface after 120 years

The Jenning’s Journals. People has searched for a final clue here. Did she or didn’t she?

Andrew Jackson Jennings (1849-1923) was Lizzie Borden’s attorney during the two weeks of trial in 1893. Lizzie herself had already spend 9 months in prison prior up to the trial. During the trial about a year after the murders the prosecution received several blows. Lizzie Borden’s inquest was not considered valid since she was high on morphine when the police questioned her. Her attorney also complained her legal rights was set aside a she was questioned without any attorney present. The autopsies didn’t reveal any signs of poison being present so the pharmacist testimony about Lizzie trying to buy prussic acid (cyanide) a day before the murders was ruled out.

THE CONSERVATION OF THE JENNING’S JOURNAL is good news to all people interested in the local history of Falls City, New England and the murder case. The murder of Lizzie Borden’s parents remains one of the most sensational and unsolved crimes in the american history. As the prime suspect Lizzie Borden was found not guilty of murder the local citizens of Fall River alienated her and the nursery rhyme Lizzie Borden took an axe…rendered her guilty for all time.

The Jennings’ journals consists of a scrap-book with newspaper clips concerning the unsolved case and a reference ledger. At time miss Borden had the best attorney money could buy at this time, Andrew Jackson Jennings. When the journals were opened people searched for evidence of Lizzie’s guilt. There was none. If Lizzie had confessed murder to her lawyer he certainly wouldn’t have written anything down about it which would be left to other people to read about.

Lizzie A. Borden (1860-1927)

THE TRIAL of Lizzie Borden has often been compared to O.J Simpson’s trial. Both were rich and was accused of double-murder. Both faced death penalty.  Both had good lawyers who may have helped them get away with murder. During the trials media showed a great interest in both cases and produced sensational headlines. Both of them did crime after they were acquitted of the murders. Lizzie Borden was however never sentenced again, but she did take up on a bad habit from her youth – shoplifting. This resulted in a police warrant but she was able to make it fair with the shop keepers by paying for what she had stolen. This was not a problem since Lizzie and her sister Emma became millionaires after the death of their father.

But the murder trial was not the last time the American Justice System would hear about Lizzie Borden. There was another incident embarrassing to Lizzie who never moved away from Fall City. Only a few years after acquittal a judge received a letter from a married man accusing his wife of lesbianism and Lizzie’s name was mentioned as evidence from a correspondence. The judge dismissed the accusation as frivolous.

Crime Scene, August 4th 1892 

Abby Borden was killed first and then the killer hid in the house for about one and half hour until Andrew Borden arrived home. One dead body and a killer waiting for one and a half hour in the building without anyone in the household taking ay notice. This murder case must be unique. Andrew came home a bit early that day because he was not feeling well. Upon arrival Andrew is surprised he cannot enter his house, it’s locked. After awhile Lizzie opens the door.

While Abby Borden was clubbed down with the through hatched 19 blows Andrew Borden’s face was hacked out beyond recognition. One of his eyeballs was split. The photos from the crime scene are hideous and Mr Borden had literally no face left! Lizzie also gives the maid Bridget Sullivan alibi. During the trial Lizzie showed some strange behaviour. She was often seen giggling and behaving irrational. Many times she was looking at her lawyer for some support almost asking him how to behave properly. After the trial and Lizzie’s acquaintance Bridget moved from Fall River never to be heard from again. In the town’s Central Church the Borden family owned a pew. Once acquitted Lizzie wanted go back to her church. When she got there she noticed all seats around hers was empty. She understood that people had moved away from her on propose and after the experience she never sat her foot in that church again.

Tensions within the family revealed

There was much tension within the family and the house. The irish maid Bridget Sullivan probably didn’t like working there and she wasn’t even addressed by her own Christian name. Instead the family  used the previous maids name whenever they called on Bridget. At court Bridget was asked bout this – didn’t she find it derogatory?  Bridget Sullivan answered she didn’t mind this.

MUCH OF THE FUSS in the family sprung from Andrew Borden’s marriage to Abby McDuffy. They married 2-3 years after the death of Emma and Lizzie’s biological mother. His daughters never seemed to have accepted the new wife and at one point Lizzie stopped calling Mrs Borden “mother”.

At the age of 32 Lizzie was given 4 dollars a week in pocket-money and it’s possible she thought 4 dollars wasn’t enough for her. The shoplifting also embarrassed her father but he paid all these expenses whenever a shopkeeper needed to talk to him about Lizzie’s behaviour in the store. On one occasion she stole jewellery at home. More tensions arouse in the household as Andrew announced he was going to buy a new house to their stepmother’s sister. When Lizzie and Emma heard this they stopped taking meals together with Abby and prefered eating in another room. It could not have been easy for Abby Borden to be a new mother to these girls and there was a big difference in age between her and Andrew. After the death of his first wife he needed someone to take her place and Abby was unmarried. The marriage was likely not a love match. WHEN the police asked questions about her mother Abby Borden, Lizzie was quick to respond that she was not her real mother, but a stepmother.

The incest-theory has been put forth several times and has been viewed by many as a possible trigger to murder. Especially since victims of incest often blame both parents. Her biological father gave Lizzie his own middle name, Andrew. At her inquest 32 years later she stated her full legal name: Lizzie Andrew Borden. “You were so christened?” the district attorney asked. “I was so christened,” she replied. After the trial Borden would change her first name Lizzie into Lizbeth although she continued to sign legal documents with both names.

And the motive?

It’s suggested money was the prime motive behind the killings of Andrew Borden and his wife Abby. Andrew Borden had worked hard all his life as a business man and upon his death his wealth was worth 8.000.000 dollars. The only persons who could have profited from their deaths were the daughters, Lizzie and Emma Borden. It’s known that Lizzie wanted a better lifestyle and was not happy at the house at 92 2nd Street. It was not a modern place and they had no electricity or any running water installed. Water was drawn from a pump in a sink room. The father refused to move the family elsewhere since the house was located in the city and not too far away from his office. More tensions come forth after her father revealed he was going to change his will including some of his new wife’s relatives. After the trial the sisters inherited their father’s fortune and Lizzie Borden and her sister could finally live at French Street on the Hill.

Emma Borden continued to maintain her belief in her sister’s innocence as long as she lived. She died only nine days after the death of her infamous sister who had left her out of her will. Clause 28 of Lizzie’s will read: “I have not given my sister, Emma L. Borden, anything as she had her share of her father’s estate and is supposed to have enough to make her comfortable.” She signed the will as both Lizzie A. Borden and Lizbeth A. Borden. People who inherited Lizzie Borden were friends, loyal servants and The Animal rescue of Fall River. She also left a huge sum of money to the perpetual care of her father’s gravesite.

Other suspects?

After the killings and the trial there were no more beastly murders involving hatchets around. Things got quiet in Fall river. The sisters sold their old home and moved up to the Hill were other family members already lived. And no other suspect or suspects was heard or inquired. After Lizzie was acquitted the police continued to receive letters from all around the world for years from people who wanted to help solve the case.

The Scottish poems in Lizzie’s house

She had the following lines inscribed on the mantle of her house at French Street. It has the following lines:

“The Green Leaf of Loyalty’s beginning to fall
The Bonnie white Rose it is withering an’ all
But I’ll water it with the Blood of usurping tyranny
And green it will grow in my ain countree”

The Bonnie white rose in the poem may be something she choose to identify with. Another line of poetry is located over the fire-place in Lizzie’s bedroom:

“And old time friends, and twilight plays
And starry nights, and sunny days
Come trouping up the misty ways
When my fire burns low.”

Sources & Newspapers reports on the Jenning Journals’ [various entries; photos; biographies related to the Lizzie Borden Case]

Bram Stokers’ use of Gottfried Bürger’s Ballad “Lenore” in Dracula (1897)

Bürger’s “Lenore”- A ballad about the undead

“Lenore” was a ballad written in 1774 by Gottfried August Bürger (1747-1794) a German poet from the Sturm und Drang period. It’s one of the earliest pieces of texts containing references to the undead in European literature. It became quite famous in its days and was translated into English and French1. We know it became a part of the literary text books for many Gothic authors as well. Not only Stoker but also Edgar Allan Poe knew about the ballad. The text is about a young woman named Lenore2 and the story goes that she was recently married, but her husband Wilhelm died suddenly. Lenore then curses Heaven because of her loss of the husband (who died in the Seven Years’ War3). As a result of the curse the soldier returns. Wilhelm writes a letter to her with a greeting from far away Bohemia. He writes he left long after midnight and wants to take her with him. One line goes: “Sieh hin, sieh her! Der Mond scheint hell. Wir und die Toten reiten schnell!”//Look here, look there! The moon shines bright. We and the dead rides fast! The term “die Toten reiten schnell” was used by Bram Stoker in Dracula (1897) as a short reference.

Lenore and Wilhelm rides to their marriage bed.
At midnight, a mysterious stranger who looks like Wilhelm knocks on the door searching for Lenore and asks her to accompany him on horseback to their marriage bed. Lenore happily gets on the stranger’s black steed and the two ride at a frenetic pace, under the moonlight, along a path filled with eerie landscapes. Terrorised, Lenore demands to know why they are riding so fast, to which he responds that they are doing so because “the dead travel fast” (“die Todten reiten schnell”). Lenore asks Wilhelm to “leave the dead alone” (“Laß sie ruhn, die Todten”).

At sunrise, their journey ends and they arrive at the cemetery’s doors. As the horse goes through the tombstones, the knight begins to lose its human appearance, and is revealed as Death, a skeleton with a scythe and an hourglass. The marriage bed is shown to be the grave where, together with his shattered armour, Wilhelm’s skeleton lies. The ground beneath Lenore’s feet begins to crumble and the spirits, dancing in the moonlight, surround dying Lenore, declaring that “no one is to quarrel with God in Heaven” (“mit Gott im Himmel hadre nicht”). However, Lenore, punished with death, still has hope for forgiveness (“des Leibes bist du ledig/Gott sei der Seele gnädig”).

The Ballad contains some common themes associated with the period; such as the dead rider, the night, the return of the dead. There are also some critique towards established Religion of the time visible in Lenore’s loose faith in God. Take notice on how the dialogue between Lenore and her mother is presented. The mother is more conservative and stricter with religious matters. Some research has been done concerning the ballad. In the work Sensus communis: contemporary trends in comparative literature (1986) Peter Boerner address some issues in the text “Bürger’s Ballad Lenore in Germany, France and England”. Boerner stresses the folk-lore connections visible and the fact that the story has various endings though mostly fatal. In one version Lenore is saved by the crowing of a cock, but in most of the stories she perishes.

 Lenore in Stoker’s Dracula (1897)

Abraham “Bram” Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish author, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned. The story of Dracula is told in epistolary format, as a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and ships’ log entries, whose narrators are the novel’s protagonists, and occasionally supplemented with newspaper clippings relating events not directly witnessed. The events portrayed in the novel take place chronologically and largely in England and Transylvania during the 1890s and all transpire within the same year between the 3rd of May and the 6th of November. A short note is located at the end of the final chapter written 7 years after the events outlined in the novel.

The main charachters in Dracula

Most people know the contents of the novel but may want to repeat the main charachters and their functions:

  • Jonathan Harker: A solicitor sent to do business with Count Dracula; Mina’s fiancé and prisoner in Dracula’s castle.
  • Count Dracula: A Transylvanian noble who has purchased a house in London.
  • Wilhelmina “Mina” Harker (née Murray): A schoolteacher and Jonathan Harker’s fiancée (later his wife).
  • Lucy Westenra: A 19-year-old aristocrat; Mina’s best friend; Arthur’s fiancée and Dracula’s first victim.
  • Arthur Holmwood: Lucy’s suitor and later fiancé. He inherits the title of Lord Godalming upon his father’s death.
  • John Seward: A doctor; one of Lucy’s suitors and a former student of Van Helsing.
  • Abraham Van Helsing: A Dutch doctor, lawyer and professor; John Seward’s teacher.
  • Quincey Morris: An American cowboy and explorer; and one of Lucy’s suitors.
  • Renfield: A patient at Seward’s insane asylum who has come under the influence of Dracula.
  • “Weird Sisters”: Three siren-like vampire women who serve Dracula. In some of the plays, films etc. that came after the novel they are referred to as the Brides of Dracula.

Jonathan Harker encounters Dracula for the first time

I copy-paste from wikisource’s edition of Dracula, taken from the first chapter where the reference to Bürger’s ballad can be found. In this section of the chapter Jonathan Harker travels with some Romanians to be taken to a remote place in the forest where he’ll be waiting for another carriage; and to be taken to Dracula’s Castle. Notice the official language spoken between the charachters is German. His new driver is most likely Dracula himself:

There is no carriage here. The Herr is not expected after all. He will now come on to Bukovina, and return tomorrow or the next day; better the next day.” Whilst he was speaking the horses began to neigh and snort and plunge wildly, so that the driver had to hold them up. Then, amongst a chorus of screams from the peasants and a universal crossing of themselves, a calèche, with four horses, drove up behind us, overtook us, and drew up beside the coach. I could see from the flash of our lamps, as the rays fell on them, that the horses were coal-black and splendid animals. They were driven by a tall man, with a long brown beard and a great black hat, which seemed to hide his face from us. I could only see the gleam of a pair of very bright eyes, which seemed red in the lamplight, as he turned to us. He said to the driver:—

“You are early to-night, my friend.” The man stammered in reply:—

“The English Herr was in a hurry,” to which the stranger replied:—

“That is why, I suppose, you wished him to go on to Bukovina. You cannot deceive me, my friend; I know too much, and my horses are swift.” As he spoke he smiled, and the lamplight fell on a hard-looking mouth, with very red lips and sharp-looking teeth, as white as ivory. One of my companions whispered to another the line from Burger’s “Lenore”:—

“Denn die Todten reiten schnell”—
(“For the dead travel fast.”)

The strange driver evidently heard the words, for he looked up with a gleaming smile. The passenger turned his face away, at the same time putting out his two fingers and crossing himself. “Give me the Herr’s luggage,” said the driver; and with exceeding alacrity my bags were handed out and put in the calèche. Then I descended from the side of the coach, as the calèche was close alongside, the driver helping me with a hand which caught my arm in a grip of steel; his strength must have been prodigious. Without a word he shook his reins, the horses turned, and we swept into the darkness of the Pass. As I looked back I saw the steam from the horses of the coach by the light of the lamps, and projected against it the figures of my late companions crossing themselves. Then the driver cracked his whip and called to his horses, and off they swept on their way to Bukovina. As they sank into the darkness I felt a strange chill, and a lonely feeling came over me; but a cloak was thrown over my shoulders, and a rug across my knees, and the driver said in excellent German:—

“The night is chill, mein Herr, and my master the Count bade me take all care of you. There is a flask of slivovitz (the plum brandy of the country) underneath the seat, if you should require it.” I did not take any, but it was a comfort to know it was there all the same. I felt a little strangely, and not a little frightened. I think had there been any alternative I should have taken it, instead of prosecuting that unknown night journey. The carriage went at a hard pace straight along, then we made a complete turn and went along another straight road. It seemed to me that we were simply going over and over the same ground again; and so I took note of some salient point, and found that this was so. I would have liked to have asked the driver what this all meant, but I really feared to do so, for I thought that, placed as I was, any protest would have had no effect in case there had been an intention to delay. By-and-by, however, as I was curious to know how time was passing, I struck a match, and by its flame looked at my watch; it was within a few minutes of midnight. This gave me a sort of shock, for I suppose the general superstition about midnight was increased by my recent experiences. I waited with a sick feeling of suspense.


Dracula – Full text of Bram Stoker’s novel available through wikisource.

Lenore – From

Rosetti’s translation of “Lenore” – English

Scholz, Bernhard, János Riesz, Peter Boerner, and Henry Remak. 1986. Sensus communis: contemporary trends in comparative literature. Tübingen: Narr. [various entries]

  1. “During the last quarter of the eighteenth century and up to the nineteenth, Lenore was widely read in all those nations of Europe where the Romantic movement reigned. Comparable in popularity only to Werther, Childe Harold or Réne.” (Boerner 1986, p. 305) 
  2. Sometimes spelled Leonore, Leonora, Elenora depending on translation. 
  3. The Seven Years’ War was a war fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved every European great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by the Kingdom of Great Britain (inc. Prussia, Portugal, Hanover, and other small German states) on one side and the Kingdom of France (inc. Austria-led Holy Roman Empire, Russia, Spain, and Sweden) on the other. Meanwhile, in India, the Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal. 

“Rosemounde” : A poem by Geoffrey Chaucer

Context: GEOFFREY CHAUCER (ca. 1340—1400) is the undisputed father of English poetry. Chaucer wrote in continental accentual-syllabic meter, a style which had developed since around the 12th century as an alternative to the alliterative Anglo-Saxon metre. A man of affairs as well as literature, he served as a diplomat and customs officer; when he died, his burial in Westminster Abbey inaugurated Poets’ Corner. This poem is a love ballad dedicated to a lady named Rosamunde.

Themes: Love, maiden, beauty, courtship. Pay attention to the line “Never was pike so imbued in galantine”; it is an allusion to the 15th-century habit of drenching the fish in sauce.😀 There are also references to the epic Tristan and Isolde. The narrator identifies himself as Tristan. Notice how he signs the Ballad with his own name, sweet.

Madame, you are a shrine of all beauty,
As far encircling as the map of the world.
For you shine as the glorious crystal,
And your round cheeks are like Ruby.

Therewith you are so merry and so jocund,
That at a revel when that I see you dance;
It is an ointment unto my wound,
Though you, to me, do no dalliance.

For though I weep a basin of tears,
Yet may that woe not confound my heart.
Your seemly voice that you so delicately bring forth,
Make my thoughts, in joy and bliss, abound.

So courteously I go, with love bound
That, to myself, I say in my penance,
“Suffer me to love you Rosemounde;
Though you, to me, do no dalliance”.

Never was pike so imbued in galantine
As I in love, am imbued and wounded.
For which I very oft, of myself, deign
That I am true Tristam the Second.

My love may not be cooled nor sunk,
I burn in an amourous pleasance.
Do what you like, I bid you find your thrall
Though you, to me, do no dalliance.

very gently,————//————Chaucer


Chaucher – The father of English Literature

From “the Sonnets to Orpheus”- A poem by Rainer Maria Rilke 

Context: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. He wrote both poetry and lyrical prose. Rilke was born into the Austria-Hungarian Empire and lived his earliest years in Prague. His childhood is described as an unhappy one with estranged relations to both parents. Their marriage was not happy and the father had a failed military career while his mother never recovered from the loss of an infant child. His parents pressured the poetically and artistically talented youth into entering a military academy, which he attended from 1886 until 1891, when he left because of an illness.

From 1892 to 1895 he was tutored for the university entrance exam, which he passed in 1895. Until 1896 he studied literature, art history, and philosophy in Prague and München. In 1897 in Munich, Rainer Maria Rilke met and fell in love with the widely travelled, intellectual woman of letters Lou Andreas-Salomé who once had a “romance” with the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Rilke changed his first name from “René” to “Rainer” at Lou’s urging because she thought that name to be more masculine, forceful, and Germanic. His relationship with this married woman, with whom he undertook two extensive trips to Russia, lasted until 1900. But even after their separation, Lou continued to be Rilke’s most important confidante until the end of his life. Having trained from 1912 to 1913 as a psychoanalyst with Sigmund Freud, she shared her knowledge of psychoanalysis with Rilke.

Rilke died in the arms of his doctor on December 29, 1926 in Schweiz. The leukemia which killed him had been almost reluctantly diagnosed.

Themes: With news of the death of his daughter’s friend, Wera Knoop (1900–1919), Rilke was inspired to create and set to work on Sonnets to Orpheus. In this section of the sonnets (XVI) which I’ve translated myself from German 🙂 ; we encounter friendship and death as major themes.


You, my friend, me alone, because…

We make through words and finger signs

an attempt to claim the world,

maybe its weakest and most horrible parts.

Who will point with the fingers to a smell? –

But from the Powers, which threaten us,

you can feel many…You know the Dead Ones,

and you are afraid of magic spells.

Look, now we must endure it together

Bits and pieces as it was a whole.

You, it will be difficult to help. For all: plant

me not in your heart.

I will grow too fast.

Though, my Lord’s hand will I take and say:

Here. That is Esau in his fur.


Rilke in Switzerland two years before his death in 1926.