Lebens-Lauff; Life Path

[This page by Madeleine Brook]


In this poem, Greiffenberg takes an image frequently found in early modern writing: the ship in a storm. Here, she uses the metaphor to express the difficulties that beset the person of faith, a strategy that is given particular poignancy against her own background of religious repression under the Catholic Habsburgs. She imagines herself as a ship battered by a stormy sea that tries to prevent her from reaching her spiritual destination. She is beset on all sides by dangers that threaten to break (the will) of those tools she has at her disposal to keep and confess her faith: her courage, senses, tongue (used here in a play on words: ‘Zünglein’ means both ‘rudder’ and ‘tongue’; l. 5), heart, and eye are given seafaring functions in this hazardous journey. The poem begins with an assertion of steadfast faith in God, her harbour and lode star, in a time of adversity. This steadfastness is maintained only with great difficulty and some of the struggle is with herself (ll. 10-11). The emotional toll the storm of repression takes on her ‘ship’ is clearly evident in the exhausted appeal to God in the final line.