Fotograafi luulealbum: Gedichte von Charles Borchardt

A Photographer's Poetry Album: Gedichte von Charles Borchardt


  • Leili Kriis



The poetry album written by the well-known photographer Charles
Borchardt is a remarkable historical source of Baltic German occasional
poetry in terms of its content as well as design. The handwritten,
beautifully bound album has 568 pages numbered by the author, plus
a register. The titles of the chapters and poems are highlighted in calligraphy,
and the poems often end with a vignette. The pages, partially
written in gold, are artistically designed with thematic romantical
(decal) pictures, printed lithographies and a few photos.
The poetry album contains three chapters, it begins with a prologue
and dedication (Prolog und Weihe), the first chapter is titled „The
Soft, Gentle Period“, the most comprehensive chapter is „The Second
Period“ (Zweite Period), and finally „The Third Period“ (Dritte Period),
followed by the „Register“ (Inhalt) and „Annex“ (Anhang).
The first part of the album, as the title highlights, consists mostly
of the author’s romantic occasional poetry and love poems, titled as
follows: „Ceremony of Youth“ (Jugend Feier), „Joy of Love“ (Freude an
Liebe), „Bringer of Joy“ (Die Freundenspenderin), as well as descriptions
of the beauty of nature: „Song of Spring“ (Frühlingslied), „Morning
Song of the Wanderer“ (Wanderers Morgenlied) etc.
The second period starts with poems dedicated to people and
places encountered on the road. Romantic nationalism is evident in
the poems „Greetings from Homeland“ (Heimatgruss), „Czar City“
(Die Czarenstadt) etc. The poems dedicated to his kin deserve some
attention as well: there are poems for his brothers, photographers
Robert (Kunstgefühl) and Ferdinand (Epistel an Ferdinand B), his
wife Olga (An Olga), and poems shedding light on the personal celebrations
of the author’s life („On the Occasion of My 30th Birthday“
[An meinem 30. Geburtstag], „25 March“ [Zum 25. Märtz]).
Sonnets and epic ballades dominate in the third period: „Love and
Grave“ 1–21 (Liebe und Grab), „Songs of Northern Lands“ 1–6 (Nordische
Lieder). Many texts carry a note on when they were publicly
performed, for example, the poem dedicated to the silver wedding anniversary
of artists August Krüger and Caroline K. was „Performed
on 30 August 1866“ (Zur Silber Hochzeit des Künstlerpaares August
Krüger u. Caroline K. Angeführt am 30. August 1866), and the „Prologue
to Silver Wedding Anniversary, „Party“. Performed on 14 March
1868“ (Silberhochzeit “Fest” Prolog) etc.
Borchardt’s poetry album contains pages upon pages of sentimental
poems and cycles of poems driven by love, the beauty of nature
and art. The motivation was often to amuse the public as well. The
album contains salon poetry written for acquaintances or important
people, as well as occasional poetry for performing at celebratory or
community events.
Borchardt’s activity as a photographer allowed him to meet many
remarkable contemporaries. The ladies among them must have had
a greater influence on the author, as is evident from the titles of numerous
poems dedicated to them. The contents of the poetry album
suggest that Charles Borchardt had the romantic „soul of an artist“,
and he was an active member of the society, as well as a remarkable
His main contribution to Estonian cultural history is his photo
series Estonian Types (Eesti tüübid; 1867), but also images of Baltic
German families, pastors, burghers, and views of Tallinn from the
second half of the 19th century. As Borchardt and his direct offspring
passed away young, his personal heritage was left to its fate. Hence, it
is gratifying that his poetry album and photos are preserved in Estonian
memory institutions and available to the public. This allows us
to visually imagine the life, people, landscapes, and sights in the town
of Tallinn in 19th century Estonia. We are also able read about the
thoughts and feelings experienced by Charles Borchardt, the most
well-known lensman in 19th century Estonia.


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