Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg (1633-1694) considered one of the most noteworthy German-language poets of the seventeenth century, was born into a family of the Protestant nobility in Austria midway through the Thirty Years’ War. Unusually well-educated for a woman of her time, she read widely and learned several languages. After experiencing a spiritual awakening as a young adult, she resolved to devote her life to God, and to glorify God through her writing. Her works include a volume of poetry and three volumes of meditations on the life, suffering, and death of Christ.
Greiffenberg’s devotional sonnets blend technical skill with vivid imagery and intensity of feeling. Her first and best-known book, Geistliche Sonnette, Lieder und Gedichte (Spiritual Sonnets, Songs and Poems), published in 1662, contains 250 sonnets as well as many lyric poems. Her deeply spiritual poetry was noted and admired in the 17th century, but neglected when religious poetry fell out of favour. Since the 1960s, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in her work.
We—Joanne Epp, Sally Ito, and Sarah Klassen—are three poets from Winnipeg, Manitoba who collaborate in translating Greiffenberg’s sonnets and songs in an effort to help revive a forgotten voice and to bring more of her poetry to English-speaking readers.
This web site contains a sampling of our translations from Geistliche Sonette, Lieder und Gedichte. Click “Translations” in the top menu to browse, or choose the “Categories” menu in the sidebar to search by subject.