Friday, January 6, 2012

Adelbert von Chamisso: 19th Century German Poet who visited the Philippines

Adelbert von Chamisso (1781-1883)

Perhaps one interesting traveler who visited the Philippines in the 19th Century was ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO (1781-1838) A German scientist (botanist) of French ancestry, Chamisso traveled around the world with the Russian ship "Rurik" which docked in Manila Bay in1817. He then made exploration trip to Taal volcano and the Cavite/Laguna area. Chamisso is also a figure in 19th Century German Literature. One of his famous poems "Frauenliebe und-leben" was set into music by Romantic Period composer Robert Schumann. Ferdinand Blumentritt in one of his letters to our national hero José Rizal mentioned Chamisso and his travels to the Philippines.

Blumentritt Letter to Rizal (Excerpt)                                        
                                             Leitmeritz, Bohemia
                                              14 November 1886  
  Very esteemed Sir,
I wished very much to answer at once your letter of 4th instant, 
but I have had to give up this pleasure on account of the pile of official 
matters that have accumulated and for having to take care of my eyes 
at night. I'm glad to know that you are well and have called on the Privy 
Cnuncilor Meyer in Dresden. He must be very busy now because he has 
not written me since the 25th of last month.
You will like Berlin; it is a city that offers an infinity of things to a man 
avid for pleasure as well as to the scholar. The ethnngraphic museum, 
so admirably installed by Bastian, must have aroused your respect. In 
the Royal Library (not in the University Library) there is found a large 
number of old books about the Philippines that the German poet A. von 
Chamisso (born French) bought in Manila and brought to Germany 60 
years ago. Among them is a copy of Morga, which is very rare, and 
one Combes. Have you already called on Virchow and Jagor?...........


Rizal's Reply to Blumentritt (Excerpt)

                                            Jaegerstrasse 71, Berlin
                                             22 November 1886 
  Very esteemed Professor,
I received your letter a week ago, but I could not answer you at once while the Royal Library has not informed me if it has the work of Waitz-Gerland and Wallace. Finally it gave me today Waitz' Anthropology of Primitive Peoples and I hasten to ask you if this is the book I need. It deals only with the unity of the human race, if I am not mistaken. The names of Gerland and Wallace are not mentioned in it. I asked also for the work at the municipal library of Leipzig, but I was told that it did not have any, so that I could not translate the famous chapter. Please give me the exact title so that I can begin soon the translation.
I already sent home the tragedies of Schiller and Andersen's stories for my nephew. I want also to do something for science and the history of my native country. I can do that very well at the Royal Library. I knew already the work that Chamisso brought from the Philippines. I read his poems, his account of his trip, and his adventure with a friar, the only rude man he saw in the Philippines. I agree with the poet and you, esteemed Professor, will soon have the same opinion.........

Illustration of Taal Volcano by Ukrainian artist Ludwig Choris (1795-1828). Choris was part of the "Rurik" crew with Von Chamisso

Another Ludwig Choris illustration of Taal volcano

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