Karl Marx Wrote Sappy Poetry As A Teen
Karl Marx, big daddy of communism and bane of the bourgeoisie, started out writing stuff that was a lot more gooey than what we remember him for. That's because long before he wanted the workers of the world to unite, he had a much more intimate union in mind -- one he wrote about a great deal more than ideology.
At 18, Marx joined the Poets' Club at his university. (The first rule of Poets' Club: Only talk about Poets' Club in iambic pentameter.) Of course, one of the main requirements to join any kind of teenage poetry society is to have a mad crush on someone. For Marx, this someone was Jenny Von Westphalen, daughter of a prominent Prussian baron. And to woo this noble lady, the middle-class Marx spent half a year penning what is surely his most famous manifesto: three moody volumes of poetry, all dedicated to Jenny.
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These works, titled Book Of Love Part I, Book Of Love Part 2, and the combo breaker Book Of Song, are cover-to-cover melodramatic teenage declarations of capital-R Romantic love which are like what every emo teenager scribbles after reading three Shakespeare sonnets. Take this example, deceivingly called "Concluding Sonnets To Jenny" (there were so many more):
So high the Soul's illusions aspire,
O'er me you stand magnificent;
'Tis but your tears that I desire,
And that my songs you only enjoyed
Or how about the ending to this tree-killing entry, simply called "To Jenny":
Truly, I would write it down as a refrain,
For the coming centuries to see -
LOVE IS JENNY, JENNY IS LOVE'S NAME.
Or this surprisingly self-aware poem, also called "To Jenny":
Jenny! Teasingly you may inquire
Why my songs "To Jenny" I address,
When for you alone my pulse beats higher,
When my songs for you alone despair,
When you only can their heart inspire,
When your name each syllable must confess,
When you lend each note melodiousness,
When no breath would stray from the Goddess?
Of course, not all poems just had Jenny in the title. Others were only very, very subtle references to Marx's desire for her, like "Yearning" or "Siren Song." But Jenny wasn't the only thing all of these poems had in common -- they were also terrible. At least, that's what Marx thought later in life, when he "treated his verses very disrespectfully," according to his daughter Laura, and would mock himself for ever having written such ridiculous love odes. But he couldn't deny their success. Jenny fell madly in love with Karl, and they later married, had seven kids, and stayed together for the rest of their lives. Hey, maybe all our literary careers secretly peaked during our middle school emo phases.
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Nobody becomes a success overnight. It takes years of experience, practice, and failure to sculpt even a competent McDonald's night manager, let alone one of the greatest authors to have ever lived.