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This article is taken from PN Review 148, Volume 29 Number 2, November - December 2002.

Eckernförde Sean Haldane

Eckernförde is a fishing port and summer resort on the Baltic coast of Schleswig-Holstein, about 65 miles north of Hamburg, 35 south of the Danish border. The name means 'Acorn-firth'. It is in the original 'angle' from which the Angles were displaced by Jutes and migrated to England in the seventh century. On a Saturday afternoon in mid February, pouring with rain and sleet, I arrived after a fivehour drive from Holland, where I had been at the funeral of an uncle, on a pilgrimage to where the poet Wilhelm Lehmann lived from 1923 until his death in 1968.

Lehmann was born in Venezuela in 1882 to German immigrant parents and returned with them to Hamburg in 1885. His father failed in business, embezzled money, returned in 1891 to Central America and died. Lehmann and his younger brother were brought up by their mother, a cultivated but it seems neurotic schoolteacher, at first in a green idyllic garden suburb then in poorer areas of Hamburg. After studying art history, botany, and medicine (then as now, students in Germany were encouraged to take courses in various subjects before choosing a direction), he settled for one of those thorough German doctorates in philology, on the subject of the prefix 'uz' in Old English. At the age of twenty he met Martha Wohlstadt, a woman of thirty five whose 'hair lay like a mighty tower on her head or fell in stiff plaits', became her lover, and married her when ...

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