Located aside the outer pathway in Ladywell cemetery, nestled between two larger headstones lies the cruciform edifice of Ida Melos final resting place, inscribed with the words, wife of German Poet Ferdinand Freiligrath.
The grave is replete with historical and cultural links but remains sadly overlooked, aside from infrequent stops on guided history walks.
Ida Melos, was the daughter of Professor Melos of Weimar and described as one of the favourite god children of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, considered as the greatest genius in German history and as an exemplary poet.
She married the leading German political poet of the 19th century, Ferdinand Freiligrath in 1841, much of whose work was inspired by his friendship with German philosopher Karl Marx.
Due to the stormy political landscape of the day his poetry was banned, and he was forced to leave Germany for Belgium and Switzerland and then England.
Like many German exiles he settled in Sydenham as part of the Germanic diaspora.
The friendship with Marx was quite an intense one and reading their correspondence the use of the French term , merde in one letter, humorous translation perhaps, stands out in particular as it is directed at Freiligrath.
One significant musical link that represents a connection to the well known composer Franz Liszt is entitled, O love, as long as love you can,
O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst” a 1829 poem by the 19th-century German writer Ferdinand Freiligrath. Hungarian composer Franz Liszt set the first four stanzas in 1843 as a lied for soprano voice and piano, S. 298, and later adapted it into the famous third of his Liebesträume (Dreams of Love), S. 541. To listen follow the link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcuFcuipln8
He also had a special interest in English and American poetry and was a close friend of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow best known for his 1855 epic poem Song of Hiawatha .
Ferdinand Freiligrath died in Cannstatt , Germany in 1876.
For a fuller biographical account of a remarkable talent this brief piece is a good starting point: http://westjersey.org/ehc/freiligrath.htm
Their daughter Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker d.1904 is also interred in Ladywell cemetery. She was a friend of Eleanor Marx and translated poetry into English as well as adapting Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ for a children’s version.