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German Literature:
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The Suabian Poets

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

As an offshoot from the Romantic School there arose a group which has been called the Suabian School, its modest leader being Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862). He was born at Tübingen, and after studying law, became a professor of literature in the university of his native town. His has been called the Classic of Romanticism, to denote that while affected by the Romantic spirit, he returned to the moderation of the Classic School. No frightful phantasms or shadowy monsters appear in his ballads. His figures are usually simple, poetic types of German nationality, children of the Black Forest, fair shepherds, and mountain boys. To the experiences of common life he imparts a warm imaginative coloring. In his poems of the Middle Ages there is the same natural beauty, far apart from the mystical and supernatural favored by the extreme Romanticists. His heroes of early times possess the genuine German nature, strong, brave, good humored, patient, faithful. Next to Schiller, he is the most popular of all the German poets. Several of his poems have been translated by Longfellow, with whose genius Uhland had much in common. Among these are "The Luck of Edenhall," "The Passage," "The Castle by the Sea," "The Black Knight." Another of Uhland's best poems is "The Minstrel's Curse."

Other poets of this school are Gustav Schwab (1792-1850), inferior to Uhland in feeling; and Justinus Kerner (1786-1862), who was still inclined to the supernatural and morbid. Kerner's best poems are "Kaiser Rudolf's Ride to the Grave" and "The Richest Prince." Karl Lebrecht Immermann (1796-1840) was one of those poets who started under the influence of the Romanticists and then diverged. Born at Magdeburg, he left the University of Halle to take part in the war against Napoleon. He fought at Waterloo and entered Paris under Blücher. Returning to Halle, he opposed political agitation among the students. He completed his law studies and entered the Prussian service, and became a judge. In 1826 he settled at Düsseldorf, and here became a theater director, noted for his perfect taste. He was now a follower of Goethe, who had approved his early poems. His first romance, "The Epigoni" (The After-born) (1835), holds the mirror up to his own age as degenerated from the virtues of its predecessors. Another of his dramas had Andrew Hofer, the patriot of the Tyrol, as its hero. But his chief work is his romance, "Münchhausen, a Story in Arabesques" (1839), a love-story of peasant life, in which are introduced the marvelous tales of the hero's grandfather. His Platonic literary affection for the Countess of Ahlfeldt had considerable influence on his work. In 1839 he married another lady and wrote a lave epic on "Tristan and Isolde." A volume of memoirs was left unfinished.

August Heinrich Hoffmann (1798-1874), called von Fallersleben, to distinguish him from other literary Hoffmanns, was professor in the University of Breslau until 1842, when his "Unpolitische Lieder" (Unpolitical Songs), which were really political, caused his dismissal. He traveled in various countries until 1848, when he returned to Prussia and received a pension. He was librarian to the Duke of Ratibor from 1860 till his death. His poems were popular, sometimes describing rural life with hearty affection, sometimes full of kindly satire, and some-times representing the political movements of his time. In his song on "German National Wealth," he shows the emigrant carrying to the New World the old parchments, liveries, books of heraldry, tax receipts, and passports, all of inestimable value in the old life. Without them the German will not feel at home.

Nikolaus Lenau is the pseudonym under which Nikolaus Niembsch von Strehlenau (1802-1850) wrote. He has been styled "the German poet of sorrow." This unhappy Austrian poet was a victim not only of melancholy, but of insanity. Its gloom overshadowed his whole life, even before his madness fully declared itself in 1844, on the eve of his contemplated marriage. His yearnings for the release of death had been breathed forth in his poem, "Der Seelen Kranke" (Soul-Sickness). Hoping to find happiness and a brighter inspiration in the New World, he came to Pennsylvania in 1832. But, soon disgusted, he returned to Europe, still under the spell of melancholy, and died in a lunatic asylum. In his "Faust" (1836) he made suicide the goal of free thought; in his "Savonarola" (1837) he denounced modern science; but in "The Albigenses" (1842) he hailed the progress of liberty.

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