The Suabian Poets
The Realistic Novelists
Socialism In Literature
Read More Articles About: German Literature
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Some of the later German novelists, following the French example, have cultivated the short story. Probably the most successful of these is Paul Heyse, who has, however, also written "purpose" novels, that is, novels in-tended to present a social problem of the times, or to urge a reform. Heyse is a man of high culture, a poet of considerable ability both in lyrics and in the minor epic, and a dramatist of no mean repute. He was born at Berlin in 1830, the son of an eminent scholar. He studied at the University of that city, and afterward at Bonn, devoting himself chiefly to the Romance languages. His earliest works were poems and dramas, and while he has never abandoned these departments, he has later given more attention to prose fiction. His short stories are picturesque, dreamy and melancholy, sentimental and sometimes dangerously sensuous. His "purpose" novels, "Children of the World" (1870) and "In Paradise" (1875), have given him widest fame. They are strongly individualistic, asserting the right of every person t0 seek happiness as he pleases in spite of conventional regulations and religious restraints. Self-culture is made the aim of life. The earlier novel, while somewhat philosophical, is more pleasing, involves a charming love experience and has a happy ending. The later is more in the spirit of Omar Khayyam. Both abound in poetical passages. Of Heyse's dramas the best are the "Sabine Women" (1859) and "Hans Lange." His chief epic is "Thekla." Both Italian and French influences are strongly manifest in his work, and yet he remains German in the spirit of Goethe.
In the latter part of the Century there has been a certain revival of the Romantic spirit, free from the wild disregard of the natural seen in the early Romanticists. No better example can be found than the works, both prose and verse, of Count Joseph Victor von Scheffel (1826-1886). He was born at Carlsruhe, Baden, and. was educated in law at Heidelberg and Berlin. He was for a time in government employ and afterward lived at Weimar, but spent his last twenty years chiefly in his native city. In 1853 while in Italy he composed his romantic epic "The Trumpeter of Sackingen," which has become a favorite classic. It relates how Werner, who had been a student at Heidelberg, became trumpeter to the Baron von Schönau. Being wounded in a riot, he is tenderly nursed by the Baron's daughter, Margaretha, who is already in love with him. The Baron refuses his consent to their marriage and Werner bids farewell to Sackingen. But his skill in music enables him to become chapel-master to Pope Innocent, and thus finally to obtain the fair Margaretha's hand. The Baron's tobacco-pipe and his cat Hiddigeigei are prominent features of the quaintly humorous poem. The romance "Ekkehard" (1855) is a fine reconstruction of medioeval history. It includes a German version of the Latin poem of "Walter of the Strong Hand," attributed to Ekkehard, a monk of St. Gall in the Tenth Century. Another of Scheffel's novels is "Juniperus, the History of a Crusader" (1883). His collection of poems "Frau Adventiure, Songs of the Time of Heinrich von Ofterdingen" is an echo of the old Minnesingers. His "Gaudeamus, Songs from Far and Near" are marked with genial humor.
In contemporary German poetry the most prominent figure is Baron Detlev von Liliencron, born at Kiel in Holstein in 1844. In spite of his Danish birth he has been a firm adherent of Prussia, in whose army he fought through both the Austrian War of 1866 and the French War of 1870. He was wounded in both campaigns. His first small volume of poems "The Rides of the Adjutant" appeared in 1883. He has published a comic epic "Poggfred" and two volumes of poems, "Kampf und Spiele" (Conflict and Play) and "Kämpfe und Ziele" (Struggles and Goals). His North German moorland pictures have a peculiar charm. He is best as a writer of ballads, and has shown in striking verse the terrible tragedy of war. His poems "Who Knows Where?" and "In Remembrance" are full of true pathos.
The work and story of Joanna Ambrosius have called forth special interest. This daughter of a poor laborer was born in miserable circumstances in a little village in East Prussia, and early, while occupied with the drudgery of household toil, had charge of an invalid mother. At the age of twenty she married a field laborer named Voigt. Two children increased her cares, but love of them seems to have awakened the poetry slumbering in her soul. This humble woman began to compose poems. Professor Karl Weiss-Schrattenthal, who had discovered her merits in her obscurity, aroused not only national but international astonishment by reporting her case in 1894. She deals with simple peasant life, singing from the heart songs of consolation. In spite of the weariness of toil she finds in the love of her children a spiritual happiness. "Believe in pain and anguish," cries this daughter of the soil, "thy Father means it well."