Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (10 March 1788 – 26 November 1857) was a German poet and novelist of the later German romantic school.
Eichendorff is regarded as one of the most important German Romantics and his works have sustained high popularity in Germany from production to the present day.
Eichendorff was born at Schloß Lubowitz near Ratibor in Upper Silesia in 1788. His parents were the Prussian officer Adolf Freiherr von Eichendorff and his wife, Karoline (née Freiin von Kloche), who came from an aristocratic Roman Catholic family. He studied law in Halle (1805–1806) and Heidelberg (1807–1808). In 1808 he travelled through Europe, visiting Paris and Vienna. In 1810, he returned home to help his father run the family estate. The same year he met Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Achim von Arnim, Clemens Brentano, and Heinrich von Kleist in Berlin. From 1813 to 1815 he fought in the Napoleonic Wars as a volunteer in the famous Lützow Corps.
From 1816, Eichendorff worked in various capacities in the administrative service of the Prussian state. He started with a judicial office in Breslau. In 1821, Eichendorff became school inspector in Danzig, in 1824 Oberpräsidialrat in Königsberg. He moved with his family to Berlin in 1831, where he worked for several ministries, until he retired in 1844. Eichendorff died in Neisse, Upper Silesia, in 1857.
Eichendorff's guiding poetic theme was that Man should find happiness in full absorption of the beauties and changing moods of Nature. In later life he also wrote several works of history and criticism of German literature. The lyricism of Eichendorff's poetry is much praised, and his poems have been set to music by many composers, including Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hans Pfitzner, and Alexander Zemlinsky.
His later poetic work is generally cast in narrative form (Julian, 1853; Lucius, 1857), and is tinged with his increasingly clerical views. His translations from the Spanish, Der Graf Lucanor (1845) and Die geistlichen Schauspiele Calderons (2 vols., 1846–53), were prompted by the same tendency.
Eichendorff's best known work, Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (English: Of the Life of a Good-For-Nothing) is typical romantic novella, whose main themes are voyage and love. The protagonist leaves his father's mill and becomes a gardener at a Viennese castle where he falls in love with the daughter of the duke. Because she is unattainable he travels to Italy but then returns and learns that she had been adopted by the duke, so nothing stands in the way of a marriage between them.
- Die Zauberei im Herbst (1808)
- Oberschlesische Märchen und Sagen (Upper Silesian fairytales and sagas, 1808–1810)
- Abschied (1910, translated as Parting/Separation/Farewell/Wrench; also known as O Täler weit, o Höhen from its beginning verse)
- Ahnung und Gegenwart (1815)
- Das Marmorbild (The Marble Statue, 1819)
- Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (Life of a Good-For-Nothing, 1826)
- Dichter und ihre Gesellen (1833)
- Viel Lärmen um nichts (1833)
- Auch ich war in Arkadien (1834 or 1838)
- Die Meerfahrt (1835)
- Mondnacht (Night of the Moon, published 1837)
- Das Schloß Dürande (1837)
- Die Entführung (1839)
- Die Glücksritter (1841)
- In Danzig (Dunkle Giebel hohe Fenster) (1842)
- Über die ethische und religiöse Bedeutung der neuen romantischen Poesie in Deutschland (On the ethical and religious significance of the new romantic poetry in Germany, 1847)
- Der deutsche Roman des 18. Jahrhunderts in seinem Verhältniss zum Christenthum (The German novel of the 18th century in its relationship to Christianity, 1851)
- Geschichte der poetischen Literatur Deutschlands (published 1857)
- Libertas und ihre Freier
Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a former title (translated as Baron), which is now legally a part of the last name. The female forms are Freifrau and Freiin.
- Works by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff on Open Library at the Internet Archive
- Eichendorff texts online at German Project Gutenberg (German)
- Freiherr von Eichendorff Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Joseph von Eichendorff Chronology Published by the Goethe Institut
- Translations of 'Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts' and 'Das Marmorbild'
- English text of Mondnacht(Night of the Moon)
- Analysis of "Mondnacht" (German)
- Eichendorff: All poems (German)
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