Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Lebrecht Blücher Dreves

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 5
Lebrecht Blücher Dreves

by Nikolaus Scheid


Poet, b. at Hamburg, Germany, 12 September, 1816; d. at Feldkirch, 19 Dec., 1870. The famous Prussian General Blucher was his baptismal sponsor, whence his name. At fifteen he wrote German and Latin poems faultless in rhyme and metre. Four years later he submitted a good-sized volume of poems to the critical judgment of A. von Chamisso and Gustav Schwab, and both expressed favourable opinions. This was followed shortly by another volume entitled "Lyrische Anklange" (Lyrical Melodies), and although these "Melodies" were grafted on the music of his favourites, Chamisso, Uhland, Heine, Rückert, Schwab, and others, they were not devoid of a sweetness all their own. His studies in jurisprudence, prosecuted during the three succeeding years and rewarded by the degree of doctor of laws summâ cum laude, failed to extinguish the love of his favourite study of poetry. Another volume, entitled "Vigilien" (Vigils), fulfilled the earlier promises of this child-phenomenon. About this time, however, the seamy side of life presented itself to him, trouble growing apace with financial difficulties in the young lawyer's family. Hitherto, although a strict Protestant, his entire religion had been summed up in the word poetry. Impending poverty destroyed this rather roseate view. His mental and bodily troubles, however, were more or less dissipated by his reception into the Catholic church on Candlemas Day, 1846. A subsequent appointment as notary raised him above immediate want. It was during these darker periods that he was most prolific as an author. In 1843 he had already published anonymously a third volume of poems "Schlichte Lieder" (Unpretentious Songs) embodying his battle-songs, "Lieder eines Hanseaten". Previous to this, when unhampered by the dread of poverty, he had written (1868) the two-act comedy "Der Lebensretter" (The Life-Saver) inscribing it: "A manuscript printed for (improvised) private theatricals".

The change of view involved in his conversion brought him two advantages, a loftier conception of his literary work and an enlarged circle of friends. His "Lieder der Kirche" (Church Hymns) paved his way to becoming a model translator of hymns (2d ed., 1868). He also dedicated his virile pen to the cause of religion in his native town by writing a "History of the Catholic Congregations in Hamburg and Altona". He likewise translated the "Nachtigallenlied" by the Pseudo-Bonaventura and St. Rembert's life of St. Ansgar, Apostle of the North. He undertook the thankless task of editing (1867) the important sources of the history of his native city in the "Annuae Missionis Hamburgensis 1589-1781". About this time he revised and republished his own poetical works. This work was made easy for him by the advice and aid of the poet von Eichendorff who had become his warm friend. Meantime he had become the father of a happy family, and to secure for his promising son a good education he determined to remove to Feldkirch in the Vorarlberg. To compensate for the loss of his friend von Eichendorff he gained a new one, the poet Father Gall Morel. The most distinguished of his children is his son, Dr. G. Dreves, editor of the "Analecta hymnica medii aevi", a vast collection of medieval hymnology, which has already reached its fiftieth volume.

N. SCHEID