The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Oehlenschläger, Adam Gottlob
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Oehlenschläger, Adam Gottlob
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OEHLENSCHLÄGER, ė'lĕn-shlā-gĕr, or OEHLENSLÄGER, Adam Gottlob, Danish poet and dramatist: b. Vesterbro, near Copenhagen, 14 Nov. 1779; d. Copenhagen, 20 Jan. 1850. He was son of the organist of the Danish royal palace at Fredericksburg; began to write poetry at nine; attracted the attention of Storm, who assisted in the boy's education; made unsuccessful ventures in commercial life and as a comic actor; and under the patronage of the Oersted brothers (qq.v.) again devoted himself to study and to literature. Strongly imbued with the spirit of the Old Norse sagas and with modern German romanticism, his first published poems, ‘Digte’ (1803); ‘Tors Reise til Jotunhejm’; ‘Vaulundurs Saga’ and ‘Aladdin, eller den forunderlige Lampe,’ gained him a national reputation at 26 and won from the government a pension for foreign travel. In Halle, where he lived with Steffens, he wrote the great historical tragedy, ‘Hakon Jarl’; and upon his return to Denmark was elected professor of aesthetics in the University of Copenhagen (1810). His best work was done by 1830, the later volumes being far below the average. Oehlenschläger is the great national poet of Denmark, a leader of the romantic movement, who did much for renewed interest in early Teutonic and Norse literature and legend and who was spiritually akin with the English romanticists of the first half of the 19th century. It is perhaps as a dramatist that he is of most importance in Danish literature, though his dramas show more strongly epic and lyrical qualities than dramatic. This however is a general characteristic of the Romantic movement of this period. They are important on account of their really national spirit and the fact that most of them have for their themes the popular sagas and folktales of the Norse countries to which Oehlenschläger's work gave a new life and a peculiar interest which has continued to grow since his day. Oehlenschläger's ‘Aladdin’ is accessible to the English reader in the excellent version by Sir Theodore Martin (1863). His other important works include ‘Correggio,’ a tragedy written in German (1809) — it is to be noted that Oehlenschläger himself translated all his works into German — a Norse romantic cycle ‘Helge’ (1814); another Oriental theme, ‘Ali og Gulhyndi’; the tragedy ‘Stärkodder’ (1812); the poetic cycle ‘Frederiksberg’ (1817); the tremendous epic ‘Nordens Guder’ (1819), to which ‘Hakon,’ ‘Baldur’ and ‘Tors Reise’ paved the way; ‘Erik og Abel,’ a tragedy (1820); and ‘Dina’ (1842), almost the only one of his late works with a gleam of the old fire. See Axel and Valborg; Hakon Jarl.
Bibliography. — Arentzen, K. A. E., ‘Baggesen og O.’ (8 vols., Copenhagen 1870-78) and his ‘Biography of Oehlenschläger’ (Copenhagen 1879); Andersen, Wilhelm, ‘Oehlenschläger, et Livs Poesi’ (3 vols., Copenhagen 1899-1900); Brandes, George, ‘Gesamelte Schriften’ (Vol. II, Munich 1902); Nielsen, Rasmus, ‘Biography of Oehlenschläger’ (Copenhagen 1879); Oehlenschläger, A. G., ‘Meine Lebenserinnerungen’ (4 vols., Leipzig 1850); Sergel, Albert, ‘Adam Oehlenschläger in seinen persönlichen Beziehungen zu Goethe, Tieck und Hebbel, nebst einer Oehlenschläger-bibliographie’ (Rostock 1907). Several of these have been translated into English.