1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Körner, Karl Theodor

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KÖRNER, KARL THEODOR (1791-1813), German poet and patriot, often called the German “Tyrtaeus,” was born at Dresden on the 23rd of September 1791. His father, Christian Gottfried Körner (1756-1831), a distinguished Saxon jurist, was Schiller's most intimate friend. He was educated at the Kreuzschule in Dresden and entered at the age of seventeen the mining academy at Freiburg in Saxony, where he remained two years. Here he occupied himself less with science than with verse, a collection of which appeared under the title Knospen in 1810. In this year he went to the university of Leipzig, in order to study law; but he became involved in a serious conflict with the police and was obliged to continue his studies in Berlin. In August 1811 Körner went to Vienna, where he devoted himself entirely to literary pursuits; he became engaged to the actress Antonie Adamberger, and, after the success of several plays produced in 1812, he was appointed poet to the Hofburgtheater. When the German nation rose against the French yoke, in 1813, Körner gave up all his prospects at Vienna and joined Lützow's famous corps of volunteers at Breslau. On his march to Leipzig he passed through Dresden, where he issued his spirited Aufruf an die Sachsen, in which he called upon his countrymen to rise against their oppressors. He became lieutenant towards the end of April, and took part in a skirmish at Kitzen near Leipzig on the 7th of June, when he was severely wounded. After being nursed by friends at Leipzig and Carlsbad, he rejoined his corps and fell in an engagement outside a wood near Gadebusch in Mecklenburg on the 26th of August 1813. He was buried by his comrades under an oak close to the village of Wöbbelin, where there is a monument to him.

The abiding interest in Körner is patriotic and political rather than literary. His fame as a poet rests upon his patriotic lyrics, which were published by his father under the title Leier und Schwert in 1814. These songs, which fired the poet's comrades to deeds of heroism in 1813, bear eloquent testimony to the intensity of the national feeling against Napoleon, but judged as literature they contain more bombast than poetry. Among the best known are “Lützow's wilde verwegene Jagd,” “Gebet während der Schlacht” (set to music by Weber) and “Das Schwertlied.” This last was written immediately before his death, and the last stanza added on the fatal morning. As a dramatist Körner was remarkably prolific, but his comedies hardly touch the level of Kotzebue's and his tragedies, of which the best is Zriny (1814), are rhetorical imitations of Schiller's.

His works have passed through many editions. Among the more recent are: Sämtliche Werke (Stuttgart, 1890), edited by Adolf Stern; by H. Zimmer (2 vols., Leipzig, 1893) and by E. Goetze (Berlin, 1900). The most valuable contributions to our knowledge of the poet have been furnished by E. Peschel, the founder and director of the Körner Museum in Dresden, in Theodor Körners Tagebuch und Kriegslieder, aus dem Jahre 1813 (Freiburg, 1893) and, in conjunction with E. Wildenow, Theodor Körner und die Seinen (Leipzig, 1898).