1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Platen-Hallermund, August, Graf von

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 21
Platen-Hallermund, August, Graf von

PLATEN-HALLERMUND, AUGUST, Graf von (1796-1835), German poet and dramatist, was born on the 24th of October 1796 at Ansbach, the son of the Oberforstmeister in the little principality of that name. The latter, together with other Franconian principalities, having shortly after his birth become incorporated with Bavaria, he entered the school of cadets (Kadettenhaus) in Munich, where he showed early promise of poetical talent. In 1810 he passed into the royal school of pages (königliche Pagerie), and in 1814 was appointed lieutenant in the regiment of Bavarian life-guards. With it he took part in the short campaign in France of 1815, being in bivouac for several months near Mannheim and in the department of the Yonne. He saw no fighting, however, and returned home with his regiment towards the close of the same year. Possessed of an intense desire for study, and finding garrison life distasteful and irksome, he obtained a long leave of absence, and after a tour in Switzerland and the Bavarian Alps, entered the university of Würzburg in 1818 as a student of philosophy and philology. In the following year he migrated to that of Erlangen, where he sat at the feet of F. W. J. von Schelling, and became one of his most enthusiastic admirers. As a result of his Oriental studies he published a little volume of poems—Ghaselen (1821), each consisting of ten to twenty verses, in which he imitates the style of Rückert; Lyrische Blätter (1821); Spiegel der Hasis (1822); Vermischte Schriften (1822); and Neue Ghaselen (1823). These productions attracted the attention of eminent men of letters, among them Goethe, both by reason of their contents, which breathe the spirit of the East, and also of the purity and elegance of their form and diction. Though he was at first influenced by the school of Romanticism, and particularly by Spanish models, yet the plays written during his university life at Erlangen, Der gläserne Pantoffel, Der Schatz des Rhampsinit, Berengar, Treue um Treue, Der Turm mit sieben Pforten, show a clearness of plot and expression foreign to the Romantic style. His antagonism to the literature of his day became more and more pronounced, and he vented his indignation at the want of art shown by the later Romanticists, the inanity of the lyricists, and the bad taste of the so-called fate tragedies (Schicksalstragödien), in the witty “Aristophanic” comedies Die verhängnisvolle Gabel (1826) and Der romantische Oedipus (1828).

The want of interest, amounting even to hostility, with which Platen’s enthusiasm for the purity and dignity of poetry was received in many literary circles in Germany increased the poet’s indignation and disgust. In 1826 he visited Italy, which he henceforth made his home, living at Florence, Rome and Naples. His means were slender, but, though frequently necessitous, he felt happy in the life he had chosen, that of a “wandering rhapsodist.” Der romantische Oedipus earned for him the bitter enmity of Karl Immermann and Heinrich Heine, and in the literary feud which ensued Heine launched the most baseless calumnies at the poet, which had the effect of prejudicing public opinion against him. But he retained many stanch admirers, who delighted in the purity of the subject matter of his productions and their beauty of form and diction. In Naples, where he formed the friendship of August Kopisch, the poet and painter, were written his last drama Die Liga von Cambrai (1833) and the delightful epic fairy-tale Die Abbassiden (1830; 1834), besides numerous lyrical poems, odes and ballads. He also essayed historical work in a fragment, Geschichten des Königreichs Neapel (1838), without, however, achieving any marked success. In 1832 his father died, and after an absence of eight years Platen returned to Germany for a while, and in the winter of 1832–1833 lived at Munich, where he revised the first complete edition of his poems, Gedichte (1833). In the summer of 1834 he returned to Italy, and, after living in Florence and Naples, proceeded in 1835 to Sicily. Dread of the cholera, which was at that time very prevalent, induced him to move from place to place, and in November of that year he was taken ill at Syracuse, where he died on the 5th of December 1835. Like Heine himself, Platen failed in the drama, but his odes and sonnets, to which must be added his Polenlieder (1831), in which he gives vent to his warm sympathy for the Poles in their rising against the rule of the Tsar, are in language and metre so artistically finished as to rank among the best classical poems of modern times.

Platen’s Gesammelte Werke were first published in one volume in 1839 and have been frequently reprinted; a convenient edition is that edited by K. Goedeke in Cotta’s Bibliothek der Weltliteratur (4 vols., 1882). His Tagebuch (1796–1825), was published in its entirety by G. von Laubmann and L. von Scheffler (2 vols., 1896–1900). See J. Minckwitz, Graf Platen als Mensch und Dichter (1838); P Besson, Platen, étude biographique et littéraire (1894); O. Greulich, Platens Literaturkomödien (1901); A. Fries, Platen-Forschungen (1903); and R. Unger, Platen in seinem Verhältnis zu Goethe (1903).