1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Rückert, Johann Michael Friedrich

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RÜCKERT, JOHANN MICHAEL FRIEDRICH (1788-1866), German poet, was born at Schweinfurt on the 16th of May 1788, the eldest son of a lawyer. He was educated at the gymnasium of his native place and at the universities of Würzburg and Heidelberg. For some time (1816-17) he worked on the editorial staff of the Morgenblatt at Stuttgart. Nearly the whole of the year 1818 he spent in Rome, and afterwards he lived for several years at Coburg. He was appointed a professor of Oriental languages at the university of Erlangen in 1826, and in 1841 he was called to a similar position in Berlin, where he was also made a privy councillor. In 1849 he resigned his professorship at Berlin, and went to live on his estate Neuses near Coburg. He died on the 31st of January 1866. When Ruckert began his literary career, Germany was engaged in her life-and-death struggle with Napoleon; and in his first volume, Deutsche Gedichte, published in 1814 under the pseudonym “Freimund Raimar,” he gave, particularly in the powerful “Geharnischte Sonette,” vigorous expression to the prevailing sentiment of his countrymen. In 1815-18 appeared Napoleon, eine politische Komödie in drei Stücken (only two parts were published), and in 1817 Der Kranz der Zeit. He issued a collection of poems, Östliche Rosen, in 1822; and in 1834-38 his Gesammelte Gedichte were published in six volumes, a selection from which has passed through many editions. Rückert, who was master of thirty languages, made his mark chiefly as a translator of Oriental poetry and as a writer of poems conceived in the spirit of Oriental masters. Much attention was attracted by a translation of Hariri's Makamen (1826), Nal und Damajanti, an Indian tale (1828), Rostem und Suhrab, eine Heldengeschichte (1838), and Hamasa, oder die ältesten arabischen Volkslieder (1846). Among his original writings dealing with Oriental subjects are Morgenlandische Sagen und Geschichten (1837), Erbauliches und Beschauliches aus dem Morgenland (1836-38), and Brahmanische Erzählungen (1839). The most elaborate of his works is Die Weisheit des Brahmanen, published in six volumes in 1836-39. This last and the Liebesfrühling (1844), a cycle of love-songs, are the best known of all Rückert's productions. In 1843-45 he issued the dramas Saul und David (1843), Herodes der Grosse (1844), Kaiser Heinrich IV. (1845) and Christofero Colombo (1845), all of which are greatly inferior to the work to which he owes his place in German literature. At the time of the Danish war in 1864 he wrote Ein Dutzend Kampflieder für Schleswig-Holstein, which, although published anonymously, produced a considerable impression. After his death, many poetical translations and original poems were found among his papers, and several collections of them were published. Rückert had a splendour of imagination which made Oriental poetry congenial to him, and he has seldom been surpassed in rhythmic skill and metrical ingenuity. There are hardly any lyrical forms which are not represented among his works, and in all of them he wrote with equal ease and grace.

A complete edition of Rückert's poetical works appeared in 12 vols. in 1868-69. Subsequent editions have been edited by L. Laistner (1896), C. Beyer (1896), G. Ellinger (1897). See B. Fortlage, F. Rückert und seine Werke (1867); C. Beyer, Friedrich Rückert, ein biographisches Denkmal (1868), Neue Mitteilungen über Rückert (1873), and Nachgelassene Gedichte Rückerts und neue Beiträge zu dessen Leben und Schriften (1877); R. Boxberger, Rückert-Studien (1878); P. de Lagarde, Erinnerungen an F. Rückert (1886); F. Muncker, Friedrich Rückert (1890); G. Voigt, Rückerts Gedankenlyrik (1891).