The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Freiligrath, Ferdinand

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FREILIGRATH, Ferdinand, a German poet, born in Detmold, June 17, 1810. He attended the gymnasium of his native city, and became a mercantile clerk at Soest, Amsterdam, and Barmen. His first productions were published in the Musenalmanach in 1833. He brought out a volume of poems in 1838, which was so favorably received that he gave up his situation, and removed to Darmstadt. In 1842 he received from the king of Prussia a pension of $300, and removed to St. Goar on the Rhine. The liberal party, with whom he was strongly allied in sentiment, being offended at his acceptance of a royal pension, he gave it up in 1844, and in that year his Glaubensbekenntniss (“Confession of Faith”) subjected him to political persecution which drove him abroad. He went to Belgium, to Switzerland, and finally to England, where German merchants gave him employment. In 1848, on the invitation of Longfellow, he had engaged a passage to the United States, when the revolutionary movement in Germany determined him to return to his own country. He settled in Düsseldorf, and by his popular lyrics greatly increased the enthusiasm of the democratic party. His poem Die Todten an die Lebenden (“The Dead to the Living”) subjected him to indictment and prosecution by the government. He was defended by celebrated lawyers, and his trial produced an intense excitement. On his acquittal (Oct. 3, 1848) the poem was in immediate demand, numerous editions were issued, and it was circulated all over Germany. This is said to have been the first instance in Prussia of a jury trial for a political crime. Being still exposed to persecution by the government, Freiligrath returned to London in 1851, and was subjected to many trials until he became connected with the London branch of the bank of Switzerland; but the suspension of this institution in 1866 placed him again in difficulties, from which he was relieved by a national subscription taken up by his friends and admirers in Germany, which placed him in possession of a handsome income. Since 1868 he has resided at Stuttgart. During the Franco-German war he wrote numerous patriotic songs which became popular. His principal works are: Gedichte (Stuttgart, 1838; 31st ed., 1874), Die Revolution (Leipsic, 1848), and Neuere politische und sociale Gedichte (Cologne, 1849). A complete edition of his works in 6 volumes appeared in New York in 1858-'9, and in Stuttgart in 1870. Freiligrath has also been an extensive compiler and translator. Among his most important translations are portions of Shakespeare, Mrs. Hemans, and Tennyson, the whole of Burns, and Longfellow's “Hiawatha.” A selection, by his daughter, from the English translations of his poems was published in the Tauchnitz “Collection of German Authors” (Leipsic, 1869).