The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Freiligrath, Ferdinand

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FREILIGRATH, frī'lig-rät, Ferdinand, German poet: b. Detmold, 17 June 1810; d. Cannstadt, Würtemberg, 17 March 1876. His father was a teacher. Though apprenticed to a grocer at 15, he continued his studies and published verses in local journals. In 1831-36 he was a banker's clerk in Amsterdam. In 1836-38 he published a literary journal Rheinisches Odeon, became a bookkeper at Berman, but continued writing lyrics, one volume of which he published at Mainz in 1838, and as it proved successful he determined to devote himself entirely to literature. In 1842 he received a small pension from the King of Prussia; but this he retained for only two years, for having embraced views in politics of an advanced liberal stamp which placed him in opposition to the government, he felt bound to resign the benefits of royal favor. At the same time (1844) he published a poem entitled a ‘Confession of Faith’ (Glaubensbekenntnis), in which he became the champion of the political creed he had adopted. In 1848 three other political poems by him: ‘Die Revolution’; ‘Februarklänge’; and ‘Die Todten an die Lebenden,’ saw the light; and the last of these led to his being put on trial for treason. This trial, in which he was acquitted, is memorable for another reason, being the first jury trial ever held in Prussia. From 1851 till 1867 Freiligrath resided in England as manager of the London branch of a Swiss banking establishment. On the failure of the bank a national subscription was got up in his behalf in Germany, and the proceeds of it enabled him to return to private life. The general amnesty of 1868 brought him back to Germany and he celebrated the triumph of 1870 with the very popular ‘Hurrah Germania’ and ‘Die Trompete von Vionville.’ The early poems of Freiligrath are distinguished by a wealth of glowing and highly-colored imagery, and by the prevalence of Oriental scenes and subjects. His political poems are too full of the tones of party warfare to live as poetry; but many of his lyrics seem destined to hold an abiding place in German literature. Germany is also indebted to him for many admirable translations from foreign languages, as from Burns, Tannahill, Moore, Hemans, Shakespeare, Longfellow and Victor Hugo. His works were collected in eight volumes and published at Stuttgart (1870-71). There is a volume of English translations of his select poems edited by his daughter, Mrs. Kroeker (Leipzig 1871). Consult Buchner, ‘Ferdinand Freiligrath, Ein Dichterleben in Briefen’ (Lahr 1881-82); Richter, ‘Freiligrath als Uebersetzer’ (Berlin 1899); Rodenberg, ‘Jugenderinnerungen’ (ib. 1899).