The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Voss, Johann Heinrich

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VOSS, fŏs, Johann Heinrich, German poet and translator: b. Sommersdorf , near Waren, Mecklenburg, 20 Feb. 1751; d. Heidelberg, 29 March 1826. He early began to write verses and some of these contributed to the ‘Göttingen Musenalmanach’ led to a correspondence with Boie, upon whose invitation be went in 1772 to Göttingen. Here he studied the classical and modern languages and was one of the founders of the Göttinger Dichterbund. The editorship of the ‘Musenalmanach’ was handed over to him by Boie in 1775; in 1778 he was made rector of Otterndorf in Hanover, in 1782 at Eutin. In 1781, after the publication of several treatises, he produced his German ‘Odyssey,’ a work which has rendered this grand poem national with the Germans (new ed. by Bernays, 1881). This has been called “the most perfect rendering of Homer into a modern tongue.” In 1793 appeared his translation of the ‘Iliad,’ and that of the ‘Odyssey,’ in a new form, in which, however, it did not please so much as before, the former displaying greater truth and naturalness. He published in 1795 an idyl in the epic form called ‘Luise’ printed first in 1783, but now produced with improvements. His translation of the whole of ‘Vergil’ (1799) was revised for the edition of 1821. In 1805 he went as professor to Heidelberg, where he remained till his death. Voss rendered good service to the study of classical antiquity and threw fresh light upon many subjects. As a translator he exhibited wonderful command of language and great skill in the handling of metres. Among his translations that of Homer's works is undoubtedly the greatest; we may also mention, in addition to his ‘Vergil,’ his ‘Hesiod’ (1806); ‘Horace’ (1806); ‘Theocritus, Bion and Moschus’ (1808); ‘Aristophanes’ (1821); ‘Tibullus’ (1810); ‘Propertius’ (1830) and selections from ‘Ovid’ (1798). He also undertook, with his sons, a translation of Shakespeare which was completed in nine volumes in 1829, but this translation cannot stand a comparison with Schlegel's. Consult lives by Paulus (1826); by Herbst (1872-76); Prutz, ‘Der Göttinger Dichterbund’ (1841).