Sunday, July 2, 2017

Born Today July 2: Friedrich G. Klopstock


German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock was born on this day in Quedlinburg, in what was then part of the Holy Roman Empire (now part of Germany).  He was the eldest son of a prominent lawyer.  In his youth, reported to be a happy one, he was devoted to physical activity, and by his very early teens had become an expert on horseback.  When he was 13 years of age, he entered the local gymnasium for study and in 1739 matriculated to a boarding school where he excelled in Greek and Latin.  It was at this time that he began write, mostly odes and such, in the German language.  He next turned his pen to writing an epic religious poem in the style of Milton.  What he is principally remembered for today is his epic Der Messias (The Messiah), which he was already working on while at school.  He then decided to go to Jena to study theology, not finding that atmosphere to his liking, he then went to Leipzig.  He fell in with a young circle of young male writers, and contributors to the periodical Bremer Beiträge; it was in this periodical that the first parts of Der Messias was published in 1748.  With German literature enjoying a resurgence in popularity, it was not long before Klopstock got noticed.  This lead to, some time later, an invitation by the king of Denmark Frederick V for Klopstock to settle in Copenhagen with a handsome annuity.  He accepted with the agreement that he would finish Der Messias once settled there.  In the meantime, he had married a woman that had a writing spirit of her own; however she died suddenly, leaving him broken hearted.  Thus the last parts of Der Messias are melancholy to the extreme.  He became personally prone to bouts of grief and sadness for the rest of his life, despite having remarried at the age of 67.  He is credited with giving German poetry of "voice" of it's own outside of what were considered poetic standards of the day, which were based on French verse.  His prose work was principally non-fiction in nature and were principally concerned with the history of German poetry and philology.  He was also an avid correspondant in letters.  Later in life, he developed a keen interest in the revolutionary movements in both France and what would become the United States of America.  Though he spent a good deal of his adult life in Copenhagen, by the time of his death on the 14th of March in 1803, he had relocated back to Germany and settled in Hamburg.  He was 78 years of age.  News of his death sparked national mourning and he given an elaborate funeral, finally being laid to rest next to his first wife in the village of Ottensen.  His work has only been used once for film source material and that came in a film entitled Satana (or Satan), an Italian horror film from the year 1912.  It was developed from Klopstock's poetic works in the style of English poet John Milton.  

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