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Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock

born: 2 July 1724
died: 14 March 1803
country: Germany

Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock was born near Hamburg, and brought up with a sound classical training influenced by Pietistic thought. His enthusiasm for the works of Milton, and in particular Paradise Lost (translated by Bodmer) led to the writing of his acknowledged masterpiece Der Messias, the first part of which appeared in print in the poet's twenty-fourth year and which was eventually translated into seventeen languages. This work quickly won him a huge reputation. He began to write a series of Odes in 1747, a free-verse form he was to pursue all his life. In 1751, at the invitation of the King of Denmark, he moved to Copenhagen, where he lived for twenty years. He met and married Margarethe (Meta) Moller (the 'Cidli' of a number of love poems, two of which Schubert set) in 1754. After experimentation in the fields of patriotic historical drama and religious poetry he returned to Germany where he was influential on the group around the young Goethe at Strasburg University, and even more on the circle of poets known as the 'Göttinger Hainbund'. It has always been a moot point among Germanists whether Klopstock was an innovator, the final flowering of the spirit of the Baroque, or an irrelevant dry-as-dust figure. His later writings include a tract on spelling reform, and works which were first pro, then violently anti, the upheaval of the French Revolution. He was an early enthusiast of Teutonic mythology, and wrote three plays about the early German hero Aminius.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990


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