Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff  

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Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (March 10, 1788November 26, 1857) was a German poet and novelist, best-known for his novella Life of a Good-For-Nothing.


Eichendorff was born at Schloß Lubowitz near Ratibor in Upper Silesia. His parents were the Prussian officer Adolf Freiherr von Eichendorf and his wife, Karoline Freiin von Kloche, who came from an aristocratic Roman Catholic family. He studied law in Halle (1805-1806) and Heidelberg (1807-1808). In 1808 he travelled through Europe, visiting Paris and Vienna. In 1810, he returned home to help his father run the family estate. The same year he met Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Achim von Arnim, Clemens Brentano, and Heinrich von Kleist in Berlin. He finished his studies in Vienna in 1812. From 1813 to 1815 he fought in the Napoleonic Wars.

From 1816, Eichendorff worked in various capacities in the administrative service of the Prussian state. In 1821, Eichendorff became school inspector in Danzig, in 1824 Oberpräsidialrat in Königsberg. He moved with his family to Berlin in 1831, where he worked for several ministries, until he retired in 1844. Eichendorff died in Neiße, Upper Silesia, in 1857.

Despite a career of rather mundane officialdom, Eichendorff is considered the greatest of the German Romantic lyric poets. His guiding poetic theme was that Man should find happiness in full absorption of the beauties and changing moods of Nature. He also wrote a history of German literature that was posthumously published. Eichendorff's poetry been set by many composers, including Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss, Friedrich Nietzsche and Hans Pfitzner.

Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts – Eichendorff's masterpiece

English title: Life of a Good-For-Nothing.

A typical romantic novella, voyage and love are the main topics. The protagonist leaves his father's mill and becomes gardener on a Viennese castle and falls in love with the supposed daughter of the duke. Because she is unreacheable for him he travels to Italy but then returns and gets to know that she is just adopted by the duke and nothing stands in the way of a marriage between them.

Important works

  • 1808 – Die Zauberei im Herbst
  • 1808–1810 – Oberschlesische Märchen und Sagen (Upper Silesian fairytales and sagas)
  • 1815 – Ahnung und Gegenwart
  • 1819 – Das Marmorbild (The Marble Statue)
  • 1826 – Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (Life of a Good-For-Nothing)
  • 1833 – Dichter und ihre Gesellen
  • 1833 – Viel Lärmen um nichts
  • 1834 (or 1838) – Auch ich war in Arkadien
  • 1835 – Die Meerfahrt
  • 1837 – Das Schloß Dürande
  • 1839 – Die Entführung
  • 1841 – Die Glücksritter
  • Geschichte der poetischen Literatur Deutschlands (published 1857)
  • Libertas und ihre Freier

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