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Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff
Born Joseph Karl Benedikt Freiherr (Baron) von Eichendorff
(1788-03-10)10 March 1788
Castle Lubowitz, Ratibor, Upper Silesia, Prussia (now Poland)
Died 26 November 1857(1857-11-26) (aged 69)
Neisse, Upper Silesia, Prussia (now Poland)
Occupation Novelist, Poet, Essayist
Nationality German
Period 19th century
Genre Novellas, Fairytales, Poetry
Literary movement Romanticism
Notable works Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts, Das Marmorbild

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (10 March 1788 – 26 November 1857) was a German poet and novelist of the later German romantic school. Eichendorff is regarded as one of the most important German Romantics and his works have sustained high popularity in Germany from production to the present day.[1]


  • Life 1
  • Occupational life 2
  • Poetic work 3
  • Most famous poem 4
  • Eichendorff’s later work 5
  • Selected publications 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Eichendorff was born in 1788 at Schloß Lubowitz near Ratibor (now Racibórz, Poland) in Upper Silesia, then part of the Kingdom of Prussia. His parents were the Prussian officer Adolf Freiherr von Eichendorff and his wife, Karoline (née 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. From 1813 to 1815 he fought in the Napoleonic Wars as a volunteer in the famous Lützow Corps.

Portrait of Eichendorff after a drawing by Franz Kugler

Occupational life

From 1816, Eichendorff worked in various capacities in the administrative service of the Prussian state. He started with a judicial office in Breslau. In 1821, Eichendorff became school inspector in Danzig, in 1824 Oberpräsidialrat (chief presidential councillor) 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 (now Nysa, Poland), in 1857.

Eichendorff’s whereabouts in Köthen (1855)

Poetic work

Eichendorff's guiding poetic theme was that Man should find happiness in full absorption of the beauties and changing moods of Nature. In later life he also wrote several works of history and criticism of German literature.[2] The lyricism of Eichendorff's poetry is much praised,[2][3] and his poems have been set to music by many composers, including, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hans Pfitzner, Hermann Zilcher, and Alexander Zemlinsky.

Friedrich Nietzsche, an adorer of Eichendorff's poetry

Most famous poem

Eichendorff’s most famous poem all over the world is the following four-lined stanza, titled Wünschelrute:

Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen,
die da träumen fort und fort,
und die Welt hebt an zu singen,
triffst du nur das Zauberwort.[4]

A song sleeps in all things around
Which dream on and on unheard,
And the world breaks out to sound
If you hit the magic word.
           — Translated by Natias Neutert, 1978[5]

Eichendorff’s later work

Eichendorff’s later poetic work is generally cast in narrative form (Julian, 1853; Lucius, 1857), and is tinged with his increasingly clerical views. His translations from the Spanish, Der Graf Lucanor (1845) and Die geistlichen Schauspiele Calderons (2 vols., 1846–53), were prompted by the same tendency.[3] Eichendorff's best known narrative work, Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (English: Of the Life of a Good-For-Nothing) is typical romantic novella, whose main themes are voyage and love. The protagonist leaves his father's mill and becomes a gardener at a Viennese castle where he falls in love with the daughter of the duke. Because she is unattainable he travels to Italy but then returns and learns that she had been adopted by the duke, so nothing stands in the way of a marriage between them.

Grave of Joseph von Eichendorff in Nysa (Neiße), Poland
The poet as a German 10-penny stamp, 1957
Stamp of him from the GDR, 1988
Graves of von Eichendorff and his wife Luise in Neisse (now Nysa, Poland)

Selected publications

  • Die Zauberei im Herbst (1808)
  • Oberschlesische Märchen und Sagen (Upper Silesian fairytales and sagas, 1808–1810)
  • Abschied (1910, translated as Parting/Separation/Farewell/Wrench; also known as O Täler weit, o Höhen from its beginning verse)
  • Ahnung und Gegenwart (1815)
  • Das Marmorbild (The Marble Statue, 1819)
  • Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (Life of a Good-For-Nothing, 1826)
  • Dichter und ihre Gesellen (1833)
  • Viel Lärmen um nichts (1833)
  • Auch ich war in Arkadien (1834 or 1838)
  • Wünschelrute (1835)
  • Die Meerfahrt (1835)
  • Mondnacht (Night of the Moon, published 1837)
  • Das Schloß Dürande (1837)
  • Die Entführung (1839)
  • Die Glücksritter (1841)
  • In Danzig (Dunkle Giebel hohe Fenster) (1842)
  • Über die ethische und religiöse Bedeutung der neuen romantischen Poesie in Deutschland (On the ethical and religious significance of the new romantic poetry in Germany, 1847)
  • Der deutsche Roman des 18. Jahrhunderts in seinem Verhältniss zum Christenthum (The German novel of the 18th century in its relationship to Christianity, 1851)
  • Geschichte der poetischen Literatur Deutschlands (published 1857)
  • Libertas und ihre Freier


Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a former title (translated as Baron), which is now legally a part of the last name. The feminine forms are Freifrau and Freiin.


  1. ^ Purver, Judith (2009). "Eichendorff: Kierkegaard’s Reception of a German Romantic". Kierkegaard and his German Contemporaries, ed. Jon Stewart. Andover: Ashgate: 2. 
  2. ^ a b  
  3. ^ a b  "Eichendorff, Joseph, Baron von".  
  4. ^ Joseph von Eichendorff: Wünschelrute. Gedichte. Hrsg. von Simion, Berlin 1835.
  5. ^ Cf. Natias Neutert: Foolnotes. Smith Gallery, Soho New York 1980, p 5.

External links

  • Works by Joseph von Eichendorff at Project Gutenberg
  • Eichendorff texts online at German Project Gutenberg (German)
  • Works by or about Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff at Internet Archive
  • Works by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Works by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff at Open Library
  • Freiherr von Eichendorff Catholic Encyclopedia article
  • Joseph von Eichendorff Chronology Published by the Goethe Institut
  • Translations of 'Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts' and 'Das Marmorbild'
  • )Night of the Moon(MondnachtEnglish text of
  • Analysis of "Mondnacht" (German)
  • Eichendorff: All poems (German)
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