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Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock

Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock was one of the most celebrated poets in Germany. He wrote poems, odes, plays and theoretical writings on German literature, language and culture. Klopstock revolutionized German poetic language and its function, he introduced free verse into German poetry and instilled religious pathos into poetic representation of friendship, nature, love, leisure, and the nation.

Background

  • Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock was the eldest of seventeen children born into an impoverished Pietist family of attorneys and pastors in Quedlinburg (Saxony-Anhalt). He spent a happy childhood both in his birthplace and on the estate of Friedeburg on the Saale, which his father later rented. He grew up strong and healthy and became an excellent horseman. In his thirteenth year, he returned to Quedlinburg and attended Gymnasium there. In 1739 Klopstock went on to the famous classical school named Schulpforta, where he received a humanistic education. In his school years Klopstock read “Paradise Lost” in Bodmer’s translation and was greatly inspired by the book.

  • Education

    • At the Protestant School of Schulpforta Friedrich Klopstock became an adept in Greek and Latin versification, wrote some meritorious idylls and odes in German as well as drafted the plan of The Messias, on which most of his fame rests. On quitting Schulpforta he delivered a remarkable "leaving oration" on epic poetry.

      In Jena University Friedrich Klopstock elaborated the first three cantos of the Messias in prose. But in spring 1746 having found life at this university uncongenial, he transferred to Leipzig. Here in 1746 he joined the circle of young men of letters who contributed to “The Bremer Beiträge”. In 1748 the first three cantos of “The Messiah” (his most famous poem) in hexameter verse were anonymously published in this periodical.

    Career

    • Soon after he left University he started working as a private tutor in the family of a relative. After two years of service he quited the job and left for Zurich, where he spent nine months. In 1751, he accepted an invitation from the Danish king, Frederick V, who sponsored the completion of "The Messiah". After living in Denmark for almost twenty years, Klopstock resided in Hamburg for the rest of his life. In both the places he published poems, plays, and theoretical writings on German literature, language, and culture.

      Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock became one of the most celebrated poets of his time. He revolutionized German poetic language and its function and introduced free verse into German poetry. Klopstock’s most famous poem is “The Messiah”. His works marked a departure from grammatical and syntactical rules and introduced an innovative, complex style. The pathetic use of inversions, repetitions, neologisms, comparisons, and metaphors infused enthusiasm, passion, and sentiment into the biblical story. Klopstock transformed the culture of religious dogma into an inner world of sensitive experience. In his works Klopstock instilled religious pathos into the poetic representation of friendship, nature, love, leisure, and the nation.

    Works

    • Memoirs of Frederick and Margaret Klopstock
    • The Messiah
    • Fanny
    • Ode to Zurich lake

    Politics

    He was such an avid supporter of the French revolution, that the French Republic sent him a diploma of honorary citizenship. However, horrified by the terrible scenes of the Revolution he returned the Diploma and gradually distanced himself from the fanatical and tyrannical descendants of it.

    Religion

    Denomination: Lutheran

    Personality

    Interests

    Philosophers & Thinkers : Homer, Pindar, Virgil, Horace.

    Writers: John Milton, Jakob Bodmer, Jakob Breitinger.

    Sport & Clubs: horse riding

    Connections

    • father: Gottlieb Heinrich Klopstock - Germany - lawyer, secretary, councilor
    • mother: Anna Maria Schmidt - Germany
    • 1-st wife (1754-1758): Margarethe Moller - Germany - writer
      Klopstock met Margrethe Moller in Hamburg. He loved her immensely and even made her the "Cidli" of his odes. But their happiness was short; she died in 1758, leaving him broken-hearted. His grief at her loss finds pathetic expression in the 15th canto of "The Messiah". The poet subsequently published his wife's writings which give evidence of a tender, sensitive and deeply religious spirit.
    • 2-nd wife (1791-1803): Johanna Elisabeth von Winthem - Germany
      When Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock was 67, he contracted a second marriage with Johanna Elisabeth von Winthem, a widow and a niece of his late wife, who for many years had been one of his most intimate friends.
    • friend: Johann Jakob Bodmer - Switzerland - critic, translator, author, academic, poet
      In his school years Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock read “Paradise Lost” in Bodmer’s translation and was greatly inspired by the book. Because of their similar views on literature Klopstock and Bodmer became friends. In 1750 Friedrich Klopstock accepted Bodmer’s invitation to visit him in Zurich. Here Klopstock was at first treated with every kindness. Bodmer, however, was disappointed to find in the young poet of the Messias a man of strong worldly interests and a coolness sprang up between the two friends.
    Friedrich Klopstock
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    Born July 2, 1724
    Died March 14, 1803
    (aged 78)
    Nationality
    Ethnicity:
    • 1737 - 1739
      Quedlinburg gymnasium
    • 1739 - 1745
      the Protestant School of Schulpforta
    • 1745 - 1746
      Jena University
    • 1746 - 1748
      Leipzig University
    • 1748 - 1750
      private tutor
      Germany, Thuringia, Bad Langensalza

    Contributor  

    Ksenya Voronovitch last changed 17/04/2013 view changes
    • Relatives
      • Margarethe Moller
        • Description
      • Johanna Elisabeth von Winthem
        • Description
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