Joseph von Eichendorff Critical Essays


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Despite the fact that Joseph von Eichendorff is routinely classified among the German Romantic writers, his affiliation with them is primarily a superficial one. The idyllic nature descriptions, the wandering musicians and students, the nostalgic glance toward home and the glorious past, the veneration of the beloved, and an obvious acquaintance with the religious dogma of Catholicism play such a large role in his work that the temptation arises to accept such a generally accepted label without further question. Unlike many Romantics, however, Eichendorff demonstrated no utter abandonment to an introverted psyche but manifested instead a surrender to a specific, sharply focused ideal beyond the self and repeatedly warned against the perils of subjective self-indulgence. The wandering that is done so frequently in Eichendorff’s work is not an aimless roaming, as it might at first appear, but a deliberately chosen pilgrimage to God. When Romanticism failed, in Eichendorff’s eyes, to keep its promise to restore man’s broken relationship with God, it ceased to have validity for the poet.

Eichendorff’s poetry and his religious faith were one. Even a random reading of his verses should discourage any attempt to separate the two, despite the fact that his explicitly geistliche Gedichte (spiritual poems) do not make up the bulk of his poetic production and represent by no means his masterpieces. Eichendorff himself emphasized in his treatises on...

(The entire section is 539 words.)