Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Although Joseph von Eichendorff’s reputation is based almost exclusively on the lyrical talents which both his poetry and novellas attest, his poems themselves compose but a small portion of his entire literary production. Epic poems such as “Robert Guiscard” and “Julian” are included among his more eloquent lyrical poems. His first prose work and the first of his two full-length novels, Ahnung und Gegenwart (1815; presentiment and the present), contains fifty poems which reinforce an already impressionistic, lyrical style. His second novel, Dichter und ihre Gesellen (1834; the word Gesellen is ambiguous: The title means both “poets and their companions” and “poets and their apprentices”), is more tightly constructed and reveals a writer somewhat less conditioned by his proclivities toward poetry. His nine novellas, highlighted by Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (1826; Memoirs of a Good-for-Nothing, 1866) and Das Marmorbild (1819; The Marble Statue, 1927), do not belie the lyricist and are strewn with some of Eichendorff’s most appealing and musical verses. The strength of his narrative work lies not in plot but in allegorical content, landscape descriptions, dream content, and poetic language. Eichendorff’s attempts at drama include Krieg den Philistern (published 1824; war on the Philistines), the comedy Die Freier (pb. 1833; the suitors), historical plays such as Der letzte Held von Marienburg (pb. 1830; the last hero of Marienburg), and a dramatic fairy tale. Among his translations are one-act religious dramas of Pedro Calderón de la Barca, some of the farces of Miguel de Cervantes, and Don Juan Manuel’s Conde Lucanor (1335). Eichendorff is recognized also for his accomplishments a a critical historian of German literature and Romanticism, particularly in Geschichte der poetischen Literatur Deutschlands (1857; history of the poetic literature of Germany). He also wrote numerous treatises on history, politics, and religion.