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August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben

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August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben

August Heinrich Hoffmann, who used Hoffmann von Fallersleben as his pen name, was a German poet. He was born in Fallersleben (today Wolfsburg), Brunswick-Lüneburg, Holy Roman Empire, on April 2, 1798 and died in Corvey, Germany, on January 19, 1874. Today, he is best known for writing "Das Lied der Deutschen", which is now the national anthem of Germany, and a number of popular children's songs.

The son of a merchant and Mayor of Fallersleben, he was educated at the classical schools of Helmstedt and Braunschweig, and afterwards at the universities of Göttingen and Bonn. His original intention was to study theology, but he soon devoted himself entirely to literature. In 1823 he was appointed custodian of the university library at Breslau, a post which he held till 1838. He was also made extraordinary professor of the German language and literature at that university in 1830, and ordinary professor in 1835 but he was deprived of his chair in 1842 in consequence of his Unpolitische Lieder (1840-1841, "Unpolitical Songs"), which gave much offence to the authorities in Prussia.

He spent some time in exile on the North Sea island of Helgoland, where he penned the words to "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles." The text expresses the pan-German sentiments common in revolutionary republicans of the period and were highly inflammatory in the princedoms of the German-speaking world. The phrase über alles referred, not, as was later thought, to militant ideas of conquest and victory, but to the need for loyalty to Germany to replace all other loyalties in the hearts of the Germans themselves. This sentiment was, of course, considered high treason.

During his exile, he traveled in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and lived for two or three years in Mecklenburg, of which he became a naturalized citizen. After the revolution of 1848 he was enabled to return to Prussia, where he was restored to his rights, and received the salary attached to a promised office not yet vacant. He married in 1849, and during the next ten years lived first in Bingerbrück, afterwards in Neuwied, and then in Weimar, where together with Oskar Schade (1826-1906) he edited the Weimarische Jahrbuch (1854-1857). In 1860 he was appointed librarian to the Duke of Ratibor at the monasterial castle of Corvey near Höxter on the Weser, where he died.

Hoffmann von Fallersleben was one of the best popular poets of modern Germany. In politics he ardently sympathized with the progressive tendencies of his time, and he was among the earliest and most effective of the political poets who prepared the way for the outbreak of 1848. As a poet, however, he acquired distinction chiefly by the ease, simplicity and grace with which he gave expression to the passions and aspirations of daily life. Although he had not been scientifically trained in music, he composed melodies for many of his songs, and a considerable number of them are sung by all classes in every part of Germany. Among the best known is the patriotic "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles", set to a tune by Joseph Haydn, composed in 1841 on the island of Heligoland, where a monument was erected in 1891 to his memory (subsequently destroyed).

The best of his poetical writings is his Gedichte ("Poems", 1827; 9th ed., Berlin, 1887); but there is great merit also in his Alemannische Lieder ("Alemannic Songs", 1826; 5th ed., 1843), Soldatenlieder ("Soldier Songs", 1851), Soldatenleben ("Soldier's Life", 1852), Rheinleben ("Rhine Life", 1865), and in his Fünfzig Kinderlieder ("Fifty Children's Songs"), Fünfzig neue Kinderlieder ("Fifty New Children's Songs"), and Alte und neue Kinderlieder ("Old and New Children's Songs"). His Unpolitische Lieder, Deutsche Lieder aus der Schweiz ("German Songs from Switzerland") and Streiflichter ("Highlights") are not without poetical value, but they are mainly interesting in relation to the movements of the age in which they were written.

As a student of ancient Teutonic literature Hoffmann von Fallersleben ranks among the most persevering and cultivated of German scholars, some of the chief results of his labors being embodied in his Horae Belgicae, Fundgruben für Geschichte deutscher Sprache und Literatur ("Sources for the History of German Language and Literature"), Altdeutsche Blätter ("Old German Papers"), Spenden zur deutschen Literaturgeschichte und Findlinge.

Among his editions of particular works may be named Reineke Vos, Monumenta Elnonensia and Theophilus. Die deutsche Philologie im Grundriss ("Fundamentals of German Philology", 1836) was at the time of its publication a valuable contribution to philological research, and historians of German literature still attach importance to his Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenliedes bis auf Luther ("History of the German Church Song until Luther", 1832; 3rd ed., 1861), Unsere volkstümlichen Lieder ("Our Folk Songs", 3rd ed., 1869) and Die deutschen Gesellschaftslieder des 16. und 17. Jahrh. ("German Society Songs of the 16th and 17th Centuries", 2nd ed., 1860).

In 1868-1870 Hoffmann published in 6 vols. an autobiography, Mein Leben: Aufzeichnungen und Erinnerungen ("My Life: Notes and Memories", an abbreviated ed. in 2 vols., 1894). His Gesammelte Werke ("Collected Works") were edited by H. Gerstenberg in 8 vols. (1891-1894); his Ausgewählte Werke ("Selected Works") by H. Benzmann (1905, 4 vols.). See also Briefe von Hoffmann von Fallersleben und Moritz Haupt an Ferdinand Wolf ("Letters by Hoffmann von Fallersleben and Moritz Haupt to Ferdinand Wolf", 1874); J. M. Wagner, Hoffmann von Fallersleben, 1818-1868 (1869-1870), and R. von Gottschall, Portraits und Studien ("Portraits and Studies", vol. v., 1876).

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