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Poets

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

(1874- 1929)

Hugo Laurenz August Hofmann von Hofmannsthal (1 February 1874 – 15 July 1929) was an Austrian prodigy, a novelist, librettist, poet, dramatist, narrator, and essayist. He became internationally famous through his work with Richard Strauss.

The only child of a bank director, Hofmannsthal studied law at Vienna. At 16 he published his first poems, under the pseudonym Loris. They created a stir in Vienna and in Germany with their lyrical beauty, magic evocativeness of language, and dreamlike quality. Their anticipation of mature experience and formal virtuosity seem incredible in one so young. After his year of compulsory military service, he studied Romance philology with a view to an academic career but in 1901 married and became a free-lance writer.

Between 1891 and 1899 Hofmannsthal wrote a number of short verse plays, influenced by the static dramas of the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck, the dramatic monologues of the English Romantic poet Robert Browning, and the proverbes dramatiques of the French poet Alfred de Musset. Of the same exquisite beauty as the poems, these playlets are lyric reflections on appearance and reality, transience and timelessness, and continuity and change within the human personality—themes constantly recurring in his later works. After the turn of the century, however, Hofmannsthal renounced purely lyrical forms in his essay “Ein Brief” (also called “Chandos Brief,” 1902). This essay was more than the revelation of a personal predicament; it has come to be recognized as symptomatic of the crisis that undermined the esthetic Symbolist movement of the end of the century. You can read it here in German or English. 

Read more about Hofmannsthal, as well as some of his poetry in English, here. You can find an extensive collection of his poetry in the original German here, on zeno.org. 

Information taken from Wikipedia and Encycolpedia Brittanica. For the full Wikipedia article, click here. For the full Encyclopedia Brittannica entry, click here.

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