Sunday, May 22, 2011


Novalis was born Georg Friedrich Philipp von Hardenberg in 1772; he became a major figure in the German Romantic movement in the 1790s; he started using the pen name 'Novalis' in 1798; and he died of tuberculosis in 1801. His most famous works are his poetic cycle, Hymns to the Night, and the fictional works, The Apprentices at Sais and Heinrich von Ofterdingen (the latter of which gives us the famous Romantic image of the Blue Flower, die blaue Blume). He had a whirlwind and controversial life. As a twenty-two-year-old civil servant in Tennstedt, he met and secretly engaged a thirteen-year-old girl named Sophie von Kühn. Her death two years later would massively affect the young man and, through him, the entire Romantic movement.

Librivox has a nice German audio version of the Hymnen an die Nacht. It's worth listening to a bit, even for those of us whose German is not good enough to follow very closely, just for the sound of it. I tend not to like the sound of German, but Novalis makes it sound poetic.

An English translation of Hymns to the Night (essentially an updated version of George MacDonald's 1897 version).

An English translation of Heinrich von Ofterdingen.

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