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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Among the leaders of this didactic school may be mentioned a whole family of the name of Olearius, who throughout this century were clergymen and hymn-writers, and the last of whom publishcd, in 1707, one of the earliest works on German hymnology. In the

Christian Singers Of Germany by Catherine Winkworth

Among the leaders of this didactic school may be mentioned a whole family of the name of Olearius, who throughout this century were clergymen and hymn-writers, and the last of whom publishcd, in 1707, one of the earliest works on German hymnology. In the

The founders of the sentimental school were Harsdörffer and Sigismund von Birken, both belonging to Southern Germany, where this school flourished more than in the north. Harsdörffer (born in 1607) was a wealthy magistrate and merchant of Nuremberg, belonging to one of the oldest families of its ancient mercantile aristocracy, and in spite of wars and hard times he lived an easy, prosperous life. His prudence in affairs was so highly esteemed that princes and private persons alike applied to him for advice, while in literature he was an active member of the Fruit-bearing Society, and wrote a great deal of poetry both sacred and secular, with some prose works; among the latter is one which he avers would enable any man who followed its rules to master the whole art of poetry in six hours. In 1644 we find this respected magistrate, then thirty-seven years of age, engaged in a poetical contest, like those of the old troubadours, with a rival poet named Klai, in which the prize was to be a garland of flowers. The judges could not decide which of the two was entitled to the wreath, and so a flower from it was given to each, and they agreed in memory of the occasion to found a new order, that of the |Flowers,| and send the remaining blossoms to those friendly poets whom they invited to join them. This order has maintained its existence up to the present day, and celebrated its two hundredth anniversary in 1844. Its members especially devoted themselves to pastoral poetry; and as their usual place of meeting was Pegnitz, near Nuremberg, they were christened by the public |the shepherds and shepherdesses of Pegnitz.| Among themselves each was designated by some pastoral name, and in their religious poetry they glorified the pastoral life as peculiarly pleasing to God. Were not all the patriarchs shepherds? Did not our Lord use the same title for Himself and His ministers? Was not the Song of Solomon a pastoral idyll? And thus, as this style became fashionable, it coloured even the hymns of the day, and brought about a change in the whole tone of its religious poetry. It was at this time that the hymn of Nicolai's, quoted above, became so popular, that not only were hundreds of imitations of it composed, but in a secularised form it was widely circulated as a popular love-song. Harsdörffer died in 1658, and was succeeded as head of the order by Sigismund von Birken, a more famous poet than himself, and at one time tutor of the Duke Anton Ulrich. It was under Von Birken that a work was published in 1673, which with his own poems forms a repertory of the productions of this school. It consists of poetical versions of the |Meditations| of a celebrated divine, Dr. Müller of Rostock, thrown into a pastoral form by twenty-nine of these Pegnitz shepherds and shepherdesses. This is now unreadable, but a few of Birken's own poems have found their way into recent collections, and so have some by his friend and follower, Erasmus Finx of Nuremberg. The last great representative of this school was Gessner, who lived in the middle of the next century (1730-1787), and whose |Death of Abel| is said to have been translated into more languages than any other German work, and to have been the first that attracted the attention of Europe to modern German literature. In these days, however, it is difficult to understand what was the charm of those high-flown and wordy compositions, of which the |Death of Abel| is by far the best.
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