A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

By John Pilling | Go to book overview
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Stefan George (1868-1933)

Born near Bingen in the Rhineland, where he spent his childhood. Completed a classical education at Darmstadt in 1888. Subsequently devoted himself to the study of Romance languages in French Switzerland and in Paris, and pursued similar studies at the University of Berlin. Frequently in Paris, where he was a member of the Symbolist circle gathered around Mallarmé Travelled very extensively, to London, Belgium, Copenhagen, Vienna, Central Spain and Italy. Left Germany after 1914 only for vacations in the Swiss Alps until he went into voluntary exile in the year of his death, refusing the honours and awards offered him by the Nazi authorities. Founded the journal Blätter für die Kunst in 1892, which he conceived and often composed single-handedly for the next twenty-seven years. Throughout his life engaged in creating and recreating, after defections, a circle of ascetic aesthetes of like mind. Profoundly moved by the death of a fifteen-year-old boy in 1902, whom he called Maximin and whom he saw as a figure playing a similar role in his life to that played by Beatrice in Dante's. A writer whose reputation has declined since the beginning of the century, though clearly the most considerable native German poet between the death of Goethe and the early poems of Gottfried Benn. One of the great creative translators, notably of Shakespeare Sonnets, Baudelaire Les Fleurs du Mal and sections of Dante Divine Comedy.

One of the shrewdest assessments of the genius of Stefan George appeared shortly after the publication of George's seventh collection of poems ( The Seventh Ring, 1907), in a Budapest literary journal:

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A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets
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