My take on: Friedrich Rückert


Do you know Friedrich Rückert? Have you read any of his poems? No? Well, let me give you some details about him. Friedrich Rückert (16 May 1788 – 31 January 1866) was a German poet, born in Schweinfurt, a translator and a professional in Oriental languages. He worked as a professor for Oriental languages at the University of Erlangen and later Berlin. He resigned in 1849 and lived in his estate in Neuses near Coburg. You can visit the Friedrich Rückert Museum there which is amazing. I was impressed by his writing/study room. 

This is most likely one of Friedrich Rückert’s most famous poems, accompanied by an orchestra which made people sit quietly in their seats at a concert hall and simply listen to the words and music. Rückert describes this vision of a “big silence” – just this big silence and the longing of it in a world full of noise and craziness.

Friedrich Rückert died 150 yeas ago in Coburg and this is why there are many festivals, reading and lectures in his honor throughout the city. Not many people know why he wrote all this poetry and songs about the death of children. Two of his favorite children – Luise and Ernst, died of Scarlet Fever early in their lives, and Rückert suffered from their death and wrote more than 400 songs for them.

Not many remember Friedrich Rückert these days. Actually, I am one of them. I heard of him but have not read many on his works and was surprised about the plethora of poems he wrote. He knew and spoke approximately 45 languages! Along with colleagues, he is a founder of the “German Orientalists”. He translated the Koran and many arabic folk songs. Other famous sentimental songs are “Aus der Jugendzeit” , “Du bist die Ruh, der Friede mild”.  Also his poem/song “Dein König kommt in niedern Hüllen” (1834) can be still found in protestant song books. My dad says “Mein Freund und Kupferstecher” once in a while which is a saying by Rückert when he was traveling in Italy. He met the german  painter Carl Barth in Rom and used to greet him with these words.

Initially, Rückert studied law in Würzburg but changed soon to language studies. He then went to Hildburghausen and became a member of the “Freimauererloge: “Karl zum Rautenkranz”. He was an intern in Jena and College professor before he came back to Würzburg. He wrote unter the pseudonym “Freimund Reimar” and published “Geharnischte Sonette” against the Napoleon Troops. Rückert claimed that everything greek has an oriental origin and his colleagues did not like that. He made many others claims regarding philosophy that people did not approve of. Also his appearance – especially his hair and clothing that was different from everybody else.

Rückert acted as a private teacher  in Ebern and Coburg from 1819-1826. This was also the time when he translated the Koran. He married Luise Wiethaus-Fischer from Coburg and they had ten kids. Rückert became professor for oriental languages and literature in 1826 in Erlangen. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV named him “Geheimer Regierungsrat” and gave him the congregation or medal “Pour le Mérite”. Seven years later, Rückert came back to Coburg/Neuses and moved to the “Nattermanshof”. He did not teach and lecture anymore but enjoyed the silence and solitude of his office to write poems. After his wife Luise passed away in 1857 he became more an more lonely and desolate. All he wanted in his final years was to be reunited with Luise. 

Coburg distributed the Rückert-Award for the fourth time. In 2016, the Coburger Rückert-Preis goes to the German translation of Turkish Literature. This award will be distributed at the Town Hall on 31 January 2016, the day of Rückert’s death – 150 years ago. There is a shortlist of authors for the Coburger Rückert-Award: writer Yesim Agoaglu, writer Oya Baydar, Physician Asli Erdogan, writer: Sema Kaygusuz and Ali Hasan Toptas. The Turkish Literature is not too well knows in Germany. I do read a lot and I have never read a book by a Turkish author. Rückert does play a huge role in the World and Art of Literature and opens the horizon for something new. The Turkish Literature has a plethora of novels and poetry written by female writers. The Coburger Rückert Award goes mainly  to authors of the Arabic, Iranian/Afghan, Turkish, Indian and other oriental languages. 

Friedrich Rückert’s died on 31 January 1886 – 150 years ago. Annemarie Schimmel wrote this amazing biography about Rückert which I am currently reading. 

Thank you for reading my blog. 

8 Replies to “My take on: Friedrich Rückert”

  1. Thanks for the reply. Is it possible to find that sonnet in German, somewhere I could download it from? I have it in a Danish translation, but it is obviously not an easy thing to translate. I am interested because it was included in an illegal Danish edition of a collection of essays and poems that was published in 1944, during the Nazi occupation of Denmark, when It could have resulted in prison or worse. None of the author names were given. The collection was published again in 1945, after the end of the war, with the names of the contributors. The Armoured Sonnets was seen to be appropriate, and I agree. So I have it in Danish, and I can translate that into English, but I cannot translate directly from German. But it would still be good as a guideline, and maybe I could find someone who could translate it. I have friends in Denmark who translate from German. Also, it has been very rewarding just getting to know about Friedrich Ruckert. Thanks!
    1. Hi Brian, I found a great version of the sonnet in German here:ückert,+Friedrich/Gedichte/Lyrische+Gedichte/Erstes+Buch.+Vaterland/Erstes+Kapitel.+Geharnischte+Sonette I agree it is not easy to translate this sonnet into English. I checked out your website. Interesting! I have to admit that I have no clue about Danish literature really. Kinda sad :)
  2. HI Daniela Thanks for the link. I actually downloaded the entire sonnet, even though I cannot read it. I can see that the Danish translation I have is just a part of the original. It was included as part of an "illegal" publication during the last year of WWII. It was a collection of essays and poems and stories about the occupation by German troops, and the underground resistance (Der Brænder en Ild). I can understand from the sonnet that Friedrich Ruckert was also expressing similar comments about resistance. I am translating the Danish book. It was first published in 1944, without the name of the different contributors. It was printed again in 1945 with all of the names. I wish I could read it in German, but I think it would be very hard to translate. Thanks again for the help!
  3. Thank you for this post. I too enjoyed Schimmel's biography of Friedrich Rückert. Being a fan, I'm sharing one of my favorites today. I love everything about this short Rückert poem. It is one of his finest, written a few months after the deaths of his children Luise and Ernst. It was ultimately included in the posthumous book Kindertodtenlieder. You may enjoy actor and psychotherapist Florian Friedrich's restrained, impassioned reading of the German. (This video is not-for-profit. No ads. No revenues.)

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