Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Holty

(1748-1776 / Germany)

Biography of Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Holty

Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty (December 21, 1748 – September 1, 1776) was a German poet, known especially for his ballads.

Hölty was born in the village of Mariensee in Hanover, where his father was pastor. In 1769 he went to study theology at the University of Göttingen. There he formed a close friendship with Johann Martin Miller, Johann Heinrich Voss, Heinrich Christian Boie, the brothers Stolberg, and others, and became one of the founders of the famous society of young poets known as the Hain, or Göttinger Dichterbund. By the time he left the university in 1774 he had abandoned all intention of becoming a clergyman, but he was not to enter any profession. He died of consumption at Hanover.

Hölty was the most gifted lyric poet of the Göttingen circle. He was influenced both by Johann Peter Uz and Gottlieb Friedrich Klopstock, but his love for the Volkslied and his delight in nature preserved him from the artificiality of the former and the unworldliness of the latter. A strain of melancholy runs through all his lyrics. His ballads are the pioneers of the rich ballad literature on English models, which sprang up in Germany over the next few years. Among his most familiar poems are: Üb' immer Treu' und Redlichkeit, Tanzt dem schönen Mai enigegen, Rosen auf dem Weg gestreut, and Wer wollte sich mit Grillen plagen?

Hölty's Gedichte was published by his friends Count Friedrich Leopold zu Stolberg and J. H. Voss (Hamburg, 1783). A new edition, enlarged by Voss with a biography, came out in 1804, followed by a more complete but still imperfect edition by F. Voigts (Hanover, 1857). The first complete edition was that of Karl Halm (Leipzig, 1870), who had access to manuscripts not hitherto known. See H. Ruete, Hölty, sein Leben und Dichten (Guben, 1883), and A. Satier, Der Göttinger Dichterbund, vol. ii (Stuttgart, 1894), in which an excellent selection of Hölty's poetry will be found.

In addition to his exemplary poems in their own right, perhaps Hölty is best known for his poems which were set by such famous 19th-century composers as Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.

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Apoll Und Dafne

Apoll, der gern nach Mädchen schielte,
wie Dichter thun,
sah einst im Thal, wo Schatten kühlte,
die Dafne ruh'n.
Er nahte sich mit Stutzertritten,
mit Ach und Oh,
als Dafne schnell mit Zephirschritten
dem Gott entfloh.
Sie flog voran; Apollo keuchte

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