Hagedorn, Friedrich von

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Hagedorn, Friedrich von (1708-54): German Poet.

Friedrich von Hagedorn is credited with reviving the German animal fable and introducing a lightness and grace into German poetry. Son of the Danish ambassador in Hamburg, Hagedorn received a diplomatic appointment in 1729 and spent two years in London as secretary to the Danish minister. Returning to Hamburg in 1731, he was appointed secretary to an English trading company. Until his death, he was active in Hamburg’s social and intellectual circles.

Usually considered one of the Anacreontic poets, Hagedorn also had Horace as his model, and he was influenced as well by English poetry. Unlike other Anacreontic poets, Hagedorn did not limit himself to the praise of love, wine, and revelry. His most successful work was collected in Attempt at a Few Poems (1729), Attempt at Poetic Fables and Tales (1738), Odes and Songs (1742-52), Moralistic Poems (1750), and Epigrammatic Poems (1753). His poetry is unpretentious and elegant. In general, he avoided religious meditation, melancholy, and overly serious treatments of the love theme. The work of the French poet Jean de La Fontaine inspired his fables and tales in verse.

Hagedorn’s poetry, fables, and tales in verse are characterized by a refined feeling for form and rhythm that sets him apart from other poets of his time. He has been labeled as un-German because he refused to give free rein to the emotions. For several years in the eighteenth century, Hagedorn exerted immense influence on German poetry.

Further Reading:

Reinhold Münster, Friedrich von Hagedorn: Dichter und Philosoph der fröhlichen Aufklärung, Munich, 1999.


David Witkosky

Auburn Montgomery

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