The birth of Estonian and Latvian poetry from the spirit of the German lied. Part 1 Cover Image

Eesti ja läti luule sünd saksa laulu vaimust. I osa
The birth of Estonian and Latvian poetry from the spirit of the German lied. Part 1

Author(s): Liina Lukas
Subject(s): Estonian Literature
Published by: SA Kultuurileht
Keywords: folk song; Estonian poetry; German lied; theory of poetry; J. G. Herder; lyrical poetry;

Summary/Abstract: The year 1779 could well go down in history as the year of Estonian poetry, as this is when two seminal works were published. Those two differed in their understanding of the mission of poetry, thus anticipating two competing possibilities for the development of Estonian written poetry. One of them was Part Two of the collection of folk songs called Volkslieder, which was compiled by Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) and contained some Estonian folk songs as treated by Herder, while the other was the poetry almanac Ehstländische poetische Blumenlese für das Jahr 1779 by Johann Friedrich Ernst Albrecht (1752–1814), published in Rakvere, representing not only local German-language poems, but also Estonian translations of three popular German songs. As for timing, both books saw the light of day when a debate was gaining momentum in the Baltics discussing the prospects of development of non-German literature. According to the ideologists of popular enlightenment, Estonian as well as Latvian poetries were to be cultivated following the example of translations from culturally superior languages. Herder, however, sensed real poetry in the folklore of primitive peoples, which he regarded as the right basis for the written poetry to come. Now, which of the two ideas gained the upper hand? How was either theory realised in poetic practide? The article takes the reader back to the sources of Estonian poetry. The treatment includes the beginnings of not only Estonian but also Latvian poetry and the relevant polemics, as confinement of oneself to Estonian material alone would leave one but halfway to solving the problems of early Estonian literary history. Part One of the article discusses the influence that the folklore concept of Johann Gottfried Herder as well as his folklore collections might have exercised in the Baltics, and their role in the emergence of Estonian and Latvian poetry.

  • Issue Year: LXII/2019
  • Issue No: 10
  • Page Range: 761-774
  • Page Count: 14
  • Language: Estonian