Matthias Claudius

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Matthias Claudius (August 15, 1740 – January 21, 1815) was a German poet, otherwise known by the penname of “Asmus”.



Claudius was born at Reinfeld, near Lübeck, and studied at Jena. He spent the greater part of his life in the little town of Wandsbeck, near Hamburg, where he earned his first literary reputation by editing from 1771 to 1775, a newspaper called Der Wandsbecker Bothe (Wandsbeck Messenger), in which he published a large number of prose essays and poems. They were written in pure and simple German, and appealed to the popular taste; in many there was a vein of extravagant humour or even burlesque, while others were full of quiet meditation and solemn sentiment. In his later days, perhaps through the influence of Klopstock, with whom he had formed an intimate acquaintance, Claudius became strongly pietistic, and the graver side of his nature showed itself. In 1814 he moved to Hamburg, to the house of his son-in-law, the publisher Friedrich Christoph Perthes, where he died on January 21, 1815.


Claudius's poem Death and the Maiden was used by composer Franz Schubert in 1817 for one of his most celebrated songs, which in turn became the basis for the 1824 string quartet of the same name.

Claudius's collected works were published under the title of Asmus omnia sua secum portans, oder Sämtliche Werke des Wandsbecker Boten (8 vols., 1775–1812; 13th edition, by C. Redich, 2 vols., 1902). His biography has been written by Wilhelm Herbst (4th ed., 1878). See also M. Schneidereit, M. Claudius, seine Weltanschauung und Lebensweisheit (1898).


  • Abendlied or Der Mond ist aufgegangen (Song of evening or The moon has risen)
  • Der Mensch (People)
  • Christiane
  • Die Sternseherin Lise (Lise the astrologer)
  • Die Liebe (Love)
  • Der Tod (Death)
  • Ein Wiegenlied bei Mondschein zu singen (A lullaby to sing in the moonlight)
  • Täglich zu singen (To sing every day)
  • Kriegslied (Song of battle)
  • Der Frühling. Am ersten Maimorgen (Spring: On the first morning in May)
  • Der Säemann säet den Samen (The sower sows the seeds)
  • Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the maiden)
  • Wir pflügen und wir streuen (We plough the fields and scatter - sung in Germany and England as a harvest festival hymn)


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