Ewald Christian von Kleist

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Ewald Christian von Kleist, painting by Gottfried Hempel, 1751, Gleimhaus Halberstadt

Ewald Christian von Kleist (born March 7, 1715 on his father's estate Zeblin in Western Pomerania ; †  August 24, 1759 in Frankfurt (Oder) ) was a German poet and Prussian officer .

His parents were Joachim Ewald von Kleist (1684–1738), the heir to Zeblin and Warnin, and his wife Juliane von Manteuffel (1688–1719) from the Poplow family .


Kleist attended high school in Gdansk and the University of Königsberg . It was 1736 Danish officer , but 1740 by Frederick II. Complained and lieutenant in the regiment of Prince Henry appointed.

Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim , who was living in Potsdam at the time, first awakened Kleist's talent for poetry. Karl Wilhelm Ramler , whom Kleist met in 1749, persuaded him to revise his texts stylistically, in many cases, however, without considering Kleist's peculiarities. An unhappy love for Wilhelmine von der Goltz clouded the natural cheerfulness of Kleist's temper early on.

After taking part in the Second Silesian War from 1744 to 1745 , he was promoted to staff captain in 1749. Two years later he was assigned a company . After a trip to Switzerland , where he was on advertising for almost a year, and after surviving a serious illness, he went to a spa stay in Freienwalde in May 1756 , but an order from his regiment called him back, with which he then went into the field pulled. In 1757 he was appointed major and soon afterwards director of a field hospital built in Leipzig .

In Leipzig he began his little epic Cissides and Paches and made friends with Gotthold Ephraim Lessing , who prompted him to write a tragedy. The result was the draft of the Seneca , which Kleist himself considered a failed attempt.

Kleist falls near Kunersdorf , woodcut based on an original by Emil Hünten

In May 1758 Kleist followed Prince Heinrich's corps , which drove the Imperial Army back behind Hof . Despite several resets, he could not bring himself to say goodbye. In the battle of Kunersdorf on August 12, 1759, he advanced at the head of his battalion against an enemy battery. He was wounded in the right hand, took the rapier in his left and kept charging until three grape bullets smashed his right leg. Kleist remained unconscious on the battlefield that night, was plundered by the Cossacks and only brought to Frankfurt (Oder) the next day. The attending young doctor was shot dead as he was cleaning Kleist's wounds with alcohol. On August 24, 1759 Kleist died of his injuries in Frankfurt (Oder) and was honored by the Russian garrison.

Kleist was a Freemason in an unknown lodge. In 1780 the "Zum aufrichtigen Herzen" lodge in Frankfurt (Oder) placed a grave monument for Ewald Christian von Kleist . The epitaph reads:

Fighting for Friedrich, he sank down,
so would his heroic spirit.
Immortal great through his songs
The philanthropist, the wise Kleist.

Artistic creation

First complete edition of Ewald von Kleist's works, published in 1760

Kleist's pure mind is reflected in all of his works, above all in the stories The Friendship and Arist as well as in the Idylle Irin . Correctness of expression, well-chosen pictures in which he usually draws nature alive, as well as the richness and melodiousness of the diction characterize his poems . In addition to the descriptive poem, Kleist also tried his hand at the fable , the idyll and the hymn . His main work is the poem Der Frühling , written in hexameters , which was first printed for friends in 1749 and later had numerous editions.

Kleist wrote around 400 hexameters, which, however, go back to Johann Peter Uz in their type of poetry . In addition to the idyllic poems that dominated, Kleist also wrote love and drinking songs. After Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Laocoon , which was assigned to the genre of descriptive poetry , Kleist's Der Frühling was also repeatedly assigned to this genre. However, Kleist himself denied giving a mere description of spring.

Kleist's Complete Works were published in 1760 by Karl Wilhelm Ramler (Berlin, 3rd ed. 1771) and in 1803 with a biography by Wilhelm Körte (ibid., 5th ed. 1853) in two volumes each, and in 1884 together with the letters in three volumes by August Sauer (ibid.).

In Kleist Museum Frankfurt (Oder) and the literary heritage Ewald Christian von Kleist is maintained.


with an afterword edited by Martin Kegel. Laatzen: Wehrhahn. ISBN 3-86525-029-7
  • All works. First and Second Part . Berlin, Voss, 1760. Digitized
  • Ewald Christian von Kleist's entire works, along with the poet's life, from his letters to Gleim , edited by Wilhelm Körte.
  • Works. Part 1-3. Ed. U. with notes accompanied by August Sauer . Berlin, Hempel, 1881–1882. (Reprint: Bern, Lang 1969) (digitized version)
    • 1. Ewald von Kleist. A biographical sketch. - poems. - The spring. - Cissides and Paches. - Seneca. - Prosaic writings. - Appendix. - Kleist library. (1881)
    • 2. Letters from Kleist. (1882)
    • 3. Letters to Kleist. (1882)
  • Complete Works. Edited by Jürgen Stenzel. Stuttgart, Reclam, 1971. (Reclams Universal Library. No. 211/214)


  • Rudolf SchwarzeEwald Christian von Kleist . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 16, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1882, pp. 113-121.
  • Theodor van Haag: Ewald Christian von Kleist as an idyllic poet. Rheydt: Leuchtenrath 1889. (digitized version)
  • Paul Schreckenbach: "The faithful Kleist. A novel from the time of the great king." Leipzig: Staackmann 1909.
  • Hans Guggenbühl: Ewald von Kleist. Weltschmerz as fate. Brugg 1948 (University Dissertation Zurich 1947)
  • Frommholz, Rüdiger:  Kleist, Ewald Christian. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 12, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-428-00193-1 , pp. 10-12 ( digitized version ).
  • Ingrid Patitz: Ewald von Kleist's last days and his grave monument in Frankfurt on the Oder. Frankfurt (Oder): Kleist Memorial and Research Center 1994. (= Frankfurter Buntbücher; 11)
  • Hans Christoph Buch: Episode from the Seven Years War, story in a dream in the early morning. Berlin, Volk und Welt publishing house, 1996
  • Ewald von Kleist. On the 250th anniversary of death. Edited by Lothar Jordan. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2010. (Contributions to a conference on the 250th anniversary of the death of the poet Ewald von Kleist. Melancholy and Innovation - Friendship and War , August 22–24, 2009, organized by the Kleist Museum Frankfurt (Oder).)
  • Christian Begemann: Ewald Christian von Kleist. In: Heinz Ludwig Arnold (Hrsg.): Kindlers Literatur Lexikon . 3rd, completely revised edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2009, ISBN 978-3-476-04000-8 , Volume 12, pp. 135-137.

Web links

Wikisource: Ewald Christian von Kleist  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Ewald Christian von Kleist  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Wagener, Ed .: State and Society Lexicon . Volume 1, Berlin 1862. pp. 359-360.
  2. ^ Lennhoff-Posner: Intern. Freemason lexicon, 1932. Daniel Ligou: Dictionnaire de la franc-maconnerie, Paris 1987, p. 662. Carl Bröcker: Die Freemaurer-Logen Deutschlands… 1894, p. 96. Kelsch in “Humanität” No. 3/1990 p. 22. Richard Fischer: History of the Johannisloge Zu den 3 Kronen Or. Königsberg 1760-1910, Königsberg 1910, p. 94. Allg. Handbook of Freemasonry, Vol. 2, 1863, pp. 116f