Martin Opitz

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Martin Opitz, portrait of Bartholomäus Strobel

Martin Opitz 'signature:
Signature Martin Opitz.PNG
Nobiliss. Excell. Dn. Martinus Opitius, Regiae Maiestatis Poloniae a Consiliis et Secretis, omnium Europae Poetarum Facile Princeps
Title copper of the Secular Poemata in the 1644 edition
Grave of Martin Opitz in the Marienkirche in Gdańsk

Martin Opitz (1628 ennobled with name extension to Opitz von Boberfeld ; * December 23, 1597 in Bunzlau , Duchy of Schweidnitz-Jauer ; † August 20, 1639 in Danzig ) was the founder of the Silesian School of Poets, a German poet and an important theoretician of the Baroque and late Middle Ages .

life and work

Opitz was the son of the butcher Sebastian Opitz and his first wife Martha Rothmann. From 1605 he attended the Latin school in his hometown and in 1614 switched to the Maria Magdalenen High School in Breslau . At the age of 20 he enrolled in 1617 at the academic high school in Bytom on the Oder . After working for some time as a private tutor in the family of Tobias Scultetus in Frankfurt (Oder) in 1618 , he moved to the University of Heidelberg on June 17, 1619 , where he studied philosophy and law and worked with Georg Michael Lingelsheim , Jan Gruter , Caspar von Barth , Julius Wilhelm Zincgref and Balthasar Venator came into contact.

The Electoral Palatinate Privy Councilor Lingelsheim employed Opitz as a tutor for his sons. When the war caught up with him in Heidelberg, Opitz went to the Netherlands as a tutor in 1620. At the University of Leiden he made friends with Daniel Heinsius , whose hymn of praise for Jesus Christ he had already translated in Heidelberg. A year later Opitz went to Jutland , where his work, published only 13 years later, was composed of consoling poems in the opposition of the war . Soon he accepted the invitation of Prince Gábor Bethlen and moved to Weißenburg in Transylvania to teach philosophy and beautiful sciences at the Academic Gymnasium .

Here he wrote, among other things, the poem Zlatna (name of a gracefully located spot in Transylvania) and began a never completed great work on the antiquities of Dacia ( Dacia antiqua ). Driven by homesickness, he returned to Silesia in 1623 . A year later he was promoted to the council of Duke Georg Rudolf von Liegnitz , who at that time held the office of governor of Silesia in Breslau .

In 1624 Opitz published his main work, the book of the German Poetry . In it he describes the rules and principles of a newly established High German poetry, which should not be based on the traditional ancient meter, but rather find its own metric form in accordance with the German language:

“Later every verse is either a jambicus or a trochaicus; Not that we can use a certain size of the syllables in eight terms like the Greek and Latin; but that we recognize from the accents and the thone / which syllable should be set high and which low. An iambus is this: 'Receive from the Lord by your word.' The following a trocheus: 'We are in the middle of life.' Then in the first verse the first low syllable / the other high / the third low / the fourth high / and so from now on / in the other verse the first high syllable / the other low / the third high / etc. are pronounced. As far as I know, nobody / I myself not before the time / this has been carefully considered / it seems to be so high of noethen / as high of noethen / that the latins after the quantitatibus or greats of the sylbic years verse direct and regulate. "

Opitz also showed echolyrics the way into German-language literature; his poem Echo or Widerschall became the most widely received echo poem of the Baroque era. On the occasion of a visit to Vienna in 1625 Opitz wrote a mourning poem for the death of Archduke Karl. For this he was personally crowned Poeta Laureate by Emperor Ferdinand II , and on September 14, 1628, as Opitz von Boberfeld , he was raised to the nobility. However, Opitz himself did not make use of this award throughout his life.

In order to advance his recognition as a poet, Opitz tried through the mediation of his friend August Buchner to become a member of the Koethen-based Fruit Bringing Society . However, they met this request with reluctance. Tobias Huebner in particular , who preferred the verse form of the Alexandrians , was a staunch opponent of Opitz. It also appeared problematic that Opitz, although a Protestant himself, had been appointed secretary to Count Karl Hannibal von Dohna in 1626 , the leader of the Silesian Counter-Reformation , who was notorious for his persecution of Protestants. It was not until 1629 that Prince Ludwig I of Anhalt-Köthen accepted Opitz into the Fruit-Bringing Society . Diederich von dem Werder and Friedrich von Schilling in particular had campaigned vehemently for Opitz. When he was admitted, the prince gave him the company name of the crowned one and the motto with this . A laurel tree with broad leaves (Laurus nobilis L.) was assigned to him as an emblem.

Since 1627 Opitz was friends with the Breslau painter Bartholomäus Strobel , to whom he dedicated the poem "About the famous Mahler Herr Bartholomei Strobel's art book". In 1630 he traveled to Paris on behalf of Count Dohna . There he met Hugo Grotius , whose “On the Truth of the Christian Religion” he translated into German verses. In 1632 he entered the service of the Silesian Protestant dukes after the expulsion of the Dohnas from Silesia. After the death of Count Dohna on February 22, 1633, Opitz switched to his patron, Duke Johann Christian von Brieg , who fled to Thorn with his brother Georg Rudolf after the Peace of Prague . Opitz, who settled in Danzig , also followed them there. In Gdansk he had lively contacts with Bartholomäus Nigrinus, who was pastor at the parish church of St. Peter and Paul at the time, as well as with Andreas Gryphius and Christian Hoffmann von Hoffmannswaldau , who attended the academic high school there. Bartholomäus Strobel portrayed Martin Opitz in Danzig in 1636/37. He was a Swedish agent. In 1636 he entered the service of King Władysław IV. Wasa of Poland, who made him secretary and Polish court historiographer . In this capacity Opitz began to study the Sarmatian antiquities, dealt with old German poetry and in 1639 published the " Annolied " with a Latin commentary in print. The handwriting is lost.

Opitz had it printed by David Müller in Breslau and by Andreas Huenefeld in Danzig . In Danzig he dedicated his “Spiritual Poemata” to Countess Sibylle Margarethe Dönhoff , who had just married Count Gerhard Dönhoff , who was a daughter of Duke Johann Christian, in whose service he was until 1636.

Martin Opitz died on August 20, 1639 at the age of 41 as a result of a plague raging in Danzig . His grave is in the Marienkirche in Gdańsk .


Opitz was called the father and restorer of poetry by his followers . He pursued the goal of elevating German poetry based on humanism and ancient forms to an art object of the highest order, and he succeeded in creating a new kind of poetics. In his commemorative speech on the 100th anniversary of Opitz's death in 1739, Johann Christoph Gottsched called him the first who had succeeded in bringing the German language to a level that met all the demands of sophisticated diction and eliminated everyday language, which allowed him to advance of the French.

With his reflections on language, style and verse art , Opitz gave German poetry a formal basis. In doing so, he drew up various laws that served as guidelines and standards for all German poetry for over a century:

Opitz's aesthetic principles included the Horace principle, “that poetry, while pleasing, must both be useful and instructive” (see also the rule drama ). In the book von der Deutschen Poeterey (1624) he pointed out the fundamental philosophical value of poetry in a pioneering way for baroque poetry theory and derived the primacy of poetry over philosophy from the fact that it not only serves to establish truth, but can also delight. Optiz demanded that “poetry be a living painting”. Opitz gave serious poetry the juxtaposition of the ephemeral and the eternal as a central theme. In later centuries Opitz's rules were heavily criticized as restricting the poetic faculty and the creative power of the soul.

For the composer Heinrich Schütz , Martin Opitz wrote the libretto of the Tragicomoedia Dafne , which is considered the first German opera. The first performance took place in Torgau in 1627; the music is lost.


For a long time, German research focused on an interpretation of Opitz as the ingenious "creator" of the German poetic language. The book by Deutsche Poeterey is essentially a reproduction of Scaliger's humanistic poetics . Still, Opitz's translation of this Latin poetry theory into German was very effective. In the succession of Opitz, other important textbooks on poetry were created, including a. by August Buchner , Georg Philipp Harsdörffer and Sigmund von Birken . There are countless editions, editions and commentaries on Poeterey , and there is no end in sight. What remains the same, however, is the repetition of the meaning that Opitz had for the verse doctrine. Nicola Kaminski attempts an original interpretation of Opitz's reform, with his strong emphasis on the alternation of rise and fall , when she interprets the poetic reform as a reaction to the military reform by Moritz von Oranien .


The sculptor Hermann Michaelis created a bust of Martin Opitz, which was placed in Bunzlau. On September 30, 2012, a new bust by the sculptor Boguslaw Nowak was unveiled in Bunzlau.

Martin Opitz is the namesake of the Martin Opitz Library in Herne, which has extensive literature about him.

Martin-Opitz-Strasse was dedicated in Berlin in 1906. There are other Opitzstrasse or Martin-Opitz-Strasse in Düsseldorf, Görlitz, Hamburg and Munich.

Work editions

  • Collected Works, Critical Edition , ed. George Schulz-Behrend, vol. 1 ff. Stuttgart: Hiersemann 1968 ff. (Library of the Literary Association Stuttgart, vol. 295 ff.). - Contains the German-language works up to 1630 (no longer published)
  • Correspondence and life certificates . Critical edition with translations. Edited by Klaus Conermann. 3 volumes. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2009.
  • Latin works , edited, translated and commented by Veronika Marschall, Robert Seidel. 3 volumes. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2009–2015.


Secular and Spiritual Poetry (1888)


  • [Article] Martin Opitz . In: Gerhard Dünnhaupt : Personalbibliographien zu den Druck des Barock , Vol. 4. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-7772-9122-6 , pp. 3005-3074 [list of works and literature].



Studies on special aspects

  • Erwin Fuhrmann: Augustinus Iskra Silesius, an unknown admirer of Martin Opitz. In: Silesian history sheets. 1912, pp. 32-34.
  • Richard Alewyn : Pre-Baroque Classicism and Greek Tragedy: Analysis of the “Antigone” translation by Martin Opitz. Darmstadt 1962 (Ndr. D. Edition Heidelberg 1926).
  • Janis Little Gellinek: The secular poetry of Martin Opitz. Bern 1973 (originally Diss. Yale 1965).
  • Franz Heiduk : Augustine Iskra Silesius. New data on the life and work of a little-known Opitz admirer. In: Daphnis . No. 4 (1975), pp. 187-189.
  • Rudolf Drux: Martin Opitz and his poetic rule system. Bonn 1976.
  • Ulrich Seelbach : Medieval literature in the early modern period. In: Chloe. Supplements to Daphnis No. 33 (2000), pp. 89–115 (Sections III and IV: Melchior Goldast and Martin Opitz).
  • Wilhelm Kühlmann : Martin Opitz. German literature and German nation. Heidelberg 2001.
  • Thomas Borgstedt, Walter Schmitz (ed.): Martin Opitz (1597–1639). Imitation poetics and lifeworld. Tübingen 2002.
  • Raymond Graeme Dunphy: The Middle High German "Annolied" in the 1639 Edition of Martin Opitz. Glasgow 2003, ISBN 0-907409-11-3 .
  • Nicola Kaminski: Ex Bello Ars or The Origin of the "German Poetry". Heidelberg 2004.
  • Jörg-Ulrich Fechner: Wolfgang Kessler (Ed.): Martin Opitz 1597–1639. Strangeness and presence of a historical personality. Friends of the Martin Opitz Library e. V., Herne 2006.
  • Raymond Graeme Dunphy: Melchior Goldast and Martin Opitz. Humanistic reception of the Middle Ages around 1600. In: Nicola McLelland, Hans-Jochen Schiewer , Stefanie Schmitt (eds.): Humanism in German literature in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2008, pp. 105–121.
  • Volkhard Wels: Artful verses. Style and verse reforms around 1600 and the emergence of a German-language 'art poetry'. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2018, ISBN 978-3-447-11073-0 ( available online at ).

Web links

Wikisource: Martin Opitz  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Martin Opitz  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jan Harasimowicz (ed.): Enthusiasm and freedom thinking: Contributions to the art and cultural history of Silesia in the early modern period . Böhlau Verlag, Cologne / Weimar 2010, ISBN 9783412206161 , pp. 144–149
  2. ^ Klaus Garber: The reformer and enlightener Martin Opitz (1597-1639): A humanist in the age of crisis. De Gruyter, 2018, p. 11 f.
  3. Pomnik Opitza odsłonięty (Opitz monument unveiled)
  4. ^ About Martin Opitz on the Martin Opitz Library website ; accessed on October 12, 2017.
  5. Martin-Opitz-Strasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )