Matthias Claudius

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Matthias Claudius

Matthias Claudius (pseudonym Asmus , born August 15, 1740 in Reinfeld ( Holstein ), † January 21, 1815 in Hamburg ) was a German poet and journalist , known as a poet with folk-song-like, intensely felt verse art.


Youth and education

Claudius memorial stone in the Wandsbeker wood

Matthias Claudius was born in a rectory as the fourth child of Pastor Matthias Claudius in Reinfeld (Holstein). His mother was his second wife Maria, née Lorck , daughter of a Flensburg councilor, whose second child she was. His father's ancestors were pastors in Süderlügum for over a hundred years . The original family name "Clausen" was latinized to become "Claudius". He is related to Theodor Storm and Johannes Brahms through the maternal family . Matthias Claudius maintained a warm and grateful relationship with his father to the end. His mother was cheerful but also thoughtful. In his parents' house, Matthias Claudius grew up happily trusting God.

In 1751, when he was 11 years old, his sister Lucia Magdalena died at the age of two, a few days later his brother Lorenz at the age of five, and two months later his half-brother Friedrich Karl from his father's first marriage. So he encountered death early on, which he called “Freund Hain” and to which he even dedicated his books. All the more he valued and loved life.

After his confirmation, when he was 15 years old, he attended the Latin school in Plön with his brother Josias, who was only one year older . In April 1759 he enrolled, again with Josias, at the University of Jena to study theology . Among his teachers was Johann Georg Walch , the editor of Martin Luther's writings . But he did not like the dry presentation of the material and the arguments of the scholars. He was also sickly and therefore did not trust himself to be a pastor. So he switched to law and camera science . But this course did not inspire him either. In Jena he became a member of the German Society , which sought German-language literature and poetry. Matthias Claudius particularly admired Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg . Matthias Claudius now dared to write short stories and songs. He fell ill with smallpox or puff, but recovered; his brother Josias, who had devotedly cared for and cared for him, had apparently been infected, fell ill and died in 1760. The first paper published by Matthias Claudius was the mourning address that he held for Josias in Jena at the age of 20.

The opinion widespread among his biographers that Claudius returned to his parents 'house as a “crazy student” in 1762 has recently been countered by the fact that in the marriage register of the Wandsbeker church , after Claudius' name “JVB”, what can be read as “Juris Utriusque Baccalaureus , which means Claudius had a first degree in the study of both rights .

His first work, Tändeleyen und Erzählungen (1763), was panned by critics as a stylistically inconsistent imitation of well-known poems, but a second edition a year later.

First activities

In 1764/1765 Claudius traveled to Copenhagen as the secretary of Count Ulrich Adolph ( Duchy of Holstein ) , where he met Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock , who shaped him for his further literary career. At that time Copenhagen was a city in which important German scholars gathered: the pedagogue Johannes Bernhard , who received a professorship for morality there, the botanist Georg Christian Oeder , the doctor Justus von Berger , the preacher Johann Andreas Cramer and others. Matthias Claudius lived, learned and worked in this society. He then lived in Reinfeld again for three years. He applied for a position as organist in Lübeck, but withdrew from his application in order to allow a more talented organist to go first.

Between 1768 and 1770 he worked as editor of Viktor Ludwig Klopstock, the brother Friedrich Gottlieb, issued Hamburg-address Comtoir messages in Hamburg and thus came into contact with the scouts Johann Gottfried Herder and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing . His main job was to collect stock market reports and write reports about incoming ships.

Life and work

Wandsbeker coat of arms

In January 1771 Matthias Claudius moved to Wandsbeck (up to 1879 still written with "ck") and became editor of the daily newspaper Der Wandsbecker Bothe , initiated by Heinrich Carl von Schimmelmann , which appeared four times a week. The insignia of a wandering messenger (hat, stick and bag) can still be found in the Wandsbek coat of arms. The newspaper had four printed pages. Three were dedicated to the political events in Europe, one contained "learned things". Claudius designed the “learned part” in a very unique way, for example through poems and a fictitious correspondence between Asmus and his cousin Andres . Also he could u. a. Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock , Johann Heinrich Voss , Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim and Johann Georg Jacobi as authors. Although the newspaper became known throughout Germany under him, it did not achieve any financial success, which is why it was only published until 1775.

On March 15, 1772, Claudius married Anna Rebekka Behn (born October 26, 1754), daughter of the local carpenter and innkeeper Joachim Behn, in Wandsbeck. On the wedding day he wrote in his diary: "Now I have my three H: farm, home, housewife, and if the fourth H, the Lord, is and stays with me, then you can be completely happy." The couple had 12 children, of which the firstborn died shortly after birth. His son Friedrich Matthias Jacobus Claudius became a lawyer and councilor in Lübeck. His daughter Caroline Ilsabe married Friedrich Christoph Perthes . The focus of his life in the Wandsbeck house was the children. With them and for them he celebrated countless parties. His attitude towards faith and life becomes particularly clear in his letter "to my son Johannes" from 1799.

Matthias Claudius, lithograph by Otto Speckter 1840

On August 12, 1774, Matthias Claudius was admitted to the Hamburg Freemason Lodge to the three roses . From 1777 he was a speaker at the Andreasloge Fidelis for three years . He attended the lodge at the golden ball until 1780, the Andreas lodge a little longer, but was then tacitly canceled. Perhaps that had something to do with Count Christian von Haugwitz , who had brought him to the lodge, but now founded a union of cross-religious or Johannis confidants with Count Friedrich and Christian zu Stolberg-Stolberg , Claudius - according to Haugwitz - in 1784 on his family estate joined.

Through the mediation of Johann Gottfried Herder , Claudius went to the Oberlandkommission in Darmstadt as senior commissarius in 1776 . From the beginning of 1777 he was also editor of the Hessen-Darmstädtische privileged Land-Zeitung . Claudius, however, returned to Wandsbeck with his family after only a year, as he had not been able to come to terms with the hierarchical conditions in the royal seat of Darmstadt.

Although the newspaper no longer appeared, Claudius continued to publish under the name Der Wandsbecker Bothe . In his poems and reflections he also used the name Asmus as a pseudonym . From 1775 he published his works in irregular succession under the title Asmus omnia sua secum portans . From Volume 4, 1783, religious themes predominated. His negative attitude towards the Enlightenment came out more and more. With that he was in agreement with the theologically and politically conservative Emkendorfer circle . Claudius therefore led a literary dispute lasting several years with August Adolph von Hennings , a radical proponent of social and ecclesiastical innovations.

The grave of Rebekka and Matthias Claudius

Claudius' financial situation was always precarious until he received an honorary salary from the Danish Crown Prince Friedrich from 1785 ; the literary qualities of Claudius had convinced him. Friedrich gave him in 1788 a auditors office in Schleswig-Holstein Species Bank in time for the Danish state associated Altona , which secured him a livelihood without major limitation of his literary work, because he had only four times a year to examine the quarterly financial statements in Altona appear.

Between 1800 and 1811 Claudius translated the writings of François Fénelon , who had been tutor of the heir to the French throne since 1689 , but fell out of favor in 1699 because of his enlightening writings.

Last years

As a result of the war events around Hamburg ( French times ) Claudius fled in 1813 via Westensee to Kiel and Lübeck . The now seriously ill spent the last months of his life in the house of his son-in-law Friedrich Christoph Perthes , the founder of the publishing house of the same name, on Hamburg's Jungfernstieg , where he also died on January 21, 1815. Four days later he was buried in the Wandsbek historical cemetery ; later his wife Rebekka, who outlived him by 17 years, found her final resting place next to him.


The sculpture shows the Hamburg poet and "Wandsbeker Boten" Matthias Claudius jumping over one of his sons, an old ritual from the 18th century

Claudius married 17-year-old Anna Rebekka Behn (October 26, 1754 - July 26, 1832), daughter of the local carpenter Joachim Friedrich Behn , in Wandsbeck in March 1772 . The firstborn son Matthias died on September 30, 1772 shortly after birth. The remaining six daughters and five sons were:

  • Caroline Ilsabe (February 7, 1774 - August 28, 1821) ⚭ Friedrich Christoph Perthes , publisher and bookseller in Hamburg
  • Christiane Maria Augusta (November 23, 1775 - July 2, 1796)
  • Anna Frederike Petrina (June 4, 1777 - March 12, 1856) ⚭ 1798 Maximilian Jacobi (1775–1858), Go. Senior Medical Council
  • Augusta Ernestina Wilhelmina, called Auguste (September 2, 1779 - January 15, 1856)
  • Johanna Katharina Henriette, called Trinette (May 16, 1781 - December 31, 1863)
  • Johannes (May 8, 1783 - August 5, 1859), pastor in Sahms near Schwarzenbek ⚭ Anna Katharina Wilhelmina (Wilhelmine) Marschner (1789–1857)
  • Carolina Rebekka Elisabeth, called Rebekka (December 15, 1784 - August 6, 1835) ⚭ 1819 Jakob Schröder (1770–1831), pastor in Wandsbeck
  • Matthias Heinrich (1786–1788)
  • Friedrich Matthias Jacobus (May 17, 1789 - October 27, 1862), lawyer and mayor of Lübeck ⚭ Johanna Wilhelmina (Wilhelmine) Momma (1791–1855)
  • Augustinus Ernst Carl (July 19, 1792 - April 24, 1854), pastor in Blekendorf ⚭ Theresa Wilhelmina (Wilhelmine) Stavenhagen (1796–1867)
  • Francis (December 30, 1794 - November 25, 1866), pastor in Segeberg



Hamburg, Historic Cemetery Wandsbek: Monument by Waldemar Otto for Matthias Claudius, looking towards Wandsbeker Allee
The messenger of Pierre Schumann (1953), in front of the post office at Wandsbeker Marktplatz

Matthias Claudius is buried with his wife Rebekka and his daughter Christiane (poem Christiane ) in the historic (former) Wandsbek cemetery behind the Christ Church in Wandsbek. Two iron crosses standing next to each other with gold inscriptions, which are protected by a hedge from the gears of Wandsbeker Marktstrasse, commemorate the Claudius couple.

Bernd Stöcker's bronze sculpture Ehrensprung by Bernd Stöcker from the year 2000 stands on the market square in Wandsbeck . It shows how Matthias Claudius starts a ritual leap of joy over one of his older children after the arrival of a new child.

A huge boulder is designed as a memorial stone on the footpath through the Wandsbeker wood.

In 1989 the city of Reinfeld had a larger memorial for its great poet Matthias Claudius built by the sculptor Jörg Plickat on the shores of Lake Reinfeld .

In 2015, on the 200th anniversary of his death, another monument by the artist Waldemar Otto was erected west of the historical cemetery on Ring 2, dedicated to the evening song . It shows the poet in front of the starry sky with the constellation of his birthday on August 15, 1740 and the stanzas of the evening song in the foot area .

Remembrance day

January 21 in the Evangelical Name Calendar .

Further honors

In numerous German towns, traffic routes (streets, squares, etc.) and schools are named after Matthias Claudius. In the Claudius years of 1965 and 1990, stamps were issued in his honor.


Claudius works initially appeared scattered in muse almanacs and magazines , above all in Der Wandsbecker Bothe . From 1775 Claudius began to publish the multi-volume text collection Asmus omnia sua secum portans (or Complete Works of Wandsbeck Bothen) . The first volumes, written between 1770 and 1775, appeared in Hamburg in 1775. Further volumes followed at irregular intervals, the last in 1812 with works from the years 1803–1812.

First volume of the works
(edition 1819)


  • Death and the Maiden
  • Death is already in place ...
  • The human being ("received and nourished")
  • Christiane
  • The star seer Lise
  • Love
  • The death
  • Singing a lullaby by the moonlight
  • To sing every day
  • Masonic drinking song ("Up and drink! Brothers drink!") From 1774
  • War song : "It's war!"
  • The spring. On the first morning of May
  • To - when she - died (The sower sows the seed)
  • We plow and we spread
  • Evening song : "The moon has risen"
  • In the winter
  • Singing a song behind the stove
  • Urian's trip around the world
  • Phidile


  • To my son Johannes, 1799.


  • Tändeleyen and stories. Reinfeld, 1762.
  • There is wisdom with the humble. published by Hans Thun
  • History of the Egyptian King Sethos , Breslau 1777/78 = translation of the novel Séthos… by Abbé Jean Terrasson , 1731/67 → digitized version (first part 1777)



  • Reinhard Görisch (ed.): Annual publications of the Claudius Society 1992ff.

Literature on individual topics and individual texts

  • Reiner Andreas Neuschäfer: From heavenly messengers at the Wandsbeck messenger. Matthias Claudius and the angels. In: Annuals of the Claudius Society. 18/2009, pp. 5-22.
  • Reinhard Görisch: 482 - The moon has risen . In: Gerhard Hahn , Jürgen Henkys (Hrsg.): Liederkunde zum Evangelisches Gesangbuch . No. 8 . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2003, ISBN 3-525-50331-8 , pp. 68–73 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  • Reiner Andreas Neuschäfer: "The moon has risen". Ideas, impulses and information from a religious educational perspective. In: AufBbruch. (PTI Drübeck) 12./2005 (Issue 1), pp. 17-21.
  • Friedrich Springorum: [Work article] Asmus omnia sua secum portans. In: Heinz Ludwig Arnold (Hrsg.): Kindlers Literatur Lexikon . 3rd, completely revised edition. 18 vols. Metzler, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-476-04000-8 , vol. 4, pp. 54-55.

Settings and recordings

Web links

Wikisource: Matthias Claudius  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Matthias Claudius  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Matthias Claudius  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bodo Pieroth : Literary forays through the history of legal training in Germany. In: Gilbert H. Gornig, Urs Kramer, Uwe Volkmann (eds.): State - Economy - Community. Festschrift for Werner Frotscher on his 70th birthday. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, p. 795 (798), as well as in: JURA - Legal training. 1993, p. 353, with reference to Siebke, in: Wandsbek informativ. Issue 3/1989, p. 19.
  2. Jürgen Holtorf: The lodges of the Freemasons, Nikol Verlags GmbH, Hamburg, ISBN 3-930656-58-2 , p. 141
  3. ^ Sources: Stock in Quatuor Coronati Yearbook. Volume 27 (1990). General Handbook of Freemasonry , 1863, Volume I, p. 180. H. Schüttler: Joh. Joachim Christoph Bode… Neuwied 1994, p. 16. Albrecht Janssen: 190 years of St. Johannisloge to the three roses in Hamburg ; Hamburg 1960, pp. 51, 71-80. Friedrich Kneisner: An old reference book . In: Circular Correspondence. 1902, pp. 204-212.
  4. According to Cicero's saying " Omnia mea mecum porto ": Asmus carries all his possessions with him.
  5. ^ Relationship to Perthes, Jacobi and others
  6. Matthias Claudius - The leap of honor Detailed pictures at
  7. ^ Image of the sculpture Ehrensprung ( Memento from June 5, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) in the Hamburger Wochenblatt, October 15, 2014
  8. The Matthias Claudius Monument
  9. ^ Matthias Claudius in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  10. ^ Matthias Claudius Streets in Germany
  11. ^ Text drinking song at freemaurer-wiki-de, set to music (CD Hungaroton) by Georg Anton Benda , who worked for a few months in 1778 under Friedrich Ludwig Schröder at the Hamburg theater.
  12. Text with comment
  13. ^ Project Gutenberg
  14. A collection of the titles mentioned here with further works in: Matthias Claudius: Das Fromme Buch. Foreword by Max Picard, selection by Carl Seelig. Bibliophile edition EP Tal & Co. Verlag, Vienna / Leipzig / Zurich 1920. (printed with five engraved coppers from the stone by Leo Frank)
  15. quoted from Jan Assmann : Die Zauberflöte. Opera and Mystery . Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-446-20673-6 , p. 311
  16. ^ Claudia Niebel on info-netz-musik on January 29, 2015; accessed on January 31, 2015
  17. Peter Sühring on info-netz-musik on July 4, 2011; accessed on January 31, 2015