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Poetic Development and Recognition

Critics have sought in vain for traces of poetic development in Gerhardt's work. Such findings as have been claimed can be regarded only as more or less probable conjecture, a fact which shows that his personality was immediately poetically endowed, giving itself out whenever it composed poetry. If his individuality shows no development as such, his poetry can bear no marks of development.

It has often been said that "Gerhardt had and sought no laurels"; nor was he ever "hailed as the Homer or Vergil of his time." As he knew neither himself nor the greatness of his gift, so his contemporaries failed to appreciate him. He never regarded himself as a poet by calling as did Opitz, Johann Franck and Rist, but only a poet by avocation. To quote Goethe, he sang "as the bird sings that lives in the branches." In the same proportion that Gerhardt's poetry brought strength and comfort in the grievous period of the Thirty Years' War and later eras of confusion, it is destined through the present world disaster to bring its message of hope.

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