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Martin Opitz

The most eminent member of this society was Martin Opitz, 172 afterwards ennobled as Opitz von Bobersfeld. He was a native of Bunzlau, in Silesia, and with him begins what is termed the Silesian era of German poetry--a time when this country held the first rank in learning and literature among the German States as markedly as Swabia had done in the days of the Minne-singers. Opitz died of the plague at Dantzic in 1639, at the early age of forty-two; but his short life had been rich in mental labour. He had travelled much, and was well known at all the chief German courts; he had taken part in one military expedition, and had acquitted himself creditably of a more congenial employment--a diplomatic mission to Paris. His great work, however, lay in his "Treatise on German Poetry," and in the practical exemplification of its principles which he gave in his own poems. He was, in fact, the first to lay down the laws of German prosody, and he may be said to have given its form to German verse, as Luther did to German prose. This service has obtained him a higher place in his country's literature than the merits of his poems would intrinsically justify. They are easy, correct, and elegant, but have scarcely a spark of originality or force, yet in his own day they procured him the highest possible eulogies from princes and scholars, and not empty praise alone, but money, friends, and rank. Opitz was essentially a clever, industrious literary man of the world, with the art of making himself everywhere agreeable, and he was petted and caressed accordingly, more than was good for his work. Such a man would probably never have written religious poetry at all in ordinary times; but living as he did when grave thoughts and terrible struggles were in all men's 173 minds, he too was influenced by his age, and he wrote a good deal of this kind--versions of all the epistles for the Sundays of the year, of many of the Psalms, and of the Song of Solomon. Among his sacred poems, however, his hymns are by far the best, and some are really fine. We give one, a

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