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Stefan George

George, Stefan (shtāˈfän gāôrgˈə) [key], 1868–1933, German poet, leader of the revolt against realism in German literature. He was poetically influenced by Greek classical forms, by the Parnassians, and by the French symbolists. Intellectually he was a disciple of Nietzsche. His lyrics, intended for an intellectual aristocracy, were esoteric and remote, but their fine classicism, their melodious words, and the austerity of George's pure art made him a major poet. His representative verse includes Algabal (1892), Das Jahr der Seele [the soul's year] (1897), Der siebente Ring [the seventh ring] (1907), Der Stern des Bundes [the star of the covenant] (1914), and Das neue Reich [the new kingdom] (1928). George was antagonistic to humanism, to democracy, and to progress. He influenced younger poets through his verse and through Blätter für die Kunst (founded 1892), the literary organ of his circle. George made gifted translations of the works of many poets, including Dante. In contemporary life George looked toward the rise of a "superman" who would unify state and culture. Realizing the divergence between his aesthetic ideal and its brutalized reality, he left Germany after the Nazis came to power. Nevertheless the Nazis adopted him as national poet after his death.

See studies by G. R. Urban (1962), U. K. Goldsmith (1970), and M. M. and E. A. Metzger (1972).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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