Who was Ferdinand Freiligrath?


(Herrmann) Ferdinand Freiligrath
born: June 17th, 1810 in Detmold
Died: on March 18th, 1876 in Cannstatt

Who was Freiligrath actually?

Especially with older citizens, our secondary school is simply called Freiligrathschule. Our former director, Mr Schrader, always spoke of the Freiligrath School and made sure that this was noted on every letterhead.

Even on our certificate forms it still says “Realschule der Stadt Lage (Freiligrathschule)”.

As a young teacher, of course, I did not dare to ask who this Freiligrath was (that would have exposed an educational gap that one would have been ashamed of later on).

I forgot my question about everyday school life until a few years ago I discovered a bronze bust, surrounded by flowers, in the stairwell of our extension and I was told that this was the "head of Freiligrath".


I looked up a literary history and read:

"Ferdinand Freiligrath (from Detmold 1810-76) was the strongest poet after Heinrich Heine." As a writer, Alexander von Humboldt's mediation provided him with a pension from King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, "so that he could devote himself entirely to poetry". But when he switched to the liberal camp in 1844, he renounced his pension and wrote political and social poems in which he rebelled against the crown and the old state. He went to Belgium, where he earned his living as a trade correspondent.

In 1848 he returned to Germany and took over the editing of the "Neue Rheinische Zeitung" in Cologne with Karl Marx. In 1851 he emigrated again to England to avoid the threat of political persecution, where he worked as the administrator of a Swiss bank. In 1867 he finally returned to Germany.

His poetry ranges from simple, intimate folk songs to the pathos of political chants. That is why he was known to the whole people. We can still find his poems in 1928 in the “Vaterländischer Lesebuch” for the 7th and 8th school year.

A sample from the poem "O dear, as long as you can love!"

“And watch out for your tongue;
soon a bad word will be said!
O God, it wasn't meant badly,
but the other goes and complains. "

Freiligrath also gained importance through his translations of English and American poetry.