Schack von Staffeldt

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Schack von Staffeldt

Schack von Staffeldt (28 March 1769 - 28 December 1826) or Adolph Wilhelm Schack von Staffeldt was a Danish author of two collections of poetry. He is famous for "being late", publishing his collection of poetry intended to introduce Romanticism in Denmark a year after his younger rival, Adam Oehlenschläger did it.[1] Staffeldt was not held in high regard in his own time but is acknowledged as one of the most important Romantic Danish poets by later generations.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Staffeldt was born in Gartz on Rügen in 1769.[3] The son of an immigrant German, he had hoped to be the first to introduce the dawning German Romanticism in Danish literature. Staffeldt underwent a military education at the cadet academy but one of his teachers, W. H. F. Abrahamson stirred the young man's interest in literature. As a lieutenant he studied at the Georg-August Universität in Göttingen in 1791-1793.[2][3] After a few years back in Denmark, he travelled again, seeking inspiration from prominent philosophers such as Herder, Schiller, Kant, and Schelling.[2] He was thus well prepared for his literary breakthrough but Adam Oehlenschläger, who was ten years younger and had an intuitive talent for literature, published a Romanticist collection before Staffeldt was able to do it. When his collection came out a year later, he was deemed an epigone.[2] Furthermore, Staffeldt was critical of Norse mythology which he thought of as a puppet play, a stance which did not help ensure a favourable reception either.[3]

Unlike his younger rival, Staffeldt did, however, demonstrate a deeper understanding of Romanticist philosophy and a strong ability to turn the idea of a fundamental split between ideas and phenomena into what is, according to Brandes, poetry of "imperishable beauty".[2] Staffeldt's German origins were noted in the nationalist atmosphere in the middle of the 19th century but as Brandes noted: "we Danes should not blame Staffeldt for preferring our language to his own".[3]

Staffeldt is a philosophical poet but the poems in his second collection, Nye Digte (1808, literally: New Poems) are also full of observations of the natural surroundings. The book did, however, not receive much attention and Staffeldt gave up poetry to work as a prefect in the duchies.[2] He worked in Cismar from 1810 and was appointed in Schleswig in 1813 where he died in 1826.[3]

He only published poetry but did also work as a playwright. His plays just needed the "final touch of Donatello's chisel", he noted.[3] Staffeldt was reassessed by J. L. Heiberg and Georg Brandes who despite antipathy towards Romanticism understood and valued Staffeldt's contributions.[2] In 2006, Staffeldt's poem, "Indvielsen" (The Initiation) was included in the Danish Culture Canon.[4]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Schou, Søren (2013). Den første forsinkede romantiker. Schack Staffeldt (in Danish). Copenhagen: Gyldendal. p. 85. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Schack von Staffeldt". Den Store Danske (in Danish). Gyldendal. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Blicher, Henrik. "Indledning. På den golde gren" (in Danish). Arkiv for Dansk Litteratur. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Lyrikantologi" (PDF). Kulturkanonen, p. 132 (in Danish). Danish Ministry of Culture. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013.