Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 17 >> Lemurs to Lied Von Der Glocke >> Lenau


life, melancholy and vienna

LENAU, la-non, Nikolaus (pseudonym for NIKOLAUS FRANZ EDLER VON NIEMBSCH VON STREHLENAU), Austrian poet: b. Csatid, near Temesvar, Hungary, 13 Aug. 1802; d. in the insane asylum at Oberctabling, Austria, 22 Aug. 1850. His father, Franz, was an official of the Hungarian Treasury (d. 1807); his mother, who later (1811) married the Budapest physi cian Karl Vogel, d. 1829. Lenau is perhaps the most melancholy and pessimistic poet in German literature; in fact he is frequently set up as a type of the denial of life, as opposed to Nietzsche, who is taken as an affirmation of life. His early education was irregular and evidently guided by the tendency to encyclope dic knowledge which is rather common among Germans and which makes German writers fre quently feel their kinship with Faust. He at tended the Piaristengymnasium at Budapest (1812-15), studiedphilosophy at the University of Vienna (1819-20), then at Pressburg (1821); he then turned to law, at Vienna (18n-26), in terpolating one semester of agriculture, at the Hungarian University of Altenburg; he later even pursued medical courses at Vienna. In the autumn of 1831 he was attacked, at Heidel berg, by profound melancholy, from which he felt there would be no deliverance except through a trip to America, which he under took m 1832; his experiences, owing to his sen sitive and over-delicate nature, must have been very unpleasant, for he returned to Europe in 1833, settling down in many places in Bavaria and Austria. Ferdinand Kurnberger's novel,

'Der Amerileamfide,) is a free rendering of Le nau's American disillusionment, and a number of poems by Freiligrath, Heine and Herwegh were suggested by the same situation. Lenau became insane in October 1844 and spent the rest of his life in confinement. He is, as a ly ricist, close to Goethe in importance, full of color and temperament; Austria's greatest .poet, presenting a powerful infusion of Slavic melancholy, together with ingratiating volue tuousness and ,passionate fire. Many of his poems and ballads have become popular. His epic attempts are rather lyric and fragmentary in quality; 'Faust' (1836); 'Savonarola) (1838) ; 'Die Albigenser) (1843); 'Don Juan) (posthumous).