Novalis: Hymns to the Night

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Detail of an engraving
by Edouard Eichens, 1845

Novalis was the pen name of Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr (Baron) von Hardenberg (1772-1801), called Friedrich von Hardenberg. The death in 1797 of his young fiancé, Sophie von Kühn, led him to write Hymnen an die Nacht (Hymns to the Night), a set of six prose and verse lyrics first published in 1800 in Athenaeum, a literary magazine edited by August Wilhelm Schlegel and his brother Friedrich Schlegel. Seven months after the publication of Hymns to the Night, Novalis died of tuberculosis, the same disease that had claimed his fiancé.

Although the cryptic diction and syntax of Hymns to the Night make it an extremely difficult work to try to translate, there have been a few attempts to render it in English. The text at this site is a revised version of a 1897 translation by the Scottish writer George MacDonald. A modern translation by Dick Higgins, with the original German text on facing pages, is available in an inexpensive edition from McPherson and Company.

Reading Hymns to the Night

Hymns to the Night was divided into six sections when it was first published. These sections are all presented here within a single Web page.

You may prefer to download the complete work (all six sections) in the form of a Word or text file, or a Windows/Zip or Mac/Stuffit archive.

Readers of German may want to consult a Web page at the University of Applied Sciences, Stuttgart, that offers the full text of the original work. Unfortunately, the page contains a background image that makes the text difficult to read.


Related Websites

The International Novalis Society, which has its headquarters in the manor in Wiederstedt where Novalis was born, hosts a website that offers information (in German and in English) about the society's exhibitions, readings, lectures, excursions, and related publications.

Aquarium: Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis) im Internet is a well-designed site that provides a wealth of content (mostly in German) relating to Novalis and his works.

The Golden Key, a George MacDonald site, offers the original (unrevised) MacDonald translation of Hymns to the Night.

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