[This page by Madeleine Brook]

Paul Fleming (1609-1640)

One of the First Silesian School of poets, which was heavily influenced by Opitz, Fleming is considered one of the greatest poets of the early seventeenth century. His university education is evident in his religious as well as secular poetry through its philosophical expressions of Christian Stoicism, an idea founded on the humanist concept of neo-stoicism. However, he is now best known for his love poetry, in particular his mastery of petrarchan conventions of love poetry (in sonnet form), but also the less formal, ‘folk-like’ conventions of the ode, both of which he combines with innovative themes of requited love and loyalty.

Paul Fleming was born in Hartenstein in Saxony and was educated at the humanist St. Thomas School in Leipzig until 1628 when he began studying medicine at the University of Leipzig. It was during his time at university that Fleming first came across the work of Opitz, who then became a literary role model for Fleming. Fleming’s first occasional poems (Gelegenheitsdichtung or Casualpoesie) were published in the early 1630s, although most of his poetry was published posthumously. From 1633, after completing his studies, until 1639, he joined Adam Olearius (1599-1671) in the position of physician on diplomatic trade missions to Russia and Persia on behalf of Friedrich III von Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf (1597-1659). Olearius’ published accounts of these travels also contained some examples of Fleming’s poems, which brought him some public recognition as a poet in his own lifetime. While on these travels, Fleming made the acquaintance of the Niehusens, a merchant family with three daughters that lived in Reval (now Tallinn, Estonia). Elsabe, the second of the three daughters and to whom Fleming was at first attached, married another man in 1637, and Fleming’s affections transferred themselves to the youngest of the three, Anna, to whom he became engaged in 1639. Several of Fleming’s poems contain anagrams of the names of these two women. In late 1639, Fleming travelled to Leiden, where he gained his doctorate in medicine. He intended to settle in Reval and began his return journey in 1640, but he died in Hamburg of pneumonia. Several collections of his poetry were published in the years after his death, edited by fellow writer Olearius, including Teütsche Poemata (‘German verse’) in 1646.

His poems include:

Er bittet Sie zu sich; He calls her to him

Wie er wolle geküsset seyn; How he would like to be kissed

An sich; To himself

Further Reading

Angelo George De Capua, German Baroque Poetry: Interpretive Readings (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1973)

L. W. Forster, The Icy Fire: Five Studies in European Petrarchism, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Anthony J. Harper, ‘Paul Fleming’, in James Hardin (ed.), German Baroque Writers, 1580-1660 (Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale, 1996), pp. 107-12

Anthony J. Harper, German secular song-books of the mid-seventeenth century: an examination of the texts in collections of songs published in the German-language area between 1624 and 1660 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003)

Marian R. Sperberg-McQueen, The German poetry of Paul Fleming: Studies in Genre and History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990)

Further Reading in German

Heinz Entner, Paul Fleming: ein deutscher Dichter im Dreißigjährigen Krieg (Leipzig: Reclam, 1989)