[This page by Madeleine Brook]

Zlatna, Oder von der Ruhe des Gemütes; Zlatna, or on the Peace of the Spirit (1623)


Zlatna, Oder von der Ruhe des Gemütes’ (Zlatna, or on the Peace of the Spirit) is the best known of Opitz’s pastoral poems. It describes in 568 alexandrine lines the idyll of rural life in Zlatna, a small gold mining town in the area of Siebenbürgen (now in Romania). In his Buch von der Deutschen Poeterey; Book of German Poetics, Opitz declares that eclogues or Hirtenlieder:

reden von schaffen / geißen / seewerck / erndten / erdgewächsen / fischereyen vnnd anderem feldwesen; vnd pflegen alles worvon sie reden / als von Liebe / heyrathen / absterben / buhlschafften / festtagen vnnd sonsten auff jhre bäwrische vnd einfältige art vor zue bringen


[They] speak of labour, metal work, waterside activity, harvests, plants, fisheries and other agricultural things, and generally depict those things of which they speak – love, marrying, dying, courting, feast days and so on – in their own rustic and simple way.

The poem is formed as an address to Opitz’s friend, Lisabon, the manager of the gold mines at Zlatna. A city dweller, Opitz writes to thank Lisabon for a brief stay in the rural idyll where he sees evidence of the past, especially the classical past, everywhere. This is mirrored in Opitz’s copious allusions to classical models for his bucolic poem (e.g. Horace, Sappho, Vergil, etc.), thus belying the supposed ‘rustic simplicity’ of the eclogue. It is here that the courtier-poet – in tune with the idea that the idyll ‘is not, it seeks nature’ (see below, Schulz-Behrend, p. 399) – finds inspiration and his very nature as a poet. In this way, Zlatna becomes less a real place than a perfect microcosm of nature that has been arranged by divine foresight to the perfect benefit of man:

[...] Es mag die Häusser zieren

Mit Marmor wer da will; Ich lobe solche Pracht

Die ausser Menschen-List natürlich ist gemacht.


People may adorn their houses as much as they like with marble;

I praise that splendour that is made naturally, beyond human ingenuity.

The beneficence of God is continued in Opitz’s contemplation of Zlatna’s most important resource, the gold mine:

Viel haben jhre Lust an köstlichen Pallästen

Gantz Königlich gemacht / viel gründen starcke Festen

Darauff man mehrmahls doch an jetzt vergeblich trawt /

Weil Mars so grimmig ist: Bey euch hat GOtt gebawt.

Laß hier vnd da gleich Milch vnd süsses honig fliessen;

Hier fleußt pur klares Gold.


Many take their pleasure from sumptuous palaces

built quite regally, many build strong fortresses

for which there has yet been and still is much futile lamenting,

because Mars is so ferocious: God has built here.

Causes milk and sweet honey to flow right here and there;

pure, clear gold flows here.

The bounty of God is, Opitz says in his figurative allusion, more enduring than man-made constructions intended to symbolise wealth and strength. Yet he also admits that the gifts of God in nature (precious metals) have been abused by man.

‘Zlatna’ also covers other themes typical of the Opitzian definition of the eclogue, such as rural toil and marriage: Lisabon is advised to take a wife, which introduces into the poem an exploration of the ideal married state and the role of the idyllic happiness of country life as an aid to overcoming superficial worldly desires.

Further Reading

G. Schulz-Behrend, ‘Opitz’ Zlatna’, Modern Language Notes 77 (1962), 398-410

Leonard Forster, Gustav Gundisch and Paul Binder, ‘Henricus Lisbona und Martin Opitz’, Archiv für das Studium der Neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 215 (1978), 21-32