Karl Theodor Körner  

Portrait of Carl Theodor Körner

Carl Theodor Körner was a German poet and soldier. He was born on 23rd September 1791 in Dresden, Saxony, Germany and died on 26th August 1813 in Rosenow, Mecklenburg, Germany aged 21.

Major Works

Knospen” (Buds) (1810) 
“Die Braut “(The Bride) (1812)
“Der Grüne Domino” (The Green Domino) (1812) 
“Der Nachtwächter” (The Night Watchman) (1812) 
“Schwertlied” (1813)

Biography Timelime

Karl Theodor Körner was born on 23rd September 1791 in Dresden Germany. His father Christian Gottfried Korner was a Protestant church official and friend of Friedrich Schiller. His mother was Minna Stock Körner. He was educated at the Kreuzschule (School of the Cross) in Dresden. After school he went into the mining profession and moved to Vienna, Austria.

1810: In Vienna he meets Wilhelm von Humboldt, the Prussian Ambassador, and various literary people including Friedrich von Schlegel. He attends lectures by Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Schleiermacher. He also produces a number of dramas, operas and farces as well as some poetry. He is appointed as the poet to the court at the Vienna Burgtheater and becomes engaged to the actress Antonie Adamberger. His first volume of poems is published under the title of “Knospen” (Buds).

1812: His light comedies, “Die Braut” (The Bride) and “Der Grüne Domino” (The Green Domino) receive very successful performances, and “Der Nachtwächter” (The Night Watchman) proves quiet popular. His historical tragedy “Zriny”, is seen as the most ambitious of his works. He also writes an opera and some poetry. All of this allows him to be appointed as poet to the court at the Vienna Burgtheater. He gets engaged to the actress Antonie Adamberger.

1813: He leaves Vienna in March during the War of the Sixth Coalition, the German states uprising against Napoleon Bonaparte. He joins the Lutzow Free Corps army regiment in Breslau with friends Friedrich Friesen and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. On his journey there he writes the poem “Der Grenzadler” (Border Eagle) and continues to write during his military campaigning including a singspiel (play with singing) “Der Vierjährige Posten” (The Four Year-long Post). On 28th March his commanding officer Major von Lützow lodges his troops at Zobten in Poland and they then set out towards Saxony in Germany. Körner arrives in Dresden on 6th April and takes time out to visit his family. The regiment miss the Battle of Mockern by one day. They march northwards, then, hearing of the French retreat from Hamburg they turn southwards. Korner is frustrated by the lack of action but is created Adjutant to Lutzow. They march through Buyystadt and Schleiz and arrive at Eichigt in Vogtland without seeing the French at all. Major von Lützow receives official notification of the armistice signed at Plauen on 4th June and decides to meet up with others of his regiment at Kitzen near Leipzig. Despite being told of a free passage by the French they are surrounded by a superior force. Korner is sent to demand an explanation but when he gets there the French General Francois Fournier-Sarloveze strikes him with his sword and wounds him in the head. He then orders a general attack on Lutzow and his cavalry. Lutzow manages to escape on horseback to join his infantry on the opposite bank of the river Elbe. Korner manages to crawl to a nearby forest. Whilst lying there he composes the sonnet “Abschied vom Leben” (Farewell to Life). In the morning he is saved by two peasants and taken to Leipzig, still under French control. He is smuggled out to Gnandstein Castle and then on to Carlsbad in Bohemia and finally travels to Berlin. He recovers enough from his wounds to rejoin his regiment in Mecklenburg.

Hostilities begin again on 17th August. Körner spends the night of 25th August at Gottesgabe Manor playing the piano and singing. Early on the 26th his force is engaged by the French in the forest of Rosenow in Western Pomerania. He composes the “Schwertlied” (Sword Song) during a lull in the fighting.

Carl Theodor Körner died on 26th August 1813 in Rosenow whilst pursuing a group of French Soldiers. He was wounded in the stomach by riflemen and immediately loses consciousness. He was carried to a neighbouring wood but could not be revived. Korner was buried in the village of Wobbelin and a tomb has since been placed over his grave.
In 1814 his father published a selection of his battle songs called “Leier und Schwerdt” (Lyre and Sword) and “Poetischer Nachlass” (Poetic Estate) in 1815. His mother published his complete works in 1838. His patriotic “Lutzow’s Wilde Jagd” (Lutzow’s Wild Hunt) has been set to music by both Carl Maria von Weber and Franz Schubert.

Further Information

List of works by Korner.