German poet. His best poems include ‘Die Auswanderer’, ‘Prinz Eugen’, ‘Moosthee’, ‘Die Blumenrache/Revenge of the Flowers’, and others, written before 1840. The charm of his poetry lay in its originality of subject and sentiment, while in some poems, such as ‘Skating Negro’ and ‘Revenge of the Flowers’, there is an element of the grotesque and eccentric.
In the 1840s his work became political and he was forced into exile after publication of Ein Glaubensbekenntnis 1844. Having returned to Germany, he was arrested for publishing Die Todten an die Lebenden 1848. He also translated several English classics into German.
Freiligrath was born in Detmold and worked as a bank clerk and bookkeeper until the success of his first volume of poetry Gedichte 1838 induced him to turn to literature. Until 1842 his poetry was free from politics and was influenced by the French Romantics but his democratic opinions, expressed in the poems Ein Glaubensbekenntnis and England an Deutschland, led to friction with the government and he was forced to flee to Switzerland and from there to London. He returned to Germany 1848 and became leader of the Democratic party in Düsseldorf, but was imprisoned again for Die Todten an die Lebenden. His Neuere politische und soziale Gedichte 1850 led to further arrest, although he was acquitted and able to leave for London. Following a political amnesty he again returned to Germany and produced songs such as ‘Hurrah Germania!’ and the ‘Trompete von Gravelotte’ which became very popular.