Baroque poems this is how analysis works

Baroque Poems: How to InterpretPoems from the Baroque period are difficult to understand at first sight. But if you know what the epoch is about, a poem interpretation is not so difficult anymore. We explain to you which characteristics are typical for baroque poems and how you can interpret them.

The epoch of the baroque: full of the longing for death

Death and despair – that sounds a bit overdramatic, characterizes the Literature epub of the Baroque but quite aptly. Because death belonged at this time firmly to the everyday life of the people. A strongly pronounced death wish and the hope for a better life in the hereafter are therefore characteristic aspects in Baroque poems. But these are not the only ones Baroque characteristics, the you for a Interpretation should know. What else you should pay attention to in Baroque poems and what you should know for your Poem analysis for German in the Abitur should know, we explain to you here.

Mine are not the years taken from me; mine are not the years that would like to come. The moment is mine, and if I take it into account, then mine is the one who made year and eternity. (Andreas Gryphius, 1616-1664)

Baroque poems: What you should know

For the successful interpretation of a baroque poem you need first of all background knowledge. Without know-how about the background, it is not possible to grasp a poem profoundly and to analyze it in detail. Because whether Romanticism, New Objectivity or Postmodern Literature – each epoch has typical characteristics, some of which are very different and distinct from other epochs. The reason for this is the contemporary historical context in which they were written. And that is at the time of the Biedermeier (1815-1848) is, of course, quite different from that of, say, Baroque poems Expressionism (1905-1925) or the Post-war literature (1945-1990).

So in your poetry analysis, be aware that poems are always a reflection of their time and reference to the current social, economic and political events of the timee take. This is also true, by the way Short stories interpreted If you are working on a text of a drama: literature always has to be understood and analyzed in the context of contemporary history, no matter what the period is literary genres it is.

To be able to interpret Baroque poems, you thus need:

Background knowledge about the contemporary historical context Knowledge about the specific themes, motifs and stylistic devices of the period Basic knowledge about other epochs, so that you can classify and distinguish them from each other.

About the era

The Baroque literary epoch spans the approximate period from 1600 to 1750. They follows Renaissance and Humanism and goes to the epoch of Enlightenment (1720-1800) ahead. Its name derives from the Portuguese term"barocco" from. This comes from the jeweler's language and can be translated as "oddly shaped, slant-round pearl" translated. Typical for the baroque is its expansive aesthetics. You know them mainly from the fields of architecture, interior design and fashion: the magnificent Versailles Palace, bulbous pieces of furniture gilded with lots of ornaments and scrolls, and frilly dresses with up to twelve petticoats in combination with piled-up white wigs.

This tendency to overload can also be found in baroque poems. This is not only due to the language, which from today's point of view is turgid and outdated. In general, baroque poetry is characterized by a lush imagery from. This sounds exhausting, but it has a big advantage for you: You don't have to look up the history of the period rhetorical means search. Metaphors, personifications and other figurative stylistic devices can be found in Baroque poems en masse.

Classification of the era

The baroque period can be divide into different phases, whose temporal demarcation, however, is not always clearly possible. Thus, you will often find information that the baroque era ended as early as 1720. This is not wrong, but is simply due to the fact that a clear classification is not always possible. People at that time did not simply say: "So, Baroque is over, now the next epoch begins." Instead, epoch designations are always first given in retrospect. And since developments and events do not run separately from each other, but rather merge into each other and are mutually dependent, a temporal demarcation is not always unambiguously given.

Basically, you can divide the Baroque era into the following sub-epochs:

1. Early Baroque: 1600 to 1650 2. High Baroque: 1650 to 1700 3. Late Baroque: 1700 to 1750

Did you know that ..?

… there were numerous undercurrents in the Baroque period? The best known of these is the Rococo (1725-1770), which is considered somewhat lighter and more delicate than the heavy Baroque. You can find expressions of the Rococo especially in architecture, decoration and fashion. Sometimes the Rococo is considered a separate epoch, but most often it is merged with the late Baroque.

Contemporary context

If you use the keyword "baroque When you hear the end of the Baroque era, the most important event of that time should immediately come to your mind: the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). This had the greatest influence on the thinking of the time. On the one hand, this is due to its duration, which is all the more serious because people at that time did not live nearly as long as they do today due to their living conditions and lack of hygienic and medical knowledge. So, with a duration of thirty years, it was a whole generation that grew up in the war. It determined the everyday life of the people and ensured with death, epidemics and famine for great suffering. In addition it depopulated whole regionse, which made death and transience even more present and led to sometimes spooky conditions.

Apart from this, the Baroque period was the most The Age of Absolutism. And also the Catholic Church, shaken by the Reformation, wanted to consolidate its power.

The Thirty Years' War

The Thirty Years' War began as Religious war and ended as Territorial War. The starting point is the Reformation. It begins in 1517, when Martin Luther is said to have slammed his 95 theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg. This led to the secession of the Protestant from the Catholic Church and a confessional division in Germany and all of Europe. The Augsburg religious peace of 25. September 1555, while trying to contain the resulting conflicts. With the Prague defenestration of 23. Rebellion, however, openly from. Soon captured the whole of Europe. Due to its geographical location between a Catholic southern Europe and a largely Protestant northern Europe, the war was particularly intense in the territory of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which was also internally consumed by the confessional split. Peace efforts like the Peace of Lubeck (1629). the Peace of Prague (1635) failed. It was not until the Peace of Westphalia, which is the name given to a series of peace treaties signed between the 15. May. Dem 24. October 1648 were signed in Munster and Osnabruck, ended thirty years of war. It had the population Death, famine and pestilence and left behind desolate regions and extinct lands. The peasant population was almost extinct. Economically and socially, some of the areas affected by the war needed more than a century, to recover from the consequences of the war. memory -. In baroque poems.

A very vivid example of such a war poem is"Tears of the Fatherland" by Andreas Gryphius. It is considered the most famous poem of the 17. It is a figurative description of the horrors of war (here in the old spelling):

We are now completely, indeed more than completely, devastated! The insolent multitude, the raging trumpet The sword fat with blood, the thundering Carthaun Has consumed all sweat and diligence and supply.

The towers are ablaze, the church is inverted. The town hall lies in horror, the stars are destroyed, the maidens are disgraced, and wherever we look, there is fire, pestilence, and death, which pierces heart and mind. Hir through the Schantz. The city is always flowing with fresh blood. Three times are already six years as our streams Flutt, Von Leichen fast verstopfft, sich langsam fort gedrungen.

But I am still silent about what was worse than death, What was worse than the plague, and famine and famine That also the treasure of souls, so many forced away.


Absolutism refers to absolute monarchy and thus to a form of rule in which the monarch / in the sole ruler /-in is. This means that he/she rules without having to coordinate decisions with other institutions. He or she conceived of himself or herself as ruler /-in from God's grace and believed in his/her/its own perfection. This self-image is reflected in the splendor of the Baroque period: the magnificent buildings were intended to reflect the royal, superhuman power symbolize. Here you can already guess why the Baroque is also regarded as an epoch of contrasts: while the nobility lived in abundance, the peasants were poor and suffered most from the consequences of war.

Characteristics of the Baroque

The events of the time significantly shaped the thinking of the people. In baroque poems it expresses itself in the following characteristic Baroque features:

– Antithetics – the Vanitas motif – Memento mori – Carpe diem


Baroque splendor and war suffering – the era of the Baroque was characterized by opposites. On the one hand, the aristocracy wallowed in luxury and extravagance, following the example of French absolutism. On the other hand, the simple population lived in poverty, hunger and disease. Magnificent buildings demonstrated the power of the ruling class, while entire villages were wiped out by war and its consequences. One's own transience was omnipresent, at the same time one longed for life and wanted to enjoy it.

In baroque poems, the use of these content opposites is called Antithetics denotes. Typical pairs of opposites in Baroque poems are:

– This world and the hereafter – earthly and heavenly life – virtue and lust – eroticism and asceticism – play and seriousness – appearance and being

The Vanitas Motif

A major theme throughout Baroque art – and thus, of course, in Baroque poems – is the Vanitas motif. The term "Vanitas is Latin and means "transience", "Nothingness" or "vanity. He puts the thought of his own Transience and meaninglessness of life in the foreground. year 1637. It belongs to the most famous baroque poems. You may have already encountered in German class. It belongs to the most famous baroque poems. You may have encountered them in German class. If not, it could be a possible poem that you have to analyze in an exam.

You see, wherever you look, only vanity on earth. What this one builds today, that one will tear down tomorrow; Where cities stand now, there will be a meadow, On which a shepherd's child will play with the flocks;

Directly in the first verse of his four-stanza sonnet, the author voices the central idea of the vanitas motif: There is in the whole world only vanity. Vanity is here an expression for transitoriness. So his thesis is: Everything is transient, nothing endures. This he illustrates directly with examples that are antithetical builds up: Building up and tearing down (V.2) and cities and nature ("meadow", V.3). That there is also a religious aspect in the vanitas motif is evident in the fourth and final stanza of the poem in the last verse:

As a bad nothingness, as a shadow, dust and wind; As a meadow flower that you can't find again. Still, what is eternal, no single person wants to look at!

In contrast to earthly existence, which is transient like shadow, dust and wind, life after death is eternal. But man still refuses to realize that the only meaning in his earthly existence is life after death.

Did you know that ..?

… the vanitas motif still has an influence on the aesthetic design of horror films today? Many classical props like masks, mirrors, ruins or skulls are baroque vanitas symbols. As a universal tradition they have survived the centuries. Are still perceived by us as creepy.

Memento mori

Also in the motif "Memento mori" it is about Death and transience. Translated, the expression means"Consider that you must die". It contrasts with the idea of carpe diem, which appeals to seizing the day.

An example of the memento mori motif can be found in the poem"The transience of beauty." The sonnet by Christian Hoffmann von Hoffmannswaldau describes that beauty is transient, because it is mortal. Thus the first stanza reads:

Pale death with its cold hand will at last stroke your breasts with time The lovely coral of your lips will fade; the warm snow of your shoulders will become cold sand.

Here it is not only about the vanitas thought. The motif of transience is also closely related to the memento mori, as already the first verse with the personification of death states: Death comes and will take you. Say: You will die. That is inevitable.

Carpe diem

In keeping with the antithetical world view of the Baroque, the memento mori idea was accompanied by the motto "Carpe diem" vis-à-vis. It means"Seize the Day" and calls to enjoy life.

The poem "In itself" by Paul Fleming shows how the carpe diem idea can be expressed in Baroque poems. The sonnet from the year 1641 is an appeal to oneself not to take life so hard and to live the day. Thus, the first stanza states:

Still be undaunted! Give nevertheless unlosing! Do not give way to happiness, stand higher than envy, enjoy yourself and respect it for no suffering, has the same conspired against you happiness, place and time.

According to the invitation "Carpe diem – Seize the day" by Angelus Silesius the lyrical I here addresses commands to himself not to give up and despair (V.1). The use of the word "nevertheless refers to the situation so hopeless in itself as well as the consciousness that everything is transient. Nevertheless, one should not be envious, but open to finding happiness and enjoying life (V.2-4).

You will encounter the characteristics antithetics, vanitas, memento mori, and carpe diem in all Baroque poems. In your interpretation you should not only list them, but always explain what they mean – in general and in relation to the content of the poem.

Test your knowledge of Baroque characteristics

The Baroque leitmotifs memento mori, carpe diem and vanitas are no longer foreign words to you? And you also know why everything was vain in the Baroque period? Then test your knowledge in our quiz!

Poems of the Baroque

The preferred literary form of the Baroque was the Poetry. The reason for this is obvious: as a linguistic art form, poems are particularly suitable for this, linguistically embellished and "overloaded" with linguistic images and stylistic devices to become. The most characteristic baroque poem form is the sonnet. Other popular poetic forms are epigram, elegy and ode.


The most common form of poetry of the baroque is the sonnet. It consists of a clear structure: 14 lines of verse divided into four stanzas. Two quartets (stanzas of four verses each) are always followed by two tercets (stanzas of three verses each). The Meter is a six-letter iambus, the so-called Alexandrine.


As a short Meaning or mockery poem expresses the epigram in summarized and sharpened form different thoughts. It is very short and pointed, as you can see for example in the epigram "Now you must blossom" by Angelus Silesius, which was written between 1640 and 1677:

Blossom, frozen Christ, May is at the door, you remain eternally dead, do you not bloom now and here.


The elegy is characterized by its wistful, resigned basic mood from. SIe consists only of distichs, i.e. two-liners. These, in turn, are usually composed only of the verse measure dactylic.

An ode is a particularly fvain and sublime poem. It has its origin in ancient choral singing. Was therefore sung to a melody.

Well known baroque poems

– "It's all vain", Andreas Gryphius "Tears of the Fatherland, Andreas Gryphius "Vanitas! Vanitatum Vanitas!", Andreas Gryphius "The World, Christian Hoffmann von Hoffmannswaldau "The transience of beauty", Christian Hoffmann von Hoffmannswaldau "Carpe diem", Martin Opitz

Interpret Baroque poems

Now that you know the historical background of Baroque poems as well as their themes and characteristics and typical poem forms, you have the necessary knowledge to interpret Baroque poems in detail. Thereby you should

– first read the poem and you content and formal peculiarities mark. – write a poem analysis.

The procedure for a poem analysis is always the same, no matter whether you Romantic Poems, Expressionism Poems or analyze baroque poems.

Step 1: Read and mark features

First you have to read the poem. Sounds logical, but it doesn't mean skimming once and then writing away. Take time to read the poem several times, and as you reread, mark anything that stands out to you in terms of content and form, for example:

– epoch-typical characteristics, motifs and themes – references to the contemporary historical context – formal conspicuous features such as Rhyme scheme, Meter, Verse length, cadence or punctuation

With a thorough preliminary work you create a basis for your analysis and make it easier for yourself to write. This is especially important because in a poem interpretation it is a matter of linking form and content. But you don't have to write a complete analysis in the margin yet either. Many connections arise in the writing of your text.

Step 2: Writing the analysis

The instrument of your work is the poem analysis. It follows a clear structure – introduction, main part, conclusion – and dictates where you have to place which aspect. Here again is a brief overview as a reminder:

IntroductionTitle, type of text, author, year of publication and theme – these points must be included in every introduction. You can usually formulate them in one or two sentences, for example: This poem "It is all vain" by Andreas Gryphius from 1637 deals with the transience of human and earthly life. Against the backdrop of the Thirty Years' War, it illustrates the vanitas motif, a typical idea of the Baroque era: everything is transient. Main part: The main part begins with a brief summary of the content. Then you go into the formal facts. This includes number of stanzas and verses, meter and rhyme scheme. The actual analysis follows: you look for characteristics typical of the epoch and rhetorical devices, interpret them and relate form and content to each other and to the period itself. Concluding partHere you briefly summarize your most important findings, formulate the poem's message, and evaluate it in terms of the era.

What is always a great help when analyzing a poem is to be aware of how people thought at that time and what was important to them. In the Baroque period was set against the background of the traumatic experience of war the awareness of one's own death and safety, that nothing lasts, but passes away. Therefore, look specifically for characteristics such as vanitas and memento mori, pay attention to whether you might find contrasts in the poem and whether perhaps the religious aspect also plays a role. Then you look at how these characteristics are expressed linguistically.

The language of the Baroque

Everything in the Baroque was lush and expressive and so are the poems. The external aesthetics and the language were very important for the poets of that time – which makes your analysis much easier. At first glance, you might be intimidated by the outdated, turgid language from. In fact, with baroque poems you can be sure that you always have enough to analyze. On the one hand, baroque poetry was subject to a clear Muster. there were no experiments, everything had to fit into the scheme. (This is actually also quite obvious, after all, people lived in uncertain times. The poets prefer clear structures and thus security.) On the other hand you find in baroque poems numerous linguistic devices. To create a strong imagery, these are above all

– metaphors, – personifications, – parallelisms, – antitheses, – repetitio (repetitions), – hyperboles (exaggerations) and – symbols.

Typical are also Calls out, that convey emotionality, and rhetorical questions that often express helplessness in the face of the situation. Another common feature that you can mention in your analysis is the so-called Enjambment, the line break. In this stylistic device, a sentence or sub-sentence does not end within a verse, but jumps into the next verse in the middle, for example, as in "Es ist alles eitel":

The glory of high deeds must vanish like a dream. Shall then the game of time, the easy man, bestehn? Ah, what is all this, which we consider delicious,

As a bad nothingness, As a shadow, dust and wind, As a meadow flower, which you don't find again! Still, what is eternal, no unified man wants to consider.

Here there is a line jump from the last verse of the third stanza (Ah, what is all this that we respect for delicious) to the next stanza (in this case Strophensprung called). Thus, the sentence continues for several verses. The function can be, for example, to link stanzas or verses more strongly in terms of content or to emphasize something in particular.

Did you know that..?

… baroque poets contributed decisively to the development of New High German literature? For the first time, they wrote their works in German rather than Latin. One reason for this was that the readers should find themselves and their experiences reflected in the works.

Important questions

What is typical of a poem from the baroque era?

Typical of a poem from the Baroque period are its features vanitas, memento mori, and carpe diem. You describe the people's attitude to life and usually deal with the threat of the Thirty Years' War. Often there is also a strong antithetics. It is also characteristic to lush imagery and the use of many historical means.

What is typical for the baroque period?

Typical for the baroque period are his overloaded pomp and circumstance. This is evident not only in architecture, furnishings, and fashion, but also in the linguistic composition of poems.

What is the baroque era?

The epoch of the baroque refers to a Period between the Reformation and the Enlightenment and covers the years 1600 to about 1750. Formative for this time was the Thirty Years War. It is one reason why the epoch is characterized by contrasts and contradictions like no other.

Baroque poems at a glance

– In order to analyze Baroque poems, you should be aware of the contemporary context as well as to know the typical themes and motifs of the time. – The most important event of the time was the Thirty Years' War. Vanitas, memento mori and Carpe diem are the leitmotifs and central characteristics of the Baroque period. – Typical is strong antithetics as well as expressive imagery. – Pay attention to formal aspects such as Rhyme scheme and meter. – In your analysis, always try to interplay of form and content present. Be aware that the formal design of a poem is always related to the content of the poem.

Like this post? Please share to your friends:
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: