Kristijonas Donelaitis image
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Born in 1714 / Died in February 18, 1780 / Lithuania / German


Kristijonas Donelaitis (January 1, 1714 in in Lasdinehlen near Gumbinnen, Kaliningrad Oblast - February 18, 1780 in Tollmingkehmen, Kaliningrad Oblast; Latin: Christian Donalitius) was a Lithuanian Lutheran pastor and poet. He lived and worked in Lithuania Minor, a territory in the Kingdom of Prussia, that had a sizable minority of ethnic Lithuanians. He wrote the first classic Lithuanian language poem, The Seasons (Lithuanian: Metai), which one of the principal works of Lithuanian poetry. The poem, a classic work of Lithuanian literature, depicts everyday life of Lithuanian peasants, their struggle with serfdom, and the annual cycle of life.

None of Donelaitis' works were published during his lifetime. Donelaitis wrote at least three poems in the German language (An der Amstrath Donalitius nach dem Verlust seiner Gattin, Der Gott der Finsterniss, and Unschuld sei mein ganzes Leben). His Lithuanian works consist of six fables and the poem The Seasons. Donelaitis' publisher, Ludwig Rhesa, believed that the fables, based on Aesop's Fables, were written for his students in Stallupönen. Their language and poetic rhythm are not as well-developed as in his later works.

His major work, The Seasons, was titled by Rheza. It consisted of four idylls, totaling 2,997 hexameters. The work was a long-term project, often revised and rewritten, without a clear beginning or ending. Only two, original idylls survive. The other two were destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars. The full work is known from a copy made by Pastor Hohlfeldt after 1794. Between 1809 and 1818, Rheza collected Donelaitis' works, edited and translated them, and finally published it as Das jahr in vier Gesängen. It was a heavily edited and censored edition, containing only about one sixth of the original poem. In 1824, Rheza also published the fables. A fuller publication of The Seasons was prepared by August Schleicher in 1865, but this edition was criticized by Georg H. F. Nesselman, who prepared an edition in 1869. ..