Golden age of songs of Prussian Lithuanians

Golden age of songs of Prussian Lithuanians

The diverse activities of Ludwig Rheza (1776-1840), a theologian and professor of the University of Königsberg, as well as his highly positive attitude towards the value of the Lithuanian folk poetry creations, prompted the involvement of the enlightened persons of the parishes of Lithuania Minor, such as priests, teachers, landlords and others, in the folklore collection. In his appeal – Lietuvių literatūros bičiuliams (To the Friends of Lithuanian Literature) – of 23 December 1817, Rheza asked for help in collecting the data on the fading Lithuanian language and folk songs. With the help of many contributors, in 1825 he released the first selection of Lithuanian songs – Dainos oder Littauische Volkslieder.

Following the release of the songbook, the collection of folklore intensified considerably: parish priests or other educated persons sent the folk material collected by them to Rheza and the archive was filling up with new material. In the course of the 19th-20th centuries, the songbook of Rhesa and other songs from his archive were published three more times.

The Dainos songbook of Rheza inspired a lot of interest and a wave of folk song publications on the international scene. This work was joined by G.H.F. Nesselmann (Berlin, 1853), A. Schleicher (Weimar, 1857), P. von Bohlen (Tilsit, 1857-1866), F. Kuršaitis (Halle, 1876) A. Leskien, K. Brugman (Strasbourg, 1882), A. Bezzenberger (Göttingen, 1882), Ch. Bartsch (Heidelberg, 1886, 1889), M. Jankus (Tilsit, 1892), V. Kalvaitis (Tilsit, 1886, 1894, 1895, 1905) and others. The 19th century is to be regarded as the golden age of the commemoration and dissemination of the songs of Prussian Lithuanians.