HAMERLING, ROBERT (1830–1889), Austrian poet, was born at Kirchenberg-am-Walde in Lower Austria, on the 24th of March 1830, of humble parentage. He early displayed a genius for poetry and his youthful attempts at drama excited the interest and admiration of some influential persons. Owing to their assistance young Hamerling was enabled to attend the gymnasium in Vienna and subsequently the university. In 1848 he joined the student’s legion, which played so conspicuous a part in the revolutions of the capital, and in 1849 shared in the defence of Vienna against the imperialist troops of Prince Windischgrätz, and after the collapse of the revolutionary movement he was obliged to hide for a long time to escape arrest. For the next few years he diligently pursued his studies in natural science and philosophy, and in 1855 was appointed master at the gymnasium at Trieste. For many years he battled with ill-health, and in 1866 retired on a pension, which in acknowledgment of his literary labours was increased by the government to a sum sufficient to enable him to live without care until his death at his villa in Stiftingstal near Graz, on the 13th of July 1889. Hamerling was one of the most remarkable of the poets of the modern Austrian school; his imagination was rich and his poems are full of life and colour. His most popular poem, Ahasver in Rom (1866), of which the emperor Nero is the central figure, shows at its best the author’s brilliant talent for description. Among his other works may be mentioned Venus im Exil (1858); Der König von Sion (1869), which is generally regarded as his masterpiece; Die sieben Todsünden (1872); Blätter im Winde (1887); Homunculus (1888); Amor und Psyche (1882). His novel, Aspasia (1876) gives a finely-drawn description of the Periclean age, but like his tragedy Danton und Robespierre (1870), is somewhat stilted, showing that Hamerling’s genius, though rich in imagination, was ill-suited for the realistic presentation of character.
A popular edition of Hamerling’s works in four volumes was published by M. M. Rabenlechner (Hamburg, 1900). For the poet’s life, see his autobiographical writings, Stationen meiner Lebenspilgerschaft (1889) and Lehrjahre der Liebe (1890); also M. M. Rabenlechner, Hamerling, sein Leben und seine Werke, i. (Hamburg, 1896); a short biography by the same (Dresden, 1901); R. H. Kleinert, R. Hamerling, ein Dichter der Schönheit (Hamburg, 1889); A. Polzer, Hamerling, sein Wesen und Wirken (Hamburg, 1890).