One of Germany´s greatest lyric poets, some critics putting him next to his master Goethe.
After studying theology at Tübingen (1822-26) Mörike held several curacies before becoming in 1834 pastor of Cleversulzbach, the remote Württemberg village immortalized in Der alte Turmhahn where inhabitants and pastor are seen through the whimsical but percipient eyes of an old weathercock.
All his life Mörike suffered from psychosomatic illnesses, no doubt intensified by unconscious conflict between humanism and church dogmas. When only 39 Mörike retired on a pension but after his marriage to Margarete von Speeth in 1851 he supplemented his pension by lecturing on German literature at a girls´school in Stuttgart. After happy years of rich literary achievement, tensions caused by Margarete´s jealously of Clara, Mörike´s sister who lived with them, almost killed his creative urge. Mörike spent his last two years with Clara and his younger daughter separated from Margarete and died poor and unhappy.
The variety of Mörike´s small output is astonishing. Everything he wrote has its distinctive flavour but in his early days romantic influences preponderate.
His novel Maler Nolten (1832) in addition to its stylistic perfection and phychological insight into mental unbalance explores the realm of the subconscious and the mysterious forces linking Nolten and his early love even beyond the grave. Mörike´s poems in folk-song style and his fairy tales also smack of German romanticism, though his best folk tale Das Stuttgarter Hutzelmännlein (1853) is peculiarly his own, with its Swabian background and humour. In his Novelle, Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag (1856) he penetrates deeper into Mozart´s personality than do many longer studies.
It is as a lyric poet that Mörike is supreme. He handled free rhythms, sonnets, regular stanza forms and more particularly inhis later poems, classical metres, with equal virtuosity. The Peregrina poems, immortalizing a youthful love of his Tübingen days and the sonnets to Luise Rau, his one-time betrothed, are among the most exquisite German love lyrics.