Emanuel Geibel (1815-1884), son of a Reformed priest in Lübeck, studied theology in Bonn before turning to philology in Berlin. In 1838, through the intervention of Bettina von Arnim (1785-1859) and Friedrich Carl von Savigny (1779-1861), he took on a private teaching position with a Russian envoy in Athens.
During his time in Greece his friendship with the classical scholar Ernst Curtius (1814-1896) became closer and they translated ancient Greek poets and tragic poets ("Klassische Studien", 1840). After his return, Geibel published his first volume of "Gedichte" (Poems) in 1840 in the romantic mood of a folk song, which quickly became a success with the public. In late 1842, the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1795-1861) endowed him with a lifelong pension. Over the following years, Geibel stayed mainly with friends such as Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-1876) and Moritz Graf von Strachwitz (1822-1847). With his "Juniuslieder" (1848), directed against pre-March poetry, he took the side of political conservatism.
In 1852, Geibel followed the invitation from King Max II of Bavaria (1811-1864) to Munich, where he accepted an honorary professorship for German literature and aesthetics. With Paul Heyse (1830-1914) he soon became the central figure of the "königlichen Symposien" (royal symposia) and of the "crocodiles" (association nickname: "Flußkrokodil"). After the war year of 1866, Geibel repeatedly sought his release. An enthusiastic poem on the Prussian King Wilhelm I (1797-1888) finally led to the suspension of the Bavarian Ehrensold (stipend), whereupon he received a non-compulsory allowance from Wilhelm. Celebrated as "Reichsherold" (imperial herald) and awarded honorary citizenship, Geibel returned to his hometown of Lübeck in 1868, where he would die in 1884.
With his virtuoso atmospheric poems, classicist-epigonal poems and patriotic songs (including "Twelve Sonnets for Schleswig-Holstein", 1846), Geibel was the most successful poet of his time. His poems were set to music in over 3,600 cases. While his nature poems and love songs remained connected to the mood of the Romantic period, since his stay in Greece classicist tendencies were added, following the model of August von Platen (1796-1835).
Of the dramas, only "Sophonisbe" (Schiller Prize 1869) and "Meister Andrea" (1855) shall be mentioned here. More important are Geibel's translations of ancient and Romanesque verse (e.g. "Classisches Liederbuch", 1875).