The life of Johannes Joergensen

The poet Johannes Joergensen was born in Svendborg the 6th November 1866. At the age of 16 he went to Copenhagen to become a student which he was in 1884. A natural melancholic tendency and an early taste for the multiple faces and the beauty of nature impressed him throughout his life. In Copenhagen he developed radical sociopolitical views which soon led him to the circle of cultural radical artists where he became  known.

From his early years he showed a strong and sensitive liking for poetry through which he could express his dreams and emotional observations and for the rest of his life it remained his favourite way of expression. But, with his innate melancholic temperament he did not find a remaining place in the cultural radical materialism where Eros and enjoyment of life, summarized in a pantheistic worship of nature, was the order of the day. Therefore he and some like-minded began a search for a more spiritual based inspiration. That was the beginning of symbolism, where they in the periodical “Taarnet” tried new a unknown ways and expressed themselves in a metaphorical language which better mirrored the sensitivity and the temperament of Johannes Joergensen. As editor of “Taarnet” , he developed a polemic rhetoric which did not facilitate the battle for his ideas.

The symbolists soon provoked the ruling literary class centred around the brothers Brandes who did not spare the young rebels.

The acquaintance with the young Jew and silversmith Mogens Ballin who had converted to Catholicism became for Johannes Joergensen a turning point. He did not find in the symbolism the spiritual depth he looked for. From his childhood he had received a basic Christian belief which he never lost. It now returned with an urge to study Christian mysticism – but it was not an easy path. Long time and many internal struggles passed before he felt he had found his safe haven of spiritual safety and even then internal and external factors still tore him.

In 1894 he visited for the first time Assisi with Mogens Ballin. That was the beginning of what would become the predominant occupation for the rest of his life both as human being and as author – the love for saint Francis, the famous son of Assisi who was born there and who lived and worked there until he died in 1226. The close relationship with Mogens Ballin and the encounter with saint Francis at last triggered the change in his mind which in 1894 led to his conversion to Catholicism and became a fundamental turning point in his literary production.

In 1907 appeared his great biography on saint Francis, the book that would make him world-famous and which would make him honorary citizen both in Assisi and later in his native town of Svendborg. At long last, it seemed that he had found the way as author which his mind had searched for. The Franciscan spirituality came to be a predominant part of his conscience, to the extend that he settled down in Assisi in 1915. During the war in 1943-45 he moved to Vadstena in Sweden where he began his third big legend of saints which followed that of saint Catharina of Siena (1915).

His enthusiasm for the Franciscan spirit led to a number of books based on the Umbrien world where spirit and nature always formed a synthesis as a characteristic mark of his. The almost romantic relationship Johannes Joergensen throughout his whole life had to nature, to the seasons, to the flowers and to the life confirming multiplicity had, as mentioned, in his youth led to a pantheistic worship of nature. He never lost this relatedness to nature and everywhere he could go into vivid descriptions of nature. But in the description of the relationship saint Francis had to nature as the true picture of God, these two emotions – nature and God -fused. The god which in his youth was the human relationship to nature now became the truth of God.

The war ended, he returned to Assisi but age began to burden him. In 1952 he moved back to Svendborg where to City had offered him a honorary living in the house of his childhood in Fruestræde.

In 1913 he had left his wife, Amalie f. Ewald, and their 7 children after a more and more difficult marriage. As a catholic he could not remarry, but when Amalie died in 1935 he married (1937) the Austrian Helena Klein.

Johannes Joergensen died the 29 may 1956 at the age of 90 and was buried at the local cemetery.

It is difficult to describe the authorship of Johannes Joergensen narrowly. His lifelong search took him through many and long fightsbecause even being a faithful catholic and there having a firm standpoint he still fought many battles with himself – with his restless and melancholic self, which followed him from his childhood.

In spite of his Catholicism, his vivid ability of observation made him interesting far beyond the Catholic church. In his books of travel he can be compared to his Fionien congenial Hans Christian Andersen and not least his sublime sense of the language has made him loved by many. Though he is not too well known in Denmark his authorship is much more valued in foreign countries where only the works of Hans Christian Andersen has outnumbered his.

The poetry of Johannes Joergensen is perhaps what has given him the most admirers in his native country. Many read today his poetry on account of his beautiful language and his sense of nature.