Classic Lithuanian Literature Anthology

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Liudvikas Rėza

(1776-1840)

Reza

Forms of the name: Rehza, Rėsa, Reza, Rėža, Rhesa, Louis Rhesa, Rhėsa, Rheza.

    Liudvikas Gediminas Martynas Rėza was a most prominent worker of Lithuanian culture in Lithuania Minor. He has generalized the achievements of Lithuanian culture till 19th century and created a fundament for further cultural development in that region. L.Rėza was one of the most educated Lituanists of the 19th century, a professor at Königsberg University, therefore he was an authority and set example for the other fosterers of Lithuanian culture.
    L.Rėza was born in 1776 in a village of Karvaičiai on Kuršiai cape to the family of a Lithuanian coast guard. He had lost his parents early and his relatives took care of him. He attended a school in Kaukėnai, later lived in the house for poor in Königsberg. In 1785-1791 he took private lessons in Kaukėnai from pastor K. D. Wittich, who taught him Latin and prepared for studies at the University. In 1791-1794 he attended the Latin school of Lebenicht and gave private lessons. In the year 1795-1799 he studied theology, philosophy (under tuition of I. Kant), history, and Oriental languages at the Königsberg University. In 1800 L.Rėza was appointed to be a priest of the garrison church in Königsberg where he worked till 1816. In 1807 he earned a degree of doctor of theology, and later on - in philosophy. In 1809 he was appointed to lead the seminars of Lithuanian language at the Königsberg University, started reading lectures in Oriental languages and theology. In 1811-1812 he participated in the war with Russia on Prussian side, and visited many European countries. In 1816 he was appointed to be a professor of theology at the Königsberg University; later on, in 1828, he became the head of the Faculty of Theology. Since 1829 he became a counselor and honorary member of the Königsberg consistory. L.Rėza died in 1840 in Königsberg.
    As a priest L.Rėza took care of religious literature, but at the same time he was one of the known fosterers of the secular Lithuanian literature. He used the cultural traditions as an argument in defense of the rights of Lithuanian nation and its worth, sought for its equality with other nations.
    One of the biggest merits of L.Rėza to the Lithuanian literature is the publication and translation into German of the poem "The Seasons" by K. Donelaitis. It was a representation of an individual genius of Lithuanian nation. In 1824 he has translated Esop's Fables and published them together with six surviving fables by K.Donelaitis. Representing a collective genius of Lithuanian nation he compiled and published the first collection of Lithuanian folk songs with a translation into German and a wide study. L.Rėza also wrote and published 2 collections of verses in German under the title "Prutena" (1809 and 1825).