Sachs, Hans, an eminent people's poet of Germany, was born at Nuremberg, Nov. 5, 1494. In a Latin school, from 1501 to 1509, he learned the elements of the sciences of the day. Though apprenticed to the trade of a shoemaker in his fifteenth year, and hindered from university training, the beginnings of general knowledge which he obtained in youth were fruitfully utilized in his after life. As a school boy he was trained to take part in the choral service of the Church; and he enjoyed also the special instruction of the Meistersinger Lienhard Nonnenbeck. Thus he joined to his profession of cobbler that of a Meistersinger. In 1511 he started upon a wandering tour, and in the course of five years became acquainted with most of the cities and eminent persons of Germany. In 1519 he returned to Nuremberg, married, and plied his two trades of cobbler and poet to the end of his life. He died Jan. 20, 1576, at the age of eighty-one.
The career of Sachs falls in the most prosperous period of Nuremberg's history, and covers the whole epoch of the Reformation. Among his townsmen were Durer, Vischer, Ebner, Spengler, and Osiander. When Luther began to preach, he warmly welcomed the new epoch, and called the reformer the "Wittenberg nightingale." Throughout his fruitful life he labored, directly or indirectly, to promote the new doctrines, and to promote honor and purity among the people. His poetic productiveness began with his return to Nuremberg, in his twenty-fourth year. Thenceforth his fertility is almost marvelous, and comparable only to that of the Spanish poet Lope de Vega. His works embraced thirty-four folio volumes. In 1567 he estimated the number of his poems, short and long, at 6048, and nearly 600 were subsequently added. They were written upon all possible subjects — history, sacred and profane; fable, classic and Gothic; civic life and domestic; animals, birds, and fishes; and in every style — tragedy, comedy, farce, epic, didactic, lyric, elegiac, and descriptive. The greater part of these poems were designed not for the press, but to be used by players in MS., and to be sung on special occasions. The first complete collection of his approved poems appeared at Augsburg, in 3 vols. fol., from 1558 to 1561. A larger edition, at the same place, in 5 vols. fol., in 1570-79. A selection of his better pieces appeared at Nuremberg in 1781, also in 3 vols.; ibid. in 1816-24; still another, in 2 vols., in 1856; still another in the 4th, 5th, and 6th vols. of the Deutsche Dichter des 16. Jahrhunderts, by Goedeke and Tittmann (Leips. 1870-74). During the dry dogmatic period of the 17th century, Sachs was quite neglected, but Wieland and Goethe brought him again into good repute. A monument was erected to him at Nuremberg in 1874. See Ranisch, Lebensbeschreibunsg Hans Sachsens (Altenburg, 1765); Hoffmann, Hans Sachs (Nuremberg, 1847); Herzog, Real-Encykl. 20, 636, 653. (J.P.L.)