Pioneer German Romantic poet. He wrote Hymnen an die Nacht/Hymns to the Night (1800), prompted by the death of his fiancée Sophie von Kühn. Feeling himself ecstatically united with his dead beloved, he tried to free his spirit from material things, and many of his poems contain a note of mysticism. He left two unfinished romances, Die Lehrlinge zu Sais/The Novices of Sais and Heinrich von Ofterdingen.
He was born in Oberwiederstedt, Thuringia, studied at Jena, Leipzig, and Wittenberg and then went to Armstadt, where he fell in love with Sophie von Kühn who was then 15. In 1795 he was made auditor of the Saxon Salt Works, of which his father was director. The death of Sophie, and of his brother Erasmus, both 1797, was a severe shock, but the tragedy aroused in Novalis a poetic and mystic strength. He began the romance Heinrich von Ofterdingen 1800 but died of consumption the following year; his Geistliche Lieder/Sacred Songs were posthumously published 1802.