Paul Fleming was the chief poet of his time, next only to Martin Opitz, and in real poetical genius, in truth and depth of feeling, he surpassed him. Yet Fleming was but little known during his lifetime, and himself regarded Opitz with an almost idolatrous reverence.
Paul Fleming was a Saxon by birth, the son of wealthy parents; and though he adopted medicine as his profession, he seems to have been independent of its exercise. He had an energetic and fervid temperament, and an enthusiastic love for his country and the cause of Evangelical religion, to which he often gives expression in his verse. The love of adventure, and the hope too of doing some good service to his country, induced him to join an embassy that was sent at first to Moscow, and afterwards by way of Astrachan to Ispahan, an expedition that in those days occupied seven years, and led him into an incredible number of dangers and hardships. He returned to Hamburg in 1639, and died the next year, like so many of his contemporaries, in the prime of his powers, for he was but thirty-one.
Evidently Paul Fleming had a keen eye for natural beauty, and he writes charming descriptions of scenes that he beheld in his long journey, as well as sweet and tender songs of love and friendship; but a shade of sadness is thrown over them by his sorrow for his country, and the bitter regret he felt at having left it in its trouble, for travels which did not produce the expected results. One of his hymns, written on this journey, is a classical one in Germany. It is "Where'er I go, whate'er my task, The counsel of my God I ask."