This study relates theory to the details of poetic practice. it presents Opitz, Burger and Aichendorff as representatives of their times and demonstrates how they adapt the classical arts to their particular talents and beliefs. All three poets are shown at work within a tradition flexible enough to persist even into the present. The author shows how the influence of rhetoric on German poetry did not vanish in the mid-18th century, as is widely supposed. The firts chapter briefly comapres theoretical statements by martin Opitz and the 20th century poet peter Ruhmkorf. it uses the comaprison to introduce two main arguments: thta classical rhetoric and poetics exert a persistent though constantly changing influence on the composition of german poetry; and that the theoretical precepts and natural talent are mutually interdependant. These arguments are developed through the examination of works by three German poets, taken from periods of major literary change. Opitz is representative of the Baroque, Burger of the "Sturm and Drang", and eichendorff of Romanticism. Three main chapters reconstruct the working method of each poet, applying his own theory and that of near contemporaries to detailed analysis of one of two of his poems. This procedure illustrates how each poet adapts rhetorical and poetic traditions to his own personal talent and to the literary preoccupations of his time.