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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

30                     MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

the period depicted. It is the tragedy of the Peasants' Rebellion
of 1525, unrolled in a series of loosely connected scenes; and the
peasants as a mass are the hero, though the play takes its name
from one of their leaders. To Hauptmann's immense sorrow the
play was ill received; his grief is symbolically woven into the
poetry of his next play, The Sunken Be// - cIm Tale klingt sie, in den
Bergen nicbf; the bell of his art rang in the lowlands but not on
the heights.

The reason for the immediate failure ofF/orian Geyer lay partly
in a reaction of taste - neo-romanticism was beginning -, partly in
the inherent weakness of the naturalistic conception of tragedy: in
Florian Gejer"wz have a series of dissolving views which do not rivet
the attention. But Hauptmann had already struck out into new
paths: in Hanneles Himmelfahrf1 (i 893) he had combined naturalism
with the time-old Marchendrama, the three essential ingredients of
which - dream, allegory, supernatural beings - here harmoniously
link and fuse. Hannele, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a drunk-
ard in a Silesian village, runs away from her father's ill-treatment
and tries to drown herself, as her mother had done before her, in
the village pond. She is rescued, and is taken by her teacher to the
workhouse; in the dreams of her fever, which pass over the stage,
she sees Bible texts and fairy-tale story realized, with herself as
the heroine in the magical white light of it. The awakenings of
puberty lend a chill warmth to her visions: her teacher is the
Saviour, whom she is to wed. The angel of death stands, black-
robed and black-winged, in the room, sword in hand; a hunch-
backed village tailor comes and robes her in a bridal dress of white
silk, and puts glass slippers on her feet: the angel lifts his sword
and vanishes: Hannele is dead. Angels lay her in her coffin; a
stranger who resembles the village teacher bids her rise: she kneels
at his feet: he takes all her lowliness from her, and angels take her
to kingdom come.

Verse of great beauty had mingled with the naturalistic prose of
Hannele: it is by the beauty of its verse that Die mrsunkene Glocke
(1896) lives and will live. Only the old witch speaks in (Silesian)
dialect, and even this is verse. All the naturalistic stock-in-trade
(except the ethics of the rights of passion) is dropped: there are
long resonant monologues, the only reality is folded in the spirals

1 In later editions the title, owing to the indignation of Christians, was
changed to Hannele.