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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

42                    MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

tallow. These pleasantly contriving gods of Homer yield the stage
in a tetralogy of Greek plays, written during the Second World
War, to the chthonic deities of pre-Aeschylean Greece. Haupt-
mann on his visit to Delphi had come to the conclusion that 'the
bloody root of tragedy lies in blood sacrifices'; and his Iphigenia,
as the priestess of the moon-goddess Hecate, offers human sacri-
fices as part of the ritual to which she is dedicated. Following up
the outlines in Goethe's Italienische Rezse of a projected drama with
the same title, Hauptmann had first written Iphigenie in Delphi
(1941), which is chronologically the fourth of the tetralogy; he
had then added Ipbigenie in Aulis (1944); then followed the two
centre pieces, Agamemnons Tod and Elektra, both in 1947. The
Atriden-Tetralogie has clearly the psychopathic mood of the war
years, and what is revealed is that in the cruelty and lust of des-
truction of our own day we have the survival, masked by illusory
religions and spurious passions such as false patriotism, of primi-
tive states of mind; Agamemnon has the brain-storms of a dic-
tator who for self-aggrandisement sacrifices all that should be
dear to him.

In the thirties Hauptmann produced a chain of what may be
called romantic plays, somewhat light or even flimsy in texture,
dream-like or fantastic: Die goldene Harfe (1932), Das Hirtenlied
(1935) are of this type. Medieval legend and folklore provide the
matter of Die Tochter der Kathedrate (1939) and (Hauptmann's last
comedy to be completed) Ulrich von Uchtenstein (1939), in which
an old Minnesinger roams the land dressed in women's clothes
and parading as Frau Venus, as he does in the strange verse epic
he wrote about himself and his antics.

As a lyric poet Gerhart Hauptmann hardly counts. As a mem-
ber of the Friedrichshagen circle and of Durch he wrote lyrics in
the style of the day; his Nacht^ug, for instance, is clearly an echo
of certain poems in Hold's T5uch der Zeit. He collected this early
verse in Das bunte Buch (1888), but printed only a limited edition.
There is, however, song-like verse in Die versunkene Glocke\ but
even the songs of the elves in this lyric play would lose much of
their magic if lifted from their organic unity with the dramatic
atmosphere. With Anna (1921) Hauptmann attempted the rural
idyll (Dorfidylle); but the hexameters are dreadful, much worse
than the Spanish trochees of Der weisse Heiland. The poem is auto-
biographical in its outlines: the hero goes to a farm managed by