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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

58                     MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

then (1903). Typically, for the name of his Institution Wedekind
takes a familiar name from Longfellow and turns the solemn senti-
ment it suggests into a screech. The thesis is that woman is born
for the functions of sex.   This being granted, girls should be
taught to worship their own delightful bodies; they should, for
instance, walk on their hands with bare legs poised rapturously
aloft. This is true Wedekindian doctrine and the paganism of
Greek statues as well: the rhythm in the movements of a woman
depends on the structure of her limbs; and for this rhythm, as for
dancing, and female pose, and fine ankles Wedekind throughout
his work finds expression which goes somewhat to redeem his
foulness. [Peter Hille has the same worship of woman's gait in
two lines (Nur em Weib ivandelt. Es isty und Schonheit weilt von danneri)
of his poem Scbonbeit: Sappho an Chloe.} The Novellen collected in
Wedekind's Feuerwerk (1905) have their quality in the audacity of
their obscenity. The wickedness of such a tale as Die Schut^impfung
is incredible: a husband calls on a friend with whom his own wife
is in bed; the friend has covered her up with the bedclothes - to
take attention off the stockings, which might betray his guest -
but rolls the sheets back to her neck - and the husband does not
recognize his own wedded wife, but compliments his friend on
his good taste. If there is philosophy in this it can only be that
husbands, too, should go to school at Mine-Haha; what society
needs is not decency but appreciation. The title Feuerwerk sym-
bolizes the fire of sex that lights up the bunch of stories, in the
first of which, DerRrandvon Eglisnyl, a farmer's boy who has been
the village bull falls in love with a cold sort of girl, pines for her,
and when at last he climbs through her window in the recognized
South German fashion he is chilled to impotence by the very cold
night and her cold response, but sets fire to the village to prove
to her that he can burn. Being the sort she is she says he has hidden
himself in her room, and he goes to jail. As a lyric poet (Die vier
Jabres^eiten^ 1905*) Wedekind only counts historically. The most
typical of his poems were hits in the "Dberbrettl theatres; as, for
instance, Der Tantenmorder\

Ich baV meine Tante gescblacbtet^
Meine Tante war alt undscbwacb;
Ich hatte bei ibr ubernachtet
Und grub in den Kisten-Kasten nacb.
1 Reprinted with additions from Die Fiirstm Rttssa/ka (i 897).