Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

66                     MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

In Phantas Schloss (1895), shows the influence of Nietzsche, from
whom he derived his questioning of the essentiality of words.
The quaint and whimsical verse of Galgenlieder (1905), Palmstrom
(1910), falma Kunkel (1916) and Der Ginggan^ (1919) - collected
as Alle Galgenlieder, 1933 - has to be labelled with a new term:
Sprachhumor, a humour which flies like sparks from verbal quibbles.
It is metaphysical humour: Gingganz, for instance, is Morgen-
stern's term for an ideologist. But Morgenstern was no ingenious
punster: his wit is austerely intellectual, a diversion so to speak
from his philosophical speculation on the relation of nomen and
res, or das Wort and das Ding an sich. To flippant laymen das Ding
an sich has always seemed mirthful; and Morgenstern, though
strictly philosophical, strikes a mirthful philosophy from the very
impossibility of name and thing being identical In other words,
while the thing is of the eternal essence the name for it is illusory,
as the hopeless disagreement of thinkers on the nature of things
shows. One has only to think of all the systems of scholasticism -
each thought out and nailed down idea by idea with the incontro-
vertible logic of the best minds of the Middle Ages: Nominalismus,
\3nwersalismus, Kon^eptualismus, Terminismus, and so forth - to ap-
preciate what may have been Morgenstern's point of view that
metaphysically it cannot be proved to the satisfaction of everybody
that the idea (or name - logos, Wort] is the thing, or that the thing
is the idea. His wit, therefore, plays - and with how clear a flame!
- round the idiocy of our faith in words - which possibly convey
no ideas at all, or, if they do, problematic ideas. And therefore he
aims at an 'Umwortung aller Worte\ Morality, the naturalists had
proclaimed, is relative; Morgenstern, though less dogmatically,
proclaims the relativity of knowledge. And miraculously into this
spider's web of speculation the magic of poetry is caught: the
mystical life that the Volkslied gives to birds and beasts and fishes,
surprises of rhythm and diction, and sometimes in the very things
that the poet questions he finds those tears that moved the soul of
Virgil. He conveys mystery by the suggestion of double meanings:
Der Zmlf-Elf hebt die linke Hand: / Da schlagt die Mitternacht ins
Land. Interstices are removed from the laths of a fence (for if
'interstice' is a name for a thing what it represents is a thing; and
a thing must be tangible; if not to the hands then to the mind
that can work magic with it). A knee goes wandering round the
world; the man it belonged to was shot away in the war, 'round