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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

112                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

and the grim effect of his features in later life was partly due to
duelling scars. Funds more than once gave out, as his father was
apt to stop supplies; for one whole month of summer he slept on
benches in the Tiergarten, till he was befriended by a Kellnerin,
who took him home and kept him with her for a month. When he
had no money for lodgings he often shared rooms with a Jewish
medical student, Franz Oppenheimer, whose sister Paula awakened
his poetic genius (was 'die erlosende Kraft\ to quote his own words).
He was engaged to her for three years. Her family objected to the
match - for one thing he was a Christian, and for another he was
without employment, though he had begun to earn money by
journalistic efforts; they yielded, however, when he took his doc-
tor's degree (his thesis was 'Eine Prufimg der Grilnde fur den aus-
schliesslich offentlichen Betrieb der Feuerversicherung) and became an
official with an insurance company; but he did not actually marry
till 1889, after his appointment, with a salary of 2 5 o marks a month, as
secretary to the Verband Deutscher Privat-Feuerversicherungen.
From 1880 to 1890 he was loosely associated with the Socialist
movement in Berlin. He was never a member of the party; indeed
after he read Also sprach Zarathustra in 1890 he was a Nietzschean,
though with reserves. Nevertheless from his sympathies with the
workers came poems which by common consent are among the best
Socialist poems1 in German literature: Bergpsa/w, Zu eng^ Vierter
Klasse, Em Marfjrer, Die Magd, Erntelied, Der Arbeitsmann.

DehmePs first volume of verse, Erlosungen (1891), is feeble or
tentative: the form of the poems is traditional, the sentiment may
be maudlin and the modernity impudent rather than forceful.
Perhaps the most interesting of the poems, in the light of Dehmel's
lyric development, is Stromuber: here for the first time the pro-
jection of violent emotion into a visioned landscape succeeds in a
new way which Dehmel in his next two volumes was to make his
own. A man and a woman are crossing a river in the dark; there
is a vague feeling of spring in the air, and the others in the boat
are laughing. The second stanza trails heavily, with its dark vowels
and hard consonants, to the fourth line; but this makes a rush into
the first line of the third stanza, which then rises almost hysterically
to the dramatic revelation of the last three words:

1 In the Gesammelte Werke transferred from Erlosungen to Aber die Uebe.
Dehmel spoilt the chronological position of his poems by such re-shuffling;
in this essay the original editions are dealt with, so far ** nncciku