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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

Tl6                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

nearest to nature, i.e. in the act of love1; love is a divine duty.
Love is the elimination of the antagonism of T and £alP; it is both
consciousness of self and forgetfulness of self, 'dieRundungdeseignen
Ich im All %um All\ For Dehmel love is (to quote Gundolf) 'kerne
Askese, sondern eigenherrlicbe Glut, die sich ergiessen und kuhlen will^ und
^ugleich weihen was sie beruhrf. Brunst must be transformed to In-
bmnst, and the dross ('das Trube*} that must be purified in the pro-
cess is the sexual act. It would be too raw a statement to say that
this act must be transformed to a holy rite; to Dehmel the conflict
between the spiritual nature of love and the animal act remains.
Perhaps his efforts to wed the act to a conscious spiritual volition
are too subtle, and it may be questionable whether he has proved
anything more than the biological volition (Weltwille, 'cosmic
urge') which such naturalists as Bolsche, in the wake of Darwin,
had made it their business to demonstrate.

In the original edition of Aber die Liebe there was a series of
poems entitled Verwandlungen der Venus. These raised a storm of
indignation; Venus sapiens was erroneously read as a discussion of
homosexual love in the persons of David and Jonathan; Dehmel's
friends, however, say it symbolizes the triumph of spirit in the
marital conflict. There was more justification in the horror aroused
by Venus perversa - the poet watches a nun committing onanism:
the unio mystica. Dehmel's plan - ruthlessly and brilliantly realized,
in spite of some of the most loathsome pictures in literature - was
to present the world with a kind of picture-gallery of all the mani-
festations of love, leading up to its spiritualization in Venus heroica.
It may be consoling to squeamish people to read that when Deh-
mel was prosecuted for the indecency of these poems he was
acquitted on the grounds that they were unintelligible! When,
however, the Verwandlungen der Venus were published separately
and expanded as Vol. IV of the Collected Works, they were de-
nounced to the authorities by the poet Borries von Miinchhausen,
and by order of the Berlin I^andgericht part of one of them, Venus
Consolatrix, was expunged, so that the original poem can only be
obtained in the very precious private edition printed by Dehmel
for his friends. What was objected to was the blending in one
person as 'consoling love* of Mary of Nazareth and Mary Mag-

1 Venus Natum (in Verwandlungen der Venus] describes a peacock circling
his hen with spread tail and ends with: *0 Mensch, me herrlich ist das Tier, [
rnnn es sich %an% als Tier entfaltetF