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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

STEFAN   GEORGE  AND   HIS   CIRCLE                127

Ich mllte sie am kuhlem eisen
Und me tin glatter fester streif-
Doch war im schacht auf alien glelsen
So kein me tall ^iim gusse reif.

Nun aber soil sie also sem:
Wie erne grosse fremde dolde
Geformt aus feuerrotem golde
Und reicbem blit^endem gestein.

Nothing could be more satisfying as a definition of George's verse
than this one of his own: hard and metallic, but lit with diamantine
radiance.

In 1892 George visited Liege, and there met Paul Gerardy, a
bilingual Walloon from Malmedy in the province ceded to Bel-
gium after World War I, and with him he discussed his plan of pub-
lishing a poetical review. He then went to Paris, where he finished
Algabal. In history Heliogabalus is a byword for vice and cruelty,
an effeminate boy (Weibjungling); Stefan George uses him as the
appropriate symbol for his Nietzschean contempt of Christian and
middle-class morality. Algabal is the supra-personal presentment
of Stefan George himself as poet-priest1 and poet-king: or in other
words, the soul or mind of Stefan George limned in regal or sacer-
dotal poses, the autocrat twice consecrated, the poet self-imaged
as his own dream and desire. Heliogabalus is chosen to represent
such a spiritual ideal because he is as far removed as could be from
the vile present of vile poets whom the dreamer would annihilate,
and because, if he would annihilate them, he must be a tyrant
sublimely ruthless, and because late-Roman and fin-de-siecle are
both synonymous with that luxury and display and decay and
despair which only a tyrant could by a gesture sweep away. More-
over, while preparing this volume George had been translating
Baudelaire, and the influence ofF/owers of Evil and ArtificialPara-
dises shapes both the flawless form of the poems and the unity of
beauty and decadence in the themes. There is, however, a subtle
difference between Baudelaire and Stefan George: while to the
French poet (and to the decadents who acknowledged themselves
as his disciples) the gratification of strange lusts is in itself art, to

1 Platen's pose was similar; in Morgenklage he cries: *Icb scbwore den scbonen
Schwur> getnu stets %u sem \ Dem hoben Geset%9 und will, in Andacht vertieft, \ Voll
Priestergefiihl verwalten \ Dem gross Prophetenamt.*