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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

132                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

the image of one of his poems1) the linked figures frozen in a
dance under dead boughs in the complicated pattern of an Oriental
carpet come to life, some evening or other, with the dead boughs
stirring, chilling the spectator's sense with the mystery revealed
so the secret woven intricately into the poem comes with the o-ift
of its beauty - but not at call, not at any hour accustomed; to the
many it comes never, and rarely to the rare. Poetry is thus esoteric,
a priestlike evocation, only for the adept in the ivory tower.

The pose of perfection which George assumed for his verse he
cultivated too in his personal appearance and in his relations with
the outer world. Above all he kept his distance. His attitude to
poets not in his Circle was almost that of Algabal:

ICH bin ah einer so me SIE als vide-
Ich tue was das leben mit mir tut
Und traf ich sie mit rut en bis aufs blut:
Sie haben korn undhabenfechterspiele.

Which means: they are best-sellers; but poetry is mine. His garb
and appearance were a godsend to caricaturists: they made his
monocle and his long stiff hair pushing out Liszt-like below his
tall hat, his 'viermalgeschlungene Kultkran>atte\ and his clean-shaven
ascetic face familiar to the irreverent. There was a rumour that he
was an illegitimate son of Liszt; but he himself prided himself
mightily on the resemblance of his pale face with its sunken cheeks
to the Hell-marked profile of Dante. (He recited his verse in dark-
ened Berlin salons with Rembrandtesque candle-light illuminating
this ascetic profile with its projecting chin.) When Maximilian
Dauthendey first met him he was almost frightened by his tall hat
and frock coat and cardinal's face.

In 1895 appeared Die Bitcher der Hirten- andT?reisgedichte> der Sagen
und Sange und der hdngenden Garten. George's intention in this book
was to conjure up from the depths of his being, where they had
slumbered as an inheritance from the past, and to sing into verse
the primitive forms of culture - (to quote Gundolf) 'the soul of
God in the three phases of history - pastoral, medieval, oriental -
whose ideals are the composite substance of present-day litera-
ture'. But whereas Classicism, Romanticism, and Orientalism had
hitherto worked themselves back in the laborious toil of scholar-
1 Der Teppich in Der Teppicb des Lebens.