Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

134                    MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

poets themselves had merely rendered the social conventions of
their age. This is a fanciful statement. Stefan George's knowledge
of the medieval mind was too shallow for these poems to have
any value as interpretations of medieval mentality; what he gives
us is merely his own conception of the states of mind of knight,
squire, poet and hermit; and this conception is just what he in-
tended it not to be - romantic; romantic, because it is based on
false intuition. The situation and pose may be medieval; the spirit
is modern. The Parzival and Holy Grail poems (Die Tat, Irrende
Schar, Der Einsiedel] have the mood of Wagner, not of Wolfram,
George's Frauenlob is not the dull, didactic rhymester of decayed
Minnesong, but the romantic minstrel of the myth: he sees his
black coffin, draped in black cloths, borne to the Minster by
maidens who - widows now of Beauty's priest - pour noble wines
and flowers and precious stones down into his grave. This is not
to say that the distinctive elements of the medieval and of the
other two periods, as they serve for literature, are not magically
evoked; e.g. the plastic beauty of Greek form, Catholic spirituality
and the ideals of chivalry,1 the glaring colours of the Orient;
notably in the medieval central piece Sporenwache, one of the most
intense renderings in all literature of the theme of the spiritual
consecration of the chosen one to his ideal. If we would appreciate
these careful poems we must remember that the idea is: J (ICH)
was this squire dreaming the night out in the visionary chapel,
J was this Frauenlob unkissed and ripe for death; for in me is the
multifarious, mysterious past; and this poem is a recovery for my-
self of a past dim phase of my existence. The theme of Die hdngenden
Garten has some affinity with Algabal: it limns in a voluptuous
setting the tyrannic power of Oriental potentates. The visions are
again essentially romantic: the conqueror striding in the taken
city over corpses and raising (as might Holofernes) his smoking
sword to his god; the child who is to be Sultan pictured in all the
pomp of his future state (Kindliches Konigtum: no doubt once more
the poet calling up the splendour in his blood); white aras with
saffron-yellow crowns, songless and with wings never unfolded
behind their grating dreaming of distant palms; the anointing of
the bride with oil and salves for the Caliph's bed2; strophes of

1 E.g. Mannentreue in Der Waffmgefahrte, Marienkult in Das Bild.

2 An obsession of Heinrich von Kleist: 'Von Salbm triefend me die Perser-