Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

140                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

hardly say that they fulfil Goethe's summary direction to trans-
lators: Schoner!) but they have the distinction and dignity of his
own verse. French critics charge him with a wilful shaping to his
own image of the poets he translates; thus Baudelaire was to him
first and foremost the hieratic poet sundered by virgin austerity
from the barbarians, and therefore he tones down by skilful mani-
pulations the perversities and cynical pessimism of the Flowers of
Evil. There is more to be said against his later translations of Dante
(1912; Vols. X/XI of Collected Works), because he translated
those parts of the Divine Comedy which he could identify with his
own visions of the Realm of the Blest, and of Shakespeare's son-
nets (1909; Vol. XII of GesaMt-Aitsgabe), because what he brings
out is the Georgean cult of male beauty (to quote his Introduction:
'die weltschaffende kraft der ubergeschlechtlichen Hebe9}.

Few would deny that among George's most beautiful poems
are those which give an angel-like semblance to some boy or
other: Der Infant., Der Ringer, Der Saitensphler, Der Tag des Hirten,
Sporenwache. It is hard to see the angel in the figure of Algabal;
but Algabal is, like all the other boys, the projection into an image
of Stefan George himself as ephebos. Rilke projects his soul differ-
ently: his maidens image his soul in its virgin purity quivering
for conception and creation; but both Rilke and George finish by
fashioning their double rather than their image (though a double
is of course identical) in the shape of a divine form. Rilke says
'angeP, George cGod'; and it is almost incredible that George
presents his 'God' in the person of a beautiful boy he discovers
in Munich - Maximin. Of Maximin in the flesh all we know is
that in addition to his physical beauty he was unspotted from the
world ('rein von alien Anwurfen der Zeif\ heroic, that he had in his
eyes the mystic glimmer of the far-away, and that he died young,
leaving George inconsolable.1. . . The discovery of the God came
at a time of mental stress: three of his disciples, Wolfskehl, Schuler,
and Klages, had staged an incipient revolt: as a result of their
antiquarian studies they had discovered that man at the dawn of
history, and still more when he was a dweller in swamps, was the

1 'Wir wanden uns in sinnlosem schmer^ dass mr nlemals meder diese hande be-
riihren, dass mr niemals wieder diese lippen kussen durften.* George told the story
of Maximin (a kind of vita nuova - and he stresses the fact that he met the
ephebos 'in the midway of this my mortal life') in his Maximin-Gedenkbucb,
printed 1909 and then reprinted separately from the third Attslese aus den
Slattern fur die Kunst.