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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

l8o                  MODERN  GERMAN  LITERATURE

been influenced by the philosophy of Georg Simmel, whose friend
and pupil he had been at Berlin, though on the other hand Simmel
may have been influenced by Rilke. Simmel rejects the dualism of
good and evil, life and death as too simple a procedure; he groups
these apparent contraries at the centre of life in the absolute sense.
In his book on R.ewbrandtl Simmel rejects the current conception
of death as the sudden snapping of life - as the intrusion of the
Parcae ('Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorred shears | And slits
the thin-spun life'): Simmel argues rather that death is spun into
the web of life; death, he says, is not some future problematic
happening but 'eine Innere Immer-Wirklichkeit jeder Gegenwart, ist
Farbung und Formung des Lebens, ohne die das "Leben, das wir haben,
tmausdenkbar nrwandelt ware. Der Tod ist eine Beschaffenbeit des organi-
schen Daseins, me es eine vonje mitgebrachte Beschaffenheit, eine Funktion
des Samens ist, die wir so ausdrucken, dass er einst Frucht bringen wird?
As a confirmation of his own views Simmel quotes Rilke's lines -

O Herr, gibjedem seinen eigenen Tod,
das Sterben, das ausjenem T^eben geht,
darin er L*iebe hatte, Sinn und Not.

"Denn wir sind nur die Schale und das Blatt.
Dergrosse Tod, denjeder in sich hat,
das ist die Frucht, um die sich alles dreht.

We bear this death within us, Rilke declares, as a germ from birth;
in the great cities, in the shadow of hospitals as a green bitter fruit
that will not ripen; or we are like women who, when their hour
of deliverance comes, give birth to an abortion: *undmnn dasKreiss-
bett da ist, so gebaren \ wir unseres Todes tote Fehlgeburf. There are
two kinds of death: der tdeine or der fremde (=alien) Tod and der
grosse or eigne Tod. The 'small death' is died by those who lie down
and die like beasts; the great death by those who consciously ripen
their life to this its fruit and culmination, the final unfolding of
*das Stuck Emgheit in derBrusf. But Rilke did not intend the con-
sciousness of death to be depressing; on the contrary he says it is
an intensification of life: 'das erste grosse Ergriffensein vom "Bewusstsein
des Todes, mlcfas %ug!eich der erste Moment gesteigerten, allseitigen per-

1 Rjsmbrandt. Em kmstphtlosophiscber Versuch, 2nd ed, Leipzig, 1919. Sim-
mel maintains that the conception of death he here interprets can be seen in
Rembrandt's best portraits.