Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

214                  MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

hand the goblet is heavy, and dark wine rolls on the earth. Hof-
mannsthal's mournful imaging of death begins in Erlebnis - death
is music: 'Gewaltlg sehnendy suss und dunkelgluhend> \ Verwandt der
fiefs ten Schmrmut? In Verse auf ein kleines Kind, and elsewhere in
the poet's work, there is a mystic idealization of children which
does not derive from Victor Hugo (on whom Hofmannsthal wrote
his doctor's thesis) but from Maeterlinck (^F enfant qui se tait est
mille fois plus sage que Marc-Aureh qui parli\ and is indeed one of
the tenets of his creed; in his essay on Peter Altenberg he says
that the neo-romantic poets are all striving to be children again,
'und es ist auch nlemand vornebmer^ niemand anmutiger als die> die noch
kein Gedacbtnis haben, und gan^ von der Wahrheit bewegt werden\ This
more or less agrees with Rilke's wish that the man might be the
child; but of course the idea has a long Neo-Platonic pedigree.
The idea that life is a dream is more than any other neo-romantic
conception Viennese: Grillparzer had transposed Calderon's La
vida es sueno, and Schnitzler weaves the fancy through the mass of
his work. For the poems grouped as Gestalten the influence of
Browning's dramatic monologues has been claimed; but, though
Hofmannsthal studied Browning, it is hard to find similarities in
these lissom musings; indeed, only three of the poems are mono-
logues, and these are hardly dramatic. Idylle^ included in the Poems,
is really the first of Hofmannsthal's 'revenge dramas'. It was prob-
ably suggested by Bocklin's picture Der Kentaur in der Dorfschmiede,
and thus groups itself with the poem Zu einer Totenfeier fur Arnold
Eocklin and with Der Tod des Titian, which, begun in 1892, was
completed when Bocklin died in 1901. A centaur comes to a smithy
to have his spear sharpened, and while this is being done he fascin-
ates the smith's wife with tales of the free open spaces and the
roving life. She is the very modtmfewwe incomprisey home-bound
but dreaming ever of beauty. Her father was a potter, and she
transposes into supple trimeters the pictures on the urns he had
made, to which and to the centaur's flights of fancy the burly
smith hammers out Philistine maxims of home and duty and hap-
piness in a hole and corner. He goes within to give the last filing
to the spear-head, and now the wife leaps on to the centaur's back
and he gallops away to the river; but the husband, returning,
transpierces her with the centaur's spear. The revenge theme points
forward; but Idjlk is poem rather than drama because of its vivid
fleeting pictures: the 'idyll* dreams a story into the scene on a