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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

HUGO  VON   HOFMAXXSTHAL                      215

Grecian urn - centaur with wounded woman by a river's rim;
and it would be interesting to compare HofmannsthaPs highly
coloured Greek vignettes in this poem with those of Stefan George
in Das Bt/ch der Hirten- mid Preisgedichte: while George reads into
his translucent moment of Greek life the spirit of the period
Hofmannsthal sensuously gives merely plastic picture and erotic
undertone:

Er schuf^ gestreckt auf koniglicbe 'Rjtbebank,

Der Phadra mmdenollen Lezb, von Sehnsucbt matt^

Und druber flattened Eros^ der mtt susser Otial dh Glieder fill!?. . .

or the vivid play of colours: *Eben stnr^tsicb der Centaur in das auf-
rauscbende W7asser des Fhisses. Sein bronzefierOberkorper unddie Gestalt
der Frau ^eichnen slch scbarf auf der abendltch vergoldeten Wasserfldcbe ab.9
The lyric dramas proper begin with Gestern (i 892), written when
the poet was a boy of eighteen. It is a playlet of one act, in rhymed
verse; the scene is Italy in Renaissance days. The hero Andrea,
the first of Hofmannsthal's typically decadent heroes, is a sick
artist whose life has been an eternal quest of new thrills and sen-
sations that might enhance his owyn sensitive personality. He shuns
the shallow levels of livid morality and finds infinite variety in
perversion ^Eintonig ist das Gute, schal und bleicb> \ Allein die Sunde
ist mendlich reicff]; and even when his delicate nerves are jaded to
exhaustion it is not in repentance that he turns ascetic and flagel-
lant, but still in search of a sadistic new thrill - 'Esgibtnoch Sturme^
die mich nie dttrchbebt, \ ^\och Ungefubltes kann das Leben scbenkeri*.
Such a life, he feels, is sterile; and yet he refuses to recognize
'yesterday' - except as the 'cold ashes' of sensation. What at last
forces him to a realization of the truth - the supreme sensation of
his life - is the faithlessness of Arlette. Der Tod des Titian (1892)
presents quite another sort of hero: Titian, strong-willed and
toiling with indomitable energy to the moment of his death. Two
only of Hofmannsthars characters dominate life by sheer strength
of will: Titian and the grandmother in Der misse Father; while
the Baron (== Casanova) in Der Abenteurer und die Sdngerin is un-
bowed by life because he is too animal to do more than spend
himself from enjoyment to enjoyment. Der Tod des Titian, a pane-
gyric of beauty on the lips of Titian's pupils as he dies painting
his last picture, is the very manifesto of German symbolism -