Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

244                  MODERN  GERMAN  LITERATURE

traces of his adoration of Isi run through even his cosmic myths;
and it forms the pith and marrow of one book: Die Schopfung.

To go from Mombert to CARL SPITTELER (1845-1924) is like an
escape to mountain heights, particularly if we begin with his chief
work, Olympiscber Frtihling (1900-10), an epic in bumping alexan-
drines, into which ancient mythology is thrown as into a melting-
pot to be created anew both as a vision of ideal Switzerland,
snowy Alps and radiant pastures, and as an expression of the
endless struggle with evil of mind and morality lured to unscalable
heights by beauty. For his first philosophical epic, "Epimethus und
Prometheus (1881), Spitteler had devised a startling Whitmanesque
style (ostensibly prose but lyrically tensile) which had so much in
common with that of Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra that it
was taken to be an imitation of it, especially as both works agree
in their cult of the strong personality. As a matter of fact, it had
been published two years before Nietzsche's string of charmed
aphorisms, and it has been suggested that Nietzsche, who at all
events referred to Spitteler as ethe finest aesthetic writer of his day5,
may have been the borrower, both as regards biblical style and
ideas. Spitteler's Uterarische Gkichnisse (1892) and Balladen (1896)
are parables and allegories; his more specifically lyrical poems are
in Schmetterlinge (1889) and Glockenlieder (1906); the quaintness of
their symbolism (e.g. the Duke of Bells goes out to meet the King
of Noon and spreads at his feet a carpet of undulating melody) fits
the Swiss hardness of the verse. The Novelle Conrad der Leutnant
(1898) embodies Spitteler's contribution to the problem of realism
in fiction and belongs, though written in detachment from the
school, to the history of naturalism. His other 'novel* (it is more
in the nature of a running disquisition with the thread of a story)
Imago (1906) is in the line of fantastic satire represented by F. T.
Vischer's 'novel' Auch Einer (1878). The hero is Victor, a Swiss
poet with no pecuniary present and with a future merged in mist.
At a mountain resort he has met a Swiss girl, and when they part
he, like an old Minnesinger, worships her image, which he chris-
tens 'Imago'. But she marries a prosperous scholar, and thence-
forward she is for him not Theuda but Pseuda, an idol desecrated.
She is datoned to the stupidities of family life and the inanities of
social Intercourse ^die Hoik der Gemutlichkeif}. She is like precious
china put to use at the breakfast-table. But Imago still remains,
and Victor floats about the social orbit of the false one, 'like a