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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

286                   MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

and maternal principles: paternal is the urge to abstract thought
and the contemplative life; maternal is the tyranny of the senses.
But only the maternal principle is creative; the paternal and there-
fore hard and masculine principle interprets - and should guide -
its weak and pathetic contrary, the thinker 'obsessed with fine
distinctions3. Thus Narziss is guide and mentor, and unselfish
lover, of Goldmund, nature's darling, the doomed voluptuary
and poet-dreamer; we first find them together as novices in a
medieval monastery, and even then Narziss by patient questioning
reveals to Goldmund his own inner nature. Narziss rises to be
Abbot of the monastery; Goldmund, sent out to collect herbs on
the moors, is initiated by a nut-brown gipsy; he disrobes her,
and discovers beauty. Thereafter his life is that of the wandering
scholar; woman after woman gives herself to him ('die Weibersind
so gierig}; characteristically the only one who turns contemptu-
ously aside from his bloom and beauty is a Jewish girl whom he
finds strewing her raven hair with the ashes of her father, whom
the Nordic Christians of Germany have burnt by the wayside; he
knows she will be seized and violated, for she too is a lone wan-
derer, but he takes leave of her 'as if she were a queen*. She
teaches him that there is the will to die (Sterbenwolkn) as well as
the necessity of dying (Sterbenmussen); and later he knows that life
is ripe when the will to die is reached. This stage the beloved
vagabond attains when at long last women look at him as one
spent and unseductive. The only thing worth living for, he had
told Narziss, is copulation; and yet he has lived for more than
woman. 'Your eyes are never merry,' says a girl who loves him,
'they seem to say that all this only lasts a minute.' He comes to
realize that only creative art can save beauty and feeling for yet a
little while from the Dance of Death; and he attaches himself to a
great carver of wood, and creates as his first masterpiece the image
of Narziss as the Apostle John - his expression of the worship of
his contrary. He dreams of recapturing a fleeting mystery - the
look in a woman's eyes in the spasm of copulation; and this dis-
tortion and contraction, this leap of fire and the fading of it, he
has seen too in the eyes of a peasant woman over whom he held
a candle when she was giving birth to a child; for rapture and
pain, he realizes, are the same. His final masterpiece, he dreams,
is to be his dead mother's face, which appears to him in dreams;
but as age withers him it is no longer a personal face but that of all