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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  NOVEL  OF   IMPRESSIONISM                  295

aristocracy Keyserling is often ranged with Fontane; but the com-
parison is illusory - Fontane, with the sympathetic understanding
of an outsider, gives his characters just as they are, as quite ordin-
ary gentlemen, with their class prejudices and snobbishness, their
tricks of conversation: in Keyserling's aristocrats there is decay -
not so much the moral decay which Spielhagen sees, but the decay
of blood quickened by experience (actual or in dream) of alien
ways, of the mellow culture of the West or the hot passion of the
South, Thus in Schwule Tage (1906) Ellita, prisoned in her impover-
ished manor, excites her school-boy cousin, whose own blood is
restlessly stirring in dream, by dancing the bolero under the forest
trees. She has given a last spell of happiness to the lad's Casanova-
like father, who has come home, stricken with disease, to die -
but not before he has healed their secret sinning by arranging
Ellita's marriage with an officer: she - 'eine Bliite der adligen Kultur*
- must sacrifice life to be true to her class; and the boy dreamer,
by accident, sees her (a Herrem»eib\ in her last rendezvous with
his father before her marriage, threaten the worn-out old rake
with her riding-whip. Admirable in this masterly Novelle is the
fitting of human moods to the tense atmosphere: plain and forest
swelter in the late summer heat, and with the breaking of the
gathered storm comes the catastrophe of marriage to Ellita, death
by morphia to the exhausted lover, and disillusionment to the
sensitive boy. The striking feature here as elsewhere is the delicacy
of the characterization: we see vividly the suffering lines on the
old rake's face, the physical exasperation of Ellita, the languid pose
of an invalid and faded lady of her mother, the baffled wonder-
ment and impatience of the boy, and the idiot-like receptivity of
the barefoot girl who relieves the pressure of the boy's blood. Not
less masterly is the contrast of the two types of women in Beate und
Mamie (1903). cDie weisse Beate' is once again the 'blossom of
culture*, ruling her manorial hall in a kind of silvery radiance;
Schlossherrm rather than wife, not sensual because by the exigency
of rank she may not be ^Vertieben\ she says, *fand icb lacbtrHeh;
Verlieben gehorte ^urKammerjungfer*}* Mareile is the daughter of the
Inspector on the estate, earth-born and the full-blown flower not
of culture but of passion; and when the gush of passion has spent
itself and the manorial reveller returns to the cold decency of home
he knows that henceforth for him life is to watch life go by:
chastity is an essential of tenuey but stagnant. In this identification