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There is no essential discontinuity between the lyric poetry
of the naturalist and expressionist periods and that of the
preceding period. Even the experiments in verse or stanza
form of Arno Holz, Mombert, and others conform to the basic
laws of German versification: the longest Whitmanesque line or
Nietzschean dithyramb and the shortest expressionist ejaculation
are still a matter of lift and dip handled for emphasis. All difference
is one of mood and spirit due to the poet's personality, and the
newness of the verse in this sense is in the measure of the poet's
greatness. It would not even be safe to say that traditional form is
a criterion of mediocrity: Stefan George's verse technique, for
instance, is on close analysis traditional, the ballad writers of neces-
sity keep to the old form of the ballad, and the expressionist hymn
or ode is still as much a matter of variation of length of line as of
rhetorical afflatus. The themes of poetry, too, are essentially the
same: they are merely different in atmosphere and interpretation*
Certain of the old themes may be neglected as outworn; but what
is more likely is the rejuvenation of an outworn theme by fitting
it to the need of the day or even (as is the case with Stefan George
and his group) by conjuring new meaning into the abrased diction
and phrasing of the theme. Thus sexual love is transformed from
sentiment and glamour to Freudian realism; the poetry of the
town takes on the form of Grossstadtpoesie; the eternal yearning
for the regeneration of the world is renewed as chiliasm, or is
variously transformed as salvation by sexuality, or by self-sacrifice
to the common good or to the State; and the quest for God be-
comes an obsession. Themes that older poets rarely touched are
freely interpreted: incest, paederasty, Lesbian love, the rotting of
dead bodies. So intensified is the interpretation of such themes
that merely to sort and classify them is a fascinating study (Motiv-
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