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THE NEW VERSE
Hier diese blutet me am dreissig Leibern.
Kem Mensch hat so viel Blut.
Hier dieser schnitt man
erst noch ein Kind aus dem verkrebsten Schoss.
* * • •
Nahmng wird wenig noch ver^ehrt. Die
sind wund. Du siehst die Fliegen. Manchmal
wascht sie die Schwster. Wie man Banke wascht.
Schone Jugend handles the Ophelia motif (p. 420): a girl fished out
of the water is dissected, and a nest of young rats is found under
the diaphragm. ''Ein Mrn^erfressenes Aas' is Benn's lurid but honest
description of himself. (Aas is naturally a favourite theme in this
concretizing of sentimentality; Franz Werfel even makes carrion
odorous in his famous poem Jkr#j- undder Aserweg.} In his Problem
der Lyrik (1951) Benn discusses the origins of the lyric of today
and derives it from Verlaine, Rimbaud, Valery, Apollinaire and
the surrealists with Andre Breton and Louis Aragon as pathfinders.
Benn's liking for modern French poetry may be congenital (his
mother was French Swiss), but it is more likely to be because by
temperament and vocational training he is a surrealist with a sharp
and cunning intellect that pierces straight to the core of pheno-
mena. But as a surrealist he has outstripped all the rest in the
ruthless and raw cruelty of his interpretation; he has a very simple
idea that appearances are ectoplastic with das Nicbfs beneath them;
he is therefore classed as a nihilist, with nihilism in the philosophic
sense as his poetic creed, bound up with the corollary that pro-
gressist concepts of development are mythical (Sartre's UEtre ef
le Neant). But das Nichts, he argues, is supplanted by art, which
creates from the very wilderness of chaos; nihilism is therefore
productive; the poet's or the artist's task is to keep his eyes fixed
to Being as it is, not to imagined idols; and his aim must be to
express, not the thing itself, but his contact with the thing. What
the poet has to see and figure is the Being (das Seiri) of the thing.
Such figuring is by means of art, and for this 'Montagekwsf or
*Artismus* of expression - which results from an adjustment (Aus-
gleicti) of art and life, of mind and history - a 'Doppelkben* is neces-
sary* Benn's nihilism is thus in effect a disintegration which leads
to an integration, and the final result is a transcendence which