Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

THE  NEW  VERSE                                 545

was for two years a prisoner of war in England. Perhaps this is
one reason why English literature forms so great a part of his
culture, although, no doubt, he owes most to Jean Paul, Clemens
Brentano, and the friend of his earlier years Oskar Loerke, whom
he never tires of praising. It is a surprising fact that Lehmann's
first lyric work did not appear until fifteen years after his begin-
nings as a prose writer. He began with novels: Der Mdersturmer
(1917), Die Schmetterlingspuppe (1918), Weingott (1921), Ejfhm des
Daseins (1953). The action is centred in Schleswig-Holstein, but
the problems of the cosmos loom behind the parochial scene. As a
lyric poet he was from the first appraised as sui generis and intrin-
sically of the first order. But it is only in recent years that this
perception has pierced through. Lehmann's verse is difficult; he is
specifically and intensively a Naturdichter^ and in the strict sense
that his continuous theme is nature both for itself and as symbol
his verse may be so recondite that for full comprehension a know-
ledge of botany and of animal life is needed. Lehmann is a poets'
poet, and as such he is appraised by most of those who write verse
today. There is no doubt that his direct influence can be traced in
much of contemporary verse; thus there is something of his
chthonic concepts in the verse of Oda Schafer (p. 552) and Martin
Kessel (p. 5 5 3). It is now a matter of literary history that Lehmann's
first volume of verse, Antwort des Schweigens (193 5), resulted in the
founding of a new school of poetry, 'die naturmagtsche Schuk\ (To
critics in the opposite camp 'die Sumpf- und Moordichter\} Leh-
mann's own key to his lyric practice is, quite simply, 'TSestehen 1st
nur em Sehetf\ that is: to live, we must look; the existential
principle of lyric creation is to see what nature shows and to bring
one's own personal observation into relation with what the great
poets of all times have observed and dreamed into their verse.
The real key to his creative power is that by the magic of his verbal
rendering he transforms the world he sees. The outcome is a
magic illumination of words: the word represents the thing, but
the thing is transformed by the poet's representation of it. It is
word magic rather than nature magic. He is a pioneer too in the
cunningly conveyed modernity of his themes; one savours the
nostalgic mood of a lovely poem (Gottin und Diva) with clear
classic contours in which he dreams himself into the grove of
Dodona, hailing Aphrodite and Diana and assuming that they
have vacated their thrones to Marlene Dietrich and Claire Bloom.