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THE  NEW VERSE                                   jjx

chained in floating impressions. In Das Mahl der Strassenwdrter the
chain of sensations is concentrated in the short time of a meal of
road-menders by the wayside, but imaged in the four quatrains is
the state of mind of the roughest class of workmen and their
robust savouring of existence: Die Kaffeekanne gluckst, die Krusten
brechen, \ dem Alien hdngt im Bart dasgelbe Ei9 \ der Ziegenkdse binder*
sie beim Sprechen, \ der Mittag %jeht als Butterduft vorbei. In the series
Vergdngliche Psalmen, with which the volume ends, the mood deep-
ens, but the instances still leap, as in the psalm that answers the
question Was ist der Tod? - it comes between love and riot, to a
table in the Express Cafe, at 5 .o a.m. in a prison yard, under a roof
of leaves shattered to shreds in Vietnam, and - 'ichfinde ihn berbst-
licb im verwesenden T$raun alter ^dume> (the softly drifting sad rhythm
of this last line aptly sums up the foregoing short-lined instances).
In Wassermarken (1957) once again the far-fetched relativity of the
linked ideas sums up to a symbol of existence. The titular poem
visualizes the height of the tide or the depth at a given moment of
the rolling river of time which sweeps us along. In several of the
poems, if they are taken together, there is a poignant vision of
soldiering through the centuries. There is a lighter lift of rhythm
in the second section, Qstliche Rowan^en, in which the scene shifts
to the Slav frontier and the rude pains and passions of low life,
as ia Der besoffene Korschinskj, the life-story of a besotted and be-
draggled beggar. Vor Augen (1955) attempts a new technique of
symbolic prose; in several of the Proben and Versucbe, as the two
sections are entitled, there may be the rough contours of a hinted
short story, but in the generality of the 'probing experiments' we
have characters and a situation but no ending - the narrative breaks
off at a critical turn and the reader is left to think out for himself
the inevitable ending. But, as in the sketches Unterwegs and Vtr-
sprengt^ Everyman is represented by a soldier on the Eastern front
who has deserted or has lost his regiment - the endless Russian
plains where he has campaigned stretch behind him and before
him stretches an end as far beyond his reach as is the place where
his cradle lay: Everyman is a displaced wanderer, or an Argonaut
sailing to a mythical horizon. All the same there is in the more
typical of these gloomily toned tales (Proben) a defiant ring of
courage: the war is lost and all is lost, but Ubersteben must be the
watchword (Ich wrde den Kreig uberstehen. ...M wllleben, ich babe dm
Mut da%u}. Thus we have before our eyes (Vor Augen is the title