Germany Literature from 1750 to the Present Day Part 11
Rejected from the “larger world” into the “smaller world” of intimate life, the poem thus discovered how much wealth that “little world” could contain. Already A. Stifter (1805-1868), heir to the sweet quiet spirit of Vormärz’s Austria, had asked the solitudes of the forest, the observation of the subtle and slight movements of the soul, the deepest secret of life, and had entitled Studien (1844-50) and Bunte Staine (1852) humbly his compositions, eventually rising to the calm serenity of Nachsommer (1857). “Im engsten Ringe – im stillsten Herzen – weltweite Dinge”, W. Raabe (1830-1910) will also sing shortly after, and, analyzing with bitter humor the reality of things that would like to be or seem bigger, he will find in the intimate concentration of the spirit the light that transfigures things. Not otherwise would Ferdinand von Saar (1833-1906) be pleased above all to linger in the intimate sweetness of a spirit which, by renouncing external life, reaches with internal peace the way towards the recognition of life. Thus, still later, in the inner harmony of the soul with itself, Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) will seek the goal of life, in which there is an endless beauty. And basically, in a different way, it is this same feeling that
Meanwhile, having reached power in 1862, Bismarck was building the unity and power of the empire. And in his gigantic figure not only the reawakening of national law was summed up, but a general desire for greatness which, from Frederick the Great onwards, in the spiritual history of Germany had always been, now manifest, now latent, one of the dominant forces. From the dark impetus of instincts of the Sturm und Drang to the heroic impulse of idealistic philosophy towards the conquest of the totality of life; from the Herderian idea taken up by Humboldt, that the typical character of Germanic civilization is to merge and overcome in itself all that is alive in the civilization of all other peoples, to the poignant aspiration of the romantics towards the reality of God and of infinite in one’s consciousness; from the vehement awakening of the national conscience after Jena until the moment in which it reaches its goals, continuously, in different and sometimes opposite forms, we witness the expansion of this anxiety. Literature, which always reflects the reality present in poetry, after the moment of the first grandiose affirmation, under the pressure of the times, was pushed in other ways; but in the depths of the consciences this force remained alive and operative. The great German historiography of the century was all a great expression of this. BG Niebuhr (1776-1831), Germany Droysen (1808-1884), H. v. Sybel (1817-1895), Th. Mommsen (1817-1903), F. Gregorovius (1821-1891), L. v. Ranke (1795-1886), who at 80 still begins to write the history of the world and writes it, are all powerful figures of square, methodical, constructive workers, figures of men who know their way and follow it with a firm step, self-confident. And, with the exception perhaps of Ranke, a more universal spirit, and later of J. Burckhardt (1818-1897), the spirit that animates them is, in more guarded forms, already the one that will burst with overwhelming eloquence in the writings of H. v . Treitschke (1834-1896). At the same time the work of the great philologists from Grimm to K.
According to PETSINCLUDE, thus, historically inspired poetry was renewed; and the romantic tone, to which the still agitated spirit of Victor Scheffel (1826-1886) demanded the too romantic color for his popular novels, passed to the realistic tone of Germany Freytag (1816-1895), in which the Germans of past are realistically fraternal drawings of ways, of feeling and of acting with the Germans of the present (Die Ahnen, 1873-81); and the Germans of the present are interpreted in the spirit of the Germanic ancestors (Soil und Haben, t854); starting a current of poetry that will remain alive for a long time until Felix Dahn (1834-1912), summoner of the German kings and novelist of the ultra- Germanic Kampf um Rom (1886). And above all it happened that, after fifty years, what had been the heroic spirit that had marked the beginnings of the new German poetry, was reborn, with a new richness of historical experience, with a new self-awareness. The times were deaf to answer; and, in contrast to those who through renunciation and limitation had come to rediscover the joy of life, the tone of the new poem was pessimistic. Not the pessimism of a man who cloaks himself in the sense of his own greatness and carries his vain lamentation to the world as R. Hamerling (1830-1889), too late in his time, was Byronian doing; but a pessimism which, by restoring the spirit in pain, strengthens it in itself: what Nietzsche will represent in the figure of Dürer’s knight, referring to Schopenhauer ” World as will and representation, Schopenhauer’s sudden triumph. Wagner found the decisive event of his life there. F. Hebbel (1813-1863), although moving from Hegel and from the realistic concept of the rationality of what exists, he too came to his feeling of life as an immanent universe tragedy, which, if not as an ideology, at least as a state of mind it is quite close to Schopenhauer. And for both of them the pain was resolved in a way of empowering and enhancing life. Through sin and suffering and death Judith (1841) reaches the almost superhuman reality of herself; through Genoveva suffering(1843) to his beatitude of purity and human piety; and if the idyll of Siegfried and Bmnhilde is illuminated by a powerful intoxication of life, no intoxication is comparable to that which accompanies Tristan in love, towards death. An analysis of the dark depths of sexual life opens up mysterious new forms of feeling. All life expanded its boundaries without limit. Hebbel said that ultimately all his plays had their origin in God; and Wagner also understood his musical plays as a cosmic mystery, of which the characters were symbolic and sensitive signs. Thus arises a poetic world of gigantic figures, in which life is brought to its extreme limit of tension. And all of Germanic style: massive, like a block of nature, motionless on their positions, decided on everything or nothing.