Germany Literature from 1750 to the Present Day Part 6
Few works of complete poetry were born: the Hymns to the night (1800), the Henry of Ofterdingen, the songs of Novalis; some chapters by Wackenroder; some lyrics and some prose by L. Tieck; some moments of Schleiermacher’s high religious prose, etc.; the rest remained in the state of fragment, of aphorism, of intuition immediately formulated: as if the internal fullness of ever new experiences left no time to elaborate and develop ideas flashing in a continuous intoxication. But what influence these discoveries immediately exerted on their own time shows, beyond the multiple reflection that one finds in Goethe himself from the Wahlverwandtschaften to the Westöstlicher Diwan, to the last Faust, the profound resonance that they had in certain writers who in a certain way were part of themselves. Not only Z. Werner (1768-1823), from the drama of Masonic tendency he passed to a religious drama of an erotic-mystical color, creating with 24. Februar (1807, 1815) the first Shicksalstragödie ; but others, which were among the greatest of the time. Jean Paul, with an initial lyrical-narrative tone in which the echo of sentimentalism of the eighteenth century seems to be prolonged and refined, quickly found, in the romantic experience, the sincere vein of his art, resolving the contrast between his nature in irony. dreamy and reality, and creating a rich, varied, impressionistically colorful prose, in which the clear design of the figures represented alternates with effusions of musical development. The greatest humorist-poet of the century, H. v. Kleist (1777-1811), moved by Kant – his first great intellectual experience – was to come later to write in the Prinz von Homburg (1821) a tragedy in which the Prussian spirit of discipline is elevated and purified to a high and severe Kantian imperative, but in all his other plays he remained close to the romantics in the tone of exalted intoxication which inspired him and in the frenzied tragedy of love and death of Pena tesilea (1808) perhaps more fully closed the secret of his tormented spirit. Br. Hölderlin (1770-1843), the friend of the young Hegel and the young Schelling, after having drawn in the Hyperion (1797-1799) from his cult of Hellenic beauty a romantic interiority of spiritual harmonies, and after having created forms in the first compositions that in this respect bring him closer to the classics like no other, finally reached its complete lyrical power, when from a cosmic mystical inspiration came from that last poem of his which, all broken as it is and fragmentary, draws the lightning flash of his revelations from a state of inner ecstasy.
According to HOMEAGERLY, the battle of Jena (14 October 1806) was of decisive importance in Germanic spiritual history: between Jena (1806) and Leipzig (1813) the haunting thought of the humiliation of the slave homeland gave the national consciousness a powerful impulse; and from Fichte’s Reden an die deutsche Nation (1807-08) to the poems of Leier und Schwert (published posthumously in 1814) by Theodor Körner (1791-1813) who, in his early twenties, died for his homeland while singing, with Kleist, with EM Arndt (1769-1860), with M. v. Schenkendorf (1783-1817), poetry too was naturally at the service of the national cause. But the dissolution of the romantic cenacle, which coincided with that moment, was not the consequence. The whole early romantic movement had had the character of a confident youthful impetus: the reckoning of the romantic spiritual position in the face of reality was a different task, to which that youth was alien. When Wackenroder and Novalis died, very young, Carolina Schlegel (1763-1809) passed to a new marriage with Schelling, each of the members of the group went their own way: Federico Schlegel passed with his wife Dorotea (1763-1839) to Catholicism and ended up at the court of Vienna; AW Schlegel (1767-1845), living next to Madame de Staël, gradually reduced romanticism to a literary problem; FW Schelling (1775-1854) lost himself more and more in his mythologizing symbolism, Schleiermacher allowed himself to be absorbed by the problems of Protestant theology or cultural politics.
A consequence of the wars of liberation was that the romantic movement, moving away from the universalistic attitude it had originally had, rapidly took on an increasingly national character. Already, before Jena, this orientation had come about, partly due to the reflection of the interest in the Middle Ages which enclosed the fabulous past of the Germanic peoples, partly – and perhaps more still – due to the need for seek in historical reality a first consistency of one’s aspirations; and already in Novalis the new accent had made itself felt; and Frederick Schlegel was already aware of how much he was tied to his homeland when crossing the Rhine. Now not only men like Arndt, Germany v. Görres (1776-1849), also representative in the political history of Germany, they oriented their activity in this sense, albeit in a different way; but the tendency was general throughout the poem. At Stimmen der Völker in which Herder had collected popular songs of all peoples, A. v. Arnim (1781-1831) and C. Brentano (1778-1842) now followed with Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1806-08) a collection of exclusively Germanic songs. A few years later Jakob (1778-1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859) added the collection of fairy tales (r 812-13) and sagas (1816-18). While Romance philology arose from the study of the Middle Ages, scientifically refining their methods, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, and others with them, K. Lachmann (1793-1851), GF Benecke (1762-1844), etc., laid the foundations of Germanistics.