A Companion to the Works of Stefan George by Jens Rieckmann

By Jens Rieckmann

Stefan George (1868-1933) is besides Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Rainer Maria Rilke one of many pre-eminent German poets of the 20 th century. He additionally had an immense, albeit arguable and provocative position in German cultural heritage. it's in most cases agreed that he performed an important half within the transition of German literature to Modernism, quite in poetry. whilst he was once an outspoken critic of modernity. He believed that basically an all-encompassing cultural renewal may well retailer smooth guy. even though George is frequently associated with the l'art pour l'art circulation, and even if his inventive recognition was once shaped by means of eu aestheticism, his poetry and the writings that emerged from the poets and intellectuals he accrued round him within the George Circle are in particular a scathing remark at the political, social, and cultural state of affairs in Germany on the flip of the century. George, who was once imbued with the belief of the poet as a prophet and priest, observed himself because the Messiah of a brand new Hellenism and a brand new Reich led via an highbrow and aesthetic elite such as males who have been bonded jointly via their allegiance to a charismatic chief. the various values that George proclaimed, between them a glorification of energy, of heroism and self-sacrifice, have been seized upon by way of the nationwide Socialists, and for that reason his writings and people of his circle have been thought of through a few to be proto-fascist. It didn't support his recognition that when the second one global battle a lot of the feedback of his works used to be practiced via uncritical, hagiographic George worshippers.

In fresh years, despite the fact that, there was a renewed and independent curiosity between students and critics in George and his circle. The wide-ranging and unique essays during this quantity discover anew George's poetry and his contribution to Modernism, the relation among his imaginative and prescient of a brand new Reich and fascist ideology, and his significance as a cultural critic.

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Amidst the chaotic beginnings of the Weimar Republic he argued in the introduction to the last issue of the Blätter that only later generations would recognize “die gemeinsamen wurzeln der übel” that had caused not only the war but the decline of political and social culture in Germany. The task of preparing these future generations must determine the “haltung des geistigen menschen in den staatlichen und gesellschaftlichen dingen” in the present. And poetry once again — but now George’s vatic poetry and his pedagogical endeavors in the Kreis — plays a central role in this process: “Nur den wenigen dürfte es einleuchten, dass in der dichtung eines volkes sich seine lezten schicksale enthüllen” (Einleitungen 58).

But the poem cannot hold firmly to this view. Some unseen pressure, not “in” the poem unless it is as that same resistance to nature, pushes into the last stanza with the verb zeugen and the question it leaves unanswered. Consequently, at some cost to its own unity as a harmonious “garden” of form, “Mein garten” acknowledges a subterranean need for exchange with the same air and warmth that this subterranean kingdom was defiantly intended to exclude. Again, this is the moralistic streak in décadence.

Des tages sei er im gehölz verschwunden и Des abends aber an den strand gekommen и Im kühlen windeshauch von salz und tang Die süsse stimme hebend dass delfine Die freunde des gesanges näher schwammen Im meer voll goldner federn goldner funken. So habe er seit urbeginn gelebt и Gescheiterte nur hätten ihn erblickt. Denn als zum erstenmal die weissen segel Der menschen sich mit günstigem geleit STEFAN GEORGE’S POETICS 33 Dem eiland zugedreht sei er zum hügel Die ganze teure stätte zu beschaun gestiegen и Verbreitet habe er die grossen schwingen Verscheidend in gedämpften schmerzeslauten.

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