German Romantic Poetry : Goethe, Novalis, Heine, Holderlin

German Romantic Poetry : Goethe, Novalis, Heine, Holderlin


GERMAN ROMANTIC POETRY A study of German Romantic poetry, focusing on the poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Holderlin, Heinrich Heine and Novalis. Includes lengthy extracts from their poetry. EXTRACT FROM THE FRIEDRICH HOLDERLIN CHAPTER Friedrich Holderlin believed in the notion of the poet as shaman, a vates, a prophet. As he wrote in 'An die Deutschen' ('To the Germans'), 'sweet it is to divine, but an affliction too'. And he believed in his poetic world, as poets have to: 'Holderlin's world was one in which he alone believed', wrote Alessandro Pelegrini. His poetry is marked by a movement towards bliss, the ecstasy of the shaman, which Holderlin does not hide. Rather, he cultivates it scrupulously. His lyrics are pure lyrics, set in the Orphic mode, that way of making poetry that comes from Orpheus, the ancient deity of shamanic poetry. Friedrich Holderlin's poetry, especially his early lyrics, is powerfully shamanic; it is full of shamanic imagery, as is the early poetry of Percy Shelley or Francesco Petrarch. In Holderlin's art we find images of light, of bliss, of motion, of revelation, all shamanic/ religious motifs. Heinrich Heine's view of the poet as shaman was more political, aware of the role of the poet in societal revolutions: 'Our age is warmed by the idea of human equality, and the poets, who as high priests do homage to this divine sun, can be certain that thousands kneel down beside them, and that thousands weep and rejoice with them'. 'Hyperion's Song of Fate' is one of the best examples of Holderlin's lyricism, his Orphic/ shamanic voice, his Hellenism, and his triumphant use of the hymn or ode form: Ihr wandelt droben im Licht Auf weichen Boden, seelige Genien! Glanzende Goantterlufte Ruhren euch leicht, Wie die Finger der Kunstlerin Heilige Saiten. Schiksaallos, wie der schlafende Saugling, athmen die Himmlischen; Keusch bewahrt In bescheidener Knospe, Bluhet ewig Ihnen der Geist, Und die seeligen Augen Bliken in stiller Ewiger Klarheit. Doch uns ist gegeben, Auf keiner Statte zu ruhn, Es schwinden, es fallen Die leidenden Menschen Blindlings von einer Stunde zur andern, Wie Wasser von Lippe, Zu Lippe geworfen, Jahr lang ins Ungewisse hinab. [You walk above in the light, weightless tread a soft floor, blessed genii! radiant the gods' mild breezes gently play on you as the girl artist's fingers on holy strings. Fateless the Heavenly breathe like an unweaned infant asleep; chastely preserved in modest bud for ever their minds are in flower and their blissful eyes eternally tranquil glaze, eternally clear. But we are fated to find no foothold, no rest, and suffering mortals dwindle and fall headlong from one hour to the next, hurled like water from ledge to ledge downward for years to the vague abyss.]

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