countries. George refused. But these were the reasons he gave: 'War is only the final result of senseless activities which for years have recklessly been directed towards it. The attempt of a few individuals to plaster over the breach seems to me to have no effect.'

It seems necessary to clear away these crude charges against George. They are based upon an inadequate familiarity with his actual writings, and have their origin not in the words which he actually wrote, but in the legend which was the creation of ignorance and hostility. There is doubtless much that is open to criticism in the ideals and the methods of George, but the ideal was that of 'das schäne Leben', in which the conflicting elements in the nature of man were brought into harmony, and were allowed to function in beauty under the control of the spirit. In his idea of the good life neither the glorification of war nor material ostentation and national aggrandizement nor a complacent acceptance of democracy could play a part; indeed these were felt to be its most obvious enemies.


III

When George turned his attention to the writing of poetry in the later eighties of the century, the great lyric impulse in German poetry coming from Goethe had reached its end, stung to death by the irony of Heine. The tradition of 'Gefühlslyrik' -- the immediate expression of feeling -- still continued, but its practitioners were minor poets whose sentimentalities merely reiterated themes and emotions which the earlier poets had exhausted. The popular writers of lyrics were castigated in the literary essays Kritische Waffengänge of the Brothers Hart, which appeared in the middle of the decade. The only lyric poet of any originality and stature was the Swiss Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, the precursor of the symbolic lyric in German literature. And it is significant that in the anthology of German lyric poetry made by George later, Meyer is the only writer of the second half of the century who is included. George's poems written before 1890, and considered by him merely as prentice work, were not collected and published until 1901, and appear now under the title of Die Fibel ( The Hornbook) as the first volume of the collected works.

It was, as has already been indicated, George's visit to Paris in 1889, his meeting with the Symbolist poet Albert de Saint Paul, and through him his acquaintance with the group of Symbolist poets of whom Mallarmé was the centre, which

-20-

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Stefan George
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Introduction 9
  • I 11
  • II 18
  • III 20
  • IV 26
  • V 31
  • VI 45
  • VII 56
  • Appendix 59
  • Biographical Dates 62
  • Select Bibliography 63
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