Medusa's Mirror: Studies in German Literature

By August Closs | Go to book overview

XI
Stefan George's 'Third Humanism'

Steinur brestur fyri manna tungu Stones break before the tongue of man. FAROESE PROVERB

WHEN A HUMAN being has passed away, said H. von Hofmannsthal, he takes with him a mystery -- the mystery of how it was possible for him to live. In the case of Stefan George it is the secret of his creative expression.

George conjured up the power of the word and the grace of form in our world of material things:

Kein ding sei wo das wort gebricht. A thing which lacks the word must go.1

Against the illusion of progress George announces his belief in the totality of the human being who strives for God until he 'grasps' Him.

'Wir gingen einer entstellten und erkalteten menschheit entgegen . . . Massen schufen gebot und regel . . .' writes George in the Preface to Maximin ( 1906). Thus the loneliness of the poet is necessary and desired:

Menschlich glück verschwor ich urn dein lied Fügte mich der not des wanderturns . . .

Scouted trifling pleasure for your song, Took the yoke of pilgrimage upon me.2

This wandering was not without a goal. A plan lay behind all his work. In 1934 in his Erinnerungen an Stefan George, G. Bondi, George's publisher and friend, showed that the things of practical life were not foreign to the poet, and that Stefan George travelled a carefully mapped-out road not as a bourgeois, yet

____________________
1
Das Neue Reich, tram. by O. Marx and E. Morwitz, from whose excellent translation quotations are taken in this chapter.
2
Der Stern des Bundes.

-185-

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