Studies in Language and Literature

By George R. Coffman | Go to book overview

THEODOR STORM'S PERSONIFICATIONS
BY FREDERIC EDWARD COENEN

It is the purpose of this study to examine personifications of lifeless objects in Storm's works in the light of his critical pronouncements concerning the nature of poetry in general and the metaphor and the personification of lifeless objects in particular. The nature of this investigation necessitates a brief discussion of the fundamental character of the so-called "pathetic fallacy."

The lyricist Theodor Storm once wrote to his daughter Elsabe that recognition was coming to him only slowly, but that it would be all the more lasting. Over five decades have passed since his death in 1888, and Storm has long been recognized as one of the greatest German lyricists of the nineteenth century. Like his contemporary Mörike, Storm reaches -- in some of his poems -- the unsurpassed height of Goethe in simplicity, in depth of emotion, in the charm and tenderness of his verse. The directness of these creations makes them part of nature itself. Storm displays a vigor and a passion in some of his lyrics whose intensity is unexcelled by his contemporaries.1 His lyrics are genuine expressions of emotion, not mere rhetoric.2 His mastery in the lyric expression of mood is unquestioned.3

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1
I would point to such poems as: "Die Stunde schlug", Theodor Storms Sämtliche Werke in acht Bänden ( Leipzig: Insel Verlag, 1923), I, 161, and its variant, op. cit., VIII, 167-168; "Du willst es nicht in Worten sagen", op. cit., I, 162; "Weie Rosen", op. cit., I, 163; "Der Zweifel", op. cit., I, 179; "Crucifixus", op. cit., I, 191; "Goldriepel", op. cit., I, 214-216; "Junges Leid", op. cit., I, 222; and the political poems.
2
Albert Köster, in the introduction of his edition, states that Storm eliminated all reflection ("ein Ausschalten jeder Reflexion") from his lyric poetry, op. cit., I, 19. -- In view of Storm's temperament (which will be briefly outlined in this study), such an elimination would seem impossible. Reflection is found, indeed, in many of his poems. Cf. "Über die Heide", op. cit., I, 169; "Herbst", op. cit., I, 167-168; "Vor Tag", op. cit., I, 171; "Engel-Ehe", op. cit., I, 194-195; "Nach frohen Stunden", op. cit., I,217; "Was ist ein Ku" op. cit., I, 219; "Wie wenn das Leben wär nichts andres", op. cit., I, 246-247. "Ein Sterbender", op. cit., I 173 ff., consists almost entirely of reflections. The "Sprüche", op. cit., I, 180-181, like all such sayings, express a bit of philosophy of life which, in turn, implies reflection. However, the depth of feeling which is always

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