The Tree of Life, the Tree of Death
'GOOD AND Evil are Riches and Poverty,' Blake's engraving of the Laocöon group declared in 1820. 'Where any view of Money exists, Art cannot be carried on, but War only . . . Art is the Tree of Life . . . Science is the Tree of Death.' These were the more extreme statements of the romantic reaction, which perceived the divine in nature and in feeling. In Germany, the idea of the religion of art was developing. Instead of the artist working for God, his work of art was considered godlike. For Goethe and Beethoven, great art engendered worship and devotion. In his On Naive and Sentimental Poetry, Schiller emphasized the simplicity of the artistic genius: his personal visions were the inspirations of a god. He must be accountable to himself, not to a society, any more than Dante or Cervantes, Shakespeare or Fielding had been. Goethe Faust demonstrated the power of the poetic will. The hero's ruthless striving became a model for countless German artists: Schopenhauer considered it the essence of man and the cosmos. Aristotle had praised urban man for moving towards his desire within the city state. But, after the romantic revolution, the artist was urged to move towards his desire without the restraints of society.
Yet Faust had his ultimate fate and his Mephistopheles. His romanticism and egocentricity were punctured by devilish mockery. Faust embodied the dark side of creativity and patronage: what he made, he marred. Even more extreme than Goethe in Faust, Mary