THE SYMBOLS OF THE VIRGIN
Ich sehe dich in tausend Bildern,
Maria, lieblich ausgedrückt,
Doch keins von allen kann dich schildern,
Wie meine Seele dich erblickt.
NOVALIS, Geistliche Lieder.
By following Mary's life from her birth to her Assumption we can gradually form a certain idea of her being, but that idea remains incomplete so long as we know only the narrative forms of art and literature. However much has been written about the history of the Madonna, yet this constitutes only the lesser half of piety's offering to the Mother of God. It is in the glorification of her person that Mary's worshippers have brought forth their richest tribute. By poetical epithets and ingeniously selected symbols, they have sought to embellish that ideal form so as to make it include in itself all conceivable beauty. The idea of the Madonna has hereby been enriched with many qualities which cannot be visualised in external, tangible works of art, and which cannot, moreover, appear in all their wealthy accumulation in the historical accounts of Mary's life. What has been said concerning the Virgin in the foregoing chapters, must therefore be supplemented by a general view of the purely lyrical Madonna-poetry and the rhetorical panegyrics.