Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Prophet of Sacred Germany

Edit: in honor of the 80th anniversary of Stefan George's death day, which took place on December 4th, we essayed to translate this essay from Junge Freiheit by Sebastian Hennig.
When Stefan George died at the farming village of Minusio on Lake Maggiore, eighty years ago,  this didn't  only mean the death of a legendary poet and language artist. A few months after the poet Gottfried Benn called him in an essay as "the greatest crossover and charisma phenomenon that has ever been seen the German intellectual history."
The lively nature of this poet unleashed and bundled the spilled energies of the German-speaking people. He looked directly and consciously focusing on a growing circle of intimates, who passed on in turn in their particular fields with the high standards of their master.

The elemental power of language
From 1892 onwards he gathered companions around the magazine Blätter für Kunst . It was about nothing less than the renewal of lyric poetry. Famous verses of that time  are delicately charming and austere at the same time: "Come see park declared dead hue / The smiles on shore also shimmer  / The pure clouds unexpected blue / Brightens vivid paths glimmer."
Skepticism about the efficiency of the Prussian-German Empire on the one hand ("kings of dun with prop crowns ") and democracy on the other hand ("Even your number is a sacrilege") feature George's attitude.
Just in time before the great awakening of the German spirit of Goethe's time completely evaporated into the clouds of education and humanism, Stefan George pointed to the elemental power compressed in the air, expressed in art.
Personification of "Human-Artistic Dignity"
Besides Goethe, there were Holderlin, Jean Paul and August von Platen, who were the chief witnesses and appellate instance of this but times change the word from the sound to action.  Artistry goes into action at the challenge of the age.
The claim of the Blätter für die Kunst   begins to draw more circles. Stefan George's poems from his books "The Seventh Ring" (1907) and "The Star of the Covenant" (1913) became themes for the youth movement. Klaus Mann later recalled: "In the midst of a decaying and raw civilization, he  announced,  he embodied a human and artistic dignity, united in the discipline and passion, grace and majesty."
Spiritually Hungry Students
Academics who were closely connected George, brought to his claims a  spiritually starved world of students. The German University received thereby a major impetus. An example of this is the Heidelberg German scholar Friedrich Gundolf whose corpulent monograph "Goethe" (1916) became a bestseller in the interwar period.
Other volumes in the series "Werke der Wissenschaft aus dem Kreis der Blätter für die Kunst" were Shakespeare, Napoleon, Winckelmann, Nietzsche and Plato. The philological rediscovery of the poems of Friedrich Hölderlin by Norbert von Hellingrath came from this environment.
The Disaster of a Continuing World War
Of outstanding importance for the self-awakening of the young German was the volume on "Emperor Frederick II". by  Ernst Kantorowicz of 1927. The following year, Stefan George's last book of poems, "The New Reich" appears. George lent his penetrating voice to the concern and confidence for the fatherland, threatened from within and without.
That he foresaw the catastrophe of a continuing world war, is shown in the number in the title bar of the published poem already appearing by 1921 "To a Young Leader in the First World War." In addition to these words that are carved in stone, it has until recently also been sung on the flute tones of the lyric poem. The apodictic time poems stand alongside the songs  and revive the force of words with their casual charm.
Goebbels' Opponent
The accusation of aesthetic rigor and sterility, which the George circle met with does not come on its head. It shows only  the fertility of the environment that he sprang was also frightful. Because both Joseph Goebbels and Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg were strongly influenced while studying in Heidelberg by George's beloved disciple Friedrich Gundolf.
So the Propaganda Minister offered  the Presidency the Academy for Poetry. Its rejection letter was dated to the day,  at which Germany held its  burning of books. Among those who the poet of word and deed felt connected to, many were persecuted and driven out of the home because of their Jewish roots.
Spiritual Mentor of Stauffenberg
Stauffenberg: Influenced by George
Stauffenberg: Influenced by George Photo: picture alliance / AP Photo
Others, including the brothers Stauffenberg, who " initially welcomed "national awakening". They expected the regime to use for the "Sacred Germany" George proclaimed  and were severely disappointed in it. With the commitment to Sacred Germany on the lips of the Patriot Stauffenberg,  he finally fell as Hitler's assassin under the bullets of his foes.
The last out branching of what is simplistically referred to as "George Circle," yet reached the recent turn of the last century. From a group of Amsterdam emigrants, the magazine  Castrum Perigrini emerged in 1950, which used the living memory of the poet and his circle until 2008. The Foundation "Castrum Peregrini - Intellectual Playground" is now noted only dimly through the haze of the Zeitgeist of its earlier origin.
In Wallenstein, a publisher that continues the series "Castrum Peregrini", a publication for correspondence and adaptations of Georges last appeared on Stéphane Mallarmé.

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