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Poetry and the Art of Speech
GA 281

Lecture V

7 June 1922, Dornach

It is through declamation and recitation that the art of poetry is accorded its true value. So I shall allow myself – not, however, out of allegiance to any abstract principle or any wish to claim that a world-view which springs from the needs of our time must cast its reforming light in some way or other over everything – I shall allow myself on quite other grounds to say a little about recitation and declamation from the vantage-point of the life- and world-conception represented at this Congress. We shall only recapture an inner, a genuine soul-understanding of poetry when we are in a position to find our way to the real homeland of poetic art. And this real homeland of poetic art is in fact the spiritual world – though it is not that intellectual, that conceptual or ideational factor in the spiritual world particularly cultivated in our own time. For this more than anything else has a paralysing effect on poetry.

We shall see most clearly what is meant by this when we are reminded that one of the most significant products of this art resounds to us out of the revolutions of time along with a particular avowal on the part of its creator, or perhaps creators. The Homeric epics invariably begin with the words “Sing, O Muse...” Nowadays we are only too inclined to treat such a phrase as more or less a cliché. But when it was first coined it was no cliché – it was an inner experience of the soul: whoever it was that conceived the poem out of the spirit, whence this phrase was also drawn, knew how he was immersed through his poetic faculty in a region of human existence and experience different to that in which we stand in immediatesense-perception, or when our power of intellect takes hold conceptually of sense-impressions. The poet knew that his inner being was seized by an objective spiritual force. That human consciousness has indeed undergone a change in this respect in the course of evolution has, I would say, been documented historically.

When Klopstock, drawing upon the German spiritual life, wished to sing of the great deed of the Messiah, as Homer had sung the past events of Hellas, he did not say “Sing, O Muse...”, but “Sing, immortal soul, of sinful man’s redemption.” Here something of greater intensity is indicated, something connected directly with the human and its self-reliance. Here man has come to himself in his individual personality.

Yet we can add: if the mode of consciousness which lives in our modern world of ideas and observations were the sole criterion, we should lose poetry and art altogether. All the same, it is necessary that here, too, what was suitable for mankind at one time should now assume other forms. But these new forms can only arise if the way into the spiritual world is rediscovered; for such a path alone makes it possible for the human “I” to be laid hold of again by the spiritual world – not as in former times, in an unconscious, dreamy fashion, but in accordance with the needs of the present day: in full consciousness. That this need not be bound up with a crippling of imaginative activity – this is not generally recognized today. It will come to be understood, however, as the world and life-conception put forward here gains more and more ground. If we enter into the spiritual world with circumspection – in full consciousness and with a developed feeling of personality – it will exert no crippling effect on our direct perception or on the vital participation in things and beings so necessary to poetry and art in general. If, however, we abstract ourselves from things in ideas, standing aside from them in purely intellectual concepts, our knowledge will yield nothing that can become a direct artistic creation. But if we plunge down into what pervades the world as a vibrant spiritual essence we will find again, along this spiritual path what poetry and art as a whole were fundamentally seeking all along.

From such a spiritual approach the poet will have before his soul what recitation and declamation must re-create for his audience. The poet must submerge himself in the element of speech. This experience of submersion was still to be found among the Greeks, and even in earlier forms of Central European spiritual life, such as the Germanic. In primaeval ages of humanity, if one wished to receive the divine-spiritual and bring it to expression as it spoke in the soul, one dived down not only into the element of speech, but also into what flowed within speech, like the waves of the sea – into the breath. And in earlier times, when the ancient spiritual life was still valued above science, art or religion in isolation, in the period when that spiritual life came into being, poetry, too, was not isolated. It grew isolated at the stage when the felt vitality of the breath (as manifestation of the efficacy of man’s innermost will) was taken up into more exalted regions of organic life: into the element of speech.

In due course today we have arrived at the element of thought. And from the thought-element we can experience only a sort of “upthrust” of the breath. What held sway in ancient times in Central Europe in the form of an unconscious feeling whenever man felt the poetic urge was the pulsating of the blood. Taking hold with the will, this formed the breathstream from within, into tone; whereas when the man of Greek or Graeco-Roman times waxed poetic he lived more in what flowed from the breathing-rhythm in the way of a picture or conception, and in what musically formed the sound, tone and line through metre, number and syllable.

Goethe’s whole being, his essential soul-nature, was born from the spirit of Central Europe. The writings of his youth derived their imaginative, pictorial form from an experience, an instinctive feeling of how human breathing pushes up, through the will-pulsating waves of the blood, into the formation of tone and sound – and so into the expressivity of the human soul. In this way he attained the qualities we admire so much in his youth, even when he appears to be speaking in prose. We have the prose-poems of Goethe’s youth, like the marvellous Hymn to Nature, where the ruling principle is that where we feel the language permeated by a kind of breathing which pulsates on the waves of the blood. It was from some such sense that the young Goethe initially composed his Iphigeneia. In this composition we feel how something from the Nibelungenlied, or the Gudrunlied, still lives and weaves in the prose, welling up and working in its high and low intonations. It calls attention to the upward thrust of the will into what comes to be man’s head-experience. This rhythm, thrown upward into configurations of thought, is what we can admire in the poems of Goethe’s youth, including the first version of his Iphigeneia.

But Goethe longed to get away to Italy. A time came when he could no longer come to terms with himself without undertaking a journey to Italy, which he did in the ’eighties. What was it that he longed for in his innermost being at that time? He longed to enter more deeply into human individuality – to enter into the whole human being with what lived in the high and low tones, creating in speech-formation an effect like the forms of a Gothic cathedral. He wanted to blend this with the even-measured flow he was seeking and believed was accessible only in the south, in Italy, in the wake of what had lived in Greek culture. Out of this, stemming from his feeling for such art as was still to be seen, came an understanding of Greek art He understood that the Greeks created their art in accordance with the same laws that govern the productions of nature; and of this he believed himself to have uncovered the clue. He believed, too, that he had traced these laws in speech-formation. He brought speech into a deeper connection with the breath. Then, in Rome, he refashioned his Iphigeneia accordingly. We must distinguish sharply between the northern Iphigeneia as first conceived and what came about when he refashioned it in Rome – even though the difference between the original and the Roman verse-Iphigeneia is really quite slight. It turned it into a poem that no longer lives simply in high and low tones; it became a work where in quite a different way – and not in any trivial sense, but as regards the whole of its speech-formation - the psychical experience of the blood-rhythm, the circulation with its deeper rhythm, plays over into the tranquil metre of the breathing-rhythm and the element of thought. In this way, what represented a declamatory form in the Nordic Iphigeneia is transformed in the Roman version into recitation.

By juxtaposing the one Iphigeneia with the other in this way, we can clearly discern the difference between declamation and recitation. Recitation leads us more deeply into human nature, and creates, too, more from its depths, seizing upon the whole blood-circulation as well as the breathing. But because in declamation the will (as it surges in the depths) is caught up into the highest part of man’s spiritual and soul-being, into the breath, it appears to us as the more forceful – living as it does in high and low tones. It does not only engage the flow of rhyme and verse, but evokes something which goes out into the world – perhaps even with a certain belligerence – as alliteration. In this there is a beauty that is peculiar to the north.

We do not wish today to give theoretical explanations, but to make known what should be present in an artistic sensibility. We will therefore firstly present the declamatory, in Goethe’s Nordic Iphigeneia; and then contrastingly the recitative, in the Roman composition. [Note 25]

[The magnificent language of the Authorized Version puts it on a different level to any other translation in English. There can be no doubt of its own high literary qualities, and it furnishes us with fine examples of poetry for declamation, as in this version of the ninetieth Psalm:

Lord, thou hast bene our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountaines were brought forth,

or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world:

even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.

Thou turnest man to destruction: and sayest,

Returne yee children of men.

For a thousand yeeres in thy sight

are but as yesterday when it is past:

and as a watch in the night.

Thou carriest them away as with a flood, they are as a sleepe:

in the morning they are like grasse which groweth up.

In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up:

in the evening it is cut downe, and withereth.

For we are consumed by thine anger:

and by thy wrath are we troubled.

Thou hast set our iniquities before thee:

our secret sinnes in the light of thy countenance.

For all our dayes are passed away in thy wrath:

we spend our yeeres as a tale that is told.

The dayes of our yeeres are three-score yeeres and ten,

and if by reason of strength they be fourescore yeeres,

yet is their strength labour and sorrow:

for it is soone cut off, and we flie away.

Who knoweth the power of thine anger?

even according to thy feare, so is thy wrath.

So teach us to number our daies: that wee may

apply our hearts unto wisedome.

Returne (O LORD) how long?

and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

O satisfie us early with thy mercie:

that we may rejoyce, and be glad all our dayes.

Make us glad according to the dayes wherein thou hast afflicted us:

and the yeeres wherein we have seene evil.

Let thy worke appeare unto thy servants:

and thy glory unto their children.

And let the beautie of the LORD our God be upon us,

and establish thou the worke of our hands upon us:

yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

Metrical translations of the Psalms are numerous; but many of them have no aims beyond fitting the verses to a tune. The version begun by Sir Philip Sidney and completed by his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, however, brought all the literary resources of the classical tradition in Renaissance poetry to bear on the problem of making an authentically poetic translation. The result is that the ninetieth Psalm is here drastically transformed into a recitative vein:


Thou’our refuge, thou our dwelling,

O Lord, hast byn from time to time:

Long er Mountaines, proudly swelling,

Above the lowly dales did clime:

Long er the Earth, embowl’d by thee,

Bare the forme it now doth beare:

Yea, thou art God for ever, free

From all touch of age and yeare.

O, but man by thee created,

As he at first of earth arose,

When thy word his end hath dated,

In equall state to earth he goes.

Thou saist, and saying makst it soe:

Be noe more, O Adams heyre;

From whence ye came, dispatch to goe,

Dust againe, as dust you were.

Graunt a thousand yeares be spared

To mortall men of life and light:

What is that to thee compared?

One day, one quarter of a night.

When death upon them storm-like falls,

Like unto a dreame they grow:

Which goes and comes as fancy calls,

Nought in substance all in show.

As the hearb that early groweth,

Which leaved greene and flowred faire

Ev’ning change with ruine moweth,

And laies to roast in withering aire:

Soe in thy wrath we fade away,

With thy fury overthrowne

When thou in sight our faultes dost lay,

Looking on our synns unknown.

Therefore in thy angry fuming,

Our life of daies his measure spends:

All our yeares in death consuming,

Right like a sound that, sounded, ends.

Our daies of life make seaventy yeares,

Eighty, if one stronger be:

Whose cropp is laboures, dollors, feares,

Then away in poast we flee.

Yet who notes thy angry power

As he should feare, soe fearing thee?

Make us count each vitall hower

Make thou us wise, we wise shall be.

Turne Lord: shall these things thus goe still?

Lett thy servantes peace obtaine:

Us with thy joyfull bounty fill,

Endlesse joyes in us shall raigne.

Glad us now, as erst we greeved:

Send yeares of good for yeares of ill:

When thy hand hath us releeved,

Show us and ours thy glory still.

Both them and us, not one exempt,

With thy beauty beautify:

Supply with aid what we attempt,

Our attempts with aid supply.

Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621).]

Goethe followed up his incursion into the new poetic sphere of his remodelled Iphigeneia with works like his “Achilleis”, from which a passage will now be recited. Here in Goethe we find something that shows us how poetry springs from the whole man, how it should emerge from the whole man and take shape as recitation and declamation.

I might seem, at first glance, to be propounding a mechanical interpretation of reciting and declaiming, if I were to point to something in the nature of man as the origin of recitation and declamation: this something is to be found, however, precisely along the spiritual path.

As an art, poetry has the task of enlarging again what prose has atomized and contracted into the single word. The harmony of sounds, the melodious flow of sound in the picture-formation of speech, of mundane speech, is in this way “canopied over,” as we might say, by a second, spiritual speech. The prose-speaker clothes in words those thoughts he wants to convey, along with whatever of individual experience he can. The poet draws back from such rhetoric, to a much more profoundly inward human experience. [Note 26] He reverts to a level at which (as I have already indicated) the rhythms of breathing and the circulatory system become perceptible, as they vibrate through the language of poetry. We shall only get to the bottom of rhyme, metre, the pictorial and the melodic in speech, by comprehending human nature spiritually, even down to the physical. We have, then, as one pole of the rhythmical in man, the breathing; and as the other pole, circulation. In the interaction of breathing and circulation is expressed something which is first given, in its simplest ratio, when we attend to the resonance of breathing and circulation in the flow of human speech. In breathing, we draw a particular number of breaths every minute – between sixteen and eighteen. And over the same period we have, an average, about four times as many pulse‑beats. Circulation and breathing interact, so that the circulation plays into the breath, and the breath in turn weaves into the circulation its slower rhythm. It is an apprehension of such an harmonious interchange between pulse-beat and breathing that echoes on in speech. Formed and transformed in various ways, it produces the after-effect of a pictorial or a musical speech-formation, which is then brought to expression by the poet.

I said – and the point has actually been raised – that the fundamental law of poetry, the interaction of breathing and circulation that I have elicited from human morphology might be considered mechanical and materialistic. But the spiritual life that holds sway and works in the world can only be grasped if we trace that life right into its material formations; only if the life of man’s spirit and soul is pursued to those depths where it lives out its expression in corporeal functions. These bodily workings will then act as a firm wall to hurl back, like an echo, what derives from the laws of a profounder spirituality – a spirituality of direct experience pouring itself out into speech.

Goethe sensed how in earlier stages of human culture man stood in a deeper relation, as it were, to his own nature. He too sought to enter into an earlier epoch’s feeling for poetic forms and revivify them. It is actually of deep significance that at the highest point in the development of German poetry, Goethe pointed away from the crude, prosaic stress popularly taken for recitation and declamation, to a special kind of what can be called – and deservingly – a real speech-formation. To rehearse the iambics of his Iphigeneia, Goethe stood in front of the actors with his baton. He knew that what had to be revealed was, above all, the imagery he wanted to incorporate, while the prose-content was there merely as a ladder by which to scale the heights of the full, spiritual sense – the sound and the picture-quality of speech that must evolve from it. We must pierce through the given prose-content of a poem into the truly poetic. Schiller’s experience in his best creations, of an initially indefinable melody, a musicality onto which he then threaded the prose-content, was not a personal peculiarity. As regards the words, some of Schiller’s poems could even have had a different content to the one they currently possess. In a true poet there is everywhere, in the background of the rhetorical speech, a quality that must simply be felt. And only when it does justice to the musical in speech-formation will true poetry stand revealed.

If we turn to what is often taught today as recitation and declamation, it is with a keen sense of something having, in these uncultured times, gone amiss. The voice itself is strengthened, and great value is attached to technical adjustment of the organism: this is because no-one is any longer able to live in a direct relationship with recitation and declamation (not to mention singing), and we transfer to material tampering with the body what should be experienced on a quite different plane. The important thing in teaching recitation and declamation is that the pupil should on no account be made to do anything but live with speech-formation as such and the soul-resonance of living with speech-formation, in such a way as to bring him to listen properly. For anyone who is capable of listening correctly to what may come over in poetry, the appropriate breathing, proper disposition of the body, etc., will come about of their own accord – as a response to proper listening. It is important to let the pupil live in the actual element of declamation and recitation, and leave all the rest to him. He must become absorbed in the objective realities of tone, in “musical pictoriality” and in authentically poetic formations. In this way alone, paradoxical as it may sound, can we get the pupil to develop an ear for what he hears declaimed to him and thereby sensitivity to what moves spiritually over the waves of sound he hears. Only when he experiences something in his surroundings, we might say, and not in himself – and even though to begin with this experience is illusory, it must be cultivated – only then will he be able to refer back to himself what he feels vibrant in the world around him. It is only through the recital of certain aesthetically fashioned word-sequences, which have a special relation to human morphology, that we ought to learn breath-control or anything else connected with the adjusting of the voice. In this way we shall best meet the requirements of Goethe’s artistic perception and the sensitivity we value so greatly.

By way of illustration – not of any theory, but of the foregoing remarks there will now be recited a passage from Goethe’s “Achilleis”. [Note 27]

[Since the hexameter in its true, classical form can only occasionally be reproduced successfully in English, C. Day Lewis performed the service of devising a metre which sounds convincingly like it. He used it to evoke the heroic and epic associations of classical poetry in relating, for example, an episode from the Spanish Civil War in “The Nabara”. This extract is from “Phase One”:

Freedom is more than a word, more than the base coinage

Of statesmen, the tyrant’s dishonoured cheque, or the dreamer’s mad

Inflated currency. She is mortal, we know, and made

In the image of simple men who have no taste for carnage

But sooner kill and are killed than see that image betrayed.

Mortal she is, yet rising always refreshed from her ashes:

She is bound to earth, yet she flies as high as a passage bird

To home wherever man’s heart with seasonal warmth is stirred:

Innocent is her touch as the dawn’s, but still it unleashes

The ravisher shades of envy. Freedom is more than a word.

I see man’s heart two-edged, keen both for death and creation.

As a sculptor rejoices, stabbing and mutilating the stone

Into a shapelier life, and the two joys make one –

So man is wrought in his hour of agony and elation

To efface the flesh to reveal the crying need of his bone.

Burning the issue was beyond their mild forecasting

For those I tell of – men used to the tolerable joy and hurt

Of simple lives: they coveted never an epic part;

But history’s hand was upon them and hewed an everlasting

Image of freedom out of their rude and stubborn heart.

C. Day Lewis (1904-1972)

An earlier solution to the problem was a rather more radical departure from the hexameter for a five-foot line, and the blank-verse pentameter remains the natural epic metre in English. Milton employed it in recreating many of the features of classical epic in Paradise Lost, as may be illustrated from the following passage (Book VI, 189-214):

So saying, a noble stroke he lifted high,

Which hung not, but so swift with tempest fell

On the proud Crest of Satan, that no sight,

Nor motion of swift thought, less could his Shield

Such ruin intercept: ten paces huge

He back recoild; the tenth on bended knee

His massie Spear upstayd; as if on Earth

Winds under ground or waters forcing way

Sidelong, had push’t a Mountain from his seat

Half sunk with all his Pines. Amazement seiz’d

The Rebel Thrones, but greater rage to see

Thus foil’d their mightiest, ours joy find, and shout,

Presage of Victorie and fierce desire

Of Battel: whereat Michaël bid sound

Th’ Arch-angel trumpet; through the vast of Heav’n

It sounded, and the faithful Armies rung

Hosanna to the Highest: nor stood at gaze

The adverse Legions, nor less hideous join’d

The horrid shock: now storming furie rose,

And clamor such as heard in Heav’n till now

Was never, Arms on Armour clashing bray’d

Horrible discord, and the madding Wheeles

Of brazen Chariots rag’d; dire was the noise

Of conflict; over head the dismal hiss

Of fiery Darts in flaming vollies flew,

And flying vaulted either Host with fire.

John Milton.]

And now, to illustrate declamation, Goethe’s “Hymnus an die Natur” (abridged, as occasion demanded, for a Eurythmy performance).

Natur! Wir sind von ihr umgeben und umschlungen –

unvermögend aus ihr herauszutreten, und unvermögend,

tiefer in sie hinein zu kommen. Ungebeten und ungewarnt

nimmt sie uns in den Kreislauf ihres Tanzes auf

und treibt sich mit uns fort, bis wir ermüdet sind

und ihrem Arm entfallen.

Sie schafft ewig neue Gestalten; alles ist neu, und

doch immer das Alte. Sie baut immer und zerstört


Sie lebt in lauter Kindern; und die Mutter, wo ist

sie? – Sie ist die einzige Künstlerin; sie spielt ein

Schauspiel; es ist ein ewiges Leben, Werden und

Bewegen in ihr. Sie verwandelt sich ewig, und ist

kein Moment Stillestehen in ihr.

Ihr Tritt ist gemessen, ihre Ausnahmen selten, ihre

Gesetze unwandelbar. Gedacht hat sie und sinnt beständig.

Die Menschen sind alle in ihr, und sie in allen.

Auch das Unnatürlichste ist Natur, auch die plumpste

Philisterei hat etwas von ihrem Genie.

Sie liebt sich selber; sie freut sich an der Illusion.

Ihre Kinder sind ohne Zahl.

Sie spritzt ihre Geschöpfe aus dem Nichts hervor.

Leben ist ihre schönste Erfindung, und der Tod – ihr

Kunstgriff, viel Leben zu haben.

Sie hüllt den Menschen in Dumpfheit ein und spornt

ihn ewig zum Lichte. Man gehorcht ihren Gesetzen,

auch wenn man ihnen widerstrebt; man wirkt mit ihr,

auch wenn man gegen sie wirken will.

Sie macht alles, was sie gibt, zur Wohltat.

Sie hat keine Sprache noch Rede, aber sie schafft

Zungen und Herzen, durch die sie fühlt und spricht.

Ihre Krone ist die Liebe.

Sie macht Klüfte zwischen allen Wesen, und alles will

sie verschlingen. Sie hat alles isoliert, um alles


Sie ist alles. Sie belohnt sich selbst und bestraft

sich selbst, erfreut und quält sich selbst. Vergangenheit

und Zukunft kennt sie nicht. Gegenwart ist ihr Ewigkeit.

Sie ist gütig, sie ist weise und still.

Sie ist ganz, und doch immer unvollendet.

Jedem erscheint sie in einer eignen Gestalt. Sie

verbirgt sich in tausend Namen und ist immer dieselbe.

Sie hat mich hereingestellt, sie wird mich auch

herausführen. Ich vertraue mich ihr. Alles hat

sie gesprochen. Alles ist ihre Schuld, alles ist

ihr Verdienst!

[Perhaps the nearest parallel in English is the unrestricted and freely expansive rhythm of Blake. He celebrates not Nature, but the spirits (the Sons of Los) in Nature in these extracts from his Milton pl. 27,66 – 28,12; pl. 31, 4 – 22:

Thou seest the Constellations in the deep & wondrous Night:

They rise in order and continue their immortal courses

Upon the mountains & in vales with harp & heavenly song,

With flute & clarion, with cups & measures fill’d with foaming wine.

Glitt’ring the streams reflect the Vision of beatitude,

And the calm Ocean joys beneath & smooths his awful waves:

These are the Sons of Los, & these the Labourers of the Vintage.

Thou seest the gorgeous clothed Flies that dance & sport in summer

Upon the sunny brooks & meadows: every one the dance

Knows in its intricate mazes of delight artful to weave:

Each one to sound his instruments of music in the dance,

To touch each other & recede, to cross & change & return:

These are the Children of Los; thou seest the Trees on mountains,

The wind blows heavy, loud they thunder thro’ the darksom sky,

Uttering prophecies & speaking instructive words to the sons

Of men: These are the Sons of Los: These are the Visions of Eternity,

But we see only as it were the hem of their garments

When with our vegetable eyes we view these wondrous Visions.

The Sky is an immortal Tent built by the Sons of Los:

And every Space that a Man views around his dwelling-place

Standing on his own roof or in his garden on a mount

Of twenty-five cubits in height, such space is his Universe:

And on its verge the Sun rises & sets, the Clouds bow

To meet the flat Earth &the Sea in such an order’d Space:

The Starry heavens reach no further, but here bend and set

On all sides, & the two Poles turn on their valves of gold;

And if he move his dwelling-place, his heavens also move

Where’er he goes, & all his neighbourhood bewail his loss.

Such are the Spaces called Earth & such its dimension.

As to that false appearance which appears to the reasoner

As of a Globe rolling thro’ Voidness, it is a delusion of Ulro.

The Microscope knows not of this nor the Telescope: they alter

The ratio of the Spectator’s Organs, but leave Objects untouch’d.

For every Space larger than a red Globule of Man’s blood

Is visionary, and is created by the Hammer of Los:

And every Space smaller than a Globule of Man’s blood opens

Into Eternity of which this vegetable Earth is but a shadow.

William Blake.]

And now we will adduce some examples of the lyric – to be precise, from two poets, both Austrian: Robert Hamerling and Anastasius Grün.

The lyric diverges from epic and dramatic poetry in that, as far as speech-formation is concerned, its aesthetic quality must be experienced directly. In a way, all lyric strives to obliterate the immediate content of consciousness – at any rate to some degree. It would restore to man’s being a sense of universal participation. One might say that in lyric there is always a damping down of conscious experience. With a poet like Hamerling, a once widely influential poet who compared with then is now largely forgotten, we can indeed observe how personal experience passes over into a lyrical experience. Here we have a personality whose soul wants to share inwardly with every fibre of its being in the entire life of the world. He wants to share in the life of colour that meets him from the world. And thus the unconscious elements of human life come to play a part in him. We can still see the after-effects of this colourful experience in him when he tries to give it shape by casting it in antique forms. Particularly in Hamerling’s lyric poetry we can feel the true Austro-German lyricism. He is in a sense perhaps the most representative of Austro-German poets. The German spoken in Austria, deriving as it does from several dialects to become the common parlance and also the so-called “literary language” of Austrian poetry – this language has something which marks it off from the other forms of German language, fine discriminations which are of special interest to poetry and speech-formation. Compared with other varieties of German we might say that Austrian German has a subdued quality: yet in this quality there lingers a delicate sense of humour; this language became that of Austrian poetry. This soft humorous sound and intimate soul-quality that comes across in Austrian speech is not readily found in other forms of German – except possibly dialects. And here we have something which brings us, so to speak, close to antiquity.

It is at any rate remarkable that so outstanding a poet as Joseph Misson should have resorted to Austrian dialect for his “Da Naz, a niederösterreichischer Bauerbui geht in d’Fremd”, and that he arrived at a type of hexameter in which he felt artistically at home. We might add that the idealism of thought natural to someone who lives with Austrian German imparts an idealistic tinge to all the German inner feeling in this little piece of Central Europe.

We encounter this even in the formation of speech in Hamerling’s lyrics, which convey the feeling as if on the wings of a bird, while continually catching the bird again in powerfully moulded forms. This is really possible only with the soft humour of Austrian German. If we recapture this in declamation by taking what lives in Hamerling’s lyrical poetry and allow it to be heard elsewhere, it strikes a German from a different region as being cornpletely German and yet he feels what is German in the language to have been idealized. This is what gives Hamerling’s lyricism its nobility and what makes his verve and colour genuinely artistic as well as spontaneous.

How differently this appears in our other poet, Anastasius Grün! In accordance with the unique character of the Austrian disposition, he had a real feeling for what ought to mediate between East and West – for the mutual understanding of people all over the earth. The mood of 1848 finds expression most nobly and beautifully in Anastasius Grün’s poem Schutt – and in other of his poems too. It is this prologue to Schutt that will be recited. So, on the one hand we have, in Hamerling, a poet who really created more for declamation, yet found for it a metrical form and in Anastasius Grün a poet who takes over a recitative principle straight from the language. We would now like to demonstrate this in a poem by Anastasius Grün which, from its contents, might be entitled “West und Ost”; and in two poems by Robert Hamerling: “Nächtliche Regung” and “Vor einer Genziane”.


Prolog zu ‘Schutt’

Aug’ in Auge lächelnd schlangen

Arm in Arm einst West und Ost;

Zwillingspaar, das liebumfangen

Noch in einer Wiege kost’!

Ahriman ersah’s, der Schlimme,

Ihn erbaut der Anblick nicht,

Schwingt den Zauberstab im Grimme,

Draus manch roter Blitzstrahl bricht.

Wirft als Riesenschlang’ ins Bette,

Ringelnd, bäumend, zwischen sie

Jener Berg’ urew’ge Kette,

Die nie bricht und endet nie.

Lässt der Lüfte Vorhang rollend

Undurchdringlich niederziehn,

Spannt des Meers Sahara grollend

Endlos zwischen beiden hin.

Doch Ormuzd, der Milde, Gute,

Lächlend ob dem schlechten Schwank,

Winkt mit seiner Zauberrute,

Sternefunkelnd, goldesblank.

Sieh, auf Taubenfitt’chen, fächelnd,

Von der fernsten Luft geküsst,

Schifft die Liebe, kundig lächelnd;

Wie sich Ost and Westen grüsst!

Blütenduft und Tau und Segen

Saugt im Osten Menschengeist,

Steigt als Wolke, die als Regen

Mild auf Westens Flur dann fleusst!

Und die Brücke hat gezogen,

Die vom Ost zum West sich schwingt,

Phantasie als Regenbogen,

Der die Berge überspringt.

Durch die weiten Meereswüsten,

Steuernd, wie ein Silberschwan,

Zwischen Osts und Westens Küsten

Wogt des Lieds melod’scher Kahn.

Anastasius Grün (1806-1876).

[The poem that follows demonstrates the English sense of delicacy and restraint, and the subtle humour to which the language was in its own way particularly suited – perhaps especially around Marvell’s time:


See how the Orient Dew,

Shed from the Bosom of the Morn

Into the blowing Roses,

Yet careless of its Mansion new;

For the clear Region where ’twas born

Round in its self incloses:

And in its little Globes Extent,

Frames as it can its native Element.

How it the purple flow’r does slight,

Scarce touching where it lyes,

But gazing back upon the Skies,

Shines with a mournful Light;

Like its own Tear,

Because so long divided from the Sphear.

Restless it roules and unsecure,

Trembling lest it grow impure;

Till the warm Sun pitty it’s Pain,

And to the Skies exhales it back again.

So the Soul, that Drop, that Ray

Of the clear Fountain of Eternal Day,

Could it within the humane flow’r be seen,

Remembring still its former height,

Shuns the sweat leaves and blossoms green;

And, recollecting its own Light,

Does, in its pure and circling thoughts, express

The greater Heaven in an Heaven less.

In how coy a Figure wound,

Every way it turns away;

So the World excluding round,

Yet receiving in the Day.

Dark beneath, but bright above:

Here disdaining, there in Love.

How loose and easie hence to go:

How girt and ready to ascend.

Moving but on a point below,

It all about does upwards bend.

Such did the Manna’s sacred Dew destil;

White, and intire, though congeal’d and chill.

Congeal’d on Earth: but does, dissolving, run

Into the Glories of th’ Almighty Sun.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678).]


Horch, der Tanne Wipfel

Schlummertrunken bebt,

Wie von Geisterschwingen

Rauschend überschwebt.

Göttliches Orakel

In der Krone saust,

Doch die Tanne selber

Weiss nicht, was sie braust.

Mir auch durch die Seele

Leise Melodien,

Unbegriffne Schauer,

Allgewaltig ziehn:

Ist es Freudemahnung

Oder Schmerzgebot?

Sich allein verständlich

Spricht in uns der Gott.


Die schönste der Genzianen fand ich

Einsam erblüht tief unten in kühler Waldschlucht.

O wie sie durchs Föhrengestrüpp

Heraufschimmerte mit den blauen, prächtigen Glocken:

Gewohnten Waldespfad

Komm’ ich nun Tag um Tag

Gewandelt und steige hinab in die Schlucht

Und blicke der schönen Blume tief ins Aug’...

Schöne Blume, was schwankst du doch

Vor mir in unbewegten Lüften so scheu,

So ängstlich?

Ist denn ein Menschenaue nicht wert

Zu blicken in ein Blumenantlitz?

Trübt Menschenmundes Hauch

Den heiligen Gottesfrieden dir,

In dem du atmest?

Ach, immer wohl drückt Schuld,

Drückt nagende Selbstanklage

Die sterbliche Brust und du, Blume, du wiegst

In himmlischer Lebensunschuld

Die wunderbaren Kronen:

Doch blicke nicht allzu vorwurfsvoll mich an!

Sieh, hab’ ich doch Eines voraus vor dir:

Ich habe gelebt:

Ich habe gestrebt, ich habe gerungen,

Ich habe geweint,

Ich habe geliebt, ich habe gehasst,

Ich habe gehofft, ich habe geschaudert;

Der Stachel der Qual, des Entzückens hat

In meinem Fleische gewühlt;

Alle Schauer des Lebens und des Todes sind

Durch meine Sinne geflutet,

Ich habe mit Engelchören gespielt, ich habe

Gerungen mit Dämonen.

Du ruhst, ein träumendes Kind,

Am Mantelsaum des Höchsten, ich aber;

Ich habe mich emporgekämpft

Zu seinem Herzen,

Ich habe gezernt an seinen Schleiern,

Ich habe ihn beim Namen gerufen,


Bin ich auf einer Leiter von Seufzern,

Und hab’ ihm ins Ohr gerufen: ‘Erbarmung!’

O Blume, heilig bist du,

Selig und rein;

Doch heiligt, was er berührt, nicht auch

Der zündende Schicksalsblitz?

O, blicke nicht allzu vorwurfsvoll mich an,

Du stille Träumerin;

Ich habe gelebt, ich habe gelitten!

Robert Hamerling (1830-1889).

[Something of the same fusion of lyric flight and precision of form can be felt in the following poem:


O Joyes! Infinite sweetnes! with what flowres,

And shoots of glory, my soul breakes, and buds!

All the long houres

Of night, and Rest

Through the still shrouds

Of Sleep, and Clouds,

This Dew fell on my Breast;

O how it Blouds,

And Spirits all my Earth! heark! In what Rings,

And Hymning Circulations the quick world

Awakes, and sings;

The rising winds,

‘And falling springs,

Birds, beasts, all things

Adore him in their kinds.

Thus all is hurl’d

In sacred Hymnes, and Order, The great Chime

And Symphony of nature. Prayer is

The world in tune,

A spirit-voyce,

And vocall joyes

Whose Eccho is heav’ns blisse.

O let me climbe

When I lye down! The Pious soul by night

Is like a clouded starre, whose beames though said

To shed their light

Under some Cloud

Yet are above,

And shine, and move

Beyond that mistie shrowd

So in my Bed

That Curtain’d grave, though sleep, like ashes, hide

My lamp, and life, both shall in thee abide.

Henry Vaughan (1621-1695).]

And to close, we shall introduce part of the Seventh Scene from my Mystery Play, The Portal of Initiation.

One is in a unique position when trying to give poetic form to the life of the super-sensible. For, to begin with, one seems to be withdrawing far from the solid ground of external reality. One is thus exposed to the additional danger, that anyone not readily familiar and quick with spiritual matters takes our intention to be allegorical or symbolic. Neither symbol nor allegory has any place in the aesthetic viewpoint arising from the sort of perception we advocate here. It is assuredly no more the abstractions of symbolism than it is a straw-stuffed allegory that we attempt, but a living portrayal of perceptions actually more distinct than our ordinary sense-perceptions, because apprehended by the soul directly, unmediated by bodily organs. Only for someone unable to rouse these perceptions to life in himself do they seem abstract or hollow. I hope to limit my remarks on this subject to a few words, for it does not do to dwell over much on one’s own accomplishments. These Mystery Plays concern the spiritual and soul development of Johannes Thomasius, who is to be brought little by little to a direct super-sensible experience of the spiritual world. This has to a certain extent been achieved when once he has succeeded in overcoming a range of inner obstacles, and made various advances. There then comes a moment at which he finds, in what has hitherto been known to him as the external world of the senses and the intellect (which infiltrates the senses only as the thinnest and most abstract spirituality), he comes upon a pervading activity of concrete spiritual beings and concrete spiritual events. The occurrences in a human soul who reaches this stage of initiation are complex. Everything so far experienced in light or sound, or in the other elements of the external world, figures for the higher mode of experience in a different guise. It is actually like a transformation in which the world is experienced as a drawing together and struggling up of the soul-forces of thinking, feeling and willing to another form of existence. As to how these soul-forces share in such a transformation of man, and how this participation stands in intimate relation to the entire cosmos – that is what is presented in the scene from the Mystery Drama.

One of the characters – Maria – who has raised her life up into the spiritual, describes first how those forces come together which are to inspire the soul’s individual forces. Philia, Astrid and Luna are seen as the powers of the soul which hold sway in real, living people, and play a part in inspiring the man Johannes Thomasius. What the human soul may come to be, out of the whole world, out of the totality of the world what it can become in the moment that true understanding of spiritual life arises there: that is the subject of this representation. While one apparently withdraws in such a representation more than ever from the ground of reality, yet (as who should know better than their creator?) the characters formed in this way actually stand before the soul no less concretely than any external thing. Many people, of course, will not be drawn into such matters: they call everything allegorical that leads beyond sense-perception. In defence, Hamerling asked in his Ahasver: Can anyone help me out of this predicament – that Nero stands here and symbolizes cruelty? We introduce symbolism only to the extent that reality itself is a kind of symbol. It is exactly when we come to shape spiritual forms that we feel how every detail, down to the minuter shades, has been directly experienced. And we perceive a spiritual entity of this kind not in concepts, but in words, in nuances of sound. No-one, I believe, could create out of the energies of the spirit and attain to that degree of life who cannot himself enter vitally into language. He may then employ the spirit of language, with its wonderful inner wisdom, its wonderful formation of feeling and its impulses of will, to that end – so as to grasp things in their particularity. If he cannot put to use those unconscious spiritual pulsations which proceed from everyday life, he will not be able to avail himself of the language to present the spiritual world. We need not grow less poetic because our presentations take us into the spiritual world. For there we enter the native country of poetry and art.

All poetry has originated from the soul and spirit. Since, therefore, man finds himself confronted by the spiritual essences of things, the lyric flight, the epic power and the dramatic form that live in him can never be lost. These cannot be destroyed if the art of poetry returns, as to its own proper home, to the realm of the spirit.

From The Soul’s Probation, Scene 2: [Note 28]

MARIA: Ihr, meine Schwestern, die ich

In Wesenstiefen finde,

Wenn meine Seele sich erweitet,

Und in die Weltenfernen

Sich selbst geleitet,

Entbindet mir die Seherkräfte

Aus Aetherhöhen,

Und führet sie auf Erdenpfade;

Dass ich im Zeitensein

Mich selbst ergründe,

Und die Richtung mir geben kann

Aus alten Lebensweisen

Zu neuen Willenskreisen.

PHILIA: Ich will erfüllen mich

Mit strebendem Seelenlicht

Aus Herzenstiefen;

Ich will eratmen mir

Belebende Willensmacht

Aus Geistestrieben;

Dass du, geliebte Schwester,

In alten Lebenskreisen

Das Licht erfühlen kannst.

ASTRID: Ich will verweben

Sich fühlende Eigenheit

Mit ergebenem Liebewillen;

Ich will entbinden

Die keimenden Willensmächte

Aus Wunschesfesseln

Und dir das lähmende Sehnen

Verwandeln in findendes Geistesfühlen;

Dass du, geliebte Schwester,

In fernen Erdenpfaden

Dich selbst ergriinden kannst.

LUNA: Ich will berufen entsagende Herzensmächte,

Und will erfestigen tragende Seelenruhe;

Sie sollen sich vermählen

Und kraftendes Geistesleuchten

Aus Seelengründen heben;

Sie sollen sich durchdringen,

Und lauschendem Geistgehör

Die Erdenfernen zwingen;

Dass du, geliebte Schwester,

In weitem Zeitensein

Die Lebensspuren finden kannst.

MARIA (after a pause):

Wenn ich mich entreissen kann

Verwirrendem Selbstgefühl,

Und mich euch geben darf:

Dass ihr mein Seelensein

Mir spiegelt aus Weltenfernen:

Vermag ich zu lösen mich

Aus diesem Lebenskreise

Und kann ergründen mich

In andrer Daseinsweise.

(a longer pause and then the following)

In euch, ihr Schwestern, schau’ ich Geisteswesen,

Die Seelen aus dem Weltenall beleben.

Ihr könnt die Kräfte, die in Ewigkeiten keimen

Im Menschen selbst zur Reife bringen.

Durch meiner Seele Tore dürft’ ich oft

Den Weg in eure Reiche finden,

Und Erdendaseins Urgestalten

Mit Seelenaugen schauen.

Bedürftig bin ich eurer Hilfe jetzt,

Da mir obliegt, den Weg zu finden

Von meiner gegenwärtigen Erdenfahrt

In langvergangne Menschheitstage.

Entbindet mir das Seelensein vom Selbstgefühl

In seinem Zeitenleben.

Erschliesset mir den Pflichtenkreis

Aus meiner Vorzeit Lebensbahnen.

From The Soul’s Probation, Scene 2:

MARIA: You, my sisters,

I find when in the depths of being

my soul, expanding, guides itself

into the reaches of the universe.

Release for me the powers of seeing

out of etheric heights

and lead them down to earthly paths

so that I may explore and find myself

in course of time

and give direction to myself

to change old ways of life

into new spheres of will.

PHILIA: I will imbue myself

with striving light of soul

out of the heart’s own depths;

I will breathe in

enlivening power of will

out of the spirit’s urging;

that you, beloved sister,

within old spheres of life

may feel and sense the light.

ASTRID: I will weave into one

a selfhood’s feeling of itself

with love’s forebearing will;

I will release

the burgeoning powers of will

from fetters of desire,

transform your languid yearning

to certainty of spirit sensing;

that you, beloved sister,

on paths of earth far distant

explore and find your Self.

LUNA: I will call forth renouncing strength of heart

and will confirm enduring soul-repose.

These shall unite and raise

empowering spirit light

out of the depths of soul;

they shall pervade each other

and shall subdue far distances of earth

to the listening spirit ear;

that you, beloved sister,

in time’s wide ranges

may find the traces of your life.

MARIA (after a pause):

When I can tear myself away

from the bewildering sense of Self

and give myself to you

so that you reflect to me my soul

from world-wide distances:

then I can free myself

out of this sphere of life

and can explore and find myself

in other states of being.

(a long pause, then the following)

In you, my sisters, I see spirit beings

that quicken souls out of the cosmos’ life.

You bring to full maturity in man himself

the forces germinating in eternities.

Through portals of my soul I often

could find my way into your realm

and could behold with inner eyes

the archetypes of earth existence.

I now must ask your help:

it has become my duty

to find the way that leads

from present life on earth

to long past ages of mankind.

Release my soul-life from its sense of self

in time-enclosed existence.

Open for me the sphere of duty, brought

from my life journey in ancient days.

Trans. R. and H. Pusch.