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Poetry and the Art of Speech

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THE ART OF RECITATION ANDDECLAMATION

LECTURE I

(Dornach, 29 September 1920)

In our time together here I would like to put before you, at least in outline, certain matters relating to the art of recitation and declamation. We will begin by adopting the standpoint of recitation and declamation itself: so that we have, on the one hand the practice, and on the other, considerations of this practice. Our starting-point today will provide us with a foundation for the considerations to occupy us later. We will begin with the Seventh Scene from my first Mystery Play, The Portal of Initiation. This scene takes place, we might say, in the spiritual world. Basically, it presents to us that view on the interconnection of the spiritual, the psychic and the physical world which is revealed by anthroposophically orientated spiritual science. In a certain sense, the Seventh Scene takes place in the spiritual world, but the persons represented there belong as such to the physical world, and are not meant to be symbolic or allegorical figures. They are intended to stand before us in living reality. The four characters – Maria, Philia, Astrid, Luna – represent personalities belonging to the physical world. Yet, as will manifest itself from several points of view in my coming lectures, the consciousness of personalities in the physical world may take such a form that the human being as he is through his ordinary sense-consciousness of objects (the sort of consciousness with which he stands in the physical world) may also stand, with a more highly-awakened consciousness, in the spiritual world.

Human life in its depths is able to bring forth from itself not only the forces of instinct or common intelligence, but also those forces that are inwardly impelled from the soul- and spirit-worlds. And when you aim at a drama that does not just present man one-sidedly as a sense-being, but depicts his full nature, where he demonstrates himself a being who is animated by impulses springing from the world of soul and spirit, you are constrained to add things to the course of the action as played out in the physical world – things which lift the whole action from the physical into the spiritual world. What is portrayed inthe Seventh Scene of my Mystery Play must thus be looked upon absolutely as a representation of spiritual impulses working through the physical human beings. If you present such things, not out of any kind of fantastic or nebulous mysticism, or symbolically, or allegorically, or some similar way, but from genuine experiences of the spiritual world, you have to resort to representations quite different to those you would otherwise have applied in the physical world. In physical life those representations that have to do with the ethical and religious life, possessing a more formless character, an abstract, unrepresentational character, stand apart from those which relate to nature. These other representations have a visual character which gives them clearly-defined contours, etc. If, when you listen, you feel how the contoured word stands out against the more formless, more musically-felt word, you will everywhere notice the transition from the inwardly plastic to the inwardly musical word.

If, however, you need to lead the action up into the spiritual world, you must achieve some degree of synthesis. You must find a way of dissolving the plasticity of the word – yet not so as to lose its plastic qualities; you must bring it so far that at the same time there arises a musical quality. A “plastically-musical” mode of speech must arise. For here the ethical and religious are not divorced from the natural and physical: rather, you have to do with a series of constituents which coincide in a synthesis. And you will hear in this scene, now to be recited, that the presentation derives from a life of inner representation completely different from the one of everyday life or conventional drama. It will be spoken and presented from a life of representation which holds in one both the elemental powers of nature and that which (through the elemental nature-forces) simultaneously possesses a moral, ethical significance. The physical becomes at the same time ethical; and the ethical is brought down into physical pictoriality. In this sphere we cannot differentiate between what takes place physically and what takes place ethically. The ethical takes place in the sphere of physical form, and the physical event takes place in the moral domain. And this requires a very special treatment of speech. In any artistic representation such as this the handling of speech must not derive in the least – and this cannot he otherwise – from thought.

Perhaps I may refer to my own experience in fashioning my Mystery Play. I can say that no thought lives in it; everything you will now hear recited and declaimed was heard, albeit spiritually, exactly as it sounds here. It is not a matter of grasping a thought and then putting it into words, but of beholding what will now be presented to you – and of beholding it in the way it is presented, as inwardly sounding and taking form. In the delineation of such a scene one has nothing to do but write down externally what one has experienced inwardly as a perception.

Thereby results a very special approach to characterising the shaping of the various roles, and you will observe how the four figures, Maria, Philia, Astrid and Luna, differ from one another. The names of the respective characters should not be appended only to show that the contents are to be recited by them. Something quite unique can be heard in what found expression, for example, in Maria, who felt herself in higher perception and an exalted consciousness to be in the midst of ethically-acting forces of nature: and through her feeling of these ethically-acting forces of nature, she was inspired to express this in the way she speaks. It is something which represents an all-awareness of nature, so to speak, insofar as it is ethical – and of ethics insofar as it is already nature.

In Philia we have a personality which, in a certain sense, is irradiated by the powers of love – and yet as a completely human figure. She shows herself a human character, quite simply in that if one is alive to it, one feels pulsating within her all that a personality pervaded by love would say and do when confronted with the feelings, representations, phenomena and images that are realized through Maria. And again: Astrid represents a personality filled with what we might call inner human wisdom – in such a way that inner human wisdom unites itself through inwardness of vision with cosmic activity. And Luna represents what is manifested in a steadfast consciousness as efficacy of will.

These three personalities are not presented as symbols or allegories, any more than Nero is a symbolic representation of cruelty. These three personalities are human beings of flesh and blood, and differ from one another just as human beings in real life differ, for instance, according to their temperaments. They differ so that one personality is wholly vibrant with love, another wholly with wisdom, and another wholly with firmness. And through what reveals itself in the collaboration of the plastic and musical, where a feeling of the ethical-natural and the natural-ethical harmonizes with the human personality, borne by love, illuminated by wisdom and warmed by steadfast strength, there comes into being what can here be presented as a true picture of the spiritual world. Perhaps we may begin with this scene, because in that way it can be shown how, when one creates out of the element of recitation and declamation rather than out of thought, an art of declamation results in a quite direct and elemental kind of way. [Note 1] In this way poetry becomes at once declamation and recitation. And an art of recitation and declamation comes into being through inner perception which one can equally believe to be poetry. This is what we shall consider further when we enter into declamation and recitation.

Frau Dr. Steiner will now recite the Seventh Scene from The Portal of Initiation:

 

MARIA:               Ihr, meine Schwestern, die ihr

So oft mir Helferinnen wart,

Seid mir es auch in dieser Stunde,

Dass ich den Weltenäther

In sich erbeben lasse.

Er soll harmonisch klingen

Und klingend eine Seele

Durchdringen mit Erkenntnis.

Ich kann die Zeichen schauen,

Die uns zur Arbeit lenken.

Es soll sich euer Werk

Mit meinem Werke einen.

Johannes, der Strebende,

Er soll durch unser Schaffen

Zum wahren Sein erhoben werden.

Die Brüder in dem Tempel,

Sie hielten Rat,

Wie sie ihn aus den Tiefen

In lichte Höhen führen sollen.

Von uns erwarten sie,

Dass wir in seiner Seele heben

Die Kraft zum Höhenfluge.

Du, meine Philia, so sauge

Des Lichtes klares Wesen

Aus Raumesweiten,

Erfülle dich mit Klangesreiz

Aus schaffender Seelenmacht,

Dass du mir reichen kannst

Die Gaben, die du sammelst

Aus Geistesgründen.

Ich kann sie weben dann

In den erregenden Sphärenreigen.

Und du auch, Astrid, meines Geistes

Geliebtes Spiegelbild,

Erzeuge Dunkelkraft

Im fliessenden Licht,

Dass es in Farben scheine,

Und gliedre Klangeswesenheit,

Dass webender Weltenstoff

Ertönend lebe.

So kann ich Geistesfühlen

Vertrauen suchendem Menschensinn.

Und du, o starke Luna,

Die du gefestigt im Innern bist,

Dem Lebensmarke gleich,

Das in des Baumes Mitte wächst,

Vereine mit der Schwestern Gaben

Das Abbild deiner Eigenheit,

Dass Wissens Sicherheit

Dem Seelensucher werde.

 

PHILIA:               Ich will erfüllen mich

Mit klarstem Lichtessein

Aus Weltenweiten,

Ich will eratmen mir

Belebenden Klangesstoff

Aus Ätherfernen,

Dass dir, geliebte Schwester,

Das Werk gelingen kann.

 

ASTRID:              Ich will verweben

Erstrahlend Licht

Mit dämpfender Finsternis,

Ich will verdichten

Das Klangesleben.

Es soll erglitzernd klingen,

Es soll erklingend glitzern,

Dass du, geliebte Schwester,

Die Seelenstrahlen lenken kannst.

 

LUNA: Ich will erwärmen Seelenstoff

Und will erhärten Lebensäther.

Sie sollen sich verdichten,

Sie sollen sich erfühlen,

Und in sich selber seiend

Sich schaffend halten,

Dass du, geliebte Schwester,

Der suchenden Menschenseele

Des Wissens Sicherheit erzeugen kannst.

 

MARIA:               Aus Philias Bereichen

Soll strömen Freudesinn;

Und Nixen Wechselkräfte

Sie mögen öffnen

Der Seele Reizbarkeit,

Dass der Erweckte

Erleben kann

Der Welten Lust,

Der Welten Weh,–

Aus Astrids Weben

Soll werden Liebelust;

Der Sylphen wehend Leben,

Es soll erregen

Der Seele Opfertrieb,

Dass der Geweihte

Erquicken kann

Die Leidbeladenen,

Die Glück Erflehenden.–

Aus Lunas Kraft

Soll strömen Festigkeit.

Der Feuerwesen Macht,

Sie kann erschaffen

Der Seele Sicherheit;

Auf dass der Wissende

Sich finden kann

Im Seelenweben,

Im Weltenleben.

 

PHILIA:               Ich will erbitten von Weltengeistern,

Dass ihres Wesens Licht

Entzücke Seelensinn,

Und ihrer Worte Klang

Beglücke Geistgehör;

Auf dass sich hebe

Der zu Erweckende

Auf Seelenwegen

In Himmelshöhen.

 

ASTRID:              Ich will die Liebesströme,

Die Welt erwarmenden,

Zu Herzen leiten

Dem Geweihten;

Auf dass er bringen kann

Des Himmels Güte

Dem Erdenwirken

Und Weihestimmung

Den Menschenkindern.

 

LUNA:                 Ich will von Urgewalten

Erflehen Mut und Kraft

Und sie dem Suchenden

In Herzenstiefen legen;

Auf dass Vertrauen

Zum eignen Selbst

Ihn durch das Leben

Geleiten kann.

Er soll sich sicher

In sich dann selber fühlen.

Er soll von Augenblicken

Die reifen Früchte pflücken

Und Saaten ihnen entlocken

Für Ewigkeiten.

 

MARIA:               Mit euch, ihr Schwestern,

Vereint zu edlem Werk,

Wird mir gelingen,

Was ich ersehne.

Es dringt der Ruf

Des schwer Geprüften

In unsre Lichteswelt.

 

From The Portal of Initiation, Scene 7:

 

MARIA:               Now, my sisters, at this hour

come once more to me

So have you often done. –

Then I may bid the cosmic ether stir

and ring within itself,

harmoniously resounding,

and sounding, all his soul

pervade and pierce with knowing.

I can discern the signs:

they urge us to our task.

Then let your work

make one with mine:

Johannes – as he strives

shall our creating lift him up

to Being’s truth.

 

bThe Brethren of the Temple

have conferred

how they might raise him up

from his abyss to light-filled eminence:

and they demand of us

to rouse his laboring soul

to strength and soaring flight.

Ah then, my Philia, come inhale

translucent essences of light from sprawling space:

Be filled with all-alluring sound

from shaping-powers of soul:

Reach to me

the gifts you cull

from the deep spirit’s ground!

And I shall weave them in

amid the stirring dancing of the spheres.

 

You, Astrid, too –

loved image of my spirit!

you must beget dark’s power

within light’s hurrying flux

till it blaze bright with colour;

articulate sound’s essences

till all the weaving substance of the World

lives to resound.

Then can I trust to groping human sense

the spirit’s felt perception.

 

You, ah steadfast Luna: you

who rooted far within stand firm

as does the vital tract

hid deep and growing in the tree

conjoin now with your sisters’ gifts

your imprint, your incomparable mark, –

let knowing’s certitude

spring up within this questing soul!

 

PHILIA:               I will be filled with light’s

clear-bright essentiality

from wide world-space;

I will inhale

Sound-substances’ vitality,

ethereally remote:

that you, beloved sister,

may realize the task.

 

ASTRID:              I will be weaving

the rays of light

with dampening, muting dark;

I will thicken

the living sound,

till glistering, how shall it ring,

and ringing, how shall it glister!

that you, beloved sister,

the rays of soul may direct.

 

LUNA:                 I will warm the stuff of souls,

the vital-ether densify.

Themselves they shall coagulate,

themselves they shall experience,

and in themselves abiding

guard their shaping-power:

that you, beloved sister,

within man’s questing soul

may foster knowing’s certitude.

 

MARIA:               Philia’s broad horizons

shall brim with joyfulness;

and nymphs’ shape-shifting powers

shall stir the soul

to fluid sensitivity –

so may the sleeper

wake to feel

the world’s rapture,

the world’s recoil.

 

From Astrid’s weft

shall issue joys of love;

the sighing life of sylphs

shall rouse the soul

to make self-sacrifice –

so may the hallowed

bring to life

all those whom sorrows burden,

all those who joy implore.

 

Luna’s strength

shall pour out steadfastness;

and fiery nature’s might

shall forge the soul’s

hard certainty –

so may the knower

find himself

in weavings intricate of soul,

in world-depths of the living Whole.

 

PHILIA:               I will beseech the gods of the worlds

to shine their natures’ light

on his enchanted soul,

and with resounding voice

enthrall his spirit’s ear –

so may he scale

(the awakening one)

the steep soul-road

to heaven-heights.

 

ASTRID:              I will channel streams of love

that wash the world in warmth

and them impart

to his hallowed heart

so may he bring

of heaven’s good

to earthly works,

and hallowed mood

to mortal men.

 

LUNA:                 I will beg from Primal Powers

fortitude and strength,

and in the seeker’s boundless heart

I shall inlay them deep –

so may a trust

in his own self

throughout his life

attend him.

He within himself shall feel

his true self held secure,

and pluck each swelling moment, ripe

with seeds for all

futurity.

 

MARIA:               Sisters, thus united

to achieve a noble work,

it shall be done

as I desire –

there! comes the cry

from his ordeals,

piercing our world of light.

                    Trans. A.J.W. [Note 2]

As a second example, we will present the first monologue from Goethe’s Iphigeneia in two forms. For there are two versions of Goethe’s Iphigeneia. During his first period of residence in Weimar, Goethe gave – out of his initial enthusiasm and first understanding – a dramatic form to the myth of Iphigeneia. This form he gave to his Iphigeneia was born out of the artistic disposition and perception that were his in Weimar, before he started out on his Roman journey; we may call it, therefore, the Weimar Iphigeneia. And then, during his stay in Rome, he saturated himself in all that came to him from Greek art, insofar as he was able to observe it in the Italian works and in the scanty remnants of Greek art that were still available. Then, in Rome, inspired by these impulses (which had now transformed his whole attitude to art, his entire aesthetic perception and understanding) he rewrote his Iphigeneia; so it is that we have this second version of Goethe’s Iphigeneia, which we may call the Roman Iphigeneia from the point of view of their artistic – their inner artistic – formation, and to see how these two forms flow into the declamatory and into the recitative.

Looking at the German, the Weimar Iphigeneia, it is borne one might say, out of the same period in Goethe’s artistic creativity as the wonderful prose hymn “To Nature”: that powerful nature-poem which begins “Nature, we are surrounded by her ...”, and contains such powerful lines as “She carries along with her, until we tire and fall from her arm ...” etc. This mighty picture of nature which, with its unusual rhythm, moves along so powerfully, is especially characteristic of that period in which Goethe’s poetic works of art were created under the tremendous artistic influence exerted on him by Strasbourg Cathedral, and the whole of Gothic culture. Thus the German, Weimar Iphigeneia arises from an artistic perception that is pervasively a Gothic-German one. Goethe handles the language in such a way that one feels: everything in the speech-formation tends to create something (if I may so express myself) that is both curved yet at the same time pointed – like the pointed arches of the Gothic Cathedral. We follow the interweaving of the rhythms with our inner being: they curve like arches, and weld themselves together, just as the pointed arches of the Gothic Cathedral weld themselves into a whole. This element of plasticity which infiltrates Goethe’s poetry – and Goethe’s poetry is always plastic – is, of course, in no way a conscious imitation of the Gothic style, but rather a poetic interpretation of what he felt when he stood, for instance, before the mighty Strasbourg Cathedral – and in particular whenever he encountered something essentially German. And in order to bring these free rhythms to expression, in a way made possible by the unrestricted Gothic style, he conceived his Weimar Iphigeneia. We see here something gnarled, rugged, something which in its plastic contours stands there like some of the figures on the Cathedral of Strasbourg, and elsewhere. [Note 3]

And then, Goethe goes to Italy, and his Iphigeneia, amongst other things, stands once more before his soul. She looks different to him now, for he is living under the Italian sky, which arches over him in southern loveliness rather than the coldness of the north. Here, through the influence of external nature itself, Goethe experiences the necessity of transforming his feelings. What he had brought with him to Rome as the Weimar Iphigeneia, he now feels to be something Nordic, rugged, gnarled, something almost barbaric. He feels it especially when he compares the line, the poetically felt line of his Germanic Weimar Iphigeneia, with the poetic line he experiences when something of the nature of Raphael’s work affects him. The sight of Raphael’s work smoothed and rounded that gnarled ruggedness which was still present in Goethe’s Iphigeneia from the Weimar period. And so Goethe feels the necessity of completely rewriting the Iphigeneia; in place of the free Gothic rhythms there arises a strict, calm verse-measure. Hence one can see that such a man as Goethe, an artist through and through, can live in this rounded, calm verse-measure only when he has above him the blue sky of Italy, and where in the museums he visits Raphael’s Madonnas and Saint Cecelia confront him. This symbiotic relation to all that he experienced in Greek art, as he reconstructed it from Italian works, this transformation of his perception is indeed tremendously characteristic of Goethe. It was this inner transformation which brought him to feel the necessity of recasting his entire Iphigeneiain another form. We can, then, clearly differentiate between Goethe’s conception and experience of art as expressed and revealed in the Iphigeneia of Weimar, and what is revealed in the Roman Iphigeneia.

Now something of this must naturally find its way into recitation and declamation. In the Weimar Iphigeneia we are dealing with an art that is more in the nature of declamation, an art that must especially elicit the inner tone-element, the fullness of tone, and pour it out into words and sentences. In the Roman Iphigeneia, we have to do with an art which is more recitative, which must bring out the metre and its even-measured flow.

In order to see empirically, as one might say, how declamation on the one hand, and recitation on the other, reveal themselves, we will now present the first monologue from the German Iphigeneia: this discloses in particular the element of declamation which corresponds to a certain period of Goethe’s poetic practice. And we shall then present the first monologue from the Roman Iphigeneia, which discloses especially the element of recitation characteristic of a southern, or even oriental-sounding, poetry. Fundamentally, the same motif is presented in both versions, and to a coarse sensibility, perhaps, the distinction between them may not be apparent. But for a sensitive perception they differ quite radically. Hence, employing just this example, will demonstrate to you how recitation and declamation are to be compared with one another in the art of speech as we understand it here – as declamation in the broader sense.

Frau Dr. Steiner will now read the monologue from the German Iphigeneia, and from the Roman Iphigeneia.

Iphigeneia (Weimar version), Act I, Scene 1:

 

Heraus in eure Schatten, ewig rege Wipfel des heiligen Hains, wie in das Heiligtum der Göttin, der ich diene, tret’ ich mit immer neuem Schauer, und meine Seele gewöhnt sich nicht hierher: So manche Jahre wohn’ ich hier unter euch verborgen, und immer bin ich wie im ersten fremd. Denn mein Verlangen steht hinüber nach dem schönen Lande der Griechen, und immer möcht’ ich übers Meer hinüber, das Schicksal meiner Vielgeliebten teilen. Weh dem, der fern von Eltern und Geschwistern ein einsam Leben führt ihn lässt der Gram des schönsten Glückes nicht geniessen; ihm schwärmen abwärts immer die Gedanken nach seines Vaters Wohnung, an jene Stellen, wo die goldne Sonne zum erstenmal den Himmel vor ihm aufschloss, wo die Spiele der Mitgebornen die sanften, liebsten Erdenbande knüpften. – Der Frauen Zustand ist der schlimmste vor allen Menschen. Will dem Mann das Glück, so herrscht er und erficht im Felde Ruhm; und haben ihm die Götter Unglück zubereitet, fällt er, der Erstling von den Seinen, in den schönen Tod. Allein des Weibes Glück ist eng gebunden: sie dankt ihr Wohl stets andern, öfters Fremden, und wenn Zerstörung ihr Haus ergreift, führt sie aus rauchenden Trümmern, durchs Blut erschlagener Liebsten, ein Überwinder fort. – Auch hier an dieser heiligen Stätte hält Thoas mich in ehrenvoller Sklavereis. Wie schwer wird mir’s, dir wider Willen dienen, ewig reine Göttin! Retterin: Dir sollte mein Leben zu ewigem Dienste geweiht sein. Auch hab’ich stets auf dich gehofft und hoffe noch, Diana, die du mich verstossne Tochter des grössten Königs in deinen heiligen, sanften Arm genommen! Ja, Tochter Jovis, hast du den Mann, dessen Tochter du fordertest, hast du den göttergleichen Agamemnon, der dir sein Liebstes zum Altare brachte, hast du vom Felde der umgewandten Troja ihn glücklich und mit Ruhm nach seinem Vaterlande zurückbegleite hast du meine Geschwister, Elektren und Oresten, den Knaben, und unsere Mutter, ihm zu Hause, den schönen Schatz, bewahrt, so rette mich, die du vom Tod gerettet, auch von dem Leben hier, dem zweiten Tod.

Iphigeneia (Roman version), Act I, Scene 1:

 

Heraus in eure Schatten, rege Wipfel

Des alten, heil’gen, dichtbelaubten Haines,

Wie in der Göttin stilles Heiligtum,

Tret’ ich noch jetzt mit schauderndem Gefühl,

Als wenn ich sie zum ersten Mal beträte,

Und es gewöhnt sich nicht mein Geist hierher.

So manches Jahr bewahrt mich hier verborgen

Ein hoher Wille, dem ich mich ergebe;

Doch immer bin ich, wie im ersten, fremd.

Denn ach! mich trennt das Meer von den Geliebten,

Und an dem Ufer steh’ ich lange Tage,

Das Land der Griechen mit der Seele suchend;

Und gegen meine Seufzer bringt die Welle

Nur dumpfe Töne brausend mir herüber.

Weh dem, der fern von Eltern und Geschwistern

Ein einsam Leben führt! Ihm zehrt der Gram

Das nächste Glück vor seinen Lippen weg.

Ihm schwärmen abwärts immer die Gedanken

Nach seines Vaters Hallen, wo die Sonne

Zuerst den Himmel vor ihm aufschloss, wo

Sich Mitgeborne spielend fest und fester

Mit sanften Banden an einander knüpften.

Ich rechte mit den Göttern nicht; allein

Der Frauen Zustand is beklagenswert.

Zu Haus und in dem Kriege herrscht der Mann,

Und in der Fremde weiss er sich zu helfen.

Ihn freuet der Besitz; ihn krönt der Sieg;

Ein ehrenvoller Tod ist ihm bereitet.

Wie enggebunden ist des Weibes Glück!

Schon einem rauhen Gatten zu gehorchen,

Ist Pflicht und Trost; wie elend, wenn sie gar

Ein feindlich Schicksal in die Ferne treibt!

So hält mich Thoas hier, ein edler Mann,

In ernsten, heil’gen Sklavenbanden fest.

O, wie beschämt gesteh’ ich, dass ich dir

Mit stillem Widerwillen diene, Göttin,

Dir meiner Retterin! Mein Leben sollte

Zu freiem Dienste dir gewidmet sein.

Auch hab’ ich stets auf dich gehofft und hoffe

Noch jetzt auf dich, Diana, die du mich,

Des grössten Königes verstossne Tochter,

In deinen heil’gen, sanften Arm genommen.

Ja, Tochter Zeus’, wenn du den hohen Mann,

Den du, die Tochter fordernd, ängstigtest,

Wenn du den göttergleichen Agamemnon,

Der dir sein Liebstes zum Altare brachte,

Von Troja’s umgewandten Mauern rühmlich

Nach seinem Vaterland zurückbegleitet,

Die Gattin ihm, Elektren und den Sohn,

Die schönen Schätze, wohl erhalten hast:

So gib auch mich den Meinen endlich wieder,

Und rette mich, die du vom Tod errettet,

Auch von dem Leben hier, dem zweiten Tode!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).

Iphigeneia (Weimar version), Act I, Scene 1:

 

Beneath your leafy gloom, ye ever-waving boughs, even as in the goddess’ holy temple where I serve, in this deep, consecrated grove do I step forth, and ever I shudder still anew – nor doth my restless soul ever feel here at home. Long hath a mighty power detained me here, beneath your shade, concealed, yet ever I feel myself a stranger as at first. For still my yearning is turned toward the beautiful land of Greece, and ever would I cross the seas to share the fate of those I love. Alas for the man who, friendless, far from his parents, far from his brethren, dwells in his loneliness; him grief doth cheat of the fairest joys; his thoughts, with longing, forever flock to his father’s distant halls, where first he beheld the golden sun unclose the gates of heaven, where day by day, leagued in sweet pastimes, brothers and sisters would twine each other about in the tenderest bonds of love. But woman’s lot is worse than all. A man, as fortune bids, at home and in the field alike doth rule and glory; or, if by the gods’ decree dark fate awaits him, still he falls in the foremost ranks of his countrymen, and dies a glorious death. But woman’s fortune is so circumscribed: she must ever be thankful to others, and often to strangers, for her welfare; and if ruin seizes on her house, she is led forth, out of the smoking wreckage and the blood of her slaughtered loved ones, by her vanquisher.    – Thus Thoas holds me in this holy place, in honourable slavery! How hard it goes with me, eternal virgin goddess, to serve thee with a rebellious will! Thou, my protectress! To thee should I dedicate my life: for in thee I have ever put my hopes, Diana, and still do I hope in thee, who didst fold the outcast daughter of the mighty king in your gentle, holy arms! O, daughter of Jove, hast thou led home the man from whom thou didst demand his daughter’s life; hast thou led home the godlike Agamemnon, who brought his best-loved child to be your sacrifice; – hast thou returned him glorying and in triumph from the field and unwalled Troy to his native land; – hast thou preserved Electra, my dear sister, preserved the youth Orestes and our mother, his finest treasures at home, O then at last restore thy suppliant: as thou savedst heronce from death, so save her now from living here, this second death!

Trans. A.J.W.

Iphigeneia (Roman version), Act I, Scene 1:

 

Beneath your leafy gloom, ye waving boughs

Of this old, shady, consecrated grove,

As in the goddess’ silent sanctuary,

With the same shudd’ring feeling forth I step,

As when I trod it first, nor ever here

Doth my unquiet spirit feel at home.

Long as the mighty will, to which I bow,

Hath kept me here conceal’d, still, as at first,

I feel myself a stranger. For the sea

Doth sever me, alas! from those I love,

And day by day upon the shore I stand,

My soul still seeking for the land of Greece.

But to my sighs, the hollow-sounding waves

Bring, save their own hoarse murmurs, no reply.

Alas for him! who friendless and alone,

Remote from parents and from brethren dwells;

From him grief snatches every coming joy

Ere it doth reach his lip. His restless thoughts

Revert for ever to his father’s halls,

Where first to him the radiant sun unclos’d

The gates of heav’n; where closer, day by day,

Brothers and sisters, leagu’d in pastime sweet,

Around each other twin’d the bonds of love.

1 will not judge the counsel of the gods;

Yet truly, woman’s lot doth merit pity.

Man rules alike at home and in the field,

Nor is in foreign climes without resource;

Possession gladdens him, him conquest crowns

And him an honourable death awaits.

How circumscrib’d is woman’s destiny!

Obedience to a harsh, imperious lord,

Her duty, and her comfort; sad her fate,

Whom hostile fortune drives to lands remote:

Thus I by noble Thoas am detain’d,

Bound with a heavy, though a sacred chain.

O with what shame, Diana, I confess

That with repugnance I perform these rites

For thee, divine protectress! unto whom

I would in freedom dedicate my life.

In thee, Diana, I have always hop’d,

And still I hope in thee, who didst infold

Within the holy shelter of thine arm

The outcast daughter of the mighty king.

Daughter of Jove! hast thou from ruin’d Troy

Led back in triumph to his native land

The mighty man, whom thou didst sore afflict,

His daughter’s life in sacrifice demanding, –

Hast thou for him, the godlike Agamemnon,

Who to thine altar led his darling child,

Preserv’d his wife, Electra, and his son,

His dearest treasures? – then at length restore

Thy suppliant also to her friends and home,

And save her, as thou once from death didst save,

So now, from living here, a second death.

Trans. A. Swanwick.

 

You have heard the Weimar and the Roman Iphigeneia, and will perhaps have been able to see that here an entirely artistic personality has rewritten a poem, not out of any necessity of ideal, but solely from an artistic feeling for style. Goethe’s feeling for style was so strong that the whole perception, the whole conception of art expressed in the Roman Iphigeneia is entirely different to that which comes to expression in the German-Gothic Iphigeneia. From these two works which are, in fact, one and the same – you will be able to see that they differ only in regard to their purely aesthetic impulses. For to an inartistic perception the distinctions between them are simply non-existent. For artistic perception, however, the Roman Iphigeneia is quite another work to the Weimar Iphigeneia. One can see, too, how small a part is played in the true art of poetry by the mere content of the poem: fundamentally, the content is only a ladder by which true poetry – living poetry – is able to ascend. This must be taken as a basis if recitation and declamation is to be regarded as a real art-form. For everything which is here looked on as the actual life, so to speak, of recitation and declamation, rests upon such intimacies as the difference between the Roman and the Germanic Iphigeneia. It is with such artistic intimacies that we shall have to deal when, after further practical work, we resume our study of declamation and recitation.

 


 



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