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Poetry and the Art of Speech

Schmidt Number: S-4244

On-line since: 15th May, 2010

THE ARTOF RECITATION ANDDECLAMATION

LECTURE II

(Dornach, 6 October 1920)

 

Our present age, inartistic as it is, shows little awareness of the fact that recitation stands midway between speaking, or reading, which are not artistic, and artistically developed singing. In many circles there is a feeling that really anyone can recite – and this, of course, is not unconnected with the fact that in these same circles everyone flatters himself that he can also write poetry. It would not so easily enter anyone's head that someone could be a musician, or a painter, without having previously undergone any sort of artistic training. When we consider current views on the art of recitation, we are obliged to admit that, just as in people's ideas about the real nature of poetry, there is also a certain lack of clarity as to the nature of the art of recitation. As to how this art of recitation must use its instrument – the human voice in connection with the human organism – even for this there is no clear understanding. This is undoubtedly connected with the fundamental absence, in our present age, of any earnest feeling for the true nature of poetry. There is no doubt that poetry stands in a relationship with the whole being of man quite different to that of ordinary prose, of whatever kind this may be; everything that man must recognize as that higher world to which he belongs with the soul and spiritual parts of his being poetry must also stand in a certain connection with all this. Along with the lack of clarity which gradually invaded ideas concerning man's relationship with the super-sensible world, there also came about another partial lack of clarity, concerning man's relationship with that world which is expressed in the art of poetry. I should like to draw attention to two facts – things which resound to us from ancient times, though from quite different peoples, with quite differently evolved characters.

One fact, though one which today is passed over so lightly, is something to which Homer, the great writer of Greek epic, draws our attention at the beginning of both his poems: namely, that what he wished to convey to the world as his poetry did not come from himself.

 

‘Sing, O Muse, of the anger of Peleus' son Achilles ...’

 

It is not Homer, but the Muse who is singing. Our age can no longer take this seriously – for the understanding that lies hidden behind the opening of the Homeric poem had, in fact, already been extinguished by the eighteenth century, with its intellectual conceptions. When Klopstock began his Messiah, he did indeed look at the beginning of the Homeric poems; but in this respect he lived entirely in abstract ideas, intellectualistic ideas, and these could only lead him to say: the Greeks still believed in gods, in the Muses – modern man can replace this only by his own immortal soul. Thus, Klopstock begins with the words:

 

‘Sing, immortal soul, of sinful man's redemption.’

 

Now this opening of the Messiah, for anyone who can see into these things, is a document of the very greatest significance. And in the nineteenth century, too, all feeling had been completely lost for what Homer meant to convey – that when I reveal myself in poetry, it is really something higher that is revealed in me: my “I” withdraws, my ego withdraws, so that other powers make use of my speech-organism; divine-spiritual powers make use of this speech-organism in order to reveal themselves. One must, therefore, regard what Homer placed at the opening of his two poetic creations as something worthy of more serious consideration than is usually accorded to such things today.

It is remarkable how something similar, and yet quite different, resounds to us from a certain period in the development of Central Europe, a period to which the Nibelungenlied points – although it was not written down until a later date. This begins in a manner similar to, yet quite different from Homer:

 

‘To us in olden maeren is many a marvel told’

 

“In olden maeren” – what are maeren, for those who still have a living feeling and perception for such things? I cannot go into all this in detail, but I need only allude to the real meaning of this expression, maerNachtmar (nightmare): for this same expression is used to describe certain dreams which are caused by being oppressed, as it were, by an Alp – by a nightmare. In this nightmare, this Alp, we have the last atavistic traces of what is indicated in the Nibelungenlied, when it says: “To us in olden maeren is many a marvel told…”; something is here related which does not come out of normal day-time ego-consciousness, but from a kind of perception which proceeds in the manner of the consciousness we possess in an especially vivid dream such as the nightmare, the maeren. Here again our attention is directed not to ordinary consciousness, but to something which is revealed, through ordinary consciousness, from super-sensible spheres. Homer says: “Sing, O Muse, of the anger of Peleus' son Achilles ...”; and the Nibelungenlied says: “To us in olden maeren is many a marvel told.” What is referred to in the first instance? To that which is, in reality, brought forth by the Muse, when she makes use of the human organism, begins to speak through the human organism, to vibrate musically; our attention is directed to something musical which permeates the human being, and which speaks from greater depths than are reached by his ordinary consciousness. And when the Nibelungenlied says: “To us in olden maeren is many a marvel told …” – it is something which permeates human consciousness as a perception similar to seeing, as something like visual perception, to which we are referred. The Nibelungenlied indicates something plastic and formative, something imaginative; in the Homeric epic we are given something musical. Both, however, from different sides, show us what wells up in poetry from the profounder depths of human nature, something which takes hold of the human being and finds utterance through him. One must have a feeling for this, if one is to experience the way in which true declamation gives expression in poetry, and takes hold of the human instrument of speech – though, as we shall see later, this involves the entire human organism.

The manner, the whole way in which a human being is built up is an outcome of the forces of the spiritual world. And again, the whole manner in which a human being is able to bring his organism into movement when he declaims or recites poetry – this, too, must be the result of a spiritual force holding sway in the human organism. One must learn to trace this working of the spirit in the human organism when the art of poetry is expressed through recitation or declamation. Declamation then becomes what the human organism can be, when it is tuned in the most various ways. In order to gain a practical, artistic realization of these things in some detail, we would now like to show you what must live in declamation when something more of the nature of folk-poetry, or folk-song, is taken into consideration; we shall then proceed to something which is more definitely art – poetry. We hope to show you how fundamentally different the effect of declamation must be, depending on whether it sounds forth from those depths of human nature from which earnestness, or tragedy, resound; or whether it comes from those surface realms of the human organization from which gaiety, satire and humour emanate. Only when we have learned to apprehend these things quite concretely today will I permit myself to give certain intimations of the connection between poetry and recitation and declamation. From these, we will then show how there results an exact method of educating oneself in artistic recitation and declamation.

We will ask Frau Dr. Steiner to declaim a poem of Goethe: a folk-poem in its whole tone and mood – Goethe's “Heidenröslein”.

HEIDENRÖSLEIN

 

Sah ein Knab' ein Röslein stehn,

Röslein auf der Heiden,

War so jung und morgenschön,

Lief er schnell, es nah zu sehn,

Sah's mit vielen Freuden.

Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,

Röslein auf der Heiden.

 

Knabe sprach: Ich breche dich

Röslein auf der Heiden,

Röslein sprach: Ich steche dich,

Dass du ewig denkst an mich,

Und ich will's nicht leiden.

Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,

Röslein auf der Heiden.

 

Und der wilde Knabe brach

's Röslein auf der Heiden;

Röslein wehrte sich und stach,

Half ihm doch kein Weh und Ach,

Musst' es eben leiden.

Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,

Röslein auf der Heiden.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

[Comparable in English in many respects is:

MY HEART'S IN THE HIGHLANDS

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;

My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;

Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;

My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go. –

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North;

The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth:

Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,

The hills of the Highlandsfor ever I love. –

Farewell to the mountains high cover'd with snow;

Farewell to the straths and green valleys below:

Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;

Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods. –

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;

My heart's in the Highlandsa-chasing the deer:

Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;

My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go. –

Robert Burns (1759-1796.]

 

We will now ask Frau Dr. Steiner to recite to us “Erlkönigstochter”, which gives opportunity for a quite special style in the rendering of folk-poems.

Herr Oluf reitet spät und weit,

Zu bieten auf seine Hochzeitleut':

Da tanzten die Elfen auf grünen Land,

Erlkönigs Tochter reicht ihm die Hand.

‘Willkommen, Herr Oluf, was eilst von hier?

Tritt her in den Reihen und tanz mit mir.’ –

‘Ich darf nicht tanzen, nicht tanzen ich mag,

Frühmorgen ist mein Hochzeittag.’ –

‘Hör’ an, Herr Oluf, tritt tanzen mit mir,

Zwei güldne Sporen schenk' ich dir;

Ein Hemd von Seide, so weiss und fein,

Meine Mutter bleicht's im Mondenschein.’ –

‘Ich darf nicht tanzen, nicht tanzen ich mag,

Frühmorgen ist mein Hochzeittag.’ –

‘Hör’ an, Herr Oluf, tritt tanzen mit mir,

Einen Haufen Goldes schenk' ich dir.’ –

‘Einen Haufen Goldes nahm’ ich wohl;

Doch tanzen ich nicht darf, noch soll.’

‘Und willt, Herr Oluf, nicht tanzen mit mir,

Soll Seuch' und Krankheit folgen dir.’ –

Sie tät einen Schlag ihm auf sein Herz,

Noch nimmer fühlt er solchen Schmerz.

Sie hob ihn bleichend auf sein Pferd:

‘Reit heim zu deinem Bräutlein wert.’

Und als er kam vor Hauses Tiir,

Seine Mutter zitternd stand dafür.

‘Hör’ an, mein Sohn, sag’ an mir gleich,

Wie ist dein' Farbe blass und bleich?’ –

‘Und sollt’ sie nicht sein blass und bleich?

Ich traf in Erlenkönigs Reich.’ –

‘Hört an, mein Sohn, so lieb und traut,

Was soll ich nun sagen deiner Braut?’ –

‘Sagt ihr, ich sei im Wald zur Stund’,

Zu proben da mein Pferd und Hund.’ –

Frühmorgen als es Tag kaum war,

Da kam die Braut mit der Hochzeitschar.

Sie schenkten Met, sie schenkten Wein.

‘Wo ist Herr Oluf, der Bräutigam mein?’ –

‘Herr Oluf, er ritt in Wald zur Stund’,

Er probt allda sein Pferd und Hund.’ –

Die Braut hub auf den Scharlach rot,

Da lag Herr Oluf, und er war tot.

Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803).

[Comparable in style in English is:

LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI

 

O, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

        Alone and palely loitering?

The sedge has wither'd from the Lake,

        And no birds sing.

O, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

        So haggard and so woe-begone?

The squirrel's granary is full,

        And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow,

        With anguish moist and fever dew;

And on thy cheeks a fading rose

        Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,

        Full beautiful – a faery's child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

        And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,

        And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;

She look'd at me as she did love,

        And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,

        And nothing else saw all day long;

For sidelong would she bend, and sing

        A faery's song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,

        And honey wild, and manna dew,

And sure in language strange she said –

        ‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her elf in grot,

        And there she wept and sigh'd full sore,

And there I shut her wild wild eyes

        With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep

        And there I dream'd – Ah! woe betide!

The latest dream I ever dream'd

        On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,

        Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

Who cried – ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci

        Hath thee in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,

        With horrid darning gaped wide,

And I awoke and found me here,

        On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here

        Alone and palely loitering,

Though the sedge has wither'd from the lake,

        And no birds sing.

John Keats (1795-1821).]

 

Now we will present Goethe's two poems “Olympos” and “Charon”, where we shall find an opportunity to demonstrate recitation or declamation as the case may be. In the Poem “Olympos”, which is drawn more from the pictorial element, we have the art of declamation; while the more metrical “Charon” is drawn more from the musical element.

OLYMPOS

 

Der Olympos, der Kissavos,

Die zwei Berge haderten;

Da entgegnend sprach Olympos

Also zu dem Kissavos:

 ‘Nicht erhebe dich, Kissave,

Turken – du Getretener.

Bin ich doch der Greis Olympos,

Den die ganze Welt vernahm.

Zwei und sechzig Gipfel zähl ich

Und zweitausend Quellen klar,

Jeder Brunn hat seinen Wimpel,

Seinen Kämpfer jeder Zweig.

Auf den höchsten Gipfel hat sich

Mir ein Adler aufgesetzt,

Fasst in seinen mächt'gen Klauen

Eines Helden blutend Haupt.’

‘Sage, Haupt! wie ist's ergangen?

Fielest du verbrecherisch?’ –

Speise, Vogel, meine Jugend,

Meine Mannheit speise nur!

Ellenlänger wächst dein Flügel,

Deine Klauen spannenlang.

Bei Louron, in Xeromeron

Lebt' ich in dem Kriegerstand,

So in Chasia, auf'm Olympos

Kämpft’ ich bis ins zwölfte Jahr.

Sechzig Agas, ich erschlug sie,

Ihr Gefild verbrannt’ ich dann;

Die ich sonst noch niederstreckte,

Türken, Albaneser auch,

Sind zu viele, gar zu viele,

Dass ich sie nicht Ahlen mag;

Nun ist meine Reihe kommen,

Im Gefechte fiel ich brav.

CHARON

Die Bergeshöhn, warum so schwarz?

Woher die Wolkenwoge?

Ist es der Sturm, der droben kämpft,

Der Regen, Gipfel peitschend?

Nicht ist's der Sturm, der droben kämpft,

Nicht Regen, Gipfel peitschend;

Nein, Charon ist's, er saust einher,

Entführet die Verblichnen;

Die Jungen treibt er vor sich hin,

Schleppt hinter sich die Alten;

Die Jüngsten aber, Säuglinge,

In Reih' gehenkt am Sattel.

Da riefen ihm die Greise zu,

Die Junglinge, sie knieten:

‘O Charon, halt! halt am Geheg,

Halt an beim kühlen Brunnen!

Die Alten da erquicken sich,

Die Jugend schleudert Steine,

Die Knaben zart zerstreuen sich

Und pflücken bunte Blümchen.’

Nicht am Gehege halt’ ich still,

Ich halte nicht am Brunnen;

Zu schöpfen kommen Weiber an,

Erkennen ihre Kinder,

Die Männer auch erkennen sie,

Das Trennen wird unmöglich.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

[A similar contrast is presented within the work of Donne, between the vivid, declamatory style of “The Sunne Rising” and the more sustained, metrical “Elegie: His Picture”:

THE SUNNE RISING

Busie old foole, unruly Sunne,

Why dost thou thus,

Through windowes, and through curtaines call on us?

Must to thy motions lovers seasons run?

Sawcy pedantique wretch, goe chide

Late schoole boyes, and sowre prentices,

Goe tell Court-huntsmen, that the King will ride,

Call countrey ants to harvest offices;

Love, all alike, no season knowes, nor clyme,

Nor houres, dayes, moneths, which are the rags of time.

Thy beames, so reverend and strong

Why shouldst thou thinke?

I could eclipse and cloud them with a winke,

But that I would not lose her sight so long:

If her eyes have not blinded thine,

Looke, and to morrow late, tell mee,

Whether both the ‘India's of spice and Myne

Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with mee.

Aske for those Kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,

And thou shalt heare, All here in one bed lay.

She'is all States, and all Princes, I,

Nothing else is.

Princes doe but play us; compar'd to this,

All honor's mimique; All wealth alchimie.

Thou sunne art halfe as happy’as wee,

In that the world's contracted thus;

Thine age askes ease, and since thy duties bee

To warme the world, that's done in warming us.

Shine here to us, and thou art every where;

This bed thy center is, these walls, thy spheare.

ELEGIE: HIS PICTURE

Here take my Picture; though I bid farewell,

Thine, in my heart, where my soule dwels, shall dwell.

‘Tis like me now, but I dead, 'twill be more

When wee are shadowes both, than 'twas before.

When weather-beaten I come backe; my hand,

Perhaps with rude oares torne, or Sun beams tann'd,

My face and brest of hairecloth, and my head

With cares rash sodaine stormes, being o'rspread,

My body'a sack of bones, broken within,

And powders blew staines scatter'd on my skinne;

If rivall fooles taxe thee to 'have lov'd a man,

So foule, and course, as, Oh, I may seeme then,

This shall say what I was: and thou shalt say,

Doe his hurts reach mee? doth my worth decay?

Or doe they reach judging minde, that hee

Should now love lesse, what hee did love to see?

That which in him was faire and delicate,

Was but the milke, which in loves childish state

Did nurse it: who now is growne strong enough

To feed on that, which to disused tasts seemes tough.

John Donne (1573-1631).]

We will now pass on to a more highly-wrought verse-form – the sonnet; and sonnets by Hebbel and Novalis will now be recited.

DIE SPRACHE

Als höchstes Wunder, das der Geist vollbrachte,

Preist ich die Sprache, die er, sonst verloren

In tiefste Einsamkeit, aus sich geboren,

Weil sie allein die andern möglich machte.

Ja, wenn ich sie in Grund und Zweck betrachte,

So hat nur sie den schweren Fluch beschworen,

Dem er, zum dumpfen Einzelsein erkoren,

Erlegen wäre, eh' er noch erwachte.

Denn ist das unerforschte Eins und Alles

In nie begrifftnem Selbstzersplitt‘rungsdrange

Zu einer Welt von Punkten gleich zerstoben:

So wird durch sie, die jedes Wesenballes

Geheimstes Sein erscheinen lässt im Klange,

Die Trennung vollig wieder aufgehoben!

Friedrich Hebbel (1813-1863).

ZUEIGNUNG

I

Du hast in mir den edeln Trieb erregt,

Tief ins Gemüt der weiten Welt zu schauen;

Mit deiner Hand ergriff mich ein Vertrauen,

Das sicher mich durch alle Stürme trägt.

Mit Ahnungen hast du das Kind gepflegt,

Und zogst mit ihm durch fabelhafte Auen;

Hast als das Urbild zartgesinnter Frauen,

Des Jünglings Herz zum höchsten Schwung bewegt.

Was fesselt mich an irdische Beschwerden?

Ist nicht mein Herz und Leben ewig dein?

Und schirmt mich deine Liebe nicht auf Erden?

Ich darf fier dich der edlen Kunst mich weiten;

Denn du, Geliebte, willst die Muse werden, –

Und stiller Schutzgeist meiner Dichtung sein.

II

In ewigen Verwandlungen begrusst

Uns des Gesangs geheime Macht hienieden,

Dort segnet sie das Land als ew'ger Frieden,

Indes sie hier als Jugend uns umfliesst.

Sie ist's, die Licht in unsre Augen giesst,

Die uns den Sinn für jede Kunst beschieden,

Und die das Herz der Frohen und der Müden

In trunkner Andacht wunderbar geniesst.

An ihrem vollen Busen trank ich Leben:

Ich ward durch sie zu allem, was ich bin,

Und durfte froh mein Angesicht erheben.

Noch schlummerte mein allerhöchster Sinn;

Da sah ich sie als Engel zu mir schweben,

Und flog, erwacht, in ihrem Arm dahin.

Novalis (1772-1801).

[The following three poems show some characteristics of the English sonnet:

ON THE GRASSHOPPER AND CRICKET

The poetry of earth is never dead:

When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,

And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run

From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;

That is the Grasshopper's – he takes the lead

In summer luxury, – he has never done

With his delights; for when tired out with fun

He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.

The poetry of earth is ceasing never:

On a lone winter evening, when the frost

Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills

The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,

And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,

The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.

John Keats

SONNET

O Nightingale, that on yon bloomy Spray

Warbl'st at Eve, when all the Woods are still,

Thou with fresh hope the Lovers heart dost fill,

While the jolly hours lead on propitious May,

Thy liquid notes that close the eye of Day,

First heard before the shallow Cuckoo's bill,

Portend success in love; O if Jove's will

Have linkt that amorous power to thy soft lay,

Now timely sing, ere the rude Bird of Hate

Foretell my hopeless doom in som Grove ny:

As thou from year to year hast sung too late

For my relief; yet hadst no reason why:

Whether the Muse or Love call thee his mate,

Both them I serve, and of their train am I.

John Milton (1608-1674).

SONNET

                                  \

My galy charged with forgetfulnes

Thorrough sharpe sees in wynter nyghtes doeth pas

Twene Rock and Rock; and eke myn ennemy, Alas,

That is my lorde, sterith with cruelnes;

And every owre a thought in redines,

As tho that deth were light in suche a case.

An endles wynd doeth tere the sayll apase

                                                                                                \

Of forced sightes and trusty ferefulnes.

A rayn of teris, a clowde of derk disdain,

                                                    \

Hath done the wered cordes great hinderaunce;

                                                                                              \

Wrethed with errour and eke with ignoraunce.

The starres be hid that led me to this pain;

                                                                                              \

Drowned is reason that should me consort,

And I remain dispering of the port.

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542).]

Text Box: 1

And now, in order to show how another, the very opposite mood must be drawn from quite different realms of the human organization when this serves as the instrument for poetry and declamation, we will end with something humorous and satirical – choosing a poem by Christian Morgenstern.

ST. EXPEDITUS

Einem Kloster, voll von Nonnen,

waren Menschen wohlgesonnen.

Und sie schickten, gute Christen,

ihm nach Rom die schönsten Kisten:

Äpfel, Birnen, Kuchen, Socken,

eine Spieluhr, kleine Glocken,

Gartenwerkzeug, Schuhe, Schürzen...

Aussen aber stand: Nicht stürzen!

Oder: Vorsicht! oder welche

wiesen schwarzgemalte Kelche.

Und auf jeder Kiste stand ‘Espedito’, kurzerhand.

Unsre Nonnen, die nicht wussten,

wem sie dafür danken mussten,

denn das Gut kam anonym,

dankten vorderhand nur IHM,

rieten aber doch ohn’ Ende

nach dem Sender solcher Spende.

Plötzlich rief die Schwester Pia

eines Morgens: Santa mia!

Nicht von Juden, nicht von Christen

Stammen diese Wunderkisten –

Expeditus, o Geschwister,

heisst er und ein Heiliger ist er!

Und sie fielen auf die Kniee.

Und der Heilige sprach: Siehe!

Endlich habt ihr mich erkannt.

Und nun malt mich an die Wand!

Und sie liessen einen kommen,

einen Maler, einen frommen.

Und es malte der Artiste

Expeditum mit der Kiste. –

Und der Kult gewann an Breite.

Jeder, der beschenkt ward, weihte

kleine Tafeln ihm und Kerzen.

Kurz, er war in aller Herzen.

II

Da auf einmal, neunzehnhundert-

fünf, vernimmt die Welt verwundert,

dass die Kirche diesen Mann

fürder nicht mehr dulden kann.

Grausam schallt von Rom es her:

Expeditus ist nicht mehr:

Und da seine lieben Nonnen

längst dem Erdental entronnen,

steht er da und sieht sich um –

und die ganze delt bleibt stumm.

Ich allein hier hoch im Norden

fühle mich von seinem Orden,

und mein Ketzergriffel schreibt:

Sanctus Expeditus – bleibt.

Und weil jenes nichts mehr gilt,

male ich hier neu sein Bild: –

Expeditum, den Gesandten,

grüss’ ich hier, den Unbekannten

Expeditum, ihn, den Heiligen,

mit den Assen, den viel eiligen,

mit den milden, weissen Haaren

und dem fröhlichen Gebaren,

mit den Augen braun, voll Güte,

und mit einer grossen Düte,

die den uberraschten Kindern

strebt ihr spärlich Los zu lindern.

Einen güldnen Heiligenschein

geb’ ich ihm noch obendrein

den sein Lacheln um ihn breitet,

wenn er durch die Lande schreitet.

Und um ihn in Engeiswonnen

stell’ ich seine treuen Nonnen:

Mägdlein aus Italiens Auen,

himmlisch lieblich anzuschauen.

Eine aber macht, fürwahr,

eine lange Nase gar.

Just ins ‘Bronzne Tor’ hinein

spannt sie ihr klein Fingerlein.

Oben aber aus dem Himmel

quillt der Heiligen Gewimmel,

und holdselig singt Maria:

Santo Espedito - sia!

Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914).

[An excerpt from “The Rape of the Lock” shows the great English satirist in a comparatively rare mood of good humoured and friendly mocking. It comes from Canto II:

 

But now secure the painted vessel glides,

The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides;

While melting music steals upon the sky,

And soften'd sounds along the waters die;

Smooth flow the waves, the Zephyrs gently play,

Belinda smil'd, and all the world was gay.

All but the Sylph – with careful thoughts opprest,

Th' impending woe sat heavy on his breast.

He summons strait his Denizens of air;

The lucid squadrons round the sails repair:

Soft o'er the shrouds aerial whispers breathe,

That seem'd but Zephyrs to the train beneath.

Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold,

Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold;

Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight,

Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light.

Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,

Thin glitt'ring textures of the filmy dew,

Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies,

Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes,

While ev'ry beam new transient colours flings,

Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings.

Amid the circle, on the gilded mast,

Superior by the head, was Ariel plac'd;

His purple pinions op'ning to the sun,

He rais'd his azure wand, and thus begun.

Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your chief give ear,

Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Daemons hear!

Ye know the spheres and various tasks assign'd

By laws eternal to th' aerial kind.

Some in the fields of purest Aether play,

And bask and whiten in the blaze of day.

Some guide the course of wand'ring orbs on high,

Or roll the planets thro' the boundless sky.

Some less refin'd, beneath the moon's pale light

Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night,

Or suck the mists in grosser air below,

Or dip their pinions in the painted bowl

Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main,

Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain.

Others on earth o'er human race preside,

Watch all their ways, and all their actions guide:

Of these the chief the care of Nations own,

And guard with Arms divine the British Throne.

Our humbler province is to tend the Fair,

Not a less pleasing, tho' less glorious care;

To save the powder from too rude a gale,

Nor let th' imprison'd essences exhale;

To draw fresh colours from the vernal Flow'rs;

To steal from rainbows e'er they drop in show'rs

A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs,

Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs;

Nay oft, in dreams, invention we bestow,

To change a Flounce, or add a Furbelow.

This day, black Omens threat the brightest fair

That e'er deserv'd a watchful spirit's care;

Some dire disaster, or by force, or slight;

But what, or where, the fates have wrapt in night.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)]

 

Now the art of recitation must undoubtedly follow the poetry. Recitation introduces the human element into poetry, for the human organization itself furnishes the instrument of artistic expression. How this instrument is used in singing and in recitation – that is something which has indeed been much investigated: we have already taken the opportunity here of pointing out, in response to certain questions, how many methods (one method after another!) exist in our present age, to singing and recitation. For in a certain sense we have entirely lost the deeper, inner relationship between poetic utterance or expression and the human organization. I will take as. a starting-point next today something apparently quite physiological – and next time, after our detour through physiology, we shall be able to show you what poetry, as expressed in recitation and declamation, really demands.

Let us look first at something which has been frequently mentioned during the lectures of the last few days: the human rhythmic system. The human being is organized into the system of nerves and senses – the instrument for the thought-world, for the world of sense-representations, and so on; the rhythmic system – the instrument for the development of the feeling world, and for all that is mirrored from the feeling-world and plays into the world of mental representations; and the metabolic system – through which the will pulsates, and in which the will finds its actual physical instrument. [Note 4]

First, let us look at the rhythmic system. In this rhythmic system, two rhythms interpenetrate each other in a remarkable way. In the first place, we have the breathing-rhythm. This is essentially regular – though everything living is different in this respect, and it varies from individual to individual – so that in the case of healthy people, we are able to observe 16-19 breaths per minute. Secondly, we have the pulse-rhythm, directly connected with the heart. Naturally, when we take into account that in this rhythm we are dealing with functions of a living being, again we cannot cite any pedantic number; but, generally speaking, we may say that the number of pulse-beats per minute, in a healthy human organism, is approximately 72. Hence we can say that the number of pulse-beats is about four times the number of respirations. We can thus represent the course of the breath in the human organism, and how while we take one breath, the pulse intervenes four times. Now let us devote our minds for a moment to this interaction of the pulse-rhythm and the rhythm of the breath to this inner, living piano (if I may so express myself) where we experience the pulse rhythm as it strikes into the course of the breathing-rhythm. Let us picture the following: one breath inhaled and exhaled; and a second inhaled and exhaled; and, striking into this, the rhythm of the heart. Let us picture this in such a way that we can see that in the pulse-rhythm, which is essentially connected with the metabolism, which touches on the metabolic system, the will strikes, as it were, upwards; thus we have the will-pulses striking into the feeling-manifestations of the breath-rhythm. And let us suppose that we articulate these will-pulses, in such a way that we follow the will-pulses in the words, inwardly articulating the words to ourselves. Thus we have, for instance: long, short, short; long, short, short; long, short, short – one breath-stream; then we make a pause, a kind of caesura, we hold back; then, accompanying the next drawing of the breath, we have the heart-rhythm striking into it: long, short, short; long, short, short; long, short, short.

 

¾ È  È         ¾  È  È         ¾  È  È      ||     ¾  È  È         ¾  È  È         ¾  È  È      ||

 

 

Then, when we allow two breaths to be accompanied by the corresponding pulse-beats, and between them we make a pause, a pause for breath – we have the hexameter. [Note 5] We can ask: what is the origin of this ancient Greek verse metre? It originated from the harmony between blood-circulation and breathing. The Greek wished to turn his speech inward, so that, having suppressed his “I”, he orientated the words according to the pulse-beats, allowing these to play upon the stream of breath. Thus he brought his whole inner organization, his rhythmic organization, to expression in his speech: it was the harmony between heart-rhythm and breath-rhythm that resounded in his speech. To the Greek, this was more musical – as if it resounded up from the will, resounded up from the pulse-beats into the rhythm of the breath.

You know that what remained as the last, atavistic remnant of the old clairvoyant images – the Alp, the nightmare – found expression in pictures, and is connected with the breathing-process: and there is still a connection between the pathological form of the Alpdruck and breathing.

Now let us assume – for me it is more than an assumption – that in those primaeval times when his experience was more closely connected with the internal processes, man went out more with the breath; the movement was more from above downwards. And then he put into one breath:

 

                                                                        ¤             ¤               ¤

‘To us in olden maeren'

 

Again, three high-tones: three times the perception of how the pulse beats into the breathing, and how this brings to expression an experience that is more visual, finding expression in the light and shade of the language, in the high and low tones. In the Greek we have something metrical long, short, short; long, short, short; long, short, short; whereas in the Nordic verses we have something with more declamatory impetus – high-tone and low-tone:

 

                                                                              ¤             ¤               ¤                   ¤               ¤                 ¤

‘To us in olden maeren is many a marvel told

            ¤                 ¤               ¤                     ¤                 ¤         ¤

Of praise-deserving heroes, of labours manifold ...'

 

It is the interaction of the breathing-rhythm and the rhythm of the heart, the rhythm of the pulse. Just as the Greek experienced a musical element and expressed this in metre, so the Nordic man experienced a pictorial element, which he expressed in the light and shade of the words, in the high-tones and low-tones. But there was always the knowledge that one was submerged in a state of consciousness where the “I” yielded itself up to the divine-spiritual being which reveals itself through the human organism – which forms this human organism so that it may be played upon as an instrument through the pulsation of the heart, through the breathing-process, through the stream of exhaled and inhaled breath:

 

È   ¾  È   ¾  È   ¾  È ||   ¾   È    ¾  È   ¾

 

You know that many breathing-techniques have been discovered, and much thought given to methods of treating the human body to facilitate correct singing or recitation. It is much more to the point, however, to penetrate the real mysteries of poetry and recitation and declamation: for both of these will proceed from the actual, sensible-super-sensible perception of the harmony between the pulse, which is connected with the heart, and the breathing-process. As we shall see next time, each single verse-form, each single poetic form including rhyme, alliteration, and assonance, may be understood when we start from a living perception of the human organism, and what it does when it employs speech artistically. This is why it was quite justified when people who understood such things spoke, more or less figuratively, of poetry as a language of the gods: for this language of the gods does not speak the mysteries of the transient human “I”; it speaks in human consciousness, speaks musically and plastically the cosmic mysteries – it speaks when the super-sensible worlds play, through the human heart, upon the human breath.

 


 



Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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