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Poetry and the Art of Speech

Schmidt Number: S-4444

On-line since: 15th May, 2010


(Dornach, 6 April 1921)

The art of recitation and declamation, of which we are going to say something this evening, is not at present accorded its full status as an art-form. In our approach to this art we often give too little consideration to exactly what is presented by the poet and to the medium in which the reciter or declaimer has to be artistically active. This moves us to consider the essentials of the art of recitation and declamation – when, as you have seen demonstrated many times, it presents itself as an accompanying art to eurythmy. We then become deeply aware that recitation and declamation must go beyond the prose content of a poem, which is actually the poem’s thought-component. For to stress the prose content turns the recitation and declamation of the poem into something inartistic. When in reciting, as happens at the present day, importance is attached to a prosaic stress on the meaning, this is an indication of our having abandoned the domain of the truly artistic. Let us be clear that a poet – if he is a true poet – will certainly have had in his imagination (in the full sense of the word) something which ultimately becomes apparent in the recitation and declamation. A poet who only had in his soul the thought-content, or the word-for-word content of feeling, and not the inwardly heard sound- and word-movement of the poem, would simply not be a poet at all. But it must also be made clear that what is put before the reciter is, in the end, only a kind of score or music-script – and that the art of recitation and declamation must go beyond the script in the same way as a pianist or other practising musician has to do. The re-creation is a new creating and the new creation is a re-creating. A musician who composes a piano work will, of course, also have in his imagination the whole pattern of sound: and whoever wishes to re-create his composition must make himself familiar above all with the instrument itself and with its characteristic sound-pattern and tone – of the piano in this instance. He must comprehend the art of handling both the instrument and its medium. And likewise the reciter must understand the art of handling speech. His instrument is bound up much more closely with his own being than are the external instruments of the musician, and in deploying his particular instrument he will also have to develop his own special characteristics. But he will have to start with the handling of speech, the material by means of which he can give expression to what reaches him from the poet only as a sort of score. As regards the handling of speech, it will be just as necessary to begin with the fundamentals as in the art of piano-playing, though the study must in many respects be pursued more intensively than in the case of learning the piano.

We must also take into consideration that we are now living in a time when much of what has hitherto lived instinctively within the soul of man must be raised into consciousness. There is still today in wide circles, and not least among artists, a certain fear of this consciousness when it is brought to bear on artistic, creative work. They think that by introducing this sort of consciousness they will injure instinctive, imaginative creation and cripple it; many believe, too, that by becoming conscious of what really goes on in the soul in artistic creation they will lose that spontaneity essential to the creation of art.

There is certainly some truth in all this. But, on the other hand, we must realise that what we are striving for in the sphere of anthroposophical perception is a matter of exceptional importance for our time and our civilisation. The slow struggle toward the experience of what in our spiritual stream is called Imagination weaves and lives in an element quite other than the intellectual, so that artistic feeling need in no way be lost when it is confronted with Imaginative experience. Indeed, if we are dealing with genuine Imaginations it cannot be lost. For what is disclosed in an Imagination with a view to knowledge is objectively (not subjectively but objectively) different from the Imagination manifested when the soul gives it an artistic form.

If I may refer for a moment to something personal: I would like to say that to me it was always extremely distasteful if someone or other came along and tried to interpret my Mystery Plays in a symbolic way and imported into them all sorts of intellectual notions. For what lives in these Mystery Plays is experienced Imaginatively – down to every single sound. The picture stands there as a picture and has always stood there as a picture. It would never have occurred to me to begin with an intellectual idea and then fashion it into a picture.

In that way I was able to discover by experience how, when one is attempting to impart artistic form, the Imaginative comes to be something objectively quite different to the form assumed by an Imagination that is directed toward cognition. Hence this prejudice, that spontaneity and instinctive imagining will be impaired if one raises artistic activity into consciousness, will have to be overcome. Our times require that this prejudice should be overcome. We may then perhaps be guided to the true foundations of declamation and recitation, as it is in this direction that they will have to be developed in the near future.

We cannot put recitation and declamation into practice unless we fathom the fundamental differences presented in poetry by, on the one side, lyric; on the second side, epic; and on the third, the dramatic. [Note 10] Today we shall only be able to present something of the lyric and the dramatic. We shall then continue with something that might be called a ‘prose-poem’. There were reasons for this choice. The epic will be considered separately later on – indeed the epic can perhaps best illustrate the art of recitation when once we have advanced beyond the elementary stages of the art.

In order to penetrate to a real declamatory and recitative art involving the lyric, dramatic and epic, the following must be observed. Whoever aims at this kind of vocal production must, for instance, develop a distinct feeling for the connection between lyric and the constituents of speech – and this he will achieve through a living experience of the vowels. A feeling for the vowels, for the intimacy of the vowels, must be sought if the lyrical is to be embodied and brought to expression. For it is in the vowel sounds that man’s essentially inward experience is expressed. In the single vowel-sounds – when penetrated by a sensitive understanding, a discerning sensibility – lies the whole spectrum of human inner experience. In vocalisation (the sounding of the vowels) lives everything which we might describe as coming from musical experience and which is projected into the lyric. Lyrical experience can definitely be traced back to musical experience. But in musical experience we find inwardness being unfolded in the movement of sound. In the lyric, we find inwardness absorbed into the very substance of the vowel itself. Yet whoever wishes to approach recitation from this point of view must avoid a certain error – and no greater error in the art of recitation is conceivable. For when we are learning how to handle the materials and elements of speech, we might be tempted to commence by introducing an element of feeling, to put subjective feeling into the vowel; and this is just what would actually make it prosaic. This is the opposite approach to that of recitation. Anyone who wishes to recite lyrical poetry must have a sensitivity to the vowel itself. He must begin by experiencing the vowel as such. Just as Goethe, for instance, recognises different shades of feeling in the various shades of colour, so we shall not only experience in the vowels different shades of feeling, but utterly different conditions of soul, different soul-contents. We shall feel every gradation, from sorrow and bitterness to joy and jubilation, in our sensing of the vowels and experience of what might be termed the vowel-scale.

It will be readily admitted that much of what I am saying is often felt instinctively by the reciter when he comes to apply his art in individual poems. But he will be able to enhance his art significantly if he brings such a feeling to conscious awareness. Through vocalisation something capable of further development will be disclosed to him: he will discover how a vowel sounding earlier on still sounds in the later vowels – or a later vowel-sound modifies the earlier ones, etc. However, these things must not be practised in the mechanical and materialistic way often adopted nowadays, when various postures are assumed, along with artificial breath-control. Everything the body has to learn in this domain must derive purely from what is learnt in working with speech itself. Just as a painter can learn most when, instructed by an accomplished artist, he paints directly onto the canvas and only touches his work up here and there, – so too will the reciter best learn to recite by acquiring his grasp of speech from speech itself: from actual speaking, from handling the speech-movement. Afterwards, his attention can be drawn to any particular detail relating to external, bodily control. It is a curious tendency of our materialistic times first to move away from the poem and adjust the instrument of speech and only then return to artistic speaking. This aberration might almost be called nonsense; it certainly does not derive from true artistic feeling.

Furthermore, if it is with the help of the vowel-sounds that we come to experience the lyric it is through the consonants that we shall begin to get a feeling for the epic. Truly to enter into the consonants is to experience over again, within ourselves, what is going on outside us. And if we feel in the consonantal element this peculiar imitation within us of the outside world, we shall be led artistically from these elementary constituents to an inner re-experiencing of what is also to be found in the images of a far-ranging epos. I can only touch upon this today; at another opportunity it can be referred to again.

In this way it will be possible to develop what ought to lie at the foundation of recitation and declamation into a true art-form, down to its handling of the constituents of speech. And it will necessarily become clear to us, if we see the essential feature of this art in the way it handles actual speech, that the nuances of the art will show up in its response to the different languages – each language having its own special recitative or declamatory requirements. A language which is essentially mimetic, one which takes its departure from the intellect and classification and has developed language in the sphere of the intellect, a language which has abstracted itself from what can be experienced in the outer world, – such a language will have to tackle recitation and declamation quite differently to one in which the sounds (vowels and consonants) themselves express their relationship to inwardness or to externality.

Now, in the first part of what Frau Dr. Steiner is going to declaim, you will hear to begin with something lyrical. From this you should actually be able to hear how lyrical poems come to expression with varying nuances, depending on the language in which they are presented. That will be the first part of our programme – a performance of essentially lyrical poems.


Three poems of Goethe’s youth.


Ach, was soll der Mensch verlangen?


Ist es besser, ruhig bleiben?

Klammernd fest sich anzuhangen?

Ist es besser, sich zu treiben?

Soll er sich ein Häuschen bauen?

Soll er unter Zelten leben?

Soll er auf die Felsen trauen?

Selbst die festen Felsen beben.


Eines schickt sich nicht für alle!

Sehe jeder wie er’s treibe,

Sehe jeder wo er bleibe,

Und wer steht, dass er nicht falle!


Tiefe Stille herrscht im Wasser,

Ohne Regung ruht das Meer,

Und bekümmert sieht der Schiffer

Glatte Fläche rings umher.

Keine Luft von keiner Seite!

Todesstille fürchterlich!

In der ungeheuern Weite

Reget keine Welle sich.


Kleine Blumen, kleine Blätter

Streuen mir mit leichter Hand

Gute junge Frühlingsgötter

Tändelnd auf ein luftig Band.


Zephyr, nimm’s auf deine Flügel,

Schling’s um meiner Liebsten Kleid!

Und so tritt sie vor den Spiegel

All in ihrer Munterkeit.


Sieht mit Rosen sich umgeben,

Selbst wie eine Rose jung:

Einen Blick, geliebtes Leben!

Und ich bin belohnt genung.


Fühle, was dies Herz empfindet,

Reiche frei mir deine Hand,

Und das Band, das uns verbindet,

Sei kein schwaches Rosenband!


A little English lyric:


April, April,

Laugh thy girlish laughter;

Then, the moment after,

Weep thy girlish tears!

April, that mine ears

Like a lover greetest,

If I tell thee, sweetest,

All my hopes and fears,

April, April,

Laugh thy golden laughter,

But, the moment after,

Weep thy golden tears!

William Watson (1858-1935).


Those evening bells! those evening bells!

How many a tale their music tells,

Of youth, and home, and that sweet time,

When last I heard their soothing chime!


Those joyous hours are past away!

And many a heart, that then was gay,

Within the tomb now darkly dwells,

And hears no more those evening bells!


And so ’twill be when I am gone;

That tuneful peal will still ring on,

While other bards shall walk these dells,

And sing your praise, sweet evening bells!


Thomas Moore (1799-1852).


An example of Russian lyric:


Lucid gold and emerald,

and black earth’s thick fecundity:

landscape aloof, your wealth witheld

from ease, in mute profundity…


Bosom laden with your fruit, –

how many slumberous shapes repose

secure in you, most lowly root,

or fertile corpses decompose?


Yet not for all slow dissipation:

not those that yearly upward flame,

like ghosts at magic conjuration,

and vernal life from death proclaim;


not Isis, crowned with flowers supernal,

lush companions of the spring –

the Touch-me-not, the Maid eternal,

the Rainbow’s incandescent ring!

Vladimir Soloviov (1853-1900).

Trans. Neil Thompson and A.J.W. [Note 11]

[Of considerable interest too is the beautiful German translation used in the original programme:


Goldenglänzendes, smaragdenes,

Tief schwarzerdenes Gefild,

Deines Kraftens reicher Segen

Aus der Scholle quillt.


Dieser Schoss, der keimetragende,

Tote bergend in den Ton,

Er litt stumm, der allergebene,

Die jahrtausend lange Fron.


Doch nicht alles so Empfangene

Trugst empor du jedes Jahr.

Das vom alten Tod Gezeichnete

Sieht des Lenzes sich noch bar.


Isis nicht, die Kronen tragende,

Wird dir bringen jenen Kranz,

Doch die unberührte, ewige

Magd im Regenbogenglanz.

Trans. Marie Steiner.]


Wen du nicht verlässest, Genius,

Nicht der Regen, nicht der Sturm

Haucht ihm Schauer übers Herz.

Wen du nicht verlässest, Genius,

Wird dem Regengewölk,

Wird dem Schlossensturm

Entgegen singen,

Wie die Lerche,

Du da droben.


Den du nicht verlässest, Genius,

Wirst ihn heben übern Schlammpfad

Mit den Feuerflügeln;

Wandeln wird er

Wie mit Blumenfüssen

Über Deukalions Flutschlamm,

Python tötend, leicht, gross,

Pythius Apollo.


Den du nicht verlässest, Genius,

Wirst die wollnen Flügel unterspreiten,

Wenn er auf dem Felsen schläft,

Wirst mit Hüterfittichen ihn decken

In des Haines Mitternacht.


Wen du nicht verlässest, Genius,

Wirst im Schneegestöber


Nach der Wärme ziehn sich Musen,

Nach der Wärme Charitinnen.


Umschwebet mich ihr Musen,

Ihr Charitinnen:

Das ist Wasser, das ist Erde,

Und der Sohn des Wassers und der Erde,

Über den ich wandle



Ihr seid rein, wie das Herz der Wasser,

Ihr seid rein, wie das Mark der Erde,

Ihr umschwebt mich und ich schwebe

Über Wasser, über Erde,



Soll der zurückkehren,

Der kleine, schwarze, feurige Bauer?

Soll der zurückkehren, erwartend

Nur deine Gaben, Vater Bromius,

Und helleuchtend umwärmend Feuer?

Der kehren mutig?

Und ich, den ihr begleitet,

Musen und Charitinnen alle,

Den alles erwartet, was ihr,

Musen und Charitinnen,

Umkränzende Seligkeit

Rings ums Leben verherrlicht habt,

Soll mutlos kehren?


Vater Bromius!

Du bist Genius,

Jahrhunderts Genius,

Bist, was innre Glut

Pindarn war,

Was der Welt

Phöbus Apoll ist.


Weh! Weh! Innre Wärme,



Glüh’ entgegen

Phöb’ Apollen;

Kalt wird sonst

Sein Fürstenblick

Über dich vorübergleiten,


Auf der Ceder Kraft verweilen,

Die zu grünen

Sein nicht harrt.


Warum nennt mein Lied dich zuletzt?

Dich, von dem es begann,

Dich, in dem es endet,

Dich, aus dem es quillt,

Jupiter Pluvius!

Dich, dich strömt mein Lied,

Und kastalischer Quell

Rinnt ein Nebenbach,

Rinnet Müssigen,

Sterblich Glücklichen

Abseits von dir,

Der du mich fassend deckst,

Jupiter Pluvius!


Nicht am Ulmenbaum

Hast du ihn besucht,

Mit dem Taubenpaar

In dem zärtlichen Arm,

Mit der freundlichen Ros’ umkränzt,

Tändelnden ihn, blumenglücklichen


Sturmatmende Gottheit!


Nicht im Pappelwald

An des Sybaris Strand,

An des Gebirges

Sonnebeglänzter Stirn nicht

Fasstest du ihn,

Den bienensingenden,


Freundlich winkenden



Wenn die Räder rasselten,

Rad an Rad rasch ums Ziel weg,

Hoch flog


Jünglinge Peitschenknall,

Und sich Staub wälzt’,

Wie vom Gebirg herab

Kieselwetter ins Tal, —

Glühte deine Seel’ Gefahren, Pindar

Mut. — Glühte? —


Armes Herz!

Dort auf dem Hügel,

Himmlische Macht!

Nur so viel Glut,

Dort meine Hütte,

Dorthin zu waten!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

 [For such lyrical intensity and power in English this famous ode remains unsurpassed:



O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,


Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,

Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,

Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed


The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,

Each like a corpse within its grave, until

Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow


Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill

(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)

With living hues and odours plain and hill:


Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;

Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!


Thou on whose stream, ’mid the steep sky’s commotion,

Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,

Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,


Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread

On the blue surface of thine aery surge,

Like the bright hair uplifted from the head


Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge

Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,

The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge


Of the dying year, to which this closing night

Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,

Vaulted with all thy congregated might


Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere

Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh, hear!


Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams

The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,

Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,


Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,

And saw in sleep old palaces and towers

Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,


All overgrown with azure moss and flowers

So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou

For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers


Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below

The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear

The sapless foliage of the ocean, know


Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,

And tremble and despoil themselves: oh, hear!


If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;

If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;

A wave to pant beneath thy power, and spare


The impulse of thy strength, only less free

Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even

I were as in my boyhood, and could be


The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,

As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed

Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven


As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.

Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!

I fall upon the thorns of life: I bleed!


A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed

One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.


Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:

What if my leaves are falling like its own!

The tumult of thy mighty harmonies


Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,

Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,

My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!


Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!

And, by the incantation of this verse,


Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

Be through my lips to unawakened earth


The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind,

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822).]


When studying poetry with a view to artistic declamation, it is of primary importance to lose nothing of what wells up in the words from the poet’s soul, or is contained in what is given to us by him. Recitation, as well as poetry itself, will only become artistic when everything that the soul expresses in the prose content is recast into form, into something formed. In the lyric it must go more into the musical. In the epic and particularly in the dramatic, more into imagery, into what has been given a definite form. The lyrical, as I said, inclines toward the vowel-sounds; but we must not forget that every consonant also has in it a vowel-element. In every consonant there lies a disposition toward a vowel and every vowel has a tendency toward a consonant. Consequently through art, just as in other spheres where something similar is effected, the opposition between subjective and objective will be completely overcome. The whole inner being of man will be able to live in the outer world and the outer world will be brought to expression in its full strength through the inner being of man.

Speaking about the art of reciting in our course last autumn, I drew your attention to the universal, cosmic rhythm which is expressed in the rhythmic system of man. Furthermore, I showed how this comes to find expression in poetry – and thence, of course, in recitation as the manifestation of poetic art. We may say that an element with a more spiritual tendency (since the spirit manifests itself in everything physical) unfolds in the tempo of the human pulse-beat; while something more psychic, we may also say, something that takes its course in the soul, unfolds in the rhythm of breathing. A greater part of what is expressed in poetic form depends on the interplay between the rhythms of the pulse and breathing and the ratio of one to the other. And it is in the hexameter that the primary and most self-evident ratio between pulse-rhythm and breathing-rhythm is displayed. Fundamentally the hexameter involves two breaths, with four pulse-beats to each breath and this, of course, is the natural ratio between human breathing and the pulse.

In this way, what wells up in poetry comes to actual corporeal utterance. And conversely, the poetic must come to expression through recitation and declamation out of the human being as a whole. It is as if the pulse-rhythm were playing upon the breathing-rhythm – rhythm on rhythm. And what lives in rhythm is expressed again in the musicality of speech, in lyrical poetry. All the prose content of a poem must be led back to this inner rhythmic treatment of metre and tempo. Everything that lies in the what of the content must also lie in the how of the performance, so that in discovering the one in the other there is really an experience of the whole. [Note 12] If, in poetry or reciting, we find ourselves having to exert our intellect to grasp the merely word-for-word content, then the artistic is at that point disrupted.

This should really be ever-present in our mind when in any field of art we have to struggle through from inartistic content to genuine artistic form or to what has been permeated by the element of music. The latter is especially evident in reciting or declaiming a poem that is lyrical in origin.

In the case of dramatic art, too, its own artistic forms must be represented when it is expressed in speech-formation. In fact we can say: Recitation as an independent art must take account of the way that it evolves the dramatic rather differently from how it is evolved in a fully staged production. Yet the essence of the stage-production must appear in the way the speech is handled – in the recitative-declamatory treatment of the drama.

What do we actually have before us when we consider poetic drama? It is essentially something that only comes into existence through the characters on stage – or, if we do not see the drama with our eyes and hear it with our ears, through what our imagination has picked up from the poetic language and set in its totality before our souls. Everything must flow in moving form. But although the drama is only complete when presented on stage, we must realise all the same that everything standing before us, the persons on the stage, everything we hear, is fundamentally the expression of a soul-quality. The soul-quality which evolves as drama, in the separate characters and in their interaction – this is really the essential content of the drama.

At this point it becomes necessary to take note of what actually goes on in the soul. What goes on there, especially in the re-creation of a drama, is something imaginative; and this is so even when it is only with the poetry that we are concerned. On the stage the presentation must be pictorial. But here, too, what is spoken is a pictorial representation of what lives in the poet’s soul. What is presented on the stage is effective, not through its reality, but through what derives from the ’fair seeming’: [Note 13] it is imaginative despite its reality. And when the dramatic forms come before our souls as images – that too is imaginative, albeit in a special sense. Imagination is not experienced in its true being, but as a projection into our souls in image-form. In the same way a shadow thrown onto the wall by a three-dimensional object is related to the object itself, though in no way containing what lives in the object; as a good two-dimensional portrayal contains everything its three-dimensional subject has: so what is represented in our imaginings contains the shadow thrown there by imagination. The stage presentation is fundamentally nothing but an external, corporeal representation of what lives in these images and for this reason we feel an aversion (if we have any healthy feeling for such things) whenever in the drama external reality is merely imitated naturalistically. Dramatic art can no more tolerate realistic imitation than can the other arts of speech – though these are less liable to such difficulties. And when, as in our times, the tendency toward realism has so often emerged in drama productions, and we have seen Schiller’s characters shown on stage with their hands in their pockets! When an attempt has been made to produce a realistic imitation of external, physical nature, this only shows that we have strayed from a genuinely aesthetic perception, and little by little in the general course of civilisation lost the truly artistic.

It is possible to adopt a materialistic world-conception, and in a certain sense this is appropriate for the external organic world. In outer life it is possible to be realistic, but it is not so in art. For what we then produce is no longer in the domain of art at all – and this can be seen both in the drama itself and in the way speech is handled in these dramatic productions.

It is really a matter of putting everything an artistic speech-formation can achieve into the treatment of the language. This comprises the most varied elements. I should only like to point out a few details – our limited time does not allow more. There may exist, for example, in what is presented through speech-formation, a sort of average tempo. We feel this and starting from this average tempo we can effect a transition to a quicker one, to a more rapid delivery of the words, or to a slower one. The first, the more rapid delivery, always expresses a kind of going-out of the human “I” – a going out from oneself and widely extending oneself. Naturally one can feel this in different ways: as a separation, for example, from some thing one longs to reach. A slowing-down of the words, notably in dramatic speech, will present a kind of being-within-oneself. Everything expressed in a self-collected contemplation, a resting within oneself, will be connected with a slowing-down of the tempo.

Another formative principle lies in the raising or lowering of the pitch. The first is connected with the spiritualisation of an inner experience, with an ascending of the “I” above itself. Going out of oneself in wide extension is connected with the tempo: and ascending above oneself is associated with a rising in pitch. Everything in the content which strives toward spiritualisation (even if only a spiritualisation in which the human intellect is overpowered by the will, by ardour, by enthusiasm) will bring itself to formative expression in raising the pitch. And when a human being sinks below the level of his ordinary life, whether in sorrow or in inwardness, this will be connected with a fall in pitch. All this will find particular expression in dramatic art and everything dramatic speech-formation demands will have to flow into the element of form – so that everything must be grasped, not by the sheer power of intellect, but as an expression of this formative treatment of speech – and of course, if it is a matter of stage production, through the gestures. It will all flow into this special way of speaking, so that in the very speech we can feel what the content is. It will not be very easy to bring certain things in dramatic art to perfection, because (as Aristotle already knew) drama has to do with causal connections in life; and for this reason what may be called the dramatic score, in the sense we spoke of earlier as that which has to be realised, is very largely based on an implicit understanding and discernment. It must be transformed into something that can be attained through the speech-formation itself: through tempo, metre, rhythm, the rise and fall of the pitch, etc. It is from the speech-formation that the images which arise before the soul must flow.

We must enter into such intimacies of human life if we wish to find the truly artistic. Dramatic art itself, because it is lifted out of physical experience through imagination (even if only a reflection, a shadowy image of true imagination) can only become effective if it shows itself in the style, in the handling of the speech.

Hence in dramatic art, even down to the treatment of speech, it is for dramatic style that one will have to cultivate a special sense. Style, not realism, must be all-important. Hence we can say that what has been developed in the way of dramatic style in the French theatre and has been imitated in other languages, what culminated in the classical French presentation of tragedy can stand before us like a model from which to learn the formation of a dramatic style. From the style in which the French classics were, until quite recently, presented on the French stage (and after them the non-classical drama too), we shall be able to obtain a good idea of how a uniquely dramatic mode stands out against naturalistic speech, such as depends on intellectual understanding rather than the element of form.

Two passages, taken from the German and the French, will exemplify what I have roughly tried to indicate as regards dramatic style and the dramatic treatment of speech.

Recitation by Marie Steiner.

From Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, Act IV, Scene 5:

TELL (enters with his crossbow):

Durch diese hohle Gasse muss er kommen;

Es führt kein andrer Weg nach Küssnacht – Hier

Vollend’ ich’s. – Die Gelegenheit ist günstig.

Dort der Holunderstrauch verbirgt mich ihm,

Von dort herab kann ihn mein Pfeil erlangen;

Des Weges Enge wehret den Verfolgern.

Mach deine Rechnung mit dem Himmel, Vogt,

Fort musst du, deine Uhr ist abgelaufen.


Ich lebte still und harmlos – Das Geschoss

War auf des Waldes Tiere nur gerichtet,

Meine Gedanken waren rein von Mord –

Du hast aus meinem Frieden mich heraus

Geschreckt, in gärend Drachengift hast du

Die Milch der frommen Denkart mir verwandelt,

Zum Ungeheuren hast du mich gewöhnt –

Wer sich des Kindes Haupt zum Ziele setzte,

Der kann auch treffen in das Herz des Feinds.


Die armen Kindlein, die unschuldigen,

Das treue Weib muss ich vor deiner Wut

Beschützen, Landvogt! – Da, als ich den Bogenstrang

Anzog – als mir die Hand erzitterte –

Als du mit grausam teufelischer Lust

Mich zwangst, aufs Haupt des Kindes anzulegen –

Als ich ohnmächtig flehend rang vor dir,

Damals gelobt’ ich mir in meinem Innern

Mit furchtbarm Eidschwur, den nur Gott gehört,

Dass meines nächsten Schusses erstes Ziel

Dein Herz sein sollte. – Was ich mir gelobt

In jenes Augenblickes Höllenqualen,

Ist eine heil’ge Schuld – ich will sie zahlen.


Du bist mein Herr und meines Kaisers Vogt;

Doch nicht der Kaiser hätte sich erlaubt,

Was du. – Er sandte dich in diese Lande,

Um Hecht zu sprechen – strenges, denn er zürnet –

Doch nicht um mit der mörderischen Lust

Dich jedes Greuels straflos zu erfrechen;

Es lebt ein Gott, zu strafen und zu rächen.


Komm du hervor, du Bringer bittrer Schmerzen,

Mein teures Kleinod jetzt, mein höchster Schatz –

Ein Ziel will ich dir geben, das bis jetzt

Der frommen Bitte undurchdringlich war –

Doch dir soll es nicht widerstehn. – Und du,

Vertraute Bogensehne, die so oft

Mir treu gedient hat in der Freude Spielen,

Verlass mich nicht im fürchterlichen Ernst:

Nur jetzt noch halte fest, du treuer Strang,

Der mir so oft den herben Pfeil beflügelt –

Entränn’ er jetzo kraftlos meinen Händen,

Ich habe keinen zweiten zu versenden.


(Wanderers pass over the stage.)


Auf dieser Bank von Stein will ich mich setzen,

Dem Wanderer zur kurzen Ruh bereitet –

Denn hier ist keine Heimat. – Jeder treibt

Sich an dem andern rasch und fremd vorüber

Und fraget nicht nach seinem Schmerz. – Hier geht

Der sorgenvolle Kaufmann und der leicht

Geschürzte Pilger – der andächtige Mönch,

Der düstre Räuber und der heitre Spielmann,

Der Säumer mit dem schwerbeladnen Ross,

Der ferne herkommt von der Menschen Ländern,

Denn jede Strasse führt ans End’ der Welt.

Sie alle ziehen ihres Weges fort

An ihr Geschäft – und meines ist der Mord’. (Sits down)


Sonst, wenn der Vater auszog, liebe Kinder,

Da war ein Freuen, wenn er wiederkam;

Denn niemals kehrt’ er heim, er bracht’ euch etwas,

Warts eine schöne Alpenblume, war’s

Ein seltner Vogel oder Ammonshorn,

Wie es der Wandrer findet auf den Bergen –

Jetzt geht er einem andern Weidwerk nach,

Am wilden Weg sitzt er mit Mordgedanken;

Des Feindes Leben ist’s, worauf er lauert.

– Und doch an euch nur denkt er, liebe Kinder,

Auch jetzt – euch zu verteidigen, eure holde Unschuld

Zu schützen vor der Rache des Tyrannen,

Will er zum Morde jetzt den Bogen spannen. (Stands up).

Ich laure auf ein edles Wild. – Lässt sich’s

Der Jäger nicht verdriessen, tagelang

Umher zu streifen in des Winters Strenge,

Von Fels zu Fels den Wagesprung zu tun,

Hinan zu klimmen an den glatten Wänden,

Wo er sich anleimt mit dem eignen Blut,

– Um ein armselig Grattier zu erjagen. Hier

gilt es einen köstlicheren Preis, Das Herz des

Todfeinds, der mich will verderben.

(Gay music in the distance coming nearer.)


Mein ganzes Lebelang hab’ ich den Bogen

Gehandhabt, mich geübt nach Schützenregel;

Ich habe oft geschossen in das Schwarze

Und manchen schönen Preis mir heimgebracht

Vom Freudenschiessen. – Aber heute will ich

Den Meisterschuss tun und das beste mir

Im ganzen Umkreis des Gebirgs gewinnen.

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805).

[A speech from Dryden’s All for Love: or, The World Well Lost (his “imitation” of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra) may stand here as a sample of the Neoclassical drama in England. It comprises Act I, Scene i, 237ff:

ANTONY (having thrown himself down) :

Lye there, thou shadow of an Emperor;

The place thou pressest on thy Mother-earth

Is all thy Empire now: now it contains thee;

Some few days hence, and then ’twill be too large,

When thou’rt contracted in thy narrow Urn,

Shrunk to a few cold Ashes; then Octavia,

(For Cleopatra will not live to see it)

Octavia then will have thee all her own,

And bear thee in her Widow’d hand to Caesar;

Caesar will weep, the Crocodile will weep,

To see his Rival of the Universe

Lie still and peaceful there. I’le think no more on’t.

Give me some Musick; look that it be sad:

I’le sooth my Melancholy till I swell,

And burst my self with sighing —                                               Soft Musick

‘Tis somewhat to my humor. Stay, I fancy

I’m now turn’d wild, a Commoner of Nature;

Of all forsaken, and forsaking all;

Live in a shady Forest’s Sylvan Scene,

Stretch’d at my length beneath some blasted Oke;

I lean my head upon the Mossy Bark,

And look just of a piece, as I grew from it:

My uncomb’d Locks, matted like Misleto,

Hang o’re my hoary Face; a mirm’ring Brook

Runs at my foot…

The Herd come jumping by me,

And fearless, quench their thirst, while I look on,

And take me for their fellow-Citizen,

More of this Image, more; it lulls my thoughts.

                                                                                                                              (Soft Musick again)

John Dryden (1631-1700).]

From Le Cid, Act III, Scene 4:


CHIMÈNE:      Ah! Rodrigue, il est vrai, quoique ton ennemie,

Je ne puis te blâmer d’avoir fui l’infamie;

Et, de quelque façon qu’éclatent mes douleurs,

Je ne t’accuse point, je pleure mes malheurs.

Je sais ce que l’honneur, aprés un tel outrage,

Demandait à 1’ardeur d’un généreux courage:

Tu n’as fait le devoir que d’un homme de bien;

Mais aussi, le faisant, tu m’as appris le mien.

Ta funeste valeur m’instruit par ta victoire;

Elle a vengé ton père et soutenu ta gloire:

Même soin me regarde, et j’ai, pour m’affliger,

Ma gloire à soutenir, et mon père à venger.

Hélas! ton intérêt ici me désespère:

Si quelque autre malheur m’avait ravi mon père,

Mon âme aurait trouvé dans le bien de te voir

L’unique allégement qu’elle eût pu recevoir;

Et contre ma douleur j’aurais senti des charmes

Quand une main si chére eût essuyé mes larmes.

Mais il me faut te perdre après l’avoir perdu;

Cet effort sur ma flamme a mon honneur est dû;

Et cet affreux devoir, dont l’ordre m’assassine,

Me force à travailler moi-même à ta ruine.

Car enfin n’attends pas de mon affection

De lâches sentiments pour ta punition.

De quoi qu’en ta faveur notre amour m’entretienne,

Ma générosité doit répondre à la tienne:

Tu t’es, en m’offensant, montré digne de moi;

Je me dois, par ta mort, montrer digne de toi.


RODRIGUE:       Ne diffère donc plus ce que l’honneur t’ordonne:

demande ma tête, et je te l’abandonne;

Fais-en un sacrifice a ce noble intérêt;

Le coup m’en sera doux, aussi bien que l’arrêt.

Attendre après mon crime une lente justice,

C’est reculer ta gloire autant que mon supplice.

Je mourrai trop heureux, mourant d’un coup si beau.


CHIMÈNE:         Va, je suis ta partie, et non pas ton bourreau.

Si tu m’offres ta tête, est-ce à moi de la prendre?

Je la dois attaquer, mais tu dois la défendre:

C’est d’un autre que toi qu’il me faut l’obtenir

Et je dois te poursuivre, et non pas te punir.


RODRIGUE:       De quoi qu’en ma faveur notre amour t’entretienne.

Ta générosité doit répondre à la mienne;

Et, pour venger un père, emprunter d’autres bras

Ma Chimène, crois-moi, c’est n’y répondre pas.

Ma main seule du mien a su venger l’offense,

Ta main seule du tien doit prendre la vengeance.


CHIMÈNE:         Cruel! à quel propos sur ce point t’obstiner?

Tu t’es vengé sans aide, et tu m’en veux donner!

Je suivrai ton exemple, et j’ai trop de courage

Pour souffrir qu’avec toi ma gloire se partage.

Mon père et mon honneur ne veulent rien devoir

Aux traits de ton amour ni de ton désespoir.


RODRIGUE:       Rigoureux point d’honneur. Hélas! quoi que je fasse.

Ne pourrai-je à la fin obtenir cette grâce?

Au nom d’un père mort, ou de notre amitié

Punis-moi par vengeance, ou du moins par pitié.

Ton malheureux amant aura bien moins de peine

A mourir par ta main qu’à vivre avec ta haine.


CHIMÈNE:         Va, je ne te hais point.


RODRIGUE:                                Tu le dois.


CHIMÈNE:                                               Je ne puis.

Pierre Corneille (1606-1684).

We shall continue now with something about the prose-poem. Here it is a matter of something in the artist’s soul which he experiences as poetry, but which cannot be expressed in any of the art-forms generally employed. Although put into prose, it is nonetheless a genuinely poetic art that is brought to expression in this form. But anything cast in the form of a prose-poem will need special treatment when it is expressed in speech-formation. It is almost universally – though quite erroneously – assumed that the recitation or declamation of prose-poems is something easy to accomplish. In reality, the recitative-declamatory speaking of prose-poetry is the most difficult, as it represents the most intimate form of the art. Everything that comes to light in lyric, dramatic or epic speech-formation, whether of a more delicate or more profound nature, must form a synthesis whenever a prose-poem is to be presented in oral production. In recitation of this kind everything that is to be found in verse, or any form of poetic art, will sound forth – but with a more delicate shading.

In this way, merely touching upon what otherwise appears in the recitation and declamation with stronger emphasis, with more marked contours – by giving this only gentle emphasis – the recital will become essentially suffused with soul. Suffused with soul!

The artistic recital of prose-poetry must become much more soul-filled: it must occasion our going beyond the conceptual understanding of the words toward something imaginative. The energetic impetus that underlies logical inference, for example, leads toward an image-forming experience; [Note 14] and at the same time there sounds through softly, as something musical, the octave. The image-forming treatment of speech in a prose-poem, when presented in recitation or declamation, is like a continually flowing stream with its even waves. And, as if from the depths, other waves arise, bringing variation into its even flow – this is the delicate musical element which should become perceptible in this kind of recitation. In speaking a prose-poem with poetic sensibility, the more intimate features of a language will come to light and the raising of what looks like a prose production into a poetical work, into the realm of art and poetry, is something of a triumph which man can give to his language. What we may call the soul of a language finds a very adequate embodiment there.

We will now take an example – from The Apprentices of Sais by Novalis. In this novel, which remained unfinished, there is a wonderful little passage of prose in which all that I have tried to indicate about the recitation and declamation of prose-poems comes into prominence. The essential thing is that everything which otherwise comes to light in the reciting of poetry is transformed, through acquiring a more intimate character, into a particular mood or feeling. Everything, on the other hand, that serves to differentiate the mood will be taken up into the totality of the mood as a whole. Something like this can be attempted in an outstanding piece of prose like the fairy-tale in Novalis’ The Apprentices of Sais. In this wonderful fairy-tale, as in so much that has come to us from Novalis, is revealed the whole depth of his soul.

The handsome youth Hyacinth loves the maiden Rosepetal. It is a love cherished in secret – only the flowers and the animals of the forest know of the love of the handsome youth for the maiden Rosepetal. And then there appears a man with a long beard, who makes a wondrous impression and tells marvellous stories, in which the handsome youth Hyacinth becomes completely immersed. He is seized with a great longing for the veiled Virgin, for the veiled image of Truth. His soul trembles with longing, which also enlarges his vision so that he becomes estranged from his immediate surroundings, and his heart yearns for the image of the veiled Virgin. He forsakes Rosepetal, who remains behind weeping. He wanders through all sorts of unknown regions, and comes to know many things on his way; and at last he arrives at the Temple of Isis. Everything seems familiar to him, and yet different from what he had experienced before – it seems so much more splendid. And behold! he ventures to lift the veil! and Rosepetal falls into his arms.

It would be hard to represent with more intimate feeling the expansion of the soul out of her subjectivity into the wide universe; it would be hard to represent more intimately the longing of man for truth – hard to link more closely what man can experience when he rises to the highest spheres of truth with what he lives through in his most direct, intimate day-to-day experiences. All that is needed is sufficient intimacy of soul. What is expressed in this prose fairy-tale can only be brought to light by a soul such as that of Novalis, who really felt everyday life in such a way that it was for him a direct expression of the eternal. Novalis, after his first love had died, was able in inward truth of soul to live with her and to feel the direct presence of one who was in the other world as if she were in this world. Novalis’ soul was truly able to experience the super-sensible in the sensible and so raise what belongs to the sense-world to assume the character of the super-sensible. Everything flowed together in Novalis: striving after truth, striving after beauty and religious ardour. Only if we understand his comprehensiveness do we understand Novalis. Hence there could arise the remarkable feeling which resounds through The Apprentices of Sais, and wrests itself from Novalis’s soul: man has felt that in the image of Isis truth is veiled; “I am the past, the present and the future, no mortal as yet has lifted my veil” – that is the pronouncement of the veiled Isis and Novalis was sensible of it. Confronted with “No mortal as yet has lifted my veil”, Novalis responded with “Then we must become immortal”. Novalis never despaired of the soul’s ability to lift the veil of truth: but the soul must first become immediately aware of her own immortality. A man who experiences his immortality in himself may, in the sense of Novalis, lift the veil of truth. It is a powerful saying – “Then we must become immortal”.

What lives in this feeling in a far-reaching way meets us again in an intimate mood when the handsome youth Hyacinth comes to the Temple of Isisafter long dream-wanderings through unknown regions, which are nonetheless familiar to him, though now appearing more splendid than he had once known. He comes to the Temple of Isis, lifts the veil and what he knows and loves – Rosepetal – comes to meet him. Yet, as we can envisage and feel intimately in this prose fairy-tale, she has become through this experience of eternity much more splendid than she once was.

Truly it is a prose-poem conceived in a mood where the highest to which man can aspire takes the form of the most intimate – one of the fairest flowers of poetic prose, demonstrating that, in what is apparently prose, true poetry can be expressed.

From Die Lehrlinge zu Sais:

                                      DAS MÄRCHEN VON HYAZINTH UND ROSENBLÜTE

Vor langen Zeiten lebte weit gegen Abend ein blutjunger Mensch. Er war sehr gut, aber auch über die Massen wunderlich. Er grämte sich unaufhorlich um nichts und wieder nichts, ging immer still für sich hin, setzte sich einsam, wenn die andern spielten und fröhlich waren, und hing seltsamen Dingen nach. Höhlen und Wälder waren sein liebster Aufenthalt, und dann sprach er immerfort mit Tieren und Vögeln, mit Bäumen und Felsen, natürlich kein vernünftiges Wort, lauter närrisches Zeug zum Totlachen.

Er blieb aber immer mürrisch und ernsthaft, ungeachtet sich das Eichhörnchen, die Meerkatze, der Papagei und der Gimpel alle Mühe gaben, ihn zu zerstreuen und ihn auf den richtigen Weg zu weisen. Die Gans erzählte Märchen, der Bach klimperte eine Ballade dazwischen, ein grosser dicker Stein machte lächerliche Bockssprünge, die Rose schlich sich freundlich hinter ihm herum, kroch durch seine Locken, und der Efeu streichelte ihm die sorgenvolle Stirn. — Allein der Missmut und Ernst waren hartnäckig. Seine Eltern waren sehr betrübt, sie wussten nicht, was sie anfangen sollten. Er war gesund und ass, nie hatten sie ihn beleidigt, er war auch bis vor wenig Jahren fröhlich und lustig gewesen, wie keiner; bei allen Spielen voran, von allen Mädchen gern gesehn. Er war recht bildschön, sah aus wie gemalt, tanzte wie ein Schatz.

Unter den Mädchen war eine, ein köstliches, bildschönes Kind, sah aus wie Wachs, Haare wie goldne Seide, kirschrote Lippen, wie ein Püppchen gewachsen, brandrabenschwarze Augen. Wer sie sah, hätte mögen vergehn, so lieblich war sie.

Damals war Rosenblüte, so hiess sie, dem bildschönen Hyazinth, so hiess er, von Herzen gut, und er hatte sie lieb zum Sterben. Die andern Kinder wussten’s nicht. Ein Veilchen hatte es ihnen zuerst gesagt, die Hauskätzchen hatten es wohl gemerkt, die Häuser ihrer Eltern lagen nahe beisammen. Wenn nun Hyazinth die Nacht an seinem Fenster stand und Rosenblüte an ihrem, und die Kätzchen auf den Mäusefang da vorbeiliefen, da sahen sie die beiden stehn und lachten und kicherten oft so laut, dass sie es hörten und böse wurden. Das Veilchen hatte es der Erdbeere im Vertrauen gesagt, die sagte es ihrer Freundin, der Stachelbeere, die liess nun das Sticheln nicht, wenn Hyazinth gegangen kam; so erfuhr’s denn bald der ganze Garten und der Wald, und wenn Hyazinth ausging, so rief’s von allen Seiten: Rosenblütchen ist mein Schätzchen! Nun ärgerte sich Hyazinth und musste doch auch wieder aus Herzensgrunde lachen, wenn das Eidechschen geschlüpft kam, sich auf einen warmen Stein setzte, mit dem Schwänzchen wedelte und sang:


Rosenblütchen, das gute Kind,

Ist geworden auf einmal blind,

Denkt, die Mutter sei Hyazinth,

Fällt ihm um den Hals geschwind;

Merkt sie aber das fremde Gesicht,

Denkt nur an, da erschrickt sie nicht,

Fährt, als merkte sie kein Wort,

Immer nur mit Küssen fort.


Ach! wie bald war die Herrlichkeit vorbei. Es kam ein Mann aus fremden Landen gegangen, der war erstaunlich weit gereist, hatte einen langen Bart, tiefe Augen, entsetzliche Augenbrauen, ein wunderliches Kleid mit vielen Falten und seltsamen Figuren hineingewebt. Er setzte sich vor das Haus, das Hyazinths Eltern gehörte. Nun war Hyazinth sehr neugierig und setzte sich zu ihm und holte ihm Brot und Wein. Da tat er seinen weissen Bart voneinander und erzählte bis tief in die Nacht, und Hyazinth wich und wankte nicht und wurde auch nicht müde zuzuhören. So viel man nachher vernahm, so hat er viel von fremden Ländern, unbekannten Gegenden, von erstaunlich wunderbaren Sachen erzählt und ist drei Tage dageblieben und mit Hyazinth in tiefe Schachten hinuntergekrochen. Rosenblütchen hat genug den alten Hexenmeister verwünscht, denn Hyazinth ist ganz versessen auf seine Gespräche gewesen und hat sich um nichts bekümmert; kaum dass er ein wenig Speise zu sich genommen. Endlich hat jener sich fortgemacht, doch dem Hyazinth ein Büchelchen dagelassen, das kein Mensch lesen konnte. Dieser hat ihm noch Früchte, Brot und Wein mitgegeben und ihn weit weg begleitet. Und dann ist er tiefsinnig zurückgekommen und hat einen ganz neuen Lebenswandel begonnen. Rosenblütchen hat recht zum Erbarmen um ihn getan, denn von der Zeit an hat er sich wenig aus ihr gemacht und ist immer für sich geblieben.

Nun begab sich’s, dass er einmal nach Hause kam und war wie neu geboren. Er fiel seinen Eltern um den Hals und weinte. ‘Ich muss fort in fremde Lande’, sagte er, ‘die alte wunderliche Frau im Walde hat mir erzählt, wie ich gesund werden müsste, das Buch hat sie ins Feuer geworfen und hat mich getrieben, zu euch zu gehn und euch um euren Segen zu bitten. Vielleicht komme ich bald, vielleicht nie wieder. Grüsst Rosenblütchen. Ich hätte sie gern gesprochen, ich weiss nicht, wie mir ist, es drängt mich fort; wenn ich an die alten Zeiten zurückdenken will, so kommen gleich mächtigere Gedanken dazwischen, die Ruhe ist fort, Herz und Liebe mit, ich muss sie suchen gehn. Ich wollt euch gern sagen, wohin, ich weiss selbst nicht, dahin wo die Mutter der Dinge wohnt, die verschleierte Jungfrau. Nach der ist mein Gemüt entzundet. Lebt wohl.’

Er riss sich los und ging fort. Seine Eltern wehklagten und vergossen Tränen, Rosenblütchen blieb in ihrer Kammer und weinte bitterlich. Hyazinth lief nun, was er konnte, durch Täler und Wildnisse, über Berge und Ströme, dem geheimnisvollen Lande zu. Er fragte überall nach der heiligen Göttin, Menschen und Tiere, Felsen und Bäume. Manche lachten, manche schwiegen, nirgends erhielt er Bescheid. Im Anfange kam er durch rauhes, wildes Land, Nebel und Wolken warfen sich ihm in den Weg, es stürmte immerfort; dann fand er unabsehliche Sandwüsten, glühenden Staub, und wie er wandelte, so veränderte sich auch sein Gemüt, die Zeit wurde ihm lang, und die innre Unruhe legte sich, er wurde sanfter und das gewaltige Treiben in ihm allgemach zu einem leisen, aber starken Zuge, in den sein ganzes Gemüt sich auflöste. Es lag wie viele Jahre hinter ihm. Nun wurde die Gegend auch wieder reicher und mannigfaltiger, die Luft lau und blau, der Weg ebener, grüne Büsche lockten ihn mit anmutigen Schatten, aber er verstand ihre Sprache nicht, sie schienen auch nicht zu sprechen, und doch erfüllten sie auch sein Herz mit grünen Farben und kühlem, stillem Wesen. Immer höher wuchs jene süsse Sehnsucht in ihm, und immer breiter und saftiger wurden die Blätter, immer lauter und lustiger die Vögel und Tiere, balsamischer die Früchte, dunkler der Himmel, wärmer die Luft, und heisser seine Liebe, die Zeit ging immer schneller, als sähe sie sich nahe am Ziele.

Eines Tages begegnete er einem kristallnen Quell und einer Menge Blumen, die kamen in ein Tal herunter zwischen schwarzen himmelhohen Säulen. Sie grüssten ihn freundlich mit bekannten Worten. ‘Liebe Landsleute’, sagte er, ‘wo find’ ich wohl den geheiligten Wohnsitz der Isis? Hier herum muss er sein, und ihr seid vielleicht hier bekannter als ich.’ ‘Wir gehn auch nur hier durch’, antworteten die Blumen; ‘eine Geisterfamilie ist auf der Reise, und wir bereiten ihr Weg und Quartier, indes sind wir vor kurzem durch eine Gegend gekommen, da hörten wir ihren Namen nennen. Gehe nur aufwärts, wo wir herkommen, so wirst du schon mehr erfahren.’ Die Blumen und die Quelle lächelten, wie sie das sagten, boten ihm einen frischen Trunk und gingen weiter. Hyazinth folgte ihrem Rat, frug und frug und kam endlich zu jener längst gesuchten Wohnung, die unter Palmen und andern köstlichen Gewächsen versteckt lag. Sein Herz klopfte in unendlicher Sehnsucht, und die süsseste Bangigkeit durchdrang ihn in dieser Behausung der ewigen Jahreszeiten. Unter himmlischen Wohlgedüften entschlummerte er, weil ihn nur der Traum in das Allerheiligste führen durfte.

Wunderlich führte ihn der Traum durch unendliche Gemächer voll seltsamer Sachen auf lauter reizenden Klängen und in abwechselnden Akkorden. Es dünkte ihm alles so bekannt und doch in niegesehener Herrlichkeit, da schwand auch der letzte irdische Anflug, wie in Luft verzehrt, und er stand vor der himmlischen Jungfrau. Da hob er den leichten, glänzenden Schleier, und Rosenblütchen sank in seine Arme. Eine ferne Musik umgab die Geheimnisse des liebenden Wiedersehns, die Ergiessungen der Sehnsucht, und schloss alles Fremde von diesem entzückenden Orte aus.

Hyazinth lebte nachher noch lange mit Rosenblütchen unter seinen frohen Eltern und Gespielen, und unzählige Enkel dankten der alten wunderlichen Frau für ihren Rat und ihr Feuer; denn damals bekamen die Menschen so viel Kinder, als sie wollten. —

Novalis (1772-1801).

 [The prose-poem is a relatively rare beast in English literature; but one of its descendants is the lyrical novel, as practised by (among others) Joyce. [Note 15] This is one of the formal poetic “epiphanies” from his A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ch. 4:


Her image had passed into his soul for ever and no word had broken the holy silence of his ecstasy. Her eyes had called him and his soul had leaped at the call. To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life: A wild angel had appeared to him, the angel of mortal youth and beauty, an envoy from the fair courts of life, to throw open before him in an instant of ecstasy the gates of all the ways of error and glory. On and on and on and on.

He halted suddenly and heard his heart in the silence. How far had he walked? What hour was it?

There was no human figure near him nor any sound borne to him over the air. But the tide was near the turn and already the day was on the wane. He turned landward and ran towards the shore and, running up the sloping beach, reckless of the sharp shingle, found a sandy nook amid a ring of tufted sandknolls and lay down there that the peace and silence of the evening might still the riot of his blood.

He felt above him the vast indifferent dome and the calm processes of the heavenly bodies; and the earth beneath him, the earth that had borne him, had taken him to her breast.

He closed his eyes in the languor of sleep. His eyelids trembled as if they felt the vast cyclic movement of the earth and her watcher, trembled as if they felt the strange light of some new world. His soul was swooning into some new world, fantastic, dim, uncertain as under sea, traversed by cloudy shapes and beings. A world, a glimmer or a flower? Glimmering and trembling, trembling and unfolding, a breaking light, an opening flower, it spread in endless succession to itself, breaking in full crimson and unfolding and fading to palest rose, leaf by leaf and wave of light by wave of light, flooding all the heavens with its soft flushes, every flush deeper than the other.

Evening had fallen when he woke and the sand and arid grasses of his bed glowed no longer. He rose slowly and, recalling the rapture of his sleep, sighed at its joy.

He climbed to the crest of the sandhill and gazed about him. Evening had fallen. A rim of the young moon cleft the pale waste of skyline, the rim of a silver hoop embedded in grey sand; and the tide was flowing in fast to the land with a low whisper of her waves, islanding a few last figures in distant pools.

James Joyce (1882-1941).]



Last Modified: 17-Feb-2018
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