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Poetry and the Art of Speech

Schmidt Number: S-4259

On-line since: 15th May, 2010

THE ARTOF RECITATION ANDDECLAMATION

LECTURE III

(Dornach, 13 October 1920)

 

Naturally, it will only be possible to lay down certain guidelines in our presentation of the real nature of the art of declamation, as an exhaustive discussion would require us to penetrate into a fair number of the intimacies and inner aspects of man's physical, psychic and spiritual life. Last time, we were able to see the remarkable way in which blood-circulation, pulse-beat and breathing-rhythm interpenetrate each other in the human organism something of which the poet in his act of creation already has some apprehension, and all of which sounds forth again in the poem, as indeed it should whenever this is realized through either declamation or recitation. Recitation stands midway between singing and mere speech. In speech, everything that in singing is still bound up with numerical relations is transformed into something of inner intensity: when we pronounce a word, it is as though the elements which live in song were compressed from spatiality into something two-dimensional yet through its intensive force, the two-dimensional plane still gives expression, albeit of a different kind, to what was present in the singing. And between these, between singing and spoken prose, lie recitation and declamation. It may be said that recitation and declamation are a kind of singing on the way to becoming mere words, but held back, and arrested midway along this path: it is this “midway” character which makes the essential nature of recitation so extraordinarily difficult to grasp. Here again, it is the task of an intimate psychosomatic observation to seize on those elements, through which the arts of declamation and of recitation are sharply distinguished. For it is deeply founded in the very nature of poetry that, in one case, a poem is recited, and in another declaimed.

Deeply founded in the nature of poetry is the way in which all those things that in music and singing, in pitch, harmony and so on, take on a kind of independent, external existence, are here turned inward – in poetry they are so far turned inward that nothing external remains except time, which finds expression in the metre, in the long and short syllables. Now, although we look in recitation mainly for the metrical element, where pitch, and even tone-colour, and that which produces harmony, etc., is laid aside, yet the element of differentiation still makes itself felt. We have not yet proceeded as far as the mere word, where the element of differentiation in the actual substance of the word is removed and is no longer apparent.

When it comes to reciting, the physical processes involved take the following course. [Note 6] Essentially, recitation depends upon what takes place when inhaled air penetrates into our body, and through the breathing-rhythm, into the movements of the cerebral fluid which also fills the spinal cord right into the nervous-sensory apparatus of the brain. [Note 7] The breathing-rhythm presses, so to speak, against the organs of mental representation, and along this path is brought to a kind of stasis: this path ultimately becomes the inhaling-process, which is then followed by that of exhalation, as in this case the rhythm is always twofold. When this process is carried to its farthest limit, prose-representations arise. If, however, it is consciously checked before its ultimate stage, and the metre deriving from the breathing-rhythm is not destroyed, there arises what lives in recitation. Hence we can say: it is a striving from world observation to mental representation that should manifest itself in recitation; and this is why recitation is in essence the representative art appropriate to epic and narrative verse.

At the other extreme stands declamation. This is bound up with the very opposite process, in which the soul-life is not linked with the representational element, but with that of volition. Now, when we will something, when we pass over into a will-impulse – what actually is it that is overcome? (This happens unconsciously, of course, for many people but consciously for those who exercise self-observation.) Here, in fact, one must always overcome a world of harmony, a world of inner consonances and dissonances. It is from harmony, from an inner experience closely resembling what hovers behind music, that the will-impulse is ultimately formed: when the breath-stream strikes up into the brain and flows back again, descends through the canal of the spinal cord, and strikes into the whole metabolic process – and this again strikes into the pulse-beat of the blood-circulation. With this passage from above downwards is thrust into our will-nature, mainly bound up as it is with exhalation, all that lives in man in the way of vanquished or allayed harmonies, inner discords, consonances, and so on. Thus the very opposite element is brought to expression and mediated through the word, when the word is made the bearer of an impulse of will.

And when, in a poem, we let sound forth what lives within us not merely as an external narrative, but sending forth what lives in us as we exhale our breath – then, indeed, we enter the sphere of the dramatic. But this can, or rather should be described only as the last step: for the dramatic also evolves out of the epic, when this has been developed through some folk-disposition, for instance. Those who, working in this way out of a folk-disposition, give poetic form to the epic, have a grasp of man’s inner nature to which they give outward expression in the external representations. Thus, where we find such a folk-disposition, a dramatic element sounds into the epic. Recitation becomes declamation.

Today we hope to make clear to you how this comes about, by the recitation of the beginning of Goethe’s “Achilleis”. Here Goethe transposed himself completely into the epic feeling, the epic metre of the Greeks, into the entirely metrical hexameter: so that inwardly, the conscious grasping of the in-breathing process which tends toward representation is predominant. Secondly, and by way of contrast, we shall take an epic of the Nordic world, from an earlier age – part of the magnificent Finnish Folk-epic, the Kalevala. Here you will see how the dramatic element arises in the epic itself, and consequently how recitation in epic metre quite naturally becomes declamation – how, therefore, epic recitation subtly results in dramatic declamation.

With this, then, we will begin our practical demonstration. Frau Dr. Steiner will give a reading from Goethe’s “Achilleis”.

Hoch zu Flammen entbrannte die mächtige Lohe noch einmal

Strebend gegen den Himmel, und Ilios’ Mauern erschienen

Rot durch die finstere Nacht; der aufgeschichteten Waldung

Ungeheures Gerüst, zusammenstürzend, erregte

Mächtige Glut zuletzt. Da senkten sich Hektors Gebeine

Nieder, und Asche lag der edelste Troer am Boden.

 

Nun erhob sich Achilleus vom Sitz vor seinem Gezelte,

Wo er die Stunden durchwachte, die nächtlichen, schaute der Flammen

Fernes, schreckliches Spiel und des wechselnden Feuers Bewegung,

Ohne die Augen zu wenden von Pergamos’ rötlicher Feste.

Tief im Herzen empfand er den Hass noch gegen den Toten,

Der ihm den Freund erschlug, und der nun bestattet dahinsank.

 

Aber als nun die Wut nachliess des fressenden Feuers

Allgemach, und zugleich mit Rosenfingern die Göttin

Schmückete Land und Meer, dass der Flammen Schrecknisse bleichten,

Wandte sich, tief bewegt und sanft, der grosse Pelide

Gegen Antilochos hin und sprach die gewichtigen Worte:

‘So wird kommen der Tag, da bald von Ilios’ Trümmern

Rauch und Qualm sich erhebt, von thrakischen Lüften getrieben,

Idas langes Gebirg und Gargaros’ Höhe verdunkelt:

Aber ich werd’ ihn nicht sehen. Die Völkerweckerin Eos

Fand mich, Patroklos’ Gebein zusammenlesend; sie findet

Hektors Brüder anjetzt in gleichem frommen Geschäfte:

Und dich mag sie auch bald, mein trauter Antilochos, finden,

Dass du den leichten Rest des Freundes jammernd bestattest.

Soll dies also nun sein, wie mir es die Götter entbieten,

Sei es! Gedenken wir nur des Nötigen, was noch zu tun ist.

Denn mich soll, vereint mit meinem Freunde Patroklos,

Ehren ein herrlicher Hügel, am hohen Gestade des Meeres

Aufgerichtet, den Völkern und künftigen Zeiten ein Denkmal.

Fleissig haben mir schon die rüstigen Myrmidonen

Rings umgraben den Raum, die Erde warfen sie einwärts,

Gleichsam schützenden Wall aufführend gegen des Feindes

Andrang. Also umgrenzten den weiten Raum sie geschäftig.

Aber wachsen soll mir das Werk! Ich eile, die Scharen

Aufzurufen, die mir noch Erde mit Erde zu häufen

Willig sind, und so vielleicht befördr’ ich die Hälfte.

Euer sei die Vollendung, wenn bald mich die Urne gefasst hat!’

 

Also sprach er und ging und schritt durch die Reihe der Zelte,

Winkend jenem und diesem und rufend andre zusammen.

Alle sogleich nun erregt, ergriffen das starke Geräte,

Schaufel und Hacke, mit Lust, dass der Klang des Erzes ertönte,

Auch den gewaltigen Pfahl, den steinbewegenden Hebel.

Und so zogen sie fort, gedrängt aus dem Lager ergossen,

Aufwärts den sanften Pfad, und schweigend eilte die Menge.

Wie wenn, zum Überfall gerüstet, nächtlich die Auswahl

Stille ziehet des Heers, mit leisen Tritten die Reihe

Wandelt und jeder die Schritte misst und jeder den Atem

Anhält, in feindliche Stadt, die schlechtbewachte, zu dringen:

Also zogen auch sie, und aller tätige Stille

Ehrte das ernste Geschäft und ihres Königes Schmerzen.

 

Als sie aber den Rücken des wellenbespületen Hügels

Bald erreichten und nun des Meeres Weite sich auftat,

Blickte freundlich Eos sie an aus der heiligen Frühe

Fernem Nebelgewölk und jedem erquickte das Herz sie.

Alle stürzten sogleich dem Graben zu, gierig der Arbeit,

Rissen in Schollen auf den lange betretenen Boden,

Warfen schaufelnd ihn fort; ihn trugen andre mit Körben

Aufwarts; in Helm und Schild einfüllen sah man die einen,

Und der Zipfel des Kleids war anderen statt des Gefässes.

 

Jetzt eröffneten heftig des Himmels Pforte die Horen,

Und das wilde Gespann des Helios, brausend erhub sich’s.

Rasch erleuchtet’ er gleich die frommen Äthiopen,

Welche die äussersten wohnen von allen Völkern der Erde.

Schüttelnd bald die glühenden Locken, entstieg er des Ida

Wäldern, um klagenden Troern, um rüst’gen Achaiern zu leuchten.

 

Aber die Horen indes, zum Äther strebend erreichten

Zeus Kronions heiliges Haus, das sie ewig begrüssen.

Und sie traten hinein; da begegnete ihnen Hephaistos,

Eilig hinkend, und sprach auffordernde Worte zu ihnen:

‘Trügliche, Glücklichen Schnelle, den Harrenden Langsame, hört mich!

Diesen Saal erbaut’ ich, dem Willen des Vaters gehorsam,

Nach dem göttlichen Mass des herrlichsten Musengesanges;

Sparte nicht Gold und Silber, noch Erz, und bleiches Metall nicht.

Und so wie ich’s vollendet, vollkommen stehet das Werk noch,

Ungekränkt von der Zeit; denn hier ergreift es der Rost nicht,

Noch erreicht es der Staub, des irdischen Wandrers Gefährte.

Alles hab’ ich getan, was irgend schaffende Kunst kann.

Unerschütterlich ruht die hohe Decke des Hauses,

Und zum Schritte ladet der glatte Boden den Fuss ein.

Jedem Herrscher folget sein Thron, wohin er gebietet,

Wie dem Jager der Hund, und goldene wandelnde Knaben

Schuf ich, welche Kronion, den Kommenden, unterstützen,

Wie ich mir eherne Mädchen erschuf. Doch alles ist leblos!

Euch allein ist gegeben, den Charitinnen und euch nur,

Über das tote Gebild des Lebens Reize zu streuen.

Auf denn! sparet mir nichts und giesst aus dem heiligen Salbhorn

Liebreiz herrlich umher, damit ich mich freue des Werkes,

Und die Götter entzückt so fort mich preisen wie anfangs.’

Und sie lächelten sanft, die beweglichen, nickten dem Alten

Freundlich und gossen umher verschwenderisch Leben und Licht aus,

Dass kein Mensch es ertrüg’ und dass es die Götter entzückte...

 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

[Sidney is one of the few English poets to transpose himself into the classical feeling for hexameter verse with even qualified success; in his case furthermore it is the pastoral, emblematic aspects of this representational, recitative mode which emerge, rather than its narrative possibilities. The following passage is an extract from the “First Eclogues” in Book I of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia.

DORUS:

Then do I thinke in deed, that better it is to be private

In sorrows torments, then, tyed to the pompes of a pallace,

Nurse inwarde maladyes, which have not scope to be breath’d out,

But perforce disgest, all bitter juices of horror

In silence, from a man’s owne selfe with company robbed.

Better yet do I live, that though by my thoughts I be plunged

Into my live’s bondage, yet may disburden a passion

(Opprest with ruinouse conceites) by the helpe of an outcrye:

Not limited to a whispringe note, the Lament of a Courtier,

But sometimes to the woods, sometimes to the heavens do decyphire,

With bolde clamor unheard, unmarckt, what I seeke what I suffer:

And when I meete these trees, in the earth’s faire lyvery clothed,

Ease I do feele (such ease as falls to one wholy diseased)

For that I finde in them parte of my estate represented.

Lawrell shews what I seeke, by the Mirre is show’d how I seeke it,

Olive paintes me the peace that I must aspire to by conquest:

Mirtle makes my request, my request is crown’d with a willowe.

Cyprus promiseth helpe, but a helpe where comes no recomforte.

Sweete Juniper saith this, thoh I burne, yet I burne in a sweete fire.

Ewe doth make me be thinke what kind of bow the boy holdeth

Which shootes strongly with out any noyse and deadly without smarte.

Firr trees great and greene, fixt on a hye hill but a barrein,

Lyke to my noble thoughtes, still new, well plac’d, to me fruteles.

Figge that yeeldes most pleasante frute, his shaddow is hurtefull,

Thus be her giftes most sweet, thus more danger to be neere her,

But in a palme when I marke, how he doth rise under a burden,

And may I not (say I then) gett up though griefs be so weightie?

Pine is a maste to a shippe, to my shippe shall hope for a maste serve?

Pine is hye, hope is as hie, sharpe leav’d, sharpe yet be my hope’s budds.

Elme embraste by a vine, embracing fancy reviveth.

Popler changeth his hew from a rising sunne to a setting:

Thus to my sonne do I yeeld, such lookes her beames do aforde me.

Olde aged oke cutt downe, of newe works serves to the building:

So my desires by my feare, cutt downe, be the frames of her honour.

Ashe makes speares which shieldes do resist, her force no repulse takes:

Palmes do rejoyce to be joynd by the match of a male to a female,

And shall sensive things be so sencelesse as to resist sence?

Thus be my thoughts disperst, thus thinking nurseth a thinking,

Thus both trees and each thing ells, be the bookes of a fancy.

 

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586).] [Note 8]

Now a passage from the Kalevala: and we will try, despite the exigency of a translation, still to read this in such a way as to show all the things I have discussed.

From the Kalevala: Rune XIV (Conclusion)

 

Then the reckless Lemminkainen,

Handsome hero, Kaukomieli,

Braved the third test of the hero,

Started out to hunt the wild-swan,

Hunt the long-necked, graceful swimmer,

In Tuoni’s coal-black river,

In Manala’s lower regions.

Quick the daring hunter journeyed,

Hastened off with fearless footsteps,

To the river of Tuoni,

To the sacred stream and whirlpool,

With his bow upon his shoulder,

With his quiver and one arrow.

Nasshut, blind and crippled shepherd,

Wretched shepherd of Pohyola,

Stood beside the death-land river,

Near the sacred stream and whirlpool,

Guarding Tuonela’s waters,

Waiting there for Lemminkainen,

Listening there for Kaukomieli,

Waiting long the hero’s coming.

Finally he hears the footsteps

Of the hero on his journey,

Hears the tread of Lemminkainen,

As he journeys nearer, nearer,

To the river of Tuoni,

To the cataract of death-land,

To the sacred stream and whirlpool.

Quick the wretched shepherd, Nasshut,

From the death-stream sends a serpent,

Like an arrow from a cross-bow,

To the heart of Lemminkainen,

Through the vitals of the hero.

Lemminkainen, little conscious,

Hardly knew that he was injured,

Spake these measures as he perished:

‘Ah! unworthy is my conduct,

Ah! unwisely have I acted,

That I did not heed my mother,

Did not take her goodly counsel,

Did not learn her words of magic.

Oh! for three words with my mother,

How to live, and how to suffer,

In this time of dire misfortune,

How to bear the stings of serpents,

Tortures of the reed of waters,

From the stream of Tuonela!

‘Ancient mother who hast borne me,

Who hast trained me from my childhood,

Learn, I pray thee, where I linger,

Where, alas! thy son is lying

Where thy reckless hero suffers.

Come, I pray thee, faithful mother,

Come thou quickly, thou art needed,

Come deliver me from torture,

From the death-jaws of Tuoni,

From the sacred stream and whirlpool.’

Northland’s old and wretched Shepherd,

Nasshut, the despised protector

Of the flocks of Sariola,

Throws the dying Lemminkainen,

Throws the hero of the islands,

Into Tuonela’s river,

To the blackest stream of death-land,

To the worst of fatal whirlpools.

Lemminkainen, wild and daring,

Helpless falls upon the waters,

Floating down the coal-black current,

Through the cataracts and rapids

To the tombs of Tuonela.

There the blood-stained son of death-land,

There Tuoni’s son and hero,

Cuts in pieces Lemminkainen,

Chops him with his mighty hatchet,

Till the sharpened axe strikes flint-sparks

From the rocks within his chamber,

Chops the hero into fragments.

Into five unequal portions,

Throws each portion to Tuoni,

In Manala’s lowest kingdom,

Speaks these words when he has ended:

‘Swim thou there, wild Lemminkainen,

Flow thou onward in this river,

Hunt forever in these waters,

With thy cross-bow and thine arrow,

Shoot the swan within this empire,

Shoot our water-birds in welcome!

Thus the hero, Lemminkainen,

Thus the handsome Kaukomieli,

The untiring suitor, dieth

In the river of Tuoni,

In the death-realm of Manala.

Trans. J. M. Crawford.

 

I think that from these two examples, Goethe’s “Achilleis” and the Kalevala, you will be able to see how on the one hand in the “Achilleis” you have something experienced as a perception – as breathed-in, I might say, and on the way to being transformed into a placid mental representation. But one does not let it arrive there: it is held back so that what should terminate in representation does not quite become a purely conceptual representation; it is arrested on the way there, and becomes what we might call an ‘enjoyed’ representation. Thus, halted on the way from perception to a concept, it is not conceptually grasped, but enjoyed. This expresses itself best in metre, in a quiet verse-measure. When, however, the will-element wells up from the human being, bearing on its waves the will-impulse as a representation – then, the force which would become the will to an act, would become an external deed, is held back; and just there, where the will-impulse still lives within man and moves him to speak, it becomes vocal, and the voice is so formed that the will lives in the waves of vocal expression. Here the transition is the very reverse of the previous one: there, we had to do with a transition from the activity of perception to the repose of mental representation; now we have the opposite – from the repose of representation to volition. But the will element is held back where it would transform itself into external movement, into life in the outer world. Just this outward movement is held back and, instead of plunging into action, it lives on the stream of the words.

All that I have here indicated takes place in recitation and declamation respectively. And we can study psychosomatically, through observation of man himself, both these forms as I have just described them – something which was actually practised in former times in a more instinctive way. In earlier methods of declamation and recitation, it was possible to differentiate very clearly between the epic and the dramatic, and also to discern, within the epic, the dramatic element; and also their interweaving in the lyric, where again both interpenetrate in the rhythm. At the present time, we must raise what used to be present more spontaneously and instinctively in methods of recitation, although with the more prosaic modes of recitation it hasbeen for some time forgotten – this must now be raised into consciousness. It must not, of course, live in the reciting just as I have presented it, when I described the more corporeal processes: this connection with the artistic formation of the breath as I have presented it must rather become a feeling, an inner perception. It is along this path that an art of recitation will be found. One must be able to study the paths taken by human consciousness.

If once more we observe the path along which the predominant inbreathing-process tends toward mental representation, our consciousness then lays hold of what is en route to becoming representation. And here we can experience two paths: either we enter into abstract prose-representation, in which case we arrive at the formation of a concept; or we do not grasp these abstract prose-representations, but enter into a movement which, before the fact comes to be represented, places us in the inbreathed air and all that it does in our body – thus our consciousness floats, as it were, on the inbreathed air, and we arrive, because the psycho-spiritual frees itself from the bonds of the body, at a sort of unconscious condition. It is not allowed to reach this state, however. It is arrested: it is held up in the region of the vowels; instead of allowing it to issue in the formation of a concept or entering an unconscious state, we move in the region of the vowels – a movement of “enjoyment”. This is what is done by these poets who revel in assonance. In this experience of the breathing-process which has not quite arrived at representation, we have consciousness moving on the waves of assonance, the repetition of the vowels (which is in fact also present, in weaker form, in terminal rhyme). This is what takes place here. When, on the other hand, the will is active, what is within strives outward: and instead of checking consciousness before it leads to purely conceptual representations, we arrest it where the will streams outward, and hold the impulse back, keeping it under control, so to speak. We then bring into this life of volition something which has entered that poetry in which the element of will in particular streams out from man’s inner being – that part of man’s nature with which the Nordic races were especially endowed, and which they brought to expression when they gave themselves over to the creation of poetry. When they were unable to live themselves out in external deeds, these Nordic-Germanic peoples arrested the impulse, the urge and impetus to external deeds, and expressed the movement poetically on the waves of the out-flowing impulses of will. This lives in the incessantly repeated consonants of alliteration: in this the will, which streams through the breath and the whole body, has life. In the movement of alliteration it is just this will element that is active, just as in assonance, in the repetition of the vowels, there is laid into the innermost nature of the words that inhaled breath which fails to become representation, and expresses itself, wave-like, in the movement of assonance.

We would like to demonstrate assonance with a second example, the “Chor der Urtriebe” by Fercher von Steinwand. And then the element of alliteration, illustrated by a reading from Jordan’s Nibelunge. Now it was Jordan’s particular endeavour to bring out once more the real nature of alliteration. Of course it is natural that the modern German language did not quite achieve this: for this reason, a faint breath of coquetry hovers over Jordan’s poetry. This, however, is not important. It is better, for our purposes, to make use of a revival of alliteration, rather than trying to revive the old and far too difficult alliteration, which in fact no longer appeals to the modern soul.

From “Chor der Urtriebe”:

 

Ist’s ein Schwellen, ist’s ein Wogen,
Was aus allen Gürteln bricht?
Wo wir liebend eingezogen,
Dort ist Richtung, dort Gewicht.
Hätt’ uns Will’ und Wunsch betrogen?
Sind wir Mächte, sind wir’s nicht?
Was es sei, wir heischen Licht –
Und es kommt in schönen Bogen!
Jeglichem Streite
Licht zum Geleite!
Schleunigen Schwingungen
Zarter Erregung,
Weiten Verschlingungen
Tiefer Bewegung
Muß es gelingen,
Bald durch die hangenden,
Schmerzlich befangenden
Nächte zu dringen.
Über den Gründen,
Über den milden
Schwebegebilden 
Muß sich’s verkünden,
Geister entzünden,
Herzen entwilden.
Hat es getroffen, 
Find’ es euch offen!
Seht ihr die erste
Welle der Helle?
Grüßt sie die hehrste,
Heiligste Quelle! 
Schnelle, nur schnelle!
Hellen Gesichtes
Huldigt dem Scheine,
Hütet das makellos ewiglich-eine
Wesen des Lichtes!
Mag es, sein wechselndes Streben zu feiern,
Farben entschleiern!
Wecken wir lieblichen Krieg, daß sich trunken
Lösen die Funken! 
Laßt uns die Tiefen, die schaffend erschäumen, 
Laßt uns das Edle, was streitend gesunken, 
Laßt und die Kreise, die Fruchtendes träumen, 
Strahlend besäumen!

Fercher von Steinwand (1828-1902)

 

[Two examples may help clarify the characteristic effects of assonance in English poetry. The first is a passage from Swinburne’s “Tristram of Lyonesse – Prelude: Tristram and Iseult”.

These are the signs wherethrough the year sees move,
Full of the sun, the sun-god which is love,
A fiery body blood-red from the heart
Outward, with fire-white wings made wide apart,
That close not and unclose not, but upright
Steered without wind by their own light and might
Sweep through the flameless fire of air that rings
From heaven to heaven with thunder of wheels and wings
And antiphones of motion-moulded rhyme
Through spaces out of space and timeless time.
            So shine above dead chance and conquered change
The spherèd signs, and leave without their range
Doubt and desire, and hope with fear for wife,
Pale pains, and pleasures long worn out of life.
Yea, even the shadows of them spiritless,
Through the dim door of sleep that seem to press,
Forms without form, a piteous people and blind,
Men and no men, whose lamentable kind
The shadow of death and shadow of life compel
Through semblances of heaven and false-faced hell,
Through dreams of light and dreams of darkness tost
On waves innavigable, are these so lost?
Shapes that wax pale and shift in swift strange wise,
Void faces with unspeculative eyes,
Dim things that gaze and glare, dead mouths that move,
Featureless heads discrowned of hate and love,
Mockeries and masks of motion and mute breath,
Leavings of life, the superflux of death—
If these things and no more than these things be

Left when man ends or changes, who can see?

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

And secondly:

THE WINDHOVER
To Christ our Lord

 

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-

   dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

   Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,

   As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

   Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird, — the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

 

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here

   Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion

 

Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

 

                                                                                                ¤                 ¤

   No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion

Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889).] [Note 9]

From Die Nibelunge: Sigfrid-Sage, Canto 20:

 

Als die sinkende Sonne den Strom der Sage,

Den smaragdenen Rhein, errötend im Scheiden,

Mit Geschmeiden umgoss von geschmolzenem Golde,

Da glitten bei Worms durch die glänzenden Wellen

Hinauf und hinabwärts zahlreiche Nachen

Und führten das Volk vom Festspiel heimwärts.

Dem geregelten Rauschen und Pochen der Ruder

Am Borde der Boote melodisch verbunden,

Erklangen im Takt auch die klaren Töne

Menschlicher Kehlen: in mehreren Kähnen,

 

Die nah aneinander hinunter schwammen,

Sangen die Leute das Lied von der Sehnsucht,

Die hinunter ins Nachtreich auch Nanna getrieben,

Als die Mistel gemordet ihren Gemahl.

Lauschend im Fenster des Fürstenpalastes

Lag Krimhilde und harrte des Gatten.

In banger Befürchtung bittersten Vorwurfs

Verlangte nun doch nach dem fernen Geliebten

Ihre sorgende Seele voll Sehnsucht und Schmerz.

Sie fühlte sich schuldig und ahnte des Schicksals

Nahenden Schritt. So vernahm sie, erschrocken

Und trüben Sinnes, den Trauergesang.

Während der Wohllaut der uralten Weise

Vom Rhein heraufklang, regten sich leise

Ihre Lippen und liessen die Worte des Liedes,

Welche sie kannte seit frühester Kindheit,

Also hören ihr eigenes Ohr:

‘O Balder, mein Buhle,

Wo bist du verborgen?

Vernimm doch, wie Nanna

Sich namenlos bangt.

Erscheine, du Schöner,

Und neige zu Nanna,

Liebkosend und küssend,

Den minnigen Mund.’

Da klingen von Klage

Die flammenden Fluren,

Von seufzenden Stimmen

Und Sterbegesang:

Die Blume verblühet,

Erblassend, enblättert;

Der Sommer entseelt sie

Mit sengendem Strahl.

Beim Leichenbegängnis

Des göttlichen Lenzes

Zerfallt sie und folgt ihm

In feurigen Tod.

‘O Balder, mein Buhle,

Verlangende Liebe,

Unsägliche Sehnsucht

Verbrennt mir die Brust.’

Da tönt aus der Tiefe

Der Laut des Geliebten:

‘Die Lichtwelt verliess ich,

Du suchst mich umsonst.’

‘O Balder, mein Buhle,

Wo bist du verborgen?

Gib Nachricht, wie Nanna

Dich liebend erlöst?’

‘Nicht rufst du zurück mich

Aus Tiefen des Todes.

Was du liebst, musst du lassen,

Und das Leid nur ist lang.’

‘O Balder, mein Buhle,

Dich deckt nun das Dunkel;

So nimm denn auch Nanna

Hinab in die Nacht.’

Wilhelm Jordan (1819-1904).

[A revival of alliteration seems never to have appealed to English poets in modern times. There are, however, a number of good translations of the Old English alliterative poem Beowulf; part of it is translated in this example:

 

Sorrowful sat in the Hall of the Hart, the Dane King Hrodgar

Mourning the brave one fallen, the dear friend dead.

Bowed was the hoary head and his heart was heavy,

Speechless a while, Then speedily sent he and bade them bring

Beowulf hither, the Grendel slayer, Agatheon’s son,

Straightway the Aethling answered his summons, strode thro’ the Hall,

First mid his followers all and the flooring strained at their feet,

Came to the King. With kindly custom he greeted him,

Questioning courteous if quiet the night.

Then answer made Hrodgar, strength of the skylding

Ask not of rest nor of night! renewed is the anguish

Doomed to the Danesmen. Aeskere is dead –

Aeskere, Irmenlow’s brother, of Aethlings the best.

Trusty in council was he and of comrades truest.

Foremost still at my side in the stress of the battle,

When man came breast against man and the boar tusks meet.

Here in the Hall of the Hart is he felly murdered

By a fiend most foul – which one I wot not.

Some there be of my fellows who warden the marshlands

Tell how twain there be such at times in the twilight

Ghostly figures haunting the homestead and vastly tall.

One was in woman’s shape and what stalked beside her

With menacing mien man’s form wore.

Yet huger them thinketh than human fashion.

Grendel they term him, the old ground tillers

Since times of yore – and his sire none guesseth

Nor knoweth none if brethren he boasteth

Nor kindred claimeth ’mongst grimly ghosts.

Bleak their abode and barren; holes where the wolf howls.

Trans. E. Bowen-Wedgwood.]

We see how in the first poem with its assonances, there lives the representational element, checked on the way to becoming a concept and held fast in enjoyment; and how in the second, which is built up on alliteration, on the repetition of consonants, there lives the element of will, checked on its way outwards and realizing itself in inner movement on the waves of the words, on the waves of a will-impulse that has been grasped conceptually.

You will see that in bringing the impulse of spiritual science to bear on aesthetic considerations there is no temptation to introduce those abstractions which so easily find their way into intellectually-derived studies of art. It will be evident from such studies as we have pursued here, even though we have only been able to indicate certain guidelines – how an understanding is brought to art, yet an understanding that is also a perceptive power, and which thus becomes a knowledge of things. Art and knowledge are gradually interwoven into a living spiritual perception, which makes itself felt and demands to be put to the test in that very sphere where man himself becomes an instrument of artistic expression. Knowledge such as this does not observe art from without, but is gained from an inner participation in art – and knowledge such as this can become the bridge that leads to the practice of art.

Especially when learning the art of recitation, you will find in such knowledge a support quite different from anything deriving from all those techniques of respiration based on external, materialistic and mechanistic observation of the human body, which result in voice-production that is purely external and mechanical. An inner awareness in the learning of an artform becomes possible. And now, in conclusion, I will just draw attention to a few instances of things which have to be learnt in recitation. What is at stake, for instance, is not how the voice or the tone can be sustained by some kind of external method of manipulating the breath, or placing the voice, in the way taught by some bad singing-teachers. The essential thing is that what should stay in the unconscious must still remain there when we are learning a subject such as this – a man should not just be wrenched out of everything unconscious through clumsy treatment of the body. Rather, through proper artistic formation and artistic treatment we can train our breathing so that the whole process remains in a certain sphere of the unconscious, and yet is drawn up into the soul-element which gives it artistic expression. We can then, for instance, develop a sustained tone by practising this where it is particularly preponderant: in the recitation of something of a sublime and exalted nature. If we try, when reciting such noble verse, to develop the sustained tone on a foundation of actual feeling, the poise of the voice and the breathing will develop of themselves, out of a true feeling for what is actually being recited.

We can develop correct intonation, and bring out the tone, by reciting examples of the ridiculous or comical; the required strengthening of the tone that we need in the rise and fall of speech for declamation or recitation we can achieve by practising the tragic; and we can learn to attenuate and mollify the tone by practising the joyful. We discover how it is really the soul-element which we grasp, and which must come to expression in recitation and declamation, and how, when we grasp it rightly, we draw the physical and corporeal after. We do not first adjust the physical with clumsy techniques that will rein our handling of these matters and lead, not to the development of a real art, but to mere routine. We enter upon a quite genuine, and yet straightforward practise and study of art. But this will only be obtained if there is in our knowledge so much of aesthetic sensibility, that with it we can approach art; and only if, on the other hand, our perception of man is so far evolved that in those arts which make use of man as an instrument, we can see man himself revealed – a revelation of art pierced through by the pulsating, pervading spirit of man.

Through these few guiding principles, scanty as they are, I hope to have shown you at least the direction in which an art-form as subtle and intimate as recitation and declamation leads: but this path can only be followed when the attempt is earnestly made to find the bridge between art and science. When I drew attention to this as one aspect, at the outset of the course, it was no mere empty phrase. The intention was to show you, taking the art of recitation and declamation as an example, that we do not merely set before ourselves the abstract ideal of unifying religion, art and science; but in pursuing true spiritual perception, leading to real spiritual knowledge, we do actually achieve something in the way of bringing knowledge to art and illumining artistic creation through knowledge. Thus will man be able to enter more and more consciously into art, and will be able to bring forth more and more consciously what he needs from art in the course of his evolution towards an absolutely free and truly human consciousness.

 

 



Last Modified: 14-Oct-2018
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