This meant spending every morning in Hollywood, in the early thirties: outlandish outfits and deco interiors, witty dialogues and mysterious ladies. Dupont, , typical Pre-Code Hollywood, where a group of women, smartly dressed but late with the rent, sign an agreement to share any gifts they shall receive from wealthy men. And if William K. Howard, Another film by the same author, obscure Czech-Austrian director Robert Land, was shown in an evening screening with a carbon-arc projector: Die Kleine Veronika , a classic of the Austrian silent age.
When he asks an old friend, Prince Gremin, who she is, he finds that she is Gremin's wife. Gremin bursts into a eulogy on Tatyana and his love for her. Onegin and Tatyana meet, both apparently calm, and they exchange a few civilities before she tells her husband she is tired and they leave. Onegin realises with astonishment that he is in love with her. Scene 2: A drawing room in Prince Gremin's house Tatyana holds a letter which Onegin has written to her declaring his love.
She is upset that he has returned to disturb her peace of mind. Onegin enters to find her in tears and falls at her feet. She collects herself and reminds him of his rejection of her in the garden. When he exclaims that he now realises his mistake she asks if he finds the society woman a more suitable prize to add to his conquests than the simple country girl and he tries to convince her that his feelings are genuine. They both reflect on the happiness that has passed them by, and Tatyana tells Onegin that fate has decided otherwise: she is married and he must leave her.
Passionately he tries to persuade her, but she reminds him that he is an honorable man. She admits that she does still love him but tells him that now she is married she will remain faithful to her husband. In vain he protests. She bids him farewell forever, and leaves him overcome by despair. Lensky le provoque en duel. Nel duetto che segue, mette in guardia la fanciulla dai pericoli delle troppo rapide passioni. Scena terza In un angolo del giardino un gruppo di contadine raccoglie bacche cantando una canzone.
Poi le offre il braccio e si allontanano insieme. Monsieur Triquet, istitutore presso alcuni vicini, canta alcuni couplets in onore della festeggiata. Arriva Onegin accompagnato, invece che da un secondo, dal suo cameriere Guillot. Onegin, tornato da poco da una serie di viaggi, in un angolo esprime noia e insoddisfazione per la sua vita vacua. Onegin stenta a riconoscerla e chiede di lei a Gremin, suo vecchio amico.
Piange, tormentata dal risvegliarsi in lei della passione. Links das Gutshaus mit Terrasse, rechts ein schattiger Baum, umgeben von Blumenbeeten. Im Hintergrund ein zerfallener Zaun, hinter dem das Dorf und die Kirche zu sehen sind. Gegen Abend. Filipjewna steht helfend neben ihr. Auf der Terrasse Olga und Tatjana. Vernahmest du? Ward dir nicht bang? Vor vielen Jahren hab ich's oft - entsinnst du dich? Sie waren damals noch sehr jung, doch Braut schon. Doch ohne erst mein Herz zu fragen Gott sei gepriesen! Nicht streift mein Fuss ohne Ruh' und Rast. Nicht hebt mein Arm die gewohnte Last.
Was fange ich an, da ich dich nicht lassen kann? Alles ist eingebracht! Seid willkommen in meinem Haus. Lasst froh uns sein und singt ein lustig Lied! Es soll ein Lied erklingen. Spielmann ist's, er kommt gezogen, seiner Fiedel, seinem Bogen kommen Herzen nachgeflogen: alle Welt ist ihm gewogen. Komm doch, einen Kuss versprachst du. Warum auch seufzen, wenn jeden Morgen ein neuer froher Tag beginnt? Der Lebensfreude, der Zufriedenheit die Hand zum Dauerbunde reich ich, der frohbeschwingten Hoffnung gleich ich an Lebenslust, an Heiterkeit.
So ausgelassen ist mein gutes Kind. Ist's nicht so? Du siehst so leidend aus. Filipjewna, bewirte reichlich sie mit Wein. Habt Dank, ihr Leute. Filipjewna mit den Bauern ab ins Haus. Tatjana, die sich auf den Stufen der Terrasse niedergesetzt und in ein Buch vertieft hat. Wahrhaftig, du siehst blass aus, Tjana.
Oh, wie interessant ist das Buch, das ich lese! Erdichtung ist alles. Die Zeit verging, und ich sah ein: Im Leben gibt es keine Helden. Bin ruhig jetzt. Ei, wenn nun Lenski kommt und sieht Sie so! Lenski ist's! Dann Lenski und Onegin. Grosser Gott, und meine Haube sitzt mir schief! OLGA Sind wir bereit? Filipjewna ab. Ich habe meinen Freund - Nachbar Onegin ist's - zu Ihnen mitgebracht. Ganz nach der Herrn Belieben. Ich bitte, ganz nach der Herren Wunsche.
Hier ist's behaglich. Sie geht ins Haus. Wie fasst es mich mit Allgewalt, wie ward, was ich ersehnt, Gestalt! Doch sicher gibt es bald ein Paar. OLGA Ewigkeit! Sie promenieren im Garten.
Es fehlt hier wohl, so kommt mir vor, empfindlich an Zerstreuung? Doch geht's nicht immer an, stets nur zu lesen. Promenieren im Garten. Mit dir im Waldesschatten weilt' ich und mit dir deine Spiele teilt' ich. Ja, ich liebe dich, ja, ich liebe dich! Mit der Allgewalt der hingegebnen Seele! Ja, ich liebe dich immerdar, treu, innig, rein und wahr.
Und oft im Geiste als ein Paar sahn uns die Eltern schreiten zum Altar. Larina und Filipjewna auf der Terrasse. Es ist Nacht geworden. Am See hab mit dem Gast ich sie gesehn, ich geh sogleich sie rufen. Zu Lenski Herr Lenski, ich bitte sehr. Larina, Olga, Lenski gehen ins Haus. Geht mit Tatjana ins Haus. Vasen mit Blumen. Am Fenster ein Tisch mit Schreibzeug.
Filipjewna steht neben ihr. Leg dich zur Ruh. Was ich gewusst, vergass ich. Nicht lang braucht' er um mich zu werben, bei meiner Sipp' er Beifall fand. Der Vater gab ihm meine Hand, vor Angst vermeinte ich zu sterben. Wie ich vergeh vor Angst und Qual. Mein Herzenskind, komm, leg dich nieder. Barmherz'ger Himmel, steh mir bei. Soll ich dich mit geweihtem Wasser sprengen? Werd nur nicht krank! Du magst's nun wissen: ich bin verliebt Verrat mich nicht, ich bin verliebt! Bald gehe ich zur Ruh. Sie entfernt sich. Ich seh ihn stets, an jedem Ort verfolgen mich sein Blick, sein Wort.
Nein, das ist nichts, geschwind ein andres! Sie zerreisst den Brief. Wie sonderbar! Ich weiss nicht Rat, ich weiss nicht, wie beginnen! Sie schreibt und durchliest dann das Geschriebene. Mag kommen, was da will! Wohlan, ich will's bekennen! Sie schreibt. Was war's? Ein andrer!? Nicht hat das Schicksal mich verblendet mit sel'ger Hoffnung Morgenrot, Gott selbst hat dich zu mir gesendet, mein Hort bist du bis in den Tod.
Ich sah im Traume dich schon lange, ich liebte dich, eh ich dich sah, du warest mir schon immer nah, ich folgte deiner Stimme Klange. Hast holde Namen mir gegeben, erweckt in mir ein neues Leben und neues Hoffen angefacht. Raubst du mir meinen Seelenfrieden, lockt mich ein Trugbild nur in dir? Ist anderes mir zubeschieden? Erhebt sich wieder, geht sinnend umher. Sei's, wie es will. Mein ganzes Los ist an das Traumgesicht gebunden, ich komme niemals davon los, durch dich allein kann ich gesunden.
Bedenke nur, bin ganz allein, und niemand will mich hier verstehen. Verlassen muss ich untergehen, wenn du nicht wirst mein Rettet sein. Geht rasch zum Tisch und beendet hastig den Brief. Aufstehend versiegelt sie denselben. Ich schliesse. Oh, verstoss mich nicht, missbrauche nimmer mein Vertrauen, Auf dich, du holdes Traumgesicht, auf deine Ehre will ich bauen.
Tageslicht flutet ins Zimmer. Setzt sich ans Fenster. Versinkt in Nachdenken. Verzeih und denke meiner Jahre. Es gibt so viele Nachbarn hier, und nicht zu merken sind sie schier. So leicht ist alles zu verstehn. Hier diesen Brief betrifft's, dass du es weisst. Zum Nachbarn soll er, der Onegin heisst. Ich bin, wie alte Leute sind. Ja, schon begreif ich's, verlass dich drauf. Schick jetzt den Brief zum Nachbarn hin. Tatjana bedeutet ihr, zu gehen. Endlich gibt sie zu erkennen, dass sie begriffen habe, und entfernt sich.
Eine alte Bank. Singt von Freude, Lust und Lieb', singt von eurem Herzensdieb. Singt und lockt mit eurem Sang bei der Fiedel hellem Klang jeden Burschen schmuck und frei, alle locket sie herbei.
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Was er wohl denkt? Bang pocht das Herz; wie soll das enden? Denn eine innre Stimme spricht: es war umsonst, er liebt dich nicht. Verlass mich nicht! Wer naht? Wer kommt? Es ist sein Schritt! Er ist's! Onegin, der auf sie zugeht. Ich sag das alles ohne Schmeichelei.
Aufrichtig, wie Sie selbst, und frei will ich zu Ihnen sprechen also. Erst meine Beichte, wie ich bin. Dann seien Sie die Richterin. Setzt sich auf die Bank. Nein, keine Rosen, eher Schmerzen bringt Hymen uns mit seinem Zwang, und dulden hiess es, lebenslang. Die Zukunft wird einst recht mir geben. Onegin reicht Tatjana die Hand. Singt und lockt mit eurem Sang bei der Fiedel hellem Klang! Jeden Burschen schmuck und frei, alle locket sie herbei. Onegin, Lenski, Olga und Tatjana nehmen am Tanze teil. Der Hauptmann macht den Ballordner.
Larina geht mit besorgter Hausfrauenmiene auf und ab. Es laden sie zum frohen Feste Mahl und Tanz. Geniesst und lebt! Allgemeiner Tanz. Onegin tanzt mit Tatjana. Das gibt ein Brautpaar; nun, es ist Zeit! Erst wird er scharmieren, dann tyrannisieren; es heisst auch: er spielt. Ist Freimaurer wohl, trinkt Rotwein nur, und nicht zu wenig, das ist bekannt. Schon allzuviel verriet mir boshafter Zungen Getuschel. Aber recht nur geschah mir! Wozu trieb es mich auf diesen faden Ball?
Ich tanze jetzt sofort mit seiner Olga. Da ist sie … ich bitte. Nicht glauben kann ich's. Olga, nein, das ist zuviel! Welche Pracht, wie festlich! Hoch die Freude, welch Festesglanz! Es laden uns zum frohen Feste Mahl und Tanz. Seid lustig und preist den Glanz des Festes!
Hoch die Freude, hoch die Lust! O Olga, warum strafen Sie mich so? Was tat ich nur? OLGA Wladimir, wie ungerecht! Es ist ein Nichts, das dich erregt! Wie, das nennst du nichts? Harmlos Geplauder war's. Artig ist er. Ach, Olga muss ich an dir zweifeln? Doch den Kotillon tanzt du mit mir? Sie haben mir Ihr Wort gegeben. OLGA Und will es halten. Triquet, von einer Schar Damen umringt. Mais, wo sein nur Mademoiselle? Triquet wendet sich mit seinem Gesang an sie. Car le couplet est fait pour elle! Brillez, brillez toujours, belle Tatjana! Ganz vortrefflich ist gelungen das kleine reizende Couplet!
Im Augenblicke schon beginnt der Kotillon! Er reicht Tatjana die Hand zum Tanz. Lenski steht nachdenklich hinter ihnen. Du blickst finster gleich wie Child Harold! Fehlt dir was? Sag, weshalb grollst du mir? Oh, wie edel bist du! Von Sinnen scheinst du mir. Du heissest mich von Sinnen! Welche Sprache! Dieser Ton beleidigt mich! Jede Gemeinschaft sei zwischen uns zerrissen. Ich - ja - ich verachte Sie! Wie, man zankt in diesem Hause? Es scheint ein ernster Zwist sich anzuspinnen.
Man merkte schon, siehst du es nicht, zuviel von unserm Streite. Sie lachte gar und wurde rot. Was, was hast du gesprochen? Genugtuung, mein Herr, verlange ich! Da er verweigert dies zu tun, so hab ich kurzerhand ihn nun gefordert. Gerade hier in meinem Hause! Mein ist die Schuld, umsonst alle Reue, beklagen muss ich, was geschah.
Ich bin beleidigt und ich muss mich schlagen. Von Eifersucht bewegt bebt mein Herz in der Brust. Ich sterbe, mir sagt es das Schlagen des Herzens, doch ich will nicht klagen. Ach, leicht erregt ist Eifersucht, der kleinste Anlass sie entfacht, ein Wort, ein Blick kann Grund ihr geben. Nun werden sie sich beide schlagen, hab ich nicht dazu beigetragen? Ach, rasch erregt ist Eifersucht, der kleinste Anlass sie entfacht, ein Wort, ein Blick kann Grund ihr geben.
Was wird man nun sagen, wenn beide sich schlagen? Gar leicht erregt ist Eifersucht, der kleinste Anlass sie entfacht. Nur streiten und schlagen will beiden behagen. Oh, welch ein Ende nimmt dies Fest! Ein Zank entspinnt sich gar zu schnell, und morgen gibt es ein Duell. Eine Lektion verdienen Sie - zur Bessrung! Tatjana weint still vor sich hin. Lasst uns den Zweikampf verhindern. Es darf nicht geschehen, dass Blut hier fliesse. Wir werden's nicht dulden, so trennt doch die beiden.
Saretzki geht ungeduldig auf und ab. Wird er kommen? Mein Blick vermag nicht zu durchdringen, was mir verbirgt der Zukunft Schoss. Was frag ich? Von Gott kommt alles, wie's auch sei. Wie bald vergisst die Welt! Doch du gedenkst noch mein, wenn ich im Grabe ruh. Ja, kommen wirst du, weinen, klagen und denken: mir war einst geweiht die Liebe seiner Jugendzeit. Ach, Olga, dich hab ich geliebt!
O komm zu mir, geliebtes Herz, dein Trauter ruft, er harrt der holden Braut! O komm, o komm! Doch wer ist sein Begleiter? Mir unbekannt. Als Sekundant bin ich Pedant, ich halt vor allem auf Methode. Mir widerstebt's, dass umgebracht ein Mitmensch werd' im Unbedacht. Mein Sekundant steht hier: Monsieur Guillot! Ich hoffe, man hat nichts dagegen, obwohl er Ihnen unbekannt. Er ist zwar nicht von Rang und Adel, doch sonst ein Bursche sonder Tadel. Guillot verbeugt sich, Saretzki erwidert.
Seit wann droht unserm Bunde der Feindschaft heisser Durst nach Blut! Wie umnachtet von falschem Hass ein jeder trachtet nach seines einst'gen Freundes Blut. Und Tod sinnt jeder von uns beiden.
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Nein, nein, nein, nein! Alles vollzieht sich schweigend. Guillot verbirgt sich furchtsam hinter einem Baum. Onegin erhebt, vortretend, die Pistole; gleichzeitig zielt auch Lenski. Onegin schiesst zuerst. Saretzki eilt zu Lenski und betrachtet ihn. Die Paare treten zur Polonaise an. Andere bilden Gruppen und stehen, sich unterhaltend,beieinander. Ich fand Zerstreuung nicht noch Amt, vergeudete mit Nichtstun meine Zeit. Es trieb mich fort, ich musste Scheiden, den eignen Herd hiess es mich meiden, da drohend mit erhobner Hand des Toten Schatten vor mir stand. Ich irrte planlos durch die Fremde, an keinem Ort hielt es mich lang, und da mein Reisen mir misslang, macht' ich der Fahrt ein rasches Ende.
Den Frieden, den ich nirgends fand, ihn such ich nun im Vaterland. Da ist sie, o sehet! Sie setzte dort sich an den Tisch. Es kann nicht sein, sie kann's nicht sein! Ich stell dich vor, wenn's dir beliebt. Wie konnt' ich's ahnen! Seit wann denn? Seid Ihr bekannt? Onegin, dir kann ich's vertrauen, unsagbar liebe ich Tatjanen. O nein! Ich kehrte wieder von langen Reisen.
Lieb ich am Ende gar aufs neu? Er entfernt sich. Der Tanz, eine Ekossaise, beginnt aufs neue. Heut kommt Onegin, bedroht mit diesem Brief den kaum errungnen Frieden. Oh, wie sein feurig Aug' die Seele mir bewegt, heimliches Sehnen sich im bangen Herzen regt. Ich will mit Ihnen offen reden. Oh, so habt Erbarmen. Ein Irrtum war es. Sie stiessen mich mit kaltem Blut hinweg von sich.
Zu schlicht war Ihnen mein harmlos kindlich Herz erschienen. Ja, ja, mein Freund, Sie waren hart! Jetzt aber? Doch Sie nicht klag ich an. Sie taten wie ein Ehrenmann in jener Stunde, Sie zeigten sich nur ehrlich, wahr. Wie kalt ward ich damals behandelt, wie haben Sie mich tief verletzt. Bin ich denn anders nun, verwandelt?
Warum verfolgen Sie mich jetzt? Weil mein Gemahl mich reich gemacht? Ist's nicht vielmehr, weil in der grossen Welt sich eh'r Triumphe zu verbreiten pflegen zur Schmach der Frau, und Sie dies reizt, Ihr Wunsch nach solchem Ruhme geizt? Es scheint mein Flehen ihren Zorn zu wecken. Ihr strenges Auge mag vielleicht nur Arglist, Heuchelei entdecken, wo ich mich, wie ich bin, gezeigt.
Unwiderruflich bin ich gebunden. Ihre Pflicht ist jetzt, zu gehn, mich zu verlassen. Wir sollten uns trennen? He believes in himself; his self-reliance is unbounded. Rossetti, "to himself above all things the one man who cherishes earnest convictions, and avows that he, both now and hereafter, is the founder of a new poetical literature—a great literature—a literature such as will stand in due relation and proportion to the material grandeur and the incalculable destinies of America.
He believes that the Columbus of the continent or the Washington of the States were not more truly founders and builders of this America than he himself will be in time to come. Surely a sublime conviction, and by the poet more than once expressed in stately words—none more so than the poem which begins with the line: "Come, indivisible will I make this continent. Is the man in his right mind, that he talks thus?
Let us step nearer to him! Let us hearken to his life and his works.
First of all let us open his book. Are these verses? The lines are arranged like verses, to be sure, but verses they are not. No metre, no rhyme, no stanzas. Rhythmical prose, ductile verses. At first sight rugged, inflexible, formless; but yet for a more delicate ear, not devoid of euphony. The language homely, hearty, straightforward, naming everything by its true name, shrinking for nothing, sometimes obscure. The tone rhapsodical, like that of a seer, often unequal, the sublime mingled with the trivial even to the point of insipidity. He reminds us sometimes, with all the differences that exist besides, of our own Hamann.
Or of Carlyle's oracular wisdom. Or of the Paroles d'un Croyant. Through all there sounds out the Bible—its language, not its creed. And what does the poet propound to us in this form? First of all: Himself, his I , Walt Whitman. This I however is part of America, a part of the earth, a part of mankind, a part of the All. As such he is conscious of himself and revolves, knitting the greatest to the least, ever going out from America, and coming back to America ever agan only to a free people does the future belong!
Through this individual Walt Whitman and his Americanism marches, we may say, a cosmical procession, such as may be suitable for reflective spirits, who, face to face with eternity, have passed solitary days on the sea-shore, solitary nights under the starry sky of the prairie. He finds himself in all things and all things in himself. He, the one man, Walt Whitman, is mankind and the world. And the world and mankind are to him one great poem. What he sees and hears, what he comes in contact with, whatever approaches him, even the meanest, the most trifling, the most every-day matter—all is to him symbolical of a higher, of a spiritual fact.
Or rather, matter and spirit, the real and the ideal are to him one and the same. Thus, produced by himself, he takes his stand; thus he strides along, singing as he goes; thus he opens from his soul, a proud free man, and only a man, world-wide, social and political vistas. A wonderful appearance. We confess that it moves us, disturbs us, will not loose its hold upon us. At the same time, however, we would remark that we are not yet ready with our judgment of it, that we are still biased by our first impression.
Meanwhile we, probably the first in Germany to do so, will take at least a provisional view of the scope and tendency of this new energy.
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It is fitting that our poets and thinkers should have a closer look at this strange new comrade, who threatens to overturn our entire Ars Poetica and all our theories and canons on the subject of aesthetics. Indeed, when we have listened to all that is within these earnest pages, when we have grown familiar with the deep, resounding roar of those, as it were, surges of the sea in their unbroken sequence of rhapsodical verses breaking upon us, then will our ordinary verse-making, our system of forcing thought into all sorts of received forms, our playing with ring and sound, our syllable-counting and measure of quantity, our sonnet-writing and construction of strophes and stanzas, seem to us almost childish.
Are we really come to the point, when life, even in poetry, calls imperatively for new forms of expression? Has the age so much and such serious matter to say, that the old vessels no longer suffice for the new contents? Are we standing before a poetry of the ages to come, just as some years ago a music of the ages to come was announced before us? As to the person and the life of the poet, we learn that he is a man of almost fifty years.
He was born on the 31st May, His father, in succession, innkeeper, carpenter, and architect, a descendant of English settlers; the mother, Louisa Van Velsor, of Dutch descent. The boy received his first school teaching in Brooklyn, a suburb of New York. Compelled at an early age to rely upon his own exertions, he gained his living first as a printer, and later as a teacher, and a contributor to several New York newspapers. In the year we find him established as editor of a newspaper in New Orleans, two years later again a printer in Brooklyn. After this he worked a long time, like his father, as carpenter and architect.
In the year , after the breaking out of the great civil war as an enthusiastic Unionist and anti-slavery man he stood firmly on the side of the North , he undertook, by authority from Lincoln through Emerson's mediation, the care of the wounded in the field. And to be sure, he had it expressly stipulated beforehand, that it was to be without any sort of remuneration. From the spring of onward, this nursing in the field, and in the hospitals at Washington, was his "only employment by day and by night. Every wounded man, from the North and the South alike, had the same careful and loving attendance at the hands of the poet.
At the end of the war, it is said, he must have nursed with his own hands more than , sick and wounded. For six months he himself lay sick; a hospital fever, the first sickness of his life, had seized him. After the war he obtained a minor office in the Department of the Interior at Washington, but lost it in June, , when the minister, Mr. Harlan, had it brought to his attention, that Whitman was the author of the book, "Leaves of Grass," the coarseness, or as it appeared to Mr. Harlan, the immorality of which filled the ministerial bosom with holy horror.
But the poet found soon another post of modest salary in the bureau of the Attorney General at Washington. There he is still living. On Sunday, and sometimes in the week also, he still keeps up his visits to the hospitals. Whitman is a plain man, a man of few needs. Poor, and, according to his own avowal, without talent for moneymaking. His strength, said he to a visitor, Mr. Conway, an American living in London, lay in "loafing and writing poems. Conway found him while yet on Long Island—before the war, indeed , in a temperature of degrees, lying on his back in the grass, and staring at the sun.
Just like Diogenes. His abode Conway found very plain and simple. A small room, poorly furnished, with only one window, which looked out on the sandy solitude of Long Island. Not a single book in the room. But he talked of the Bible, of Homer, and of Shakespeare as of favorite books which he owned.
For reading he had two especial study-rooms: one was the top of an omni-bus, the other Coney Island, an uninhabited little sand islet far out in the Atlantic Ocean, miles from the coast. His writings, up to this time, are the above-named "Leaves of Grass" first edition , set up and printed by the poet himself; second edition ; third edition ; then, after the war, "Drum-Taps" with a "Sequel" in which is a fine rhapsody on the death of Abraham Lincoln; and last year, a complete edition with a supplement called "Songs before Parting.
Rossetti, one of Whitman's English admirers. The coarse expressions of doubtful propriety which were in the New York original edition have been left out of this; and it is the purpose of the published by means of this issue to open a path for the preparation of a complete edition and for its unprejudiced reception in England. We are indebted to Mr. Rossetti's preface to this selection of his for the sketch given above of the poet's life. With these suggestions, we leave the subject for this time, but will soon recur to it, especially to give some translated specimens of the poet's productions.
Though it is a dubious business to estimate Whitman from specimens. The principle " ex pede Herculem " is hardly quite applicable to him; if in any way a poet, he will be recognised and honored as such in his totality. Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung , Wochenausgabe, no. Translation from New Eclectic Magazine 2 July : —; translator unknown. A little while ago, a few German magazines carried reports on the death of one of the most outstanding North American poets on March 26 of this year, Walt Whitman. He had died in Camden near Philadelphia in the seventy-fourth year of his life.
The few data on his life and work that accompanied this report, reminiscent of the laconicism of a literary encyclopedia, were hardly designed to inspire further interest in the deceased. To inspire such interest, however, is very desirable, because hardly anything relevant has as yet been published on Whitman in German. After all, Whitman is not only the most significant poet of North America, but he belongs to world literature, and that, we believe, with greater justification than his countryman Edgar Poe, who is, in a manner of speaking, known to the whole world.
Our essay does not make any pretensions. It wants to contribute its modest share to awaken the greater interest for Whitman by giving a short picture of the characteristics of the poet as far as we can gather them from the incomplete translation of his Leaves of Grass. In the introduction to their translation, one of the translators, Karl Knortz, calls Whitman an "optimist par excellence. With such a phrase, little is said about a human being who said of himself with these proudly modest words: I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or to be understood, I see that the elementary laws never apologize.
The translators have used these lines as motto for their book and they characterize Whitman better than the dusty phrase of the "optimist par excellence. He can hardly deny his own self and is radically different from the incapacitated romanticism and the christianism from which the "Old World" is presently suffering, with hardly enough breath to throw all kinds of blasphemies against sour grapes.
His "barbaric yawp" sounds "over the roofs of the world" like powerful dithyrambs of a new life and a new strength; they resound in the midst of the funeral hymns of the Old World and announce a new religion, a new art and a new meaning of life. Whitman is neither optimist nor pessimist: he is strength. Whitman was born in on Long Island where his family owned a large farm whose fields the Whitmans tilled with their own hands. There, in the open countryside, in unspoilt nature, he spent the larger part of his youth.
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Later, in an American manner, he tried his hand in a variety of professions: he was a printer, teacher, carpenter, journalist, building contractor, etc. Although he was on his way to becoming successful and wealthy in a variety of trades, he eventually gave everything up and started to write poetry.
In the 60s, just after the Leaves had appeared, he spent the Civil War on the battlefield and worked as a nurse in the hospitals. During that time, he earned his living as a newspaper correspondent. For his various services, he received a small job at the Ministry of the Interior which he did not keep for long.
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- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ( Annotated ).
He owed his dismissal to the Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan, a former Methodist preacher, who was morally outraged over the Leaves published in His friends procured for him a new position in the office of the Attorney General which he kept until At that time, he suffered a stroke. His health was shattered as a consequence of the exertions in the war. He improved slowly without ever completely recovering. Later, he managed to make a small, very modest home for himself in Camden and this is where, without bitterness and complaint, he authored his best poetry which shows a "special religious consecration" I am quoting Rolleston, whose introduction to the translation of the Leaves serves me as a source for this short sketch of Whitman's life , "a quiet, transfigured beauty, contrasting with the mood of the earlier poems just as the starry nocturnal heavens contrast with the sunlit earth.
Thus he created his poetry while continuously changing locations, at times in the midst of the rich colorful traffic of the American metropolis, among the boldest and most enormous achievements of modern industry, at times in the great outdoors of his continent, always in the midst of battle and tumult of a colorful life. The spirit of his art is as different from the spirit of the middle ages as the medieval spirit was itself different from classical antiquity; it grows as organically out of the middle ages as the medieval spirit grew out of that of classical antiquity.
For today, my work is done. It is growing dusky. Tired and deadened from all my writing I lean out of the window and see how the sunlight at the facade of the high building across from me gradually disappears. And then, after all the reading and all the work, I feel how constricted our lives are, I understand and sense our misery. The street with the jumble and the noise of traffic reaches far down, loses itself in both directions in smoke and in the confusing bustle of the side streets.
Above, a narrow, scanty piece of heaven, darkened and polluted by the rising food vapors. Behind the windows on the other side, all the way down the long street, next to me, above and below me, from all sides a pressing, shoving and constriction and confusion between the gray masses of stone. And, like here, this extends in concentric circles for hours, far into the countryside. Far, far away somewhere, nature is alive with its free air of the heavens, and its free stars, with its meadows, fields and forests, with mountains, streams, lakes, and seas, far away, unreal like a legend, like a fabulous fairy tale which we read in our children's books.
The countless threads through which our life, our feeling, and our perception are connected to infinite mysteries seem to be cut. We are alone, alone with ourselves, man with man, in the vibrating restlessness of this constriction and its nerve-shattering, confusing pell-mell. Our suffering, our misery and our joys, however, turn into monsters in this all too obvious crowdedness, distorted by a devilish perspective.
And all the refinements of our aged culture cannot hide the great, fundamental disease which we have been trying to cure with all kinds of medicines for some time: our lack of religion or, if we want, our lack of energy, the atrophy of our perception. Our recent ethical endeavors. So many half-hearted attempts to get to the root of our general malaise.
But how can we help each other, if we have only an understanding of how we are connected with all things from close and far but not a living perception of them? If we have no "religion" from which alone originates love, self-awareness, joy, force, art, ethics, manhood and comprehension of life? How can we get to the root of the thousandfold misery of a metropolis, the distress of the poor, if we cannot even stand looking at it and if it seduces us to blasphemies against the world? Now let's think about all the pessimism and all the decadence of our European world.
Let's think about all its art, its artifice, its artificiality, its refinements, its moral hangover, all its nervous and yearning distress—and then let's listen to the "optimist par excellence," Walt Whitman. How do we suddenly feel? In free verses, it appears before us with all of its miracles.
With unheard-of sounds and rhythms which seem like the fresh roaring of the wind, like the sea waves approaching with their vast rolling splendor. Unfamiliar, totally separate from the refinements from our aged and wizened art. Victory, union, faith, identity, time, The indissoluble compacts, riches, mystery, Eternal progress, the kosmos, and the modern reports. We are forced to stop. This is a child's stammering. Helpless, unwieldy, unarticulate, ridiculous to our well-trained thinking and feeling.
But we understand: it is the jubilant helplessness in the face of a new infinite wealth of penetrating perceptions, the surprised jubilant cry with which a child liberates itself from its sweet burden, joyfully, verifying the data it perceives. There is the blessed, vigorous turmoil of living growth inside. All of this, then, this whole new fullness rushing in on us: This then is life, Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes and convulsions.
How curious! Underfoot the divine soil, overhead the sun. See revolving the globe, The ancestor-continents away group'd together, The present and future continents north and south with the isthmus between. See, vast trackless spaces, As in a dream they change, they swiftly fill, Countless masses debouch upon them, They are now cover'd with the foremost people, arts, institutions, known.
See, projected through time, For me an audience interminable. With firm and regular step they wend, they never stop, Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred millions, One generation playing its part and passing on, Another generation playing its part and passing on in its turn, With faces turn'd sideways or backward towards me to listen, With eyes retrospective towards me. What a language! And when we read on, and the deeper we read into him, the more we are carried away by the power of these old primeval songs.
This is the power and the energy of the old Hebrew psalmists and prophets. And yet, everything is so new, so simple and so down-to-earth. No artful devices. Not even one as primitive as that reminiscent of the parallelismus membrorum of old Hebrew poetry. This language is as earthly as one can imagine, oftentimes just stating, almost with American soberness, that which is.
And yet it has as much passionate rhetoric, overwhelming and entrancing, as ever existed. An infinite rhythm, and an infinite melody. Just as the storm has a rhythm of rising and ebbing and newly rising, just as the sea waves have their rhythm, the air shimmering in the warmth of the sun, the song of the birds, the infinite movement of nature. The power and the warmth of healthy blood, freely and freshly pulsating through the body, an unprecedented energy and original intimacy of perception penetrating distance and closeness and all appearances, surrendering to the movement of its becoming and changing with powerful terror, in which vibrations of the eternally moving atoms tremble, free respiration of healthy lungs, the light power of unspoilt eyes, the haleness and elasticity of unimpaired muscles: all of this gives power to these songs, their passion with which they liberate themselves from everything that they call art and artifice, or they expand to the audacity and the power of the living nature.
The naivete of a child perceiving a new object and calling its name ten, twenty, a hundred times in succession without becoming tired, with equal delight over the same activity of its vocal chords and over the properties of the object thus designated. A crowded wealth of impressions, only semi-conscious thoughts, impossible to express them fully in intelligible, measured sequence.
They push and hold back in a disorderly race; obscurity, mysticism next to plainness and sober clarity. And by all of this, one feels repelled and attracted, just as nature attracts and repels, surrenders itself and denies itself, transparent and mystical with the eternal rhythm of appearances, monotonous yet of infinite variety.
And what a mood! Misery and happiness, poverty and wealth, all the incompressible oppositions which tortured us in our narrow life: they can no longer harm us or obscure the connectedness of all things. And yet: Everything is there, everything in its place, ordered and redeemed from all conflict through the powerful rhythm of all occurrences and appearances. Everything dissolves in one large feeling of strength and life emphasizing and enclosing all. All the connections with which the individual, the separate is infinitely connected with all that has happened since the first beginning, seemingly dissolved in the consciousness of life, here becomes apparent again in a powerful mood.
This is how powerful the religious mood is in Whitman and with how much energy it expresses itself. Everything lives in him, in you, in all of us, is contained and enclosed by us: humans, stars, times, animals, plants, stones. Everything is us and we are everything. What, then, are beginning and end, birth and death? Everything is eternal movement. Urge and urge and urge, Always the procreant urge of the world. We are everything there was and everything there will be; there is no difference between these two; everything is one.
Nothing is offensive or mean. Copulation is no more offensive than death. Everything is a miracle. The body is something miraculous that must be revered. In this spirit, he transfers the attributes of his body to everything that comes in touch with him. He speaks of broad and muscular fields etc. He is in love with his body, with himself, with everything. Press close bare-bosom'd night—press close magnetic nourishing night! Night of south winds—night of the large few stars! Still nodding night—mad naked summer night. With mad, jubilant desire he throws his naked body against the waves, offers his chest to the storm.
He does not utter the complaints heard everywhere in the world, that the months are only empty spaces and the ground is nothing but mud and mire. Everything is alive. Everything forces itself into him and he forces himself into everything. The ages are tormenting themselves by pointing to the best and differentiating it from the bad, but he remains silent, and while they are fighting, he goes swimming and admires himself, well-aware of the perfect state and severity of all things.
Although he is surrounded with questions and doubt, they are not his true self which is standing apart from all buffeting and twitching. The days of dispute and of confusion are behind him. He needs neither sarcasm nor proofs. He is identical with what others are trying to prove. An immense feeling of strength filling all distances and depths, an intimate feeling of oneness with everything is the foundation of his being and his songs.
This foundation could indeed be called religious, and his themes originate from it: love, democracy, and religion. And his main theme is the sublimity of religion. Science must be respected, to love a man and a woman in abundance is sublime, but there is something else that is truly sublime and which unifies everything, provides for everything with tireless hands: religion. Not the cult, the dogma with its imperatives, but the powerful broad awareness of life whose force comprises the cosmos with love and wonder, the religious feeling, the intimate, jubilant consciousness of belonging to everything.
He sings his songs only in order "to drop in the earth the germs of a greater religion. He does not pray, does not worship, does not bow and scrape before the eternal laws and does not participate in ceremonies. His worship is the mad desire to come into contact with the atmosphere, to throw himself jubilantly into the powerful movement of life, its becoming and passing, blooming, shining, raging, growing, glowing. Religion is the powerful feeling which makes him stand admiringly before the revolution of the stars, before the magnificence of the human and the animal body.
In one song, "I Sing the Body Electric," he enumerates all parts of the human body, pages of enraptured stammering like a child naming things with a bliss beyond expression and feeling the infinite fullness of life in this continued process of naming. It is religion when he enjoys the naked bodies of bathing youths and their elastic and youthful movements. It is religion when he loves flowers and the grass tenderly. And it is religion when the movement of the solar system, the orbit of the earth reveals itself to him in powerful visions, with all its miracles and its life.
Religion allows him to immerse himself in the infinitude of the microcosm, in the immeasurable miracles of the low, the scorned, the despised, and which allows him to see everywhere an identical, eternal movement of universal life, not comprehensible for a measuring, reasoning intellect. Religion allows him to admire the development and passing of human cultures. He is happy when he can touch a human body and when the electric touch communicates to him the life of what he is touching.
His feeling of love or his all-encompassing feeling of strength does not ask or measure "who" or "how much" somebody is. He is drawn to the slave in the cottonfield and he presses the brotherly kiss on his cheek and swears by his soul that he would never deny him. He makes higher claims for those who work with hammer and chisel than for all deific conceptions of past and present. The young workman is closest to him, the backwoodsman, the fieldhand, they will understand him best. In all the people he sees himself, nobody is more, nobody even by a grain of barley less.
He advocates the rights of those who are suppressed by others, the misshapen, the foolish, the insignificant, the simple-minded, the despised. He is the hounded slave, the firefighter with crushed chest. He is the spokesman of scorned criminals and looks at them with the eyes of kinship, defying all hypocrisy.
He is the bard of America and her democratic institutions. In jubilant devotion and love he enumerates the names of all of her states. He wanders through her prairies, her virgin forests, bathes at her sea shores, listens to her male and female orators in the public halls, admires her exhibitions, her cities, her buildings and arts, is at home with all of them and is truly the singer of her spirit: No dainty dolce affetuoso I, Bearded, sun-burnt, gray-neck'd, forbidding, I have arrived To be wrestled as I pass for the solid prizes of the universe.
He sings social revolutions and the future of democracy, he is a lover of cities. Thunder on! More than everything he loves the large cities and his "Manhattan. Untiringly, he is wandering through her streets and losing himself in her traffic which becomes alive in his lines, containing broad, powerful, colorful shining visions. In countless images endlessly strung together, his loving surprise rushes by us. He does not want to leave anything out, does not want to miss anything.
With a sharp, discerning eye he relates this colorful medley and lovingly animates each perception which, sometimes through a singular, extraordinarily vivid and characteristic epitheton, become poems for themselves. This wealth of images he strings together like countless small novels, dramas, lyrical poems, often hardly containing one line, a few words. There are slaves, auctions, soldiers, policemen, firemen, workmen, salespeople etc.
He wanders through workshops and warehouses, walks along shore boulevards, through storehouses and construction sites. What is the "supernatural" compared to reality, compared to this reality? There is no supernatural, outside of this reality. Everything is contained in the present and closest reality. The supernatural means nothing compared to a worm, a beetle, against the goings-on here on earth. This religious, all-encompassing feeling makes him the poet of love, of strength, of beauty and of hope. Men with beautiful, powerful limbs, blossoming in strength and health; beautiful women highly capable of procreation with well-built lively children, the gigantic beauty of a stallion are his desire.
He does not grow tired to admire them. He cannot get away from them. Energy, physical and intellectual, physical exercises, gymnastics with a beautiful, elastic play of the muscles are the object of his enthusiastic love. A new, more developed culture is his most cheerful certainty, authenticated by the first beginning and by the development becoming alive in gigantic enormous visions in a poem such as "Passage to India. This feeling contains the ever-present compensation for all suffering and imperfection which appear when the world disintegrates as a consequence of our ruminating reasoning.
In this feeling, all hopes and prophecies are fulfilled, an Other World beyond all weakness and morbid impotence. The Other World of our imagination is no other than this feeling. In Whitman, there is not a trace of any of these morbid notions such as God, Other World and supernatural salvation. We deny such notions, fight against them, but frequently, because they are still in our blood, legacy of our ancestors, we behave as though they were something real and not mere fantasy; with a certain bitterness, we sulk in a tragicomical way as though anything at all were to be expected from them.