Friday, January 4, 2019

Skating among the Romantics

Julius Caesar Ibbetson, Skaters on the Serpentine in Hyde Park (1786)
Jeremy Adler reaches for the sky in a recent essay in the Times Literary Supplement (12/7/18) in portraying the “poetics of skating” and the evolution of this poetics in the 18th and early 19th century. The subject is the "lyric fervor" produced by the sport, as portrayed in an episode in The Prelude (see lines 426–464 of Book 1) by Wordsworth: “The track across the surface evokes the course of the planets. The speed with which the poet flies over the frozen lake recalls the distant orbs circling through the sky, and the reflection on the surface, when the skater cuts across ‘the reflex of a star,’ evokes the universal analogy — the poet takes his place in the heavens like one of the Pleiades.” It was “the sport par excellence for the nascent capitalist era … made possible by the action of technology — polished steel — on nature, but went on to be “adapted to the pre-Romantic fashion for the sublime.” Naturally, Burke, Schiller, and Kant, all of whom addressed the subject of the sublime, make an appearance.

Only a few aspects of this wide-ranging essay can be touched on here, which concerns the development of European Romanticism, with the focus being the configuration of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and the German poet Friedrich Klopstock (1724–1803). Wordsworth’s imagery in the episode of The Prelude, writes Adler, constitutes “a homage to a brother poet, one of Germany’s finest, … who first made skating a metaphor for poetic composition, the thrill of an imagination set free from terrestrial care.” As Adler points out, Klopstock’s odes were greatly popular in Germany, with “Der Eislauf” (Skating) of 1764 being “among the most celebrated.” Consisting of 15 unrhymed quatrains, it is “remarkable for condensing a systematic appraisal of the sport into a perfectly judged lyric, including images of great natural beauty.”

Peter Brueghel, Hunters in the Snow (1565, detail)
As Adler notes, it was these unrhymed quatrains, along with Klopstock's evocation of nature and the poetic subjectivity, that liberated the Sturm und Drang generation of German poets. The free verse in particular was felt to be quite radical, to which Goethe (1749–1832) offers testimony in his autobiography. His father, Goethe writes, was a man for whom poetry had to be rhymed and was thus quite disturbed at the fashion for Klopstock’s Messias, especially when “verses that seemed to be no verses became the object of public veneration.” The paternal library held fine calfskin editions of Hagedorn, Gellert, Haller, and so forth, but no Klopstock. A volume of the Messias having been smuggled into the house by a friend, Goethe and his sister read it in secret. One Saturday evening, however, as their father was being shaved in preparation for church the next morning, Goethe and his sister got so carried away in their recitation of the scene between Adramelech and Satan that their voices startled the barber. The upshot was that Goethe’s father’s chest was drenched by water from the shaving basin. This image might be said to encapsulate the effect that Klopstock had on the generation of writers represented by Goethe .

Ice Skating in Nurenberg
So it was that, in 1798, even though Goethe was at the height of his renown in that year, it was the aged Klopstock whom “the youthful tyros” — Wordsworth and Coleridge —  visited on their tour of Germany.  Adler calls it “the seminal occurrence in the birth of European Romanticism.” Indeed, “the whole episode bears Klopstock’s hallmark,” provoking the emergence of Wordsworth’s genius. Noting that Wordsworth soon wrote the first “Lucy" poems that were so central to his work, Adler speculates that Lucy likely recalls  Klopstock’s “girl” Fanny or even his first wife Cidli.

Henry Raeburn, "The Skating Minister" (ca. 1790)

Friday, December 28, 2018

Wilhelm Waiblinger

I had intended to continue posting on my reading of Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe in the Last Years of His Life, but before doing so I began some cross-checking in my copy of Die Goethe Chronik by Rose Unterberger in order to see what else Goethe was up to when he was meeting Eckermann. Poetically speaking, it appears that the most important thing in Goethe's life in the second half of 1823 was his meeting of Ulrike von Levetzow during his "Trinkkur" in Marienbad beginning in July, which produced Trilogie der Leidenschaft. Before that, however, before Goethe left for Marienbad, he received a copy from Boisserée of Wilhelm Waiblinger's epistolary novel Phaeton, accompanied by a letter from Waiblinger.

Waiblinger is not well known today, although I discovered this past summer that there are three English translations of his life of Friedrich Hölderlin: Friedrich Hölderlins Leben, Dichtung und Wahnsinn. Phaeton was written under the influence of his acquaintance with Hölderlin while Waiblinger was a student in Tübingen. Hermann Hesse wrote a lovely story about an outing of Waiblinger and Hölderlin entitled "In Pressels Gartenhaus."

This past summer I read and reviewed the latest translation of the Hölderlin biography, by Will Stone, for the Times Literary Supplement. For those who are interested, it appeared in the double issue of August 24 & 31, 2018. Like many Romantic poets, Waiblinger died young, after contracting malaria in the Pontine marshes and also undergoing bloodlettings. The Hölderlin biography was published in 1830, a year after Waiblinger's death in Rome. There is a nice precis of Waiblinger's own life and work at the Bibliotheca Augustana, from which the image above is taken.

According to Rose Unterberger's Goethe Chronik, Goethe mentions in his diary of July 16, 1826 receiving a letter from Waiblinger enclosing a copy of his Erzählungen aus der Geschichte des jetzigen Griechenlands. No further evaluation of either Phaeton or the Tales.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Goethe's shoes

As I have frequently mentioned on this blog, Goethe turns up in the darndest places. The previous post led me to a new one. Herewith a little pre-Christmas cheer. The shoes pictured above, with the iconic silhouette of Goethe in the tongue, are a product of a company called Saucony. According to Nice Kicks,  the little pieces of architecture seen in the photo below are "inspired by the Goethe Museum in Dusseldorf," of which (again according to Nice Kicks) Goethe was "the founder."

To top it off (or is it "bottom everything off"?): "Sporting a red rose and grey colorway, the sneaker has a premium suede upper and a white midsole. Making the sneakers even more unique, Goethe’s poems are printed in a variety of places like the heel panels, insole and laces." (My emphasis.)

 As always, click on photos to enlarge.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Eckermann's Goethe

Johann Peter Eckermann
Work on a novel has kept Goethe Girl very busy with little time to think about blogging. Still, there is always a hankering to look at something concerning Goethe, and recently I had Amazon send me Gespräche mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens. It is the kind of book that I can pick up and read a discrete section and feel satisfied that I have learned something new about Goethe, even if filtered through the eyes of a person who seems to have given up everything, even the love of his life, to wait attendance on his hero. By the time I have written more posts on this subject, I may be able to come to my own conclusions about Eckermann, around whom the consensus seems to be mixed.

Margaret Fuller, who did much to transmit enthusiasm for Goethe and for German literature to Americans in the early 19th century, made the first English translation of the Conversations. She was self-taught in German, and, as I browsed her translation online, there were a few places where I was pulled up short and checked the German. I have a feeling it was less of failing to understand the meaning than that she was rapidly translating and did not go back to check things. There was one place, however, where I was struck by a very strange sentence. It appears during Eckermann's inaugural reception, on June 10, 1823, in the house on Frauenplan. He is escorted upstairs to meet Goethe, who soon appears. And here is the sentence in Fuller's translation:

"Goethe soon came in, dressed in a blue coat, and with shoes."

No fooling! Goethe wore shoes!

And then I checked the German. And here it is:

"Es währte nicht lange ... so kam Goethe, in einem blauen Oberrock und in Schuhen ..."

Is Goethe Girl missing something here?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Goethe travels

The travels in the title of this post do not refer to Goethe's own travels, a subject I will write about at some point. It concerns the travel of "Goethe," the person, the concept. I have posted on various occasions concerning the many places outside of literature or German letters that Goethe pops up (including in Korea), but today I would like to consider his presence in Japan. Goethe, it seems represents an icon of style, to judge by the life style magazine, launched in 2006, entitled GOETHE.

Make that ゲーテ

As I glean from the "About Us" function on the webpage of the magazine (with helpful assistance from Google Translate), the market niche is "the positive and motivated business person." Why Goethe? Here again, only slightly edited, I let the magazine speak for itself:

"Johann Wolfgang von Goethe -- The world writer who everyone knows.
Actually it has a variety of faces such as politicians, natural scientists, theater director.
In addition, travelers and those who love women (broken hearted at the age of seventy-eight years old at the age of 73 was also broken heart!).
Ideal for such a way of life like Goethe, a magazine to enrich life."

Lionel Messi
Indeed, who else better exemplifies such ideals as Goethe? And the aim of a person influenced by Goethe:

"Desire to become acquainted with business persons like themselves.
It is a Salon where "knowledge," "learning" and "experience" will help one's ambition for success.
At the Goethe "Salon," acquire the necessary knowledge, interact with many people, a place full of intellectual curiosity and vibrancy."

The Langen Foundation
The issues of the magazines include portraits of very successful men and women, including Lionel Messi, who is the richest soccer player in the world, with a net worth of $400 million. But also the architect Anda Tadao, whose Wikipedia entry is extremely impressive. Above is an image of one of Ando's commissions, the Oriental Art Museum at the Langen Foundation in North Rhein-Westfalia.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Delacroix's "Faust" lithographs

Auerbachs Keller
Today I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with friend Philippe from Reutlingen. He comes every year at Thanksgiving, and we spend at least one day at the Met. I spend a lot of time at the Met, as I continue to do editorial work there, but when I accompany a friennd I really pause and look at the works of art. In this season the Met has outdone itself. But that is nothing new. Besides the Masterpieces of Dutch Art in the Robert Lehman wing, there is a spectacular show of Armenian art, focusing on the Christian influence, with manuscripts from as early as the eleventh century. I will post some pictures later. Also in the Lehman wing is a small exhibit of Tintoretto portraits.

Faust and Mephisto in the Harz Mountains.
The Delacroix exhibition is one of the blockbusters for which the Met is famous and handles so well, even if lots of paintings by Delacroix in European collections did not travel, as they are too fragile. Still, an interesting selection. What most struck me is that Delacroix, despite being consider a Romantic artist, is so thematic in his choice of subjects. Most of the themes are historical or biblical/mythological. Although he came of age after the fall of Napoleon, there is no painting commemorating that period, not even the French Revolution. I am not a student of his oeuvre, however, and it could be that the Louvre, which is a co-producer of this exhibition, has some "contemporary" works.

Ich bitt' Euch, nehmt Euch meiner an!
An entire room was devoted to the Faust lithographs by Delacroix. I post photos of a three here, one only in detail: a scene featuring Mephisto as he and Faust travel in the Harz Mountains. I particularly like the scene of  Mephisto giving the student ("was man schwarz auf weiß besitzt/ kann man getrost nach Hause nehmen") some bad advice. The Goethezeitportal has a good piece on the series, with the Delacroix series seen in postcard format. (As always, click on images to enlarge.)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Gingko in the snow

This is becoming an annual thing, if a post last year on the subject constitutes the beginning of a series. Really cold weather causes leaves to fall practically overnight. The first snow fell on Manhattan two days ago. Entering Central Park, I captured the fate of the gingko again. Click to enlarge.

Dark falls so early now. I walked home shortly after 5 p.m. Manhattan looks at its best at night, with all the electric illumination, but the resulting photo from my little Nikon camera offers an eerie prospect.