Germany Literature – Humanism and Reformation Part III

Germany Literature – Humanism and Reformation Part III

The religious division, the importance of which is underlined by the Thirty Years War, can serve to draw a fundamental distinction between a literally more homogeneous Catholic Germany in the service of the Roman Church in the struggle for Catholic reconquest and a more varied Protestant Germany, less disciplined. but more fruitful in attempts. The dominion of the Catholic Church is so strong in the Rhenish and southern regions that the artists are almost exclusively ecclesiastics: they are not the authors of the Jesuit drama, a J. Bidermann, a N. Avancini, the building works, a Martin von Kochem, but also the lyricists, such as the Jesuits Jakob Balde, F. Spee, and even the convert J. Scheffler. That the theater was Latin does not consequently carry the exclusive character that one might believe; the fee is paid by evidence of the lavishly staged shows and the large contribution of the subsidiary arts. It triumphs above all in Vienna, where a brilliant actor, JA Stranitzky, simultaneously promotes the emergence of a popular comedy. And all people and all scene is Abraham’s preaching to St. Clara. With the Jesuit theater, Catholic Germany mainly achieves that sumptuous and stately ideal of art which is one of the most characteristic aspirations of the time. If in it the imagination may seem moved more by the apparatus than by the literary text, it has more free impetus in the Latin lyric of J. Balde and in the German songs of Spee and Silesio (Scheffler). Both operating in the border area, as if summing up the transcendent character of the southern Baroque, they create perhaps the most beautiful poetic flowers of the mystical one, a link with the spirituality and poetry of the Protestant side. Here it is true that at the beginning, tones that are anything but mystical are heard: humanistic and rationalistic is the character of the early Baroque. They are corifei in the West, at the courts of Heidelberg and Stuttgart, Theodor Höck and Georg Weckherlin, experts in Italian and French poetry and artists of singular sensitivity for the times. In Heidelberg JW Zincgref already gathers a cenacle of rhymers of the new way, of which the young student Opitz joined in 1618. The Gesellschaftspoesie, the impersonal, uniform, technical poetry of the courtier poet, capable of dealing with any subject by varying a certain number of conventional motifs in certain approved forms, with much effort of reflection to find acuteness, wit, color. It is the art of the new court society, learned and elegant, which is in a hurry to catch up with the beautiful world of European capitals, an art that helps to implement the ideal of courtly life, and is therefore utilitarian, rhetorical, anodyne until it seems like a collective creation and, above all, a cerebral product, it is taught and learned. In fact, he found a legislator: M. Opitz in the Buch von der deutschen Poeterey (1624) outlines the limits, distinguishes genres, disciplines the verse and use of words, reaffirms the canon of imitation of the classics.

It was a practical school that Opitz invited his compatriots to and not useless. The linguistic academies also performed a useful task, which grew in number following the example of the first, the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft in Weimar (1617), modeled on the Accademia della Crusca. In Strasbourg as in Lübeck, in Hamburg as in Nuremberg, efforts were made to ennoble the German language with a training which, gradually gathering the scattered forces, put again the concept of a national literature. Opitz was Silesian, but his action as a great impresario of the new literature, as he was called, made itself felt throughout Germany. Not only did the flexible P. von Zesen and J. Rist and EC Homburg and K. Stieler (the author of the Geharnschte Venus), but also P. Fleming, the freshest and most spontaneous of these rhymers, and religious poets such as Simon Dach and J. Heermann.

According to, the guide to Silesia, a region new to literature, is one of the salient facts of the century. Territory not much colonized against the Slavs, it was the most sensitive point of the meeting of the two religions, that is, of the two Germanys. The mystical emotions left unsatisfied by the Reformation and the germs, brought by the Counter-Reformation, of the new Catholic religiosity, flowing into it as if in a catchment area, aroused an inexhaustible fervor of speculations and fantasies. Suffice it to recall the name of Jakob Böhme. Here the main nourishment is that second main current of the Protestant seventeenth century, the religious-irrationalistic, which variously intertwining with the humanistic-rationalistic forms the contrast from which the art of the whole era is imprinted. Outside Silesia, Protestant religious poetry remains faithful to the Lutheran tradition, even when it is the product of a strong personality capable of originally feeling the love of God and the beauty of the world, like P. Gerhardt. In Silesia the tradition is already broken by J. Heermann; from the Böhmian groove then arises, with A. von Franckenberg, JT von Tschesch, D. Czepko, who in the intellectualistic vase par excellence of the Alexandrian couplet, the favorite verse of the time, collects all the fruits of the mystical speculation of the Renaissance. J. Scheffler is a convert to Catholicism, who achieves in this way the highest poetic expression of the longing for the divine with his Cherubinischer Wandersmann. With another lyric collection, Die heilige Seelenlust, he also contributes validly to preparing the psychological art of the next century.

Germany Literature - Humanism and Reformation 3

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