Germany Literature – Humanism and Reformation Part IV

Germany Literature – Humanism and Reformation Part IV

Silesian mysticism influences the religious poetry of other groups, such as that of the “Friends of Death” of Königsberg (S. Dach, H. Albert, R. Roberthin, etc.), but is especially felt in the work of Andreas Gryphius. All the contrasting elements of the time are gathered in Gryphius, Lutheran, raised in the most modern Calvinist culture, inclined to Stoicism, not oblivious to Böhmian doctrines, not indifferent to the reinvigorated Catholic religiosity. What does not allow his art to reach harmony is precisely the imbalance between irrationalism and intellectualism, a perennial tension in him, despite the imposed rational domination. However, a vigor derives from it, which has no example in other contemporaries. No one sang with greater power the ever-returning motifs of the seventeenth century, the transience of every human thing, the misery of the creature, the power and charm of death. That such a spirit sought an outlet in the drama is well understood. But however effectively Gryphius’s tragedies expressed his ethos and profound aspirations of the time, however much they made use of the experiences of Jesuit theater, and sometimes seemed to presage the future, they were an artistic fruit derived from classical and foreign writers; as they had no precedent, so they had no follow up. His comedies did not even have a sequel, although they could also attach themselves to a national tradition. No tension of the said kind was more in the tragedies of the other Silesian D. von Lohenstein, although they were more skilled, more confident in effect, tighter in technique. In Lohenstein passion arises from the excitement of the senses and imagination, precisely as in the lyrics of C. Hofmann von Hofmannswaldau, the gallant cavalier who leaves the school of Opitz for that of Marino. A road on which Nuremberg poets, indeed much more frigid, had already set out: Germany Ph. Harsdörffer, J. Klaj, S. von Birken, characteristically bowing to pastorellerie and to all sorts of conceptual games.

The synthesis, which Gryphius pursued in the play, was also attempted in the novel. Efforts to create a German novel lasted throughout the century. First it translates, then begins the original production of AH Bucholtz, P. von Zesen, HA von Ziegler, D. von Lohenstein, Duke Anton Ulrich of Brunswick. They are works each more voluminous than the other, stuffed with every kind of material, intertwining history with exoticism, the cruel with the pathetic, gallantry with heroism, religion and morality. However much imagination and skill in construction there is in these novels, the epic masterpiece of the seventeenth century, the Simplicissimus by HG Chr. von Grimmelshausen, is on a completely different level. Like the other Simplician writings, it belongs to the type of the picaresque story of Spanish import; but its content is an autobiography made up of events from the most tragic period in German history – the Thirty Years’ War – through which a new Parsifal unaware of good and evil makes the whole experience of life. The dominant feature of the most representative Baroque art is illusionism: Simplicissimus gives the hand to the mystics by teaching that “appearances can be deceiving”. It is no coincidence that the hero ends up anchorite.

The genre of the adventure novel continues to delight the people, of whose literature it is so much that it provokes the caricature of the adventurous liar Scheimuffsky by Chr. Reuter. But rather than this Grimmelshausen’s novel has a relationship with satire. JM Moscherosch, in his Gesichte (Visions, learned from those of Quevedo), he is also a disillusionist of the Baroque world; to whose vanity and shame and misery then Friedrich von Logau opposes the mirror of his intemperate conscience and his gentle soul, drawing with the contrast, not without melancholy, an image of noble humanity. Stoicism was not enough for Logau either. Who has not been touched by religious restlessness in this century? He is even, as well as a Fleming, a Rist, the gallant Hofmannswaldau. He wrote these, however, while religious poetry in Silesia continued to flourish – for example, in Chr. Knorr von Rosenroth – and sinanco raged in Quirinus Kuhlmann. The heated cult and growing sentimentality say that the rise of pietism is imminent (Spener, Pia Desideria, 1675). Pietism represents a reaction against the dogmatic rigidity of Lutheran orthodoxy, a liberation of sentiment from which the imagination will profit greatly. It has its own poets, among which Gottfried Arnold and Gerhard Tersteegen will be the most significant, but it will also act on all the new poetry, from Klopstock to Goethe. Parallel is another liberation, complementary and not contradictory, from the intoxications of intellectualistic sensualism by reason. A first literary manifestation is the struggle against Schwulst (rhetorical tumidity), which began towards the end of the century and of which Christian Weise is champion, seconded elsewhere by satirists and followers of French classicism.

According to, the first trend of the eighteenth century is also in Germany towards the simple, the natural. Without understanding what the Baroque had wanted and attempted, it is summarily condemned by ridiculing its excesses and its sumptuous exterior. Another foreign fashion lends easy help; even philosophy now shows itself useful. This is a fact that also occurs elsewhere; in no other country, however, will the collaboration of philosophy with art be so intense. If Leibnitz’s system still has a relationship with the Baroque and his intellectualism still makes room for fantasy, willing vulgarizers soon adapt his thought to the desired measure. Chr. Thomasius and Chr. Wolff, ridiculing everything that does not fall within the limits of narrow rationalism with the name of prejudice, they spread in Germany the Enlightenment conception, which reduces reason to common sense, religion to morality, Leibnitz’s pre-established harmony to a utilitarian teleologism, believes that truth can be achieved with logic and art with study. A true poet like Chr. Gu̇nther, the last great Silesian, seems an anachronistic figure in this climate; his fellow countryman Ben. Neukirch, the publisher of the German marinists, underlines the change of time with his conversion to classicism. his fellow countryman Ben. Neukirch, the publisher of the German marinists, underlines the change of time with his conversion to classicism. his fellow countryman Ben. Neukirch, the publisher of the German marinists, underlines the change of time with his conversion to classicism.

Germany Literature - Humanism and Reformation 4

Comments are closed.