Germany Literature – Humanism and Reformation Part V

Germany Literature – Humanism and Reformation Part V

The command of literature passes from mystical and sensualistic Silesia to Prussia who created the Zopfstil, to fat Hamburg, to multivariate Saxony. Prussians are the satirist C. Wernicke, the court poets FR von Canitz and the Bessers and professor poeseos JV Pietsch, champions of “good taste”; from Hamburg is Barthold Heinrich Brockes. They purge the baroque plumpness with the naturalness preached by Boileau; he comes out of the cathedral of the seventeenth-century ego to sing the Irdisches Vergnügen in Gott, as the title of his collection of verses sounds. Sharp eyes, all senses open, Brockes has to take possession of the world with an impressionism of modern and very colorful precision. But that lyrical review of creation aims to celebrate the creator’s goodness for man. In addition to the virtues of the Enlightenment, clarity and simplicity, Brockes’ poetry also has the pedagogical character and the idyllic tone, which become dominant in the new art. Pedagogy is political moralism in the Alpen by Albrecht von Haller, whose lyrical meditations, however, have a strength and depth rare in his time. The brilliant surface of which is shown by the idylls of his Swiss compatriot Salomon Gessner, all decoration, all serene enjoyment of nature posed in the graces of the Rococo. Nature is also now the great verb in Germany; in many ways it is sung, and there are those who try to see it without accessory purposes, and without idealizing disguises: Ewald von Kleist, Der Frühling, who imitating J. Thomson’s Seasons shows from which land the examples can come to Germany more fruitful.

In England, the Hamburg-born F. von Hagedorn, the initiator of the anacreontic fashion, had been trained, who chisels fugitive poésie with rare skill into a slender and harmonious verse, demonstrating that German is no less suitable than French for expressing grace and elegance. And this is a humanistic revival, which begins to be directed towards Greece as well as towards Rome. Hagedorn is followed by JW Gleim, JP Uz, JN Götz, whose stylistic exercises will also be studied by the young Goethe. Gleim, when the Seven Years’ War has broken out, will surprise you with the vigor of its Preussische Kriegslieder von einem Grenadier. The anacreontic world is naturally propitious to shepherd’s shops, and the gallant costume is willingly armed with wit. It also responds to the tendencies of the Enlightenment, that witty pastorellerie can have the appearance of a fairy tale and serve moral training: here CF Gellert teaches school. Teaching while having fun also requires satire, rarely personal (CL Liscow), more willingly generic (GW Rabener) and even dramatized in a heroic- comic poem (Zachariae’s Renomist).

This group of Bremer Beiträge he has already passed, without understanding its importance, the crisis point of the Enlightenment marked by the controversy on the essence of art. The efforts of J. Christoph Gottsched were directed to a practical work, not to theoretical speculations in “little Paris” (Leipzig). The state of national literature seemed to him one of chaotic disorder, arbitrariness, baroqueism, falsehood everywhere. Wolffian philosophy gave him the direction, French classicism the models he sought: according to the great passion of the century he set about reforming the theater, language, eloquence, all art, demanding reason, order, regularity everywhere. Today, more rightly, the work done by this gruff schoolmaster of German literature is considered useful, seeing him continue what was no less necessary, in his time, by Opitz. The fact remains that in the controversy with the Swiss JJ Bodmer and JJ Breitinger, supporters of the rights of the imagination, the main reason was on their side, even though they too were entangled in rationalism. To the classicist models of Gottsched, French and Latin, the Swiss opposed the English and the Greeks, and went back to ancient national poetry. All trends of the future: their incitements were answered by the voice of the first great poet of the new time, FG Klopstock. and they dated back to ancient national poetry. All trends of the future: their incitements were answered by the voice of the first great poet of the new time, FG Klopstock. and they dated back to ancient national poetry. All trends of the future: their incitements were answered by the voice of the first great poet of the new time, FG Klopstock.

According to, Klopstock is in the rationalist century, after centuries of predominant intellectualism, the first incarnation of the poetic genius that creates by necessity, not by commitment, moved by inspiration, not by example, following its own law, not a pre-established poetic. In his work the Enlightenment is not denied, and even baroque tendencies resurface; reflection often intervenes to enlarge the data of the imagination and perhaps to drag them into rhetoric. But there remains an originality of which there was no earlier example, an even fresher originality in the Odes than in the Messiah. The Stürmer und Dränger generationhe will recognize in Klopstock the ideal image of the poet; and although he soon closes himself in a short world and disperses his lyrical talent in vain attempts at biblical and patriotic dramas, he will be able with a very personal poetic (Die Gelehrtenrepublik) to continue to comfort the new attempts of the young generation.

While Klopstock thus rises above his time, CM Wieland is the representative poet par excellence of the Enlightenment. Having also started from religious enthusiasm, he immediately moves on to the irony and epicurean wisdom of the gallant century. His whole thought hinges on the problem of the contrast of ideal and reality, of virtue and sensuality, the solution of which – to see under the deceptions of hypocrisy and imagination the vices and human needs to make honest accounts with them – responds to the practical wisdom and pedagogy of the time. This ever-returning debate Wieland varies him into comic novels, epic tales, novels, with a fantastic richness, a festivity of intonation and a virtuosity of style, which make him the most brilliant writer of the German eighteenth century. The young Goethe in Leipzig will also be willing to go to his school. Rococo finds its fulfillment in Wieland. But the Rococò was a harmony obtained on condition of silencing the deepest needs of the German soul, which a work of centuries had now matured. At their manifestation that harmony had to break. Before that, however, another study had to bring the critical thinking of the Enlightenment.

Germany Literature - Humanism and Reformation 5

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