George Sylvester Viereck



Modern Germany – Mad?



Literatur: Viereck
Literatur: The Arena

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[566] AN AMERICAN viewing the life literary of modern Germany cannot but pause in wonder and ask himself, What does it all mean? Are the people mad? Surely there are many things to warrant this conclusion. "Attraction at any price" seems to be the motto of many of their writers, "and if you can't be original, be, at least, indicent and bizarre."

Perhaps we can find a reason and an excuse for this. The seeming sameness of all German lyrics has often been remarked upon. The very language seems to sit up like a snake and bite at those who attempt to clothe the new thought in new form. The Chinese classics were written by one man; of the whole body of German lyric verse it might be remarked, not without a semblance of [567] truth, that it might be have written by Heine and two other fellows.

The difficulty of attaining stylistic distinction has driven men of real genius, like Arno Holz and Stefan George, and even Liliencron, to take refuge in mannerisms. And excessive mannerisms, in literature as in life, are bad manners. Stefan George and Holz, especially, are form-mad. They no longer possess form, but are possessed by it. And the tragedy of the situation is that their form is often bad form. Holz, for instance, discards meter, rhythm, rhyme, and often – reason. He builds up his poems upon (or rhather around) an invisible middle axis in the form of pyramids, erect or inverted. His imagination has power and richness of color, he has flashes of thought, yet it is extremely improbable that these fantastic pyramidal strutures are likely to be as enduring as their Eygptian prototypes. There are certainly not as impressive. Linguistic gymnastics are not poetry.

Stefan George, on the other hand, though adhering more closely to classic metrics, has taken it into his head to revolutionize the German language. He follows his model Rossetti even to the extent of Anglicizing his spelling. For he insists on beginning every noun with a small letter, and only occasionally, as his fancy suggests, capitalizes an adjective. A book on his literary tendencies, published some years ago, bore the inscription, cribbed from the Intentions: "A truth in art is that whose contrary is also true" – a statement which looks to me more like an enigma than an epigram, though Oscar Wilde, when he wrote it, probably attached some meaning to it. I have heard it said that Stefan George presides in gorgeous costumes, in some Vienna café, over a circle of admirers whose duty it is to sit at his feet and worship. However that may be, he is a conscientious artist, a magnificent craftsman in words. I imagine that he would be quite capable, like Mr. Wilde, of working a whole forenoon to take one comma out of a poem, and the whole afternoon to put it back.





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Arena.
Bd. 37, 1907, Juni, S. 566-570.

Unser Auszug: S. 566-567.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).

The Arena   online




Literatur: Viereck

Brandmeyer, Rudolf: Poetiken der Lyrik: Von der Normpoetik zur Autorenpoetik. In: Handbuch Lyrik. Theorie, Analyse, Geschichte. Hrsg. von Dieter Lamping. 2. Aufl. Stuttgart 2016, S. 2-15.

Johnson, Niel. M.: George Sylvester Viereck: Poet and Propagandist. In: Books at Iowa 9.1, 1968, S. 22-36.

Keller, Phyllis: George Sylvester Viereck: The Psychology of a German-American Militant. In: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2.1 (1971), S. 59-108.

Leighton, Angela: On Form. Poetry, Aestheticism, and the Legacy of a Word. Oxford 2007.



Literatur: The Arena

Satterthwaite, Tim / Thacker, Andrew (Hrsg.): Magazines and Modern Identities. Global Cultures of the Illustrated Press, 1880-1945. London 2023.

Stoddard, Roger E.: Vanity and Reform: B. O. Flower's Arena Publishing Company, Boston, 1890-1896. With a Bibliographical List of Arena Imprints. In: Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 76.3 (1982), S. 273-337.



Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer