MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERAT URE Journal of the International Arthur Schnitzler Research Association Volume 18, Number 2, 1985 © Copyright 1985 International Arthur Schnitzler Research Association University of California at Riverside Library ofCongress Catalogue Card Number: PT 3810.152 International Standard Series Number: 0026-7503
Hofmannsthal's Theatrical Work as His Life's Calling Katharina Mommsen When the seventeen-year-old Hofmannsthal went to the country in the summer of 1891 to complete his first play Gestern, he brought along in his bags Menschliches, Allzumenschliches by Nietzsche. 1 In the preface to this work Nietzsehe sketches the painful "great release"2 that first allowed him to totally discover hlmself and his life's work: Wie es mir erging, muß es jedem ergehn, in dem eine Aufgabe leibhaft werden und "zur Welt kommen" will. Die heimliche Gewalt und Notwendigkeit dieser Aufgabe wird unter und in seinen einzelnen Schicksalen walten gleich einer unbewußten Schwangerschaft .... Unsere Bestimmung verfugt über uns, auch wenn wir sie noch nicht kennen; es ist die Zukunft, die unserm Heute die Regel gibt. 3 Nietzsche's sensation of his work ''wanting to come into the world" has a fundamental correspo,ndence in Hofmannsthal's fate-experience. Hofmannsthai saw in theatrical productivity his life's work, a work which would become his fate and deal with him fatefully. In later years Hofmannsthal pointed to this again and again with phrases like "sein eigenes Schicksal begreifen" and "seinen Platz im Dasein gewahrwerden."4 Fate, Hofmannsthal says, cannot be run away from, cannot be evaded; it is inescapable. And in another place he states that "die mögliche, notwendige Tat aus dem Wesensgrund, dem Geschick hervorgehe. "S And in yet another place he says: "Das Leben des höheren Menschen ist beherrscht durch das Schicksaisgesetz der persönlichen Sendung, die er verwirklichen soll. ,,6 While writing Gestern, Hofmannsthal-Loris was interested in Nietzsche's Menschliches, Allzumenschliches because it was testimony to a conceivable real life situatjon comparable to the one confronting hlm,.and Gestern was to reflect symbolically the problematical aspects of this situation. Menschliches, Allzumenschliches is-evidence of the greatest transformation Modern Austrian Literature, Volume 18, Number 2, 1985 3
4 MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERATURE in Nietzsche's life. With it he separated himself from all the wealth of a happy youth and from the Basel professorship which his phenomenal talent had secured for him at the early age of twenty-four. He freed himself from the ideals he had admired up till then - from Schopenhauer, from Wagner, and from sacred moral concepts. Nietzsche's life's work, the philosophy of reevaluation, forces its way into the world. His Yesterday no longer has any value: "[die] Zukunft gibt seinem Heute die Regel." The whole philosophy of Hofmannsthal's Gestern could be spun out of these words of Nietzsche. Young Hofmannsthal also recognized for hirnself that a great transformation and release were necessary. At an early age he was blessed with the precious natural gift of an elevated poetic language, the likes of which hardly a poet in centuries acquires. Yet even from the very beginning it was clear to Hofmannsthal that it was precisely the richness of his poetic language which was a critical hindrance to the fulfillment of his reallife's calling - a calling of which he had a notion very early. He hirnself admitted how long he had had this notion: "Ich fiihlte mich, vom 15ten Lebensjahr an, als eine Art Hausdichter eines imaginären Burgtheaters. ,,7 Without any illusions even the young Hofmannsthal understood that his beautiful elevated verse was fundamentally unsuitable for the stage. The contemporary theater public did not understand such language. Furthermore, a great deal of appealing subject matter could not be portrayed in this language. On no account, Loris knew, could he stay with the tone of his fIrst verses; for the sake of his life's calling, it would be necessary to transform and change. In the early poems this realization is reflected in the strangest manner. The greatest wealth of a new poetic language is heralded, along with the proud awareness of his wealth,8 but at the same time it is accompanied by a persistent denial of that same language,9 a pressing desire for liberation from it, adesire for change. 10 What Loris desires is to fashion the most varied characters with a type of speech suitable to them; he seeks a poetry suitable for the stage. ll His rich poetic language, which could not accomplish this, is therefore seen as a binding chain. At this time Loris compared his own wonderful poetic wealth with the wealth of King Midas in the Greek legend. A god bestowed upon Midas the gift of turning everything he touches to gold - a great but dangerous gift, as soon became apparent. Even the food Midas wishes to eat turns to gold in his mouth. No sooner does the wealth become his than he must beg to be freed of it in order to keep from dying of hunger .12 I have treated in a separate essay the major metaphor of the impressionistic change in the hero Andrea in Gestern pointing to the Midas situation. 13 Here I shall Hofmannsthal's Theatrical Work 5 only call to mind the _point where Andrea characterizes his urge to change as arising out of fear of missing his destiny, and thereby missing the highest, the best, the deepest. 14 The voice of the young Hofmannsthal speaks clearly here: clinging to his original poetic wealth and not changing would result in missing his destiny, in not fulfllling his life's calling. Incidentally, HofmannsthaI, like his hero Andrea, would never com .pletely resolve the problems of his "Yesterday.,,15 The poetic language of his youth continued to be a hindrance for the playwright for a long time. Liberation from it occurred only gradually and laboriously, on a path of suffering that lasted nearly twenty years. We know the various stations: attempts of all kinds to adapt the lyrical manner of speaking to the stage with ever-recurring disappointments, and finally, the decision to turn to prose. The first play, Gestern, was also in tbis regard indicative in that HofmannsthaI continued to refer symbolically to the difficulties of his path to playwright in almost all bis works and especially in his plays. Indeed, he once said plots and characters are notbing but symbols. 16 And when he repeatedly stressed that "Jeder Dichter gestaltet unaufhörlich das eine Grunderlebnis seines Lebens,,,17 so from the Loris period on that one fundamental experience lies for bim in self-transformation and the necessity of change, in the difficult coming-into-the-world of his life's calling. In his works Hofmannsthal points with moral metaphors to the liberation from the lyrical mann er of poetry wbich bis mission for the theater required of bim. At the basis of tbis was the recognition that symbolist poetry existed for a few hundred people at the most, as even the nineteenyear-old poet knew. 18 Through dramatic works he could give sometbing to many more people. And Hofmannsthai wanted, as he explicitly said, to make the "Großstadtmasse " happy and to give them something - from the banker to the gardner, to the barber and the soldier. 19 So bis striving for the proper stage language was at the same time a moral action, a service to bis time and to bis fellow man, a linking up with life. Under this moral aspect HofmannsthaI made bis artistic development into the multiple varied theme of bis writing. 2o He demands of his characters that they link themselves with life; he lets them seek the path to sociality ("der Weg zum Sozialen"), to lose their way, or to find it. Ad me ipsum, in wbich Hofmannsthai hirnself interprets his works with such expressions, reveals again and again how the solution of moral problems is actually a symbol for the solution of bis own artistic problem. This is true, for example, when Hofmannsthai characterizes comedy as sociality attained ("das erreichte Soziale"), suggesting thereby that only through the creation of the proper stage language can the desired union with life be achieved.
6 MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERATURE Ad me ipsum is interesting in our context because Hofmannsthal speaks here remarkably often of destiny. Formulas such as the following appear: seeking one's destiny, missing one's destiny , the struggle to understand one's destiny, finding one's destiny, the correct fulfillment of destiny, and many others. Such deterministic expressions might sound odd coming from Hofmannsthal who, like his Kari Bühl, did not otherwise like to let hirnself be flXed to a certain position and who had little tendency to believe in the concrete. 21 But Ad me ipsum offers the best explanation for this. Hofmannsthal perceived the law of destiny, under which he saw his literary life's calling, precisely as a summons not to believe in concrete things, not to remain flXed. It demanded transformation and change of him - in fact, continuous change. Thus in Ad me ipsum we really find the self-transformation equated with the taking up of one's destiny. The transformation here consists in a renunciation of dream and trance and in a gradual discovery of that which is right. 22 Again and again it is shown that Hofmannsthal has his own destiny in mind here: the liberation from very personallyrical poetry and the discovery, after many changes and much self-denial, of the right style of speech to play before the crowds. It is highly revealing that the "Sichverwandeln" and "Aufsichnehmen des Schicksals" as described in Ad me ipsum is portrayed in the plot of Frau ohne Schatten. Here we must consider that Hofmannsthal began Die Frau ohne Schatten right after he as a writer had attained "sociality," as he called it, after the first stage successes of Rosenkavalier and Jedermann. In Die Frau ohne Schatten, the analogy of the empress who follows the path to people and the symbol of the salvation of the unborn allude to this turning point where Hofmannsthal begins to fulfill his destiny. The beginning of self-realization, which is symbolically reflected in the dialogue, characters, and events of Frau ohne Schatten, was recognized by 1I0fmannsthal even in his first stage work, Gestern. He explicitly stressed in Ad me ipsum that even in Gestern one could recognize "die Kette der MoUve, welche die Auseinandersetzung mit Daimon, Tyche und Ananke enthalten .. 23 that is with destiny. Repeatedly he points . to Andrea's fe ar 01" missing his destiny. In fact, Andrea is said to be without adestiny. All Ibis confirms that already in Gestern Hofmannsthal had reflected his situation as an artist, the situation of a lyric poet seeking contact with the life of other people but not yet finding it. Gestern was the prelude to everything Lo come. Soon after Gestern appeared, Hofmannsthal met Stefan George in Vienna. 24 Through George Hofmannsthal first learned to appraise correctly the full value of his talent for verse; he understood then, too, that he had to Ho[mannstha/'s Theatrical Work 7 fully exhaust this talent. The new era of poetic writing be gins at this time, whereby Hofmannsthal characteristically favors the form of the lyrical drama. His poems are unrivaled - yet their number remained limited. He did not really feel he was meant to be a lyric poet, and he acknowledged but few of his own poems. The work Hofmannsthal published in the first years after meeting George leaves the impression he was moving away from the theater, not eloser to it, for he could hardly expect the lyrical dramas to be performed. In reality, however, his view remained ever flXed on the live stage. Evidence for this begins to accumulate right after the meeting with George. Hofmannsthal worked quietly on projects for the actual brutal stage. 25 He makes linguistic experiments of all kinds, in order to advance from the lyrical mood to lively reality, to drama. 26 But it is to no avail, however, for he does not find the appropriate language. The movement toward the stage is reflected especially impressively in the essays of the 1890s. Formulas and metaphors indicating this run through Hofmannsthal's essays like an unbroken thread. An especia1ly characteristic formula is that of missing out on life, which also plays a central role in Tor und Tod. It is missing life when the poet does not serve life, when contact with the people is not found, contact that the playwright but not the lyric poet can attain. Corresponding to the missed life are the missed works, which reproachfully and sadly hover about the poet. 27 The missed works are similar to the "unborn children.,,28 Here already in 1896 there occurs the metaphor of pregnancy which is used in Die Frau ohne Schatten to allude to the poet's own troubles. Various characters force their way to life in Hofmannsthal, characters which he would like to bring to the stage. He enumerates such characters 29 - as Loris did in his poems - and points to the situation of the dramatist who feels as if he were "innerlich voller Figur.,,30 Hofmannsthal hirnself awakened the notion that the lyrical period drew to a elose in 1902 with the Chandos-Ietter and its critique oflanguage. I t is easily forgotten that the end of the lyrical period is much earlier, namely in 1896, for in 1897 there begins the production of pieces with attention given to their stage ability . So there exists already here an important caesura in Hofmannsthal's work. Thus it is no accident that in connection with this turning point of 1896-97 we come upon Hofmannsthal's first affirmations that he is following his destiny when he now turns to the stage. Let us look first at what happened in 1896. During the first months of the year, Hofmannsthal wrote twelve first-rate poems; which he gave George for publication in his journal, Blätter für die Kunst. This is approximately one-half of the Hofmannsthal poems ever printed there. These twelve
8 MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERATURE poems represent an absolute epitome of lyrical productivity. The strange thing is that the majority of these poems express that Hofmannsthai must leave the form of the lyrical poem - that a change, a transition, to other forms is imminent. Verses such as "Es wohnen noch ganz andere Gewalten / In unsrer Tänze namenlosen Falten,,31 point to this fact. The theme of departure and change is most distinctly expressed in the two poems which formed the conc1usion to the whole group in the first edition. The second to the last bore at that time the indicative title Verwandlung (later, Ein Knabe). I will take the liberty of paraphrasing the poem here: A boy lives apart in a world of poetic dreams. Such a white, innocent life of solitude does not, however, satisfy him, and he longs to return to people. After torturous inner struggles he becomes aware that his experience of beauty holds hirn captive like a prison. His transformation comes about in his liberation from this prison . This liberation is seen as a fulfillmen t of destiny. Of the boy it is said that he perceives his own inconceivable destiny, that he is tamed for his destiny. There follows then, significantly placed at the end of the set of poems, the epigram Inschrift. Here Hofmannsthai appeals to hirnself not to hesitate to fulfill his own destiny and to turn to the sole business for which he was intended: Entzieh dich nicht dem eihzigen Geschäfte! Vor dem dich schaudert, dieses ist das deine: Nicht anders sagt das Leben, was es meine, Und schnell verwirft das Chaos deine Kräfte. 32 The poem Inschrift is of the greatest significance. It is actually the gravestone for Hofmannsthal's lyrical production. The poems he wrote from this point on are but a few stragglers. At the same time the epigram is a marker on the path to the stage works ; it marks the will to break away and does so with distinctly deterministic expressions. Hofmannsthai hirnself regarded the poem as just such a marker and repeatedly cited it later in this regard. 33 In the year 1896 Hofmannsthal's decision to turn to writing for the stage again finds expression in the essay Über ein Buch von Alfred Berger. This is the last larger essay before the onset of a six-year pause in Hofmannsthal's essayistic work. Owing to this fact and to his personal avowals, the essay takes on special significance. The re port on the book of his teacher, Berger, gives Hofmannsthai occasion to express at length his views ab out his own profession as a poet: Der innerste Kern des Dichterwesens ist nichts anderes Hofmannsthal's Theatrical Work . 9 als sein Wissen, daß er ein Dichter ist. Dieses einen über alle Zweifel bewußt . .. steht er dem Weltwesen gegenüber. Er weiß sich "innerlich voller Figur": er weiß, wenn das Leben ihm große und rührende Schicksale zeigte , so hätte . er Flammenworte, die gerne auflodern möchten, diese Schicksale zu bereden. Dieses sein Wissen um sich selbst ist sein erstes, sein tiefstes Erlebnis. Es ist wie in der Frau das Wissen um die Möglichkeit, Mutter zu werden. 34 We see how the dramatist striving toward the theater speaks here, the dramatist whose imagination has long since been filled with characters and destinies now seeking to come to life through him. The pregnancy metaphor points again to this striving towards the stage. Furthermore, Hofmannsthai speaks in the Berger essay of Beethoven, in order to again refer to hirnself. We find here important information about his own relationship to destiny, as when he states: Der Meister seiner Kunst bewußt: daß er Musik zu machen vermag, das ist der Kern seines Daseins, das Geschick, dem er sich nicht zu entziehen vermag, das Erlebnis vor und über allen Erlebnissen. Er schaut dem Leben zu und scheint sich immer zu besinnen, wie er es anfinge , diesem Leben selbst zum Tanze auf~uspielen . 35 Bere Hofmannsthal emphatically characterizes artistic creativity as determined, fated. With the phrase, "das Geschick, dem er sich nicht zu entziehen vermag," we find a reference to the epigram Inschrift: "EntZieh dich nicht dem einzigen Geschäfte! . . . dieses ist das deine." Here as tn Inschrift Hofmannsthai is speaking of his own case. As a playwright he had to be able to "playa dance for life" in order to do justice to the role which, in accordance with destiny, had been his lot. In the words that immediately follow there is alsoa reference to his own work, when Hofmannsthai speaks of the poet's profession as predetermined: "Es ist töricht zu denken, daß ein Dichter je aus seinem Beruf, Worte zu machen, herausgehen könnte. Eher . könnte ein Stein aus eigener Kraft seinen Schwerpunkt verändern: ,36 Even Goethe, Hofmannsthai continues, never left his profession. Even when he wrote the Farbenlehre, he remained a poet. Precisely here he gave a new language to the silent secrets of nature. Hofmannsthai compares th i ~ language with that of Shakespeare's heroes and conc1udes: "So ist der Dichter im Bewußtsein seiner Kunst unlösbar verfangen . Sie ist sein sicheres Mittel, das Leben
10 MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERATURE von sich abzuhalten, sein sicheres Mittel, sich dem Leben zu verbinden.,,37 Striking in the Berger essay, as in the epigramInschrift, are the painful accents: the emphasis that the poet could not escape his calling, that he was trapped in his art. Why does Hofmannsthal shudder at the thought of writing plays, the direction toward which everything was drawing him? Certainly one major reason was the necessary change of literary levels. In turning to the stage Hofmannsthal left the highest level of poetry, a level where he could claim a first place next to the acknowledged masters of world literature. On no account did he want to become a "second-rate artist" an expression found in an essay from 1896. 38 But just such a danger did exist if he entered a new literary level where he would be competing with Hauptmann and Schnitzier. The problem was to find a language for totally different areas of subject matter - a language which on the one hand was understood by the theater audience and on the other hand remained the language of a first-rate artist. Herein lay difficulties he shuddered at. The extent of these difficulties becomes perceptible in the comparison with Goethe's Farbenlehre in the Berger essay. To Hofmannsthal the distance between Goethe's poetic works and his scientific prose seemed similar in its extremity to the distance between his own poetry of the past and the dramatic language of the future. Goethe's discovery of a truly poetic tone for the totally different level became now the stimulus and example for Hofmannsthal: his dramatic language, too, should remain poetic. The poet can not escape his calling; he is destined to it like a stone to its center of gravity. Or expressed in the analogies of Das Große Welttheater: no one chooses for himself the role that each of us has to play in this world. It falls to him in accordance with destiny. One thing, to be sure, is left to each actor of this great world theater; that is, what he makes of his role, how well or poorly he plays it. Hofmannsthal was determined at whatever cost to be a first-rate artist as a playwright too. He ente red the new literary level in 1897. In a true creative frenzy he now began to write aseries of pieces for which, above all , stageability was the prominent criterion. The tide that the first collection bore, Theater in Versen, shows what a significant turn occurred in Hofmannsthal's work. The pieces from 1897 were still lyrical, as the poet himself admitted. Yet he stressed they were closer to the dramatic and were in this respect comparable to the novelistic pieces of Hauptmann, Schnitzier, and others. 39 The distinguishing mark of these pieces is an unprecedented loosening of the poetic language, but the prose also becomes significant here. For years Hofmannsthal had quietly prepared himself for the transition to prose through practice on novellas, where the prose was already composed "wie Hofmannsthal's Theatrical Work 11 geredet.'.40 Out of this time of decisive change, 1897, there originates an especially moving avowal by Hofmannsthai that he could do nothing else, that he was following a call of destiny when he turned to the theater. This avowal is found in Die Frau im Fenster, the first piece he wrote for the stage, and which became in 1898 the first of all Hofmannsthal's works to be performed. Die Frau im Fenster -like Die Hochzeit der Sobeide which originated soon thereafter - deals with the fate of a wife who seeks to escape the chains of her legal obligation. Both pieces thereby symbolically point to Hofmannsthal's break with an unsatisfying sphere of life and work, a break with the . oppressive commitment to that which the symbolist pOem Verwandlung had called the "white life"; in reference to the poet this was the oppressive commitment to the pure poetic language of his lyrical phase. With this insight a small scene - from which I would like to quote a few sentences - acquires the intimate character of a confession. The heroine Dianora questions her nurse about a Spanish priest who is causing quite asensation with his sermons: Predigt er denn von so vielen Dingen? Amme Nein fast immer von denselben. Von was? Dianora Amme Von der Ergebung in den Willen des Herrn. Gnädige Frau, du mußt verstehen, das ist alles. Wie alles? Dianora Amme Er sagt, es ·liegt darin alles, das ganze Leben, es gibt sonst nichts. Er sagt, es ist alles unentrinnbar, und das ist das große Glück, zu erkennen, daß alles unentrinnbar ist. Und das ist das Gute, ein anderes Gutes gibt es nicht. Die Son~e muß glühen, der Stein muß auf der stummen Erde liegen, aus jeder
12 MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERATURE lebendigen Kreatur geht ihre Stimme heraus, sie kann nichts dafür, sie kann nichts dawider, sie muß. 41 Behind every sentence here Hofmannsthai hirnself is speaking, who like the heroine is driven by his fate. So there must also come from the poet that voice which is his. If he is born to work for the stage, so he must lend to the destinies, to the characters the voice that demands portrayal through him. The unborn children force their way to life. The painful emphasis with which the "must" is characterized as "inescapable" corresponds to the previous year's description of shuddering at a destiny that one can not escape. Yet this shuddering at the difficulty of the task is now balanced by the very great seriousness of the affirmation of destiny and by a religious willingness not only to accept the inescapability of life, but to understand it as a great good fortune and a singular good. Going beyond this is a voice of growing impatience which can be felt in Die Frau im Fenster - a violent push for a change of situation, which must finaily force adecision. Such heightened im patience at the decision of destiny is similarly shown in alm ost all of the pieces that Hofmannsthai wrote at this time. So it is in Die Hochzeit der Sobeide. When Sobeide is being forced by her destiny from one situation to another, she breaks forth, full of despair: "Mein Kopf ist abgemüdet. Mir wird schwindlig, wenn ich zwei Dinge in mir halten soll, die miteinander streiten.,,42 (The second time, it is said: "zwei Dinge gleichzeitig in sich zu halten / von denen eins das andre Lügen straft."43) In Der Abenteurer und die Sängerin the heroine Vittoria senses how her fate dan ces on a razor's edge at the moment where her intermediate state becomes unbearable: "So steh ich selber mir im Licht und muß / zwiesäftige Früchte essen, deren Fleisch / halb süß, halb bitter schmeckt. ,,44 The impatience at such a divided state is expressed most powerfully by the Madman of Das Kleine Welttheater, the character that is justifiably considered a representation of Hofmannsthal's poetic calling, raised to a higher power. Here the division between two possibilities of being and working leads to insanity. The Madman presses for adecision where he wants to see one of two offices recognized as his: "Den ganzen Reigen anzuführen. / Den wirklichen, begreift ihr dieses Amt?" And when he calls with quiet scorn, "doch nicht fUr lange," to those who at the end want to hold hirn fast, he will still be bound. In this passage, with which Das Kleine Welttheater ends, Hofmannsthal is quoting from his own poem Verwandlung. "Wie einer, der noch tut, was ihm nicht ziemt, / doch nicht für lange" - thus is described the lonely young man who still lives in poetic dreams, but who Hofmannsthal's Theatrical Work 13 faces the imminent transition that his destiny requires - the homecoming to the "unendlichem Gespräch" with the people. It is always a question of symbols for one and the same turning point in life, the surrender of the splendid isolation of the lyric poet in favor of eloser contact with people. The fact that these words, which still sound markedly simple and calm in Verwandlung, become in the conelusion of Das Kleine Welttheater a gesture of madness points to the critical situation in the life of the poet, who now feels hirnself being forced out of his splendid isolation with raving impatience. Allow me to mention two more cases - again in crisis situationswhere Hofmannsthai speaks of the fateful obligation of the poet, much as he did in the Berger essay. The one case is the essay Über Charactere im Roman und im Drama. This is the first larger essay that was written after the six-year pause. It originated even before the Chan4os-letter and refers to the same creative crisis, but in view of Hofmannsthal's path to the stage it is the far more important document of the two. In the critique oflanguage of the Chandos-Ietter Hofmannsthal's disappointment in his own recent work is also expressed: Theater in Versen had not brought the desired stage success. By comparison Über Charactere im Roman und im Drama positively acknowledges that the poet's main aim remains unchanged, that is, to conquer the live theater. The essay thus actually forms the prelude to Hofmannsthai 's next creative period: to the dramas connected to historical form, with renewed loosening of the poetic language, and more drama and nearness to life in the plot. In this essay Hofmannsthai speaks from the mask of Balzac. Balzac appears as a poet who like Hofmannsthai wishes to move from one recognized area of creative work, the novel, to writing for the stage which attracts him irresistibly. Like Hofmannsthai Balzac shudders at the difficulties; they compare to a ride across the frozen Lake Constance. He states the reason: "Eine Kunstform gebrauchen, und ihr gerecht werden: welch ein Abgrund liegt dazwischen!" But here Hofmannsthal reveals in deterministic expressions, which he repeats untiringly, a new attitude of confidence. Balzac, his likeness, sees hirnself as a future conqueror of the theater and believes, like Napoleon, in his star. There follow again and again phrases, spoken by Balzac, like these: "Das Schicksal des Künstlers ist nirgends als in seiner Arbeit." Fate, for the artist, is in his work. No one can escape his world. In his work the artist has everything; there he also feels his limits, the inflexible limits established for hirn. And again: "In seiner . Arbeit hat der Künstler alles .... Ganz und gar ist die Arbeit das ganze Schicksal des Künstlers." We thus see Hofmannsthai elinging to the notion ofthe determination of destiny, before he turns anew to his work. Soon after this he writes
14 MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERATURE Elektra, the first theatrically effective work - effective above all in its musical arrangement by Richard Strauß. The second essay, which I would like to refer to, is Der Dichter und diese Zeit from the year 1906. lt is a programmatic announcement by Hofmannsthai at the time of his change to those forms of playwriting, above an comedy, which brought the actual fmt success. Again we find remarkably frequently deterministic phrases referring to the creative work of the poet. These are based on a characteristic thought of Hofmannsthal's, a thought he often speaks of when thinking of writing for the stage. For the dramatist, "all things are brothers" (1896); no theme, no character is too lofty or too deep for him. 4S Even Ein Traum von großer Magie of 1895 points to this mission of the playwright with these verses: "Er ftihlte traumhaft aller Menschen Los ... Ihm war nichts nah und fern, nichts klein und groß." This thought becomes the leading theme in the essay Der Dichter und diese Zeit, and Hofmannsthal sees in it the fateful law that rules his work as a playwright. Here it is said of the poet: "Dies ist das einzige Gesetz, unter dem er steht: keinem Ding den Eintritt in seine Seele zu wehren." The poet can leave nothing out, he must not chase anything away from him, no being, no object, nothing great, nothing small. Decidedly deterministic, Hofmannsthai again formulates: The poet "kann nichts auslassen ... [er] darf nichts von sich scheuchen .. . Auf den Dichtern liegt der Zwang, nichts draußen zu lassen ... ihnen ist nichts fern, nichts nah ... kein Niedriges niedrig." In a similar context, there even occur twice the severe words: The poet "steht unter dem Befehl der Notwendigkeit." Necessity is a form of destiny that Goethe also extolled. With a law of destiny that is understood in such a way it stands to reason that comedy should bring Hofmannsthai the real fulfillment of destiny that now approached hirn. Hofmannsthai once depicted the essence of comedy with very similar expressions: "Die wirkliche Komödie .. . setzt alles in ein Verhältnis zu allem . . . das scheinbar Große zum scheinbar Kleinen.,,46 With the turn towards poetic prose - above all towards the prose of comedy - and with the final turning away from elevated verse, the way was cleared for unique linguistic solutions for which he had searched half his life. He had attained the living theater. One need only think of Der Rosenkavalier; with this work Hofmannsthai presented our century a theater piece unsurpassed in vitality. The satisfaction of having fulfilled his destiny resounds in the selfquotation Hofmannsthai puts into the mouth of the Empress, as she prepares to plunge into the "Abgrund der Menschenwelt." In the poem Inschrift of 1896 the poet admonished himself: "Entzieh dich nicht dem einzigen Hofmannsthal's Theatrical Work 15 Geschäfte vor dem dich schaudert." In Frau ohne Schatten the Empress sings: "Zu welchem Geschick reißts mich hinab? Mich schaudert freilich, aber ein Mut ist in mir, der heißt mich tun, wovor mich schaudert! Und kein Geschäfte außer diesem, das wert mir schiene, besorgt zu werden!" Hofmannsthal was justifiably proud of the language of his comedies and essays. He was conscious of having given thereby something to the Germans - the "ungeselligen, unberedsamen Nation,,,47 as he called itsomething they lacked, something which had been missed since the classical period: namely, a sociable language, which could unite all minds and classes with one another, a social form of speech the likes of which had long since been developed in other countries - in Italy, France, and England. Furthermore, Hofmannsthal often pointed out that his discovery of the lacking sociable language had been possible only through his association with the traditions of his hometown, Vienna. Here he found:"- compared to Germany - sociability far more developed; he found here a fmer feeling for linguistic nuance and greater unity among the social c1asses; there were also a dialect that was effective on the stage and many other things to inspire the poet. Consequently, he considered his comedies, as wen as his longer essays, to be really documents of the Austrian temperament,48 and he placed the greatest value on precisely this creative achievement. The last years of Hofmarmsthal's life were marked by the disappointment that the very special linguistic achievement of his prose had really gone unnoticed and unrecognized. In this respect, even his friends deprived him of a following. Thus the commemorative volume Eranos that he was presented on his fiftieth birthday in 1924 became a traumatic experience for him. Not one of the many contributions by prominent authors honored his comedy writing. The early Hofmannsthal exc1usively was commended; he was compared to the masters of antiquity, of the Baroque era of Spain, of the classical and romantic periods, etc. The achievement of his prose - even the essayistic prose - was passed over in silence, as if it were of no significance. The contribution of a friend, Rudolf Borchardt, evoked in Hofmannsthal the greatest resentment; in it silence on the prose era was combined with a tactlessness that must have been hard to bear for the author of Der Schwierige. Yet Hofmannsthal did - and this seems to me to have gone unnoticed - make a reply to the writer Borchardt. Hofmannsthal had found his Eranos contribution repugnant in its magniloquence, its p~thetic, swaggeringly arrogant language. 49 Borchardt's style, part orhis wqole pretentious rhetoric, is indeed a typical example of the German. manner of speech Hofmannsthal wished to counteract with his sociable language. In 1927, three
16 MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERATURE years after the commemorative volume Eranos, Hofmannsthal took the opportunity in his Munich speech, Das Schrifttum als geistiger R~m der Nation, to present a long list of horrible portraits of such magniloquent persons. Without naming names, he characterizes their style o~ speech as "angespanntes Sichübernehmen" and "bis zum Krampf energIsche große Gebärde." He speaks of "hinterrücks autoritative" intellectuals who always appear with the pretensions of a praeceptor germaniae, without eve~ proving themselves with a really valid work. These and many . other traIts apply better to none other than Borchardt. Even the mention of the "kurische Nehrung" brings to mind his birthplace Königsberg. He is in any case among those in mind - he, the magniloquent, who completely ignored the prose works of his friend, thereby demonstrating how much about Hofmannsthal remained for him strange, unrecognized, and uncomprehended. A major thought of the Hofmannsthal speech of 1927 lies in the formulation that the social aspect must be primary in language - language must not end in the renunciation of the social aspect. As a poet he himself had created a form of sociable prose, the likes of which - with its wealth of nuance, its refinement and liveliness - did not exist in the German language sphere. That even elose friends had perceived nothing of it and learned nothing from it was a painful experience·for Hofmannsthal. In a tragic way the beginning of Hofmannsthal's life is linked with its end. He had set out to free himself from his elevated poetic Ianguage because so few could understand it. After a Iong, arduous way he attained a different form of Ianguage that was accessible to everyone. Yet the best he gave with the new, artistic, and creative achievement of his prose was in turn not understood. In an anxious moment, standing on the threshold of his last epoch, Hofmannsthal embraced in the fate of his poetic existence the necessity of not being understood. The poet probably must live unnoticed and unrecognized in his own era, in the "Haus der Zeit," as he said in 1906, and he compared the poet to Saint Alexius, to whom it was dictated - this deterministic expression dictate is repeated three times - that he enter his own house as an unknown beggar and that he live perpetually beneath the staircase of his own house. At the time, Hofmannsthal probably still hoped he would not remain unrecognized. His bitter disapPointment, when even this hope came to nothing, is reflected in the conelusion of Der Turm, which was published shortly before his death. And it is with the words of Sigismund that I, too, would like to elose here: "Gebet Zeugnis, ich war da, wenngleich mich niemand gekannt hat. "so Stanford University Hofmannsthal's Theatrical Work 17 Notes 1. To Richard Beer-Hofmann, July 9,1891, in HofmannsthaI Briefe 1890- 1901 (Berlin: S. Fischer Verlag, 1935), p. 20; in the following quoted as BI. To Arthur Schnitzler, July 13, 1891, in Hugo von HofmannsthaI Arthur Schnitzler Briefwechsel (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 1964), pp. 7, 323; in the following quoted as Briefwechsel. 2. "große Loslösung"; the Preface was written in 1886, therefore a novelty in 1891. 3. Friedrich Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, Vol. III of Sämtliche Werke (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1964), p. 11. 4. In Ariadne-Brief (1912), in Vol. III of Hofmannsthal's Gesammelte Werke in Einzelausgaben. Prosa (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 1952), p. 142; in the following quoted asP IIf. 5. In Ad me ipsum (1926), in Hofmannsthal's Gesammelte Werke in Einzelausgaben. Aufzeichnungen (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 1959), p. 237; in the following quoted asA. 6. Reden in Skandinavian (1916),P fII, p. 365. 7. To Leopold von Andrian , October 2,1918, in Briefwechsel Hugo von HofmannsthaI und Leopold von Andrian (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 1968), p. 288. 8. Hugo von Hofmannsthai, Gesammelte Werke in Einzelausgaben. Gedichte und lyriche Dramen (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 1952), pp. 471,473, 477, 489f., 497f.; in the following quoted as GLD. Cf. K. Mommsen, "Loris und Nietzsche. Hofmannsthais 'Gestern' und frühe Gedichte in neuer Sicht," German Life and Letters, Special Number for L. W. Forster (1980). 9. GLD, pp. 473ff., 477, 482ff., 492, 494. 10. GLD, pp. 469ff., 477, 483 , 488 , 492. 11. GLD, pp. 477 , 488. 12. Über Charaktere im Roman und im Drama (1902), PlI, 1). 40. See also his diary of October 21, 1891, A, p. 93 . 13. See the artiele mentioned in note 8. 14 . Gestern (GLD, 147); "Weil eine Angst nur ist in meiner Seele: / Daß ich das Höchste, Tiefste doch verfehle! / ... Hast du das Beste nicht, vielleicht, versäumt?!" 15. To Marie Herzfeld, August 5, 1892 (about Gestern): "Im Anfang stellt der Held eine These auf (so wie: das Gestern geht mich nichts an). Am Schluß muß er die These umkehren: Mit dem Gestern wird man nie fertig."
18 MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERATURE 16. Cf. Bildlicher Ausdruck (1897): "Die 'Handlungen,' die 'Gestalten' sind nichts anderes ... [als] Gleichnisse, aus vielen Gleichnissen zusammengesetzt ... [es sind] die Dichter allein, die sich des Gleichnishaften der Sprache unaufhörlich bewußt bleiben," PI, p. 333. 17. Eduard von Bauern/eids dram,atischer Nachlaß (1893) und Der neue Roman von d'Annunzio (1896),P I (1950), pp. 186, 273. 18. Moderner Musenalmanach (1893), PI (1950), p. 132. See also Hofmannsthal to his father, May 13 , 1896: "Wer versteht heute den Pindar? Keine tausend Menschen in einem Jahrhundert," B I, p. 192. 19. Das Spiel vor der Menge (1911),P III, p. 63. 20. For instance 1916 in his notes to Reden in Skandinavien: "Antwort des eigenen Schaffens (von sich sprechen als einem typischen Gebilde, Generationsexponent). Dramatische Gebilde: Auseinandersetzung zwischen Individuen und Gesellschaft. Der dramatische Dichter und seine Figuren sind eins: innerlicher Schauspieler," P III, p. 353. 21. Dichter und Leben (1897),P I, p. 334. 22. A , pp. 220, 221 : "Sichverwandeln"; "Aufsichnehmen des Schickals"; "Draufkommen aufs Richtige." 23. A, p. 221. 24. Cf. Ad me ipsum (1923): "Die Begegnung mit George. Unausgesprochener Gegensatz. Das Österreichische. Natürliche Verbindung mit dem Theater," A, p. 243. 25. To Arthur Schnitzier, July 19, 1892 (Briefwechsel, p. 23): "die wirkliche brutale Bühne" (about Ascanio und Gioconda). For the poet's continuing interest in the stage, see also the six Pro10gues, published between 1893 and 1897. 26. A , p. 102; cf. Hofmannsthal's letter to Leopold von Andrian, February 21, 1894 (about Alkestis): " ... wenig Stimmung, gar keine ehernen Verse: mir ist sie recht, weil ich dadurch dem dramatischen Drama, das ich will, ein Stückerl näher gekommen bin." To Felix Salten, July 8, 1893 : "Dann möchte ich das kleine ägyptische Stück anfertigen . . . mit recht tüchtigen lebendigen kleinen Puppen. Später die 'Landstraße des Lebens,' ein allegorisches Gegenspiel zum 'Tor und Tod,''' B I, p. 84. To Marie Herzfeld, July 13, 1893: "Ich bin alles Feinen. Subtilen Zerfaserten, Impressionistischen, Psychologischen recht müde . . . ," BI, p. 84. 27. Cf. Die Menschen in Ibsens Dramen (1893), PI, p. 102f.; A, p. 101 (with respect to Hofmannsthal himsel!); Das Tagebuch eines jungen Mädchens (1893), P I, p. 123: Gabriele d'Annunzio I (1893), PI, pp. 17lff., 183 . Hofmannsthal's Theatrical Work 19 28. Der neue Roman von D'Annunzio (1896) ,P I, p. 277; cf. A, p. 102. 29. Eduard von Bauern/eids dramatischer Nachlaß (1893), P I, p. 189. Der neue Roman von D'Annunzio (1896), P I, p. 353; cf. the last stanza of "Manche freilich ... " ("Schicksalslied"). 30. Philosophie des Metaphorischen (1894), PI, p. 224; Über ein Buch von Al/red Berger (1896),P I, p. 330. 31. An eine Frau, GLD, p. 78. 32. GLD, p. 78. 33. See Ödipus und die Sphinx, in Hofmannsthal, Gesammelte Werke in Einzelausgaben. Dramen (Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 1953- 54), 11, p. 345; in the following quoted as D. ; Die Frau ohne Schatten, DIll, p. 162. Verses 1 and 2 in the manuscript before Das Bergwerk zu Falun, Corona, 3 (1932), Vol. 2. 34. Über ein Buch von Alfred Berger, PI, p. 329f. 35. Ibid.,P I, p. 330. 36. Ibid., P I, p. 331. 37. Ibid., P I, p. 33lf. The last sentence is Hofmannsthal's defmition of drama at this time, according to his letter to Leopold von Andrian on May 5, 1896, five months before Hofmannsthal composed his essay on Berger: "Das Drama ... indem man es hervorbringt, verknüpft man sich gleichzeitig mit dem realen Leben und löst sich gleichzeitig davon ab," Briefwechsel, p. 65. 38. Poesie und Leben, PI, p. 307. 39. Letter to Hermann Bahr before January 1898,B I, p. 278 (date according to Günther Erken). 40. See letter to Richard Beer-Hofmann, Ju1y 1, 1896, B I, p. 205. 41. Die Frau im Fenster, D I, p. 68. 42. D I, p. 99. 43. D I, p. 246. 44. DI, p. 111. 45. Dichter und Leben (1896), P I, p. 334. See also Hofmannsthal's diary of 1894: "kein Nebending, von nichts ausgeschlossen," A, p. 107. Alexander. Die Freunde (February 1895): "Von uns nimmt jedes Ding Hoheit und Niedrigkeit," D I, p. 429. To Richard Beer-Hofmann, May 15, 1895: "da doch alle Dinge gleich wichtig und groß sind (was die Romantiker so widerlich ignoriert haben)," B I, p. 131. To Hermann Bahr the end of Ju1y 1895: "Der Unterschied von Groß und Klein vernichtigt sich," B I, p. 518. 46. Drei kleine Betrachtungen (1921) ,P IV, p. 41. 47. Beethoven (1920), P IV, p. 28. See also K. Mommsen, Hofmannsthal
20 MODERN AUSTRIAN LITERATURE und Fontane, Stanford German Studies, Vol. 15 (Bern: Peter Lang Verlag, 1978); K. Mommsen, "Hofmannsthal's Komödiendichtung" in Die deutsche Komödie im 20. Jahrhundert, 6. Amherster Kolloquium zur modernen deutschen Literatur (Heidelberg: Lothar Stiehm Verlag, 1976), pp. 44-69. 48. Bemerkungen (after 1920), P IV, p. 105. Cf. Reden in Skandinavien (1916), "Das Homogene des Österreichers (Graf - Fiaker): demokratisch," P III, p. 359. Preuße und Österreicher (1917): "Österreich: Ein dichtes soziales Gewebe, die Stände in der Kultur verbunden," P [II, p. 407. Wien er Brie[(1922), A , p. 267f. 49 . To Leopold von Andrian on March 17, 1924 (Briefwechsel, p. 352): Borchardt's Eranos-Brie[ "war stellenweise sehr wenig glücklich durch eine gewisse Magniloquenz und ein unglückliches Vermischen des Intimen mit dem Allgemein-wichtigen." To Carl J. Burckhardt on October 13, 1922, in Briefwechsel Hugo von Hofmannsthai - Carl J. Burckhardt (Frankfurt a.M .: S. Fischer Verlag, 1958), p. 98: " ... fastuos wie der Borchardt ist." 50. The author wishes to thank Richard A. Koc of Columbia University and Donald Van Geete of the University of Toronto for translating this essay from the German.