{ CAMPAIGNER/June 1980 53


The German language has a word for poetry There was nothing Schiller hated more than what

which is marvelously appropriate to the poetic prin- was dull and mediocre, and just as he was locked in a

ciple: Dichtung. IfDichtung is understood in the sense political and philosophical life-and-death battle

of condensation (Verdichtung), i.e., in the senseofthe against the ideologues of the Black Guelphs of his

condensation of the preconscious into a new form, time, he also fought against the forerunners of the

then we have the key to understanding why the romantic school, the representatives of the magazine

creativity expressed in a work of art corresponds to its "GSttinger Hain." His originally anonymous publicreation

from reason. So understood, the word Dich- cation, "On B[irger's Poetry," is a typical example of

tung itself already contains the reason why didactic or Schiller's method. Although it opens an uncompromoralizing

poems are in fact not poetry at all. Even if mising campaign against Biirger's irrationalist, tothey

may have the external form of poetry, they mantic tendencies, Schiller nevertheless framed it

nevertheless do not have the "higher unity" which with the intention of using a public discussion of

Schiller demands from an actual poem. The same is Biirger's weaknesses to create an environment in

true of so-called Socialist Realism. The creators of which Biirger could rethink and improve his undersocialist

realist art may have the best intentions, but in standing of the poetic art. Such an approach is

their attempt to realistically depict a high purpose completely consistent with Schiller's view of the

they only address the level of the Understanding, and quality of genius. Any intelligent person can make

thus defeat their own purpose, the reproduction of good out of good; but to make something good out of

creative human beings,

bad, that can be done by genius alone.

Every artist must therefore be a "condenser" B[irger, who held Schiller in the highest regard,

(Dichter), i.e., he must make the breadth and richness was literally heartbroken when he found out the

of his reason become "concentrated into a single author of this criticism of his poems. The substance of

beam"; he must condense "the greatest force into the the criticism, however, was one of the essential points

tiniest point," as Schiller expresses it, so that he which separated Schiller from yet another artist who

communicates the method and does not denigrate his was otherwise allied with him in a common political

material with descriptions appropriate to the mere goal: Gottfried Herder.

Understanding. Herder, in a sense the spiritual innovator of the

This means nothing less than that a man who has "GSttinger Hain," had advanced the thesis that the

not reached the level of reasonmand this is unfortu- true artist must be popular during his own lifetime.

nately the case with all our modern artists cannot be Herder's answer to the then-contemporary controa

real "condenser" (Dichter). Schiller rightly says of versy over the necessity of a classical renaissance was

the poet and of the morally developed, unprejudiced that it is up to future generations to judge whether or

mind, that so long as any distinction other than the not a poet is classical.

former's advantage of talent for poetic composition Biirger went ahead and applied Herder's princiexists

between them, poetic art will not radiate any pies, announcing with the publication of his poems

ennobling influence on that generation. And this is that he was a Volksdichter (popular poet), and that

precisely what has happened, especially during our achieving "popularity" was his highestdictate.

own century. Naturally, for Schiller so fully immersed in the

Even during his own lifetime Schiller was obliged tradition of Plato and the Neoplatonics--there could

to defend this highest conception of art, as represented be no higher goal than true popularity. Especially

by Schiller himself, against every form of vulgariza- following the failure of the French Revolution during

tion. Passionately concerned with the sublime, he the Jacobin reign of terror, he was acutely aware that

knew how to viciously polemicize in its defense the path to political change lay in the ennoblement of

against all pseudo-artists. He made the point in many the character of the entire population. Earlier, when

of his poems and writings that this polemic against the French Revolution first went awry, he had said

everything false is indeed the necessary prerequisite that the great moment found only a little people. For

for creating anything truly great. One of his Devo- Schiller, true popularity meant nothing other than

tional Mottoes reads: the penetration of Neoplatonic knowledge into the

pores of the population.

The Artistic Babbler But what was, and is, wrong with the view of

You demand goodness in the arts? popularity held by Biirger and other Volksdichter?

Then are you worthy of the good, Biirger, instead of "playfully and humorously" rais-

So that only eternal war rages against you? ing the population to his own level, descended instead

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines