An investigation into the German reception of Hopkins which began after the turn of the last century but culminated in the two decades after the Second World War when German intellectuals and writers were looking for the poetry they were not able to read during the Nazi era.
A year ago, in his lecture on 'Hopkins's European Mentors', Michael E. Allsopp strongly argued that the English poet should be in various respects related to the context of 19th century European literature. In order to understand more fully his artistic, intellectual and spiritual development as well as his progressive and traditionalist attitudes it is necessary, Allsopp maintained, to look into Hopkins's continental connections - August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Carl Wilhelm Friedrich von Schlegel, Carl Maria von Weber and Marie Lataste among them. The present paper provides, different from the former, an investigation into the German reception of Hopkins which began after the turn of the last century but culminated in the two decades after the Second World War. German intellectuals and writers were looking for the poetry they were not able to read during the Nazi era. As a matter of fact, Hopkins was considered, after the war and well into the sixties and seventies, not only as a pre-eminent religious, but also as a distinctly modern writer, especially because of his technical innovations.
The first to mention Hopkins in German seems to have been the literary historian Richard Wülker who in 1907 published the two-volume edition of his Geschichte der Englischen Literatur von den ältesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart: Speaking about Keble and Newman he mentions Hopkins in passing as the author of "The Vision of Mermaids", adding: Hopkins became a Catholic, "and even a Jesuit". It might well be that he had heard about him through George Saintsbury's History of Nineteenth Century Literature, 1780-1900, which had been published in 1896. Apart from this notice Hopkins remained relatively unknown in Germany - even after the first collection of his Poems, edited by Robert Bridges, had been published on the British Isles in 1918. I have yet to inquire into the question of when he was first included in one of the several much revised editions of L. Herrig's and Max Förster's famous anthology British Classical Authors with Biographical Notices. It could well have been during the thirties when Hopkins suddenly came to prominence through the second edition of his poems, edited by Charles Williams in 1930. From that time onward Hopkins was recognised in English speaking countries as one of the important poets of late-Victorian and modern times. Williams's edition and the Cambridge critics' publications made Hopkins into a cult figure, as Tom Dunne remarked in his introduction to a recent bibliography. He was even praised and imitated by a host of younger poets during the thirties to such an extent that C.C. Abbott remarked ironically: "He is accepted by the young as one of their contemporaries, and - a more doubtful privilege - he has been affiliated to the Martin Tuppers of our day, whose scrannel pipes have infected the field of poetry with mildew and blight".
Thus the thirties could have been the period for the German public interested in poetry from foreign countries to discover their Hopkins as well. But, as we all know, these were the years, too, of the banning and burning of books, at least of those books that were suspected of being infected with communism or Jewish culture. Nevertheless, it was possible for German scholars to keep track of what was going on in the world of foreign literature, and there was even a publishing house that continued the work done for a hundred years by Tauchnitz and that published English and American writers in their original language in Germany, although certainly not difficult poetry like Hopkins's.
During the thirties, especially with the publication of the Hopkins letters, journals, and papers there was, in the Anglo-Saxon countries, a shift in emphasis - from the preoccupation with the poet's technique to the man behind the poems. Hopkins's verse came to be examined in relation to the spiritual and religious ideas behind them. This shift in emphasis was certainly favourable to Hopkins's German critical reception, as it was still possible at that time to introduce him to the German reading public as a deeply religious poet, provided you used a high-flown, metaphorical style that wasn't too different from the current nationalist-mysticist language displayed in politics. Thus in 1935 Irene Behn was able to publish her doubtlessly pioneering essay on Hopkins in the catholic monthly Hochland appearing in Munich. But one should bear in mind that only three years later she wrote the German introduction to José María Pemán's account of the fascist fight against the leftists in Spain. I have to mention this fact because Behn's praise of the poet who became Presidencia de la Junta de Cultura y Educación under Franco is written in a style similar to that used in her essay on Hopkins. It is a rather enthusiastic account of the poet's religious vocation. Hopkins was, according to Behn, a poet reaching very high into the heavens, writing polyphonous melodic, synaesthetic verses that were very "modern-unmodern" and vastly different from contemporary expressionistic poetry, "elementary cries of an immortal soul in an immortal language ... a roaring fugue of God, nature and the seer in between". His poetry was less the "dark visio mystica" but the "bright creative intuition that help[ed] him to encounter God".
Hopkins thus seems to have been studied during the thirties, at least in religious circles and in the university, as can be inferred from the 71 pages of a Marburg dissertation by Georg Karp. In conformity with ideological tendencies of the period, Karp puts some emphasis on Hopkins's "old-Germanic" sense of form. This dissertation was favourably reviewed in the Anglia-Beiblatt of 1941, as had been C. C. Abbott's editions of Hopkins's correspondence with Bridges and Dixon. Hopkins's small output of religious poems and his further prose writings were obviously not considered a threat to Fascist ideology.
After the war Irene Behn was the first to publish a translation of Hopkins's poems in book form. Although by 1947 and 1948 there was a considerable paper-shortage in Germany, and all the publishers, during these years of moral and political re-education, had to be officially licensed by the foreign occupying powers, the Hamburg publishing house of Claasen and Goverts obviously had no problems in having this book of approximately 140 pages printed. In Behn's bi-lingual edition of 1948 46 poems and some of the fragments are arranged under headings such as "Elementary Play", "Earth and Eden", "Extraordinary Growth", "Past the Universe" and "The Power of Mercy". Parts of the introduction are a reprint of Behn's former essay, but the rest is new, although more or less an amplification of her former thesis: Hopkins, according to Behn, was above all a mystic, embodying the "ecstatic submerging of the moral self in the divine". He had been, she says, a "holy priest", a "mystic of love" passing the divine life on to his readers. Even the last "terrible sonnets" are considered part of this religious mysticism which is contrasted with 19th century tendencies towards naturalism and satanism. Looking onto Hopkins's poetry "from above", as Behn calls it, even his so-called failures (the difficulties and obscurities and oddities) are seen as signs of his being near to God. Thus aesthetic problems are subordinated to Hopkins's message. Consequently not only his occasional verse and his early poetry are excluded as insignificant from this collection, but Behn also relegates matters of poetical technique to the epilogue.
This emphasis on the religious message, on the spiritual content corresponds in a way with certain cultural attitudes and tendencies in post-war Germany. As has been shown by literary scholars, writers were often unable to escape the nebulous and hazy language of former years: They went on using the same diffuse style - only the signs were changed. Besides that, there was amongst intellectuals a profound longing for spiritual security, or at least a hankering for spirituality as opposed to the dominant materialism of this period. The widespread sense of existential unease seemed to require a type of literature that pointed a way out of the general impasse. The contemporary writer was asked again and again to "answer the existential question", in times seemingly out of joint he was considered to be "somebody looking into the foundations [Urgrund] of existence/being".
Hence the fact that writers like Greene, Mauriac or Bernanos, to name only a few, ranked very high - because of their presentation of religious problems. This emphasis on the spiritual or religious message in turn meant that poetry, according to an essentialist understanding of the term, was considered to be beyond analytic rationality. As one of the important German critics, Johannes Pfeiffer, said in his short introduction to poetry: it addresses "the resonating soul: one can't speak about it in logical terms which one may carry securely home, but only in such a way that one points at the impenetrable mystery by means of allegory or symbol". (5). Such an approach to poetry was handed on, as I can well remember from my own youth, to teachers at school, emphasizing emotionalism and irrationality.
But Hopkins had not only been a deeply religious poet, eliciting religious controversy as well as admiration, but also a bold technical innovator, at odds with the predominant modes of writing at the end of the 19th century. This interest in using language in a different, non-conventional way corresponds with a widespread unease amongst younger German intellectuals during the fifties who were looking for a new, an objective and above all a modern approach to poetry. University teachers as well as literary critics turned to Roman Ingarden's phenomenological theory of literary texts, handed on to them through René Wellek's and Austin Warren's Theory of Literature; scholars were in favour of close reading, approaching literary texts in the way the American New Critics or Leo Spitzer with his "explication de textes" or Wolfgang Kayser with his Das literarische Kunstwerk (Berne 1948) were advocating. In addition to that, the German reading public was looking for the literature of modernism that they had been forbidden to read during the last four or five decades. Carl Amery remembers finding one of Mauriac's novels in a French attic during the war: "... suddenly I became aware of the horrible effects of provincialism of our literary taste caused by the Third Reich and even our Catholicism had not been spared". After this almost complete cultural isolation the German reading public was yearning for writers such as Hemingway and Faulkner, Camus and Sartre, Eliot and Pound - in short, for modernism. These tendencies are reflected in the critical reception of Hopkins's poetry.
Although there seemed to be no way around the religious dimension of his poems, critics, in varying degrees, were looking upon Hopkins as a precursor of modernism and devoted their attention to his way of using language and metre. A considerable number of the editions and reviews I was able to unearth in fact came from university professors or critics outside the English departments of German universities. Although most of them paid homage to Irene Behn's efforts to introduce Hopkins to the German reading public there was a marked shift in attitude, from a predominantly religious interest to approaching Hopkins in terms of modernism.
Curt Hohoff, one of the foremost post-war critics, is, in his review of Irene Behn's translation, full of praise for her achievements. His short review gives the reader some necessary biographical information, hinting at similarities between Hopkins and Greek poets like Sappho and Pindar. This kind of name-dropping is an important phenomenon in German Hopkins criticism, suggesting a high standard of world literature by which to evaluate Hopkins's small output. On the other hand, Hohoff recommends Hopkins's way of dealing with religious problems to the "Christian" poets of today: "the wealth of being should not be suppressed but should be used". Friedhelm Kemp, a student of French and other Romance literatures whose contributions to the Hopkins reception will be dealt with in greater detail later on, is, like Hohoff, full of praise for Irene Behn's translations, although he criticizes her for not going far enough in rendering Hopkins's dynamics of speech. Hopkins is called a seraphic and an expressionist poet, thus emerging as a modernist. According to Hans-Egon Hass, a future professor of German literature, Irene Behn's translation is congenial to the originals. Although Hass agrees with Behn in calling Hopkins a mystical poet praising nothing but God's power and mercy, he nevertheless puts more emphasis on Hopkins's poetic techniques. Obscurity and compressed language render Hopkins in his opinion a modern, and he even recommends him to contemporary younger German writers.
More important for Hopkins's status as a modern writer are Wolfgang Clemen's contributions to Hopkins scholarship. In an early essay of 1949 Clemen, Professor of English literature in Munich, discusses the importance of Hopkins's diary and of the terms 'instress' and 'inscape' for an understanding of his poems. Clemen two years later became well-known to scholars of English for his book on Shakespeare's imagery; he gives a very reasonable explanation of the poet's use of the imagery of clouds and water. Hopkins, according to Clemen, had had a very close look at natural phenomena, although, it is true, in the service of praising the divine creation. Nevertheless, Hopkins may be called, in Clemen's opinion, "a very modern poet and writer". Clemen's essays was printed side by side with the Princeton historian Erich von Kahler's translations of four sonnets; Kahler, too, points at Hopkins's modernity, mentioning the poet's influence on English and Amerian poets of the twentieth century and quoting Robert Lowell's dictum "his daring is sober, his obedience is alive". Clemen's points of reference had, on the other hand, been Benedetto Croce's and André Bremond's remarks on Hopkins.
Irene Behn's own essay in Stimmen der Zeit of 1949/50 as well as Friedrich Hansen-Löve's contribution to volume seven of Wort und Wahrheit (1952) seem to be in a way rearguard actions, fighting against the claims of the modernists. Behn, as can be seen from an aside, is critical of philologists or literary scholars who praised Hopkins because of his use of language or his poetic form. She believes this emphasis on language to be the wrong approach. Whereas Friedhelm Kemp had suggested that interlinear versions after the model of classical editions would better serve the technical interest in Hopkins, Behn is still in favour of her rather free poetical translations. Two years later Hansen-Löve points to the fact that anthologies of modern poetry (in English-speaking countries) tend to place Hopkins chronologically at the beginning, but he calls the literary scholars' and critics' concept of modernism one-sided, formalistic, and even a misunderstanding. Hopkins's deeply religious, biblical understanding of the "initial force of divine language" should be of primary interest and not his use of rhythm, imagery or vocabulary. Although Hansen-Löve refers his readers to certain parallels between Hopkins and Rimbaud, van Gogh and Hokusai, the religious dimension of the poems is for him of paramount importance.
From 1949 onwards the reader now and then comes across a translation of a Hopkins poem, e.g. in the monthlies or quarterlies like Merkur, Hochland or Wort und Wahrheit, as well as in an anthology of English verse, edited by the German poet Georg van der Vring These translations as well as the reviews paved the way for the bilingual edition of Hopkins's poems, letters and diaries that was published in 1954 by Kösel-Verlag in Munich. This volume of 750 pages was edited by Karl Rinn; the translations were done by Ursula Clemen and Friedhelm Kemp, the introduction written by Wolfgang Clemen. During the next eight or ten years Clemen's insights were widely used as guidelines for an understanding of the English poet - a new edition was published as late as 1973 by Philip Reclam in Stuttgart. Clemen, having previously done a thorough study of Hopkins's prose writings, succeeded in undermining Irene Behn' claim that Hopkins had primarily to be taken as an "ecstatic and mystical" poet. Although Clemen in no way denies Hopkins's "humanity and deeply religious earnestness", his emphasis lies on the explication of the poet's terminology and his scientific as well as aesthetic approach to nature. Hopkins, according to Clemen, did not just in a mystical way merge with nature as Behn had maintained, but he was very much aware of concrete individual details and phenomena of the natural world, being influenced in this by Duns Scotus's philosophy of intuition.
Whereas poets like Swinburne, Rossetti and Tennyson at the end of the 19th century were still clinging to romanticism, Hopkins's language, according to Clemen, has to be seen as a protest against the predominantly poetical conventions of his period. As he was ahead of his time he has to be considered a modern poet.The Rinn/Clemen/Clemen/Kemp edition made Hopkins more widely known in Germany than ever before. I have come across a large number of critical reactions to this edition in 1955, and in subsequent years there were always three to five or even more relevant essays. Amongst the authors were well-known critics and philosophers like Romano Guardini, Franz K. Stanzel, Hans Hennecke, Willy Haas, K.A. Horst, Curt Hohoff and Clemens Heselhaus.
Heselhaus, a professor of German literature, published his essay as a contribution to a collection of articles on Christian Poets of the Present, this in turn bearing witness to the still widespread interest in the relationship between religion and literature - although the contemporary "practice of literary Christianization" was condemned as a "fruitless counterreaction to the paganization of God" even in a conservative Catholic weekly like Rheinischer Merkur - as early as 1955. Following Clemen in emphasizing Hopkins's opposition to late-Victorian aesthetics and use of language, Heselhaus tries to place Hopkins according to his views on the function of religious poetry: although Hopkins as a Jesuit was well aware of the fact that poetry was considered less important than religion, he nevertheless legitimized his way of writing by ascribing to poetry a social, educational function. As we can see from C. Häßler's short review of Clemen's edition in the magazine The Christian Woman, there seemed to be no problem of introducing the German reading public to Hopkins's aesthetics or his difficult poetic language and at the same time stressing his religious outlook.
There were even two articles on the Rinn-edition in the Rheinischer Merkur in 1955. Joseph Otmar Zöller, whom I still remember from his stinging political comments every Saturday noon on Bavarian radio, emphasized Hopkins's opposition to the literary taste of the time, but he also pointed to the poet's techniques of using language in order to "incorporate real Catholicism", foreshadowing writers of the immediate present such as the German novelist Elisabeth Langgässer; in addition, he compared Hopkins with authors such as Dante, Calderon and Milton. Only a few weeks later Gert H. Theunissen reminded his post-war readers that they had recently made three important discoveries: Sören Kirkegaard, Marcel Proust and G.M. Hopkins. Theunissen's point of reference is Goethe and the similarities between this poet's and Hopkins's view of nature and ways of praising God. Both, according to Theunissen, identified the beautiful with the godlike, well before the notion of the artificial paradises and of aesthetic satanism invaded the world of the arts. Like Theunissen, Curt Hohoff in his paper in Hochland, hints at possible parallels between Hopkins's progress from aetheticism to mysticism and Wilde's, d'Annuncio's, Claudel's and Rilke's poetic developments. According to Hohoff, there are similarities beween Hopkins's and Hölderlin's impact on the reading public. Although Hopkins is considered a very special religious poet, he is nevertheless seen as distinctly modern. Karl August Horst in turn mentions writers like Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Gongora and Calderon in order to place Hopkins. Whereas the first three poets, in Horst's view, have perfectly mastered the given traditional literary forms, the latter are called mannerists because they were using oblique ciphers and symbols rather than relying on their immediate personal experiences. This explains for Horst why the reader has more difficulties in understanding the meaning of their poems.
The essays and reviews that appeared in the wake of the Rinn/Clemen/Clemen/Kemp edition of 1954 are mostly concerned with the question of religion and/or of Hopkins as a pre-modern. Most of these essays and reviews very heavily rely on Clemen's well-reasoned introduction, and they lay as a rule great emphasis on the terminology of inscape and instress that Clemen had explained convincingly. As to the Hopkins-reception during the following ten or fifteen years or so, there is, on the one hand, still a marked interest in the theology of Hopkin's poems. One should mention in this connection Curt Hohoff's contribution to Lob der Schöpfung und Ärgernis der Zeit. Moderne christliche Dichtung in Kritik und Deutung, and Michael Buchberger's article in Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche; one year later Gisbert Kranz included a chapter on Hopkins in his Europas christliche Literatur von 1500 bis heute, the Swiss author Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote about Hopkins in his Herrlichkeit: Eine theologische Ästhetik, and Romano Guardini, well-known professor of the philosophy of religion at the university of Munich, published his "aesthetic-theological thoughts" on Hopkins's "The Windhover" in his book about language, poetry and exegesis, whereas W. Kammermeier approached "The Bugler's First Communion" as an eucharistic poem. Besides this there is a marked tendency to include Hopkins in the literary canon of schools and universities. Thus we find careful philological interpretations of "As kingfishers" and "Pied Beauty" by Rudolf Haas in his Wege der englischen Lyrik in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, of "God's Grandeur" by Combecher Die Neueren Sprachen, a journal for teachers, of "Spring and Fall" by Werner Hüllen in Zeitgenössische Englische Dichtung, of "Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves" by Gerhard Müller-Schwefe in Horst Oppel's much-used Die moderne englische Lyrik. Interpretationen as well as detailed analyses of "Spring", "That Nature" and "No Worst" in Die englische Lyrik. Von der Renaissance bis zur Gegenwart, edited by K-H. Göller, my own teacher at the university of Regensburg. At the same time Ursula and Wolfgang Clemen were reviewing the latest publications in Hopkins scholarship in Anglia, Müller-Schwefe was questioning the view of Hopkins being ahead of his times, Franz Stanzel was comparing Hopkins's, Yeats's and Lawrence's concepts of creative process, and Bernhard Blume, a Germanist from Harvard University, was looking into Hopkin's simile of the "Greek galley stranded", pointing out the numerous parallels in baroque and modern poetry, and Hans-Werner Ludwig published his book on self-composita in Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hopkins and the Avant-Garde
All the time Hopkins remained one of the moderns who had been analysed on a comparative basis in Hugo Friedrich's Die Struktur der modernen Lyrik: Von Baudelaire bis zur Gegenwart, although Hopkins had been neglected by the specialist in Romance literatures But his book had some influence on Heinz Piontik, a well-known German author who published some new translations of his own. Gustav René Hocke included Hopkins amongst the European mannerists in his monumental study Manierismus in der Literatur. Sprach-Alchemie und esoterische Kombinationskunst (1959), printing three translations of Hopkins's poems in the appendix to his book. Walter Höllerer, a professor and a poet as well, member of the famous Group 47 and co-founder of the literary magazine Akzente, ranked Hopkins amongst the moderns in his Theorie der modernen Lyrik, published (as had been Hocke's book before) as part of rowohlts deutsche enzyklopädie in 1965. In the same year Friedhelm Kemp, famous for his translations from the Romance languages, compared Hopkins with Hölderlin, Dickinson and Mallarmé: all of them according to Kemp had not only explored but broken language in order create new meanings.
Hans Magnus Enzensberger, one of the important members of the Group 47 and one of the progressive leftists on the German literary scene, in fact did not include Hopkins in his Museum der modernen Poesie, an anthology that appeared in 1960 and that, in regard to its wealth of texts, remains unsurpassed, to my opinion. Nevertheless Enzensberger mentioned Hopkins, giving him a place besides Gérard de Nerval, E.A. Poe, Emily Dickinson, the Comte de Lautréamont, Jules Laforgue, Alexander Blok and William Butler Yeats as one the "lonely, deep-thinking natures" of the 19th century. "These poets spoke in the echoless room of history, the future. Today their fame is such that their works needn't be made known. ... In this present Museum they are omni-present, not through their texts, but through the immeasurable effects caused by them". There is, in addition, a second anthology published one year later, Von Hopkins bis Dylan Thomas: it includes English texts and the German prose translations by Christian Enzensberger, brother of Hans Magnus, and Ursula Clemen, wife of Wolfgang Clemen. For Ursula Clemen, modernism means a new poetic style, as one may find it in Hopkins's "compression, hardness [I use here the Poundian term as a translation of Ursula Clemen's words] and in the sharpness of his diction, as well
As Hopkins is considered to be one of the most important of post-Victorian poets, we find altogether nine poems by this poet included in Clemens' and Enzensberger's anthology, one less than D.H. Lawrence, as many as Dylan Thomas, but more than either W.B. Yeats or T.S. Eliot or Edith Sitwell. Before concluding this overview, I would like to mention one curious fact, namely Hopkins being mentioned twice in that unsurpassed analysis of European medieval Latin literature and its traditions reaching well into the 19th century, Ernst Robert Curtius' Europäische Literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter (first published in 1948, second edition in 1953). In one of his epilogue chapters Curtius speaks about the problems of "spirit and form", mentioning Dante, Valéry, T.S. Eliot and Bergson's idea of creativity as "réarrangement du préexistant". As Curtius knows, "pattern" is the term used in English criticism, the locus classicus being for the author Hopkins's remark of 1879: "as air, melody, is what strikes me most of all in music and design in painting, so design, pattern or what I am in the habit of calling inscape is what I above all aim at in poetry".
At this point of investigation it would be worth while looking into the later critical reception of Hopkins in Germany which becomes more and more an academic affair, and into the reception of Hopkins by German poets. This has to be done in more detail later on. But it is worth while mentioning a different medium, four poems by Hopkins set to music by the Austrian composer Ernst Krenek who, when Hitler invaded his native country, emigrated to the U.S.A. Krenek taught music at Vassar College, became Head of the Music Department of the School of Fine Arts at Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1942, and in 1947 he moved to Los Angeles. During the first part of his American period he composed principally in strict 12-note serialism. His Four Songs op. 112 (for tenor and piano), although written in 1946 and 1947, were first performed only in 1960 in Münster in the Studio für Neue Musik. The four poems are "Peace", "Patience" and "On a piece of music" and "Moonrise". They have been recorded on CD in 1994, and Susanne Fontaine remarks in her commentary that Hopkins's poems are "spun forth by Krenek in economically distanced, rhapsodic settings that ponder on the text. In 'Moonrise' ... he composes the paradoxian image of the extended moment from movement to standstill. The song bears the performance indication 'dreamlike', and by its extremely slow tempo, coupled with complext rhythms, disolves all feeling of time". It would be certainly worth while to compare Krenek's versions with that of Hans Vogt, a German composer and musicologist who included a Hopkins song among his Vier englische Lieder für Sopran und fünf Instrumente, composed during the late 1950s, but I was unable to find a recording. But it will by now have become evident that Hopkins ranked very high in German post-war culture and literature.
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