Saturday, August 1, 2015

MONOLOGO DE NOVALIS


Es una cosa ciertamente extraña el hablar y el escribir; el verdadero diálogo es un mero juego de palabras. Es de admirar el ridículo error de que la gente crea que habla para decir las cosas. Precisamente lo propio del lenguaje, que sólo se preocupa de sí mismo, no lo sabe nadie. Por eso es un misterio tan maravilloso y fecundo que cuando uno habla sólo por hablar, justamente entonces, exprese las verdades más espléndidas y originales. Quiere, sin embargo, hablar de algo determinado, y el caprichoso lenguaje consigue que diga las cosas más ridículas y equivocadas. De ahí proviene también el odio que mucha gente seria siente contra el lenguaje. Nota su petulancia, pero no nota que aquel charlar que desprecian es la cara infinitamente seria del lenguaje. Si se pudiera hacer comprender a la gente que el lenguaje es como las fórmulas matemáticas – constituyen un mundo en sí – sólo juegan consigo mismas, no expresan otra cosa que su maravillosa naturaleza, y precisamente por eso son tan expresivas – y por eso se refleja en ellas el singular juego de relaciones de las cosas. Sólo por su libertad son miembros de la naturaleza y sólo en sus movimientos libres se manifiesta el alma del mundo y las convierte en una delicada medida y compendio de las cosas. Lo mismo sucede con el lenguaje – quien posea un fino sentido de su digitación, su compás, su espíritu musical, quien perciba el delicado efecto de su naturaleza interior, y mueva según éstos su lengua o su mano, llegará a ser un profeta, por el contrario, quien lo sepa, pero no tenga oído ni sentido suficiente, escribirá verdades como ésta, pero el lenguaje mismo le engañará y los hombres se burlarán de él como los troyanos hicieron con Casandra. Si con ello creo haber indicado de la forma más clara la esencia y la función de la poesía, sé que ningún hombre puede entenderlo y que he dicho una tontería, porque he querido decirlo y de esta forma no surge poesía. Pero ¿y si tuviera que hablar? ¿Y si este instinto del lenguaje que me hace hablar fuese la marca de la inspiración y los efectos del lenguaje en mí? ¿Y si mi voluntad sólo quisiera todo aquello que debe; así podría esto ser finalmente, sin yo saberlo ni creerlo, poesía y hacer comprensible un misterio del lenguaje? ¿Y así yo sería un escritor porque el destino me ha llamado, pues un escritor no es otra cosa que alguien poseído por el entusiasmo y el espíritu del lenguaje?
 
Novalis, Monólogo, Estudios sobre Fichte y otros escritos, R. Caner-Liese, Madrid, Ediciones Akal, 2007
Read in German
 
 

Novalis: Monologue

 

The excellent piece on Novalis in this week’s TLS quoted a bit of his brilliant Monolog, and it’s short enough I figured I’d just post the whole thing here:
Speaking and writing is a crazy state of affairs really; true conversation is just a game with words. It is amazing, the absurd error people make of imagining they are speaking for the sake of things; no one knows the essential thing about language, that it is concerned only with itself. That is why it is such a marvellous and fruitful mystery – for if someone merely speaks for the sake of speaking, he utters the most splendid, original truths. But if he wants to talk about something definite, the whims of language make him say the most ridiculous false stuff. Hence the hatred that so many serious people have for language. They notice its waywardness, but they do not notice that the babbling they scorn is the infinitely serious side of language. If it were only possible to make people understand that it is the same with language as it is with mathematical formulae – they constitute a world in itself – their play is self-sufficient, they express nothing but their own marvellous nature, and this is the very reason why they are so expressive, why they are the mirror to the strange play of relationships among things. Only their freedom makes them members of nature, only in their free movements does the world-soul express itself and make of them a delicate measure and a ground-plan of things. And so it is with language – the man who has a fine feeling for its tempo, its fingering, its musical spirit, who can hear with his inward ear the fine effects of its inner nature and raises his voice or hand accordingly, he shall surely be a prophet; on the other hand the man who knows how to write truths like this, but lacks a feeling and an ear for language, will find language making a game of him, and will become a mockery to men, as Cassandra was to the Trojans. And though I believe that with these words I have delineated the nature and office of poetry as clearly as I can, all the same I know that no one can understand it, and what I have said is quite foolish because I wanted to say it, and that is no way for poetry to come about. But what if I were compelled to speak? What if this urge to speak were the mark of the inspiration of language, the working of language within me? And my will only wanted to do what I had to do? Could this in the end, without my knowing or believing, be poetry? Could it make a mystery comprehensible to language? If so, would I be a writer by vocation, for after all, a writer is only someone inspired by language?
Novalis, “Monologue” (1798), tr. Joyce Crick
This, together with Kleist’s “On the Gradual Production of Thoughts Whilst Speaking”, make the deconstructionists seem rather late to their own game. The artistic complement to Novalis here is Paul Klee, whose drawings inspired by The Novices of Sais capture some of what Novalis is saying. This one is called “Demony”:

 


MONOLOGUE
Novalis,
Friedrich von Hardenberg.
From The Philosophical and Theoretical Works
, pp. 438-439.

Read in German
Matters concerning speech and writing are genuinely strange; proper conversation is a mere play of words. We can only marvel at the laughable error people make--believing that they speak about things. No one knows precisely what is peculiar to language, that it concerns itself merely with itself. For that reason, it is a wonderful and fertile mystery--that when someone speaks merely in order to speak, one precisely then expresses the most splendid and most original truths. Yet if one wishes to speak of something determinate, then temperamental language has them say the most laughable and perverse things. That is the reason too for the hatred that so many earnest people have toward language. They recognize their own willfulness, but do not observe that contemptible chatter is the infinitely earnest side of language. If only one could make people grasp that the case of language is similar to the case of mathematical formulae--they constitute a world for themselves-- they play with themselves alone, express nothing other than their wonderful nature, and precisely for that reason they are so expressive--precisely for that reason they mirror in themselves the curious play of relations in things. Only by way of freedom are they members of nature and only in their free movements does the world soul give utterance, making them a delicate standard of measure and blueprint for things. Thus it is with language too--whoever has a subtle sense of its application, its cadence, its musical spirit, whoever perceives in oneself the delicate effects of its inner nature, and moves one’s tongue and hand in accordance with it will be a prophet; in contrast, whoever knows it but does not have sufficient ear and sensibility for language, writes truths such as these, will be held hostage by language itself and will be mocked by human beings, as was Cassandra among the Trojans. If I believe I have hereby declared most precisely the essence and office of poesy, I know nonetheless that no human being can understand it, and that I have said something quite foolish, for the mere reason that I wanted to say it, so that no poesy comes to be. Yet what would happen if I had to talk? and if this linguistic drive to speak were the characteristic of inspiration of language, and of the efficacy of language in me? and if my will only willed precisely everything that I had to will--then in the end this could be without my knowledge or belief poesy and could make a mystery of language comprehensible? and thus I would be a writer by vocation, inasmuch as a writer is only an enthusiast of language?--

Translation by Ferit Güven


MONOLOG
Novalis,
Friedrich von Hardenberg.
Das philosophisch-theoretische Werk
, pp. 438-439.
 
Es ist eigentlich um das Sprechen und Schreiben eine närrische Sache; das rechte Gespräch ist ein bloßes Wortspiel.  Der lächerliche Irrthum ist nur zu bewundern, daß die Leute meinen--sie sprächen um der Dinge willen.  Gerade das Eigenthümliche der Sprache, daß sie sich blos um sich selbst bekümmert, weiß keiner.Darum ist sie ein so wunderbares und fruchtbares Geheimniß,-- daß wenn einer blos spricht, um zu sprechen, er gerade die herrlichsten, originellsten Wahrheiten ausspricht.  Will er aber von etwas Bestimmten sprechen, so läßt ihn die launige Sprache das lächerlichste und verkehrste Zeug sagen.  Daraus entsteht auch der Haß, den so manche ernsthafte Leute gegen die Sprache haben.  Sie merken ihren Muthwillen, merken aber nicht, daß das verächtliche Schwatzen die unendlich ernsthafte Seite der Sprache ist. Wenn man den Leuten nur begreiflich machen könnte, daß es mit der Sprache wie mit den mathematischen Formeln sei--Sie machen eine Welt für sich aus--Sie spielen nur mit sich selbst, drücken nichts als ihre wunderbare Natur aus, und eben darum sind sie so ausdruckvoll--eben darum spiegelt sich in ihnen das Werhältnißspiel der Dinge.  Nur durch ihre Freiheit sind sie Glieder der Natur und nur in ihren freien Bewegungen äußert sich die Weltseele und macht sie zu einem zarten Maaßstab und Grundriß der Dinge.  So ist es auch mit der Sprache--wer ein feines Gefühl ihrer Applicatur, ihres Takts, ihres musikalischen Geistes hat, wer in sich das zarte Wirken ihrer innern Natur vernimmt, und danach seine Zunge oder seine Hand bewegt, der wird ein Prophet sein, dagegen wer es wohl weiß, aber nicht Ohr und Sinn genug für sie hat, Wahrheiten wie diese schreiben, aber von der Sprache selbt zum Besten gehalten und von den Menschen, wie Cassandra von den Trojanern, verspottet werden wird.  Wenn ich damit das Wesen und Amt der Poesie auf das deutlichste angegeben zu haben glaube, so weiß ich doch, daß es kein Mensch verstehn kann, und ich ganz was albernes gesagt habe, wiel ich es habe sagen wollen, und so keine Poesie zu Stande kommt.  Wie, wenn ich aber reden müßte? und dieser Sprachtrieb zu sprechen das Kennzeichen der Eingebung der Sprache, der Wirksamkeit der Sprache in mir wäre? und mein Wille nur auch alles wollte, was ich müßte, so könnte dies ja am Ende ohne mein Wissen und Glauben Poesie sein und ein Geheimniß der Sprache verständlich machen? und so wär' ich ein berufner Schriftsteller, denn ein Schriftsteler ist wohl nur ein Sprachbegeisterter?--
 

 

Hyacinth and Rosebud: Treading a Path to a Parable by Novalis via Thalmann’s Literary Sign Language of German Romanticism

August 22, 2013
Image
Marianne Thalmann The Literary Sign Language of German Romanticism Figure 2 Novalis Hyazinth (1798).
This amazing little exposition of Marianne Thalmann’s Literary Sign Language of German Romanticism (1967) I found when trying to track down an image by Novalis which inspired Joyce’s diagram on page 293 of Finnegans Wake. It could be that I’m completely mistaken about the existence of such an image (‘something’ I vaguely remember reading about ‘somewhere’, years ago), but the pathway it’s revealed looks very promising. Novalis is very much neglected in Anglo-American intellectual culture, partly because he doesn’t accord with its pragmatic, utilitarian outlook. This is a bit of a journey into the unknown for me, the parable of Hyacinth and Rosebud (Hyazinth und Rosenblütchen) seems like a good place to start.
Long ago, there lived far to the west a very young man, good, but extremely odd. He tormented himself continually about this nothing and that nothing, always walked in silence and straight before him, sat down alone when the others were at their sports and merry-makings, and brooded over strange things. Caves and woods were his dearest haunts; and there he talked on and on with beasts and birds, with trees and rocks–of course not one rational word, but mere idiotic stuff, to make one laugh to death. He continued, however, always moody and serious, in spite of the utmost pains that the squirrel, the monkey, the parrot, and the bullfinch could take to divert him, and set him in the right way. The goose told stories, the brook jingled a ballad between, a great thick stone cut ridiculous capers, the rose stole lovingly about him from behind and crept through his locks, while the ivy stroked his troubled brow. But his melancholy and gravity were stubborn. His parents were much troubled, and did not know what to do. He was in good health, and ate well enough; they had never caused him any offence; and, until a few years ago, he had been the liveliest and merriest of them all, foremost in all their games, and a favourite with all the maidens. He was very handsome, looked like a picture, and danced like an angel. Amongst the maidens was one, a charming and beautiful creature, who looked like wax, had hair like golden silk, and cherry-red lips, was a doll for size, and had coal-black, yes, raven-black eyes. Whoever saw her was ready to swoon, she was so lovely. Now Rosebud, for that was her name, was heartily fond of the handsome Hyacinth, for that was his name, and he loved her fit to die. The other children knew nothing of it. A violet told them of it first. The little house-cats had been quite aware of it, for the houses of their parents lay near each other. So when Hyacinth stood at night by his window, and Rosebud at hers, and the cats ran past mouse-hunting, they saw the two standing there, and often laughed and tittered so loud that they heard it and were offended. The violet told it in confidence to the strawberry, and she told it to her friend, the raspberry, who never ceased rasping when Hyacinth came along; so that by and by the whole garden and wood were in the secret, and when Hyacinth went out, he heard on all sides the cry: “Little Rosy is my posy!” This vexed him; but the next moment he could not help laughing from the bottom of his heart, when the little lizard came slipping along, sat down on a warm stone, waggled his tail, and sang–
“Little Rosebud, good and wise,
All at once has lost her eyes:
Taking Hyacinth for her mother,
Round his neck her arms she flings;
Then perceiving ’tis another–
Starts with terror?–no, but clings–
Think of that!–fast as before,
Only kissing all the more!”
Alas, how soon was the grand time over! There came a man out of strange lands, who had travelled wondrous far and wide, had a long beard, deep eyes, frightful eyebrows, and a strange garment with many folds, and inwoven with curious figures. He seated himself before the house of Hyacinth’s parents. Hyacinth at once became very inquisitive, and sat down beside him, and brought him bread and wine. Then parted he his white beard, and told stories deep into the night; and Hyacinth never stirred or tired of listening. This much they learned afterward, that he talked a great deal about strange lands, unknown countries, and amazingly wonderful things; stopped there three days, and crept with Hyacinth down into deep shafts. Little Rosebud execrated the old sorcerer pretty thoroughly, for Hyacinth was altogether absorbed in his conversation, and paid no heed to anything else, hardly even to the swallowing of a mouthful of food. At length the man took his departure, but left with Hyacinth a little book which no man could read. Hyacinth gave him fruit, and bread, and wine to take with him, and accompanied him a long way. Then he came back sunk in thought, and thereafter took up a quite new mode of life. Rosebud was in a very sad way about him, for from that time forward he made little of her, and kept himself always to himself. But it came to pass that one day he came home, and was like one born again. He fell on his parents’ neck and wept. “I must away to a foreign land!” he said: “the strange old woman in the wood has told me what I must do to get well; she has thrown the book into the fire, and has made me come to you to ask your blessing. Perhaps I shall be back soon, perhaps never more. Say good-bye to Rosebud for me. I should have been glad to have a talk with her; I do not know what has come to me: I must go! When I would think to recall old times, immediately come thoughts more potent in between; my rest is gone, and my heart and love with it; and I must go find them! I would gladly tell you whither, but do not myself know; it is where dwells the mother of things, the virgin with the veil; for her my spirit is on fire. Farewell!” He tore himself from them, and went out. His parents lamented and shed tears. Rosebud kept her chamber, and wept bitterly.
Hyacinth now ran, as fast as he could, through valleys and wildernesses, over mountains and streams, toward the land of mystery. Everywhere he inquired–of men and beasts, of rocks and trees,–after the sacred goddess Isis. Many laughed, many held their peace; nowhere did he get an answer. At first he passed through a rugged wild country; mists and clouds threw themselves in his way, but he rushed on impetuously. Then he came to boundless deserts of sand–mere glowing dust; and as he went his mood changed also; the time became tedious to him, and his inward unrest abated; he grew gentler, and the stormy impulse in him passed by degrees into a mild yet powerful attraction, wherein his whole spirit was dissolved. It seemed as if many years lay behind him.
And now the country became again richer and more varied, the air soft and blue, the way smoother. Green bushes enticed him with their pleasant shadows, but he did not understand their speech; they seemed indeed not to speak, and yet they filled his heart with their green hues, and their cool, still presence. Ever higher in him waxed that same sweet longing, and ever broader and juicier grew the leaves, ever louder and more jocund the birds and beasts, balmier the fruits, darker the heavenly blue, warmer the air, and more ardent his love. The time went ever faster, as if it knew itself near the goal.
One day he met a crystal rivulet, and a multitude of flowers, coming down into a valley between dark, columnar cliffs. They greeted him friendlily, with familiar words. “Dear country-folk,” said he, “where shall I find the sacred dwelling of Isis? Hereabouts it must be, and here, I guess, you are more at home than I.” “We also are but passing through,” replied the flowers; “a spirit-family is on its travels, and we are preparing for them their road and quarters. A little way back, however, we passed through a country where we heard her name mentioned. Only go up, where we came down, and thou wilt soon learn more.” The flowers and the brook smiled as they said it, offered him a cool draught, and went on their way. Hyacinth followed their counsel, kept asking, and came at last to that dwelling he had sought so long, which lay hid among palms and other rare plants. His heart beat with an infinite longing, and the sweetest apprehension thrilled him in this abode of the eternal seasons. Amid heavenly odours he fell asleep, for Dream alone could lead him into the holy of holies. In marvellous mode Dream conducted him through endless rooms full of strange things, by means of witching sounds and changeful harmonies. All seemed to him so familiar, and yet strange with an unknown splendour; then vanished the last film of the perishable as if melted into air, and he stood before the celestial virgin. Then he lifted the thin glistening veil, and–Rosebud sank into his arms. A far-off music surrounded the mysteries of love’s reunion and the outpouring of their longings, and shut out from the scene of their rapture everything alien to it.
Hyacinth lived a long time after with Rosebud and his happy parents and old playmates; and numberless grandchildren thanked the wonderful old wise woman for her counsel and her uprousing; for in those days people had as many children as they pleased. (Translated by George MacDonald. Found here).
Priestess Tarot Crowley
The veiled figure of Isis depicted by Lady Frieda Harris in Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot (1944)
As Robert Lee Wolff points out in The Golden Key (1961 New Haven: University of Yale Press, p.86), Hyacinth lifts the veil of Isis (Wisdom) and discovers Rosebud (Erotic love).

rose_photo_65

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