2 Pages


WithS. S. Prawer

What English readers will have missed most in this survey of the German lyric is the continuous development which characterizes the history of their own poetry: a stream of tradition constantly swelled by new tributaries. After the age of Goethe, extreme seems constantly to follow extreme. There was among the German Romantics no Wordsworth, so intimately linked not only to Gray and Thomson but also to Dryden and Pope; no Keats, who has affinities with the metaphysical poets no less than the early Elizabethans and the lesser Milton. Nowhere in English poetry is there so sharp a division as that between the German Romantics and the political poets of the 1830’s and 40’s, between these and the Poetic Realists; between the Poetic Realists and Stefan George. In Germany, conscious traditionalists proved only too often, like the poets of the Munich school, barren imitators. It is therefore significant that the history of the German lyric culminates, not in an Eliot for whom ‘all time is eternally present’, aware at every moment of the great tradition in which he stands and which he modifies and enriches, but in a Rilke, 1 who stands (despite his homage to Hölderlin) as if he were author of himself and knew no other kin.