chapter  Chapter One
17 Pages

Approaching the German Lyric

WithS. S. Prawer

‘No, it is impossible’, says Marlow in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; ‘it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning —its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live as we dream—alone.’ But it is just this ‘impossible’ which the lyric poet in our period at least sets out to accomplish. He does not seek to tell a story, or present conflict of character and opinion: he seeks, within short compass, to annihilate the distance between himself and his reader, to make the reader experience directly the poet’s ‘life-sensation at a given period of his existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning’.