Stimmen Der Romantik

Date of Award

Spring 1970

Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)


Colby College. German and Russian Dept.


Henry O. Schmidt

Second Advisor

George Maier


In the history of German literature there has been, perhaps, no period of a more individualistic nature than that of the Romantic, a phenomenon that appeared just before the turn of the 19th century, in Jena, and spread throughout Germany only to disappear in the early thirties of the same century. Following on the heels of the Deutsche Klassik and Sturm und Drang, both of which, in a sense, were rooted in foreign intellectual trends, the German Romantic Period was endemically "deutsch" and composed of two parts chronologically. The twofold nature of the movement's geography, i.e., that which sprang from the north of Germany and that from the southern, to a large extent Catholic, part of Germany, contributed much to the conflicts that arose in the minds of that period's poets. Steeped in either the northern-germanic philosophy, in which the Enlightenment died card, or in that of the more mystical southern culture, the poets attempted to reconcile these polarities within the framework of what Friedrich Schlegel calls "eine progressive Universalpoesie" whose mission it is to unite within a growing, organic system of poetics all art and life--in fact, they become, as a goal of this system, one indistinguishable unity. Gathered together in small clusters in various cities in Germany, the Romantics turned within themselves for a consolation of their philosophy. Not since the days of Goethe's Werther had young poets been so introspective. Well-bred and instinctively educated, they developed a taste for the over-refined and the occult. But within the German Romantics lay a deep and somber fatalism that, behind a delicate lyrical facility, touched a chord of a distinctly minor key. Navalis' Hymnen an die Nacht reflect just such a shadowed mental attitude. And like Novalis, many of these young, brooding poets wasted away before they were thirty. Removed as they were from the common man (although they praised him as Nature's own and pretended to imitate is unassuming simplicity), a loneliness overwhelmed the romantic poet that drove him to find shelter within a structure greater than the small circle of like-minded poets who were his friends. The Catholic Church, with its mystery and promise of individual salvation, supplied a relief from this loneliness, and many born-Protestants were converted. The Romantic poet, then, all too aware of his position as an individual, frightened perhaps of the implications of the Enlightenment, rejected reason for feeling; not the dynamic rush of emotions embodied in Schiller's Karl Moor, but rather a finer, more receptive sensitivity, better suited to interpret and speculate than to create works of enduring genius.


German literature, 19th century, Romantic period

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