Thursday, March 17, 2005

[Poem] George, Stefan - Secret Germany

Spöknippet came across an english translation of Stefan George's magnificent poem Secret Germany. Even though much of course is lost in the translation it is still published due to the rareness of translations of George's works. As can be felt, not all of its original magic is gone.

Let me stand at your verge,
Chasm, and not be dismayed!

Where irrepressible greed has
Trampled down every inch of
Earth from equator to pole and
Shamelessly wielded relentless
Glare and mastery over
Every nook of the world,

Where in the smothering cells of
Hideous houses, madness
Just has found what will poison
All horizons tomorrow:
Even shepherds in yurtas,
Even nomads in wastes -

Where no more in a stony
Forest valley the she-wolf
- Rugged nurse! - suckles boy twins,
And neither untrodden islands,
Nor a garden of virgins
Dawn to foster the Great,

There in the sorest of trials
Powers below pondered gravely,
Gracious celestials gave their
Ultimate secret: They altered
Laws over matter and founded
Space- a new space in the old . . .

Once down by the southern
Sea I lay on a boulder,
Wrung as lately my kin
Spirit, when breaking through
Olives, the Spook of Noon
With goatee foot flicked me:

'Now that your eyes grew discerning,
Go and find in your sacred
Land primordial soil,
Slumbering lap of fill,
And regions as pathless and dark
As the densest of jungles.'

Pinions of sunny dream,
Carry me close to the depth!

They told me of one who from rock-ridden coast
An instant had seen the Olympian gods
In heavens which split with the light of the dawn,
Whereat his soul was flooded with dread.
He shunned the board where his friends were grouped
And plunged into riotous waters.

In the town where the trivia from everywhere
Are posted on pillars and patches of wall
For people to gape at and hasten on,
No one had eyes for the greater event:
Uncanny through tottering structures and streets
The dangerous prowl of the demon!

In winter he stood in the candle-lit hall,
His shimmering shoulder hidden in folds
The flame on his cheek in the leaves of a wreath,
The god concealed from the stare of fools,
In clear-scented warmth of the winds of spring,
Set foot on flowering courses.

The Listener who knew every person and thing,
Played ball with the stars in a rapturous reel,
The hunter unhunted, yet here he avowed
With stammering lips, his apostle-like form
Transfixed in the gleam of the opaline globe:
'This passes my grasp, I am silenced.'

Then forth from the region of order and peace,
Through sulphurous night a tempest unloosed
The clash and the clamour of savage wars,
The smoulder of worlds in the throes of the end.
And crumbling terrains and shadows unleashed
The silver hooves of the chargers.

I came upon him of the pale-golden hair
Who smilingly lavished serene repose
Wherever he went. He was hailed by us all
The darling of Fortune, but late he confessed
His vigour was drained to give strength to a friend,
His life a sequence of offerings.

I loved him who - my blood in his veins -
Had sung the song only less than the best,
Who idly shattered his lute when he failed
To gain a treasure he once divined,
Who merged with anonymous throngs and bowed
A forehead destined for laurels.

Throughout the country, on roads and in squares,
Wherever I was on the watch, I asked
Omniscient Rumour with hundreds of eyes:
'Have you ever heard of the like?' And he
- Though loth to be startled - replied: 'I heard
Of much - but this is unheard-of''

Let me mount to your height,
Summit, and not be destroyed!

Who shed, who of you brothers
Doubts, unshocked by the warning,
That what you most acclaim, what
Most you value today is
Rank as leaves in the fall-wind,
Doomed to perdition and death!

Only what consecrate earth
Cradles in sheltering sleep
Long in the innermost grooves,
Far from acquisitive hands,
Marvels this day cannot grasp
Are rife with the fate of tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

[Excerpts] Jünger, Copse 125

As more than half of the excerpts below was not included when this was first posted September 14, 2004 we have chosen to republish the entire post.

At the bottom I was quite content, for though I have never had great cares I have never had so care-free a life as at the front. Everything is clear and simple. My rights and duties are prescribed. I need earn no money. My food is provided me, and if things go badly with me I have a thousend fellow-sufferers, and above all, the shadow of death reduces every problem to a pleasant insignificance.
p. 6

For they who can come through this - and, as I say, there can only be a few, what can there be that they can not come through? And so I see in old Europe a new and commanding breed rising up, fearless and fabulous, unsparing of blood and sparing of pity, inured to suffering the worst and to inflicting it and ready to stake all to atain their ends - a race that builds machines, to whom machines are not soulless iron, but engines of might which it controls with cold reason and hot blood. This puts a new face on the world.
p. 21

The pretensioms of the other side may be even better grounded then ours. That is a matter of indifference. For it is not justification that turns the scale, but the stronger and more deeply realized will to power.
p. 34

The hardiest sons of the war, the men who lead the storm-troop, and manipulate the tank, the aeroplane, and the submarine, are preeminent in technical accomplishment; and it is these picked examples of dare-devil courage that represent the modern state i battle. These men of first-rate qualities with real blood in their veins, courageous, intelligent, accustomed to serve the machine, and yet its superior at the same time, are the men, too, who show up best in the trench and among the shell-holes.
p. 48

But we have never stopped it [war] and never shall, because war is not the law of one age or civilization, but of eternal nature itself, out of which every civilization proceedes, and into which it must sink again if it is not hard enough to withstand its iron ordeal.
p. 56

As long as we have a youth that stands for all that is strong and manly our future is assured.
p. 57

The important thing is that short and strenuous reverence be paid to the spirit of discipline. Three things keep a body of troops in fighting form: fighting spirit, strength and discipline. Fighting spirit – as I have said before – is the least easy to influence. It is the great prerequisite and justification of war – the spirit of the race and of the blood pledged to the last drop. There lie the roos of the strength whose full development is dependent on outward conditions, fresh air nourishment, clothing, and a lot else. When this soil fails fighting spirit is like a seedling plated in arenaceous quartz – it goes on growing for a while of its own resources and then gives out. It is a tragic destiny when a great enterprise comes to grief from this cause. Finally, the purpose of discipline is to economize and direct the two elements so that they are brought to bear on one aim with overwhelming force. It is a means, not an end; it is in seeing it in its true proportion that the real fighter is distinguished from the soldier. It is one of the danger-points of the Prussian system that it easily loses sight of the spirit in the letter and of real strength in the empty show of it. One of the most terrible apparitions is the sheer drill-master – a machine that goes by clockwork. It is bound to break down for the mere reason that in war there is no rule but the exception.

p. 78-79

When equal sacrifices are required, equal rights must be given likewise. This has been such commonplace of thought for a hundred and twenty years that one is ashamed to find it still in need of emphasis. I any case, if this principle is applied in an army, and the great saying about the Marshal’s baton that every recruit carries in his knapsack is not an mere empty phrase, everybody feels that he is in his place, whether he is born to command or to obey. If I give any offence by this, I may add that this would be an army composed entirely of Fahnenjunker.

Democratic sentiments? I hate democracy as I do the plague – besides, the democratic ideal of an army would be one consisting entirely, not of Fahnenjunker, but of officers with lax discipline and great personal liberty. For my taste, on the contrary, and for that of young Germans in general to-day, an army could not be too iron, too dictatorial, ad too absolute – but if it is to be so, then there must be a system of promotion that is not sheltered behind any sort of privilege, but opened up to the keenest competition.
If we are to come to grief in this war it can only be from moral causes; for materially, whatever any one may say, we are strong enough. And the decisive factor will be the defects of leadership; or to express it more accurately, the relation in which officers and men stand to each other. It would not be for the first time in our experience, and it would be another proof that peoples too (for it is on the shoulders of the whole people, not jsut the ruling class) always repeat the same mistakes just as individuals do. The battle of Jena is an instance. This defeat should not be regarded as a great disaster, but as a just and well-deserved warning of the fate to cut loose from an impossible state of affairs; for in that battle a new principle of leadership encountered and overthrew an antiquated one. Every war that is lost is lost deservedly. One must always bear that in mind if one wishes to be the winner.

p. 83-84

From this it may be seen at once what is the most important quality a nation must possess when its position in the world compels it to reckon with the waging of great wars. This quality is more than ever, in peace as well as in war, the proof of its fitness to survive. It is the capacity for the speedy development of a large programme.
p. 137

To us, too, the machine is something external, something we that we have set up outside ourselves. But it is our indispensable resource, whether in peace or war; and for that reason we endorse it and accept it.
p. 138

The moment we give in, no machine in the world can help us. But as long as we do not lose the feeling that calls out to every valiant man, ’You are born to rule,’ we shall always know how to create the best instruments of power of our time.
p. 139

Thus we can see that the mechanics of war not only mean increased power but also make the highest demands on the men concerned. The best men will have the best machinery and the best bachinery will have the best men – for the two are inseparable.
p. 140

Pacifism will rise and fall with the times. A period of weariness or one that lacks great ideas will always give it a clear field. And rightly, for when young men have no great aim before their eyes, why shold they sacrifice themselves? When they have, on the other hand, they will of their own accord be carried away by the force that quails at nothing. The proud and indisputable right of the victor to decide the world’s destiny is so intoxicating a prospect to a race that does not doubt its call to greatness, that all else must appear of no account.
p. 153

Wars are bound to occur from time to time. In them is manifested that determination of nature to intervene directly in the evolution of the greatest organisms of the earth, though they strive to withdraw themselves from her influence, and to break it forcibly upon their one-sided and purely economic aims.
p. 182

Toleration of all sides, of which we were so proud, must be seen for what it is – a negative quality. He who as no real belief in anything can certainly be tolerant and to spare; but only intolerance has any force behind it.

p. 190