For the most part, he wrote poetry and prose, but he also translated from several languages. Although his work was repeatedly recognized by several prominent German critics and writers, Lange never established himself as a major twentieth-century voice in German poetry. Not all Germans, however, were uncritical admirers of Whitman. Already one year before the appearance of Lange's poem, in , Kurt Tucholsky, one of the great German satirists, wrote a parody of "Salut au Monde!
Tucholsky frequently used "Ignaz Wrobel" as a pseudonym. The "Walt Wrobel" in the poem is Tucholsky turned into Whitman—or the other way around. Whitman's spiritualized epistemological optimism is shown to be unfounded; the wealth of all appearances could not possibly be grasped by the five senses. Paradoxically, the senses mediate mainly one thing—pain. Whitman's global panorama is here replaced by ridiculous local observations from the author's everyday life.
At the very best, it is slightly humorous—something Whitman's poem is certainly not. In spite of this parody's implicit biting criticism, Tucholsky, like other writers critical of Whitman's optimism, nonetheless admired the American as a great poet. On a poetry manuscript by the young German poet Walter Bauer, he commented, "I am much more interested in your intellectual parents than in your professional aspirations. Just so there are no misunderstandings: this does not change anything, not in the least, about the value of poems.
Their rhymelessness is almost a matter of course. The sonnet by Johannes R. Becher — was probably written in the early s when he was in Soviet exile. In his youth and early manhood, Becher was a devout Whitmanite; later he programmatically declared his conversion from Whitman to Marx and Lenin.
Yet, like many other Marxists, he continued to admire Whitman, even though the sonnet form of the poem included here suggests that the nature of this admiration had changed. Becher, first minister of culture in the GDR, was an influential, although self-serving, cultural politician, whose interest in Whitman helped to insure the poet's "survival" in the GDR.
Gabriele Eckart born in is one of the most gifted lyricists in contemporary German literature. At the time she wrote the poem included here, she was still in high school. Her "search for metres," in the course of which she encountered Whitman, already points to the original poetry she would write in the future. By the mids, Eckart had become a dissident writer and eventually removed to the United States. The poem by Wellbrock born in , a Berlin-based writer of poems, short stories, and radio plays, is explicitly critical of Whitman and Whitman's rhetoric, yet it testifies to the power of Whitman's voice and the necessity for every poet to come to terms with it.
Wellbrock himself speaks of his "ambivalent" attitude toward Whitman, whose expansiveness and freedom he admires but whose rhetoric and glorification of strength and body offend him. The poem is a clever montage of Whitman quotations that have become famous in Germany; Wellbrock carefully refutes each one.
No German poet has "talked back" in a more radical fashion to Whitman than Wellbrock. It remains unclear whether it is Whitman's belief in progress that is targeted here or whether the poem attempts to show that our plastic era does not do justice to our cultural-humanist legacy, the Bible, or Whitman; both interpretations seem possible. Sahl, born in Dresden in , was one of the most prominent German exiles in the literary field.
The Walt Whitman Archive
Since he has worked as a cultural correspondent for several German-language dailies. He is also a prominent translator of American dramatists among them Williams, Miller, and Wilder. The poem is the sophisticated product of a truly bicultural mind and deserves an important place in German-American literature. He became a bookseller, worked as a nurse's assistant, then studied medicine in Leipzig, where he specialized in internal medicine.
This part-time poet's direct address to Whitman confronts the frequent attempts to pronounce Whitman dead. Yet, to this poet writing in the "mid-age" years of tranquility and "maturity," Whitman is still as provocative as ever. Kluge writes that "for somebody who was forced to live in a walled-in country, it can be a revelation to see the upright posture of a human being: self-determined instead of other-directedness, sensuality instead of prudishness, love of truth rather than hypocrisy.
To me, Walt Whitman was a great help. In a country where walls have come down, Whitman's German reception will no doubt develop in new and unsuspected ways as a result of the radical changes in East-Central Europe. Whereas the changes in Eastern and East-Central Europe have muted Marxist voices and thus also Marxist respondents to Whitman, a new kind of response is struck by Rolf Schwendter pseudonym of Rudolf Schesswendtner , born in in Vienna.
A professor of sociology at the University of Kassel in Germany, Schwendter's academic interests include subcultures, future studies, and research into social and cultural deviancy. His poem "You I Sing, Socialism" was written for the festival of the Austrian Communist press in Vienna and targets both conservative and Marxist orthodoxies from a libertarian, independently leftist point of view. For the first time, Whitman's pluralist aesthetics have been appreciated by a leftist recipient. While it lacks Whitman's lyrical vision, Schwendter's poem is a programmatic and sophisticated piece of work, and it synthesizes the tradition of German responses to Whitman, while it opens up new modes of creative political interpretations of his poetry.
The answer is, a poet! A new American poet! His admirers say, the first, the only poet America has as yet produced. The only American poet of specific character. No follower in the beaten track of the European muses, but fresh from the prairie and the new settlements, fresh from the coast and the great watercourses, fresh from the thronging humanity of seaports and cities, fresh from the battlefields of the South, and from the earthy smells in hair and beard and clothing of the soil from which he sprang.
A being not yet come to fullness of existence, a person standing firmly and consciously upon his own American feet, an utterer of a gross of great things, though often odd. And his admirers go still further: Walt Whitman is to them the only poet at all, in whom the age, this struggling, eagerly seeking age, in travail with thought and longing, has found its expression; the poet par excellence.
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Thus, on the one side his admirers, in whose ranks we find even an Emerson. On the other, to be sure, are the critics, those whose business it is to abase aspirants.
By the side of unmeasured praise and enthusiastic recognitions of his genius are bitter and biting scorn and injurious abuse. This, it is true, troubles not the poet.
The praise he takes as his due; to the scorn he opposes scorn of his own. He believes in himself; his self-reliance is unbounded. Rossetti, "to himself above all things the one man who cherishes earnest convictions, and avows that he, both now and hereafter, is the founder of a new poetical literature—a great literature—a literature such as will stand in due relation and proportion to the material grandeur and the incalculable destinies of America.
He believes that the Columbus of the continent or the Washington of the States were not more truly founders and builders of this America than he himself will be in time to come. Surely a sublime conviction, and by the poet more than once expressed in stately words—none more so than the poem which begins with the line: "Come, indivisible will I make this continent.
Is the man in his right mind, that he talks thus? Let us step nearer to him!
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Let us hearken to his life and his works. First of all let us open his book. Are these verses? The lines are arranged like verses, to be sure, but verses they are not. No metre, no rhyme, no stanzas. Rhythmical prose, ductile verses.
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At first sight rugged, inflexible, formless; but yet for a more delicate ear, not devoid of euphony. The language homely, hearty, straightforward, naming everything by its true name, shrinking for nothing, sometimes obscure. The tone rhapsodical, like that of a seer, often unequal, the sublime mingled with the trivial even to the point of insipidity.
He reminds us sometimes, with all the differences that exist besides, of our own Hamann. Or of Carlyle's oracular wisdom. Or of the Paroles d'un Croyant. Through all there sounds out the Bible—its language, not its creed. And what does the poet propound to us in this form? First of all: Himself, his I , Walt Whitman.
This I however is part of America, a part of the earth, a part of mankind, a part of the All.
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As such he is conscious of himself and revolves, knitting the greatest to the least, ever going out from America, and coming back to America ever agan only to a free people does the future belong! Through this individual Walt Whitman and his Americanism marches, we may say, a cosmical procession, such as may be suitable for reflective spirits, who, face to face with eternity, have passed solitary days on the sea-shore, solitary nights under the starry sky of the prairie. He finds himself in all things and all things in himself. He, the one man, Walt Whitman, is mankind and the world.
And the world and mankind are to him one great poem. What he sees and hears, what he comes in contact with, whatever approaches him, even the meanest, the most trifling, the most every-day matter—all is to him symbolical of a higher, of a spiritual fact. Or rather, matter and spirit, the real and the ideal are to him one and the same. Thus, produced by himself, he takes his stand; thus he strides along, singing as he goes; thus he opens from his soul, a proud free man, and only a man, world-wide, social and political vistas.
A wonderful appearance. We confess that it moves us, disturbs us, will not loose its hold upon us. At the same time, however, we would remark that we are not yet ready with our judgment of it, that we are still biased by our first impression. Meanwhile we, probably the first in Germany to do so, will take at least a provisional view of the scope and tendency of this new energy.
It is fitting that our poets and thinkers should have a closer look at this strange new comrade, who threatens to overturn our entire Ars Poetica and all our theories and canons on the subject of aesthetics. Indeed, when we have listened to all that is within these earnest pages, when we have grown familiar with the deep, resounding roar of those, as it were, surges of the sea in their unbroken sequence of rhapsodical verses breaking upon us, then will our ordinary verse-making, our system of forcing thought into all sorts of received forms, our playing with ring and sound, our syllable-counting and measure of quantity, our sonnet-writing and construction of strophes and stanzas, seem to us almost childish.
Walt Whitman Archive - Translations - The Walt Whitman Archive
Are we really come to the point, when life, even in poetry, calls imperatively for new forms of expression? Has the age so much and such serious matter to say, that the old vessels no longer suffice for the new contents? Are we standing before a poetry of the ages to come, just as some years ago a music of the ages to come was announced before us? As to the person and the life of the poet, we learn that he is a man of almost fifty years.
He was born on the 31st May, His father, in succession, innkeeper, carpenter, and architect, a descendant of English settlers; the mother, Louisa Van Velsor, of Dutch descent. The boy received his first school teaching in Brooklyn, a suburb of New York. Compelled at an early age to rely upon his own exertions, he gained his living first as a printer, and later as a teacher, and a contributor to several New York newspapers.
In the year we find him established as editor of a newspaper in New Orleans, two years later again a printer in Brooklyn.