Hermann Broch



From “The Death of Virgil”:


“Oh, unbridled became the desire to stretch out the hand toward those still so distant shores, to reach into the darkness of the shrubbery, to feel the earth-born leaf between his fingers, to hold it tightly there forevermore—, the wish quivered in his hands, quivered in his fingers with uncontrollable desire toward the leafy branches, toward the flexible leaf-stems, toward the sharp-soft leaf edges, toward the firm living leaf-flesh, yearningly he felt it when he closed his eyes, and it was almost a sensual desire, sensually simple and grasping like his masculine, raw-boned peasant’s fist, sensually savoring and sensitive like the slender-wristed nervousness of this same hand: Oh grass, oh leaf, bark-smoothness, bark-roughness, vitality of burgeoning, in this branching out and embodiment ye are earth’s darkness made manifest! oh hand, tingling, touching, fondling, embracing, oh finger and finger-tip, rough and gentle and soft, living flesh, the outermost surface of the soul’s darkness opened up in the lifted hands!”



“...he knew of the innermost danger of all artists, he knew the utter loneliness of the man destined to be an artist, he knew the inherent loneliness which drove such a one into the still deeper loneliness of art and into the beauty that cannot be articulated, and he knew that for the most part such men were shattered by this immolation, that it made them blind, blind to the world, blind to the divine quality in the world and in the fellow-man, that--intoxicated by their loneliness--they were able to see only their own god-likeness, which they imagined to be unique, and consequently this self-idolatry and its greed for recognition came more and more to be the sole content of their work--, a betrayal of the divine as well as of art, because in this fashion the work of art became a work of un-art, an unchaste covering for artistic vanity, so spurious that even the artist's self-complacent nakedness which it exposed became a mask; and even though such unchaste self-gratification, such dalliance with beauty, such concern with effects, even though such an un-art might, despite its brief unrenewable grant, its inextensible boundaries, find an easier way to the populace than real art ever found, it was only a specious way, a way out of the loneliness, but not, however, an affiliation with the human community, which was the aim of real art in its aspiration toward humanity, no, it was the affiliation with the mob, it was a participation in its treacherous non-community, which was incapable of the pledge, which neither created nor mastered any reality, and which was unwilling to do so, preferring only to drowse on, forgetting reality, having forfeited it as had un-art and literarity, this was the most profound danger for every artist; oh how painfully, how very painfully he knew this.”


“Orpheus chose to be the leader of mankind. Ah, not even Orpheus had attained such a goal, not even his immortal greatness had justified such vain and presumptuous dreams of grandeur, such flagrant overestimation of poetry! Certainly many instances of earthly beauty--a song, the twilit sea, the tone of the lyre, the voice of a boy, a verse, a statue, a column, a garden, a single flower--all possess the divine faculty of making man hearken unto the innermost and outermost boundaries of his existence, and therefore it is not to be wondered at that the lofty art of Orpheus was esteemed to have the power of diverting the streams from their beds and changing their courses, of luring the wild beasts of the forest with tender dominance, of arresting the cattle a-browse upon the meadows and moving them to listen, caught in the dream and enchanted, the dreamwish of all art: the world compelled to listen, ready to receive the song and its salvation. However, even had Orpheus achieved his aim, the help lasts no longer than the song, nor does the listening, and on no account might the song resound too long, otherwise the streams would return to their old courses, the wild beasts of the forest would again fall upon and slay the innocent beasts of the field, and man would revert again to his old, habitual cruelty; for not only did no intoxication last long, and this was likewise true of beauty's spell, but furthermore, the mildness to which men and beasts had yielded was only half of the intoxication of beauty, while the other half, not less strong and for the most part far stronger, was of such surpassing and terrible cruelty--the most cruel of men delights himself with a flower--that beauty, and before all the beauty born of art, failed quickly of its effect if in disregard of the reciprocal balance of its two components it approached man with but one of them.”


“the poem though well able to duplicate the creation in words was never able to fuse the duplication into a unity, unable to do so because the seeming-reversion, the divination, the beauty, because all these things which determined, which became poetry, took place solely in the duplicated world; the world of speech and the world of matter remained apart, twofold the home of the word, twofold the home of the human being, twofold the abyss of the creaturely,but twofold also the purity of being, thus duplicated to unchastity which, like a resurrection without birth, penetrated all divination as well as all beauty, and carried the seed of world-destruction in itself, the basic unchastity of existence which came to be feared by the mother; unchaste the mantle of poetry, and nevermore would poetry come to be fundamental…”




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