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A Holistically and Logocentrically Based Study of the Phenomenon of the Wanderer In German and English Literature

A Holistically and Logocentrically Based Study of the Phenomenon of the Wanderer In German and English Literature

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A Holistically and Logocentrically Based Study of the Phenomenon of the Wanderer In German and English Literature

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Words derivedfrom the verbs "to wander" and "wandern" crop up significantly and often prominently in English and German poetry. Why? Do these verbal occurrences point to some principal or power of coherence and does this power reside in the collective unconscious postulated by Carl G. Jung?
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A Holistically and Logocentrically Based Study of the Phenomenon of the Wanderer In German and English Literature - Julian Scutts

A Holistically and Logocentrically Based Study of the Phenomenon of the Wanderer In German and English Literature

A HOLISTICALLY AND LOGOCENTRICALLY BASED STUDY OF THE WANDERER AS A PHENOMENON IN GERMAN AND ENGLISH POETRY

A Series of Studies that Focuses on the Writings of J. W. von Goethe and the Romantic Poets Drawing in such Topics as the Pied Piper of Hamelin and the Issue of Mimesis in Literature

By Julian Scutts

©julianscutts_Julian Scutts 2015

IBSN 978-1-329-78651-6

CONTENTS

I: The Case For a Holistic Approach to the Phenomenon of the Wanderer In German and English Literature

II: In Principio Erat Verbum

A. The Word in Language Theory

B. The Confines or Scope of Comparisons between Words of Similar Form in Literary Texts (with Special Regard to Words Derived from the Verbs to wander and wandern)

C: Words, Words, Words The Application of a Logocentrically Based Method to Works by Shakespeare and Altarwise by Owl-Light by Dylan Thomas (

III: Goethe the Wanderer

A: Der Wandrer as the Word that Marked the Culmination of  Eighteenth-Century Trends

B. On the Problem of Two Wanderers in Goethe’s Pre-Weimar Years and How Goethe Met its Challenge (91)

C. From the Heights of Parnassus to the Artist's Humble Workshop in Rome

D. The Pivotal Role of Der Wandrer in the German-English Cultural Dialogue

E. From Werther to Faust Part II or The Wanderer's Short and Long Road to Eternity

F. The Dialogic Essence of Wandrers Nachtlied

IV: Wandering in Romanticism

A. I wandered lonely as a cloud, The Myth of Narcissus and Milton’s Muse

B. All Wandering as the Worst of Sinning: The Miltonic Background of Don Juan by Lord Byron

C: London by William Blake and Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust by Wilhelm Müller:   Contexts in Poems that Belong to a Cycle (

D: Romantic Treatments of the Wandering Jew and the Prodigal Son / with Reference to Robinson Crusoe, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Queen Mab

V: WANDERING AFTER GOETHE: The Poetry of Robert Browning and the Tale of the Pied Piper (with Regard Paid to Verbal Clues such as wander and cross)

Part I

A. Robert Browning, Wandering and Goethe

B. Did Isaac Nathan Provide a Channel of Influence between Byron and Robert Browning?

C. The Allegorical Depth of How they Brought the Good  News from Ghent to Aix

D. The Twice-Crossed Bridge in "By the Fire-Side

E. Do We Need Rats to Make Sense of the Story of the Pied Piper?

F. The Religious and Solar Symbolism Implied by Individual Words and their Combined Effects in Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Part II

A. Gilgamesh, Samson, Ulysses, Aeneas and the Pied Piper Considered as Solar Heroes

B. Allegorical Substrata in Richard III and Macbeth

C. Hamelin Revisited

VI: Essays on Aspects of Literary Criticism Pertaining to Wandering

A. Spilt Theology – or: Why Literary Critics Can't Help Making References to  Wandering

B. Exploring Connections between Dante's Hermeneutic Strategy and  the Fourfold Categories Set out by M. H. Abrams, to which the Terms Mimetic, Pragmatic, Expressive and Objective Apply

C. From Hoffman to Heydrich: Is Collective Schizophrenia Mirrored in Post-Romantic

Literature and Art?

VII.  My Wanderings in the World of Academics

A. Parthian Shots

B. A Wandering Student: London, Cologne, Austin Texas

C. Per Aspera ad Astra

D.  An Essay (Why Somerset Maugham did not envy God on Judgment Day) and Some Poems

Bibliography

CHAPTER I

The Case For a Holistic Approach to the Phenomenon of the Wanderer In German and English Literature

Professor Willoughby cited Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious when offering a way to explain   the frequency of the word Wanderer  in Goethe’s poetry and  of recurrent patterns it forms with other words. However Professor Willoughby had insufficient scope to reap much benefit from his insight as only intertextual comparisons between cases of word choice in Goethe’s poetry and in that of other poets affords the breadth necessary to trace the influence of something as all-pervasive as the collective unconscious postulated by Jung.

My Thesis in Outline

When our powers of pattern recognition outstrip our powers of explanation we have a phenomenon. Phenomena can assume many forms, including verbal patterns in the pages of literature that are too frequent and widespread to be the result of design or deliberate authorial control.  In his article The Image of the ‘Wanderer’ and the ‘Hut’ in Goethe’s Poetry, [1]  Professor  L. A. Willoughby, in his time one of the leading lights in German studies in the world, addressed the question as to why  the image of the Wanderer recurred with great frequency throughout Goethe’s writings from his Speech on Shakespeare’s Day in 1771 to the final scene in Faust Part II written near the end of his life. His explanation for this phenomenon  adduced Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, according to which the libido, rooted in the male side of the human mind, seeks to achieve a state of harmony and unity with the anima, its female  counterpart. According to Professor Willoughby’s  analysis the Wanderer represents the libido and the hut, the object of the wanderer’s quest, the anima and its embodiment by a  female person, a wife and the keeper of the home. The corpus of Goethe’s literary works, vast and profound as they are, find their source in the mind of one individual, and thus cannot afford the scope needed to trace the motions of the collective unconscious. The phenomenon  residing in the frequent use of the  wanderer is apparent not only in the writings of Goethe, but also in those of the  German Romantic poets such as Friedrich Schlegel, Hölderlin and Novalis, but Willoughby did not incorporate a study of Romantic poetry within the ambit of his article.

The method  Willoughby applied to his subject is essentially,  though not always consciously, word-based or logocentric. Despite referring to the Wanderer as an image, he based his discourse on evaluations of  occurrences of the word Wanderer. Indeed it is difficult to see how the figure of Faust can be construed as an image, a metaphor implying the recognition   of something sharply delineated, incandescent and often fixed , or, in terms of Ezra Pound and the Imagists, a singular, unique  and spontaneous moment of vision. A logocentric method carries the advantage that it allows the object of investigation with all its possible complexities  to guide the investigator’s train of thought and offer the best chance of reaching conclusions with a good measure of objectivity. Too often, one feels, theorists impose their ready-made notions on  whatever  evidence they select.

The logocentric method is predicated on the notion that great power lies in the potential of  individual words, which remain in concert with all words of like form and meaning. Ezra Pound dismissed words as inflexible and bland references with limited range of meanings like numerals with their fixed value in contrast to the supposed infinite  algebraic variability  of images. On the other side Trotsky accused the Russian Formalists of being followers of Saint John in acclaiming the well-nigh mystical status of the word . [2]

The Formalists show a fast-ripening religiousness. They are followers of Saint John. They believe that In the beginning was the Word. But we believe that in the beginning was the deed. The word followed in its phonetic shadow.

A particularly clear example of what Trotsky meant is indicated by the title of an essay by Jurij Tynjanov, rendered in English as The Meaning of the Word in Verse. [3]How can the word in the singular subsume an entire class of words that share the same appearance and general sense, such as a word listed in a dictionary? Yet Tynjanov simply applied the  logic in Ferdinand de Saussure’s distinction between langue  and parole, between language seen as a unified system and language when articulated in acts of speech or writing  In terms of langue the same word may be repeated countless times but  in terms of parole each occurrence of a word is unique, for each apparent repetition  of the word honorable in Mark Antony’s funeral oration  differs in tone from every other utterance of that word.  A word, in the sense just described, unites the universal and the specific. Not only does one have its lexical meaning to consider but also such surrounding factors as its aesthetic function in a poem, its historical setting, the author’s mentality and so on.

Can the word wanderer be understood as a word in verse that transcends even the differences between English and German? The outward of appearance of Wanderer is the same in English and German though in the orthography of Goethe’s times it appeared as Wandrer. In terms of semantic equivalents listed in a dictionary, the German Wanderer and the English wanderer do not pose exact equivalents, but in poetry, where we consider the total or overall effect of words, the case is different.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translated the title of Goethe’s Wandrers Nachtlied as ‘Wanderer’s Night-Songs." I go further to combine all derivatives of the verbs wandern and to wander within the bounds of the same word in verse, and do so with Carl Jung’s frequent reference to the etymology of words in mind. Wanderer, wandering, wenden, Wandel, share the same root and refer to changing and turning without necessarily indicating physical movement at all as when Lord Byron referred to all wandering, conflating moral and mental deviation, as the worst of sinning.

Longfellow was not the first translator of verse to render the German Wanderer as Wanderer in English. William Taylor of Norwich’s translation of Goethe’s Der Wandrer as The Wanderer exerted a deep influence on Wordsworth, promoting his choice of the word wanderer to fit a character in The Excursion. I will argue that the new sense of the word wanderer imparted by Goethe jogged the collective memory of English poets, sensitizing them to occurrences of the words wanderer, wandering etc. in the works of Shakespeare and Milton and inducing them to  blend  evocations derived from English tradition with portrayals of the Wanderer in its newly acquired sense regarding the self-conscious and alienated poet  of their own day. Taking this holistic view of the entire picture, we will be able to discern patterns  that otherwise would go unnoticed or viewed as the result of chance coincidences.

A Fuller Exposition

From 1771 until 1832 the word Wanderer (Wandrer) enjoyed pride of place in German literature. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe instigated and propagated its use as a term to denote a the modern self-conscious poet. This development first emerged in his Rede zu Shakespeares Tag (1771), and was progressively enhanced by his poetic works, particularly Der Wandrer (a fragmentary dramatic dialogue in verse), Wandrers Sturmlied and that exquisite pair of poems entitled Wandrers Nachtlied. The word also resounds in his novel Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers when the despairing hero exclaims, Ja wohl bin ich nur ein Wandrer, ein Waller auf der Erde (I am but a wandering pilgrim upon this earth). The word remained deeply significant in Goethe's last works for Faust is renamed the `Wanderer in the final scene of Faust Part II and Goethe's last major work in prose is entitled Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre.

Goethe's preoccupation with the confusing questions aroused by the word Wanderer stemmed in part from the need to reconcile poetic tradition with secular modernity, literary convention with a new spirit liberty that was rising throughout Europe. The inroads of secular rationalism left little room for an unquestioning faith in the Muse, but poetry, as Goethe as a poet himself knew, lived on and could not be quenched. Liberty in the literary realm, as elsewhere in the socio-political sphere, was a mixed blessing, bringing both euphoria and anguish, both an expansion of consciousness and a fear of being unable to define the limit between self and non-self in the exterior world.

In the Rede zu Shakespeares Tag (Speech on Shakespeare`s Day) we discern the chief concerns that weighed on the young Goethe's mind in 1771. He had recently made the acquaintance of Johann Gottfried Herder, who had enthused him with an appreciation of Shakespeare's poetic and dramatic greatness and had acquainted him with the legacy of folkloric traditions to be discovered in every culture and in every age.  Shakespeare, or rather his universally ranging powers of imagination, receives the title of der grösste Wandrer.The Wanderer depicted in die Rede, essentially a manifesto or poet’s declaration of independence, begins life as a figure of speech, itself conventional enough, for the wanderer, to use a phrase in common language, makes great strides. The increasingly condensed image of the Wanderer soon exceeds the bounds of a common figure of speech, however, and comes alive in its own right, absorbing, as in a dream, the images of the Titan Prometheus, the legendary creator of mankind, and the giant in seven-league boots derived from native Germanic folklore. Thus it poses a condensation of Goethe's newly found interest in Shakespearean drama and folklore as well as a wish to integrate these elements into his previous world view based on Greek classicism. Shakespeare meant freedom from the limitations imposed by neo-Aristotelean rules, while Prometheus stood for a rebellion against the aristocratic order of the day in accord with the spirit of the age of Storm and Stress. Later in life Goethe received an aristocratic title himself. He wrote Iphigenia and other dramas in accordance with the Aristotelean unities He drove his rebellious and anarchic impulses out of his system by allowing Werther to die in his stead.

In 1771 Goethe resided in Frankfurt and habitually covered the distance between Frankfurt and Darmstadt on foot in order to take part in the discussions of literary themes at Herder's home. His strenuous walking bouts through the woodlands between Frankfurt and Darmstadt in wind and weather earned him the nickname of the Wanderer among his friends in Darmstadt. The experience of encountering a storm during one of his walks leaves a trace in Wandrers Sturmlied. On the physical level the wanderer fights his way through a raging storm in search of a hut's protection only to find himself wading through a muddy sludge. On the imaginary level he inhabits the world of Greek mythology as he with his escort of the Charities and Graces wafts through the air aspiring to emulate the charioteers honoured in a Pindaric ode before crash-landing into mud. The poem is a study in bitter-sweet self-irony. For many years Goethe regarded the poem  with a certain embarrassment, dismissing it as mere babbling, and delayed its publication for forty years  despite the great merits it possessed. The true reason for Goethe's initial disparagement of the poem lay in the sensitive nature of its subject matter and the perceived threat of self-exposure it incurred, for Goethe did not yet feel able to understand the relationship between himself, the living and breathing individual known to his friends as the Wanderer, and the informing genius resident in his poetic self, which was also a Wanderer, as we can tell from a reading of his Speech on Shakespeare's Day.

Der Wandrer, another poem dating from the early 1770s, points ahead to the successful strategy Goethe would later adopt in his quest for intellectual and emotional equilibrium. Der Wandrer was initially inspired by Oliver Goldsmith's The Traveller, a poem in the tradition of accounts of travels penned by those who recorded impressions gained during a grand tour of Continental Europe. The poem contained an idyllic passage referring to the return of an agricultural labourer to his cottage and family after his daily exertions. In a similar vein in Der Wandrer, the explorer wandering among the ancient Greek ruins in the vicinity of Cuma in southern Italy hails a young woman and her infant child whom he finds beside their rough dwelling eked out of the stones on an ancient temple. The bantering dialogue that ensues between the tourist and the young woman contrasts the lofty and detached mentality of the tourist cum artist with the down-to-earth concerns of the young woman. The tourist somewhat wistfully moves on his way without finding his resting place, yet he departs in good spirits, perhaps with the assurance that one day he will reach it. Der Wandrer has a strangely prophetic aspect, for in later years Goethe would indeed explore the archeological riches of southern Italy during his travels in Italy between 1786 and 1789. A translation of Der Wandrer by William Taylor of Norwich exerted great influence on William Wordsworth and arguably on the course of English Romanticism. By casting the Wanderer in a dramatic role Goethe released himself from the fear of self-exposure and thus propagated the renown of the Wanderer to the world at large.

Until 1780 Goethe had yet to achieve in poetry that harmonious blend of subjectivity and objectivity for which he searched, and if any poetic utterance marked his achievement of that harmony it is surely found in Wandrers Nachtlied and Ein Gleiches, two poems so inseparably connected as to pose one work. The first poem of the two recalls the disquieting restlessness Goethe had experienced during the troubled years leading up to his taking up residence in Weimar in 1776. The first of these poems takes the form of a prayer to a higher power capable of soothing his troubled breast. The second poem Ein Gleiches (or Wandrers Nachtlied II, if read as a separate poem) comprises a short and simple statement referring to the tree-tops and hill peaks that an observer apostrophized by the speaker as du perceives during the night. Not even the source of light by which the observer traces the perceived objects in this night vista is mentioned, but this can only be the moon. The extreme economy of the poem reveals what Professor Elizabeth Wilkinson once termed the basic and pure structure of language.1 The birds in the trees are silent, a fact that might be taken as a pointer to the reticence of the poetic speaker himself, as birds traditionally symbolize the poetic spirit. Thus the poems unites the Wanderer's subjective quest for inner peace and objectivity of a cool observer, whether artist or scientist, By 1780 Goethe had become both. The closing lines assure the wanderer that he will soon find rest whether that sought by a traveller or that yearned for by a pilgrim on life's journey. For Goethe and the Romantics the creative act of composing poetry was itself a journey and pilgrimage through the medium of language, though for Keats it was one with an uncertain path.

The Romantic poets adopted the word „Wanderer" with relish. Hölderlin composed a poem entitled Der Wanderer. Wilhelm Müller's cycle of poems Die Schöne Müllerin begins with the poem, and later song, Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust, which has gone down in German culture as a much celebrated folk song. Many forget that this song portends the wandering miller’s tragic death. As Friedrich Schlegel once pointed out, much of the jauntiness of the Romantic wanderer is superficial, hiding a grave sense of loneliness and isolation.

Though, at Goethe's instigation, the Romantics accepted the linkage between the word Wanderer and their concern to clarify the essential characteristics of the modern self-conscious poet, they had great difficulty in moving on from that stage in Goethe's development marked by the figure of the Wanderer as manifested by the main character and first-person narrator in Die Leiden des jungen Werthers. Paradoxically, the German Romantics both adopted from Goethe the word Wanderer as a form of self-appellation and yet rejected the close association of the word in Goethe’s writings with the notion of the poet’s need to be useful to society in the manner shown by Wilhelm Meister, the chief protagonist in the novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, a work which in the view of Friedrich Schlegel served as the initial stimulus that brought German Romanticism into the world. Novalis and Eichendorff sided with the erratic and socially disoriented wanderers in the Lehrjahre, who in their view Goethe punished by making them  die an early and undeserved death,  oddly enough a view endorsed by Professor Willoughby, though it is difficult to see how Goethe could have rebuked the German Romantics before the Romantic movement had come into being.

As Professor Willoughby demonstrates in his article The Image of the `'Wanderer' and the 'Hut' in Goethe's Poetry,  references in Goethe's poetry and prose to a Wanderer are coupled by those to a hut, a place of refuge, a home to reach or return to, a family hearth and a loving woman's care, a place in an established social order and, at a deep subconscious level, the anima, das Ewig-Weibliche, to whom or to which the dying Faust, as the Wanderer returns and through whose mediation he is redeemed.

The prevalence of the word 'Wanderer` like other forms of the verb wandern finds an echo in English Romantic poetry in the figure of the Wanderer in Wordsworth's The Excursion and, even more hauntingly, in that most celebrated of poems in the English language which begins with the line I wandered lonely as a cloud. The word wanderer acquires a deep meaning in the poetry of all the great Romantic poets. In one particular case Goethe's direct influence is undisputed. As Jonathan Wordsworth demonstrates in his monograph The Music of Humanity, Coleridge mediated a knowledge of Goethe's works to Wordsworth resulting in the figure of the Pedlar and the cognate figure of the Wanderer in The Excursion. Goethe's dramatic poem Der Wanderer was translated into English by William Taylor of Norwich and this translation instilled in Wordsworth a sense of what the word Wanderer meant to Goethe. It is interesting to note that here the German Wanderer passes into English as wanderer. Later Longfellow translated Goethe's Wandrers Nachtlied as Wanderer's Night-Songs. Perhaps in the case of a prose translation "\to wander and wandern could be considered faux amis, words the outward similarity of which commonly leads to a misunderstanding. In poetry they are not. Let us consider why this should be so.

The German and English verbs have a common origin in the root that gave rise to the form wanderer, which conveys a range of senses whose common feature lies in the idea of turning and changeing. In German the word Wanderer conveys, according to its context, the generally positive senses of wayfarer, a long-distance walker, a rover walking for pleasure, a pilgrim on life`s journey whether joyful or distraught, and a minstrel such as a troubadour. The word also has religious and astronomical associations in Wandersmann and Wanderstern. (planet). In both English and German poetry the word wanderer may be a reference to the moon cf. Shelley`s Lines written in the Bay of Lerici. beginning with an apostrophe to the moon: "Bright wanderer, fair coquette of Heaven.

By adopting a holistic view of wandering as a phenomenon that encompasses both German and English literatures and emerges from a comparative study of words derived from to wander and wandern,  one opens the way to detecting parallels and associations that bridge the gap between works written in both languages on the scale needed to trace the operations of the collective unconscious, wide-ranging as this must be. Only a canvas such as this allows us scope to trace  the operation of the collective unconscious mooted by Professor Willoughby with sole reference to Goethe's poetry.  I submit to my readers' attention the following  possibilities of intertextual comparison, which in due course will be supported by a more detailed examination.

Shakespeare anticipated Goethe by associating the Wanderer with the night and the power of imagination by Puck's reference to himself as that merry wanderer of the Night and in Julius Caesar by the  poet Cinna's foreboding reference  to wandering forth of doors with its dark intimation of the vulnerable status of all poets in general.

Milton implied a connection between wandering and the poet's fear of being deprived of his source of inspiration, for in the opening lines of Book VII in Paradise Lost the speaker fears being dismounted from Pegasus and thus falling to earth, erroneous, there to wander, and forlorn, a similar sense of misgiving being found within Wandrers Sturmlied at the juncture where the wanderer stalls in flight and plunges into a muddy stream.

The association of wandering with the elements of water, earth or fire  is apparent in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Wandrers Sturmlied, Das Wandern ist des Muellers Lust, and the libretto of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and finds an antecedent  in the Book of Isaiah (43.2).

Milton's inclusion of a reference to wand'ring feet in the final lines of Paradise Lost, making wandering a symbol mankind's entry into the world of hard experience, underlies William Blake's London in the cycle Songs of Experience under the all-inclusive heading Songs of Innocence and Experience, for his poem begins significantly with the  words I wander....  As noted and much stressed by Professor Willoughby, Goethe constantly  affirmed the inextricable relationship  between poetic wandering and common life, negating certain tenets  put forward by  advocates of the New Criticism school.

The motif of the biblical  wandering journey to the Promised Land  suffuses not only Goethe's poetry and the Wilhelm Meister novels, but also  Wordsworth's Prelude,  I wandered lonely as a cloud (on the strength of implications if not open statements),  Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and, on close examination, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in which the speaker plays the role of the Wandering Jew according to an article by Geoffrey H. Hartman.

In English the word wanderer tends to convey the negative sense of a person whose winding path betrays signs of disorientation and detachment from the hard realities of life. In this sense Byron's anti-hero Don Juan represents the wanderer encountered in Wordsworth's poetry. However the verb to wander plays no less an important range of significance in Byron's poetry than in Wordsworth's. The verb to wander. reveals much the same evocative power as its German counterpart if used adjectivally in the form of the present participle form of wandering when preceding the words 'pilgrim, minstrel, star and eyes" with its libidinal implication. To go a-wandering has a positive ring conveyed by the source verb wandern.

The English verb to wander and the German verb wandern evidently share a vast field of denoted and connoted meanings and evocations, whether positive or negative. Do these words share a common source in the sense of being of grounded in some unifying principle? To wander and wandern are not simply verbs that in their primary sense denote physical motion and which, like to travel or to sail. can also be understood metaphorically. Their basic meaning is abstract, demoting change and alternation, and  thus connote the reciprocity or polarity  between mental processes and physical action without a bias for or against either. The Russian linguist and literary critic Jurij Tynjanov (see next chapter) posited such a unity in the aggregate occurrences of a single word and his theory will provide a handle on this otherwise so diffuse and elusive word wanderer. To understand why the word has such a deep significance we can also consider it in the light of Jung's theory of the collective unconscious. C. G. Jung and scholars such as L. A. Willoughby and Harold Bloom perceive  the crisis of modern poetry, so  closely associated with  the Wanderer in the age of Goethe and contemporary Romanticism, as that juncture in history when a sense of extreme self-consciousness compelled poets to seek the harmony or marriage of the libido and the anima according either to a Freudian or Jungian analysis.  In line with Goethe himself, Willoughby held that this quest always carried a social and practical concomitant, while Bloom sees the same quest as a purely internal process, which once achieved by Wordsworth and Blake, rendered the quest for further progress superfluous and thus entailed the decline or even the death of poetry. In short,  issues that surround the Wanderer lie at the very  heart of literature and literary criticism.

If  wandering poses so vast and central a phenomenon in English and German literature  as I suggest, how come its relatively scant coverage by scholars and literary critics. We have noted Willoughby’s observation in The Image of the ’Wanderer’ and the ‘Hut’ in Goethe’s Poetry pointing to the all-pervasive nature of imagery evoked by the combination of words hut and wanderer, which he thoroughly documents in many poems and passages within Goethe’s dramas and prose writings. He offers an explanation by ascribing the frequency of the relevant verbal patterns throughout Goethe’s writings to the influence of the collective unconscious construed by Jung and yet  he cannot make much use of this insight for the collective unconscious must surely have exerted its constant and ever-present influence not only on the mind of Goethe but on all German poets before and after him. The sudden emergence of the wanderer motif  should  be understood more appropriately as the consequence of the interaction of subconscious and conscious forces within Goethe’s mind and the minds of poets who caught  the trend of favoring the use of the word Wanderer, subject to  the impact exerted by Goethe’s writings. I rule out the possibility that they adopted the Wanderer as a mere convention or established poetic device as the distinguished professor of English, Wayne Lesser, once asserted when writing  to me during my days as a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. His negative and somewhat dismissive attitude to questions arising from any discussion of the Wanderer in literature reflects to my mind a general inability  of scholars and critics to get a handle on the issue. Over sixty years have passed now since Professor Willoughby wrote The Image of the ‘Wanderer’ and the ‘Hut’ in Goethe’s Poetry. Notwithstanding the central issues he broached, but did not fully resolve, I have come across no adequate sequel to it in books or academic journals, with one exception. It was refreshing to read only recently a thesis submitted by a graduate student which explored parallels between Goethe’s poetry in which the word Wanderer  acquires deep significance and works by those German Romantic poets, in particular Joseph von Eichendorff and Wilhelm Müller, who treated the theme of wandering in the light of their own understanding of its import. I refer here to The Wanderer’s Path through the Age of Goethe: A Literary and Musical Focus submitted by  Mark Patrick Russell to the University of Vermont in part fulfillment of the requirements for a Master of Arts Degree, in October 2014.

Willoughby began his inquiry into the image of the wanderer on the basis of recognizing a pattern. To research further into the phenomenon that underlies the frequency of the words wanderer and hut and the reason for their close proximity, one  requires a hypothesis based on some notion as to  what  the wanderer is supposed to be. One suggestion I have already rejected. It cannot be reduced to a conceit or fixed tradition as the word entered the literary scene in an unheralded and explosive fashion that indicated the powerful urge to break the trammels of hidebound literary conventions. Willoughby refers to the image of the wanderer but the terms image, motif, object, and so on, helpful as they are as items that belong to the vocabulary of scholars and critics  engaged  in the analysis and interpretation of literary texts, are useful metaphors but not immutable and final definitions. Depending on the scale of any object of investigation one may have to choose the right instrument or tool, perhaps a microscope, perhaps a telescope, as the case may be. The wanderer is a word. An acknowledgement of this plain fact provides the basis on which the following chapter is predicated.


[1] In Etudes Germaniques, (no. 3 and 4, Paris, 1951

[2] Leon Trotsky, The Formalist School of Poetry and Marxism, Literature and Revolution (Russian version published in 1924), tr. Rose Strumsky (Ann Arbor: 1960).  We note also that Trotsy alluded to the statement Im Anfang war die Tat!

[3] Jurij Tynjanov and Roman Jakobson, Problems in the Study of Literature and Language, Readings in Russian Poetics / Formalist and Structuralist Views, ed. by Ladislav Mateijka and Krystina Pomorska (Michigan Slavic Publications, Ann Arbor, 1978).  79-80.                           

CHAPTER II

In Principio Erat Verbum -A Review of Theories and Attitudes to the Word in Verse

Followed by an Application of Findings to a Closer Examination of the Potential Residing in the Verbs Wandern and To Wander

Is the Word or the Image the basic Entity in poetry? In this study special reference is made to the function of verbs, in particular to wander, in poetic texts.

A: The Word in Language Theory

Geschrieben steht: Im Anfang war das Wort!

Hier stock ich schon! Wer hilft mir weiter fort?

Ich kann das Wort so hoch unmöglich schätzen,

Goethe: Faust, Der Tragödie Erster Teil, Studierzimmer I, 1224-6

It is written: In the beginning was the Word!

Here I falter! Who can help me continue?

That highly I can never consider the Word to be,

Goethe: Faust, The Tragedy, Part I, The Study I, 1224-6

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The winged words on which my soul would pierce

Into the height of Love's rare Universe,

Are chains of lead around its flight of fire.

Weak verses, go kneel at your Sovereign's feet,

And say,- "We are the masters of your slave,

What wouldest thou then with us and ours and thine?"

Then call your sisters from Oblivion's cave,

All singing loud "Love's very pain is sweet,

But its reward is in the world divine 

Which, if not here, it builds beyond the grave."

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Epipsychidion, 588-597

Though usually categorized as an atheist or agnostic, Percy Bysshe Shelley, in his answer to Peacock's pronouncement on the death of poetry (one of the first of many), averred the sanctity and prophetic nature of the art in A Defence of Poetry. The declining prestige of poetry and a commensurate and related decline in regard to religious and biblical authority amounted to a dethronement of the Word. In this connection it is surely significant that, when pondering how to translate logos into the language of his day, Goethe's Faust rejected the Word (das Wort) in favour of the Deed (die Tat) as an adequate rendering of logos in the first chapter of St. John's Gospel. This change of word reflected the zeitgeist of Goethe's, not Faust's, epoch. The Word seems to have absorbed the mustiness of libraries and the aridity of a recluse's study, and lost its sense of an originating power; the Deed implies action and motion, which in Goethe's age were being treated as virtues in themselves (Faust set the condition for the forfeiture of his soul in his becoming resigned to a bed of idleness).

Faust contrasts Word and Deed as irreconcilable antitheses. These do not appear absolutely irreconcilable in a possible inference from the Latin words rendering the passage that exercised Faust's skills as a translator: in principio erat verbum. The verb is both a word and often an indicator of a deed. Kenneth Burke recognizes parallels between theology and the domain of language, when stating in The Rhetoric of Religion [4] :

What we say about words in the empirical realm will bear a notable likeness to what is said about God in theology.

The transition from the belief in direct inspiration to a modern perception of the originality of the poetic genius entailed a deep sense of trauma. In their dilemma, Goethe and later the Romantics tapped the power inherent in verbs of motion, the most notable of these being to wander and wandern, the bases of the common derivative Wanderer. Not only are these verbs indicators of action and movement: they are incomparably rich in allegorical associations.

John Frederick Nims notes a connection between descriptions of motion and allegories when stating in Western Wind, a handbook for students of poetry:

A mountain may be a symbol of salvation, a traveller may be a symbol of a human being in his life. But it the traveller takes as much as one step toward the mountain, it seems that the traveller and the mountain become allegorical figures, because a story has begun. [5]

Paradoxically John Frederick Nims reiterates a common prejudice among critics that the allegory is an outmoded and contrived form of figurative language. In effect Nims confutes his own argument in attesting that the very use of a verb of motion produces a story, an allegory, irrespective of the author's conscious purpose. We may extrapolate from the words I have just cited that the use of a verb of motion engages some faculty of the mind subject to the influence of an unconscious element of the mind.

The expression logocentric is a significant item in the modern critic's list of basic terms. A logocentric approach to the study of poetic texts emerges in the following discussion of theories put forward by Jurij Tynjanov. Together with Roman Jakobson, Tynjanov was a member of the group of critics and linguists known as the Russian Formalists. This movement arose in the early l920s before its suppression by Stalin. Trotsky alleged that the Formalists had succumbed to the superstition of the word. When repudiating the Formalists, Trotsky echoed the lines (quoted above) in Goethe's Faust in the statement:

The Formalists show a fast-ripening religiousness. They are followers of St. John. They believe that In the beginning was the Word. But we believe that in the beginning was the deed. The word followed as its phonetic shadow. [6]

The logocentricity manifested by Tynjanov and other Formalists does not fully square with mainstream criticism in the West, which perceives the essential basic elements of poetry as images or quasi-musical effects. It was probably the Romantics who set the trend for interpreting characteristics of poetry in terms of analogies with the non-verbal arts of painting, sculpture and music, perhaps because the word as such had apparently lost its ancient vitality and authority. Shelley, though a doughty defender of poetry, agonized about the heaviness of words when composing the lines in Epipsychidion cited at the beginning of this chapter.

In the domain of literary criticism, as formerly in that of ecclesiastical controversy, the word and the image pose contrasts arousing intense debate as to which of them has precedence over the other. Though it is hardly possible to conceive of a poem without words, literary critics - and even poets themselves - have at times made unfavourable references to words and language, such as in the case we now consider.

In the heyday of the Imagist movement, Ezra Pound records his opinion that words are merely flat representations of concepts, whereas images are capable of expressing an unlimited number of effects and nuances of significance. In an article on Vorticisim he argues that words resemble numerals in having a fixed value, while images have an algebraic quality in their ability to express an unlimited range of effects and significance.[7] Logically any argument or proposition equating the essence of poetry with the image - fundamentally a metaphor based on references to things apprehended by the sense of sight - implies that words have little more than an identifying or descriptive role in poetry. Analogies between poetry and music may also, taken too literally, induce a negative evaluation of words. Certainly, no high esteem of words, poetic tradition the verbal dexterity usually attributed to poets is recorded in one article presenting the view that the best poetry is musical in character.

In his article The Musical Development of Symbols: Whitman [8] Calvin S. Brown proposed that symbols produced the musical effects characteristic of the greatest poetic achievements, for which Whitman's When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd poses a preeminent example.

Brown evaluated words as little more than the means of labelling symbols and considered their normal connection with external reality to be irrelevant in poetry. Thus, according to Brown, the poem's references and allusions to Abraham Lincoln, whose death instigated the writing of the poem, serve only to reinforce the idea of a great man as a function of the poem's organization.

The trend towards evaluating poetry chiefly in terms of analogies between it and the visual or musical arts was firmly established in the Romantic period. Since then a terminology derived from such analogies has become so commonplace as to constitute a technical vocabulary, the routine use of which tends to discourage new approaches to literary criticism. In the concluding chapter of Romantic Image Frank Kermode expressed regret at the habitually unreflecting use of the terms image and symbol, which, in this critic's view, are commonly assumed to provide objective definitions and concepts although they in fact convey value judgments rooted in supernaturalist beliefs and attitudes.[9] Kermode noted as a positive development a new interest in language theory evinced by influential critics, which was anti-supernaturalist in effect. Kermode's opinion about the objectivity of language theory is consonant with the simple fact that words are readily identifiable, locatable, countable and generally accessible to methods of statistical analysis. In the case of images and symbols, on the other hand, opinions differ as to what provides the basic data to be investigated.

Some critics of the internal school assume that words are arbitrary signs offering little insight into the processes of poetic creativity. Having dissociated the essential forms and patterns of poetry from those of language, they argue that poets shape images, symbols, musical effects, etc. with recourse to

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