Poet as Reconciler

“Slowly Hofmannsthal shaped a synthesis between lifeless illusion and formless vitality, between Gardener-king and Madman. Out of it emerged the poet, not as legislator, not as judge, not as sympathizer, but as reconciler.

In 1906 Hofmannsthal defined the poet’s role with a new clarity: ‘It is he who binds up in himself the elements of the times.’ In a society and a culture that he saw as essentially pluralistic and fragmented, Hofmannsthal set literature the task of establishing relationships. The poet must accept the multiplicity of reality, and through the magic medium of language, bring unity and cohesion to modern man. The poet ‘is the passionate admirer of things of eternity and the things of the present. London in the fog with ghostly processions of unemployed, the temple ruins of Luxor, the splashing of a lonely forest spring, the roaring of monstrous machines: the transitions are never hard for him…everything is simultaneously present in him.’ Where others saw conflict or contradiction, the poet would reveal hidden ties and develop them by bringing out their unity through rhythm and sound.”

Carl Schorske, Fin de Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture

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