George, Stefan

George, Stefan

(shtā`fän gāôrg`ə), 1868–1933, German poet, leader of the revolt against realism in German literature. He was poetically influenced by Greek classical forms, by the Parnassians, and by the French symbolists. Intellectually he was a disciple of Nietzsche. His lyrics, intended for an intellectual aristocracy, were esoteric and remote, but their fine classicism, their melodious words, and the austerity of George's pure art made him a major poet. His representative verse includes Algabal (1892), Das Jahr der Seele [the soul's year] (1897), Der siebente Ring [the seventh ring] (1907), Der Stern des Bundes [the star of the covenant] (1914), and Das neue Reich [the new kingdom] (1928). George was antagonistic to humanism, to democracy, and to progress. He influenced younger poets through his verse and through Blätter für die Kunst (founded 1892), the literary organ of his circle. George made gifted translations of the works of many poets, including Dante. In contemporary life George looked toward the rise of a "superman" who would unify state and culture. Realizing the divergence between his aesthetic ideal and its brutalized reality, he left Germany after the Nazis came to power. Nevertheless the Nazis adopted him as national poet after his death.

Bibliography

See studies by G. R. Urban (1962), U. K. Goldsmith (1970), and M. M. and E. A. Metzger (1972).

George, Stefan

 

Born July 12, 1868, in Büdesheim; died Dec. 4, 1933, in Locarno. German poet and one of the prominent representatives of German symbolism.

During the 1890’s, George was the head of a literary circle, and in 1899 he founded the journal Blätter für die Kunst. In his collections Hymns (1890), Pilgrimage (1891), The Books of the Shepherds (1895), and The Year of the Soul (1897), which embodied certain ideas of Nietzsche, George celebrated the secret forces of nature and exceptional heroes. Later George strove for a poetic affirmation of absolute moral values (the collections The Seventh Ring, 1907, and Southern Star, 1914). The collections War (1917) and Three Songs (1921) evince the influence of expressionism. George’s style was characterized by extremely complex syntax and abundant archaic images; even his orthography was original. His mystical moods and cult of self-sufficient heroism (for example, the collection The New Reich, 1928) enabled bourgeois reactionaries to use George’s poems for their own slogans. But George himself rejected fascism and emigrated; he even left orders that he not be buried in Germany.

WORKS

Gesammelte Werke, vols. 1-18. Berlin, 1927-34.
Werke, vols. 1-2. Munich-Düsseldorf, 1958.
In Russian translation:
Sovremennye nemetskie poety v perevodakh V. El’snera. Moscow, 1913.

REFERENCES

Iz novoi nemetskoi liriki: Perevody i kharakteristiki G. Zabezhinskogo. Berlin, 1921. Pages 73-77.
Brodersen, A. Stephan George. Berlin, 1935.
Bennett, E. K. Stefan George. Cambridge, 1954.
Schultz, H. S. Studien zur Dichtung Stefan Georges. Heidelberg [1967].
Zweig, A. Essays, vol. 1. Berlin, 1959.

L. Z. KOPELEV

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