“The Night” – A poem by Johann W. Goethe

Context: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was one of the most well-known writers during Weimar Classicism and Sturm und Drang periods. He wrote Novels and Poetry but also a number of non-fictional works. He became a celebrity much thanks to the success of his literary debut; a novella called The Sorrows of young Werther (1774). In civil life Goethe was a manager at the theatre in Weimar and a prominent member of the City Council as well. At the age of 16 he went to the University of Leipzig and studied Law. As a student he also discovered a life long passion for Literature. The poem “Die Nacht” (1768) exists in several versions since it’s also a Song (Lied), but with minor variations.

Themes: I’ve translated the poem from German 🙂 and we can discover some themes typical of Romanticism (Heart, Feelings, Nature, Nostalgia). The major theme is undoubtedly the Night itself. Goethe wrote many poems on this theme and is famous for his quote: “‘Night is the other half of life, and the better half.'” Make some attention to the place where the narrator is present – a forest. He’s leaving his hut as the nightly adventure begins. Luna, the Moon is used as a personification here and she’s real. Pay some attention to the use adjectives.

The Night

1768

Gladly I left this hut
My beautiful residence.
And with quiet steps through
This extinct forest.
Luna breaks through the Oaks of the Night
Zephyrs report on their way,
And the bowing birches scatter with tilt
Their most sweetest incense.

Showers, the heart feels
Makes the soul melt
To walk among the bushes in the cooling air
What a beautiful, sweet Night!
Happiness, sensuality can hardly be grasped
And still I will make a Heaven
From a thousand of your Nights
And to my maidservant, one.

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“I felt a cleaving in my mind”- A poem by Emily Dickinson

Context: In this poem Emily Dickinson (1830-1866) once again expresses her bodily experiences into text. To be a product of her own time with Calvinism and Romanticism as mainstream ideas; this lady can be very down to earth and that’s what makes her special. This is how she choose to define a conflicting thought or idea. The lines has got some rhytm as well.

Themes: Thought, idea, mind, brain, split, dichotomy


I felt a cleaving in my mind

As if my brain had split;

I tried to match it,

seam by seam,

But could not make them fit.

The thought behind I strove to join

Unto the thought before,

But sequence ravelled out of reach

Like balls upon a floor.


The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: A review

IN this review I recommend The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible which is a result of a lot of Modern research on the ancient texts found at Qumran, Egypt. The scrolls were found in caves tucked away for centuries by pious people who lived around 200-100 AD who obviuosly cared for their preservation. Today these scrolls or pieces of fragments consists of some 981 different manuscripts. All of them were discovered by local herdsmen in caves near Qumran between 1946-1947 and in 2017 in 12 caves from a Hellenistic-Jewish Settlement at Khirbet Qumran in eastern Judean Desert (West bank) was unearthed. The caves are loctaed some two kilometres from The Dead Sea and this explains their given name today. The Qumran texts dates back to the Second Century BC and the first century AD. Bronze coins found at the place also helps us date this period. The texts has been analyzed with radiocarbon and paleographic dating.

And the contents of these scrolls? The texts tells us a lot about historical events going around in the area at that time, such as Culture and Religion of course. The Dead Sea scrolls include the second oldest known surviving manuscripts included in the Hebew Bible Canon. Considering the time and context the texts were produced they tells us a lot about second Temple Judaism. Most of the scrolls are in Hebrew with some Aramaic and a very small number in Greek, And what about the material? Most texts are derived from parchments, some are from papyrus and some texts exists on copper. Traditionally the texts thought to have been written down by a Jewish sect known as the Essenes but some scholars now think they have been written by priests from Jerusalem, the Zadokites or other unknown Jewish groups. 40% are copies of texts we can find in the Hebrew Scriptures today. Some 30% are tetxs from the Second Temple era with texts not making it into the traditional Canon. Some wellknown non-canocial works are: Enoch, Book of the Jubilees, Book of Tobit, Wisdom of Sirach, Psalms 150-155). The rest 30% are the so called sectarian manuscripts compiled by groups of people we still don’t know that much about.

The Introduction to this work is valuable and presents the basics to anyone familiar or not with Scripture and dating of Scripture. It’s good to know that the term ”Bible” today means different to different people and cultures. The term ”canon” is also briefly explained. The Jewish Bible (the correct term or Acronym is TaNaKh) contains 24 books divided into three sections: Torah (5 Books), Neviim (Prophets) and Kethuviim (Writings). The Protestant Old Testament follows a similiar pattern but in different order: 39 books alltogheter, the 5 Books of Moses, Historical Books, Poetical Books and the Prophets. The order of the Catholic Church follows a similar pattern like the Protestant Churches but includes several deutero-canonical books which are not recognized as Canon by either Jews or protestants. These books are also known as Apocrypha.

The book goes on to describe the Essenses as the main group living at Qumran around 150 BCE to 68 CE. They are considered to be a very strict group of Essenses. Together with the pharisees and Sadducees the Essenses became the dominante streams within Hellenistic Judaism some 2000 years ago. The authors continue their Introduction with a brief sketch of the most important Bible mansuscripts we have today. It’s important to know a little about them because it shows how the Bible developed into a book. These three are known as [1.] The Masoretic Text (MT); [2.] Septuaginta (LXX); [3.] Samaritan Pentateuch (SP). I recommend this book to people already familiar with Bible Criticism and people just curious. The Introduction is excellent and may prompt you to learn more!

Learn more about the Dead Sea Scrolls at Biblical Archeaology Society which also has many free e-books for you to read.

“Automne” – A poem by Guillaume Apollinaire

Context: Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) was a French poet, writer of short stories and literary Critic who became very popular among Modernists; and he was himself an open spokesman of the Cubists. In 1911 he joined the Puteaux Group, a branch of the Cubist movement soon to be known as the Section d’Or. The opening address of the 1912 Salon de la Section d’Or—the most important pre-World War I Cubist exhibition—was given by Apollinaire. Some call him an early father of Surrealism. Born as Wilhelm Kostrowicki his family had both French, Italian and Polish roots. He lived a short life, enrolled as a soldier in WW1 in which he got wounded and never fully recovered. He died in the Spanish Flu pandemic which took many lives during 1918. Most of his publications including letters can be found on wikisource and wikilivres. If you follow this blog you know I often make references to English Wikipedia. The poem comes from the poetry collection named Alcools.

Themes: In this poem translated as ‘Autumn’ Apollinaire uses an external narrator who focus on a poor farmer’s life and frames his life together with an approaching autumn and the dying summer. He’s also surrounded by a fog which makes him a bit difficult to relate to as he’s working in the field. We cannot see him properly with his oxen. The poem is more like a painting in which Apollinaire refers to colours to help set the mood. The farmer is singing an old folksong about love. His song is the major theme in this short poem. The farmer refers to a true love, a love that is lying, a ring and a heart.


Automne

Dans le brouillard s’en vont un paysan cagneux

Et son bœuf lentement dans le brouillard d’automne

Qui cache les hameaux pauvres et vergogneux
Et s’en allant là-bas le paysan chantonne

Une chanson d’amour et d’infidélité

Qui parle d’une bague et d’un cœur que l’on brise
Oh ! l’automne l’automne a fait mourir l’été

Dans le brouillard s’en vont deux silhouettes grises


Guillaume Apollinaire showing his sharpnel wound. Like many soldiers his wound came from flying metals when a bomb exploded close to him. Photo taken in 1916. He died 2 years later.

Visiting Sigmund Freud’s home in Vienna

In this post I continue to reflect upon my trip to Austria in 2009. I went to Berggasse 19 in Vienna, the former home of dr. Sigmund Freud. He lived there with his family for many years and his practise was also located in the apartment. When the political situation changed in the 1930s due to the raise of National Socialism in Germany and because of the Anschluss in which Nazi Germany forced Austria to join in the Reich; Sigmund Freud had to flee. Nazis once entered his apartment but were too afraid to do anything because Freud’s old testament persona scared them off. He knew they would come back. He understood he must flee Austria. His escape took place in 1938 with the help of a very rich former patient he could resettle in London were he died a year later. Freud was a heavy smoker and in the 1920’s he developed a leukoplakia in the mouth and was told to stop smoking. He later developed cancer in the mouth.


 

Today Freud’s apartment is converted into a Museum dedicated to his life and work. The very famous coach isn’t located here but in London. There were little furniture around but the walls are scattered with information about Freud’s life and the psychoanalysis he helped intervent. However, there were several small statues or figuerines on display which Freud once had collected. If you wish to visit this excellent site be sure you got some time. The place also holds a small shop selling Freud’s books.

Freud was born 1856 to Jewish parents in the Moravian town of Freiberg now called Prbor, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Czech Republic). He qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1881 at the University of Vienna. Five years later he started his own clinic and received patients in his apartment. He was a neurologist and the father of Psychoanalysis; a form of therapy. In 1902 he became a University professor. In creating psychoanalysis, Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association and discovered transference, establishing its central role in the analytic process. 


Freud’s therapy focus a lot on sexuality and the interpretation of dreams. He developed several theories about man’s sexuality including the famous Oedipus Complex. These assets helped him form a clinical analysis which could explain repression in some cases and help patients with abnormal or complex mental conditions. He also created a theory about the unconscious and its mechanisms in relation to man’s ego.

 

Freud’s theories were not well-recieved in his own time and today we still cannot verify them which has led to the conclusion psychoanalysis as a theraphy is heavily critized. But one of his biggest contributions to the medical field was his focus on the patients previous experiences and the need to search for explanations to a patient’s mental condition. This sound like a basic thing to do today, but one must remember that in Freud’s own time focus was only on treatment and not searching for the cause of the condition. Freud also practised Self-Analysis and his most famous work The Interpretation of Dreams first published 1899 had its origins in his own personal crisis dealing with the death of his father.

Despite the criticism Freud’s ideas continue to live on and he has not only made his mark on Psychology; but also on numerous Academic fields such as anthropology and Semiotics. I liked visting the Museum and see the place where he and his family lived for so many years.

All photos in this post were taken by me on the visit. Make sure you got plenty of time while visiting Freud’s Museum since there was plenty to read when I was there in 2009.

Sources

wikipedia.org

My visit to The Vienna Central Cemetery: The Jewish Experience and WW2

IN THIS post I will write about my visit to one of the most well-known cemeteries in Europe and Austria. My journey was back in 2009 but I still remember my visit very well as I spent about two hours walking the older Jewish part of the cemetery. The Vienna Central cemetery (Wiener Zentralfriedhof) is also a cultural landmark receiving many tourists. It’s the final resting place of famous people like Beethoven and Mozart. As I arrived with my Nikon it was a very hot day in July it was all very quiet and I honestly can’t remember I saw that many people around. The photo below is what you can expect the old Jewish section to look like a warm beautiful summer’s day. Many stones are overgrown by vegetation reminding us this place soon 100 years ago was active and full of family members attending beloved ones final resting places. But as National Socialism arose in Germany in 1930s and Austria was ‘captured’ in 1937 all Jews were deported to Concentration Camps in Eastern Europe. You can see this for yourselves on several stones that something happened because there are no further burials or deaths noticed on the stones between 1939-1945 since their family members died in the Concentration Camps. In that point of view the Cemetery is a horrible reminder on what happened to Austrian Jews during WW2. 

Several non-Catholic denominations share the Zentralfriedhof and there’s an Evangelischer Friedhof. By far the largest non-Catholic sections, however, are the two old and new Jewish cemeteries.

A Rabbi’s gravesite

ONE of most interesting discoveries was a tomb of a rabbi and as I managed to sneak myself in with my camera I noticed people had scribbled several messages to him at the walls and the ceiling. I also noticed many of the messages dated to the late 1930’s and as early as 2004. All the messages are written in German and likely scribbled down by one-time vistors seeking the blessing of the deceased rabbi. Most of the content are somewhat desperate begging the rabbi to bless their souls and asking for help or guidance.

All photos in this post was taken by me. I saw several interesting graves with family names connected to many wellknown historical persons in Vienna history; such as Viktor Frankl and Arthur Schnitzler.

Gravesite of author Arthur Schnitzler

Arthur Schnitzler (15 May 1862 – 21 October 1931) was an Austrian author and dramatist. I was really happy upon discovering his grave since I love his novel Rhapsody – also published as Dream Story (Traumnovelle – 1925/26), later adapted as the film Eyes Wide Shut by American director Stanley Kubrick.

Notice all the small stones on Schnitzler’s grave. All of them marks an unique visit as it’s a Jewish custom to place a stone on a grave. There are many explanations why we place a stone rather than flowers which is connected to pagan worship in some Rabbinic sources. In the Torah patriarch Abraham builds an altar to God by help of stones. The Temple in Jerusalem was built by stones and The Wailing Wall surrounding the Second Temple. While flowers wither and die a stone can represent a more lasting memory. In European Jewry with a rich superstitious tradition the grave is the deceased’s new home and not make the soul go wander among the living a stone is said to keep it were it belongs until Judgement Day. You are welcome to comment on my post if you wish to share your experience on this famous cemetery. 

“The Starling” – A poem by Amy Lowell

Context: Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was one of the early Modernists in American poetry. At school she was remembered as outspoken by her classmates. Growing up in the early 1900s she never went to college because her parents didn’t want her to do so (education was no use to a woman). She came from a well to do middle class family as started to collect books and educate herself on various topics. She was also allowed to travel and at age 28 she went to see a performance in Europe by Eleonora Duse. After this experience she started to write poetry. She helped introduce imagism1 in American Literature and begun to publish her works in the 1910s. She also wrote some works on Literary Criticism and commented on several French poets and John Keats.
Lowell received the Pulitzer Price for Poetry posthumously, 1926.

Theme: “The Starling” is an introspective poem as the narrator explains her inner feelings. She’s a bit moody and feeling blue. Reading how she describes herself one gets hint she’s feeling trapped and holds herself back. The poem ends with the lines: “I weary for desires never guessed, For alien passions, strange imaginings, To be some other person for a day.” It’s sad to notice she feels she wish to become another person to fulfill her passions.

Sources:

wikipedia.org

 

___

Forever the impenetrable wall

Of self confines my poor rebellious soul,

I never see the towering white clouds roll

Before a sturdy wind, save through the small

Barred window of my jail. I live a thrall

With all my outer life a clipped, square hole,

Rectangular; a fraction of a scroll

Unwound and winding like a worsted ball.

My thoughts are grown uneager and depressed

 Through being always mine, my fancy’s wings

Are moulted and the feathers blown away.

I weary for desires never guessed,

 For alien passions, strange imaginings,

To be some other person for a day.

___


  1. Imagism was a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language.