Infomotions, Inc.Artists and thinkers / by Louis William Flaccus. / Flaccus, Louis William

Author: Flaccus, Louis William
Title: Artists and thinkers / by Louis William Flaccus.
Publisher: New York : Longmans, Green, 1916.
Tag(s): nietzsche, friedrich wilhelm, 1844-1900; rodin, auguste, 1840-1917; aesthetics; wagner, richard, 1813-1883; tolstoy, leo, graf, 1828-1910; maeterlinck, maurice, 1862-1949; hegel, georg wilhelm friedrich, 1770-1831; wagner; rodin; nietzsche; hegel; thinkers; art; artists; artist; spake zarathustra; artistic; music
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Identifier: artiststhinkers00flacuoft
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Artists and Thinkers 

/irtists "nd Thinkers 










Copyright, 1916, 





II. RODIN 10-36 


IV. WAGNER 63-103 

V. HEGEL 104-139 

VI. TOLSTOY 140-160 

VII. NIETZSCHE ............ 161-200 



EACH of these essays stands by itself as a record 
of a man's thoughts on art and as a study of the man 
himself, of his methods of work, his aims and his 
outlook on life. But they are bound together, even 
if only in the slenderest of ways: they all have a 
window open on a problem. A philosopher must 
have his problem; his comfort demands it a trade 
weakness, I admit, but one in which I must confess 
a share. I have taken my material from the border- 
line of art and philosophy. I have chosen three 
artists Rodin, Wagner, and Maeterlinck who have 
achieved greatness in such widely different arts as 
sculpture, music, and the drama; and three thinkers 
Tolstoy, Hegel, and Nietzsche who are quite unlike 
and fairly representative. All these men have had 
much to say on art; they have discussed special 
points and formulated general theories. Many of 
these theories are fanciful, unsound, clumsy; these 


I have given as well as others which show remarkable 
insight. Incidentally I may have touched on the 
truth of a theory or weighed it historically, but the 
main interest has been elsewhere: in the problem 
of the interplay of art and philosophy; in tracing the 
Thinker in the Artist and the Artist in the Thinker. 
The problem might be put brutally in its most 
general form: Is the Artist at heart a Thinker, and 
the Thinker an Artist? But little would be gained 
by such a headlong impatience of results. In a 
mechanical puzzle the solution is the thing. Bits of 
steel must be twisted about in a certain way or helter 
skelter balls of mercury must be driven to cover; 
the sooner it is done, the better. With scientific 
problems it is much the same. But in philosophy 
we are often interested in the question rather than 
the answer; in the whereabouts, the variants, the 
ins and outs rather than the solution. Not every 
one would admit as much. There are some who dig 
a problem in with a spade ; they much prefer to have 
it stay put. To me it seems more important to get 
the life-beat of a problem in all its unruliness. Wil- 
liam James does it successfully because of his open 
mind and his taste for the individual: he indulges 
a problem, gives it free play, enjoys its waywardness 
and uncovers its richness ; his work is a protest against 
the philosopher's idol worship of the general as such. 
What then should we gain by asking the general ques- 
tion: Is the Artist a Thinker and the Thinker an 


Artist? We might answer Yes or No; the result 
would still be the same: a washed-out answer to a 
washed-out problem. I do not, of course, mean to 
defend the ingenious way of keeping problems alive 
by linking them with others and breaking them into 
a thousand puzzles, offering a new one as soon as 
the old one has become lifeless. But I do wish to 
suggest the liveness, the colorfulness and richness of 
the problem of tracing with some detail the thought 
strain in certain artists and the artistic groundwork 
of certain philosophies. To say that Nietzsche, for 
instance, is an artist philosopher amounts to little, 
but it might be worth while to try to give the artistic 
quality of his thought, to get its stamp, to disentangle 
some of the motifs in which it is so rich. It might 
be worth while to show parallelisms between Rodin's 
technique and his reflections on art; to give the world- 
view of a Maeterlinck, a Tolstoy or a Wagner as it 
reflects their imagination and defines their outlook 
on the world of art; to explain Hegel's philosophy 
as world-romance of the boldest. I realize quite 
well that to attempt something of the sort is to set out 
on the road to the individual, and means a compli- 
cated rather than simplified task. It would have 
been much easier to have given the ordinary schema- 
tized interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy a 
few high lights and a bit of outline but why make so 
little of the richness of a problem? why lose so much 
by your haste to turn it inside out and tuck it away? 


I do not, however, wish to intimate that I have made 
the problem yield more than a very small part of its 
wealth; nor do I propose to say of every structural 
looseness or of every instance of lack of skill that the 
method demanded it. The choice of the method has 
been intentional; I believe in its promise and its 
possibilities; but it would require a much more skil- 
ful handling than I can command to give more than 
a hint or two of these possibilities. 

At first sight philosophy and art seem to have little 
in common. The artist must have color: every 
daubed sketch or bit of clay in his cluttered-up studio 
is a call to the eye and the hand; the philosopher 
must have his grey-in-grey. One likes to imagine 
the meeting between Socrates the philosopher and 
Parrhasius the painter at the latter's workshop, 
and is disappointed in Xenophon's meagre sketch. 
Socrates with that quick, ferreting mind of his must 
have found the artist shallow, and Parrhasius may 
well have thought him uninspired. But, after all. 
the antagonism may not be so sharp as it seems 
There is many an artist with a devil-may-care stroke 
to his brush or pen and a sincere contempt for the 
tribe of thinkers, who is in his heart of hearts, quite 
unknown to himself, a philosopher, and a poor one 
at that, with a vague use of such terms as ideal, 
imitation, character, milieu, and what not. And 
the philosopher at his best and at his worst is often 
a poet. I grant you there is little poetry in Locke; 


not five drops of poetic essence could be distilled from 
his entire philosophy. But over against him may be 
set men like Plato, in whom the wealth and color 
of Athenian life are preserved as they are in no con- 
temporary artist; .Plotinus; Spinoza; and Hegel, 
in whom the sense of the dramatic and the grasp of 
divine adventure are unusually strong. 

Go a step farther and get beyond the artist's pose 
and the philosopher's clannishness, and you will 
find them both creatively self-expressive. There 
the common bond seems to lie. While there are 
artists who are merely transmissive, sensuously and 
emotionally, and in whose art there is not the slightest 
tinge of intellectual expression; there are others 
a majority, I should say who react intellectually 
as well as emotionally and whose work is shot through 
with thought. There is more than swing and clatter 
in Kipling, more than cobblestone verse in the later 
Browning; Rodin thinks with his chisel, and Klinger 
with his brush. If Rodin had never jotted down his 
thoughts or allowed himself to be interviewed, we 
should still feel the intellectual force of his work; 
if Wagner had never written his essays or letters we 
should feel the philosophy of Schopenhauer throbbing 
in the very music of Tristan und Isolde. With 
philosophy it is very much the same. If there is 
such a thing as a pure thinking machine it is the 
scientist, not the philosopher. Philosophy might 
seem to have freed itself once for all from its early 


closeness to poetry when it exchanged the majestic 
verse of a Lucretius or an Empedocles for a crabbed 
terminology and a jargon not unlike cracked var- 
nish, but the artistic foundation is still there. The 
expression of self has simply become less naive. 
This may be seen by taking nature and natural 
phenomena as they appear in the philosophy of 
Empedocles, Marcus Aurelius, and Hegel. 

In Empedocles there is a very direct interest in 
nature; the sea and the stars flash in his verse, and 
the panorama of life is given with much of its color. 
He seeks to interpret, to grasp general laws, but his 
thought has not worked itself loose from imagery. 
With Marcus Aurelius the interest in nature is much 
less direct. His enthusiasm for the universe, the 
City of Zeus, his delicate interpretations of natural 
processes as so much material for duty, his demand 
for loyal submission, are so many touches to the 
problem of realizing oneself, around which his thought 
moves. If nature is more than an incident in his 
philosophy it is only because he sees its importance 
and understands its place in the development of 
common man and Thinker alike. In Hegel the 
interest in nature is still less direct: the whole sys- 
tem of nature becomes a phase of cosmic self-realiza- 
tion. Enthusiasm, imagery, and in fact anything 
that might suggest the Artist, has been pressed 
beneath the surface, but what a subterranean roman- 
ticism there is in this Thinker! With what an 


artist's imagination he has seized upon the dramatic 
possibilities of the human consciousness! 

If, then, philosophy and art express more and more 
indirectly and reflectively certain heart-felt needs and 
certain personal ways of reacting, what will be the 
result? The mere asking such a question complicates 
it immensely. The philosopher must take himself 
seriously; he means to give the record of reality, 
and not the " human document " of his tempera- 
mental reaction to the universe. He must have his 
objectivity at all costs, even if he has to attribute 
to the universe, as Bergson does, his own elan and his 
own plasticity. He regards himself as the inter- 
preter of world-meanings, and not as a child on a 
frolic. Back of the playfulness of a Nietzsche is a 
grim constructive earnestness. There is no phil- 
osopher who from an observer's point of view is more 
subjective; and yet, while Nietzsche is fully aware of 
the influence of his temperament on his thought and 
is constantly indulging in self-analysis, he does not 
seem to feel that such temperamental influences 
affect the truth of his philosophy. But an artistically 
rich philosophy is not on that account true. Still 
what if a pragmatist blocks a statement like this by 
interpreting truth as "the sentiment of rationality" 
and that in turn as so many ethical and aesthetic 
demands? There is one way out of this tangle: the 
Thinker may develop as fine a sense of loyalty to 
facts as such as the scientist's, and still have an 


interpretative Artist's imagination and originality. 
It is not an easy thing to do, but it is not more difficult 
than the artist's task of combining idealization and 
imitation. The path from emotional resonance to 
such more and more indirect self-expression means a 
richer and a truer philosophy. 

But what of art and the resulting complications in 
its field? The thought-strain is beyond a doubt 
strongly present in much of modern art: there is 
an intellectual undercurrent in our architecture and 
our music, and a great deal of intellectual symbolism 
in our sculpture and painting. But it appears most 
plainly in the novel and the drama. Rolland's 
Jean Christophe, the novels of Wells and Galsworthy, 
those of Hardy or Anatole France, flash with intel- 
lectual cross-lights of all colors. And what shall be 
said of the problem play, from Ibsen to Brieux, Shaw, 
Zangwill, Hauptmann and Bernstein? There is 
everything there: social theories; social criticism; 
intellectual fads and fancies; bits of biology and 
metaphysics; a criss-cross analysis of character. 
One feels constantly a tugging at the universe and its 
problems. The question of the artistic value of 
such developments is not one lightly to be settled. 
A poem like Rabbi ben Ezra gains immensely through 
its intellectual vigor; so does a play like Ghosts, but 
artistic disintegration can be seen in Damaged Goods, 
The Link, and The Doctor's Dilemma, and the col- 
lapse of a thought-riddled art can be imagined. On 


the other hand an intellectual freshening would do 
our love poets and court poets and war poets no harm. 
The true value of thought for art seems to me to 
depend on its indirectness and emotional suggestive- 
ness. This is the r61e it plays in Rodin and in 
Maeterlinck. They make you feel the thrust of the 
universe. Back of the artist's earnestness there 
must be a certain freedom or playfulness, just as 
there must be a certain earnestness back of the play- 
fulness of the philosopher. Downrightness and 
eagerness to solve problems have spoiled many a play 
and novel. 

Such are a few of the relations between Thinker 
and Artist. To follow the problem further lies aside 
from my purpose, which is rather to consider a few 
individual artists and thinkers, to get some under- 
standing of their working beliefs, and to trace the 
intellectual and artistic motifs which are an impor- 
tant, even if at times hidden, part of their art and 
their philosophy. 



Lines and colors are for us only signs of 
hidden realities. Our eyes plunge be- 
yond the surfaces to the spirit. RODIN. 

IT is perhaps too early for a final estimate of Rodin's 
work. Time has done much in the way of giving 
the necessary perspective, but with so startling, so 
revolutionary an artist it must do much more. Cer- 
tain prejudices have been cleared away; and to-day 
at the age of seventy-four Rodin has taken his place 
at the head of French sculptors as a man of ripe 
achievement. This recognition he owes largely to 
himself. He remained unshaken by the ridicule of 
the press, and was utterly indifferent to the adverse 
comments of the critics. He took his time; worked 
in his own way; refused to modify his designs; kept 
to his ideals and his technique; and routed the 
scoffers and faultfinders by sheer force of artistic 
purpose. It is easy to be too severe with these 
critics. After all there is some excuse for their 
hostility; they had a right to distrust a sculptor who 
offered as his debut The Man with the Broken Nose, 
and who, when commissioned to design a statue of 



Balzac, submitted as his sketch jagged, grotesquely 
sensual features and a huge mass of body wrapped in 
a formless dressing gown. It was but human to 
attack a man whose attitude of cheerful independence 
seemed insulting and whose work could not be made 
to square with their pet theories. They have had 
their say, and time has unsaid it. We credit ourselves 
with greater insight, but it would, I think, be rash 
of us to deny that we are too near to judge completely 
and surely, and that much remains for Time, the 
sifter and shifter of values. 

But this much may be said even now of Rodin's 
sculpture, that it shows a technique which is forceful 
and resourceful as well as radical, dramatic quality, 
nervous strength; and that it is intense, imaginative, 
and intellectually stimulating. Such things are rare 
in modern sculpture, which at its best is too often 
simply smooth, graceful or piquant, and at its worst 
theatrical and lifeless. It gives the impression of 
being a thing without resource or vitality. Modern 
music and poetry are vibrant with the spirit of the 
times; why should sculpture alone of all the arts 
fail to give something of the passionateness and rich- 
ness of modern life? Rodin has proved once for all 
that the fault lies not with sculpture itself,, 
too, can be made responsive and vital; he has broken 
new ground and shown sculpture to be still very much 

His art is not his only answer to the critics. He 


has defended his ideals and his technique, has done 
it brilliantly and incidentally, as only a Frenchman 
can; he has jotted down his thoughts on art in note- 
books; and allowed himself to be interviewed freely. 
There is hardly a critical study of Rodin in which 
abundant use has not been made of this material. 
Perhaps the completest and most suggestive collec- 
tions published are those of Gsell and Judith Cladel. 
Some allowance must, of course be made for par- 
tisanship, but enough remains. All these sayings 
of Rodin's give the same impression: of a critic 
who is unaffected, earnest, and appreciative of fine 
points; of an artist who takes his art very seri- 
ously, reflects on its trend and its sources of 
inspiration, and refuses to be classed as merely a 
maker. They are the credo of a reflective artist; 
they are not afterthoughts; and they are anything 
but academic. In them may be found the verve, 
the imaginative boldness, and the intellectual quality 
so characteristic of Rodin's sculpture. When there 
is such a parallelism it is worth while to trace 
it by getting independently the marking qualities 
of the man's work and then passing on to the sayings, 
which are the self-expression of the Artist and the 
Thinker in one. 

As a worker in marble and bronze, Rodin is not a 
believer hi smooth, highly polished surfaces, and in 
the large, monotonous planes of groups in repose. 
Occasionally he aims very successfully at smoothness 


and grace. The softness and delicacy of his Spring- 
time can hardly be matched. But the truer Rodin 
cuts into surfaces boldly; roughens and hollows out. 
The effect is strikingly varied and individual. It may 
be studied in The Burghers of Calais, the busts of 
Dalou and Puvis de Chavannes, and the face of 
Balzac. A comparison of the surface of the bust 
of Falguiere with that of The Man with the Broken 
Nose shows a slow maturing of this principle of 
technique, in which Rodin saw greater and greater 
possibilities. In his groups he shows a preference 
for bodies in motion and for sharp-angled positions 
such as are given by bent, stooping or writhing bodies. 
Technically this method of modelling and grouping 
means a sharp contrast between bulging and hollowed 
out surfaces, and a strong play of light and shade; 
there is the illusion of depth, of the thrust of mass, of 
variety in the breaking up of linear expanse. This 
furrowing and tilting of planes is not Rodin's only 
reason for the choice of other than reposeful and well- 
balanced groups. He aims to give to his art the free 
naturalness of life. John the Baptist is sculptured 
not standing, but walking; thus he, the great fore- 
runner, is caught in his stride. Nothing could be 
simpler, less of the nature of posturing and ^arranging, 
than The Burghers of Calais. The critics protested 
against such violations of well-established academic 
principles, and asked him to group the burghers 
differently: his was such an informal way of sending 


men on the road to death, with nothing in the way 
of pose or set melodramatic touch. And John the 
Baptist? One might almost suspect them of a naive 
fear lest he be off and out of the door before they 
knew it. - 

Beauty, in the accepted sense of formal beauty, is 
not the highest law of Rodin's art. There again he 
ran afoul of the critics, to whom his continued and 
bold use of the ugly seemed perverse. He would not 
fit their pseudo-classical ideal of banishing from 
sculpture every touch and influence of the ugly. 
But even this side of their extreme position, Rodin's 
extensive use of the ugly is startling. There are in 
formative art few instances of greater daring in its 
use than La Vieille Heaulmiere, that distressingly 
frank picture of the physical decay of old age in all 
its hideousness. In The Weeper a face not unattract- 
ive in its lines is deliberately caught at its worst, 
in the grimace of weeping. What has been con- 
demned as absurd in sculpture a mouth wide open 
Rodin has attempted: in the bust The Tempest 
there are the head and shoulders of a female figure 
springing from the solid block with a fine suggestion 
of frenzied movement; a suggestion carried over 
to the face with its tense expression, its wild eyes, 
and wide-open mouth. 

A further characteristic of Rodin's work is its 
dramatic quality. This must not be held to imply 
theatricalism, which marks an art at once showy and 


weak; and which expresses itself in unnatural poses, 
constrained gestures, and affected conceits. On the 
whole there is no theatricalism in Rodin's work, 
although a few of his groups are marred by a not alto- 
gether happy rqffinement: The Angel's Kiss and 
Triton and Siren are instances. His figures are 
elemental, passionate, dramatic, but supremely nat- 
ural in every gesture and in the tension and mus- 
cular play of their bodies. They seem to hold us by 
sheer weight of ecstasy or passion. Every muscle 
shares in the dramatic voicing of movement; inner 
and outer, everything is at one; one life animates 
all the parts of a Rodin group. The utmost com- 
pactness is insisted on, and much of the dramatic 
quality of Rodin's sculpture is due to this, but the 
compactness is never purely external or unnatural, 
as it is in the Laocoon group. Rodin often blocks 
his figures or works them out of a solid background 
of rock for the sake of binding violent gestures or 
figures to a unity. Often he gains the same end by 
flexing an etbow or rounding a gesture or by economic 
grouping; no straggling arm is allowed; the group 
is bent back into itself, and yet there is nothing 
suggestive of the strained or unnatural; simply be- 
cause an inner life is there, gathering up everything, 
making everything one. The mood or idea is worked 
out in the several figures of the group and in 
their relations; no single figure dominates the group. 
In looking at Springtime, an exquisitely modelled 


piece, the eye does not catch separately the free and 
strong posture of the one figure and the passionate 
yieldingness of the other. 

It is to this inwardness as well as to compactness 
and a strong naturalness that the dramatic quality 
of Rodin's art is due. It gives beauty and expressive- 
ness to his bust Thought and his statue The Thinker. 
The face of the bust is not meant to be beautiful; 
its lines are too irregular; and yet never has sculptor 
suggested more forcibly the pensive calm and intense 
self-absorption of a soul lost in thought. In The 
Thinker a contrasted mood is caught. Rodin repre- 
sents his Thinker seated on a rock, bent forward, 
one arm clasping a knee, the other bent at the elbow 
and again at the wrist; the back of the hand shoved 
under and supporting a massive chin. The muscles 
are tense and bulky; the neck, short; head and body, 
those of a heavy-set athlete. No statue could be 
more compact in its lines; nor could compactness 
be more expressive of mood; here is thought at its 
hardest, puzzled, bewildered, groping obstinately; 
with the body, muscles, tendons and all, heaved into 
the struggle. 

In Rodin's Hell Gate, which, still unfinished, is 
to be a chiselled Dante's Inferno, there is a group of 
two souls in hellfire. Their bodies, supported by 
knees and arms and crossing at the thighs, form a 
double arc a position extreme, but tragic and simple 
with the simplicity of great art. These arched 


bodies suggest the curling and shrivelling of leaves 
in the fire and a more merciless heat than could have 
been suggested by any writhing or twisting. 

One further illustration the Ugolino. The story 
of Ugolino, crazed by hunger and devouring his sons, 
has been put by Dante in verse unmatched for sheer 
horror and sublimity. In sculpture Carpeaux has 
given a rather theatrical group. Rodin's is simple 
and tragic. Ugolino crouches, on hands and knees, 
with his sons caught under him. Nothing could be 
more wolfish than the position of this hunger-racked 
body; but Rodin passes from the horrible to the 
tragic in Ugolino's face. The head is not bent down; 
it is in line with shoulders and back; the eyes stare 
wildly and vacantly, and there is something about 
the cast of the mouth and the smooth lines of the face 
more terrible than the utmost physical agony. It 
is the wreckage of hunger and grief something of 
beast and something of a god demented. 

A further mark of Rodin's art is its combination of 
realism and symbolism. His busts run remarkably 
true, but it is in giving the muscular expressiveness 
of the body that he excels. One need only compare 
his Adam with that of Michael Angelo to see what an 
advantage the fearless sculptor has over the painter 
in this respect. Very instructive also are his nu- 
merous and accurate studies of the hand. So true 
anatomically was one of his earlier figures that he 
was accused of having taken a cast from the living 


model. Rejecting the one-angle theory of sculptured 
figures, Rodin insists on their being modelled with 
equal strength and care on all sides; this leads him 
to a remarkably realistic and expressive treatment 
of shoulders and back, as in the marble statuette 
The Bather, or still better in the Eve. It would, 
however, be a mistake to say that Rodin aims at 
extreme naturalism as a tour de force or at all costs; 
it is after all, a mood, a passion, an elemental conflict 
he wishes to catch; and he purposely exaggerates the 
size of a hand or foot, overdoes a muscle or hints at 
two successive moments in one and the same posture, 
in order to heighten the significance or give the sym- 
bolical content of his figures. In this way he avoids 
such dangers of decadent sculpture as the muscular 
theatricalism of the Laocoon group and the muscular 
overdevelopment and immobility of the Farnese 
Hercules; besides, he avoids the opposite defect, 
that of the insipid. Rodin's art is nothing if not 
imaginatively and intellectually stimulating. It is 
an Eve ashamed, guilt-stricken, that he gives us. 
In Satyr and Nymph there is something of the force 
and breathless lust of nature at her earliest. In the 
Burghers of Calais there is a subtle grading of hero- 
ism and suffering, worked out in figures that com- 
bine an almost grotesque naturalism think of the 
figure of the monk with an astounding wealth and 
intensity of feeling and thought. 


So much for some of the significant features of 
Rodin's art. It is in direct relation to them that his 
reflections on art must be taken. Of the latter the 
rich and charmingly simple conversations with 
Gsell, published under the title L'Art in 1911, offer 
good samples. There Rodin discusses such topics 
as realism in art, symbolism, design and color, 
movement in sculpture, thought in art, and modelling. 
Some four or five of these are of unusual interest. 
They reveal the inner springs of Rodin's art and 

Discussing modelling, Rodin by way of an object 
lesson takes up a small lamp and lets its light glide 
over a marble copy of the Venus del Medici, and 
asks Gsell to notice the many grooves, unevennesses, 
minute juttings and depressions. What seemed 
smooth and simple turns out to be complex, and 
gives the impression of an infinitely rich, warm, 
and faithful art in sharp contrast to the lifelessness 
and meagreness of academic sculpture. The Greek 
ideal is one of blended richness ; and it is only because 
the Greek artist was a patient student of nature and 
a master in the science of modelling, that he could 
give warmth and finality to his work. Rodin puts it 
this way: 

ft Do you know how this impression of lifelike- 
ness the Venus has just given us is produced? By 
the science of modelling. These words may seem trite 
to you, but you will soon see their importance. The 


science of modelling was shown me by a certain Con- 
stant, who worked in the decorator's shop where I 
began as a sculptor. One day he saw me shaping 
in clay the foliage of a capital. ' Rodin/ he said, 
* you handle yourself poorly. All these leaves of 
yours appear flat. That is why they don't seem real. 
Make some with their points shaped toward you, so 
as to give any one who looks at them the impression 
of depth.' 

" I followed his advice and was surprised at the 
result. ' Remember \vell what I have told you/ 
continued Constant, ' henceforth in your sculpture 
never see forms spread out, flat, but always deep . . . 
Never consider a surface other than the end of a 
solid, as a point more or less large aimed at you. 
That is how you will acquire the science of model- 

" This principle proved itself wonderfully fruitful 
to me. I made use of it in shaping my figures. In- 
stead of regarding the different parts of the body as 
so many planes I represented them as so many juttings 
of masses beyond. I forced myself to let feel m every 
bulging of the torso or the limbs the cropping out of 
a muscle or bone that continued as depth beneath 
the skin. That is why the truth of my figures instead 
of being superficial seems to expand from within 
outward like life itself. 

" Then I discovered that the ancients used exactly 
the same science of modelling. And it is certainly 
to this principle of technique that their works owe 
at once their strength and their quivering suppleness." 

Rodin then suggests that light and shade effects are 
possible in sculpture as well as in painting. 


" In your opinion, Gsell, is color a quality of paint- 
ing or of sculpture? " 

"Of painting, naturally." 

" Well, look at this statue." Saying this, he held 
the lamp so that its light fell on the torso from above. 
" Do you see these strong lights on the breasts, these 
strong shadows in the folds of the flesh, and then 
the whitenesses, the vaporous and trembling half- 
lights on the most delicate parts of this divine body; 
these parts so delicately drawn that they seem to 
dissolve into thin air? What do you say to them? 
Isn't it all a wonderful symphony in black and white?" 

" I had to admit it."' 

:*" Paradox as it may seem, the great sculptors 
have been great colorists, and the best painters have 
been excellent engravers. 

" They play so skilfully all the resources of relief, 
they fuse so well the boldness of light and the modesty 
of shadow that their sculptures have all the relish 
of the richest etching. Color then and that is 
what I wish to come to is like the flower and bloom 
of good modelling. These qualities go together, and 
it is they that give to the masterpieces of sculpture 
the radiant aspect of living flesh." 

Rodin also considers the problem of movement in 
sculpture. He himself makes use of movement in 
order to bring out sharply the muscular expressive- 
ness of the body; here his suggestive theory of 
movement in sculpture may be said to begin. It is 
the sculptor's aim to express feelings and passions; 
and this he must do largely through the muscles; 
they in turn can be rendered effectively only on 


condition that the figure whose mood is to be given is 
lifelike. This lifelikeness depends on two things: 
good modelling and movement; and they are the 
" blood " and " breath " of sculpture. Defining 
movement as " the changing of one posture into an- 
other," Rodin develops the principle of progressive 
movement. The sculptor, he argues, combines in 
one moment of presentation two successive positions, 
and thus makes the spectator take part in the de- 
velopment of a movement, follow it with the eye, 
and get the stimulus of active change. John the 
Baptist is shown walking, and yet flatfooted as one 
standing. In the Age of Bronze, one of Rodin's 
earlier works, the awakening of primitive man is 
symbolized. There the lower part of the body still 
has something of the softness and deep unconscious- 
ness of sleep, but as the eye follows the body upward, 
the first dawn of consciousness shows itself in head, 
shoulder, and arm. Rodin further suggests that in 
complex groups a skilful grading of moments or a 
varying of the tempo will allow the sculptor by his 
own technique to render movement quite as effect- 
ively as the poet. As examples he cites Rude's 
La Marseillaise and his own Burghers of Calais. 

Rodin's thoughts on modelling, light and shade, 
and movement are thoughts on technique and are 
offered as new observations on very old principles 
of all masterly sculpture. Rodin himself again and 
again turns to Greek art and professes to find all his 


principles there; he refers to the modelling of the 
Venus del Medici and the rush and sweep of the 
Victory of Samothrace. Still there is hardly anything 
at all like his principle of progressive movement in 
Greek sculpture; and Greek modelling seems much 
less given to uneven, jagged or furrowed surfaces. 
The truth must lie deeper; in certain thoroughly 
modern artistic demands and ideals expressed in 
Rodin's art and shadowed forth imperfectly in his 
reflection. No one would deny extreme individuality 
to his work. And no one with the vagaries of our 
younger painters and poets in mind would deny that 
the demand for individuality is very strong in our lat- 
ter-day art. It dominates conception and technique. 
in sculpture individuality of technique is so difficult 
a matter that artists of the stature of Canova and 
Thorvaldsen failed to achieve it. Rodin seeks to 
gain it by the breaking up of surfaces, by projections 
and indentations, by accentuating and deepening; 
and, in spite of what he says, he is not a disciple of 
the Greeks in this. Letting the light of a lamp 
glide over the surface of the Venus dei Medici is 
hardly a fair test, for the headlights of an automobile 
will make the smoothest asphalt road appear as badly 
dented as a battered piece of tin. Rather is it the 
modern demand for a perfectly individualized surface 
and a modern restive technique that make themselves 
felt. Again, such a principle as that of progressive 
movement in sculpture is simply one instance more 


of the psychological factor in modern art. The 
essentially unstable, fluid, transforming character 
of processes of attention and perception is recognized 
here as well as in impressionistic painting and in the 
incessant transmutations of Wagnerian music. 

Rodin's emphasis on movement touches still an- 
other demand; a demand that goes beyond questions 
of technique to the fundamental question: " What is 
sculpture to portray? " Life as movement, Rodin 
answers. Of the artist he says that for him " life 
is an infinite enjoyment, a constant ecstasy, a dis- 
tracted intoxication." This breaks at once with the 
traditional view of sculpture as a self-contained, 
placid art, creator of gleaming marbles at rest, and 
asks for a dynamic and restless sculpture to parallel 
life in its restlessness and energy. In this sense 
Rodin's art is thoroughly modern. Everywhere, 
from the most surprising quarters, and in various 
forms, comes the demand for an interpretation of 
life as movement. Philosophy and art alike show 
this drift of the modern consciousness. It is seen 
in Bergson's elan mial\ in the Futurist's stress on 
youth and the Futurist ideal of an art out of 
breath. It appears, at once more vigorous and 
saner, in the artistic ideals of Rodin. 
? v This demand for an art which is to reflect movement 
and cosmic struggle carries us into the very heart of 
Rodin's artistic beliefs. It implies the rejection of 
beauty, in the sense of the regular, the harmonious, 


the pleasing, as the aim of sculpture and the accept- 
ance of expressiveness, character, and symbolical 
content as the ideal. It extends the range and shifts 
the emphasis. Rodin often discusses the place of 
ugliness, of expression, and thought in sculpture. A 
passage like the following begins with the problem 
of ugliness La Vieille Heaulmiere being under dis- 
cussion but widens out into all the others: 

" ' Master,' I said to my host, ' no one admires more 
than I do this astounding figure, but I hope you will 
not be angry if I tell you what effect it has on the visitors, 
especially the women visitors, at the Musee du Luxem- 
bourg . . . ' 

" i You will oblige me by telling me.' 

" ' Well, the public in general turns away, exclaim- 
ing: " How ugly that is!" and I have often seen women 
cover their eyes in order to spare themselves that sight' 

" Rodin began to laugh heartily. 

" ' My work must be eloquent to call forth such 
lively impressions. Beyond doubt such persons fear 
basic truths when they are too harsh. 

" ' But the only thing that matters is the opinion 
of men of taste. I have been delighted to gather 
their votes on my Vieille Heaulmiere. I am like the 
Roman singer who answered the hisses of the crowd 
by saying, " I sing for the nobles," which means, the 

" * The crowd likes to believe that what it judges 
to be ugly in actual life is not fit matter for art. It 
would like to forbid our picturing what it finds dis- 
pleasing or offensive in nature. 

" ' That is a serious error on its part. What is 


commonly called ugliness in nature can in art become 
very beautiful. In the class of actual objects we 
call ugly what is misshapen, what is unhealthy, what 
suggests the idea of disease, weakness, suffering, 
what violates regularity that sign and condition of 
health and strength: a cripple is ugly, a sabre is 
ugly, misery in rags is ugly. Ugly again are the soul 
and the actions of an immoral man, of a vicious and 
criminal man, of an abnormal man dangerous to 
society; ugly is the soul of the parricide, the traitor, 
the ambitious man without scruples. 

" ' It is fit that beings and objects from which we 
can expect nothing but ill be marked by an odious 

" ' When, however, a great artist or writer takes 
hold of one of these uglinesses he at once trans- 
figures it, with a stroke of his magic wand he 
makes of it a thing of beauty. It is alchemy; it is 
witchery ! 

" ' When Velasquez paints Sebastian, the court 
fool of Philip IV, he gives him so moving a look that 
we read in it at once the sorrowful secret of this 
cripple, who in order to earn a living is forced to give 
up his dignity as a human being, to become a play- 
thing, a living cap and bells. And the more poignant 
is the martyrdom of this consciousness lodged in a 
monstrous body, the more beautiful is the work of the 

" ' When Francois Millet pictures a poor peasant 
who stops for a breathing spell; leaning on his hoe 
a sufferer broken by weariness, cooked by the sun, 
as brutish as a beast of burden raked with blows 
all that is needed is to discover in the expression of 
this damned one resignation to torture decreed by 


fate, and this creature of a nightmare becomes a 
magnificent symbol of humanity at large. 

" l When Baudelaire describes a foul carcass, 
slimy and eaten by worms, and when he pictures 
under this frightful image his adored mistress, noth- 
ing could equal in splendor this horrible opposition 
between beauty one would wish eternal and the 
fearful disintegration that awaits it. 

And yet you will be like this filth, this horrible infection, 
Star of my eyes, Sun of my nature! O my angel and my 

Yes, such you will be, O queen of graces, after the last 
sacraments, when you shall go under the sod lush with 
blossoms, to rot among the bones, 

Then, O my Beauty, tell the vermin that devour you with 
kisses that I have guarded the form and the divine essence 
of my decomposed loves. 

" l It is the same when Shakespeare paints lago or 
Richard III, when Racine paints Nero and Narcissus: 
moral ugliness interpreted by minds so clear and 
penetrating becomes a marvellous theme of beauty. 

" ' In short, the beautiful in art is simply what 
has character. 

" l Character is the intense truth of any sight or 
scene of nature whether beautiful or ugly; it might 
even be called a double truth, for it is the truth within 
translated by that of without; it is the soul, feeling, 
idea, as they are expressed by the lines of a face, the 
gestures and acts of a human being, the tones of the 
sky or the line of an horizon. 

" ' For the great artist everything in nature offers 


character, for the incorruptible candor of his observa- 
tion pushes to the hidden sense of everything. And 
what is thought of as ugly in nature often presents 
more character than what is styled beautiful, for in 
the contractions of a sickly face, in the smirk of a 
vicious mask, in every deformity and every blight, 
the inner truth bursts forth more easily than in 
regular and sound features. 

" ' And since it is simply the strength of character 
that makes the beautiful in art, it follows that often 
a thing is the more beautiful in art the uglier it is in 
nature. That alone is ugly in art which lacks char- 
acter, that is to say, has no outer or inner truth. 
Ugly in art is what is false or artificial, what seeks 
to be pretty or beautiful instead of being expressive; 
what is clownish or affected, what smiles without 
motive, what is handled without reason, what bends 
or straightens itself without cause: everything that 
is without soul and without truth, everything that is 
a parading of beauty or grace, everything that lies. 

" ' When an artist for the purpose of embellishing 
nature adds green to the springtime, rose to the 
dawn, red to young lips, he creates ugliness, because 
he lies. 

" f When he softens the grimace of pain, the flabbi- 
ness of old age, the hideousness of the perverse, when 
he arranges Nature, when he veils her, disguises her, 
when he softens her in order to please an ignorant 
public, he creates ugliness because he is afraid of the 

" ' For an artist worthy of the name everything in 
nature is beautiful, because his eyes, accepting boldly 
every outer truth, read therein without pain and as 
in an open book every inner truth. 


" ' He need only look at a human countenance in 
order to decipher a soul; not a single trait deceives 
him; hypocrisy is to him as transparent as sincerity; 
the angle of a forehead, the least knitting of the eye- 
brows, a passing glance, reveal to him the secrets of a 

" ' He examines the spirit folded up in an animal. 
He sees in the look and the movements of an animal 
its whole moral life that rough sketch of feelings 
and thoughts, a heavy intelligence and the rudiments 
of tenderness. In the same way he is the confidant 
of inanimate nature! " 

This passage should be supplemented by one of 
the several in which Rodin discusses the sense of 
mystery and the nature of symbolism. In one of the 
later conversations with Gsell he defines religion as 
the sense of mystery, as " the push of our conscious- 
ness toward the infinite, the eternal, toward a knowl- 
edge and a love without limits." This sense of 
mystery every great artist has. He then continues: 

" If religion did not exist I should have to invent 
it. True artists are in short the most religious of men. 

" It is commonly believed that we artists live 
only by our senses, and that the world of appearances 
satisfies us. We are thought to be children who are 
drunk with brilliant colors and who amuse themselves 
with shapes as with dolls. We are not well under- 
stood. Lines and tints are for us only signs of hidden 
realities. Our eyes plunge beyond the surfaces to 
the spirit. When we present contours we enrich 
them with a spiritual content which they are to 


" The artist worthy of the name must express the 
whole truth of nature, not only outer truth, but inner 
truth as well. 

" When a good artist models a human body he 
does not merely give muscles; he gives the life that 
works in them or, better still, the power that shaped 
them and gave them grace or vigor or amorous 
charm or untamed fury. 

" Michael Angelo makes the creative force roar 
in the living flesh; Lusa della Robbia makes it smile 
divinely I/ ' 

Gsell in the course of the conversation suggests 
that Rodin's own statues show very clearly this tor- 
ment of the invisible and inexplicable. He sees in 
many of them the symbolism of a soul with infinite 
yearnings chained to the flesh. He takes as examples 
the statue of Balzac, The Thinker, The Kiss, The 
Burghers of Calais. All of them are tensional, he 
holds, in this sense. Rodin, asked to confirm this 
interpretation, strokes his beard pensively and re- 
marks: " I shall not say No." That there is a great 
deal of symbolism in his sculpture he admits in many 
passages. The talk ends characteristically. 

"A moment later he asked me: 'Are you now 
convinced that art is a kind of religion?' 

" ' Beyond doubt/ I replied. 

" Then he added maliciously: ' One must, however, 
recall that the first commandment of this religion for 
those that wish to practise it is to know how to model 
an arm, a torso or a thigh.' " 


It is clear from passages like these that Rodin 
makes use of the ugly for the sake of its expressive- 
ness. His is not a cult of the ugly, the morbid, the 
repulsive as such; still he is on occasion extreme 
in his use of the ugly and repulsive. He insists, 
however, that what is ugly is sharply individualized 
and stimulating in the sense of giving the sting, 
the movement, and the expressive range of life. It 
is for the sake of such symbolism that smooth lines 
must be broken; harmonies shattered; and ugliness 
shown at once in its nakedness and its imaginative 
appeal. Imagination and thought redeem the ugly 
in art, but only when they spontaneously grow out 
of the subject chosen. If anything can redeem 
La Vieille Heaulmiere it is the thought, at once 
depressing and imaginatively stimulating, of the 
contrast between youth and physical decay, and of 
the silently working forces that change the one to 
the other. But the reference to Villon's poem, while 
it adds to the poignancy of the statue, seems to vio- 
late Rodin's principle of inherent symbolism. While 
his interpretation of Millet and Baudelaire is sound 
in its emphasis on an ideal significance, his reading 
of Velasquez' painting of the court fool is fanciful, 
to say the least; an extraneous forcing of meaning. 
In spite of occasional lapses Rodin is too much of an 
artist to burden art with the fantastic and narrow 
symbolism that is to be found in Ruskin and Tolstoy. 
He is saved not only by his emphasis on form, color, 


and muscular expressiveness, but by his interpretation 
of life as movement and struggle, and by the free 
play of his imagination. In discussing his statue 
La Centauressej Rodin remarks: 

" In subjects of this kind the thought reveals 
itself, I believe, without much trouble. They awaken 
without any strange help the imagination of the 
onlooker. And yet, far from encircling it within 
narrow limits, they incite to a vagabondage of fancy. 
And this, to me, is the meaning of art. The forms 
it creates are to give to feeling an opportunity to 
develop indefinitely." 

Of this vagabondage of fancy there is much in 
Rodin's work, and to its score must be put many of 
his grotesque and startling experiments in forms. 
He is not a novelty seeker; but he likes bold con- 
ceptions and a certain amount of loose play. It is 
the Gothic in him superabundant energy and play- 
fulness keeping symbolism sane and the imagination 
at a stretch. *vNot that this destroys his theory that 
sculpture is to give character, that it is to be signifi- 
cant at all hazards it merely gives it wider scope by 
interpreting life as energy, as movement with much 
variety, more than a hint at purposiveness, and a 
dash of caprice and playfulness. 

Rodin does not stand alone in emphasizing what 
is ugly and in revealing the thrust of an ideal mean- 
ing call it thought or feeling or the drive of life 
in sensuous forms. It is worth while to compare 


him in this respect with one of the masters of etching 
Felicien Rops. Both men are bold and forceful 
in technique the one truthful and resourceful in 
modelling, the other sure and finished in line. Both 
are masters in the portrayal of the sensuous charm of 
woman's beauty, and with both this beauty is of a 
type at once robust and subtle. Eve and The Bather 
are matched by Rops's Flemish women with their 
full-bodied beauty and strong grace. Neither artist 
is simply graceful or simply elegant; both in aiming 
at ideal significance admit the ugly to the fullest 
extent. Quite as extreme as La Vieille Heaulmiere 
is Rops's Mors Syphilitica. The Absinthe Drinker is 
mercilessly and repellently true at the utter sacrifice 
of all formal beauty. Skeleton and cloven foot 
two devices considered obsolete Rops uses again 
and again, sometimes with a view to the sinister and 
the tragic, often with a view to the grotesque. Of 
the former, Dancing Death and Death at the Masked 
Ball are good samples; of the latter, Satan Sowing 
Weeds is the best. The background of this sketch is a 
study in black torn bands of cloud and a struggling 
moon; in the lower foreground are the shadows of 
a great city. Flung across this scene and in the act 
of taking one huge stride is Satan, a skeleton, focussed 
from below, with grotesquely lengthened shank- 
bones, sabots on his feet, and a sack-like cloth flung 
loosely across middle and shoulder, and with a head 
that is haunting by its sheer unlikeness to anything 


but a bat in the winglike extensions and the black- 
ringed brightness of the eyes. Satan is sowing 
weeds tiny cupids that are sent tumbling toward 
the dark shadows of the city. Almost as grotesque 
and more repulsive in its ugliness is Happiness in 

If Rops rivals Rodin in the use of the ugly, he out- 
rivals him in the symbolism of his art. The dominant 
note of this symbolism is one of unrelieved pessimism. 
The Mirror of Coquetry and Shamelessness are variants 
of the same theme: the reflection of a simian shape is 
thrown across a mirror as a sardonic comment on the 
vanity and pride of man. Skull and cloven foot are 
used as symbols of the transitory, useless, and wicked 
thing called life. Theft and Prostitution Rule the 
World is the title of one of Rops's etchings; in another, 
The Love-Market, an old hag is motioning purchasers 
to the sale of a young girl. Rops's absolute mastery 
of sensuous form marks his symbolism all the more 
strongly. Much of his work is dominated by the 
figure of woman. Sure of her power, triumphant with 
the triumph of an unconscious and cruel animalism, 
she brings unrest, misery, and idle amusement 
the Devil's own gifts; but change and death threaten 
this splendor of the flesh. 

It would be a serious mistake to regard all of Rops's 
work from this point of view, for much of it is simply 
diablerie; some of his best drawings, the Rem- 
brandtesque faces of old women, are nothing more 


than studies in light and shade and in line. But of 
what remains the symbolism is one of moral ideas. 
Often this moral significance is so pointed and 
oppressive that it runs danger of lessening the artistic 
excellence, but in many of the etchings it is at once 
general and compelling, much to the gain of art. 
Of such gain Human Wreckage and The Absinthe 
Drinker are splendid examples, but even here there is 
a wide difference between the symbolism of Rops and 
that of Rodin. Rops's art is fin de siecle in its 
pessimism, its irony, and in a certain raffinement of 
the sensuous. With biting satire and in a spirit 
of bitter mockery it gives a world broken on the 
wheel of its own folly and vice. A merciless light 
beats down on whatever is diseased, perverse, morally 
rotten in modern life. The symbolism is one of 
moral values. 

& Not so with Rodin. There is neither mockery nor 
satire in his work, but there is a very primitive and 
very direct joy of life, and a very sharp sense of the 
dramatic and dynamic; at the heart of his symbolism 
are such simple ideas as : movement, unrest, passion, 
lust, work, play, man's early struggle with nature, 
thought, melancholy, bitterness. He feels all these 
and their elemental conflicts to the full, but his rugged 
optimism finds them bracing. He avoids the bour- 
geois symbolism of a Hogarth with its moral picture 
book series, and the great but too strongly moral 
symbolism of a Rops. Artistically the symbolism of 


Mors Syphilitica is inferior to that of La Vieille 
Eeaulmiere; the idea of the ravages of a particular 
disease is inferior in range and power to the idea of 
the silent, inevitable passing from youth to old age. 
In contrast to a symbolism that crystallizes, Rodin's 
is fluid. It expresses his view that life is movement 
and struggle; something as unrestful and intensely 
dramatic in its quiet changes as in its explosive 
moments. It is a symbolism of life-forces in their 
flow and at full pressure. 

This fluid, natural symbolism Rodin joins to a 
strong and accurate technique. He knows the 
anatomy and geometry of his art, and gets full plastic 
value out of his marble. In his best work the form 
is made to respond so thoroughly and readily to a 
symbolic idea which in turn seems to grow out of it 
that the impression is one of an art of stronger dra- 
matic quality and of greater imaginative and intellec- 
tual range and wealth than was thought possible in 
sculpture. Rodin as a thinker on art has the insight 
and the courage to see the value of what made him 
great as an artist. He demands an unflinching 
observation, accuracy, individuality, skill, forceful 
workmanship all at the service of an artistic pur- 
pose that catches the very breath and pulse-beat of 



Nothing in the whole world is so athirst 
for beauty as the soul, nor is there anything 
to which beauty clings so readily. 


MAETERLINCK'S aesthetic essays might be counted 
on the fingers of one hand. Two The Inner Beauty 
and The Tragical in Daily Life are to be found in 
The Treasure of the Humble; one The Modern 
Drama in The Double Garden; and one King Lear 
in The Measure of the Hours. To these must 
be added the fine preface to the collected plays. 
Then there are, of course, many incidental remarks 
on art and beauty. 

His interest everywhere seems to lie in two 
problems: he attempts a new interpretation of the 
tragic, and he sees in beauty the self-expression of 
a strong and responsive soul. He ignores the social 
and cultural relations of art, and affords in this 
respect a sharp contrast to men like Hegel, Wag- 
ner, Nietzsche, Ruskin, and Tolstoy; and it is 
owing to this, I think, that his art and philosophy 



alike lack the gritty admixture which is found in 
much of their work. The artistic works in few 
men with such purity. There is no problem or 
question of the day, however matter of fact or 
grim and urgent war, suffrage, justice, gambling, 
automobiling which he fails to dissolve into a play 
of colors or a fantastic dance of possibilities, drawing 
near and receding in the dusk. His essays on 
gambling and the duel, The Temple of Chance and 
In Praise of the Sword, are good samples. One 
gets wonderfully vivid images, of yellow counters 
and blue notes and clinking gold, of the tiny ivory ball 
spinning and hopping "like an angry insect"; and 
of the flash and glint of the rapier. But one gets 
more than that: an ever-changing outlook and play 
of suggestions. The sword becomes a symbol of 
man's intelligence, of his high sense of honor, and of 
his emergence from an early state of brute force and 
of brutal ways of settling scores; it is likened to " a 
fairy bridge swung over the abyss of darkness." 
Such intellectual and imaginative festooning is 
thoroughly characteristic of Maeterlinck; it marks 
both the good and the bad in his art and philosophy. 
At its worst it suggests the spun-sugar creations of a 
confectioner's shop; at its best it gives a wealth 
of overtones, a veiled aliveness, and a constantly 
shifting enterprise in a world of shadowy limits. 

The best starting-point for any study of Maeter- 
linck's personality as an artist and a thinker is a 


passage in the preface to his collected plays. It was 
written in 1908. In it he analyzes the beauty of a 
work of art as follows: " First the beauty of language, 
then the impassioned view and portrayal of what exists 
about us and in us, that is, nature and our sentiments, 
and lastly, enveloping the whole work and forming its 
atmosphere, the idea formed by the poet of the unknown 
in which the beings and things he calls forth are drifting, 
and of the mystery which rules and judges them and pre- 
sides over their destiny" 

Of surface beauty, made up of the first and the 
second, there is much in Maeterlinck. He is unob- 
trusive, direct, and delicate in his appreciation of 
beautiful things. There is something Flemish in 
his delight in precious stones and in rich, old stuffs; 
something of French medievalism at its best in his 
backgrounds with their castles and moats, their 
parks with old trees and sleepy pools, their forests 
and grottoes and cliffs. 

He is a decorative artist of the first rank, and very 
original in his effects. It matters little what he is 
giving: a woodcutter's hut; a convent; the gardens 
of Silanus with their orange-trees, cypresses, and 
oleanders, and their outlook on "the anemones stream- 
ing down the slopes of Bethany " and the dull green 
of the olive trees; the tent of Prinzivalle and its 
Renaissance virility and luxury; a beautiful woman*; 

* SILANUS: She was clad in a raiment that seemed woven of pearls 
and dew, in a cloak of Tyrian purple with sapphire ornaments, and 


the confusion of sounds as the huge convoy of wagons 
laden with grain and fruit and wine starts out " by 
torchlight into the starry night"; or the bells and 
bonfires of Pisa.* Everywhere there is the same 
richness, the same sense of color and outline. 
Maeterlinck's settings and backgrounds are decora- 
tive; so is, in every detail almost, his picture of nature. 
The imagination at work is pictorial rather than 
plastic. Apart from any question of symbolism, 
one fails to find in him the massiveness and the 
stress of Rodin's sculpture; his art lacks body; 
and while he gives the sense of distance and visual 
depth, he owes it to color contrasts and color patterns 
and above all else to his skilful use of light. What 
Rodin achieves by modelling, Maeterlinck gains by a 
light that throws colors sharply against each other 
in place of tempering or blending them; a light that 

decked with jewels that rendered a little heavier this eastern pomp. 
As for her hair, surely, unloosed, it would cover the surface of that 
porphyry vase with an impenetrable veil of gold. 

*VANNA: What is it, Gianello? Ah, I see! They are the bon- 
fires lit to celebrate your work. The walls are covered with them, the 
ramparts flame, the campanile blazes like a joyous torch! All the 
towers throw answering splendors back at the stars! The streets 
are lanes of brightness in the sky ... I know their outlines; I can 
follow them as clearly as when by day I trod their stones . . . There 
is the Piazza with its fiery dome and the Campo Santo like an 
island of shadow. Life, which seemed gone forever, comes quickly 
back, shoots up the spires, rebounds from the stones, overflows the 
walls and floods the country side ... Do you not hear the cries, the 
wild joy that mounts and mounts as if the sea were flooding into 
Pisa and the bells sing out as on my marriage morn. 


seems to sink into colors and forms to varying 
depths all the way from a brilliant opaqueness to 
utter transparency. There is the suggestion of 
a technique not unlike that of Max Reinhardt in 
his revolutionary stage settings and their draperies 
of black; their bands of orange or purple; their 
schematic lines and masses. Symbolism apart 
and it must be waived as long as Maeterlinck's first 
and second types of beauty are the only ones under 
discussion a setting by Reinhardt or Maeterlinck 
is more emphatic in its detail than the most slavishly 
imitative mise-en-scene of the old school could be. 
Their schematic originality sets off parts by making 
them striking. I do not wish to press too strongly 
the similarities in the decorative effects of the two 
men; there are some very sharp differences as well; 
nor do I mean to deny that there is in Maeterlinck's 
art a dissolving or fusing principle. But that dis- 
solving principle is set to work only after a vivid, 
clear, and incisive imagination has caught the world 
of natural objects with great originality and neat- 
ness, or nettett. It is not at all comparable to the 
automatic, sensuous unification or blurring of patches 
of color on which the pointillist counts. Rather 
does it come in by way of mood or of a philosophy of 
life, and as such we must ask it to wait while we turn 
once more to surface beauty and surface significance. 
In The Blue Bird there are two very different pic- 
tures, one of the Land of Memory, the other of the 


Land of the Future. Surely here would be a fine 
chance for a formless imagination to indulge its lik- 
ing for the indefinite; here would seem the very 
place for half-lights and unsteady shadows. But 
that is not what Maeterlinck gives. There could be 
no more definite place than this Land of Memory; 
it is all so delightfully real and matter of fact. One 
feels sorry about Gaffer TyPs bad leg, but sorrier 
still, as he himself does, about the loss of his pipe; 
one hears Granny Tyl praise the apple tarts she used 
to bake and sees her lay the table for supper and 
bring out the cabbage soup: one sees the children 
all sizes like " a set of Pan's Pipes " come out of 
the house, Riquette still crawling on all fours and 
Pauline with the same old pimple on her nose; and 
best of all one sees Tyltyl make a little glutton of 
himself, spilling the soup and getting a very real box 
on the ear. There is one fantastic idea which sets 
all this apart, the idea that the dead are asleep except 
when we think of them. This whole life of theirs, 
so true a duplicate of ours in all its details, is wholly 
dependent on our memory, at whose call it rises above 
or falls below the horizon of consciousness. The 
idea and the picture, far from clashing, assist each 
other. The Land of the Future, although a more 
fantastic conception, has an equally definite geog- 
raphy, and is visualized quite as sharply the steps; 
the benches; the workshops of the Blue Children; 
the great opalescent swinging doors; Father Time 


with his scythe; and the galley with white and gold 

Maeterlinck is a decorative artist in still another 
sense than this of strongly individualizing the sur- 
faces of life. He is constantly using nature as a 
background against which our inner life is flung and 
in subtle harmony or strong conflict with which it 
fulfils its destiny. In Wisdom and Destiny there is 
image after image a bit of mountain scenery; the 
sea and the lighthouse; the palace and the river; 
a still lake; the play of light or the stealing on of 
darkness; forest; cave; bedrock. But the images 
are sketched roughly and often vaguely; one gets 
the impression of a sort of alfresco decoration meant 
to set off the spiritual truths of the book. The essays 
Chrysanthemums and Old-Fashioned Flowers show 
both types of decorative effect. There is to be 
found in them a great deal of fanciful symbolism; 
they hint at one or the other of the many incidents of 
that soul-drama in which Maeterlinck shows so keen 
an interest. But there is plenty of sharply individual 
color. What could show a more delicate and original 
painter's imagination or a more finely discriminating 
sense of the pageantry of nature than his description 
of the autumn flowers? On them autumn bestows 
" all the wealth of the twilight and the night, all the 
riches of the harvest- time. " 

* " . . .it gives them all the mud-bro wnwork of the rain in the 
woods, all the silvery fashionings of the mist in the plains, of the 


What about the second element in Maeterlinck's 
conception of surface beauty: the impassioned por- 
trayal of what exists in us? As an artist and phil- 
osopher of the inner life he has definite limitations and 
peculiar merits. He gives moods and feelings rather 
than character; and some of these, such as the fear 
of death, religious fervor, wonder, the clairvoyance 
of old age, and the dreamy gestures of an awakening 
soul, recur again and again in his pages. With one 
or two exceptions he has failed to give in his plays 
and essays sharply individualized characters with 
marked groups of interests and unforgettable spiritual 
conflicts. The one outstanding exception is Mary 
of Magdala. Sister Beatrice and Monna Vanna are 
intensely dramatic and have at times a very strong 
individual appeal, but there is, at least in Monna 
Vanna, an intermittent blurring of lines which makes 
a character like Prinzivalle or Monna Vanna uncon- 
vincing. If you go back to the early puppet plays 
the secret will reveal itself. Maeterlinck, who shows 
a fine sense of form and a graphic and decorative 

frost and the snow in the gardens. It permits them, above all, to 
draw at will upon the inexhaustible treasures of the dead leaves and 
the expiring forest. It allows them to deck themselves with the 
golden sequins, the bronze medals, the silver buckles, the copper 
spangles, the elfin plumes, the powdered amber, the burnt topazes, 
the neglected pearls, the smoked amethysts, the calcined garnets, 
all the dead but still dazzling jewellery which the North Wind heaps 
up in the hollows of the ravines and foot-paths; but it insists that 
they shall remain faithful to their old masters and wear the livery 
of the drab and weary months that gave them birth." 


touch in his descriptions of the world without, is 
in his portrayal of the world within neither graphic 
nor decorative, but atmospheric. In plays like The 
Blind, The Seven Princesses, The Intruder, The Death 
of Tintagiles, and Pelleas and Melisande the first 
impression is one of muffled pathos, but as this dies 
down it is succeeded by a sense of spiritual unreality. 
These men and women who face life with the irresolu- 
tion or bewilderment or wonder of a child somehow 
seem unreal; and the cause of that unreality is 
Maeterlinck's atmospheric method. They have the 
blurred unreality of figures in a fog one gets a sense 
of faltering lines, of insecure distances, and of a 
merging of greys and blacks, which produces weird 
and monotonous imaginative effects. An emotion 
or a mood a mere wisp of color is shaded off and 
made to spread until it becomes one with all that 
surrounds it. Something like this is to be found in 
his essays also. For him the inner life has its soft 
and gentle beauty, and that beauty he has given 
delicately in essays like Silence, The Inner Beauty, The 
Deeper Life, The Awakening of the Soul, Sincerity. 
Everywhere there seems to be a strange formlessness 
as well as a subtle charm. They would be the despair 
of the sculptor with his tactile imagination and his 
need of plastic forms, for there is here no outline to 
follow; there are no sharply individualized surfaces 
such as distinguish the art of a Rodin. They would 
be the delight of the atmospheric painter, for here 


everything dissolves, everything loses itself in a 
stream of light and shade. Much might be said 
of Maeterlinck's development as a Thinker and an 
Artist. The later plays and essays differ widely 
from the early plays. The change is one of world- 
view, of interpreting differently the meaning of life, 
and as such has a very important bearing on Maeter- 
linck's third type of beauty, but it also affects his 
portrayal of the surface beauty of the inner life. The 
atmospheric effects of the puppet plays in some ways 
contrast sharply with those of the essays. They left 
the impression of dark, uncertain figures plunged 
into a fog; but here all things are steeped in light, 
and they themselves have taken on the nature of 

Under the influence of an irradiating imagination 
even the twilight recesses of consciousness begin to 
glow; and thoughts and feelings, however slight, 
become pencillings of light in a mystic transcription 
of experience. It is strange how fond the mystic 
is of light; how he uses it again and again in his 
analogies. This is true of Plotinus, of Ruysbroeck, 
to judge by passages translated by Maeterlinck in 
On Emerson and Other Essays; it is true of Maeter- 
linck himself, for a mystic he has remained in spite 
of Stoics and evolutionists. When Marcus Aurelius 
gives the drama of the soul his thought is radiant, 
but it is not like Maeterlinck's, formless and tenuous. 
In Hardy again there is nothing at all like an atmos- 


pheric treatment of the inner life, for while he inter- 
prets man as deeply rooted in nature and is interested 
in nature as the voice of law, ever changing and ever 
changeless, and in man as the life of all manner of 
instincts sucked in from the cosmic soil, he has given 
us very sharp and accurate pictures of natural scenery 
he knows his Dorsetshire thoroughly and has 
portrayed character in all its individuality and 
jaggedness as well as in its blindness. 

Nothing can serve better to emphasize Maeter- 
linck's atmospheric method than to contrast it with 
the plastic and mathematical method of Dante. 
Clearly visualized as is Maeterlinck's Land of Mem- 
ory, it pales in comparison with Dante's Hell. Here 
everything is worked out with a mathematician's 
precision, Circle after Circle, down to the minutest 
details of topography; one sees genius in the role of 
architect and carpenter. Every punishment has 
its definite symbolical meaning; and every shape, 
however fantastic or brief in appearance, has its 
definitely articulated inner life, glimpses of which we 
get as we listen to Guido da Montefeltro or Ugolino 
or Paolo da Rimini. Both men are among the finest 
poets of color and light. In contrast to Maeterlinck, 
Dante gives sundered, blocked-out effects in his 
symbolical as well as his decorative use of light. In 
his Paradise he has attempted a City of Light, and 
he has very ingeniously drawn individual structures 
and contrasts from so unpromising a building material. 


The secret of his method is combination: combina- 
tion of planets, of lights and fires, of colors. One 
feels the studied arrangement, hears at times the 
creaking of this Divine Mill, and comes to see some 
point in Schopenhauer's remark that the Paradise 
reminded him of nothing so much as the illuminations 
of Vauxhall. In Maeterlinck there is no piecing 
together, no structure; nothing but a flood of light 
and an inundating study of the soul. One feels 
immersed in a medium which allows neither foothold 
nor handhold. 

Surface beauty is not the last word in Maeterlinck's 
aesthetics. Nor is it in his art. We have his own 
word for it: " ... and lastly, enveloping the whole 
work and forming its atmosphere, the idea formed by 
the poet of the unknown in which the beings and things 
he calls forth are drifting, and of the mystery which 
rules and judges them and presides over their destiny" 
This suggests what is most interesting in the Thinker 
and most characteristic of the Artist; more than that, 
it suggests the common wellspring of both. We are 
coming to look more and more closely for the hidden 
motifs of a philosopher's world-view; and we are 
realizing more and more that an artist's world-view 
is an integral part of his art. The artist himself, if 
he is at all reflective, will regard it as such. Rodin 
insists that he- is shadowing forth the meaning of the 
universe and not merely toying with forms and colors; 


Meredith has his philosophy of the comic spirit, 
Browning his, of self-realization; Anatole France 
interprets as well as describes; and Hardy looks 
upon human life as the narrow end of a funnel widen- 
ing out into all the problems of evolutionism. 

Maeterlinck's interest in a symbolical and spiritual 
factor in art can best be seen and followed in his 
theory of the drama. When he goes to the theatre, 
he tells us, he feels as though he were spending a few 
hours with his ancestors. " I am shown a deceived 
husband killing his wife, a woman poisoning her lover, 
a son avenging his father, a father slaughtering his 
children, children putting their father to death, 
murdered kings, ravished virgins, imprisoned citizens 
in a word, all the sublimity of tradition, but alas, 
how superficial and material! Blood, surf ace- tears, 
and death! " This might seem to be an arraignment 
of melodrama; but it goes much beyond that, for 
what is the tragedy of to-day is often the melodrama 
of to-morrow. To him the old drama seems an an- 
achronism. It gave the clash of passion with passion 
intensely, directly, brutally; and the passions whose 
clash it gave were themselves brutal and elemental. 
But to us with centuries of control at our backs, 
and with reflected feelings and an oblique emotional 
life, these clashes seem crude except when we 
relapse, for an hour or two, to the primitive. Maeter- 
linck, however, does not commit Tolstoy's mistake 


in dealing with the Greek drama and Shakespeare. 
Where Tolstoy belittles, he admires, because he sees, 
not merely crude passion, but beauty and significance. 
In Wisdom and Destiny he insists on the spiritual 
significance of Hamlet, King Lear, and (Edipus Rex; 
and he alludes elsewhere to the decorative beauty 
and picturesque grandeur of a play like Romeo and 
Juliet. But he claims that we have lost, and cannot 
recover in any real sense, the stately grandeur of an 
^Eschylus or the picturesqueness of the Renaissance. 
As for the spiritual significance of the Greek drama, 
it, too, has been lost. To us the drama of soul and 
fate presents itself in other ways and plays itself off 
with other meanings. Why, then, if we cannot recover 
what is really of value in the old drama, should we be 
so intent on saving what is valueless? Why should 
we not attempt a drama which reflects in its incidents, 
its characters, and subtle suggestions the meanings 
of our life? These seem to Maeterlinck to be three: 
a lively and persistent interest in the problem of 
the clash between passion and duty; a complex and 
penetrative view of consciousness; new cosmic beliefs 
gradually taking shape under the stress of science 
and of new spiritual needs. 

To him the first appears clearly in the social dramas 
of Ibsen and in the problem play, which developed 
largely under their influence. Of course, such a 
generalization has its weaknesses; the struggle of 
duty with passion is one of the oldest motifs in tragedy, 


but on the whole it is true that there is something 
new: a challenging criticism which does not stop 
short of the problematic in morality itself. It is 
interesting to watch Ibsen at his work of uncovering 
" irrational survivals " in our moral habits and ideals, 
of pointing to shabby and worn places in our system 
of duties. He is a diagnostician ever on the alert 
for possible flaws and danger. Still his piece-by-piece 
social criticism seems to us just a bit old-fashioned. 
We demand a more subtle and synthetic challenge; 
such as we get in Monna Vanna, where the last act 
leaves us in a curiously divided mood between a 
morality that is no longer felt to be final and a new 
morality, promising but as yet unformed, except for 
longings and vague anticipations. 

It is clear that Maeterlinck looks beyond the prob- 
lem play for a new and adequate drama. He turns 
next to what he regards as the second great interest 
of our times: the exploitation of consciousness. The 
psychological soul-drama seems to him to express 
certain modern demands. We ask for a poetic 
interpretation and exploration of the utmost reaches 
of the inner life even to the abnormal or to feelings 
whose very nature it is to be still and inactive. 
Maeterlinck's favorite instance of such a soul-drama 
is Ibsen's The Master Builder. He might have added 
The Lady from the Sea, Hauptmann's Sunken Bell 
and Hannele, Strindberg's Dance of Death, and most 
of his own plays. He alludes to what he calls the 


somnambulistic character of The Master Builder and 
to the secondary dialogue, which runs a ghostly 
parallel to the ordinary exchange of words, and 
which gives an echo " extremely attenuated and 
variable " of what passes in the depths of conscious- 
ness. " Side by side with the necessary dialogue 
will you almost always find another dialogue that 
seems superfluous; but examine it carefully, and it 
will be borne home to you that this is the only one 
that the soul can listen to profoundly, for here alone 
is it the soul that is being addressed." This inter- 
est in the subconscious has remained a definite part 
of Maeterlinck's art and philosophy; it appears 
strongly in his essays as well as in his plays, and is 
responsible for books like Our Eternity and The 
Unknown Guest. 

This readily suggests what Maeterlinck regards as 
the third striking thing in the intellectual, moral, and 
artistic world of to-day: new cosmic beliefs and a 
new, tentative way of defining man's relation to the 
Universe. He himself marks the transition in sen- 
tences like the following. " Hilda and Solness are, I 
believe, the first characters in drama who feel, for 
an instant, that they are living in the atmosphere 
of the soul; and the discovery of this essential life 
that exists in them, beyond the life of every day, 
comes fraught with terror. ... A new, indescrib- 
able power dominates this somnambulistic drama. 
All that is said therein at once hides and reveals the 


sources of an unknown life." This unknown is in us 
and it is in all around us. Of this problem of the 
unknown the new drama will make full use; it will 
seek to trace the " intangible and unceasing striving 
of the soul towards its own beauty and truth," and 
it will seek to understand and exploit artistically the 
mystery of the Universe, the new mystery of the 
Universe. This new drama is still only an ideal, and 
Maeterlinck would be the first to disclaim for his 
plays and essays more than a slight approach to this 
new soul-attitude and world-view. Of this, however, 
he would feel sure, that in these new interests and 
developments lie the possibilities of a new art. 

This discussion of Maeterlinck's aesthetics of the 
drama has served its purpose: it has given certain 
clues as to what he considers the third and essential 
type of beauty. It is from here that any further 
analysis of Maeterlinck as an Artist and Thinker 
must start. 

Passing from Maeterlinck the decorative artist 
and poet of surface beauty to Maeterlinck the artistic 
and philosophical interpreter of meanings, the first 
striking thing is a sense of the fragmentary. This 
appears in a double sense, and seems to violate the 
fundamental principles of art and philosophy. The 
dramatist, especially, aims to give well-rounded 
characters and a circumscribed group of incidents; 
and within this circle he sets interest against interest. 


purpose against purpose, complication against com- 
plication. And even if he is quite modern and offers 
" a slice of life," cutting into character and incident 
at random, he still does not give the impression of the 
fragmentary nature of either. He may look down the 
road to heredity or trace the play of instinct. I may 
stand on a hill and watch a road narrow down to a 
ribbon and lose itself in the distance; if I do, I get 
the impression of endlessness or of a breaking off; 
and that is all I get from this type of drama; and 
not the sense of the fragmentary. The philosopher 
ordinarily loves completeness quite as much as the 
artist, and has his own world-circle in which every- 
thing is related and set in order. If he comes upon 
anything patchy or incomplete, anything in the way 
of odds and ends of experience, he puts it into his 
little playhouse of reason, and what were fragments 
become very methodical toys. But Maeterlinck 
I know of no one who leaves so vivid an impression 
of the fragmentariness of life, inner and outer. What 
we say and what we do is but a scrap of what we 
think and feel; and our thoughts and feelings give 
incompletely or not at all what passes in the depth 
of our souls. In The Princess Maleine and The Blind 
one might really include all his earlier plays 
there is a sort of echoing repetition of exclamations, 
words, phrases. It is easy to burlesque it; it often 
comes perilously near to turning the tragic into the 
ludicrous. But for all the evident lack of skill there 


is a reason for this echoing method. Maeterlinck 
wishes to suggest individuals who are struggling 
with their own great inner Unknown as well as with 
life; who somehow feel the meaninglessness or in- 
adequacy of words; who grope about in a confused 
and stumbling way for their own selves; the monot- 
ony is meant to mark their bewilderment. One feels 
throughout it all that not even omniscience would 
give to these souls rest and self-possession. For 
this larger meaning which they seek so obstinately 
and blindly what is it? Not even omniscience could 

Here lies the difference between a mystic like 
Maeterlinck and a philosopher like Hegel. Both 
use extensively the contrast between the lesser and 
the larger meaning; both are subtle interpreters of 
consciousness. Hegel insists that all things are 
interlaced, and that you cannot define anything 
except in terms of all its relations, but he gives you to 
understand that reality is an orderly and complete 
developing-system, and with him the stress is every- 
where on completion rather than on fragmentariness. 
Omniscience would not fail here. But with Maeter- 
linck all the emphasis is on the fragmentary character 
of experience and, one might add, on the fragmentary 
character of reality. Even his " faith in the idea of 
the universe " his belief that some day the universe 
will no longer be fitfully illumined by science, but will 
stand revealed in its beauty and reasonableness, is 


interpreted as an instinct. The emphasis in this 
outer mystery as well seems to be on the fragmentary. 

It would be a useless bit of generalizing to refer 
to this sense of the fragmentary and fail to indicate 
how differently it shows itself in the earlier and the 
later interpretations Maeterlinck gives of the universe 
and of consciousness. While this change was one of 
slow development, and not the outcome of a crisis 
in the Artist and the Thinker, it is none the less 
momentous. One cannot afford to overlook it. 

Here is Maeterlinck's earlier world-view. Speak- 
ing of his dramas from The Intruder to The Death 
of Tintagiles, he remarks: " One is aware here of 
vast, invisible powers of destiny whose purposes no 
one knows, but whom the spirit of the drama supposes 
to be malevolent, watchful of all our actions; the 
enemies of laughter, of life, of peace, of happiness. 
Here innocently hostile destinies are woven and 
unravelled, to the ruin of all under the saddened 
eyes of the wisest, who foresee the future, but cannot 
change in the least the cruel, inflexible game that 
Love and Death play among mortals." He then 
hints at a capricious Fatality; at a deep " night of 
nature " whence dart Death and other cruel forces 
to destroy the life and happiness of man. Of these 
forces Death seems the most destructive and capri- 
cious; it is blind, it pounces at random; too quick a 
movement will draw its leap. 

There is something naive about this use of the 


terrible and the terrifying; this notion that nature is 
a circle of darkness about human life, with nightly 
alarms and forays by destiny no one knowing at 
what point, in what strength, to what end. But it is 
really nothing but a dramatization of fear: an ill 
defined fear that knows not which way to turn. For, 
after all, this world of Maeterlinck's is theirs that live 
in it; it reflects their consciousness. And so the 
interpretation of the inner life links itself with the 
outer. These men and women of his early plays, 
whom Maeterlinck calls " slight, fragile beings, 
weeping, passively pensive," seem to be rousing 
themselves from a painful dream. With a confused 
and heavy sound their tears drop into the abyss of 
destiny. But the confusion and heaviness is in their 
souls ; there is hi them no strengthening and sharpen- 
ing of consciousness by purpose; no lightening by 
confidence; no clearing by self-criticism. They are 
exquisitely responsive, but to suggestions of one 
kind only; they fear, for themselves or others; a 
vague, nameless dread in forms acute or subtle invades 
their whole emotional life. They owe their flickering 
existence quite as much to their own inner weakness 
as to the gusts of Fate. 

This earlier world- view of Maeterlinck's might be 
symbolized in some such way as this. Imagine a 
funnel-shaped abyss in the middle of a wind-swept 
plateau. The depth seems limitless, and out of it 
there float aimlessly wraithlike forms bits of feel- 


ing, of purpose, thoughts, fragments of consciousness, 
which are shaken out and impelled upward by one 
knows not what longing or premonition. As they 
reach the rim and seem about to shape themselves to 
some sort of orderly life, a rush of air, sweeping 
across the plateau, bears down on them and scatters 
and tosses them to nothingness. The gust comes 
no one knows whence, and is the mere fragmentary 
presence of a power whose extent and whose destruc- 
tiveness no one can measure. This picture visualizes, 
I think, the intensive and extensive fragmentariness 
which marks so sharply Maeterlinck's interpretation 
of consciousness and of the universe. 

The later world-view is quite different, but shows 
the sense of the fragmentary just as strongly. The 
outer mystery, the universe, has been reinterpreted; 
it is no longer thought of as an abode of terror or 
a malevolent, clumsy force bursting in on human 
happiness. This change in Maeterlinck is generally 
attributed to the influence of evolutionism and Stoi- 
cism; and they have in fact had much to do with it. 
But a man does not change a world-attitude as he 
would a suit of clothes it is not so external a thing; 
and so I should be inclined to assign the larger share 
in this change, striking as it is, to something much 
more intimate and subtle the gradual ripening and 
mellowing and settling of Maeterlinck's artistic per- 
sonality. It is well to remember that evolutionism, 
as a philosophy and a faith, lends itself readily to 


either the gospel of hope or the gospel of despair. 
Not enough has been made of such personal drama- 
tizations of scientific and philosophical theories. 
The old dramatization of evolution is familiar: 
it is the " claw and talon " theory. We were asked 
to observe the cruelty and wastefulness of Nature, 
to watch her snuffing out lives or scattering pain 
throughout her realm. So strongly was the thing 
dramatized that one could almost hear the panting 
and the groans of the creatures caught in the deadly 
" struggle for existence " and the thud of those 
that were to be " eliminated." That old melodrama, 
reeking with blood and noisy with strife, has now 
gone out of fashion. Instead of it there is often a 
very suave, very confident evolutionism, which 
looks upon " elimination " as one would on discard- 
ing in a game of cards, and on nature as a system of 
" stepping stones/' nicely blocked out and leading 
to some sort of a palace of the future all light and 
no lines. The scientist smiles at both pictures; he 
is not given to personal reactions. What Maeter- 
linck the riper artist offers, is a dramatization of 
hope, as contrasted with his earlier dramatization of 
fear; and in it two ideas are constantly staged: 
that of a more and more rational universe and that 
of a progressive mastery of nature. Either will 
break the point of evil. But when I ask myself, 
What is the exact nature of this new universe of 
Maeterlinck's? I find in Wisdom and Destiny, The 


Leaf of Olive and other essays certain hints : such as 
its probable non-moral character; its creative fash- 
ioning of new situations and new laws; its orderli- 
ness; its surprises; and its complexity. But when 
I try to piece these hints together, with simile after 
simile, image after image, crowding in on me, I 
find it impossible to shape them to a well-outlined, 
well-built City of Light; just as I found it impossible, 
in Maeterlinck's earlier plays, to trace the complete 
Ineaments of a City of Darkness. Everywhere the 
stress is not on finality, but on the incomplete, the 
fragmentary. Here is Maeterlinck's way of drama- 
tizing this " background of light": 

" It seems as though we heard those movements: 
the sound of superhuman footsteps, an enormous 
door opening, a breath caressing us, or light com- 
ing; we do not know; but expectation at this pitch 
is an ardent and marvellous state of life, the fairest 
period of happiness, its youth, its childhood." 

This is a very effective companion picture to that 
of the sudden forays of a stealthily moving, malev- 
olent Fate. 

This later conception of the universe suggests in 
some ways a transformation scene in a spectacle, in 
which curtain after curtain is lifted, each filmier and 
more transparent, until, with the last bit of gauze 
withdrawn, the scene stands out sharply in all its 
details. But and this is an all-important difference 
one never feels in Maeterlinck that the last bit of 


gauze has been withdrawn or that there is a last bit 
of gauze or a sharp and final scene; one is conscious 
of an endless succession of luminous veils. 

But what of Maeterlinck's reinterpretation of 
consciousness, the inner mystery? And how does 
his sense of the fragmentary show itself in that? 
The later work reveals an increasing interest in con- 
sciousness and a growing disposition for which 
Stoicism must receive part credit of relating in- 
timately character and destiny, universe and attitude. 
Certain earlier notions persist: that of the abysmal 
nature of consciousness, that of the subconscious, 
that of instinct and premonition as things deeper 
than reason or purpose, that of slight, expressive 
gestures. But consciousness, instead of faltering and 
flickering in the darkness, radiates a strong, even light 
of confidence and happiness. Happiness is now the 
key-note. Maeterlinck is fond of the image of 
" inner treasure " crystallizing in the subterranean 
regions of the soul and brought to light now and then 
in a moment of exceptional strength, in an experience 
of exceptional nobility or beauty. This is a good 
companion picture to that of bits of consciousness 
floating upward in an abyss. Here as well as there, 
one gets the impression of intensive fragmentariness, 
for how much soul there is no one knows, and how 
much treasure there is no one knows; what we are 
aware of are bits of treasure flung up from depths not 
to be measured. 


Further pursuit of this tenuous Artist and some- 
what shadowy Thinker would yield, among much 
that was new, many additional instances of his 
sense of decorative beauty, of his atmospheric method, 
of his irradiating imagination and of his sense of the 

NOTE: In quoting from Maeterlinck I have made use of the 
translations of Sutro, Teixeira de Mattos, and Coleman, and wish 
to acknowledge such use. 


So your fugue broadens and thickens 
Greatens and deepens and lengthens, 
Till we exclaim " But where's music, 
the dickens? " 


Once more he stept into the street 

And to his lips again 
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight 


And ere he blew three notes (such sweet 
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning 
Never gave the enraptured ear) 

IT is for the expert in music to give a study of 
Wagner the composer, the artist; for he alone is 
competent to sketch the history of music and to dis- 
cuss Wagner's innovations in harmonics, characteriza- 
tion, and structure; to him alone can we look for a 
comparative study of scores and a subtle apprecia- 
tion of musical resources. The time has come for 
such a study; Wagnerian music has emerged from 
periods of rabid abuse and blind idolatry, and readily 
submits to, in fact calls for, a critical estimate. 


Meanwhile there is for one who is not a musical 
expert a problem of great interest: the study of 
Wagner the essayist and reflective artist. Beyond a 
doubt Wagner takes himself very seriously as a 
Thinker, and seeks to develop and justify his artistic 
ideals in a series of essays; some of which are brief, 
like those on Beethoven, on acting and on the theatre, 
on opera, on composing, on the artist and the public, 
others long and constructive, like The Work of Art 
of the Future, Opera and Drama, Art and Religion 
and Art and Revolution. None of them is easy or 
attractive reading; they are top-heavy and lack the 
charming allusiveness of Rodin and the sparkle and 
fire of Nietzsche. Add to a sober and clumsy man- 
ner of thinking an enthusiasm that is not well mixed, 
and the result is at once heavy and yeasty. But for 
all that they are of value in helping disclose Wagner's 
development, and in showing how certain beliefs and 
dissatisfactions shaped themselves to an ideal of a 
true art and a music of the future. 

Wagner, like Rodin, for many years stood alone. 
A man so original and revolutionary in his views and 
his technique and of so hungry an individualism 
in thought and feeling would naturally draw criticism 
or expose himself to neglect. Matters would hardly 
be mended by his often tactless utterances and his 
tenacity in clinging to his ideal. For it was an 
ideal, an earnest desire to show the way to something 
better, and not presumption, that led to Wagner's 


attacks on Italian and French opera, and on musical 
and theatrical conditions in Germany. This is the 
high-pitched message of such early essays as Art and 
Revolution and The Work of Art of the Future; and 
there is always the shadowing and disheartening 
thought that things could not be worse. The 
refrain is throughout the same : there is no national 
theatre; the state does nothing for art; there are 
no suitable conservatories and training schools for 
singers; the public is indifferent and flocks stupidly 
to artificial and ill rendered operas and ballets; music 
and poetry are feeble to the point of painfulness. 
While there is in all this more than a hint of Schiller, 
there is also a great deal of bitter first-hand experience 
with the state, the stage, and the art criticism of the 
day; an experience made all the more bitter because 
Wagner was a man of ideals and large ambitions. 
In 1851 in the preface to Opera and Drama he deplores 
the artistic conditions he sees everywhere; and in the 
preface to the second edition, written in 1868, he 
protests in a mood of discouragement against the 
stubborn and senseless way in which the public 
misinterpreted his theories and music alike. And 
yet in those seventeen years he had composed Tristan 
und Isolde and Die Meister singer, two of his greatest 
operas, and had written the text and much of the 
music of Der Ring des Nibelungen. 

For the bitter side of these controversies one must 
turn to the newspapers and the pamphlets of the time. 


The lighter side appears in cartoons and caricatures, 
many of which have been gathered by Kreowski and 
Fuchs in their Richard Wagner in der Karikatur. It is 
not a brilliant lot, but it shows plainly what the more 
unresponsive of his contemporaries attacked in 
Wagner: his use of dissonance; his noisiness; his 
musical innovations; his claim of being a poet and a 
prophet of musical and theatrical reform. Wagner 
is shown mounted, as the commander-in-chief of 
the German army, ready to put the French to flight 
with his music. Or in an orchestral scene dragons 
and long snakelike wisps of notes are escaping from 
the instruments. An Austrian cartoon pictures 
Wagner on his arrival in Heaven listening with a 
pained expression to the harp-music of the angels 
and calling for cymbals and trumpets. In 1869 
there appeared in L'Edipse a cartoon by Gill, which 
shows a huge ear within whose frame stands Wagner, 
a puny figure with a large head, hammering away at 
a long pin whose point is set against the ear drum. 
Quite as good is one by Dore. It gives a scene in 
the theatre after a Wagnerian opera has blared and 
blasted and blown its way across the orchestra to the 
balcony and the boxes, which are strewn with forms 
prostrate or bent this way and that like corn-stalks 
after a hurricane. To the other group belongs an 
1860 sketch by Cham in which the advocate of a 
music of the future is leading an orchestra of future 
musicians chubby-faced babies struggling with im- 


mense horn instruments. An 1876 cartoon represents 
Wagner in the haughtiest of attitudes, accepting the 
homage of ^Eschylus and Shakespeare. 1876 was 
the year of the formal opening of the Festspielhaus 
at Bayreuth, and Wagner, then in his sixty-fourth 
year, with much fine work to his credit and with 
the patronage of the King of Bavaria to back him, 
could afford to leave the satire of the cartoonist 
unnoticed, and to treat all adverse criticism with the 
self-assurance of a man who has worked out an 
artistic ideal and is watching its realization. He 
could enjoy success hard won, for even in the seventies 
difficulties arose which would have wrecked Wag- 
ner's project of an ideal theatre for the perfect 
blend of music and poetry, had it not been for his 
enterprise in taking hold, giving concerts, issuing 
shares. But these unpleasant experiences are not 
to be compared with the struggles and bitter disap- 
pointments of the forties and fifties. After the first 
failure of Tannhauser at Dresden in 1845 Wagner 
wrote: " A feeling of complete isolation took posses- 
sion of me. It was not my vanity; I had fooled 
myself with my eyes open, and now I was quite 
stunned. I had only one thought: to bring the 
public to understand and to share my views, and to 
accomplish its artistic education." 

There is then a background of personal experience, 
and there is the stress and strain of a visionary but 
strongly espoused ideal. Without them Wagner's 


artistic personality becomes unintelligible; and it is 
they that explain his social criticism, his advocacy 
of an art of the future, and his theory of the music 

As a social critic Wagner is not a mere fault-finder. 
He has reason to complain of his critics and his pub- 
lic for, to mention only one grievance, he had been 
compelled to save Tannhauser from becoming a 
mere frame for ballets and divertissements. Again 
and again he had been irritated by the fickle or 
dull-witted theatre-goer. But his social criticism 
goes deeper: it touches the culture of his time, 
tests it and finds it distinctly unfavorable to gen- 
uinely great art; unfavorable because of its preten- 
tiousness and exclusiveness; its crass materialism; 
its hide-bound worship of the conventional. Lux- 
ury and exclusiveness, by breaking down race con- 
sciousness, by undermining character and destroy- 
ing freedom and the sense of human dignity, bring 
affectation, disillusionment, weariness, indifference 
to beauty and what but an unideal and very 
feeble art could thrive in soil such as this? The 
taint of the academic lies on Wagner's contrast of 
the luxury and weak slavishness of imperial Rome 
with the poise, the freedom, and the art splendor of 
Athens; but many of his allusions to the showy 
exterior and inner bareness of the culture of his day 
and its shortsighted and commercialized aims bear 


the stamp of knowledge at first hand. Worship of 
custom and convention he considers no less destruc- 
tive a force; it is one of the worst forms of tyranny 
and results in an unoriginal, dead or mannered art. 

Of all these things Wagner gives many instances. 
Modern architecture, ruled by utility instead of 
beauty and a shallow utility at that turns the 
Exchange into a temple; it is mechanical and fond 
to excess of ornament. Modern sculpture is simply 
decorative of rich men's houses, and even at its 
best lacks the life and the direct spirit of Greek 
sculpture, which it imitates. Modern painting has 
had to turn to landscape because the human drama 
no longer offered opportunities in beauty and sig- 
nificance a strange thought of Wagner's. Modern 
music has become artificial and vulgarized ; Beethoven 
has been displaced by Rossini, he of the catchy airs 
and mercenary point of view, and by Meyerbeer, 
the blatant, the theatrical, the commonplace. Why, 
asks Wagner in his characteristic vein, are we forced 
to speak well only of the dead? 

Such is Wagner's social criticism. Like Tolstoy's 
and Nietzsche's, it is much more truly an expression 
of personal needs than it is a large and sound in- 
terpretation of cultural tendencies. Culture, after 
all, is a very complex affair, and we have grown 
rather distrustful of marking and damning an age 
by a single adjective or a group of adjectives. But 
this much can be said; to a self-assertive man in 


need of elbow room and such was Wagner and a 
picturesque background, and to a man who, like Wag- 
ner or Nietzsche, had a dramatic, not to say theatri- 
cal idea of greatness, the third quarter of the last 
century would seem the dreariest and most prosy 
age in all history. There is this personal note in 
Wagner's attacks, but that is a matter of origin. 
Of far greater interest is the incentive; the ideal 
of a truer culture and a better art, which is caught 
at the rebound, and which in its detail parallels 
closely Wagner's social criticisms. 

An ideal art is impossible without an ideal culture 
this thought serves to interlock the three demands 
Wagner makes on culture and on art. Life must 
be free and natural; it must be rich, strong, and 
beautiful; and from this rich soil of life there must 
spring an art which is popular in the sense of being 
deeply rooted in the racial consciousness of man; 
which is individual and free; which is the complete 
and harmonious summing up of man's artistic 
nature. These are the keys to the theory of an art 
of the future, and of the music drama as the charac- 
teristic form of that art. 

^ \ True art is racial art; art expressive of the life of 
the people. Whenever one class arrogates to itself 
the right to art, it gives an artificial and man- 
nered art. Wagner has in mind the troubadour 


poetry of France, and Italian opera of courtly origin 
and courtlier caprice. The one loses itself in fan- 
tastic conceits; the other changes folk-song and 
melody to the pyrotechnics of the aria. True art 
has its roots deep down in the racial and national * 
life of a people; uproot it and it withers. It is in 
the religious and social consciousness that this 
Volks-geist, this spirit of the people, shows itself, 
and there it works with the unconsciousness and 
sureness of an elemental force. Mythology is a 
perfect treasure-house of poetry. Folk-song and folk- 
music are the pulsings of a rich racial life. Wagner 
never wearies of pointing to the mass of legend, 
myth, and racial life which marks the Iliad and the 
Odyssey and gives freshness and force to what other- 
wise would have been a mere picture of a courtly 
life; he shows Greek religion to have been the source 
of inspiration for Greek tragedy. Not that he wishes 
art to be popular in the ordinary sense; few men 
have cared less for the approval of the mob than he. 
But why blame the rabble for not understanding 
a work of art? Blame rather the culture that pro- 
duces the rabble: the base, ugliness-stricken culture 
of the day and its trivial art. With a reawakening 
of the Volks-geist and an artistic regeneration in view 
Wagner turns to Norse mythology for his material * 
and introduces into opera the genuine folk-song 
and its rhythmic animation. But this ideal of his 
was a gradual growth, for the inspiration of much 


of his earlier work was indirect and artificial. Die 
Feen attaches itself to Gozzi; Das Liebesverbot 
to Shakespeare's Measure for Measure; Rienzi 
to Bulwer-Lytton's novel. Here as well as in Tann- 
hduser and Lohengrin much is artificial and popular 
in a bad sense, for processions and theatrical tricks 
abound, and the music itself according to Wagner's 
later estimate has more than a touch of Italian and 
French corruption. There is no artifice in Tristan 
und Isolde; the action there is almost bare in its 
simplicity and directness; picturesqueness and vari- 
ety of incident yield to intensity. Der Ring des 
Nibelungen owes much to the Edda. It is a drama 
of gods and demi-gods, and of a vanishing world 
order, and as such is paralleled by tales of Kronos and 
Zeus, and by the ^Eschylean tragedy with its rift of 
fate, its dark disclosure of an older and cruder type of 
gods, and its message of a new and deeper wisdom. 
It is not only in plot and character that Wagner 
seeks to lay bare the racial root of consciousness; 
in every one of his operas and music dramas he draws 
on folk-song and folk-music. The spinning song in 
Der Fliegende Hollander; the mermaid song in Das 
Rheingold; the songs of the sea in Tristan und Isolde; 
the song of the forge in Siegfried; and the Valkyrie 
battle-cry in Die Walkiire one and all, are as far 
as could be from the ornamental and artificial, and 
from the musically corrupt. They rouse an earlier, 
slumbering consciousness, and fitful echoes of the lure 


of the sea, of battle-lust, of the joy of work, of intense 
living, and of confused wondering. The half-absence 
of self -consciousness in Siegfried, to which Wagner 
refers in a letter to Roeckel, and the lack of clear 
self-knowledge on the part of Parsifal, are in line 
with Wagner's belief that this earlier consciousness 
is one of feeling, and that it must be recovered by 
intuition. In this sense art is the great recoverer 
of a submerged life. 

It is curious that artists like Wagner, Rodin, 
Tolstoy, and Maeterlinck, so dissimilar in aims and 
equipment, should all in this one respect think and 
feel alike. For Tolstoy as for Wagner art cuts 
beneath the reflective consciousness and liberates 
something more direct and vital social and religious 
feelings; and yet when it comes to interpreting these 
feelings the whole span of a Weltanschauung separates 
the robust optimism and one-syllable Christianity 
of Tolstoy from the pessimism and mysticism of the 
composer of Goiter dammerung and Parsifal. For 
Rodin also art is the recoverer of an earlier inner life, 
a life of great dynamic force, of muscular effort, of 
lust, of passion, of self-torment, of the sting of excite- 
ment, of the glory of change. For Maeterlinck it is 
not the recovery of unrest, but the recovery of calm, 
that art gives. The artist gets back of words, masks 
and artifices, and uncovers a realm of expressive 
silence, of spiritual beauty, quiet and self-possessed. 
It is a curious fact also that under the pressure of 


this view of art Rodin was forced to violate certain 
rules of academic sculpture, Wagner was led to aban- 
don the traditional form of the opera and to insist 
* on the music drama as the intimate fusion of poetry 
and music, and Maeterlinck, quite as eager for a 
stronger and larger expressiveness, set about con- 
structing the drame intime, the drama of volatile 
experiences, of pauses and silences, of premonitions 
and glimpses of the inner life. 

- True art must be individual and free. This is 
Wagner's second demand. In modern life custom 
stifles the growth of individuality; the natural is 
voted crude or immoral; artifice takes the place of 
natural strength. The artist of the future feels this 
and turns to the old myths and legends, for there the 
racial consciousness is still creative. Character has 
heroic grandeur and sharp contours, and life is still 
strong and hot to the taste. 

Nothing brings one closer to Wagner than this 
emphasis on individuality and freedom. The forces 
in play are many; the personal motives at work, 
highly complex. A hostile or stupidly appreciative 
lot of critics, an ununderstanding public, domestic 
unhappiness, and dislike for the sordid business of 
making a living must be counted in; and to all this 
must be added the pressure of a creative impulse, 
the need of the monumental and largely proportioned, 
and a true kingliness mixed with not a little alloy. 


The man's letters reveal much of this. Passage 
after passage strikes the note of unhappiness, loneli- 
ness, rebellion, contempt until in a letter to Frau 
Wille in 1864 there is a bitter tirade against phil- 
istinism and its " ghastly shrewdness " and " ridicu- 
lous bluntness in the valuation of the things of life." 
How can it comprehend the artist, the " deeper 
spirit " ? A letter written to Otto Wesendonck in 
1859 shows clearly a restive and weary mood, but 
shows quite as clearly Wagner's self-assurance and 
the imperative impulse to create. 

" Perhaps silence would have been better. Yet 
this is the only language in which I can convey to 
human understanding what certainly is often not 
understood when I simply express my longing for 
the end. All that I suffer, I bear through nothing 
but the power of the wish to have peace and security 
about me in this world of robbers, to be able for- 
getting all my misery to set to work again! Believe 
me, I no longer have a wish save this. Of late I have 
again come to the lively conviction that I can re- 
nounce even the performance of Tristan, and every- 
thing, only to know that I may work on undisturbed ! 
Now I am bracing myself, to get air again for my last 
''act of Siegfried: breathe I but that once more, then 
nothing else matters to me. For this I see: I am 
entirely what I am, only when I am creating. The 
actual performance of my works belongs to a more 
settled time, to a time which I must first prepare 
for by my sufferings! 

" My most congenial art-friends have nothing 


beyond astonishment for my new works; every one 
who stands at all near to our public art-life feels too 
feeble for hope. There I meet nothing save pity 
and sadness! And they really are right! Nothing 
teaches me better, how terribly I have overleapt all 
around me, than a good, sharp look down from 
myself on those who stand between me and just that 

" So let me work myself completely out; oh, had 
I nothing, nothing else to do upon this earth! Rest! 
Rest! that the inner torch may burn soft and bright, 
which flickers so wildly under the breath of this life 
of want, and soon must be extinct. Let me but 
create the works I there was given, in peaceful, 
glorious Switzerland, there with my gaze upon the 
lofty, gold- wreathed mountains: they are wonder- 
works, and nowhere else could I have conceived 
them. Let me finish them : then am I done with and 
redeemed! But ask nothing, nothing else from me, 
and don't rejoice when ' successes ' beckon me: 
their price is fearful." 

These personal matters help explain what would 
otherwise be puzzling: Wagner's theory of the two 
forces that work themselves out in this free, natural 
life and in all true art. He calls them Lebensbediirf- 
niss and Liebesbedilrfniss. The first is the life- 
impulse itself, which causes a plant to suck nourish- 
ment from the soil; the animal to grow at the expense 
of its environment; and man to assert his will ruth- 
lessly by using and absorbing everything that is 
needful to his own full growth. There is a hint of 


Schiller's Stoftrieb in all this, and a foreshadowing 
of Schopenhauer's will to live. Liebesbedurfniss means 
yearning for love, for sympathy, for self-sacrifice. 
In 1851 Wagner interpreted Lohengrin as the type 
of this force. What draws Lohengrin to earth is the 
need of being loved, of being understood, of finding 
himself in the utter faith and self-sacrifice of a woman. 
Wagner had the courage to see in this situation the 
universal tragedy of modern life: the yearning of the 
inspired artist for the human heart and the shatter- 
ing of a possible happiness because of lack of utter 
faith. In Siegfried he sees the embodiment of the 

" I had in the concentrated image of Siegfried 
reached the point of seeing before me man in the 
most natural and most joyous fulness of his sensu- 
ously animated being. No historical dress hampered 
him; no relation from without in any way blocked 
the movement of his being. This movement, com- 
ing from the innermost source of his joy of life, is 
such that with error and confusion, due to the wildest 
play of passion, accumulating to his destruction, the 
hero never for a moment even with death threatening 
finds the flow of this inner source checked and 
never for a moment recognizes any other authority 
over himself than just the necessary outflowing of 
this restless, seething well of life." 

This is the glorious " yea-saying to life " that caught 
Nietzsche's heart; but its relation to Wagner's inner 
development as an Artist and Thinker is far from 


simple. It is clear that in Siegfried's character 
an idealistic turn is given to the life-impulse. The 
world is still a mere setting, but a setting, not for the 
devouring rage of a beast of prey, but for the vigor- 
ous self-assertion of a richly gifted nature, an un- 
daunted will and a clear intelligence. The first 
conception of young Siegfried reflects a mood of 
optimism, and was, according to Wagner's own testi- 
mony, meant for a picture of the heroic soul in its 
victorious rush and happiness. 

As such it is a reaction from the religious asceti- 
cism and pessimism of Tannhauser and Lohengrin. 
There Christian motifs such as faith, salvation 
through renunciation of carnal desire, and other- 
worldliness are easily traced. The jump, in 1848, 
from this nay-saying to Siegfried's pagan yea-say- 
ing is so startling that we may not be willing to 
accept Wagner's explanation, offered in 1851, that 
Tannhauser is an arraignment not of the sensuous 
joy of life, but of present cultural conditions, which 
make all but a distorted and perverted joy of life 
impossible. Still we can trace definitely, side by 
side with the gospel of asceticism, the demand for 
a certain robustness and sensuous massiveness of 
life; a demand voiced by Siegfried and Lohengrin 
alike two men unlike except in strong individuality 
and dignity. This notion of dignity gives the clue 
to Wagner's short, vitriolic essay, Art and Revolu- 
tion, written in 1849, which is a bitter attack on 


Christianity and its doctrines of humility and other- 
worldliness. They are held responsible alike for the 
weak and slave-like culture of the masses and for the 
hypocrisy and aggressive greed of all exploiters of 
the masses; they are held to take away from life 
strength, dignity, beauty and freedom: all the 
essentials, in fact, of a liberal culture and an art of 

Back of this attack is an ideal, that of a re-shaping 
of culture, of a righting of man's wrongs. This may 
or may not mean a moral and political revolution, 
but it means at least that human life must be allowed 
to develop freely to its full stature and full happi- 
ness. Renunciation dwarfs life; convention stifles 
it; weakness and neglect of its full pith despoils man 
of his happiness. There is a curious doubleness in 
this ideal: There are two demands, one of which 
concerns social happiness, the other a social regen- 
eration in terms of nobility, strength, and dignity. 
For the young revolutionary on the eve of 1848 
the two seemed one, but they were soon driven far 
apart in his thought. Success and other happiness 
values do not measure the worth of a strong and 
dignified self-assertion which is victorious even in 
defeat. In this sense Wagner's own devotion to 
an artistic ideal, in spite of discouragement, is an 
expression of an idealized type of the life-impulse. 
He had to create, had often to work feverishly at 
the cost of exquisite pain, but pleasure of creating, 


intense as it was with him, could hardly account 
for the drive and volume of his artistic self-expres- 
sion. If success and the solid achievements of hap- 
piness measure a man, Siegfried is defeated. But 
the measure is false, for out of the wreckage of his 
life there rises a strong and triumphant personality; 
an individual who is ever himself; who is nature, 
instinct, joy of life; who opposes nature to human 
law and convention. 

* Wagner in 1864 says of his Ring der Nibelungen: 
" With this conception I had unconsciously gained 
the truth concerning things human. Here every- 
thing is tragic through and through, and the will that 
meant to fashion a world in harmony with its wish 
could in the end gain nothing more satisfying than to 
break itself in a downfall nobly borne." Originally 
the dramatic idea of the trilogy was quite another one, 
turning on such conventional ideas as the destructive- 
ness of gold, the death-wages of hypocrisy and broken 
faith, the shattering of a morally inferior world by 
a better one. All this stood out baldly in the clos- 
ing words of Gotterdammemng. These words Wagner 
struck out; they were replaced by such as seem of 
the very tincture of Schopenhauer's pessimism 
and of its doctrine of a world of illusion and rest- 
less desire to be negated in a spirit of Entsagung, 
resignation. Briinnhilde passes from the scene, 
wunsch- und wahnlos. In a letter to Roeckel, Wag- 
ner explains that as a poet and a composer he had 


intuitively anticipated Schopenhauer's theories, that 
Der Fliegende Hollander, Lohengrin and Tannhauser 
were tragedies of Entsagung, and that in not seeing 
this he had simply misread his artistic intentions. 
A statement like this must be taken cautiously; 
it is impossible to slur the change from an earlier 
revolutionary optimism to pessimism; impossible also 
not to connect this change with the conscious, strong 
influence of Schopenhauer. In 1854 Wagner became* 
acquainted with Schopenhauer's philosophy; from 
the very first he admired it intensely, and it has left 
its mark on all his later work. I do not count my- 
self among those who see in Wagner's pessimism a 
natural tendency, forced into the open by this con- 
tact with Schopenhauer. While much depends, 
of course, on what is meant by pessimism, there is 
in Wagner an assertive note of robust and confident 
power, of strife, of feverish creativeness, which seems 
the very opposite of pessimism. Fits of depression 
there were in his life: moments when he felt that he 
was waging a losing fight against stupidity and malice ; 
but there is all the difference in the world between 
this idea of a will hampered and blocked in its pur- 
poses and the idea of the illogical, suicidal nature 
of the will. Never did Wagner look upon himself 
as the dupe of an irrational cosmic force driving 
him headlong; never did he doubt himself or his 
artistic ideals; firm self-assurance marks his letters, 
his autobiography, and his essays. Self-assurance 


Schopenhauer also had in abundance; and he de- 
spatched academic philosophy as quickly as Wagner 
did Italian opera. But Schopenhauer lacked utterly 
the artistic need and joy of creation from which 
Wagner's self-assurance sprang. To the drive and 
push of this Lebensbediirfniss Wagner gives himself 

This leads directly back to Wagner's double 
interpretation of the power to live, of will. On 
the one hand he emphasizes its strength and its rest- 
less activity; on the other its grandeur and nobility; 
dwelling, however, on the latter much more strongly 
both as a man and as an artist. His is an idealizing 
reading of the will, for what interests him is not the 
shattering of the individual so much as greatness 
of soul in the presence of disaster, calm strength or 
an ecstatic self-drowning of the will. That is the 
way his artistic genius reacts to the philosophy of 
Schopenhauer. Few problems are more interest- 
ing than this more or less unconscious reshaping of a 
philosopher's world-view by an artist in response to 
the demands of an imperious temperament. Even 
where Wagner seems closest to Schopenhauer, in 
Tristan und Isolde or in Parsifal, he is still distant 
by just that much. A Tristan und Isolde by Schopen- 
hauer! what would it have been? One may well 
imagine it. His cynical remarks on women are 
familiar enough: so is his unflattering interpreta- 
tion of love. Nature intent on the race rather than 


the individual works her will by that loveliest and 
deadliest of baits: woman. Schopenhauer would 
have shown us a Tristan and an Isolde stung by 
unquenchable desire, driven about blindly by the 
mad fury of love only to be swept away, like all 
nature's fools, with the will shaken out of them. 
Resignation to him is the essential thing in tragedy; 
the tragic hero takes leave of us with " the will to 
live quite dead " in him. It might be going too far 
to accuse Schopenhauer of glorifying limpness; he 
has his ideal of salvation through art and through a 
religion of sympathy, but on the whole his emphasis 
is dangerously the other way. The world is a mad- 
house and a slaughter-house; in it are staged the 
insane antics of will. This cosmic indictment quite 
overshadows the idea of salvation and gives his 
philosophy a turn toward the negative. 

But what about Wagner! The contrast between 
night and day which recurs again and again in 
Tristan und Isolde seems a genuine bit of Schopen- 
hauer. Night is apostrophized as the eternal; the 
all-soothing; destroyer of the false, garish lights of 
day and of the illusions of life glory, gain, individu- 
ality. And these words 


bin ich die Welt, 
liebe-heiligstes Leben, 
wonne-hehrstes Weben 


hold bewusster Wunsch, 

seem an echo of the Nirvana, and its destruction of 
will and individuality. But the whole drama reflects 
an interpretation and a play of motives quite Wagner's 
own and in many ways quite remote from Schopen- 
hauer's point of view. Schopenhauer had inter- 
preted sexual love as one of the strongest expressions 
of will, one of the master forces that keep the earth 
spinning about in restless torment; and had held 
salvation to be possible only by its destruction. To 
all this Wagner objected from the very first; and 
that he should have objected to this ascetic ideal is 
not at all surprising, for as a man and an artist he 
was erotic. It is curious to see how in his essays 
his prose in its yeasty ferment again and again turns 
into erotic imagery. A robust sexuality marks his 
poetic creations; of this no drama of his has more 
than Tristan und Isolde, which is Wagner's apotheosis 
of sexual love. The whole spirit of the play music 
as well as words is passionate ecstasy and passionate 
yearning. There are changes in this sea of feeling: 
it is surging or choppy or smooth with the smoothness 
of long, undulating swells. The passion of love, 
which to Schopenhauer was the chief obstacle in the 
way of the killing off of will and individuality, is to 
Wagner the very force that saves us from the slavery 
to will and individuality; the very force that makes 
both Tristan and Isolde long for the drowning of the 


Self in the Other. Death, night, Nirvana are merely 
the symbol of this merger of consciousness. This 
is a psychological interpretation of love, not a biolog- 
ical one, like Schopenhauer's; and, psychologically, 
passionate love is marked by unconsciousness of 
self, by the desire for complete self-absorption in the 
Other, by its consuming and fusing power. 

There is much more of Wagner than of Schopen- 
hauer in Tristan und Isolde; and it may serve as a 
striking illustration of the degree to which both 
Wagner's art and his theories were influenced by 
peculiarities of artistic genius and personality. 
The same subjective influences shape his ideal of 
an art of the future and the demands he makes on 
that art. 

Genuine art, then, must be natural, racially 
grounded, individual, and free. But Wagner's third 
demands tops these in importance. True art must 
be a compact and complete expression of the artistic 

" The artistic man can find complete satisfaction 
only in the union of all art forms in a common work 
of art; he is in every isolation of his artistic powers 
not free, not completely what he might be. In this 
common work of art he is free and what he might be. 
The true aim of art is the all-inclusive. Every one 
who is truly art-inspired develops his peculiar en- 
dowment to its highest point, not in order to glorify 


this special endowment, but to glorify man through 
art as such." Of such artistic wholeness Wagner 
had before him the example of Goethe; and men like 
Herder and Schiller had sketched in the picture of a 
culture from which a wholehearted and complete art 
was to spring. Suffering sharply from this back- 
ground of idealism at its best, romanticism with 
its onesidedness, opportunism, political and cultural 
littleness, looseness, and dulness would be caught in 
Wagner's criticism. 

Wagner takes stock of his time and finds the con- 
ditions distinctly unfavorable. Art, originally one, 
expressing itself in three interpenetrating art forms, 
music, poetry, and the dance, has been torn asunder, 
piecemeal, by modern life. Each and every art 
claims independence and gains helplessness. The 
drama has lost by the abolition of the Greek chorus. 
Music cut adrift from words and vocal expression 
has too often become a filmy, nebulous thing. What- 
ever attempts have been made to recombine the 
several arts have proved failures. What else was 
to be expected from putting them all in the same 
pot and giving them a good shaking? The very 
worst of such attempts is modern opera on Italian 
and French lines. There character has nothing to 
do with the words, and the words nothing with the 
music. The ballet is a divertissement interpolated 
anywhere and artificial to the core. Processions are 
meant to catch the eye; scenery, sentimentality or 


barbaric splendor, music that is sweetish, catchy, 
full of artifice: these are meant to complete the 
fascination. The aria becomes the trick-box of 
the sleight-of-hand singer. Libretto and score are 
slammed together. The composer could not breathe 
life into the mannikins of the librettist; he had to 
stretch words till they would stretch no farther, and 
then had to cut loose from his text altogether and 
seek compensation in the curlycues of the aria and 
in daubings of tone color or in historical haberdashery 
and in the full choric accompaniment to the aria. 
The sounding unison of the chorus, as it is to be 
found in Meyerbeer, is to Wagner simply the decora- 
tive stage ensemble turned into many-voiced noise. 
The hunt for exotic subjects, folk-melodies and 
dances is curiosity turned wild. There is in these 
Oriental operas no understanding of Oriental life. 
It is all a matter of curio-hunting and padding. 
These devices of the librettist are aimed at the 
public; the composer in turn does the best he can 
with a monotonous and often ridiculous libretto and 
seeks to get a little variety and characterization on 
the side. As a result music and text fall apart. 
The music either embroiders the text with pattern 
after pattern or makes away with it altogether. 
Wagner cites an instance of such embroidery. It is 
one of the artifices of opera to take a verse, have it 
sung with the stress on one word, then have it sung 
with the stress on another until it all becomes a 


silly, meaningless repetition. It is another artifice 
to stretch words and music to conceal an inner 
poverty of score and libretto. 

In all these criticisms there appears a sincere 
interest in a very important esthetic principle, that 
of organic structure. It would be instructive to 
test the more recent French and Italian opera from 
this point of view. Operas like Cavalleria Rusticana 
and Le Jongleur de Notre Dame are close-knit in 
structure and appeal. They show an advance in 
musical characterization quite as clearly as does 
the radically different music of Strauss. Debussy 
has developed an atmospheric and emotionally 
fluid music which contrasts strongly with the sharply 
jointed and melody-spiced music of classical opera. 
In many recent operas, however, the curse of the 
exotic is still as strong as it was in The Magic Flute. 
There is something childish about Puccini's super- 
ficial exploitation of the West and of Japan in The 
Girl of the Golden West and Madame Butterfly. The 
music is compelling in spots, but as a whole such 
operas contrast unfavorably with the naturalness 
and basic strength of the Wagnerian music 

Wagner's theory of the music drama as the perfect 
expression of an art of the future shapes itself rapidly 
on the basis of these two constructive demands: 
of organic unity; of completeness and breadth of 
artistic inspiration. 


" The highest common work of art is the drama; 
it can exist in its fulness only when there is contained 
in it each single art in its fulness. 

" The true drama is possible only as emerging 
from the common expressive impulse of all the arts 
directed toward a common publicity. Each single 
art form can unfold itself to a complete understand- 
ing only by combining with the others in the drama, 
for the aim of each single art form can be gained 
completely only by means of the sympathetic and 
enlightening cooperation of them all in the drama." 

In the music drama poetry, music and the dance 
will all have their place. Painting appears as 
scene-painting; architecture is assigned the task 
of building an ideal theatre, which is to be the per- 
fect expression of the beauty and dignity of art. 
Wagner continues: 

" In the all inclusive work of art of the future not 
a single, richly developed capacity of the several 
arts remains unused. In it they all come to their 
own. The tonal art developed so characteristically 
and variously in instrumental music can be pushed 
to its utmost bent. It in turn will stimulate the art 
of dramatic dancing to new inventions and distend 
to unforeseen fulness the spirit of poetry. In its 
isolation music has fashioned for itself an organ 
capable of unlimited expression: the orchestra. 
The tonal language of Beethoven, brought into the 
drama by the orchestra, is quite a new thing in it. 
Architecture and scenic landscape painting place the 
dramatic artist and his presentation in a physical 


setting, and furnish a rich, self-renewing, and signifi- 
cant background. But the orchestra, that living 
body of infinitely manifold harmony, furnishes to 
the individual artist a substratum of the natural 
in its artistic and human nature. The orchestra 
is, so 'to speak, the ground of infinite, all embracing 
feeling, from which the individual feeling of the singer 
can grow to its full stature; it dissolves the rigid, 
immovable substance of the actual scene into a 
liquid, soft, yielding, impressionable, ethereal some- 
thing whose limitless ground is feeling itself." 

" Thus joining in a rhythmic procession, the allied 
arts show themselves, now singly, now in pairs, as 
the dramatic action requires it. At one time the 
plastic art of the mime hearkens to the passionless 
reflection of thought; at another, the impulse of 
determined thought pours itself into the immediate 
expressiveness of gesture; at another, music alone 
can express the flow of feeling or the seizure by 
emotion; then again all three of the arts, linked 
together, will visualize and actualize the idea of the 

Back of passages like these there is a very definite 
theory of the function of poetry and music and 
the relation between poet and composer. Accord- 
ing to Wagner, music and poetry alike address them- 
selves to feeling. The poet does it by means of 
language. But language is the joint product of 
intellect and feeling; by means of it man has been 
able to fix his ideas and to pass his experiences on 
to his fellows. In becoming articulate it has become 
crystallized, blocked out into so many sharply sun- 


dered ideas; in its further development it has become 
more abstract, more nearly the servant of the in- 
tellect; and it has become brittle and colorless. The 
poet must restore its early fluidity and emotional 
power; he must break up these intellectual blocks 
and again make of language an emotional continuum 
full of contrasts melting into one another. This 
is not an easy thing for the poet to do, with the 
limited resources at his disposal. Wagner suggests 
various devices, such as choice of concrete, full- 
blooded words; rhyme; rhythmic accentuation; 
dispensing with connectives; alliteration. He him- 
self makes use of the old German Stabreim, and 
its alliterative pairing of words. In the phrase 
Wohl und Weh, weal and woe, the illustration is 
Wagner's, the alliteration combines to the unity 
almost of a compound two words separated by 
the whole span of the feeling horizon. Every one 
of Wagner's music dramas yields many examples 
of all of these devices, but the richest of all is Tristan 
und Isolde. There you have the poetry of passion, 
of pure feeling; language has been stripped bare of 
its intellectual elements, of connectives and thought 
structure; the words chosen are so many thrills 
and beats of passion; so many rapid strokes leading 
to a shattering crescendo or to ecstatic reverbera- 
tions of feeling. Of this three examples: 
The first is from the second act: 


Isolde! Geliebte! 

Tristan! Geliebter! 


Bist du mein? 
Hab' ich dich wieder? 
Darf ich dich fassen? 
Kann ich mir trauen? 
Endlich! Endlich! 
An meiner Brust! 
Fiihl ich dich wirkHch? 
Bist du es selbst? 
Dies deine Augen? 
Dies dein Mund? 
Hier deine Hand? 
Hier dein Herz? 
Bin ich's? Bist du's? 
Halt ich dich fest? 
1st es kein Trug? 
1st es kein Traum? 
O Wonne der Seele! 
O siisse, hehrste, 
kiihnste, schonste, 
seligste Lust! 
Ohne Gleiche! 
Ueberreiche ! 
Ewig! Ewig! 



nie gekannte, 


hoch erhab'ne! 

Freude- Jauchzen ! 

Lust-En tziicken! 



Mein Tristan! 

Mein Isolde! 



Mein und dein! 

Immer ein! 

Ewig, ewig ein! 

The second is from the same act: 

Nun banne das Verlangen, 

holder Tod, 

sehnend verlangter 


In deinen Armen, 

dir geweiht, 

ur-heilig Erwarmen, 

von Erwachens Not befreit. 

Wie es fassen? 

Wie sie lassen, 

diese Wonne, 

fern der Sonne, 


fern der Tage 


Ohne Wahnen 

sanftes Sehnen, 

ohne Bangen 

siiss Verlangen; 

ohne Wehen 

hehr Vergehen, 

ohne Schmachten 

hold Umnachten; 

ohne Scheiden, 

ohne Leiden, 

traut allein, 

ewig heim, 

in ungemess'nen Raumen 

iibersePges Traumen. 

Du Isolde, 

Tristan ich, 

nicht mehr Tristan, 

nicht Isolde; 

ohne Nennen, 

ohne Trennen, 

neu Erkennen, 

neu Entbrennen; 

endlos ewig 


heiss ergluhter Brust 

hochste Liebes-Lust ! 

The third are Isolde's last words: 


Hore ich nur 
diese Weise, 
die so wunder- 
voll und leise, 
Wonne klagend 
alles sagend, 
mild versohnend 
aus ihm tonend, 
auf sich schwingt, 
in mich dringt, 
hold erhallend 
um mich klingt? 
Heller schallend, 
mich umwallend, 
sind es Wellen 
sanfter Liifte? 
Sind es Wogen 
wonniger Diifte? 
Wie sie schwellen, 
mich umrauschen, 
soil ich atmen, 
soil ich lauschen? 
Soil ich schliirfen, 
siiss in Diiften 
mich verhauchen? 
In des Wonnemeeres 
wogendem Schwall, 


in der Duft-Wellen 
tonendem Schall, 
in des Welt-Atems 
wehendem All 

In passages like these Wagner has made the most 
of the emotional resources of the poet. But he is 
well aware that they are limited, that the poet can- 
not by the sheer force of his isolated art express the 
dramatic idea completely. Poetry must enlist the 
services of music, vocal and orchestral. Pure tone 
and melodic theme give the tone-color of language; 
more than that, by passing from pole to pole of feeling 
stressing, grading, reconciling they give a lan- 
guage that is liquidescent as well as irridescent. 
Harmonics is only a further step in this subtle mixing 
and blending of feeling. But what of orchestral 
music and its place in the music drama? Wagner 
does not mean it to be a mere accompaniment to the 
score, nor an independent music without words; 
every bar of it must be organically related to the 
dramatic idea. To Wagner the orchestra, like the 
chorus in a Greek tragedy, is the interpreter of the 
action and its underlying motives. It is memory, 
and it is premonition (Ahndung) a swift messenger 


to gather in the past and set it down in the present 
or the forerunner of dark forebodings, shapeless 
fears or half -formed hopes.* 

"The following passage illustrates Wagner's theory of the emo- 
tional fluidity of music and of the part the orchestra is to play: 

" While the composer is still dependent on the original form of the 
dance and never dares to seek expressiveness beyond its boundaries, 
the poet calls to him: ' Leap boldly into the full waves of the sea of 
music; if you do it hand in hand with me you will never lose touch 
with what every one understands best. I place you firmly on the 
ground of dramatic action, and this action, at the time of its scenic 
representation, is of all poems the most easily understood. Spread 
your melody boldly so that it pours itself over your work like an 
incessant stream; express in it what I am silent about, because only 
you can say it; and I, though silent, shall express all because I am 
your guide.' 

" In truth the greatness of a poet may be measured by his express- 
ive silence about the inexpressible. It is the composer who seizes 
upon this silence and expresses it hi sound. The form of this sound- 
ing silence is infinite melody. 

; " Naturally the symphonic poet cannot shape this melody with- 
out his peculiar instrument: the orchestra. It is needless to say 
that he must not like the Italian composer use the orchestra simply 
as a huge guitar for the accompaniment of the aria. 

" The orchestra will in the proposed drama occupy about the 
place the Chorus occupied in the dramatic action of the Greeks. 
The chorus there was always present, watching the motives and 
springs of the developing action, seeking to fathom these motives 
and to arrive at some judgment. There is one difference, however. 
The part of the chorus was a reflective one; it stood aloof from the 
action and its motives. Not so the orchestra of the modern sym- 
phonic poet. So intimately does it share in the motives of the action 
that it not only as a system of harmonics makes a definite expression 
of melody possible, but keeps melody itself in the necessary state of 
continued fluidity, and thus reveals the motives of feeling with a 
convincing impressiveness," 


In this principle of musical continuity lies the 
secret of Wagner's use of Leitmotif. In its crudest 
form Leitmotif is simply a musical tag; it is a partly 
imitative and partly symbolical method of ushering 
in and labelling a character or an action. As such it 
marks better than anything else could the antiquated 
technique of the opera. Only the novel at its worst 
would stoop to so mechanical and stereotyped a 
device as having the hero invariably flick the ashes 
off a cigarette, the villain always talking the same 
deep-dyed villainy, the characters labelled by set 
phrases and recurrent peculiarities of behavior and 
bearing. It is not surprising to find Wagner im- 
patient of the endless talk of Leitmotif in his music 
dramas; he is merely setting himself against stereo- 
typed characterization. With him Leitmotif is a 
much less artificial and mechanical thing. He is 
not above using it occasionally as a tag or as a flour- 
ish of character, but on the whole his interpretation 
and use of it are subtle and original. The Wagnerian 
Leitmotif is not repetition, but repetition with a 
difference; it is a recurrent musical phrase modi- 
fied, reinterpreted to suit changes in dramatic idea 
and music. Back of these modifications is the 
interpretative function of orchestral music its 
stresses, its pauses, its ironic comment, its enfolding 
acceptance. This amounts to a threefold use of 
Leitmotif: for purposes of progressive characteriza- 
tion; as a principle of dramatic and musical con- 


tinuity; as a complicating and enriching principle. 
Far from merely marking or labelling character, it 
is to uncover its hidden forces and its intricate 
development, and to show its incessant counterplay 
to ever modified external forces. It is to be a prin- 
ciple of continuity, dramatic and musical. The 
mere mechanical repetition of the same musical 
phrase would have the reverse effect: it would stand 
out like the recurrent blare of a trumpet or would 
punctuate the action with the monotony of blows 
from a hammer. But when the phrase is modified, 
as it is in the Wagnerian Leitmotif y it serves to bind 
past and present in the web and woof of a continuous 
texture. It is also responsible for much of the 
richness of Wagner's music dramas. The dramatic 
idea is constantly defining and re-defining itself in 
characters and plot, is evolving and dissolving in 
greater and greater complications of unrest; the 
music is constantly shifting its values, is soothing, 
vibrant, stormy in turn; is constantly flooding the 
moment with all that went before. What could be 
more stimulating than this method of allowing full 
value to contrasts and conflicts while gathering them 
up into a ceaseless flow of change and development? 
What Wagner's music lacks in delicacy of bouquet, 
it makes up in richness of blend, in volume, in tang. 

To set Wagner the Thinker over against Wagner 
the Artist, and then to judge the one immeasurably 


inferior to the other, is a serious mistake; it is 
too much like an attempt to separate the insepa- 
rable. What of Wagner the reflective artist or Wag- 
ner the thinker, whose thought is at heart simply 
an artistic demand? Testing the truth or sound- 
ness of Wagner's theories of art seems to me un- 
profitable business; but to see in them the play of 
an artistic personality, the ideal and credo of an 
artist to whom thought itself as well as music or 
poetry is a means of artistic self-expression, seems 
well worth while. The influence of Schiller and 
Schopenhauer may be admitted; so may the aca- 
demic taint in most of Wagner's essays; but enough 
remains that is expressive of his own artistic self. 
His attack on the culture of his day is borrowed in 
part, but it is not in what he borrowed that the 
significance and interest of this attack lie. Rather 
do they lie in a strength of conviction which is 
itself nothing but the sustaining surface of an ideal 
of art. The same holds good on the whole of his con- 
structive theory of the music drama. None of it 
is so much cold, hard thinking; it is the reflective 
artist who takes the plunge, and what he brings 
to the surface is a tangle of artistic motifs. 

If it be granted that Wagner's theories as well 
as his music and poetry are the work of the creative 
artist there remains the task of getting the Wagner 
stamp: the thing that serves to mark the artistic 
consciousness that is back of this thought-tinted 


art and color-soaked thought. That would be an 
easy matter if a consciousness like that of Maeter- 
linck were to be dealt with. We should then need 
nothing but his own comment: " Nothing in the 
whole world is so athirst for beauty as the soul, nor 
is there anything to which beauty clings so readily "; 
and an understanding of the soft, clear beauty that 
glows in his essays and plays alike. But Wagner's 
is far from simple. One word would not mark him; 
nor would two. He is nothing if not complex, in 
character, in development, in method, and in ideal. 
In describing his artistic personality one might use 
the terms character and dramatic quality, provided 
and this is the all-important proviso character 
were here defined as individuality, strength, intensity; 
and dramatic quality, in terms of conflict and trans- 
forming movement. Both as an artist and as a 
thinker Wagner has character. His music is in- 
dividual, strong and passionate; his essays are per- 
sonal reactions, intense and high-flavored in style; 
and in his art and his prose alike there is a lack of 
delicacy and self-restraint: a defect that is the 
very man himself. As for dramatic quality, there 
is plenty of a thoroughly characteristic kind. It ex- 
presses itself in Wagner's life and work first of all as 
conflict, as a struggle between such opposing forces 
as optimism and pessimism, need of life and need 
of love; then as transforming movement. There 
are other instances of an artistic consciousness that 


is dramatic at heart: Browning, Rodin, Nietzsche; 
and, with certain reservations, Hegel; but at one 
point or another there is a sharp contrast. Both 
Rodin and Wagner are elemental, passionate, and 
dramatic in the sense of giving titanic struggles. 
There the likeness ends. Rodin's world-view is the 
simpler; he means his art to express cosmic struggle 
and unrest, cosmic passion and yearning. Dramatic 
in this sense, he is not dramatic in another; he 
gives no cosmic dialectic, no play and counterplay 
of great forces, no transforming clash of ideals. 
But these are the things that make up half the 
dramatic power of Tannhauser and Der Ring des 
Nibelungen. Where Rodin is farthest Hegel seems 
nearest. Reality is for him nothing but dialectic; 
he gives not only the stress of thought, but its dra- 
matic evolution by means of a chain of conflicts. In 
this sense his philosophic genius is dramatic to the 
core. It is significant that he has given a profound 
theory of the drama in terms of an antagonism of 
ideals, and hinted at the principle of emotional 
fluidity in music. But his life work in philosophy 
lacks full dramatic power; thought-dialectic seems 
thin and ghostly when set over against the massive- 
ness and the spontaneous, electrifying touch of pas- 
sion-dialectic. Nietzsche has caught the spirit of 
life as a contest without end, but his dramatic 
genius is much more subjective than Wagner's. 
Nor is Wagner's like Schopenhauer's. The dra- 


matic is not the deepest or most essential thing about 
Schopenhauer, neither a world-butchery nor a Nir- 
vana being favorable to it. And it must be remem- 
bered that Schopenhauer, for all his brilliant theory of 
music, championed classical music, as he did elsewhere 
classical architecture. They seem to touch in their 
emphasis on conflict, but Wagner adds what Schopen- 
hauer lacks, the principle of transforming movement. 
It is not present in Schopenhauer's theory of the suc- 
cessive objectifications of will so many stone steps 
or separate blocks; it is present in Wagner's prose, 
where an imagination at once heavy and impatient 
pushes thought into thought and harmony into dis- 
cord; or better still in his music: a music of violent 
contrasts, of fusings, and of a constantly changing life. 
Understood in this way, character and dramatic 
quality may serve to mark Wagner the Artist and the 



And lake upon us the mystery of things, 
As if we were God's spies. 


Ax first sight Hegel seems very unpromising mate- 
rial. What in the way of interesting art criticism 
or of a sympathetic theory of art can be expected 
of a man who grinds everything to powder between 
a pedantic terminology and an aggressive method? 
What place has the artistic in the personality of this 
intellectual contortionist? And why, if we do not 
care for contortions, should we pay so high a price 
of admission to this most difficult of all philosophies? 

I can well understand the temptation to ask such 
questions. One has to break into HegePs system 
by main force; and will find there among much 
of value a great deal that is worthless and puzzling. 
It must be admitted that his aesthetics share the 
defects of that system. Of his keen interest in art 
there can be no doubt; he spent much of his leisure 
in the picture galleries of Berlin and at art exhibi- 
tions, and at Vienna and Paris he had more than a 


*HEGEL 105 

taste of Italian opera and Shakespeare. He lacks 
technical knowledge just where it counts most 
heavily in music and sculpture; it is here that he 
is weakest. But his illustrations from poetry and 
painting are happily chosen, and his theories illumi- 
nating as well as profound. Everywhere he shows 
imagination and judgment, although in fine per- 
ceptions and delicate touches he is excelled by phil- 
osophers like Schelling and Nietzsche. As for his 
personality, it promised little: he was often ill at 
ease, prosy, and commonplace. Schopenhauer had 
the fatuous self-assurance to speak of him as " der 
geistlose, plumpe Hegel" But the spark of genius 
was in this absorbed, unemotional man, this sworn 
enemy of romanticism. After all, his very elaborate 
and unprepossessing system of philosophy has its roots 
in the same creative imagination that shapes a work 
of art, and is an imaginative tour de force of the first 
order. In this dramatized romance of nature and 
of consciousness personality expresses itself quite 
as strongly and plainly as in art; and the spirit of 
adventure, so evident in German Romanticism, 
here takes on strange forms. If these things are 
overlooked Hegel escapes, for it is only through the 
interpretative imagination that his meaning can be 

From 1820 to the time of his death Hegel lectured 
on aesthetics at the University of Berlin. His 
general system at that time stood complete in outline; 


there remained only the task of sketching in and of 
working out the detail of his theories on history, 
religion, and art. This work remained uncompleted; 
his lectures on aesthetics, like the others, were never 
put in final shape for publication. Of the two note- 
books on aesthetics which he left at his death, one, 
of the year 1818, was used in connection with his 
lectures at Heidelberg; the other, of 1820, gives the 
substance of his later course at Berlin, and is by far 
the more important. Much of this note-book is 
a compact mass of notes to guide the lecturer; parts 
of it, especially the introductions to the several 
divisions, are fully written out. From year to year 
loose sheets were inserted, marginal remarks added, 
and the manuscript changed here and there. In 
view of all this, the task Hotho, one of Hegel's 
students, set himself in 1835, of reconstructing and 
publishing his master's aesthetic theories, was not 
an easy one. What he did was to take the two 
books, compare with them sets of students' notes 
on the assumption that they might be valuable if 
they could be had in large numbers fill in what tran- 
sitions seemed lacking, and give as much of Hegel's 
own language as he possibly could. One need not 
quarrel with the result, for these three volumes are 
rich to the point of embarrassment; so rich in fact 
in special and general problems that it becomes im- 
possible to take more than an armful of this wealth 
at a time. 

HEGEL 107 

With the grave and judicial enthusiasm so charac- 
teristic of him, Hegel first takes up the problem of 
material and method, and widens it out into the 
problem of aim. To him the material of aesthetics 
is the beautiful in art. This he distinguishes from 
the beautiful in nature, for that is imperfect, incom- 
plete, not willed as such, and therefore not reborn 
of the spirit. 

But does this material admit of success and is it 
worth while? Art expresses the beautiful in so 
many different forms, breaks it up into so many 
types, is so riotously and joyously free that any 
orderly system of principles seems impossible. Worse 
still, is art really worth the attempt? Is it not after 
all a frivolous amusement, an entertaining and de- 
ceptive shadowplay? Hegel has the curiosity to 
raise these questions and the courage to answer them 
in the negative. Not only does he feel sure that his 
method can take care of even the most riotous ma- 
terial, but he is also a most determined and devoted 
champion of the dignity of art. 

Nothing could be farther from Hegel's thought 
than a contemptuous attitude toward art, such as 
Plato's. It seems strange that art should be dealt 
its hardest blows by a man whose artistic genius 
shows itself in vivid and biting character sketches, 
in scene-painting and settings, in an ample and 
wonderfully flexible diction, and in a reach which 
allows him to handle the most abstruse problems 


gracefully and profoundly. Metaphysics gives the 
key to the puzzle. Plato holds art to be the impover- 
ished imitation of an imitation. Of the real world 
perfect, changeless, unmoved, eternal the world of 
everyday perception, of colors, sounds, and bodies, 
is but an imperfect copy. It is this poor copy that 
the artist in his turn sets himself to imitate. By 
flattening a tri-dimensional object out on canvas 
the painter distorts it, and fails to give both its 
complex nature and its purpose, which is the essen- 
tial thing about it. Who would wish to sleep in a 
bed daubed on canvas? or have Homer fashion 
a shield or lead an army? To this any one but a 
philosopher would reply: Who would not prefer a 
carpenter's bed, imperfect as it is, to the eternal 
Type, or Idea of a bed? To Plato's mind art is use- 
less and dangerous because he feels that it cheapens 
and distorts even the shallow world in which it moves 
and has its being. Small wonder then that he bowed 
out of his ideal commonwealth those " multiform 
gentlemen " the artists, fastening upon them the 
reproach of being pleasing tricksters and charlatans 
of a beggared life. 

Hegel answers Plato by implication. He admits 
at once that if art were imitative of nature in Plato's 
sense and restricted to that aim it would either score 
a trivial and fruitless victory or have to acknowledge 
an utter defeat. Zeuxis may have painted grapes 
so astonishingly real that birds came and pecked at 

HEGEL 109 

them but is it not cheapening art to judge of it in 
terms of imitative skill. This exceptional success 
means nothing; on the whole the imitative artist 
is hopelessly handicapped when he tries to copy 
natural objects literally. If Hegel had lived at a 
time of imitative mania in art, he might have ampli- 
fied this thought of his. The painter in color and 
light and shade effects lacks the range and variety 
of nature; he cannot give the full intensity of light. 
The composer simply strains his art unpleasantly if 
he falls into the obsessions of programme-music; 
the microscopic novelist, too, attempts the impossi- 
ble. Why then stop here where art must fail instead 
of pushing on? Here is where Plato and Hegel part 
company. Art for Hegel is not ineffective copying; 
it reveals reality. Far from brushing the mere 
surface of life, it sounds it to its very depth; that is 
why Hegel is impressed with its dignity and impor- 
tance. " Only when it is free is fine art truly art. 
It fulfils its highest task only when it brings to con- 
sciousness and expresses the divine, the deepest 
interests of man, the largest truths of the Spirit. 
This task religion, philosophy, and art have in com- 
mon, and each solves it in its own way." It is the 
spiritual interpreter and liberator of man. It frees 
him from himself and from external nature; from 
himself by sparing him the rawness and oppressive- 
ness of passion, and by giving him what is essential 
to all true culture self-detachment and a rich, 


creative development; from nature by allowing him 
to set the seal of the spirit on the outer world, by 
giving him scope to express all that is his and to find 
himself in all that is. In art nature is vergeistigt; 
spiritualized; reborn of the spirit. 

Here are all the elements of a cultural theory of 
art. But Hegel takes care not to commit himself to 
a narrowly moral or intellectual view. It is not the 
purpose of art to edify, to make some scheme of social 
progress palatable, or to convey intellectual truth in 
abstract terms. But art, rightly understood and given 
free play, is a great cultural force, for together with 
philosophy and religion it has won life over to the 
uses of the Spirit. It has been the great teacher of 
man, has softened his savagery, has made him 
keenly responsive to the formal side of nature, and 
keenly alive to what he had it in him to be. The 
first man to etch rude drawings on his weapons or 
to fashion his cooking and drinking utensils in pleas- 
ing shapes freed himself from the grossly material 
response to impulses and passions that threatened 
to grip and crush his whole being. The first man to 
voice his feelings in music and song disengaged 
himself from bruising contact with life and found 
himself. Instead of devouring the world as material, 
art appropriates it as form. 

Back of all this is the ideality and the verve of 
the classical period of German literature. With no 
constructive ideal of political or industrial strength 

HEGEL 111 

at hand and with no well-trained, finely discrimina- 
tive art taste to single out sharply limited problems 
of craftsmanship and technique, German idealism 
poured like a flood across the field of art. Herder's 
eager alertness, Goethe's sane and lofty conception 
of art, Schiller's enthusiasm, the Romanticists 
with their perplexing blend of extravagance and 
insight they are simply so many different instances 
of a force which was bound to throw all the weight 
on the one far-reaching problem of the place of art 
in the ideal development of man. Schiller had 
assigned to art a very high position. Into what he 
regarded the crass materialism and the sorry politics 
of his time he thrust it as the great ennobler of the , 
human race. Hegel according to his own confession, 
was profoundly influenced by Schiller. But the in- 
fluence of that high-minded, if somewhat vague and 
rhetorical, view of art did not stop with Hegel; and is 
to be found in Schopenhauer, Wagner, and Nietzsche. 
With this cultural theory in mind Hegel imposes 
a twofold task on art: it is to give what is essential 
and real in nature; and it is to express more and 
more effectively and largely the self-expressive and 
self-expansive principle which Hegel calls Geist, 
or Spirit. This task at once marks sharply the 
two main divisions of his aesthetics. He gives a 
discussion of the idea of beauty in art; and then he 
exhibits this idea of beauty in its dialectic, that 
is, in its development. 


Beauty is reality shining through the sensuous 
medium. With this metaphysical definition the 
shadow of HegeFs system begins to slant across his 
aesthetics; and a black shadow it is. Of all phil- 
osophies Hegel's is most ingenious, most imagina- 
tive, most difficult, and, one might add, most 
tyrannical in the control of its parts. Nothing 
in it is allowed to stand by itself; and so art has 
to shoulder the burden of metaphysics. Reality 
means many things to many minds. To the com- 
mon man it suggests the here and now, the tan- 
gible or something of the sort; to Plato it meant an 
intangible, perfect, and eternally fixed world. With 
Hegel it is at heart a process unfolding and express- 
ing itself in and through experience and working 
itself out by a certain law of movement. This 
movement is from the indefinite, the abstract, the 
potential to the definite, the concrete, the com- 
pletely actualized; and the three moments are: 
thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Throughout his system 
Hegel uses these terms and seeks to show the neces- 
sary changes of their dialectic; how a thing is 
, affirmed, or posited; how its own inherent weaknesses 
negate it, or wreck it; and how a higher reaffirma- 
tion comes from the wreckage. There is implied in 

I this movement a self-evolving, self-expressing prin- 
ciple which Hegel calls Geist, or(Sirit>, The great 

y triad of his system Mind, Nature, Spirit represents 
the three acts in this profound ^amaof^theeyolu- 

HEGEL 113 

tion of the Spirit. Act One: a set of abstract, empty 
forms, onesided and therefore self-destructive. 
Spirit at this stage is neither concretely organized 
nor fully embodied. Act Two: weary of this 
sheer emptiness the Spirit goes out of itself into the 
world of nature; there it becomes self -estranged; 
loses itself in the external. Act Three: Spirit 
rouses itself from its strange, self-forgetful sleep in 
nature and creates for itself a realm of the ideal 
in art, religion, and philosophy. It has overcome 
its unfilled vagueness. It has taken hold of itself 
and become strong and rich through its adventures. 
Its life has swung full circle, but what a difference 
in strength, substance, and self-mastery between 
its outgoing and home coming! 

All this may seem romance clad in a most dis- 
heartening jargon and marked by loose talk and forced 
transitions. But there is a certain fascination about 
this world drama in which the Spirit creates itself 
and passes with an orderliness at once ghostly and 
telling to ever richer phases of development. 

Hegel never puts this drama quite so baldly as I 
have put it; but it inheres deeply in his system. 
Beauty in art, whose definition is our present con- 
cern, belongs to the home curve of this dramatic 
adventure of the Spirit: the creation of an ideal ; , 
realm, as Hegel calls it. If it is true that the in- \ 
terpretative imagination furnishes the key to Hegel, 
then the meaning of his theory of reality and his con- 


ception of beauty might be made clear by the par- 
allelism of a tragedy like King Lear. No one would 
deny that King Lear is a play of profound significance 
or that this significance is a development. The 
interest is cumulative and grows from scene to scene. 
At first it is extraneous and direct; the characters 
are as yet vague, unfilled, or their appeal is a narrow 
one. In the partition scene Lear is perfectly in- 
dividualized, but only as a peevish old man; Regan 
and Goneril are two evil shadows; Cordelia gives 
but the promise of her later rich self. The Gloster 
scenes are brutally direct. But we become con- 
scious of profound parallelisms; broader issues; 
larger interests; enriched and universalized char- 
acter, as with crest after crest of disaster the tragic 
interest pounds its way. The significance, or mean- 
ing, of King Lear is not something outside and be- 
yond: it is just this self-evolving and self -deepening 
spirituality; this passing from the outer to the 
inner, from the abstract to the concrete, from the 
particular or the bare universal to the concrete 
universal. The tragedy is alive with passion and 
feeling, but there is something added imagination 
and thought, restless and penetrative, catching the 
dissonances of human life; visualizing reason de- 
throned, justice perverted; and striking in the 
recognition scene a wonderfully mellow and quiet- 
ing note. 

Shakespeare in King Lear has achieved an organic 

HEGEL 115 

unity, a fusion of the particular and the universal, 
and the giving a profound Significance to characters 
and incidents. These three things correspond to 
the three chief points in Hegel's conception of 


The idea of organic unity has a peculiar fascination 
for Hegel. A mere aggregate does not please him, 
for a thing whose nature is indifferent to the taking 
away or slapping on of parts interests him but little. 
He must have what would collapse under such con- 
ditions; the thing whose parts share in a common 
life: the organism. Wherever nature fashions such 
an organism she comes nearest beauty. Not that 
Hegel fails to see the inferior beauties of mere aggre- 
gates: " In this respect abstract purity in form, 
color, tone, etc., is at this point the essential thing. 
Clean-drawn lines, running along uniformly and 
not with wavering indecision, smooth surfaces, etc., 
are satisfying because of their firm decisiveness and 
uniform self-agreement. The purity of the sky, the 
clearness of the atmosphere, a mirror-like lake or a 
smooth sea are pleasing for this reason. The same 
is true of purity of tones." But all the emphasis of 
his thought is on the beauty of organic unity. Of all 
natural forms he holds the human body to be most 
beautiful because it shows such a wonderful and 
subtle inter-relation of parts. Cut a hand off the 
whole body suffers, and the hand decays. Where- 


ever there is in nature a lack of such unity, as in mixed 
animal forms like the crocodile or combinations of 
bird and reptile, ugliness results. In art organic 
unity is quite as important an element of beauty. 

There is a philosopher's bias in all this, for while 
to him the notion of organic unity is a necessary tool 
whose use is intellectually stimulating, there is no 
valid reason for putting the natural beauty of organic 
bodies at so high a notch or for seeing in organic 
unity the highest principle of the beauty of art. Of 
all the arts sculpture deals most directly with self- 
complete, organic material man and animals; its 
technique is bound to the strictest economy and 
interrelationship of parts. But it seems to lose 
rather than gain through this; and is perhaps the poor- 
est of the arts in point of resources. What of Rodin? 
might be asked. Rodin makes much of the prin- 
ciple of organic unity: his figures and groups are com- 
pact; his technique is a very accurate and very 
complex working out of the mutual bearings of post- 
ure, bone, tendon, and muscle. But after all, the 
real principle of unity with him is some symbolic 
idea thought, lust, work, love, self-reproach; an 
idea of which the body, whether self-absorbed or 
struggling or limp, is the living and detailed expres- 
sion. Rodin chooses ideas that are primitive and 
as limitless in sweep as a ray of light; in this way he 
gets the imaginative equivalent of a stretch of color 
or a mass of sensuous material, and avoids the danger 

HEGEL 117 

of too bare and too stubborn an emphasis on the prin- 
ciple of organic unity. This seems the only way 
sculpture has of freshening itself. Modern sculpture 
must be dramatic, expressive; and must work a 
natural symbolism closely into the marble; it must 
make use of ideas that rouse the imagination. The 
younger French and Belgian sculptors seem to have 
realized this witness such subjects as: Thought, 
The Dream, Accident, In the Evening of Life. Better 
illustrations still are Meunier's Puddlers at the 
Furnace, Fire-damp, The Mower, and Lambeaux' 
The Human Passions. A like change is found in the 
other arts. Outline and composition are not felt to 
be all important in painting, for here too studied or 
too elaborate a relation of part to part and of parts to 
the whole seems to detract from the aesthetic value. 
We demand something else, and employ either the 
principle of separate blotches of color or that of 
atmosphere something that softens and dissolves. 
The change appears strongly in Whistler's painting 
and Debussy's music. The modern drama has freed 
itself from abject slavery to the notion of organic 
unity in plot and character. A play like Maeter- 
linck's The Death of Tintagiles is simply a mood a 
study in delicate greys and sombre blacks; structure 
in the old, conventional sense is given up for the 
sake of a veiled and intimate beauty. Playwrights 
like Strindberg, Brieux, and Galsworthy make the 
same sacrifice for other reasons; under the stress of 


reflection and moral ideas they regard a play as a bit 
of life, a fragment of meshwork, cut into at random 
and left with a thousand loose ends. The dramatic 
treatment of character shows as radical a change. 
To us with our notions of heredity, of layers of 
character development, of outflows and inflows of 
social currents, there seems something false and 
artificial in the idea of characters as complete and self- 
closed as billiard balls spinning about and banging 
against each other. Rather do we conceive of 
character as the point of an angle whose sides straddle 
the universe. 

Such criticism of Hegel may easily be pushed too 
far. After all, the two other demands he makes of 
beauty go far towards correcting the excess of his 
emphasis on organic unity. 


Beauty is somehow a fusion of the universal and the 
particular. There is no disputing the fact; art does 
give what is at once the individual and the type. 
Shakespeare does it in all his plays, but most strik- 
ingly in Hamlet; Thackeray individualizes so im- 
portant and so slight a thing as an English butler; 
Flaubert does it with the most trivial objects ; Dickens 
often fails; Arnold Bennett succeeds in his Old Wives' 
Tale. But how explain this secret of the artist; this 
way he has of taking anything, from a rag doll to a cab 
horse or a hitching post, and having it stand out as 
something absolutely apart, itself only, and yet mark- 

HEGEL 119 

ing it with the full meaning of its class? Is it a Very 
painstaking observation; or is it a trick of the imagi- 
nation? Maupassant touches on this problem in the 
preface to Pierre et Jean. With Hegel it widens out 
into the question: How comes it that some particular 
incident, some ordinary, everyday character, when 
interpreted by the artist, strikes us with the sharp 
thrust and full meaning of the universal? He offers 
no solution other than putting the whole weight of 
his philosophical system back of it. Others have 
different ways of failing; and the problem remains 
unsolved. But the fact itself of the fusion of par- 
ticular and universal is one of great aesthetic interest; 
it underlies the artist's practice and appears largely 
in his reflection. Rodin's discussion of Millet's 
Gleaners is one example out of many. Here as well 
as in Rodin's references to portrait painting there is 
a strange likeness between his views and Hegel's 
further proof that Hegel's imagination is artistic 
in type, at least in its deeper motives. 

Hegel applies his theory that beauty is a blend of 
the particular and universal; and one of the most 
striking uses he makes of it is in his interpretion of 
Dutch genre painting. In subject these pictures seem 
trivial or repellent. There are fat burghers smoking 
their pipes; boors gambling and quarrelling over 
their drink; inn-yards and barn-yards with the 
children as dirty and contented as the pigs and dogs. 
But there are also spotless kitchen scenes, glimpses of 


the council chamber, bits of road, soil, dike and sea. 
Hegel urges us to turn from the subject of these 
pictures to their spirit. We are to see in them a life 
of broad animal enjoyment, of naive delight in solid- 
ity and comfort lousy comfort at times a spirit 
of enterprise, a hard-earned freedom, civic pride as 
well as pride in neat housewifery, an expansive spirit 
of achievement and pleasure. This is the universal 
element in Dutch art. Such an interpretation may 
easily become fanciful. Hegel neglects the purely 
technical redemption of a trivial or " low " subject. 
The color possibilities in the mottled face and arms 
of a washerwoman may attract a painter; while he 
may have no thought of the symbolism of grinding 

A work of art must be concretely significant. This 
is Hegel's third test of beauty. Somehow art 
makes life seem larger and more significant. In a 
spirit of creative abundance, it gives a concrete 
ideality of treatment and a tingling sense of larger 
issues. Whenever art reveals in this manner life 
in its reaches and meanings, it has achieved beauty. 
Hegel's formula, concrete significance of life, is not 
narrow or bigoted. On principle it would admit 
almost any subject and a great variety of inter- 
pretations. No aspect of life is either too humble 
and ugly or too frivolous or too depraved to serve 
as material for the truly great artist. In this sense 

HEGEL 121 

Millet, Meunier, Rodin, Rops, Gorky, Maupassant, 
Baudelaire, and Verlaine are great artists: they 
have given the concrete significance of neglected 
phases of life. Rodin, quite in the spirit of Hegel's 
discussion of Dutch art, points to the broadly human 
side of Millet's Gleaners as a test. It is easy to 
understand the danger of straining this principle, 
and to sympathize with the artist when he demands 
a purely technical discussion of points. Why not 
refer to de Hooch's excellent treatment of interiors 
and of sunlight, Goya's color, Rops's handling 
of line, Flaubert's relentless analysis of character, 
Maupassant's clear-cut descriptive power, and Ver- 
laine's simple and haunting verse? Why bring in 
a general and indefinite standard of excellence? 
And yet when artist and art critic are pushed they 
may be made to admit that the interpretative 
handling of his material is one of the tests legitimately 
applied to the artist. After all, technique is only a 
means by which the artist conveys what he feels 
to be the concrete significance, or the expressive 
capacities of his subject. One might wish there had 
been more of the technical discussion of points in 
Hegel, but that is no reason for rejecting in bulk 
what turns out to have a very interesting bearing 
on two troublesome things: imitation and ideal- 

No one could insist more strongly than Hegel 
did on imitation in the sense of observing closely and 


impartially and giving results. Thought to him 
is not something arbitrary; it is fitting oneself sym- 
pathetically to the rational structure and movement 
of reality, a process by which thought and its object 
both become enriched. Art sets in at one stage of 
this enriching process, and is fitting oneself sym- 
pathetically to whatever of Geist, or Spirit, presents 
itself in sensuous form. In this sense art is an ob- 
jective imitation of what it chooses to portray or 
fashion. But the imitation is selective. If life is 
interpreted as a self-expressing movement, a self- 
realizing process of spirit, then concrete significance 
must ultimately mean catching the spiritual import 
of any group of facts at its richest, and catching 
also something of the outlook and onrush toward the 
next phase of the process. Spirit is not completely 
and adequately expressed in nature; art steps in and 
clears it of such imperfections, seizes on the essen- 
tial, and thus liberates the soul of appearances. 
This is what idealization means to Hegel. To 
idealize is not to falsify. The ideal tree is not a 
vague something that is neither oak nor elm nor 
birch nor maple. To get the bare essentials of tree- 
hood, whose nature only a Platonist would attempt 
to define, is unprofitable from the point of view 
of art. With such a reduction to a general type 
Hegel has no sympathy, for the drive of his thought 
is aimed at concrete and not abstract, significance. 
Compare an oak with a birch and you will discover, 

HEGEL 123 

in addition to peculiarities of size, of leaf and bark 
formation, certain expressive lines which seem to 
give the character and the very life of the oak or 
the birch. And to say of a particular oak, " That 
oak has character," does not simply mean that there 
is something decisive and striking about it; what it 
really means is that this oak is individual and at 
the same time expressive of all that is characteristic 
of oak formation. Among other things this tree 
gives very sharply the vigor and ruggedness of 
oaks. Inessential things must be cleared away if 
this idea is to be expressed forcibly in your painting 
of the oak. The problem here runs back into that 
of the fusion of individual and universal. How can 
we bring out the essential class characteristics of an 
oak and yet make our oak absolutely individual? 
To which the only answer is : "It may be impossible, 
but it is done." Rodin, for instance, does it. He 
imitates in the Hegelian sense; he is very accurate 
and sympathetic in his study of his material, in- 
dividualizes his figures utterly, but universalizes 
them as well by having some symbolic idea spring 
naturally from the plastic surface-play of their 
bodies. An artist may paint with a hungry eye to 
a particular cloud, but his art is the gainer if 
he can somehow give [something of the elasticity 
and fleetingness of clouds. 

Idealization then for Hegel is imitation rightly 
stressed and selective for the purpose of bringing 


out the inner life and the concrete significance 
of an object. His own illustration is illuminating. 
A portrait painter must not be a slavish imitator of 
nature; he must omit much that he sees slight dis- 
colorations and blemishes of the skin. His portrait 
contains more than is to be found in the face of the 
sitter at any given time, his aim being to liberate 
the spiritual import of the face, which is never 
given completely at any single moment in life, hence 
the deadness of so many photographs. He brushes 
aside the surface facts that cloud it; he goes straight 
to the heart of the essential.* 

Rodin, who champions a theory of the significant 
not unlike that of Hegel, argues similarly on this 

* " Even the portrait painter, who has least to do with the ideal 
in art, must flatter his subject by omitting all externalities in figure 
and expression, in form, color, and features; he omits the merely 
natural of scant existence: the little hairs, pores, scars, blotches on 
'the skin. He must interpret his subject in his universal character 
and in his permanent spiritual cast. There is all the difference in 
the world between copying a face as it is on the surface, getting its 
quiet external form, and representing the features in their truth 
and in their expression of the man's very soul. It is essential to the 
Ideal that the external form correspond to the soul. So-called 
living pictures, quite recently come in vogue, imitate very nicely 
and pleasantly noted works of art. They seem to catch the decora- 
tive effect, the draping, etc., but they often jar because common- 
place faces spoil the spiritual expression of the figures imitated. 
Raphael's madonnas, on the other hand, give us forms of the counte- 
nance, of cheeks, eyes, nose, and mouth which in and of themselves 
express perfectly a mother's love in its blessedness, joyousness, 
devoutness, and humility." 

HEGEL 123 

point. He refers to Houdon's busts, especially to his 
inimitable bust of Voltaire, and shows how Houdon 
has seized upon the very essence of his man, and how 
in busts like those of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Ben- 
jamin Franklin, race, class, and individuality stand 
out. The art is so grippingly effective simply 
because Houdon has idealized rightly, has liberated 
the soul of appearances. It is surprising to find so 
close an agreement between the casual thought of 
a great creative artist like Rodin and the carefully 
and intricately planned theories of Hegel. 

Organic unity, individuality , and concrete signifi- / 
cance then go to make up the beautiful in art. But 
the idea of development is too securely built into 
Hegel's philosophy to allow him to stop here, for art 
to him is a self-expressive movement growing ever 
richer in meaning, ever more subtle and self -masterful, 
and ever more resourceful in technique. That there 
is a difference in significance in different works of 
art might at once be admitted. One need only 
compare any work of Greek sculpture with Michael 
Angelo's Captive Slave, or the Hippolytus of Euripides 
with Racine's Phedre. Such differences Hegel inter- 
prets not psychologically as many would have done, 
but culturally. The art of any period gives the spirit 
and the culture of that period; consider it cut loose 
from these, and it becomes unintelligible. Greek 
tragedy cannot be understood apart from certain 


religious beliefs and forms of worship; Oriental art 
has its roots in Oriental religion; only the man who 
understands the mediaeval mind can catch the spirit 
of mediaeval art. This seems an attractive way of 
looking at art, and one that lends itself to interesting 
developments, such as the historical method of Taine. 
But it has its weaknesses: forced readings and an 
intolerance of revivals such as the mediaevalism of 
the German Romanticists, the art of the Pre-Raphael- 
ites, the mermaids and centaurs of a Boecklin or a 
Stuck, and the Assyrian and Egyptian element in 
recent German sculpture. Hegel avoids some of the 
dangers by using the theory of cultural development 
in rather a large and general way. He exploits it 
dramatically by fastening on three phases or stages 
of such development: the symbolic, the classical, and 
the romantic. 

The symbolic period, or phase of art, sounds very 
formidable in Hegelian language: 

" Indefinite, the Idea still lacks the individuality 
of true beauty; abstract and onesided, it causes the 
form to be inadequate and arbitrary. This first 
pha,se of art is, therefore, merely a groping for a true 
pictorial representation; the Idea has not yet found 
its true form and is struggling to find it. This may 
be called the symbolic art form. In it the Idea has 
its form in the natural, sensuous material; from 
this material its fashioning springs, and to it it is 
bound. Natural objects are either left as they are, 
the Idea being put into them as their meaning and 

HEGEL 127 

their natural interpretation. ... or consciousness 
may be struck by the lack of correspondence between 
natural object and Idea. When the Idea, incapable 
of expressing itself in any other reality, pours itself 
forth into these forms, seeks itself in them restlessly 
and recklessly, and still finds them inadequate, it 
magnifies such natural forms and appearances to the 
very top of the excessive and the vague; it reels 
around in them, brews and seethes in them, forces 
and distorts them, and seeks to lift the natural to 
the ideal by distraction, by immensity and a lavish 
splendor of forms. At this stage the Idea is still 
vague and formless, the natural objects, clear- 
formed and defined." 

Again : 

" First the symbolic: Here the Idea is still seeking 
its true artistic expression because it is still abstract 
and indefinite, and lacks an appropriate external 
manifestation. It finds itself over against the 
external facts of nature and human existence. In 
this materiality the Idea suspects its own abstractions. 
Or it forces a concrete existence on its own vague 
generalities. As a result it spoils and falsifies the 
forms it seizes upon arbitrarily; and there is instead of 
a full accord of meaning with form the mere suggestion 
of an external correspondence. Both meaning and 
form reveal in this not completed and not to be 
completed fusion their mutual externality and in- 

All this amounts to saying that art at a certain 
stage lacks both a well-defined, richly organized mean- 
ing and an effective technique. The artistic con- 


sciousness is vague, not sure of its purpose, poor in 
resources, blind; in its search for self-expression it 
hits upon unpromising material and an unhappy 
technique. The artist has not yet seized natural 
expressiveness to the full; he takes simple forms, 
and, unable to observe sharply and exhaustively 
their nature, hangs on them like a tag some arbitrary 
symbol. Or his imagination, clumsy and formless, 
goes at its^ material with a rush, sets to work to 
fashion it knows not what, batters and twists its 
shapes with a confused and reckless extravagance. 
Such an arbitrary symbolism and such a headlong, 
ill controlled imagination, Hegel finds in Oriental 
mythology and Oriental art. The pyramids, obe- 
lisks, and early forms of architecture reflect an art 
spirit still bound to an unresponsive material and 
still poor in meaning. Chinese idols, much of 
Hindoo poetry, the pagoda, of crude splendor and 
extravagant jointings and carvings, reflect the fan- 
tastic, ecstatic, riotous spirit of symbolic art. 

The second phase of art is the classical. In it 
Spirit has lost its early confused vagueness, shaken 
itself free of its earlier extravagance; and with a 
new poise and a new control over a responsive material 
sets to work to express the spirituality of the purely 
human. The artistic idea is limited in range, but is 
clear as crystal; and the beauty achieved is perfect 
within the narrow limits set. Hegel contrasts the 
crude animal worship, the fantastic rites, the formless 

HEGEL 129 

theogonies of primitive Greek religion with the clean- 
cut images of the gods and goddesses of Olympus. 
These Olympians and their lofty, serene spirit of 
humanity Greek sculpture has made immortal, giving 
in a perfect and infinitely individualized form their 
free and individual life. Greek sculptures of the best 
type are never expressionless; but so closely is the ex- 
pression worked into the marble, so completely fused 
with the form, that it often escapes the casual glance; 
so complete is the spiritual mastery over the material 
that the marble seems to throb with life, and the face 
to light up with a serene joyousness that knows neither 
passion nor sorrow. 

The third period, or phase of art, is the romantic. \ 
The classical ideal, perfect as it is, must give way be- 
fore the push and drive of the Spirit. As lif e becomes 
more complex, more concrete, more significant, the 
art consciousness becomes fraught with aspirations, 
inner tensions, and new meanings, and can no longer 
find itself or exhaust itself in the natural. In its 
struggle for a larger, more intense and more spiritual 
self-expression and self-embodiment it shatters the 
form which for a time satisfied it so completely. 
Form is rent asunder; it could no longer harbor the 
eager and self-tormented spirit that entered it. A 
note of tragedy and struggle breaks in on the self- 
complacency of the Greek world. Sculpture is re- 
placed by music and poetry, the typically romantic 
arts, and they in turn reflect the complex inwardness, 


the intense conflicts, and the spiritual reach of modern 
life. There is a blend of melancholy and hopeful 
vigor in this thought, for a wealth of meaning makes 
up for whatever sacrifice of formal beauty there is. 

These three phases, symbolic, classical, romantic, 
are then traced in the development of each of the 
several arts. Thus architecture is symbolic in 
pyramid and pagoda, classical in the Greek temple, 
and romantic in the Gothic cathedral. Or apply- 
ing Hegel's two principles of all development, an 
inner wealth and an effective expression in responsive 
material, the arts might be ranked as follows: archi- 
tecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry. Run- 
ning along this line, the material becomes more 
responsive : marble and bronze give way to pigment, 
and that in turn yields to the expressive medium of 
language. Parallel with this is an inner development 
in terms of wealth, concreteness, ideality. Archi- 
tecture expressed a craving for regularity and sym- 
metry, for an artistic fashioning of the outer world 
in some of its more immediate and simpler forms. 
Sculpture gives the freedom, the individuality, and 
the surface spirituality of the human body. Painting 
reveals the soul through the eye and the features, 
and by complex grouping. Music gives, not separate 
objects, but the flow and current of the innermost 
self in its ideality. Its realm is the feelings and 
" all sha,des of joy, merriment, fun, caprice, of 

HEGEL 131 

ecstatic and joyous outbursts of soul; all grada- 
tions of fear, anxiety, sorrow, lamentation, grief, 
pain, yearning, etc., and lastly awe, adoration, love 
etc. these make up the domain of musical expres- 
sion." It is this that accounts for the power of 
music: it addresses itself directly to feeling. Hegel, 
of course, admits a mathematical, structural side 
to music; but this tone structure of intervals, of 
contrasts and transitions in movement, this web 
and woof of rhythm, is to him significant only in so 
far as it reflects the movements and transitions 
of feeling. It is by reason of this elemental inward- 
ness that music is the romantic art par excellence, 
and one of the freest of the arts. It shares with 
poetry the distinction of being the spokesman of 
the modern spirit. Of these two arts of the inner 
realm Hegel was by gift and training much more 
fitted to appreciate and discuss poetry than music; 
and this has at least something to do with his 
judgment that poetry is the completest of the 
arts, and with the sketchiness of his theory of 

Of poetry the highest form is tragedy. Nowhere f 
in his aesthetics is Hegel's thought richer and more 
resourceful than in his theory of dramatic poetry. 
In the epic there is the broad and naive portrayal 
of some early social activity war, hunting, sea- 
faring, common work and certain largely sketched 


simple characters who are the life that surrounds 
them. In the lyric there is the cry of the subjective 
a mood, a feeling or an emotion. The drama 
gives the fusion of the objective and the subjective: 
it shows characters that are conscious of their pur- 
poses and aims; it shows their wills struggling with 
other wills and expressing themselves in a world of 
action full of opposition and reversals of fortune. 
Conflict is the heart of the drama; and conflict of 
an especially profound type, the heart of tragedy. 
None of the ordinary interpretations of the tragic 
satisfy Hegel. It is not a disastrous struggle with 
Fate, nor is it the brute cosmic sport hinted at by 

As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; 
They kill us for their sport. 

It is a necessary and not at all depressing complica- 
tion in the adventurous life of the Spirit: a life which 
works itself out dramatically and surely in us and in 
all nature other than us. Given reality as a self- 
C expressive and self-expansive principle, growing 
ever more definite, masterful, self -masterful, and rich: 
and tragedy follows as a matter of course. Spirit, 
/ or Geist expresses itself objectively in institutions 
/ such as the family and the state and in the various 
I spheres of man's social life; subjectively in character. 
Here lies the promise of all manner of tragic colli- 
sions. As life becomes more complex it seems arrayed 

HEGEL 133 

against itself, for its various activities and interests 
tend to clash. Each of these, right in its own sphere, 
invades that of the others, and asks the whole alle- 
giance of the individual; and him this two-edged 
claim destroys. Loyalty to the state calls Anti- 
gone, but so does family piety; between the two 
her life is shattered. As character becomes more 
complex and more self-assertive another set of 
collisions appears. For Spirit is embodied in in- 
dividuals in a very partial and onesided way; and 
because of this large admixture of unreason life 
seems in danger of becoming a playground of caprice- 
Macbeth's ambition threatens to overwhelm the 
social and moral order; unreason is at work in Lear's 
anger, Othello's chaotic passion, and Hamlet's 
indecision. Hegel is clear-sighted enough to see 
that the conflict need not always be a social one, \ 
although the man who rebels against society and its / 
practices and ideals is a favorite tragic figure. 
There may be a revolt against reason in oneself. 
But in either case the guilt and the danger are felt 
to lie in a onesidedness which is like a blow struck 
at the universal. The wrecking of the Spirit seems 
imminent as the tragic hero, magnificent in his 
mixture of noble and base, good and bad, hastens 
along his impetuous career. The collision stands 
revealed: naked, sinister, harrowing. The uni- v 
versal hits back and asserts itself at the cost even / 
of the utter destruction of the individual. The 


hero is crushed, but in his defeat he feels something 
of the majesty and spirituality of the force that 
crushes him; his life passes by him like the muffled 
sounds of a riot. There lies the purification of an 
(Edipus or an Othello. But what of him who 
sees the play? Is he purified too? Hegel is at 
once too wary and too profound to saddle tragedy 
with any moral lessons. He refuses to take the 
Aristotelian theory of purification through pity 
and fear in either a moralistic or purely medicinal 
sense. To him the pity which tragedy arouses 
in the spectator is not a sentimental sorrowing for 
the individual as such; it is a sympathetic response 
to the nobly human, a chastened and saddening 
feeling that not all that is precious has been saved; 
fear is not for. one's skin or for that matter fear for 
any one's skin; it is " awe, the invigorating revela- 
tion of spiritual power and of its eternal and in- 
violable majesty and rationality." 

There is something attractive about the large way 
in which Hegel interprets the tragic. While this 
somewhat bourgeois, elderly German confesses that 
he would rather see a Schauspiel, a serious play with 
J a happy ending, than sup his fill of blood and 
( horrors, his thought goes far beyond his likes and 
dislikes. Both the Artist and the Thinker in him 
j are greater than the man. He understands quite 
/ well that the spiritual significance of life differs in 
different ages; he discriminates finely between the 


HEGEL 135 

classical drama of the Greeks and Shakespeare. 
Much of modern tragedy would lend itself to his 
theories. That Ghosts is not sordid and depressing 
it owes to its outlook on the problem of heredity 
and to its conception of life as a self-cleansing proc- 
ess, which, at bottom sound, discards the tainted 
individual or the tainted generation slowly and 
pitilessly. In Tolstoy's Power of Darkness, Mase- 
field's Tragedy of Nan, Hauptmann's Sunken Bell, 
and Maeterlinck's Mary of Magdala there is a con- 
structive cosmic faith, although in each of them a 
different one. But there is none in Maeterlinck's 
Death of Tintagiles or in Strindberg's The Father, 
and yet they are tragic in the truest sense. Might 
there not be tragedy in an irrational world? Hegel, 
in spite of the largeness of his view, seems to have 
excluded one of the most interesting uses of the 

Every one of Hegel's aesthetic theories is backed 
by his system. But what is back of the system? 
A Thinker? Yes, but also an Artist. The two can- 
not be separated. The artistic in Hegel's philosophy 
does not lie in the details or the style, although there 
is occasionally plenty of warmth and color in the 
latter; rather does it lie in the conception of his 
system. He is an artist largely by force of his 
imagination, and this in turn shows itself as a 
synthetic sense of structure, as a sense of the dra- 


matic possibilities of logic, and as a sense of divine 

Hegel's sense of structure is quite as fine as Rodin's. 
In spite of its bold symbolism Rodin's sculpture 
emphasizes structure; it fits itself closely to the 
anatomical expressiveness of bodies, partly from 
instinct and partly from study. Thought is to Hegel 
a sympathetic fitting oneself to the structure of things, 
and as such it is to be thorough and impartial. 
Hegel's theory of the detailed and subtle anatomy of 
the state and his theory of art show this interpreta- 
tion of thought. I may be forgiven the qualifying 
term synthetic if I plead the necessity of marking off 
\ the artist's sense of structure from the scientist's. 
Rodin's and Hegel's is synthetic. Not only does 
Rodin grasp the structural relations of his figures 
and groups and thus give the impression of unity, 
but he has some symbolic idea spring naturally from 
his subject, giving it in this way a world-meaning 
in terms of struggle, force, passion or any one of many 
like things. Hegel puts a constant emphasis on the 
idea of organic unity; one sees his imagination on 
the track of a unity, a life common to the parts, 
whose sundered nature it has grasped. Not only 
that, but each one of these lesser unities is given a 
world-meaning though quite unlike Rodin's ; by 
as elaborate a system of intellectual cranes and 
pulleys as man ever devised it is swung into place in 
the Hegelian edifice of relations and meanings. 

HEGEL 137 

None but an artist with an imagination of high 
rank could discover any dramatic possibilities in 
logic. Instead of an inventory of forms of thought, 
Hegel gives a drama of complications, transitions, 
changes to the opposite. One feels thought denning 
itself, opposing itself, fulfilling itself. The terms are 
abstract, the jargon disconcerting, but back of these 
is a true sense of the restless nature of thought and 
its tensional, everchanging character. Call him a 
juggler and an acrobatic thinker if you like, but don't 
overlook the art that seizes upon the dramatic in 
thought and exploits it as only a genius could have 
exploited it. 

What of Hegel's sense of divine adventure? That 
beyond all else marks the Artist in Hegel. A sense 
of the divine there is in many artists; and it appears 
in many forms. It may be the sense of a crushing 
fate, as in the early puppet plays of Maeterlinck, 
or his later confident way of combining mysticism 
with a scientific faith in an exploration, step by step, 
of the circle of mystery which envelops like a band of 
darkness our system of experience as well as our 
most casual experiences; it may be the eyes of the 
Christ-child of the Sistine Madonna or the music of 
Parsifal; it may be a bit of color in a picture or a 
curtain withdrawn in a lyric and a glimpse of an 
infinite. Many poets, sculptors, and painters have a 
sense of the divine; few have what Hegel had, a 
sense of divine adventure. Browning had it; so 


had Walt Whitman. Hegel gives a world-drama, 
in which the divine is at once the sufferer, the actor, 
and the scene. You are asked to catch the venture- 
someness of a World Spirit who is the grime and dust 
of battle as well as the victory, who casts himself off 
in order to regain himself after a struggle. There 
is not in Hegel the boyish delight in thought-adven- 
ture that there is in James; he lacks the extravagance 
of the medievalism of the Romanticists; he is with- 
out the picturesqueness of a Nietzsche; his thought 
is orderly in all its transformations. Beneath his 
language, which is like stiffened draperies, his thought 
moves with astonishing enterprise and nimbleness. 
One need only contrast him with Maeterlinck to 
catch this dramatic quality. There are in Maeter- 
linck's essays two passages in which he very strik- 
ingly visualizes the mysterious and our exploring it. 
In one of these he suggests a group of buildings such 
as you might find at a fair or in an amusement park. 
Seen from a distance at night they are meant to be 
nothing but thin lines of light against the darkness. 
Imagine these electric lights to be switched on in 
sets, and imagine delay somewhere: there will be 
gaps; the outlines will be incomplete until the miss- 
ing threads of light appear. In our world-outline 
there are just such gaps; they are the mysteries of 
life; some day, however, with the advance ~>f science 
light will leap from point to point and the world 
will be revealed in its complete, luminous reasonable- 

HEGEL 139 

ness. In the other passage Maeterlinck uses the 
image of a man who leaves his house to explore what 
is outside and who finds, not a wilderness, but gardens 
and fruitful plains in which he may wander, touching 
stealthily and lovingly a flower, a blade of grass or 
an ear of corn. Both similes are undramatic. The 
world-meaning is there, complete: you are to dis- 
cover it; you are there to discover it. There is no 
hint of the bitterness of the struggle, no suggestion 
that you are not yet you or that the world-meaning 
itself is in the making. But there is all this in Hegel. 
The world to him is a divine adventure, and he has 
imagined with the insight of a dramatic poet the 
complications, the surprises, the intensity, and the 
variety of this adventure. 



Why, where but in the sense and soul of 
me, Art's judge? BROWNING. 

IN 1880 Turgenief on a visit to Yasnaya Poly ana 
found Tolstoy much changed: feverishly at work 
making himself over, pondering God and the uni- 
verse. With this plunge into self -analysis and mysti- 
cism he had little sympathy; he referred to it with 
indulgent cynicism in a letter to a friend: " Every 
one kills his fleas in his own way." He feared a loss 
to Russian literature; few appreciated as he did 
Tolstoy's art, fine in its characterization, healthy in its 
animalism, and of an epic breadth. Was this " great 
writer of our Russian land " to turn ascetic and 
moralist? Three years later Turgenief sent from 
what proved to be his death-bed an appeal to Tolstoy 
not to forsake literature. 

The appeal went unheeded. Tolstoy uncere- 
moniously bowed himself off the stage of art and 
definitely became a critic of life and a social reformer. 
Never afterward did his work escape the cramping 
coils of moral purpose. He wrote simple stories for 



the peasants, philosophical essays, pamphlets and 
manifestoes on questions of the day: all of them 
very sincere; some of them very true; none of them 
from an artistic point of view worthy of his earlier 
work. Even when he turns to the novel, as he did 
in Resurrection, good material is washed bare of 
artistic possibilities by too strong a moral corrosive. 
There are many who deplore this change this 
bending to the moral yoke and look with a great 
deal of distrust on the great crisis in Tolstoy's life. 
Conversion, they hold, may possibly be good for the 
man, but assuredly is fatal to the artist. A distorted 
view of life, they say, has reacted unfavorably 
on Tolstoy's art and view of art. It is easy to see 
some grounds for such criticism; if a theory is no 
stronger than its weakest dictum or application, 
little can be said in favor of Tolstoy's political, 
moral, and aesthetic theories; and least of all can be 
said in favor of his views on art. What can be 
held of a man who regards King Lear as a mere 
clutter of improbabilities and denies Shakespeare 
grasp, sense of measure, and true characterization; 
of one who rejects Dante and Michael Angelo non- 
chalantly, and shows as little understanding of the 
trenchant intellectualism of Ibsen as he does of the 
elusive art of Maeterlinck or Baudelaire and the 
rich art of Boecklin, Beethoven, and Wagner? 
These erratic views are expressed in two essays: 
What is Art? published in 1898, and Shakespeare, 


in 1906. They cannot be set to the score of old age, 
for nothing could be more virile than Tolstoy at 
eighty; besides, letters, diaries, reminiscences prove 
that many of them extend back to ripe manhood. 
For years Tolstoy tried to force Shakespeare on 
himself, always without success. " I invariably 
underwent the same feelings: repulsion, weariness, 
and bewilderment." It would be quite as unfair 
to set aside because of them Tolstoy's whole theory 
of art, and to ask: Why consider a blind man's 
theory of color? To deny that a great artist like 
Tolstoy has some understanding at least of the 
essentials of beauty, is too much like going at things 
with a scoop. Limited in range his feeling for 
art certainly is, for he could not enjoy verse and its 
music, and so misjudged the Symbolists utterly. 
When he tests King Lear by means of retelling the 
plot in the baldest possible prose, he overlooks the 
meaning of poetic pitch of character and incident. 
Highly complex forms of art he could not appre- 
ciate, but within this range and its racial, personal 
and cultural limits his appreciation of art is genuine 
and in the main convincing and sound; and what 
is true of his art holds also of his judgment of art: 
it is truest when nearest the soil. That is why he 
has such a fine feeling for Homer and for the rich, 
earthy art of folk-song and folk-epic. Nor is it 
safe to regard the crisis for which My Confession 
stands as a sudden wrenching free which ever after 


left a moral twist. Some influence must be ad- 
mitted; some warping of judgment and some es- 
trangement from the artistic as such. But, after 
all, Tolstoy's art, at its earliest and even at its 
best, has a moral strain to it. The problem of the 
reshaping of character is not peculiar to Resurrec- 
tion; it appears in Anna Karenina and still earlier 
in terse and virile form in The Cossacks; the ques- 
tion of the meaning of life, which Tolstoy came 
to use as the test of art, haunts Besuchoff in War 
and Peace and Levin in Anna Karenina, and fig- 
ures prominently as far back as 1852 in the un- 
finished novel Youth. In view of this it is absurd 
to say that Tolstoy's attitude toward art at some 
definite time came within the deep shadow of a 
moral eclipse. 

The truth of the matter seems to be this: Back 
of Tolstoy's art criticisms is a definite and thought- 
ful theory of art and its relation to life, a theory 
worked out gradually and unevenly. Erratic as it 
is, it is much stronger than its weakest link. True 
or false, it is at least vital; partly because it is him- 
self his personality caught in one of its sincerest 
expressive movements and reflects the directness, 
massiveness, and liveness of his interests; partly 
because it comes from a creative genius; partly 
because it is a cultural theory of art: a peculiarly 
earnest attempt to connect art with life and to see the 
values of art in relation to whatever else of value a 


fixed will and a hungry imagination can snatch 
from life. It is therefore entitled to a hearing. 

Tolstoy's essay on Guy de Maupassant, written 
in 1894, gives interesting matter. We are told that 
in 1 88 1 Turgenief brought him the Maison Tellier 
collection of stories. It was an ill-chosen moment. 
" That particular period, the year 1881, was for me 
the fiercest time of the inner reconstruction of my 
whole understanding of life, and in this recon- 
struction those employments called the Fine Arts, 
to which I had formerly given all my power, had not 
only lost all their former importance in my eyes, 
but had become altogether obnoxious to me owing 
to the unnatural position they had hitherto occupied 
in my life, and which they generally occupy in the 
estimation of people of the wealthy classes." Mau- 
passant did not escape this general disfavor. His 
workmanship was admired, but much of his mate- 
rial found repellent, and his attitude towards life, 
ill-defined. Later when he came back to Maupassant 
and read Une Vie his estimate changed. Here 
he saw what he had thought lacking and what he 
was fast coming to regard as the essential of good 
art. The essay reflects this juster estimate, and 
in it are to be found Tolstoy's four tests of good 

The first of these four art tests is genius, that is, 
" the faculty of intense, strenuous attention, applied 
according to the author's tastes to this or that 


subject; and by means of which the possessor of 
this capacity sees the things to which he applies 
his attention in some new aspect overlooked by 
others." There must, in short, be a close and 
fresh view of things. Again, there must be beauty 
of expression. The third quality demanded is sin- 
cerity: an earnestness burnt into its material. The 
fourth is " a correct, that is, moral relation of the 
author to his subject." All these he finds in most of 
Maupassant's work. 

These four tests, with the emphasis thrown sharply 
on the fourth, give the key to Tolstoy's theory of 
art, but only if they are understood in their psy- 
chological sources and in the drift of their logic. With 
the first three this is a simple matter, for it is not 
difficult to understand and to justify genius, sincerity, 
and clearness and beauty of expression as tests of 
good art. Nor is the problem of source difficult: 
they reflect much in Tolstoy's character and are 
in turn reflected in his art. Nothing could be more 
earnest, surer in touch and bolder in design than 
some of his character studies; in his descriptions 
no detail is too minute for a sharp, searching, vitaliz- 
ing imagination. The snowstorm in Master and 
Servant is wonderfully true; so are the descriptions 
of dumb animals, the battle canvases and gambling 
scenes in War and Peace. Nothing escapes him: 
he is equally at home in the hot life of the steppes 
and in the jaded life of the salon. He catches with 


photographic accuracy the homely doings of peasant 
life and the unobtrusive panorama of nature soil, 
wind, and weather. As for the source from which 
these three demands spring, it is to be found in the 
quality of directness which marks Tolstoy the 
man above all else. The desire to live earnestly and 
to see clearly was with him almost an obsession; 
so downright and energetic is he in his search that 
he of ten fails to judge cautiously and sanely; reveal- 
ing a most perplexing blend of idealist and straight, 
none too subtle, common-sense thinker; and yet 
this directness in its good variants marks what is 
best in his art, in shaping his studies of peasant 
character, for instance. 

The fourth art test is, however, the one most heavily 
staked. An author is to have " a correct, that is, 
moral relation " to his subject. Two questions 
immediately shake themselves free: What is meant 
by a right, or moral relation? What is considered 
a right, or moral relation? 

As to the first question, one set of clues is given 
by the essay itself. Maupassant's short stories are 
praised because they bring out so sharply the awful 
disillusionment of animal love. This might suggest 
moralizing and a " wages of sin " idea. Nothing is 
more congenial to the Anglo-Saxon and more distaste- 
ful to the Frenchman. It would be idle to deny that 
Tolstoy often moralizes in just this way, in his later 
short stories especially. It is the peasant's greed or 


his shiftlessness and love of vodka that is the dis- 
tressingly obvious moral lesson of such tales as How 
much Land does a Man Require? and How the Little 
Devil Atoned for the Crust of Bread. But here Tolstoy 
has something else in mind. " An artist is only an 
artist because he sees things not as he wishes to see 
them, but as they are.' 7 That is the voice of the 
great realist who by the mere relentless handling of 
cause and effect gives the shattering of Anna Kare- 
nina's life impressively and objectively with no 
attempt at moralizing. What Tolstoy means is 
that art must be rooted in a Weltanschauung, a life 
attitude, and that this, and not character or plot, is 
the true principle of unity in a novel or a play. Life 
is thought to have an inherent moral quality; this 
the true artist is to give intensely and objectively. 
If he takes life piecemeal his art becomes false and 
insignificant. Just as there is one position from 
which an object of sense yields itself most fully, so 
there is one point of view from which life is held to 
disclose its meaning. So we are to ask the artist: 
" From what standpoint will you illumine life for 
me? " Discussing a young Russian writer of great 
promise, Tolstoy said that while he admired the 
artistic quality of his work he failed to find in it a 
definite philosophy of life. 

True art then must give a clear, undistorted reflec- 
tion of life and its meaning. An artist must first of 
all understand life in all its elemental force and in all 


its puzzling reaches. All this might be mere phrase 
or pose; and there are many with whom philosophy 
is either or both. Not so with Tolstoy, for with him 
the problem of life is an urgent, pressing one; it 
is the very hunger of his existence. He comes back 
to it again and again; his letters and diaries are 
full of self-analysis, confessions, self-damnings. 
Curiously intent on living earnestly and seeing 
clearly, he jots down his master faults, maps out 
studies and methods of discipline, launches and 
questions all manner of thoughts; and all this with 
little or no trace of the morbid, and in the midst 
of much riotous living. But life for many years 
proved too sweet in the living for more than mere 
foreshadowings of that great spiritual crisis of which 
My Confession gives so intense and sincere an ac- 
count. No one who fails to see the significance of 
that crisis can understand the high seriousness of 
his view of art. Tolstoy was in his forties, in good 
health, happily married, a successful writer, successful 
in the experiments in peasant schooling he had tried 
on his estates, when the craving for a rational view 
of life caught him full sweep and drove him to the 
very edge of despair. 

" My life had come to a sudden stop. I was able 
to breathe, to eat, to drink, to sleep. I could not, 
indeed, help doing so; but there was no real life in 
me. I had not a single wish to strive for the fulfil- 
ment of what I could feel to be reasonable. If 


I wished for anything, I knew beforehand that, were 
I to satisfy the wish, nothing would come of it; I 
should still be dissatisfied." 

" I knew not what I wanted, I was afraid of life; 
I shrank from it, and yet there was something I 
hoped for from it. 

" Such was the condition I had come to, at a time 
when all the conditions of my life were preeminently 
happy ones, and when I had not reached my fiftieth 
year . . . Moreover my mind was neither deranged 
nor weakened; on the contrary, I enjoyed a mental 
and physical strength which I have seldom found in 
men of my class and pursuits : I could keep up with a 
peasant in mowing, and could continue mental labor 
for ten hours at a stretch without any evil con- 

All this doubt and this anguish, as of a man starv- 
ing, crystallize about the question: Is Life " an evil 
and absurdity "? which is the problem of My Con- 
fession. Curiously enough it at first takes on a self- 
ish cast. " What am I with all my desires? " Why 
set mind to purpose or hand to work when the out- 
come must be decay and death? Tolstoy, to whom 
by temperament the aspect of death was horrible, 
had come to feel that the thought of this fleetingness 
and decay would embitter every joy and cripple every 
aim. " I, like Sakya Muni, could not drive to the 
pleasure ground when I knew of the existence of old 
age, suffering and death." It is the world old cry 
of anguish in the presence of change and of death, 


the great denier. But another question appears in 
a passage like the following: " Why do I live? The 
question was, why should I live, i.e., what of real 
and imperishable will come of my shadowy and perish- 
able life what meaning has my finite existence in the 
infinite universe? " Nothing could be sharper than 
the contrast between this question and the one 
originally asked: that was a problem of satisfaction; 
this is one of service. In the one I ask life to justify 
itself to me; in the other I ask of myself a justifica- 
tion at the bar of life; in the first I assume that life 
ought to be sweet to the taste and am routed in the 
midst of my pleasures by the death's head of change 
and decay at the banquet; in the second I challenge 
this assumption and think of life, not as an invitation 
to enjoy, but as a demand to work. The first prob- 
lem does not hold Tolstoy, he pushes on to the second. 
Assume that satisfaction of desires defines the mean- 
ing of life, and you are caught in the swirl of unreason, 
but the unreason is in you, not in life. You have put 
things wrongly. Is life devoid of reason because it 
rejects an irrational demand? In this way Tolstoy 
by shifting the emphasis forces the prospect of a 
solution of the problem of life. Life seems too large 
and sane to be cast aside on account of the disap- 
pointed pleasure-seeker's despair; thousands seem 
to find a meaning in it; they seem to live strongly, 
clearly, happily; their point of view seems vital; 
their faith, sustaining. Why then not turn to this 


simple, strong life of the masses for guidance? This 
Tolstoy did resolutely. 

" I renounced the life of my class, for I had come 
to confess that it was not a real life, only the semblance 
of one; that its superfluous luxury prevented the 
possibility of understanding life, and that in order 
to do so I must know, not an exceptional parasitic 
life, but the simple life of the working classes, the life 
which fashions that of the world, and gives it the 
meaning which the working classes accept. The 
simple laboring men around me were the Russian 
people, and I turned to this people and to the mean- 
ing which it gives to life." 

The message Tolstoy gets from the masses is that 
the only rational life is a life of faith, work, self- 
denial, humility, kindliness, and charity. The mean- 
ing of life is found in social service and in an ideal of 
self-culture built about energetic self-discipline and 
sincere religious aspiration. 

It is from this point of view that Tolstoy studies and 
condemns modern culture, and develops a cultural 
theory of art. His criticisms on modern art must 
be viewed in the light of his attitude toward modern 
culture. Our culture, to his way of thinking, wrongly 
assumes enjoyment to be the meaning of life, and 
exhausts itself in the pursuit of material comfort, 
in a restless craving for luxury and the sources of 
pleasure. Pessimism and mat de vie are too often 


only the expression of pleasure-seeking thwarted or 
gone wrong. Again, modern culture is exclusive. 
It is built on the slavery of the masses, and exacts 
heavy sacrifices in time, labor, and suffering of the 
many for the benefit of the few. Why, asks Tolstoy, 
should they that are nearest to life and an under- 
standing of it, they to whom life is not a plaything 
or a morsel for the senses, but something concrete, 
earnest, vital, of social purpose why should they be 
sacrificed in order to strengthen the pleasure-seeker in 
his wrong position? Why should there be this de- 
plorable sacrifice of life and character? " But how 
wonderfully blind we become as soon as the question 
concerns those millions of workers who perish slowly 
and often painfully, all around us, at labors the fruits 
of which we use for our convenience and pleasure!'* 

Modern art Tolstoy considers no less wasteful and 
exclusive than modern culture. It is selfish, exclusive, 
and costly. It exacts the toll of work from the many 
and yields pleasure and profit to the few. In its 
complex forms, grand opera, for instance, it is accessi- 
ble to few, intelligible to fewer still, and costly out of 
all proportion to its value. There is much crude fun 
and not a little malice in Tolstoy's description of a 
grand opera dress rehearsal at St. Petersburg. This 
wastefulness of modern art is tragic because the 
drudges of art, the printer, the stagehand, the 
musician, caught in a deadening routine, get nothing 
of the glamour of art, and because there is such a 


favoring of soft-living artists at the expense of really 
useful material. The drudge, the artist and the art 
patron alike miss the true meaning of life: the first 
because he is a drudge, the others because they are 
pleasure-seekers. Here lies the root of the evil: art 
instead of being a cultural force is becoming an in- 
strument of pleasure in the hands of the moneyed and 
leisured classes. Small wonder then that it revels in 
a complex technique, loses itself in symbolism and 
cryptics, and glorifies passions and impulses over 
which the common man shakes a puzzled head. 
Ingenuity is gained, for what could be more ingenious 
than the court pastoral, the sonnet, the ode, the 
symphony? But it is gained at the expense of force 
and breadth. At its worst this exclusive art, always 
within easy reach of the decadent, expresses the 
abnormalities of a mind out of focus; at its best it 
reflects shallow class ideals and surface vanities. 
These class ideals are: sense of honor, or pride, 
blatant patriotism, and amorousness. They are 
parasitical developments of life and lack the vigor, 
freshness, and massive pressure of the elemental. To 
Tolstoy with his intense hunger of life such ideals 
seemed vapid. He caught at the life of the peasant 
in his work at Yasnaya Polyana, in his talks and 
comradeships of the open road, in his pilgrimages to 
Op tin monastery; in "such a life close to the soil he 
thought he detected an unmatched strength and 
intensity, spiritual and artistic. In peasant life he 


saw at least the promise of a wisdom that is not mere 
cleverness, and an art that is not a mere toying with 
sounds, colors, and feelings. 

This line of reasoning might suggest an onslaught 
on art as such, but that is certainly not Tolstoy's 
purpose. He is not to be ranked as an enemy of 
art; he is not a scoffer, but a critic; a critic whose 
concern for true art gives the sharpest possible edge 
to his attack on what he considers bad art. To him 
true art is a cultural force of immense importance, 
but easily sent astray made, as in the mass of modern 
art, to serve a false ideal of life, and selfish, exclusive, 
costly interests. 

What then is true art, art not culturally perverted? 
" Art is one of two organs of human progress. By 
words man interchanges thoughts, by the forms of 
art he interchanges feelings, and this with all men, 
not only of the present time, but also of the past and 
the future ... To evoke in oneself a feeling one 
has once experienced, and, having evoked it in one- 
self, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, 
sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit 
that feeling that others may experience the same 
feeling this is the activity of art. Art is a human 
: activity consisting in this, that one man consciously 
; by means of certain external signs hands on to others 
feelings he has lived through, and that other people 
are infected by these feelings and also experience 
them." Such passages prove that Tolstoy regards 


art as self-expression, and essentially transference of 
feelings. It is here that he gets his test of true art: 
the excellence of any work of art depends, first, on 
whether or not it conveys feelings effectively, second, 
on the worth of the feelings conveyed. 

The contagiousness of art in turn depends on three 
things: the novelty and originality of the feeling, 
the clearness with which it is expressed, and the 
sincerity of the author. Good art must be striking, 
luminous, and convincing. Thus in the technique of 
the drama Tolstoy demands " a true individuality 
of language, corresponding to the characters; a 
natural, and at the same time touching plot; a cor- 
rect scenic rendering of the demonstration and 
development of emotion; and the feeling of measure 
in all^that is represented." Of the three essentials of 
transference of feelings sincerity is the most impor- 
tant. " It is always complied with in peasant art, 
and this explains why such art always acts so power- 
fully ; but it is a condition almost entirely absent from 
our upper-class art, which is continually produced 
by artists actuated by personal aims of covetousness 
and vanity." 

Passing to the second test of good art: how are 
we to judge of the worth of the feelings conveyed? 
At any particular stage of social development there 
is a certain amount of religious perception and feeling. 
Art draws on this, and good art draws on it most 
fully. The religious consciousness of any given time 


is the judge of the worth of the feelings conveyed 
it is this startling assertion that Tolstoy's thought 
arrives at. But he interprets religious consciousness 
as " an understanding defining the highest good 
at which that society aims; it is nothing else than 
the revealing of a new creative relation of man to the 
universe." This earnest and penetrative wisdom is 
strong in the choice spirits of an age, and at work in 
the life of the masses. Life is freshened by this 
source of new, forceful, and communicable feelings, 
and art is the gainer, for there is " nothing so old and 
stale as gratification " and " nothing so new as the 
feelings which flow into the religious consciousness 
of a given time." Hebrew and Greek art are cited 
to point the argument. While false art is continually 
impoverishing itself, true art draws on the richest 
possible soil. Tolstoy in this way connects the tests 
of novelty, clearness, and sincerity with that of worth 
of content. 

Tolstoy is quite aware that religious feeling and 
perception are different in different ages, and that in 
order to judge of the worth of present-day art it 
becomes necessary to get the tone and temper of the 
present-day religious consciousness. This, Tolstoy 
holds, is summed up in two things: sonship in God 
and brotherhood of men. "The religious consciousness 
of our times, in its widest and most practical applica- 
tion, is the consciousness that our well-being, material 
and spiritual, temporal and eternal, is included in 


the brotherly life of all people, in our living union 
with each other." 

Stripped of all church ceremonial and theology, 
Christianity is for Tolstoy nothing but a very simple 
but immeasurably strong combination of the ideas: 
sonship in God and brotherhood of men. They in 
turn are the great fresheners and sustainers of what 
is best in modern art. If art is directly religious, 
giving what is best in religious perception and giving 
it simply and convincingly, it is of the very best; if it 
turns against anti-social feelings, it is on a slightly 
lower plane; if it expresses certain simple, fundamen- 
tal feelings, such as gaiety, tenderness, grief, it is 
still, though indirectly, religious art, for it fosters the 
sense of human kinship. Tolstoy with an honest 
avowal of fallibility classes among good art: Millet's 
Angelus, the novels of Dickens, Victor Hugo, Dos- 
toevsky, Mozart, Weber, and part of Chopin and 
Beethoven and folk-poetry. His own art he con- 
demns with the exception of two stories: God Sees the 
Truth and The Caucasian Prisoner. 

Such, for good or ill, is Tolstoy's theory of art. In 
its results it is beyond a doubt disappointing in a 
great many ways. Its heresies and gross lapses of 
insight stand out, but in and of themselves they would 
not be strong enough to condemn it. The fault lies 
deeper : it is Tolstoy's onesided, narrow interpretation 
of culture that spoils his theory of art. Any theory 
of art as frankly cultural as Tolstoy's is made or 


marred by the conception of culture that carries it; a 
flaw in that counts tenfold against it. Here is where 
Tolstoy is weakest, for as a social thinker he often 
lays himself open to the charge of being crude, rash, 
and narrow; he turns to large problems, looks at 
them intently, impatiently, but not always largely. 
One searches in vain for sound judgment of essentials 
and for a finely discriminative strain of thought: 
fitful flashes of truth in a Cimmerian darkness, that 
is all there is, instead of an even, luminous flooding 
of social problems. He demands that life swing back 
to simple archaic forms and that art express the 
strength, the directness, the simplicity of this genuine 
culture which amounts to casting aside intellectual 
achievements and forcing art to move within the con- 
fines of peasant thought and peasant feeling. There 
lies the damning fact, in this stultification of art, in 
the failure to see that art as well as life is constantly 
becoming a richer and a more subtle thing, and that 
with its ever increasing range of expressiveness it 
must find a place for the subjective, the complex, the 
elusive, the abnormal. It is all the richer for a 
Maeterlinck or a Baudelaire. Over against a fresh, 
simple, strong peasant art Tolstoy sets the danger 
of pose, affectation, and sickening self-exploitation; 
he has no eye for other possibilities. Peasant life 
may be simple and strong, but it is often dull or gross, 
and popular art often shares this dulness or gross- 
ness; Tolstoy himself became the victim of that 


dulness when on reading one of the most touching 
scenes of his The Power of Darkness, a play based 
incident for incident on an actual criminal case among 
peasants, to a group of peasants, he was greeted with 
unexpected laughter. Again, artistic finesse need 
not mean a mannered or a sickish art. 

But if Tolstoy's theory of art is disappointing in 
results, it is not disappointing as a problem. All 
sorts of questions spread from it like a fan. Does the 
Thinker crowd out the Maker? Can the philosoph- 
ical impulse develop only at the expense of the artistic? 
Or if there is war between the two, is it not rather the 
direction taken by either that is responsible? That 
in Tolstoy the moral interest seriously endangered his 
art and his interest in art there can be no doubt. 
The philosophical tinge to his earlier work deepened 
to the problem, How ought I to live? What is the 
meaning of life? Questions like these ought to be an 
artistic asset; they ough to make art richer, more 
searching and they do it in Hardy, in Anatole 
France, in Gorky. What of Jude the Obscure and 
The Gods are A thirst? No one has seen more sharply 
than Gorky the tragedy of a soul lost in the tumult 
and social unreason of modern life. His characters, 
hungry for life and an understanding of it, but 
crippled, entangle themselves in their own thoughts 
and purposes or else face life with the dumb agony 
of an animal at bay. If in Hardy, Anatole France, 
and Gorky, why not in Tolstoy? Is it because he 


puts the problem too reflectively, too self-consciously; 
because his philosophy is stark naked? Is it perhaps 
because a solved problem is artistically a dead 
problem? Or does the flaw lie in the nature of Tol- 
stoy's solution? Are there greater possibilities for 
art in regarding life as a cruel joke or a senseless 
jumble than as a purposive, man-centered system? 
Is it because under Tolstoy's hands the problem 
shrinks from a cosmic to a moral one, leaving nature 
outside? Tolstoy was a keen observer of nature, 
but not a philosophical interpreter of her changes, 
laws, and moods. Hardy's cruel, blunt analysis and 
Anatole France's comments, at once sympathetic 
and caustic, run the problem of man into the prob- 
lem of nature. Maeterlinck's art owes much to his 
interest in nature; the individual's life, steeped in 
mixture of the delicate, the smooth, the fantastic, 
turns to a richer, more aromatic blend of character 
and destiny. But Tolstoy destroys what color it has 
by washing it in moral brine. 

There is much meat for argument in all these 
questions; and there is not a little that is perplexing 
in Tolstoy the Artist and the Thinker, 



Auf jedem Gleichniss reitest du Her zu 
jeder Wahrhett. Hier springen dir alles 
Seins Worte und Wort-Schreine auf 

THERE was a time when Nietzsche was thought 
of as the spirit of evil, the Antichrist who scoffed 
at the holiest of things, the Immoralist. His age dis- 
owned him; and the shadow of a great loneliness 
hung over him. During the last year of his sane life 
the clouds began to lift: Brandes lectured on him 
at the University of Copenhagen; letters from young 
and enthusiastic disciples arrived from Vienna. 
Then there came a time when every youth whose 
mind was in a ferment of social revolt saw in him the 
great Apostle of freedom; when students talked 
much and wildly of his Superman; and his doctrines, 
often strangely distorted, made their appearance 
in Italian, Norwegian, and Russian literature. Our 
interest is shifting considerably. We are, for one 
thing, in possession of new material: the Ecce Homo 
and the Letters; and they tell us much of the physical 



disabilities of this Thinker, of his moods, of his spir- 
itual struggles, of a heart heavy and chilled by the 
hugeness of his task and a spirit glorying in the 
contest; they reveal the sensitiveness of the man 
and his curious self-esteem. Much of this was to 
be had for the asking in his books. But best of all, 
they reveal the Artist in this Thinker. By furnish- 
ing us with bits of self-analysis, with observations on 
his style and on the way in which his imagination 
worked, Nietzsche has given us a new clue to his 
work. If followed out it will show clearly the 
aesthetic groundwork of his philosophy; it will reveal 
an imagination at once imperious and playful at work 
directing the drive of his thought. Few thinkers can 
boast of so rich an artistic endowment; none was so 
utterly mastered by it or so intensely interested in 
some of its problems, 

To get nearer to Nietzsche the artist philosopher 
one must after a brief reference to some of his literary 
criticisms and opinions pass to his criticism of Wagner 
and consider all it implies; turn to his famous con- 
trast of the Dionysian and Apollonian artist and 
his analysis of the artistic temperament; and one 
must then attempt some sort of an interpretation 
of his style and imagination, and of their influence 
on his thought. 

Nietzsche's literary estimates are numerous. Some 


are trivial and superficial, but others carry straight 
to his beliefs and ideals. Here is a cluster of them, 
given for what they are worth. Few philosophers find 
grace in his eyes: Socrates, Kant, Mill, Comte, and 
Spencer are spoken of with contempt; Carlyle is 
uncouth, insincere, self- tormented. He has little 
patience with Ibsen and calls Victor Hugo " the 
lighthouse on the sea of nonsense." Schiller moralizes 
and Zola brutalizes; it is easily guessed which to 
Nietzsche is the deadlier sin. Sainte Beuve is a 
resentful woman of a man, and Taine has been all 
but spoiled by Hegel. He appreciates the art of 
men like Anatole France, Bourget, and Maupassant, 
and he tells us that MolieTe, Montaigne, and Corneille 
have a place in his small collection of favorite books. 
He prefers Manfred to Faust. He speaks of the 
" wild and tangled " genius of Shakespeare, but feels 
the dramatic and emotional intensity of Hamlet 
and King Lear, and has interpreted the problem of 
Hamlet in a striking way.* Heine owes his suprem- 
acy as a lyrical poet to the " sweet and passionate 

* THE BIRTH OF TRAGEDY: " In this sense the Dionysian man 

resembles Hamlet: they have both looked deeply and truly into the 

being of things; they have understood, hence the prospect of action 

nauseates them. They see that nothing in their actions can change 

one whit the essence of things; they feel the folly and the disgrace 

j of the demand that they should straighten a world out of joint. 

I Knowledge slays action; if we are to act illusion must veil our eye 

I this is the true meaning of Hamlet, not that cheap story of a Jack 

' o' Dreams who fails to act because he reflects too much on all manner 


music " of his language. Of the ancients, Homer, 
^Eschylus, and Pindar stand highest. 

Of much greater importance than these scattered 
criticisms is Nietzsche's relation to Wagner, both 
critical and personal. The tragedy of their friend- 
ship is well known. They first met in 1866; 
Nietzsche, much the younger of the two, felt himself 
stimulated. He welcomed Wagner as the very spirit 
of music and the forerunner of a new culture. In 
1869 and 1870 they spent many happy Saturdays and 
Sundays together at Tribschen, near Lucerne days 
of mutual confidences, great thoughts, sincere friend- 
ship; sunny " cloudless " days. It was then that 
Wagner's greatness smote Nietzsche like a life-giving 
wind; and up sprang those two great and extreme 
panegyrics, The Birth of Tragedy and Richard Wagner 
in Bayreuth. A few years later this young enthusiast 
turned sharply away from Wagner, and took issue 
with his philosophy and his art. His own philosophy 
was in the making; it found voice in Human All too 
Human. He sent Wagner a copy of that essay at 
the very time Wagner was sending him Parsifal. 
It was, says Nietzsche, like the crossing of two swords. 
One thing only could come of it, complete estrange- 

of possibilities. No, it is not reflecting that makes action impossible 
it is a true understanding of, and insight into the awful truth, it 
is this that paralyzes every impulse to act, with Hamlet as well as 
with the Dionysian man." 


ment and silence. Nietzsche became more and 
more convinced that Wagner's name meant the ruin 
of music and a decadent culture; his disapproval 
was sharp but incidental until, in the year 1888, it 
broke out with unmeasured vehemence in the pam- 
phlets The Case of Wagner; Nietzsche contra Wagner, 
and The Twilight of the Idols. 

There is real tragedy in this breach of a very deep 
and sincere friendship; the tragedy of a sacrifice to 
an ideal. In Ecce Homo, written just before madness 
closed in on him, Nietzsche speaks with gratitude 
and regret of the days at Tribschen; yet his attack 
is severe and relentless. Back of it is the fanaticism 
of the idealist, the spiritual convalescent who looks 
with distrust and disgust on any sign of disease. 
Nothing could be more cruel than your out-and-out 
idealist when he turns upon any of his former idola- 
tries and enthusiasms. Nietzsche's devotion to the 
ideal was intense; earnest to the point of fanaticism, 
acutely sensitive to suffering in himself and in others, 
endowed with a strange defensive irritability, he 
struck hard when his loyalty to an ideal was in ques- 
tion. While he felt the loneliness of his later life 
keenly no man had sadder need of friends than he 
he did not hesitate to break with his best friends 
when a community of interests and ideals was no 
longer possible. One of the volumes of his letters 
contains his correspondence with Rohde, who was 
one of his finest and oldest friends. In the eighties 



Nietzsche began to feel an indifference, a silent but 
all the more provoking resistance to his ideal; this 
impasse irritated and depressed him; he flared up and 
brought the friendship to an abrupt and insulting 
close. The motives for his break with Paul Ree were 
somewhat different. But Nietzsche's fanaticism re- 
veals itself most strikingly in an incident whose 
disturbing influence colors many of the letters of 
1882 and 1883. Some of his friends had recom- 
mended to him very highly a young Russian woman, 
Lou Salome, as a kindred soul, a possible disciple; 
as one who might help him with some of his work. 
Hers had been an heroic life of self-sacrifice to truth, 
to knowledge. Nietzsche, with a philosopher's lack 
of gallantry, describes her to his sister as a girl who 
for want of good looks had cultivated her intellect. 
The heroics appealed to him; but he soon came to 
regard her as a person without " ideals, aims, and 
duties". Her freedom of speech and action shocked 
this great reviser of values, who proved to be a 
bit old-fashioned after all; and this " immoralist " 
reads a very impressive moral lesson on true heroism 
and what it means in the way of singlemindedness, 
devotion to an ideal, and a constant, daily, hourly 
response to a sense of duty. He sees his own " holy 
self-love " caricatured in this " kitten's selfishness " of 
Lou's superficial, affected, insincere mind; and when 
he sees all this, his resentment knows no bounds. 
A blow had been struck at his ideal and Lou 


Salome" received as harsh a letter as ever idealist 

There is not this sharp, discordant personal note 
in the breach of Nietzsche's friendship with Wagner. 
Long before he came to write against Wagner, the 
issue had become an impersonal one; he felt he was 
fighting not an individual, but principles and ten- 
dencies. Still there is often a venomous sting to his 
words; which happens whenever the aesthetic critic 
yields his place to the fanatic devotee of an ideal he 
sees endangered. 

In the welter of Nietzsche's criticisms of Wagner 
there are but a few that are purely aesthetic, and 
they all group themselves about the thought that 
Wagner lacks style, dramatic and musical. It seems 
strange that a man the majority of whose books lack 
all unity except the unity of mood should have 
insisted so strongly on style as an ordering of parts, 
and should have denied to Wagner the power to 
fashion work all of a piece. His criticism here is at 
its unhappiest; it confuses complexity with anarchy. 
He overlooks the great advance of the music drama 
over the opera in structural unity. He gives instances 
of awkward devices such as the following: 

" Assume Wagner to be in need of a female voice. 
A whole act without a female voice impossible! 
But all his heroines are for the time being engaged. 
What does Wagner do? He emancipates the oldest 


woman of the world Mother Earth. ' Up, aged 
grandmother, you must sing! ' Mother Earth sings. 
Wagner has gained what he wants, so he packs the 
old lady off. l Why did you come, anyway? Off 
with you, and have the kindness to continue your 
nap.' ' 

But he fails to see the singleness of artistic purpose 
which marks Wagner at his best, and does scant 
justice to the theory of the relation of poetry to 
music. Events and words alone, Wagner would 
have said, cannot possibly give the full, organized 
meaning of the dramatic idea; they need the services 
of a new dramatic and implicational music with a 
restless to and fro, a varying comment, a mutual 
enhancing of parts. " Infinite melody " is his phrase 
for it, and on that phrase Nietzsche pounces. To 
him it suggests the nebulous, the formless, the 
Hegelian; it is a pretentious stage trick on the part 
of an idealist to disguise his lack of musical style. 
Why sacrifice all beauty of form in music for an 
infinite cloud realm of meaning, a "Nowhere and 
Otherwhere "? Wagner asks us to swim in the sea 
of "infinite melody"; the older music, light and 
elegant in its measures, taught us to dance. Nietz- 
sche is very fond of this metaphor of the dance. 
/Language to him is the pipe of Dionysus, light and 
playful, sad, passionate by turn; it ought to express 
the rhythmic animation, the intensity, and versatility 
of the artist. Rhythmic and appropriate expression 


of feeling is the essence of style. He sees no sunni- 
ness, no lightness in Wagner's music; it is harsh and 
formless; it lacks deftness. One cannot dance to 
it or march to it; " not even the young German 
emperor can march to Wagner's Kaisermarsch." It 
does violence to one's sense of form, and therefore 
means the very dissolution of style. Intensity there 
is Nietzsche never denied the greatness of Tristan 
und Isolde in this respect but it is a shattering 
intensity which makes it impossible to breathe freely 
and respond rhythmically. In a passage in The Birth 
of Tragedy there is an interesting allusion to the 
third act of Tristan und Isolde. 

" How should it be possible for a man to escape 
instant destruction when he has put his ear to the 
very heart of the World Will, when he has felt a 
raging lust of being now a thundering stream, and 
then a bit of spray in every vein of the universe. 
How should he, a mere fragile shell of human in- 
dividuality, endure the numberless cries of joy and 
anguish reechoing in l the wide space of worlds ' ; 
how should he endure this shepherd dance of meta- 
physics without hurrying to his old, old cosmic 
home? " 

At that time he recognized a calm, Apollonian 
element in Wagner's art, which acted as a counter- 
poise to a passionate, yearning music. Later when 
Nietzsche had shaken off the influence of Schopen- 
hauer and had begun to detect musical formlessness 


in the new dramatic music, he felt in the score of 
Tristan und Isolde only oppressive, exhausting, and 
crudely elemental passion. Here Nietzsche goes 
beyond purely aesthetic criticism, for he sees in this 
passionateness and this return to the elemental a 
symptom and a sign of danger. 

Wagner a Danger! in this heading of Nietzsche's 
lies the real animus of his attack. His philosophy 
looks over the shoulder of his art criticism and takes 
aim. Pied Piper, Klingsor of Klingsors, Orpheus 
of all secret misery, he calls Wagner. His ideal of 
health is that of a spiritual convalescent he admits 
as much in the Ecce Homo and one might expect a 
morbid fear of disease and distrust of weakness. Bias 
of the strongest sort is the inevitable result, but one 
accepts it gladly in exchange for a problem of great 
interest. This philosopher who looks over the art 
critic's shoulder is he perhaps at soul an artist, 
a Maker, with a challenge? The problem is not a 

' simple one. Nietzsche speaks deprecatingly of the 
Artisten Metaphysik of The Birth of Tragedy. But 

^ throughout his philosophy from the ethical ideals of a 
Superman and a cultural health on to detailed inter- 
pretation and construction there is a perfect tangle 

/ of intellectual and artistic motifs. The system-builder 

\is an architect, with an architect's instincts; and 
these may show themselves either in the clamping 
together of parts or, as in Nietzsche's case, in sin- 
glemindedness and distrust together with much 


structural looseness. Even apart from that, there 
is not a single interpretation of a doctrine or an his- 
torical event in Nietzsche uncolored by an imagina- 
tion of peculiar quality; back of such a simple demand 
as that of sharpness and cleanliness of thinking is his 
interpretation of the Apollonian artist. Insight into 
the contrast of Apollonian and Dionysian art and into 
Nietzsche's artistic imagination may clear the prob- 
lem; at present we must content ourselves with 
saying that it is the artist philosopher who looks 
over the shoulder of the art critic. A Weltanschauung 
condemns Wagner; a way of taking and testing the 
world quite as dogmatic and zealous as Tolstoy's, 
but much nearer the aesthetic in its ideals and motifs. 
Wagner a Danger! Why? Because he is the very 
spirit of modernism: a weak, restless spirit with a 
craving for stimulants. Nietzsche, the lonely seeker 
and champion of the Superman, turns away from his 
age with a surfeit of disgust. It is poverty stricken 
and soul sick; it lacks quality and strength. With 
its newspapers, labor unions, schools, and equality 
propaganda it is an age for the little man. De- 
mocracy breeds him, and society cares for and pam- 
pers him. But it is not merely plebeian; it is 
exhausted, and in its utter exhaustion it is lethargic 
and hysterical by turn. True to his theory that the 
biological up and down of an age, its health or diseased 
condition, is reflected in its art, Nietzsche comes to 
see in Wagner a point of view and an art which will 


aggravate the disease. He looks back on his earlier 
praise, cries Peccam and utters warning after warning. 
Where he once saw exuberance, he now sees weakness; 
where he saw genius and originality, he now sees the 
arutcs and the tricks of a poseur; where he saw pas- 
sion, he sees fatigue whipped up by drugs. He dis- 
tinguishes a pessimism of the weak and a pessimism 
of the strong. 

" Is there a pessimism of strength? an intellectual 
preference for what is hard, fearful, bad, problematical 
in life; a preference that springs from well-being, 
overflowing health, fulness of life? Is there perhaps 
suffering because of that very fulness? " 

Quite different, this " testing courage," from the 
pessimism of the weak! The weak distrust their 
passions, they become ascetics; they are afraid. of the 
truth, and so become romantic; they don't like a 
fight and the gritty taste of real life, these dispirited 
ones, presto! another world appears, and theirs the 
task to be otherworldly. Nietzsche sees such pro- 
tective cowardice everywhere; there is something 
almost perverse in the way in which he misjudges 
democracy and misreads Christianity. But whatever 
its source and justification, this general antipathy 
colors his judgment of Wagner. He pokes fun 
and bitter fun it is at times at the idea of salvation 
in Wagner. Every one in Wagner wishes to be saved ; 
and every one is saved, preferably by a woman. 


The otherworldliness of Parsifal? Anathema! He 
had once been a great admirer of Siegfried; he had 
seen in him and in the Edda characters strength and 
pressure of life, a reminiscence of an age when gods 
and men alike were granite boulders flung about 
by a cosmic upheaval; but now he speaks of them as 
shams, and of Siegfried as fin de siecle, as an inflated, 
sophisticated modern. The truth is, he distrusts 
Wagner. He has no stomach for that nauseating 
draught: " sweetish pity," insincere otherworldli- 
ness, and a sensual, flirtatious asceticism. Nietzsche 
has put this distrust in verse. The original German 
may stand: no translation is possible. 

1st Das noch deutsch? 

Aus deutschem Herzen kam dies schwiile Kreischen? 

Und deutschen Leibs ist dies Sich-selbst-Entfleischen? 

Deutsch ist dies Priester-Handespreizen, 

Dies weihrauch-diiftelne Sinne-Reizen? 

Und deutsch dies Stocken, Sturzen, Taumeln, 

Dies ungewisse Bimbambaumeln? 

Dies Nonnen-Aeugeln, Ave-Glocken-Bimmeln, 

Dies ganze falsch verziickte Himmel-Ueberhimmeln? 

Ist das noch deutsch? 

Erwagt! Noch steht ihr an der Pforte: 

Denn was ihr hort, ist Rom, Rom's Glaube ohne Worte!" 

Nietzsche's Weltanschauung has played him a trick: 
the much admired Colossus of Tribschen shrivels to 
the theatrical mannikin of Bayreuth, the Kirchenrat, 
and then this mannikin, growing to the monstrous, 
becomes a bugbear, a deadly danger. There is much 


of the human, all too human in Wagner; at times 
his sensuality is not sufficiently robust and his 
asceticism neither subtle nor convincing; his essays 
are vague, stodgy, and high-flown an unpleasant 
mixture and the note of sex is struck too often. 
But Nietzsche distorts like all idealists. His palette 
contains the most resplendent whites and the deep- 
est blacks; and while he had once painted Wagner's 
portrait in white, he now does it in solid black. 

^ Two gods of Nietzsche's youth Wagner and Scho- 
penhauer had been toppled over; his third great 
enthusiasm Greek culture and Greek literature 
remained secure. Like all good Germans he knew 
his Homer and Sophocles and had a well supplied 
philosopher's kit when he left school; but he was 
original and enterprising as well, read his philoso- 
phers in his own way, and upset the philologists with 
a brilliant, imaginative theory of Greek tragedy. 
/ He was twenty-eight when he wrote The Birth of 
\ Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, in which he inter- 
preted Greek tragedy as the meeting-point of two 
/ great cultural forces, the Apollonian and Dionysian, 
\ at work in Greek religion, philosophy, and art. Later 
on he had much fault to find with the essay, on the 
score of style, and because he felt that he had mixed 
what he called the Greek problem with the Wagner 
problem. His interest in Greek culture, however, 
lost none of its strength; it simply became more dis- 


criminating and also more onesided when he dis- 
covered certain dangerous, disintegrating tendencies 
in the rise of Socratic philosophy and of science. 
Socrates, in whom he saw a disease and a danger, 
becomes his bete noir. When could Nietzsche do 
without a bete noir? in fact he sometimes felt that he 
himself was one. There remained also the contrast 
Nietzsche had so sharply indicated, but the terms 
Apollonian and Dionysian were used with an ever 
wider fling of meaning. They now appeared as 
contrasted universal types or moods rather than as 
shapers of Greek culture. Not that this was anything 
but a stressing and developing of much The Birth of 
Tragedy contained. 

The Apollonian is a mood of calmness, of measure, 
of tranquil pursuit of sheer beauty; the Dionysian is 
a mood of ecstatic, drunken, reeling frenzy, of life 
at full pressure. The tutelary divinity of the first 
is Apollo, the limpid, harmonious Olympian; that of 
the second is Dionysus, the stranger god from Asia, 
the reveller and leader of wild-eyed votaries. Every- 
where may these types be found ; they are two master 
forces of cosmic life: fermentation and clarification. 
Theirs is an important part in the household economy 
of nature. Nietzsche points to Dionysian elements 
in all Oriental religions, to frenzied songs and dances, 
to the self-absorption and exaltation of the mystic, 
to the dancing manias of the Middle Ages, and to the 
mixture of lust and cruelty, " that witches' draught," 


which is such a noxious ingredient in many primitive 

Nietzsche is at his best when he describes one or the 
other of these types. Back of the contrast is of course 
Schiller's theory of Stojftrieb and Formtrieb. With 
Schiller it was a bit of Kantian philosophy thinly 
disguised and with much of the tang of rationalism 
remaining. But the artist in Nietzsche changes all 
this; he makes us feel the wild pulse-beat of the 
Dionysian and the calm splendor of the Apollonian 
in his wonderfully flexible prose; he describes both 
so well because he is both; he is " Rauschkunstler " 
and " Traumkunstler " in one. 

/ The Dionysian mood is not a simple one; and 
Nietzsche gives finely its varying characteristics. 
First, the self-surrender of the individual and a 
feeling of oneness with nature. There are moments 
when we are not a steadily glowing light swung 
aloft above the altar of our god, but a raging fire 
with a desire for divine absorption consuming our 
souls. Second, vigor, exuberance, frenzy. ^Eschy- 
lus and Rodin are in this sense Dionysian artists. 
Third, revelling in conflict as such, in contradiction 
as such: in the sharpness of life's blows and the 
pungent bitterness of its flavor.* Fourth, a certain 

* This is Nietzsche's " heroic pessimism." In The Twilight of 
the Idols he interprets tragedy in this spirit. " What does the 
tragic artist give us of himself? Is it not his fearlessness when con- 
fronted with what is fearful and enigmatic? This state of fearless- 


sadness touched with weariness. This may seem a 
false note in Nietzsche's picture, but there is nothing 
more natural than passing from intense excitement 
to a spent state of exhaustion, and to a mood of 
wearied sadness. 

The Apollonian mood is partly an urgent demand 
to create, to render beauty; partly a desire to keep 
sane, to escape from inner and outer unreason to a 
dream world ; it is a mood of self-possession, of cheer- 
fulness and thankfulness. 

These moods express themselves in art: the 
Apollonian in sculpture and epic poetry theirs are , 
sharp outlines, an unruffled stateliness, and a tran- 
quil beauty; the Dionysian in the throbbing life of 
music, in the abandon of the dance, and in the 
passionate lyric. Art reflects culture; in Greek cul- 
ture they stand out sharply. Many before Nietzsche 
had recognized the Apollonian element in Greek art; 
men like Winckelmann and Goethe never tired of 
pointing to the ideal and reposeful beauty of Greek 
sculpture, and to the sure touch and unerring sense 

ness is highly desirable; he who knows it bestows upon it the great- 
est honors. He communicates it to others; this he must do if he is 
an artist, a genius at giving. Courage and freedom of feeling in 
the presence of a mighty enemy, of a sublime disaster, of a problem 
fraught with terror this victorious attitude is what the tragic 
artist selects and glorifies. What is warlike in our souls celebrates in 
tragedy its Saturnalia. He who knows sorrow and seeks sorrow 
the heroic man praises in tragedy his own existence; it is to him 
that the tragic poet offers the honor of this sweetest of all cruel 


of form revealed in even the lesser arts. Nietzsche 
\ admits this delight in ordered beauty, in clear colors, 
/ sharp contours, and linear grace; he admits " the 
incredibly precise and unerring plastic power " of 
the Greek eye; he accepts in part the traditional view 
that evenness, sunniness, and saneness marked the 
racial temper of the Greeks. But what was com- 
monly held to be an endowment he interpreted as an 
achievement. How the Greek must have suffered 
and struggled before he could change chaos into 
cosmcj, and wrest measure and poise from the 
unchecked and the violent! How he must have cut 
into his passions and hacked at his world! Rightly 
or wrongly Nietzsche reads the problem of Greek 
art and culture in terms of a struggle between Diony- 
sian and Apollonian forces. He distinguishes four 
periods. In the first, the pre-Homeric period, the 
Dionysian spirit is rampant; and it finds an outlet 
/ in barbarous theogonies, in a titanic, grotesque folk- 
philosophy. The second, the Homeric period, is 
/ Apollonian. Homer's mellow art casts a glamour on 
even the commonest things, and the world appears 
bathed in simple, translucent beauty.* Then there 

* In Homer's Wettkampf, written in 1872 as the preface to a pro- 
jected book, Nietzsche characterizes these first two periods strongly: 

" But what lies as the beginning of all that is Greek back of the 
Homeric world? In the latter the extraordinary sureness, restful- 
ness, and purity of line carry us beyond a mere fusing of matter; 
because of an aesthetic illusion its colors seem brighter, warmer, and 


is in the third period an inrush of the Dionysian from 
the North; barbarous, ecstatic cults come from 
Thrace; in the South the turbulent lyric makes itself 
heard; notes of pessimism and weariness are struck 
by the philosophers of the seventh and sixth centuries. 
But Apollo again triumphs: in the severe grace of 
Doric architecture and sculpture and in the beauty 
and polish of Attic prose. His triumph marks the 
fourth period. This bold sketch of Greek culture 
fails to take account of racial differences among the 
Greeks, of the effects of political and industrial con- 
ditions, and of the purely personal factor in poetry, 
say in the lyrics of Archilochus. Still modern 
scholarship has borne out Nietzsche's view of a 

lighter, its people appear better and more akin to us in this multi- 
colored, warm light. But what do we behold when, no longer 
guided and shielded by the hand of Homer, we stalk back into the 
pre-Homeric world? Darkness and terror and the products of an 
imagination used to the horrible! What an existence is mirrored in 
these repellent, fearful theogonies and myths: a life ruled by the 
Children of Night, strife, lust, fraud, old age and death! Imagine 
the stifling air of Hesiod's poems thickened and darkened still more, 
without the softening and purifying influences emanating from 
Delphi and numerous Greek temples; mix this heavy Boeotian air 
with the gloomy lustfulness of the Etruscan and you could press 
from a reality such as this a world of myths compared with which 
Uranus, Kronus and Zeus and the battles of the Titans would seem 
a relief. In this brooding atmosphere battle is the way to safety, 
and the cruelty of victory is the acme of the joy of life. Greek law 
and morality go back in their origins to blood-guilt and retribution; 
a nobler stage of culture takes its first wreath of victory from the 
altar dedicated to the cleansing of blood-guilt." 


primitive, formless Dionysian element in early 
Greek religion. 

Greek tragedy is at once Dionysian and Apollonian. 
It sprang from the dithyramb, from legends, from 
the life of the god Dionysus and a chorus of satyrs, 
the woodland companions of the god. On the wave 
of this Dionysian excitement, of chant, music, and 
dance the cultured Greek was carried and set down 
in the midst of primordial nature. Generations of 
restraint fell away from him, and he again felt 
the earthy savour of life at its freest and wildest. 
The Greek theatre, of circular and terraced con- 
struction, allowed this excitement to sweep from 
chorus to spectator. The chorus takes no prominent 
part in the action, not because, as Schiller had sug- 
gested, it serves to mark off the world of tragedy as 
an ideal world, but because it is the voice of a world 
older than the clash of individual wills. It stands by 
with deep-echoing wisdom on its tongue, as the fellow 
sufferer, as the servant of its god. It excites, exalts, 
and sobers; and prepares the way for the Apollonian 
vision. Man slakes his thirst at the well of life. He 
feels the fire of good old wine in his veins. But he 
also feels the constraint to shape a dream-world; 
without it and its illusions life would become oppress- 
ive beyond endurance. On this underground of 
world-will there is the dazzling picture spray of the 
Apollonian. The dialogue and the characters rep- 
resent the Apollonian element in Greek tragedy. 


Nothing could be simpler, more harmonious, more 
transparent than the language and the characters of 
Sophocles. We seem to know them through and 
through, these Sophoclean men and women. But 
they are really nothing but luminous pictures flung 
across a dark screen. Their clear lineaments form a 
restful and healing contrast to the gloomy, ill ordered, 
terrifying myth; they offer an escape from the panic 
or the nausea of existence. 

One feels the influence of Schiller, Schopenhauer, 
and Wagner in Nietzsche's early aesthetics; but his 
theory of Greek tragedy is quite original in its im- 
aginative force. Starlight in a black mountain lake 
a fine conception of tragedy! His interpretation 
of the (Edipus story or the Prometheus myth may 
be un-Greek, it at least shows artistic insight into pos- 
sibilities; he is as truly a Maker as Goethe was when 
he took the old Faust legend and its naive delight 
in magic and polemics, and made of it the drama of 
the restless seeker of an abiding self. 

The terms Apollonian and Dionysian appear in 
Nietzsche long after this special problem of tragedy 
disappears. They are interpreted psychologically, 
and may serve to usher in Nietzsche's picture of the 
artist a picture which in turn may be made to reveal 
Nietzsche the artist-philosopher. His biological stud- 
ies have borne fruit; for him there is no absolute 
beauty; there is only a " human, all too human " 


< beauty. Nature is at heart neither beautiful nor 
ugly, just as she is neither good nor bad. Man may 
stamp her with his own weakness and littleness or 
he may dower her with his own wealth and strength; 
in either case art is self-expression. It matters 
greatly what sort of a self is expressed. Nietzsche 
is not altogether consistent; he often sees strength 
and weakness in Nature herself, he contrasts periods 
of health and decay, and in this way seems to get an 
objective foundation for morality and art. But he 
is far removed from the dogmatism of certain evolu- 
tionists; he lacks the easy assurance with which 
Spencer strolls up the world stairs. Life to him may 
be a Penelope web of ups and downs or it may be a 
music box with a round of tunes; it is the attitude 
y towards life that counts. There is a yea-saying 
( and a nay-saying to life, in art as well as in morality; 
there is an art of the strong and an art of the weak. 
Great art is strong art and stands for heightened 
vigor, impelling wealth and a wholehearted response 
to life. It may be of the Dionysian type or of the 
Apollonian, that of a Rubens and a Shakespeare or 
that of a Homer and a Goethe. The two types are 
reinterpreted. They touch each other at certain 
points: both are moods of intoxication; in both there 
is a strange power of divination. What a drunken- 
ness of the eye and the ear there is in the Apollonian; 
how he revels in color and sound and form! But 
there is also a delicate sense of measure which orders 


his impressions, gives him a sense of hidden beauty, 
and a cool and playful mastery over a dream world. 
Maeterlinck might well be this Nietzschean artist, 
he lacks not a single one of these traits. The Diony- 
sian intoxication is a diffused excitement bursting 
forth into passion, into explosive feeling. The Diony- 
sian artist is forceful, rich, passionate, masterful; 
he does not respond readily to form, but his imagina- 
tion, at once intense and of great range, allows him 
to divine the emotional. And once divined, he can- 
not resist; with a reckless, lunging self-assertion he 
throws himself at life. His is a mood of joyful and 
courageous abandon; he gives of himself without 
stint. His is the ecstatic dance of the warrior; and 
not that thing of divine lightness, of calm strength 
and tremulous beauty: the dance of the Apollonian. 

This whole contrast, together with the many fine 
remarks on the psychology of the artist which are 
grouped about it, strikes a very personal note. 
One feels that Nietzsche has drawn on himself, has 
generalized from his processes and methods as an 
artist. He himself dispels the slightest doubt on 
that point, for he is fully aware of his artistic endow- 
ment and often refers to his Apollonian and Dionysian 
nature. To say that Nietzsche attributed to himself 
both types because he felt that he, a great man in his 
own eyes, must have the tensional and varied nature 
of great men, is an unkind and false suggestion. It 
may at once be admitted that as a self-critic he had 


grave faults. He lacked a true estimate of his place 
and rank. Much in Ecce Homo is wild; some of it 
reads like the confessions of a megalomaniac. He has 
given the world the greatest of its books, a well of 
gold and kindness; he is the great transvaluer who 
has split human history in two; time is to be reckoned 
from him; the combined geniuses of the ages could 
not have produced a single one of the speeches of 
Zarathustra: that is his tone. But a man may form 
the silliest over-estimate or under-estimate of himself 
and his work, and yet may show an understanding of 
the trend of his thought and true insight into his 
peculiarities as an Artist and a Thinker. Here 
Nietzsche's touch is sure. The contrast between the 
Apollonian and Dionysian may not be as sharp as one 
would like, it may occasionally exhibit wavering 
and a shifting of qualities, but there is not a single 
quality mentioned which does not in some manner 
mark the artist and reveal Nietzsche's almost un- 
canny self-knowledge. Every one of these qualities 
may be traced in the artistic motifs of his philosophy 
as well as in the rhythm and imagery of his language. 
On the whole Nietzsche stresses the Dionysian. 
He appeals to Dionysus; he credits himself with 
having revived the dithyramb; he considers Thus 
Spake Zarathustra a Dionysian stroke of genius. To 
him that book is a masterpiece, and he has much to 
say of its excellences. He refers to its passionateness. 
The speeches of Zarathustra throb and glow with an 


intense love of life and with a passionate devotion to 
an ideal. Parts of the book were written rapidly, 
under full pressure, on long walks up the mountains ; in 
all of it Nietzsche feels the returning tide of health and 
power. He refers to the music of its language, the dan- 
cing rhythms, the varying tempo. And he refers to the 
range: here are to be found the softest, the sweetest, 
the lightest, and also the most awe-inspiring and soul- 
compelling strains. His criticisms are not far wrong, 
he has indeed hit upon the qualities that make Thus 
Spake Zarathustra his finest achievement as an artist. 
But it is more than a mass of Dionysian poems; it 
gives, as no other work of his does, the essence of his 
philosophy. That essence does not lie in the in- 
tellectual padding which is to be found elsewhere in 
Nietzsche. While the editors are largely respon- 
sible for the arrangement of the manuscript material 
of The Will to Power, many of the pedantic divisions 
and headings are Nietzsche's; so are also the school- 
man's discussions of points. The same may be said 
of many passages in his letters and in such books as 
The Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil. 
The pedantry even filters through to the language. 
Learning has its affectations and awkwardnesses, 
and at his worst this master of style exhibits them 
abundantly. Nor is this essence to be found in the 
unclear enthusiasms of the youthful Birth of Tragedy. 
Whatever else may be said of Nietzsche as a phil- 
osopher, the charge of unclearness cannot be lodged 


against him in his later work. He is too much of an 
Apollonian for that; his weakness lies in the transi- 
tions, and not in the ideas or conceptions, which have 
something of the sharpness of a fine etching. It is 
in the expression of mood, in certain emotional 
reactions, that the meaning of his philosophy lies; 
and the best clue to that meaning is given in Thus 
Spake Zarathustra. Take, for example, the doctrine 
of eternal recurrence; what does it mean to Nietz- 
sche? He might have raised the question of a finite 
or an infinite universe, and might have tried to work 
the number of possible combinations mathematically; 
he might have been interested in it from the point of 
view of system-building. But of the second interest 
there is even less than of the first. It may be ingen- 
ious sport to show how a philosophy is all of a piece, 
and to make all its theories fit, but it is dangerous 
sport with Nietzsche's. One can, of course, show how 
the doctrine of eternal recurrence connects with his 
interpretation of what is commonly called evolution 
and how it fits in with his doctrine of the Superman, 
but little or nothing is gained, for these other theories 
are differently shaped and colored at different times. 
Whatever congruity there is in his philosophy is 
largely emotional. The doctrine of eternal recurrence 
interests Nietzsche only as the possible carrier of 
certain moods. 

"Everything goes, everything returns; forever rolls 


the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything 
blooms again; forever passes the year of being. 

" Everything breaks, everything is made anew; 
forever the same house of being is built. All things 
part and all things meet; eternally true to itself 
remains the circle of being." 

But what of the " little man "; is he to return, too? 
What of sickness and weakness; is there no way of 
ridding the universe of them? Thoughts such as 
these sweep over Zarathustra like a wave of disgust 
and despair. But why then entertain them, it might 
be asked? It is because they develop at the rebound 
another mood, that of the fighter. It is a mood that 
appeals to Nietzsche, and most of his fighting was 
done within the shadow of physical depression and of 
disgust with his fellows. The Ecce Homo proves 
that; so do his letters. The thought of an eternal 
recurrence favors fighting at its purest, for the mere 
love of it, with no hope of a final victory. The 
Superman knows that for every up there is a down; 
he understands that events will swing full cycle and 
that the weaklings whom he has trodden under foot, 
the " many, all too many," will defeat him in turn. 
But he fights on; the mood of depression yields to a 
fighting mood, which is in part the mere joy of play- 
ing the game of life, in part a sort of heroic enthusi- 
asm, in part the stimulating sense of creative power. 
It is a mistake, however, to say that Nietzsche's 
fighter has no thought of results, no eye to victory. 


While he sees no hope of final success, he feels the in- 
centive of an enthusiasm, of an ideal. This beyond 
all else marks Zarathustra : he is a pleader and spokes- 
man of the future; a pioneer and a builder. He 
feels his task and has faith in his work. If fighting 
is looked at from this angle exclusively, the fact of 
eternal recurrence will be merely a complicating 
incident. But in Nietzsche the mood is often a 
different one. The clue is given by two passages, 
one from Thus Spake Zarathustra, the other from 
Book IV of The Will to Power. 

The passage in Thus Spake Zarathustra is called 
The Seven Seals. It is a wonderful paean with a 
triumphant refrain: For I love thee, Eternity. It 
is too long to give in full, but these two selections 
show the mood. 

" If ever there came to me a breath of a creator's 
breath, and of that divine necessity which compels 
accidents even to dance the circular dance of the 

" If ever I laughed with the laugh of the creative 
lightning, as it is followed obediently but sullenly by 
the thunder of action; 

" If ever I played dice with the gods at their table, 
the earth, and played so that the earth shook and 
broke and breathed floods of fire; 

" for the earth is a table of the gods, and it 
trembles with creators' words and the dice-throws 
of the gods 

" Oh, how should I not long for Eternity and for 


the bridal ring of rings, the ring of Eternal Recur- 
rence? " 

The other selection: 

" If ever I drank a deep draught from the foaming 
spice- and mixing-bowl, in which all things are well 

" If ever my hand poured together the most d ; s- 
tant and the near, fire and spirit, joy and sorrow, tne 
worst and the kindliest; 

" If I am a grain of that saving salt which causes all 
things to be well mixed in the mixing-bowl 

" for there is a salt which binds the good and the 
bad; and even the worst has its value in the season- 
ing and the last foaming 

" Oh, how should I not long for Eternity and for 
the bridal ring of rings, the ring of Eternal Recur- 
rence? " 

The note of creative self-expression is struck again 
and again. Give me a self to express and a world 
to mould, Nietzsche would say. There is nothing 
depressing in the thought of eternal recurrence. 
Could you stop the brush of the painter by reminding 
him that thousands of years hence his canvases 
will be mere dust? That final result will not affect 
him; he paints his picture there is enough of an 
ideal right there and feels the zest of self-expression. 
This is what Nietzsche feels. He asks for a plastic 
world, a world of merging contrasts, of bitter strife, of 
mingled good and evil. It is not to be plastic in any 


final sense; there is lacking here James's craving for 
newness and ever changing experimentation. The 
plasticity or rather the illusion of plasticity is 
within one of the cycles or Great Years of a circling 
eternity, but that is all that is needed a bit of clay 
or palette of colors and an ideal. The same invigor- 
ating thought is found in The Will to Power. The 
artist's sense of power and intense delight in self- 
expression have been transferred to the world-game. 
Nothing could be sharper than the contrast between 
the active, dramatic enthusiasm of Nietzsche and the 
contemplative enthusiasm of a Marcus Aurelius. The 
Stoic sings: " Whatsoever is expedient unto thee, 
Universe, is expedient unto me"; but there is in 
him no trace of a sucherische, versucherische Tatigkeit, 
nothing of testing and experimenting self-expression; 
there is also no trace of that intense self-reference 
which is so important a mark of Nietzsche's artistic 
and philosophical personality. Marcus Aurelius and 
Hegel, each in his own way, had a profound faith in 
the reasonableness of the universe, and placed highest 
among the duties loyalty to the truth and reason of 
things. Nietzsche plays brilliantly on the Hegelian 
An und fur sick Sein der Dinge when he substitutes 
for it the phrase An und fur mich Sein der Dinge. It 
is I that count; give me a world I can work myself 
out in. Whatever drama there is is self -drama. 
There lies the difference in the dramatic as it appears 
in Hegel and the dramatic as it appears in Nietzsche. 


In Hegel it is objective, a sympathetic understanding 
of a progressive world-movement and all its compli- 
cations; with Nietzsche it is subjective; that is why 
he is not a good interpreter of history, whether that 
history be political, social or cultural. He mis- 
reads Socratic philosophy, gives fanciful and often 
very naive interpretations of the early phases of 
Christianity and of the origin of morality, and shows 
no grasp of the advancing democracy and the eco- 
nomic unrest of his time. It is true that Hegel is not 
always a good interpreter of history; but when he 
errs it is because he links events artificially in the 
interests of his idea of a cosmic reason. The fault 
with Nietzsche is his utter subjectivity. A personal 
reaction becomes a philosophical clue, and that clue 
is worked and amplified until it becomes a whole 
cluster of suggestions. 

To draw up a list of such personal clues and to 
trace their work in the upbuilding of his philosophy 
would be a difficult matter. But some at least 
may be hinted at: the convalescent's dread of 
disease; an abnormal sense of physical cleanliness, 
to which Nietzsche himself attributes his distaste 
for extreme democracy; self-esteem; a craving for 
the picturesque, the orderly and the rhythmic; and 
an intense interest, not in the world outside, but 
in his own impressions and his responses to that 
world. In the Antichrist, in the pamphlets against 
Wagner, and in many of his earlier books there 


are passages in which this personal, subjective, 
impressionistic nature of his philosophy is quite 
apparent. An emotional note will be struck disgust 
or distrust or enthusiasm or playfulness and then 
with a rush a whole emotional tone-structure will 
make its appearance, and, threading its way in and 
out, will be the original note; everywhere there is 
a strong sense of self-expression, of intimacy, of 
possession. In some such way might a man walk 
in and out of his house or pass from room to room. 
Thus Spake Zarathustra is subjectively dramatic. 
There are, of course, all sorts of theories and doc- 
trines, of these the doctrine of eternal recurrence is 
only one. Marriage is discussed, so is war; we are 
told of the Superman; we are given a new set of moral 
laws; there is a great deal of social criticism; but 
every one of these theories is presented in terms of 
the most personal kind. That might be called a 
poetic artifice if the emphasis were not everywhere on 
Zarathustra as a responding and creating personality 
that is, on self-drama. We follow Zarathustra on 
his travels, become party to his ideals, commune with 
him and struggle with his doubts; we dance with him 
and swoon with him; we climb with him and fall 
with him. His speeches impress us not as mirrors 
flashing back the truth of things, but as so much 
" landscape of soul." The landscape of the book it- 
self, the sea, the mountains, the forest, a rich meadow, 
an oversea Isle of the Blest, trees against lowering 


clouds, a deep blue expanse of sky, is impressionistic 
in its patchiness and in its symbolism of varying 

One of Nietzsche's finest bits of self-analysis is a 
passage in Ecce Homo in which he refers to the invol- 
untary character of the imagery in Thus Spake Zara- 
thustra, and to his sense of rhythm. These clues 
when followed up will yield two further traits in the 
portrait of the artist-philosopher. The passage reads : 

" Has any one at the end of the nineteenth century 
an understanding of what poets of virile ages called 
inspiration? If not, I shall describe it. With the 
least bit of superstition remaining, one could not 
but feel oneself mere idea, mere incarnation, mere 
mouthpiece, mere medium of supernatural powers. 
The word revelation marks the facts. All of a sudden 
with wonderful sureness and fineness something be- 
comes visible, audible, something which shakes us to 
the depths and topples us over. One hears, and yet 
one does not seek; one takes and yet one does not 
ask who it is that gives; a thought flashes like light- 
ning: inevitably, unhesitatingly never did I have 
any choice. An ecstasy of fearful tension slackened 
occasionally by a stream of tears with a step now 
stormy, now slow; an utter losing oneself, and the 
clear consciousness of innumerable electric currents 
and tremblings to one's very toes; a depth of happi- 
ness in which what is most painful and most gloomy 
is not asked for as a contrast, but demanded with a 
challenge as a necessary color within such an abun- 
dance of light; a wide-spanning feeling of rhythm 


and form! It sometimes occurs to me that the 
demand for a sense of rhythm of wide span prac- 
tically measures the strength of inspiration and at 
the same time counteracts its pressure. All these 
things come to pass involuntarily, emphatically so, 
but they come with a hurricane of a feeling of freedom, 
independence, power, divinity. Most strange of all 
is the involuntary character of the imagery, of the 
simile; one no longer knows the meaning of image or 
simile: everything offers itself as the nearest, the 
truest, the simplest expression: it seems as though 
to speak with Zarathustra all things came and 
offered themselves as similes. " 

Much of the imagery in Thus Spake Zarathustra is 
indeed involuntary, and it would not be hard to give 
instance after instance. In some of the more rhap- 
sodic passages there seems to be at first glance only 
a confusion of metaphors among which Nietzsche's 
thought goes ricocheting at all sorts of angles. But 
one glance more will show a curious orderliness and 
a curious involuntariness in all this imagery. An 
image suggests itself, something in that image gives 
a stealthy clue to some other image; above the sur- 
face there seems to be a rough break, but below 
there is the continuity of mood. In the section Of the 
Sublime Zarathustra compares his mind to the depth 
of the sea. Out of this general image there breaks 
for Nietzsche the image of the silence of the deep. 
But he is hurried on. What! so silent, and swarming 
with sea monsters. Monsters prey booty hunter: 


the scene has shifted, Zarathustra sees a hunter com- 
ing out of the forest; slung over his shoulder is his 
booty, a bagful of ugly truths. Hunter forest wild 
animals: what if this hunter has not killed the wild 
animal in himself? This may serve as an example 
of such an involuntary development of imagery. It 
cannot be called a literary device, for while it is most 
noticeable in Thus Spake Zarathustra it is present in 
Nietzsche's other books. And what of the evidence 
furnished by those emotional clusters of thought 
which were interpreted as forms of the subject- 
ively dramatic? 

Not always, however, is it the wire of a single 
mood or a complex of moods that controls the leaps 
and antics of Nietzsche's imagery; sometimes there 
is an almost purely verbal continuity. The pun is, 
of course, one of the simplest forms of such con- 
tinuity, and Nietzsche, like many great men, can on 
occasion be an atrocious punster. But apart from 
that, all kinds of verbal analogies and contrasts play 
a conscious and often an unconscious part in the 
development of his thought; and it is the verbal 
form that controls the mood and makes it play to its 
lead. Here is an example: 

" Euer Eheschliessen: seht zu, dass es nicht ein 
schlechtes Schliessen sei! Ihr schlosset zu schnell: 
so folgt daraus Ehebrechen! 

Und besser noch Ehebrechen als Ehe-biegen, 


Ehe-lugen! So sprach mir ein Weib, ' wohl brach 
ich die Ehe, aber zuerst brach die Ehe mich ! ' 

Another example: 

" Warum so welch, so weichend und nachgebend? " 

Another : 

" Schatzen ist Schaffen: hort es, ihr Schaffenden! 
Schatzen selber ist aller geschatzten Dinge Schatz 
und Kleinod." 

Still another: 

" Wie? Ward die Welt nicht eben vollkommen? 
Rund und reif? Oh des goldenen runden Reifs 
wohin fliegt er wohl? " 

Nietzsche's sense of rhythm gives quite as good a 
clue to the artistic in his philosophy as such invol- 
untary imagery yields. German is not a very 
rhythmical or flexible language; it is a squatting 
language; it sits down heavily and crushes out all 
movement, all lively and subtle play of mood. But 
Nietzsche is not a squatting philosopher. His thought 
is all movement, on the surface and below the surface, 
and of the utmost variety. It is quite as charac- 
teristic of him as it is of Rodin. Rodin, with 
a testing and tempting courage which Nietzsche 
would have praised, seeks to express in his varied 
and restless figures something of the stress and strife 
which are at the heart of things; Nietzsche's thought 
plays in and out and all about certain ideas, such as 


will to power, eternal recurrence, life as a fighter's 
game and gamble, which are in and of themselves 
dramatic. His is a jumping and throbbing and 
dancing philosophy; it leads him and his reader many 
a merry dance. It offers little in the way of neat 
solutions, less in the way of consistent, final results; 
but it does give a wealth of rhythms, imaginative and 
intellectual, expressed in language of great force and 
span. Nietzsche's name has played a prominent part 
in recent war talk, but it is a mistake, and a serious 
one, to think of him as interested in war from the 
point of view of political self-preservation or of some 
great idea of national expansion. Nietzsche's ex- 
periences in the Franco-Prussian war were barren 
of results, judging from his books and letters, and he 
seems to have been untouched by the new and mo- 
mentous ideal of a united Germany. His true inter- 
est lay not in war, but in the psychology of fighting, 
in the rhythm of blows given and taken. 

It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to sepa- 
rate form and substance or to distinguish between 
Nietzsche's conscious use of rhythm and the sub- 
conscious, vibratory character of his philosophy. 
But it would be worth the attempt. Here and there 
it can be done easily. 

Nietzsche has much to say of the resentful nature 
of the little man; ressentiment is one of his favorite 
words; he interprets asceticism and certain moral 


and religious beliefs as the belittling, resentful mal- 
ice of the weak. There are passages in that rather 
sober and somewhat pedantic book, The Genealogy 
of Morals, and in The Antichrist, in which this phil- 
osophy of resentment takes on the color and rhythm 
of resentment. There is a curious emotional rest- 
lessness, a staccato succession of adjectives of abuse, 
an ill-bred and very ingenious way of twisting things, 
a bit of a sneer and an occasional shrug, together 
with a very large fear lest his thrusts fail to strike 
home facts, all of them, of great interest to the 
psychologist of resentment. There is all the dif- 
ference in the world between such badgering, pound- 
ing and grinding rhythms and the emotionally sus- 
tained, ample, generous, undulatory rhythms of such 
passages in The Gay Science, The Dawn of Day, and 
Thus Spake Zarathustra as preach the Superman and 
the love of to-morrow. 

Nietzsche's sense of rhythm also plays a part, 
even if a minor one, in his theory of eternal recur- 
rence. He is fond of refrain and of a sort of circle 
pattern rhythm. In the last paragraph of The Will 
to Power he gives his theory in language which allows 
one to feel the stress of will, and which by a balanced 
alternation of clauses and phrases suggests the very 
rhythm of recurrence. The parallelism between 
theory and subconscious motifs is here perfect. The 
same rhythmic equivalent is given in such swaying, 
recurrent movement and imagery as this: 


" In dein Auge schaute ich jiingst, oh Leben: Gold 
sah ich in deinem Nacht-Auge blinken, mein Herz 
stand still vor dieser Wollust: 

" einen goldenen Kahn sah ich blinken auf nachti- 
gen Gewassern, einen sinkenden, trinkenden, wieder 
winkenden goldenen Schaukel-Kahn ! 

" Nach meinem Fusse, dem tanzwiithigen, warfst 
du einen Blick, einen lachenden fragenden schmelzen- 

One further illustration! In a passage in Thus 
Spake Zarathustra called Noontide we are given the 
rhythm of sleep, not of a deep, even-pulsing, dream- 
less sleep, but of a light sleep with changing dream 
pictures and dream rhythms, with uneasy stirrings 
and drowsy feelings of sinkings-sinking into "the 
well of Eternity." 

11 Like a graceful breeze, invisible, dancing on the 
smooth floor of the sea, Sleep dances on me lightly, 
lightly as a feather. 

" Not an eyelid of mine does he close; he allows my 
soul to remain awake. Of a truth he is light, light 
as a feather. 

" He persuades me, I know not how; he touches me 
faintly with flattering hand; he forces me; he forces 
my soul to relax. 

" The slightest, the stillest, 'the lightest the rustling 
of a lizard, a breath, a lightning-like movement, a 
moment a slight thing like these is the best happi- 
ness. Hush! 

" What is happening to me? Hark! Has Time 


taken wing? Am I not falling hark! falling into 
the well of Eternity? " 

Here is the artist Nietzsche at his best, catching as 
it were the life of silence in its free and varied swing. 
And what o the philosopher Nietzsche? Is there 
not here a very large part of his secret? One might 
prefer the clear, white light of truth, but one cannot 
help being struck with the colorfulness of this pris- 
matic philosophy. One cannot help seeing the artist 
in the philosopher, an artist of great power and of an 
original stamp. Part of his quality may be caught 
by calling him warm and subjectively dramatic, an 
unconscious exploiter of moods and dancer to many 
rhythms, a visualizer and vitalizer of contrasts of 
movement, of struggle. Such phrases may mean 
little or they may mean much : it all depends on how 
much backing they have in the way of an analysis of 
Nietzsche's philosophy. As they stand they cer- 
tainly do not exhaust the artistic significance of that 
philosophy it is too complex for that but they do 
give something of its tang. 

"SEP 3 o 




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