Stefan George

Stefan George

German poet
Country: Germany

  1. Biography of Stefan George
  2. Early Influences and Aesthetic Views
  3. Unique Style and Limited Readership
  4. Nietzschean Influence and Ambiguous Politics
  5. Emigration and Legacy

Biography of Stefan George

Stefan George, born on July 12, 1868 in Büdesheim, was a German poet and a prominent figure in German symbolism. He had a profound influence on the cultural life of the Weimar Republic. His contemporaries referred to him as the "embodiment of Roman culture on Rhineland soil" and the "Napoleon of the court of muses." He was the first to declare poetry as the sole artistic form of literature.

Early Influences and Aesthetic Views

George's upbringing in an affluent family allowed him to embark on several trips abroad, during which he became acquainted with Parisian symbolists such as Mallarmé and Verlaine. Under their influence, George developed aesthetic views aimed at overcoming naturalism. He believed that art should not serve the needs of society but rather be "art for art's sake." George adamantly stated that anyone still driven by the manic desire to "say" something in poetry did not deserve to be admitted even to the threshold of art. In his view, the form, not the meaning, was crucial in poetry.

Unique Style and Limited Readership

The unique form of George's early poetic collections, such as "Hymns" (1890), "Pilgrimage" (1891), "Book of Shepherds" (1895), and "Year of the Soul" (1897), which featured facsimile manuscript editions and the abandonment of capital letters and punctuation marks, resulted in a narrow circle of readers. From 1892 to 1919, George published the journal "Blätter für die Kunst," which was intended for an exclusive group of invited members.

Nietzschean Influence and Ambiguous Politics

In his later collections, such as "War" (1917) and "Three Chants" (1921), George's poetry showed the influence of expressionism. His Nietzschean worldview, rooted in anti-democratic ideals, brought him into close proximity with the ideas of National Socialism. George once predicted the appearance of a hero in Germany who would bring about the rebirth of the country, Europe, and the entire world. These prophetic ambitions, along with his mystical moods and cult of self-willed heroism, provided bourgeois reactionaries with an opportunity to exploit George's poems for their own slogans. Despite this, George himself rejected Nazism and saw Hitler's columns as mere "crowds."

Emigration and Legacy

George refused to participate in the celebrations that were to be held in his honor upon his appointment as president of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1933. Instead, he emigrated to Switzerland, where he died on December 4, 1933, even forbidding his burial in Germany. Before the outbreak of World War I, George's literary followers, like-minded individuals, and admirers formed the "Stefan George Circle," which was a literary salon combined with a spiritual-aesthetic order. Many renowned figures in German culture, including poets, writers, university professors, and artists, belonged to this circle. Some members of the circle became heralds of German fascism. It is worth mentioning that Alfred Schuler, one of the "cosmists" who attempted to give the activities of the circle an anti-Semitic hue, was one of the first in Germany to use the swastika as a symbol. When the financially-struggling Hitler visited Munich in 1913, he frequented cafes and taverns where members of the Stefan George Circle gathered, as he was enamored by their atmosphere. He attended Alfred Schuler's speeches and was captivated by their anti-Semitic direction and fervent nationalism. It is highly probable that it was during this time that the idea of using the swastika for his future movement came to his mind.