Thursday 27 February 2020

Klaus Høeck/'Winterreise': Caput V (Novalis)



Weissenfels, gleaming ivory-white bust,
brought back from the realms of sleep or of dreams 
as proof against oblivion itself.
Spirit is exactly the same as love

although they’re not wholly identical,
as the one seeks for the abode of light
while the other finds darkness and the night.
But that paradox we will never solve,

we who have entrenched ourselves behind walls
(What defence exists against oneself there?)
in the grey saros period of the mind,

where the dwarf roses darken in colour
and the pupil blackens like an eclipse
against the mammilations of the iris.


Weissenfels, gleaming ivory-white bust
of Novalis on his gravestone staring
into the utter secretiveness that
will always be inaccessible to

the living, who believe that death is ex
planation enough, that dates and laurel
wreaths with fluttering silk ribbons and stone
are everything that we need in this world.

Some sculpture or other that I once saw
wrapped in black hessian and held togeth
er with string, ‘Hymnen an die Nacht’ as

the German sculptress referred to it.
A distant and transcendental portrait
brought back from the realms of sleep or of dreams.


Brought back from the realms of sleep or of dreams
these mathematical sonnets. But when
everything has been weighed and measured, what
still remains is that which is essential,

which is always stillness and always too
light to weigh down anything except the i
maginary weight of the conscience, too
transparent for the latticework of vi

sion, which allows the most self-evident
to slip through the coarseness of the mesh; for
example we are unable to see 

the dark but rather tend to embrace it, 
as we do with death, whose angel shines out
as proof against oblivion itself.


As proof against oblivion itself
his love was, which precisely did not seek
to vanquish death, but precisely sought to
unite both of them in eternity.

For oblivion already begins
at the first kiss, and to live is almost
like forgetting. For that reason, we who
live must take root in this ‘almost’, the nar

row plot of recollection, not in ord
er to either defy death or assert
life, but in order to connect the in

ner universe with the outer in its
room lit up by the lightning of winter.
Spirit is exactly the same as love.


Spirit is exactly the same as love
(even though they are more separate than
the most distant lovers) because they both
unite in spite of the impossibil

ity of uniting in the world of
reason with its dried-up rose bushes, and
neither is emotion capable of
stretching out over the abyss of trans

formation, as only the leap across
the invisible diamond of the ob
vious can. As if love was nothing but

an emotion. Like the spirit it is
a relationship that dissolves matter,
although they’re not wholly identical.


Although they’re not wholly identical,
they are each other’s equal, all lovers
that are gathered in the shadow of death
purer than salt and calcium, but not

yet dedicated to oblivion,
for as they love, they abandon themselves
and are remembered in the word’s most
literal as well as its most orig

inal sense. For that reason love makes a
connection between life and death as a
golden middle proportional, an ob

scure evening path, which like the hand’s fate line
also winds its way through the suffering,
as the one seeks for the abode of light.


As the one seeks for the abode of light
the other must of necessity crash
so as to form an anchor with its heart,
an earth connection with the body, since

the spirit needs its ballast, and love needs
its skeleton in the cupboard (or at
Grüningen cemetery) when it gets
so far that the mind loses its reason

for becoming pure fantasy among
the cool winter gardens of the stars. And
many poets are aware of the price

(or their women, who are the ones who pay)
for rising up towards the sun’s emblem:
while the other finds darkness and the night.


While the other finds darkness and the night.
But what of that? The night too has to be
vanquished. And not only by light. And per
haps not at all by sunshine or by fire.

Who for example would attempt to take
possession of the day using darkness,
or death while retaining life in one piece.
And how should this cornelian other

wise have been able to gleam with its dark
light out of the secret crown of the night.
How should ‘Hymnen an die Nacht’ ever

otherwise have risen up in his mind
or blood as bubbles of pure poetry.
But that paradox we will never solve.


But that paradox we will never solve
partly because a paradox that is 
genuine cannot be solved, partly be
cause we have not been hit mortally e

nough there where the pain draws its fault lines of
beauty, we who do not possess a heart
that is as hard and pure as quartz, in which
light can refract and lose its way and die,

so that nothing but the darkness remains
as well as the powerful trance of love.
We who always worshipped day and the mar

ble stairs of logic, what do we know at
all about this particular séance,
we who have entrenched ourselves behind walls.


We who have entrenched ourselves behind walls
(mostly out of fear of ourselves) or who
fled into the grey kingdom of matter,
we did not understand the great necro

mancers clad in their morocco leather
gloves and in their white shirt frills and we ac
cused them instead of fleeing into
dream monarchies and into empires with

out water, into imaginary
republics beyond all understanding.
Therefore they often happened to go a

stray overturn their goblets of di
vine wine into the dominion of hell.
What defence exists against oneself there?


What defence exists against oneself there
in the mind’s enclosure, its secret pen
tagram? – But possibly the meaning is
precisely to be overcome by one

self, by one’s own loneliness, to become
one’s own accuser, judge and execu
tioner, one’s own puppet theatre on
the mysterious stage of which the sword

descends day after day without mercy.
In order to get rid of oneself or
in the last resort one’s own god. For how

else can we otherwise manage to en
dure our own self-sufficiency in there
in the grey saros period of the mind?


In the grey saros period of the mind
where everything is repeated seven
ty times, is there any room for love there?
– Are we to live out our lives in those eight

een years only to start from scratch again
in the very same routine. And would habit
be able to contain our entire pas
sion? – or will there later perhaps come an

evening when the soul will rise up in us
and flow like some mighty high tide, bursting
its banks so as to unite itself with

other deep waters that are searching far
ther out than the very last of the moss,
where the dwarf roses darken in colour.


Where the dwarf roses darken in colour,
and the inner image grows yet lighter
where the elder blossoms like a sudden
madness, there they move along an invis

ible dike, the other side of which does
not exist. And in this way the poets
became messengers between us and the
dead, mediators between us and God.

Consecrated to the thankless task to
commit eternity to paper here
in the world of realities, but not

conversely to lift this world up to that
of the idea. Therefore they grow pale
and the pupil blackens like an eclipse.


And the pupil blackens like an eclipse
when encountering another gaze or
when we look death straight in the eye. He was
born during an eclipse of the sun so

as not to be blinded by the divine
light or so as not to herald it. And
it was therefore that he wrote ‘Hymnen an
die Nacht’ so as to prepare the way for

the birth of the radiant daybreak, for
after the darkness can only light come.
And when life is finite, why should death not

also be exactly the same, even
though it seems to be infinitely large
against the mammilations of the iris.


Against the mammilations of the iris
the look seems cold and calm now that it is
thrown up against the winter sky’s chromi
um-plated surface not as a debtor

(as if God was sitting there upon a
throne of rubies) but so as to apport
ion the possibility of snow (as
if meteorology would somehow 

reveal its secrets to me). Down at Ost
bahnhof station the first light flakes of snow
are beginning to fall like confetti.

I think once again of the large, empty
and transcendent globes of Novalis’ eyes.
Weissenfels, gleaming ivory-white bust.

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