Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 115

/eden Sonntagabend das Dorfmusik Spielt
with anything on
the same order in English or French.) They still show the saving
evidences of a recent folk ancestry.
The late development of German culture, which accounts for
this, also accounts for the peculiar nature of German avant-garde
movements, which were never so detached from and irresponsible
towards official culture as in France and elsewhere. The fact is,
that the Germans do not have enough classic literature, have not
produced enough in the past to enable them to dispense with
ambitious contemporary work. There is not, actually, enough to
read, enough to counterpose to the present. (This is why the Ger–
mans translate so much.) So that no sooner did German avant–
garde movements appear than they were. re-absorbed by official
tradition and by society as a whole, no matter how intransigent they
may have tried to be. Rilke's poems could sell 60,000 copies, and
before Hitler, Germany was the best market for advanced paint–
ing. Stefan George and -his circle, with all their contempt for the
bourgeois herd, found themselves raised very early to the status of
official prophets of the beautiful; and their fate was that of almost
every avant-garde cenacle in Germany during the late 19th and
early 20th centuries.
When Bertolt Brecht found himself pulled in the direction of
Rimbaud- the Rimbaud of
Season in Hell-he
had to start from
scratch to devise a means of reflecting this influence. He could not
learn from Apollinaire, nor from Expressionism or anything else
in German. So he proceeded to do something quite original by
developing a poetry of
parody, compelled and helped by
the peculiar nature of German literary tradition. Popular and folk
poetry are but one ingredient of the advanced, experimental, inter–
national styles of Apollinaire, Lorca, Mayakovsky and the others.
In Brecht's verse the forms, attitudes and associations of popular–
and sometimes classic-poetry are the foundation. It is not difficult
or obscure poetry. It is not private, or at least never obviously so.
In Brecht's first phase the verse technique itself is more or less
conventional, experiment being confined to an occasional variation
of beat or a daring enjambment.
is hardly the kind of poetry we
expect from one who as a playwright was under the influence of
Expressionism, and whose fellow poets of the same generation
were more or less dominated by it. What is new is not what we
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