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  1. 1. 1 The Poet’s Word and its Contexts By Julian Scutts copyright 2012
  2. 2. 2 An Overview The title of this study is likely to provoke two questions in the minds of those who read it. What is "the poet's word," and why is there a reference to its "contexts"? In the usual way we speak of understanding a word or phrase by viewing it in its context. A poem itself constitutes the context of all the words it contains and poems in turn may be the subject of comparative studies that involve a regard for yet wider contexts such the one determined by literary tradition. The first section of this book lays down the theoretical basis on which all subsequent arguments found in the book will rest. This basis is furnished by the distinction which the noted linguist Ferdinand de Saussure made to differentiate between langue and parole. Langue signifies language understood as a system to be studied according to certain rules of grammar and the definitions contained in dictionaries: parole signifies language in any spoken or written form, whether in a book, newspaper or a poem. In this section the main principles governing a logocentric approach to the study of literary texts will be shown in action, that is to say, by an examination of particular words such as "honourable," "breeze" and "cross" within their literary contexts. This procedure will involve a study of the position of words within various contexts including those set by the inner constituency of any poem, the entire body of all works written by the same author and the ambit of literary tradition. The wider the ambit of the contexts considered, the less likely it will seem that a poet can precisely determine or predict patterns formed by all words within so vast an ambit, for such a task would surely overload human powers of memory and coordination, but if such patterns should emerge, and we shall consider evidence that they do, the greater the problem for critics and scholars seeking to understand why and how such extensive patterns emerge without the support of some force resembling what C. G. Jung called the collective unconscious, it being rather awkward these days to invoke the assistance of a muse. The second section investigates the phenomenon of "wandering," with particular reference to the term "Wanderer" much favoured by Goethe and the Romantic poets by its inclusion in the titles of their poems and other works, which might allow "Wanderer" to earn the honour of being deemed "the Poet's Word." The word "Wanderer" subsumes all form of the verbs "to wander" and "wandern" that give rise to the common
  3. 3. 3 derivative of the noun "Wanderer." The question as to whether "wandern" and "to wander" share the same range of significance to English and German poets, I repeat "poets," calls for attention. Suffice it to say at this juncture that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translated Goethe's exquisite "Wandrers Nachtlied" with the words "Wanderer's Night-Songs." Literary critics and scholars have noted the importance of the "wanderer" as a key word or concept in German and English poetry. Despite differences of approach and the divergent scope of their enquiries, Professor Willoughby and Geoffrey Hartman, the two literary scholars who have paid particularly close attention to the area of our concern, agree that wandering is rooted in what C. G. Jung and Sigmund Freud termed the quest of the libido for union with anima, but they disagree on the issue of whether this interior psychological process involved poets in any social and moral commitment relevant to the exigencies of society and the concerns of common humanity. Willoughby and Hartman do not raise important questions that they could have tackled only by reference the historical background of the sudden prominence of the word "Wanderer" in the era of Goethe and the Romantic poets. Thus a considerable portion of the middle section of this book is devoted to a survey of this background. Wandering, it is to be shown, lies at the centre of a poet-to-poet dialogue not only between poets in the German-speaking world but also between Goethe and British poets, notably James Thomson, Edward Young and Oliver Goldsmith. Initially Goethe assimilated influences coming from England but in due time the flow of influence turned decidedly the other way. In this two-way process we witness an interchange of ideas and associations closely bound up with the phenomenon of wandering, and language is essentially dialogic in character, both in literary domain and in the marketplace. The third section of this book serves to demonstrate that the logocentric approach is relevant and applicable to the most diverse questions that interest those engaged in the study of literature. We will consider lines in Hamlet that incorporate the word "be," not only in that most celebrated of quotations from the works of Shakespeare. It will also help us to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding Dylan Thomas's wilfully obscure poem "Altarwise by Owl-Light" and go some way towards answering the question as to whether Godot turned up after all to keep his rendezvous with Pozzo in Samuel Beckett's enigmatic drama Waiting for Godot. The concluding section of this book differs in tone and orientation
  4. 4. 4 from the preceding sections at least to the extend that it comprises a committed statement about the abuse to which literature, though never great literature, has been prone in recent history. This section reflects the same concern with logocentricity shown by the other sections of this book in as far it treats the "heart" as a key word without making it appear obnoxiously symbolic. Mention is made of the fact that the dry and unsympathetic Edward Casaubon in George Eliot's novel Middlemarch dies of heart failure, and what is so symbolic about that? The very frame by which a poem or novel encloses common objects and events such as daffodils or the onset of illness elevates what seems commonplace and unexceptional to the realm of immortality and the universal. This book may well be seen as a challenge to the widely prevalent view that poetic language and the language of daily intercourse are of an entirely different order, for it broaches the question why we peruse and usually forget newspaper articles, however well written, and why so short a poem as "Wandrers Nachtlied" provides an inexhaustible wealth of insights and pleasure. How is it that a poem written perhaps on the spur of the moment can provide a limitless opportunity for reflection? Such asymmetry poses no small problem to "objective" critics who wish to balance the input of poetic creation with the output entailed by its reception in the mind of an informed reader. I: An Integrated Multi-Contextual Approach to the Interpretation and Analysis of Poems and Literary Texts How can a "logocentric," a word-centred, approach help critics to get a handle on such a phenomenon as that manifested by the frequent and prominent appearance of words based on the verbs "wandern" and "to wander" in the poetry of Goethe and the Romantic poets of his time? Can the same approach, the characteristics of which will be elucidated in the following paragraphs, help towards locating and the remedying other blind
  5. 5. 5 spots in the area of literary criticism by exploring the concealed depths of celebrated and yet underappreciated poems such as Robert Browning's "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" and some of the more obscure poems by Dylan Thomas? Can it even resolve the question whether Godot in Samuel Beckett's most celebrated play turned up after all? The reference to "the Poet's Word" in the title of this collection of essays finds a close parallel in the title of an essay by the Russian Formalist Jurij Tynjanov, namely “The Meaning of the Word in Verse.” 1 I owe the theoretical basis on which this series of studies is founded to insights provided by Tynjanov, at least to the extent that I have applied a logocentric method to the study and evaluation of poems or other literary texts in the course of my literary research, the results of which I present in the following pages of this book. Essentially Tynjanov's logocentric approach to textual criticism is derived from Ferdinand de Saussure's distinction between two basic aspects of language, which he termed langue and parole, between the system of language codified in grammar books and dictionaries, and the language articulated in acts of speech and writing. The school of criticism based on de Saussure's theory of language asserts that words provide the basic stuff of poetry. This fact may seem obvious to many, yet critics of literature, scholars and the Imagist poet Ezra Pound have voiced very low opinions of words as the constituent elements of poetry in that they have regarded words as mere fodder to be transformed into images, symbols, quasi-musical motifs or whatever else could be deemed the real and vital stuff of poetry. 2
  6. 6. 6 The distinction between langue and parole comes into focus if we compare a word as defined in a dictionary with the same word located in any form of speech or writing. The word in the latter case belongs to a body of words and occupies within this its unique position. As a consequence, to clarify the difference between this from the word in a dictionary we might formulate the term "a single word occurrence" for want of a better designation. Let us consider the following case taken from Shakespearean drama to illustrate this point. In Mark Antony's oration on the occasion of Julius Caesar's burial the word "honourable" plays a key role. If "honourable" is understood as a synonym for “decent” or “faithful to a high principle,” we can say with little fear of contradiction that the same word is repeated several times in the course of the oration. However, as a single word occurrence each separately located instance of "honourable" constitutes a distinct and unique particle within the oration, for the verbal environment of each occurrence, once passed, can never be nullified or revised, the effect of the progress of the oration being irreversible and cumulative. The flow of words in a text resembles the river which according to Heraclitus no one can enter twice. The final occurrence of "honourable" in the oration strikes an altogether different chord than did "honourable" when it first passed the speaker's lips. However, the audience must always keep the general sense of the word in mind or else the irony generated by the disparity of the official meaning of the word and the increasingly negative implication of "honourable" throughout the oration will be lost. If language comprehends the two indivisible aspects which de Saussure termed langue and parole, a word located in a text unites the specific with the universal, the singularity which it owes to its unique location with its inclusion within the greater whole of the group of words that share the same form and sound. Does this connection become severed in the language of poetry? Advocates of the objective or contextualist schools of literary criticism would have us believe so. Clearly the reader of a poem will pay particularly close attention to the location of words, their verbal juxtapositions and the alchemical interaction of words clustered together producing a multiplicity of resonances and associations. The reader of a newspaper, by contrast, having ascertained what the subject of an article or report is about, will regard only those meanings of words that accord with that particular subject. In most cases the reader will discard the paper once it has been read. For some reason this is not the case when those with a genuine
  7. 7. 7 interest in literature read a poem of their choice. On rereading a good poem we can always expect to discover new depths of meaning and insights. Of course, critics of the objective school are justified in discovering parallels between a poem and an artifact, a painting or a musical symphony, but should any resultant set of analogies lead to an attitude that would radically separate poetry from all reference to the world around us? Any analogy between poetry and sister arts is valid and helpful within certain bounds. To take away or rearrange the words of poem would be tantamount to committing sacrilege against art like chipping off parts of a statue or removing a detail from a painting, for in a poem each word has its proper place in accordance with the structural and aesthetic needs of art. Hence Cleanth Brooks’ famous reference to the "Heresy of Paraphrase" in The Well-Wrought Urn (1946) and Archibald MacLeish’s equally famous lines. "A poem should not mean / but be" in "Ars Poetica "(1926). Without wishing to deny that Brooks made a strong case when dealing with the burning issue of what he called the "Heresy of Paraphrase," 3 I personally see no objection to summaries of poems, particularly long narrative ones, written for the purpose of aiding some distressed student’s comprehension, as long as such a summary is not taken to be a substitute for the poem itself and merely offers a platform for discussing what is truly interesting about the poem in question. However, the analogy between poetry and its sister arts can be taken so far as to lead to conclusions that may strike the man in the street as lacking in common sense. Let us take the example of assertions made about Walt Whitman's poem "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," a eulogy dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, which Calvin S. Brown lauded as the supreme poem of all time in his essay “The Musical Development of Symbols: Whitman” 4 Like others who strictly adhere to the objective school of criticism, Brown l regarded apparent references to historical facts, beliefs and personal concerns of the author of a work as external matters about which a critic of literature should not enter into idle speculations when discussing the intrinsic virtues of a poem. In order to elucidate the complex development of Whitman's poem, Brown's article draws an analogy between this poem and orchestral music, an analogy that Brown takes so literally as to assert that the best in poetry is “musical” in character, and, as with music, makes no direct statement about people and events, save only to enrich the fusion and coordination of the poem's "musical" qualities. Not only that: Whitman in Brown’s view
  8. 8. 8 was the first, and perhaps the only, poet to recognize that poetry consisted solely of musical motifs and notations in the sense he indicated. Up to a point the analogy between the poem and a musical symphony is helpful and productive, corroborating conclusions about the irreversible and progressive aspects of a literary or even a non-literary text. In a musical symphony the audience recognizes motifs that pervade the entire work because recognizable sequences of notes, chords and bars strike the ear as the symphony progresses, thus condensing and enriching the overall associative effect on every new recognition of the symphony's leitmotiv. However, when Calvin Brown proposes that the poem is not about President Lincoln at all but simply uses the name to promote the idea of a great man in the service of the orchestration of the symbols and quasi-music elements that compose Whitman's poem, I for one am unable to follow him. We now consider a further axiom in de Saussure's philosophy of language. This proposes that language evinces a combination of its so-called diachronic and synchronic axes. Language considered on the synchronic axis exists in the present unaffected by substantial or perceptible change. On the diachronic plane we consider the changes affecting language during its history up to the present time. People engaged in such activities as conversation, letter writing and listening to the radio are unlikely to be much concerned with language as it has developed on the diachronic plane. The same is not true of poets, for words situated in poems recall earlier uses of the same or similar words that have been recorded in poetic tradition and which mark points of interchange between poets in a kind of trans-temporal dialogue, the nature of which should become clearer with the help of the following example. The word “breeze” occurs in several celebrated poems written by the English Romantic poets, notably The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and "I wandered lonely as a cloud" in the works of Samuel T. Coleridge or William Wordsworth. A comparison of occurrences of this word reveals its significance as a pointer to that vital factor which accorded poets the stamina needed to sustain their creative powers in an age when the very nature of inspiration was in doubt. The greatest fear of the Romantics was the dread of the atrophy of their poetic powers. Surely this is no more clearly evident than in Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner where the picture of the Mariner's becalmed ship poignantly represents the poet's fear of artistic paralysis. The curse on his ship is lifted only when he perceives a beautiful sea serpent in motion. Only then does a breeze
  9. 9. 9 suddenly end the motionless condition of the ship and propel it forwards. The word “breeze” also appears in "I wandered lonely as a cloud," where it represents the force that allows the daffodils to dance joyfully to the poet's delight. As Henry Pottle notes in his article "The Eye and the object in the poetry of Wordsworth," daffodils recall the legend of Narcissus, if not to the florist then to the poet who intuits the deep resonance of words steeped in poetic tradition. 5 As in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the breeze releases the poetic spirit from the stasis produced by fear, the anguish of the Romantic poet bereft of the assurance that some muse or divine power will sustain him. In "I wandered lonely as a cloud" the word “breeze” is located in close proximity to "wandered" and "cloud." This trio of "breeze," "wander" and "cloud" is found in the opening passage of The Prelude, where these words in combination recall the poet's dedication to the Muse and Spirit of Horeb, the Holy Spirit. 6 Wordsworth's reference here to liberation from "a house of bondage," poses a clear allusion to the Egypt represented in the account of the Passover story in the Pentateuch. The reference to a "wandering cloud" must, in this context, pose an allusion to the pillar of cloud in the account of the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness of Sinai. There is no obvious connection between "I wandered lonely as a cloud" and the supplication to the Holy Spirit as the Muse in Paradise Lost, but by side-stepping from "I wandered as lonely as a cloud" to another work by Wordsworth, in our case The Prelude, we discover a missing connection between "I wandered lonely as a cloud" and Milton's dedication to the Muse in the opening passage of Paradise Lost. A strict contextualist, that is to say one who believes that each poem is a unique object to be valued without regard to such extraneous matters as the mind of its author, could well object that the line of argument I have pursued departs from a strict regard for the inner constituency of “I wandered lonely as a cloud” as an enclosed object. There are other schools of opinion that do not take so narrow a view as that taken by the staunchest defenders of New Criticism. There is another context to consider, that constituted by all the works written by the same author, for all such works spring from the same mind, not only that part of the mind that controls its logical processes but also that part which is often termed the unconscious or subconscious. Is there a context that is wider still, that which T. S. Eliot calls “tradition”? 7 Let us posit that all these contexts interlock making any word in poetry the centre of a series of concentric cycles and allowing us to understand the word as a unique entity and yet a
  10. 10. 10 part of the word in infinity, much as Ferdinand de Saussure and Jurij Tynjanov concluded in the light of the distinction between langue and parole. Scholars have noted that a study of the entire body of a poet’s works yields an insight into what one could term their verbal signature, their personal habits in choosing and combining words that distinguish their verbal signature from that of any other person. On this assumption, Barbara Melchiori engages in a statistical survey of the key words in Browning’s poetry adducing such an interesting fact that the most frequent noun in the poet’s vocabulary of nouns was "gold," occurring 390 times all told. 8 I present specific examples drawn from Browning’s poetry to illustrate a further aspect of observations made by Jurij Tynjanov in “the Word in Verse.” The article points out that while the conspicuous repetition of the same word in prose usually produces a discordant note, in poetry its effect is often to enhance and deepen the power of language. Though poetic language and ordinary language are of a different order within the bounds of basic language, the mind of a reader or listener processes pieces of ordinary language and pieces of poetic language in much the same way, initially at least. The minds gleans those meanings of words in a text that cohere in accordance with the general sense of what one assumes the passage in question is about. What is disturbing for readers of some of Dylan Thomas’s poems, particularly “Altarwise by Owl-Light,” is the fact that no such storyline can be derived from an apparent jumble of logically disconnected words and thus readers are deprived of any convenient guidelines that would allow them to make sense of Thomas’s more difficult poetry. Most poems occupy an area lying between the poles marked by newspaper to be read, ingested and set aside and a poem that seems to yield no readily comprehensible meaning. In narrative poems we will tend to understand the sense of words that accord with a readily comprehensible storyline. Poetry however exploits words as words, warts and all, with all their potential to form associations, combinations irrespective of the logical coherence of any storyline or message. In a narrative poem such as “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” words combine in a manner that allows them to convey a consistent message and narrative and yet beneath this surface there are powerful undercurrents and pulling forces that have nothing to do with the poem’s open statements. 9 For this reason poetic diction sometimes deviates from what we would accept as
  11. 11. 11 good style or appropriate word choice. In prose words should, like well-behaved children, be seen but not heard. They should not draw attention to themselves as things interesting in themselves but allow themselves to be passed over once their part in the process of conveying the message of a text has been accomplished. Let us note certain oddities in poems by Robert Browning. When we read the line "He never can cross that mighty top" in Robert Browning's "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," we will assume that the word "cross" has much the same meaning as that of “to traverse.” The word has other meanings though, such as when understood as a religious symbol, but such a meaning, if considered at all, is likely to be deemed irrelevant. In the same poem there are the lines “Folks who put me in a passion find me pipe after a different fashion.” In dictionary terms the meaning of "passion" that best "fits the context" is "rage" and as such it ousts any other meaning of the word such as that of suffering, dying or even the Passion of Christ. The inclusion of the words “cross” and “passion” within the context of Browning’s poem may seem in itself a matter of no consequence and the fact that both also have religious implications could be passed off as a coincidence. Perhaps the ultimate context of a poem is the reader's mind with all its powers of recollection and association. A truly "objective" interpreter of verse must presumably be in a constant state of contention again his knowledge of “irrelevant” facts such as items of background knowledge about the author of the work in question. A person well versed in Browning's poetry might find a correspondence between the possible implicit religious implications of "cross" and "passion" with another passage where the reader is made forcibly aware of an evidently deliberate clash of meanings residing in the same word, namely “cross.” The poem in question is “By the Fire-Side,” which recalls a walk Robert Browning and his wife Elizabeth took in a mountainous region in Italy. The manner in which the poet describes an incident during this walk is somewhat quirky by conventional standards of good style.In stanzas XXXIV, XXXV, and XXXVI there is a conspicuous repetition of the word "cross": Silent the crumbling bridge we cross, (line 166) The cross is down and the altar bare, (line 174) We stoop and look in through the grate See the little porch and rustic door,
  12. 12. 12 Read duly the dead builder's date; Then cross the bridge that we crossed before, (line 179) Within the space of only thirteen lines the word "cross" occurs four times, thrice as a verb meaning "to traverse" and once as a noun signifying a crucifix. In logical terms this repetition appears to be accidental, yet the fourfold occurrence of "cross" strikes the reader's attention, entailing recognition that in some sense "the same word" is receiving emphasis. Here we find a clear example of a divergence from prose diction to which The Russian Formalist Jurij Tynjanov drew attention in "The Word in Verse." 10 Should the reader have made a close study of the history of the Pied Piper story he or she would know that the earliest accounts refer to Calvary as the place to which the Piper led 130 children born in Hamelin. 11 The word “cross” in “The Pied piper of Hamelin” like any word found in a poem is to be considered in the light of more than one context, at least four, I suggest, and these I summarise at follows: The Four Contexts Surrounding the Word in Verse First, we commonly understand the context of a word or phrase in accordance with its immediate environment in some sentence, utterance or passage and this generates the general sense according to which we understand the meaning of individual words, which may possess several meanings in terms of their dictionary definitions. Thus, the noun “train” usually denotes a form of transport that runs on rails and we expect the sense of a passage containing the word to relate to transportation in some way unless there is a clear indication that another meaning is to be drawn. Such an indication must appear in the immediate verbal environment of this word as in the case of a reference to a “train of thought.” A reader of poetry, no less than the reader of a newspaper, cannot help applying the normal process of identifying the immediately recognizable meaning of words according the overall sense of a sentence, verse or story in the case of a narrative poem. Whenever the meaning of a word fits the context that lends a coherent sense to whatever passage is being read, one perusing of a newspaper or some such non-literary text has no reason to reflect on the other possible meanings of words encountered in the process of reading for this would interfere with the flow of comprehension. However, the reader of
  13. 13. 13 a poem can never finish reading a poem as the reader of a newspaper might finish reading an article or report, for poets exploit the polyvalence of words. 2.The school of literary critics who term themselves "contextualists" understand quite differently the "context" of any word, symbol or image found in a literary work. For them the context is the work itself regarded as a self-contained “object.” The normal function of words as the means of making reference to anything in the domain of independently existent external reality is now inoperative for a word in a poem serves only the aesthetic and functional needs of the work to which it belongs. The more radical proponents of internal criticism would isolate the work from any “external” consideration, the role of influence, religious truth, the author's personality and intentions and the facts of history. 3. Any talk of the subconscious as a factor with relevance to poetry is likely to be disquieting to some critics including Northrop Frye, who once described it somewhat disparagingly as "murky." Reasons for similar suspicions harboured by New Critics will be mooted later in this paragraph. However, there are critics who treat the word in a literary work as an integral part of the entire corpus of the author's works. As we have noted, in her monograph Browning's Poetry of Reticence, Barbara Melchiori attaches great importance to the frequency of words in Browning’s poetic works and derives significance from the fact that "gold" is the most frequently occurring noun within this context. Frequency is not the only measure of a word's significance to a person on a deep subconscious level but also its typical associations with other words. (Psychologists rely on this mental disposition when conducting the technique of assessing their patients’ responses to one-word stimuli). Professor Willoughby stresses the fact that the word "Wanderer" often appears in conjunction with the word "Hütte" / in an essay we shall soon consider at some length. 12 New Critics understand the words that make up a poem as elements serving the internal functions of that poem and those alone. In his article “Objective Interpretation,” E. D. Hirsch finds his way to excusing cross-referencing words found in more than one work in particularly difficult cases of ascertaining a word’s significance. 13 In general New Critics, seeing a work as a well-wrought urn, credit poets with the capacity to fabricate each intricacy of their works and predict and control their effects so as to admit no discrepancy between the work itself and its duplication in the reader's mind. The precise nature of this magic transfer
  14. 14. 14 leaves plenty of room for speculation. The complexity of word combination produced by the mind at an unconscious level defies any such micro-management of words seen as the pliant and obedient servants of the poet as an infallable master craftsman. Indeed, subject to subconscious undercurrents, nobody combines words in exactly same way. Each individual has a personal signature when producing verbal patterns over which they cannot exert total control by rational cogitation. An approach based on the sole premise that some faculty residing in any individual’s mind, perhaps the mysterious unconscious, governs the organization of all words found in an author’s corpus of works harbours certain dangers, however, as it may lead to a disregard of the interplay or dialogue between poets reflected by the phenomenon of intertextuality. There is also the possibility that critics indulge in amateur psychotherapy at the expense of addressing literary issues. Here I have Holbrook’s monograph entitled The Code of Night in mind. 14 The author scours Dylan Thomas’s poetry in order to discover the root cause of that poet's addiction to alcohol, possibly at the expense of doing proper justice to exploring intrinsic worth of Thomas’s poetry. 4. The word in verse finds wider contexts than those discussed so far; now we consider a fourth contextual plane of history and literary tradition. Critics of various schools recognize this general truth, however greatly they differ in drawing conclusions about them. Erich Auerbach recognized that literary works of every age exhibit certain timeless attributes and governing principles. The historicist school to which he belonged is generally out of favour now, though M. Bakhtin, enjoying the status of a guru in certain circles, owes much to this outlook, the rigidity of which he mollifies by his belief in the carnivalesque and the element of spontaneity this infuses into literature. T. S. Eliot saw no contradiction between tradition and a poet's expression of individual talent and Northrop Frye conceives of a vast organic corpus of universal literature within an “anagogic” frame of reference but this supposedly lacks any vital link with realities outside the literary domain. 15 The logocentric understanding of the word in verse takes full account of the indispensable role of literary tradition in any examination of a literary text in view of de Saussure’s regard of the diachronic dimension of language. For Tynjanov words are the surface manifestations of inter-subjective interactions which transcend the barriers that divide poem from poem and poet from poet. Though the Russian Formalists paid scrupulous attention to the
  15. 15. 15 internal structure and minute verbal composition of particular literary works, they never denied that there was a vital and inseparable affinity shared by the language of poetry and that of the language of non-literary discourse. Here they adopted a position that is diametrically opposed to the views of many who adhere to the tenets of New Criticism or the various schools of thought that stress the "objective" and solely aesthetic aspects of the poetic art. Words in poetry form a dialogue between poets of various times. The unique setting of a word and its involvement in various contexts assure its ability to harbour a wealth of significance beyond is immediately recognizable meaning according to a dictionary. This we can judge from the following investigation into the phenomenon we are about to consider. Wandering.
  16. 16. 16 II: Wandering A: The Worst of Sinning? To my knowledge there is no chair in wandering studies to be found any university or seat of learning in the world. This could be considered surprising in view of the numerous references to wandering and other derivatives of the verb “to wander” made by literary critics and scholars, Geoffrey Hartman, Professor L.A. Willoughby and Northrop Frye to mention those whose evaluations of wandering will be the subject of our investigations in due course. More important even than the fact that scholars and critics cannot help incorporating words such as "wanderer" and "wandering" into their books and articles is the fact that poets, particularly Goethe and the German and English Romantic poets, used these words to characterize themselves and their art, while celebrating their newfound autonomy as originators and creators on the one hand and while suffering from the burdens of isolation and self-consciousness on the other. The suddenness with which the word "wanderer" came into prominence, its widespread diffusion not only in the German-speaking world but also in the British Isles and the high significance vested therein amount to nothing less than a phenomenon for which an adequate explanation has yet to be found. If one is to be found, the requisite explorations will transcend any one academic discipline or field of study, whether literary criticism, psychology or history but will rather require the appropriate integration of all these disciplines. A rather daunting assignment. It follows and one which in my view only a logocentric method of textual analysis has any chance of completing. Let us consider a passage in Don Juan by Lord Byron in which the word “wandering” occurs and set this within the four contextual fields which have been outlined earlier in this chapter. First, what is the most obvious meaning of this word within the context set by the subject the poets wished to discuss? Second, what function does this word serve as a participatory element within the frame and internal dynamics of Don Juan? To answer this question we should consider other locations in Don Juan where derivatives of the verb "to wander" are found. Third, what inferences can we draw from other instances of such words as “wanderer” in Byron's works understood as a mirror of the author's psychology?
  17. 17. 17 Fourth, how do references to wandering recall used of the verb "to wander" and its derivatives in poetic tradition and in particular in the works of John Milton. To assume that wandering constitutes an overall unity presupposes influences which transcend the limits of any particular poem and even the mind of any particular poet, which means we need to contend with theories proposed by Sigmund Freud and G. C. Jung, particularly the latter in view of his theories concerning the collective unconscious. 16 My way is to begin with the beginning; The regularity of my design Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning. Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto the First, VII "Wandering" here is not to be understood in the sense of physical motion. In terms of the word's immediate contextual setting it refers to what the speaker ostensibly intends to avoid, a failure to present certain items of subject matter in an orderly and strictly chronological manner. The speaker announces his intention of beginning his account of Juan's life by informing his readers about Juan's parentage in a manner consistent with "the regularity of his design." Even so, it is remarkable that he disparages "wandering" as "the worst of sinning." As though even the most censorious of preceptors would go so far as to discern in some badly organised term paper evidence of gross moral turpitude! It is not out of the ordinary for a person to use "wandering" as a synonym for immoral behaviour or, in a different context, as a reference to incoherent or illogical self-expression. Byron, however, contrasts both these meanings of "wandering" within the space of the three lines of verse cited above. In so doing he displays the poet's proclivity to play with words. Is this merely indulging in a triviality? Let us consider the word "wandering" within the context of Don Juan. Are there other passages in this work in which "wandering" is associated with "sinning" or "beginning"? A reference to "sinning" suggests some item of epic content. "Sinning" implies the existence of sinners and sinners form the basis of a story. There are certain hints pointing to the nature of the story in question. Taken together, the words “beginning” and “parentage” could pose an allusion to mankind's first parents, and there is a notable passage in Don Juan which includes several occurrences of the verb to "wander" and explicit allusions to Milton's version of the story of Adam and Eve. The verb
  18. 18. 18 "to wander" (in declined form) occurs three times in the passage describing the shore-side walk taken by Juan and Haidée, the prelude of their sexual and a spiritual union ("Canto the Second" The first line of stanza CLXXXII). The words "And forth they wandered, her sire being gone" imply that the young couple took advantage of the temporary absence of paternal surveillance. The lovers' walk with its sequel recalls Milton's version of the events that led to Adam and Eve falling from grace, a connection that becomes explicit from what we read at the end of the eighty-ninth stanza, for here it is asserted that first love is "that All / Which Eve has left her daughters since the Fall". In the ninety-third stanza we find reference to "our first parents." Like them Juan and Haidée ran the risk of "being damned forever." Consciously or unconsciously (in my view probably the former), Byron was influenced by Milton's use of "to wander" in a passage in Paradise Lost in which there is an altercation between Adam and Eve about Eve's yielding to what Adam terms her "desire of wandering." Eve reminds Adam of this choice of words referring to her "will / Of wandering, as thou call'st it" (IX. 1145,1146). Shortly we shall consider another passage revealing Milton's particular interest in the word "to wander." Byron not only betrays interest in that aspect of Milton's description of Eve's walk though Paradise that involves "sinning," which for Byron inevitably had a strong sexual connotation. Byron's reference to "sinning" is at one level little more than a puerile jibe at certain attitudes towards sexual mores. Byron's description of Haidée and Juan walking along the shore also captures that sensuous and even voluptuous element in the Miltonic description of a walk that culminated in Eve's emotional a seduction by the serpent (who approaches his quarry with a mariner's skill). Both Milton's description of Eve's walk and Byron's treatment of the scene culminating in the lovers' union of Haidée and Juan inculcate a sense of unity expressing a sublimated form of sexual or libidinal energy, perhaps of a kind that psychologists of the Freudian or Jungian schools believe to be the mainspring of all human creativity. Miltonic influence in the respect just indicated also leaves a trace in the final passage in Shelley's Epipsychidion describing a walk that leads to a lovers' union. Significantly, this passage is introduced by the verb "to wander." Let us consider another way in which "wandering" and "beginning" are related to each other in Don Juan, and indeed in Byron's other long poem incorporating his travels. An occurrence of the verb "to wander" is juxtaposed to a reference to the Muse in the Dedication to Don Juan and again in the first strophe of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. In the eighth stanza
  19. 19. 19 of the Dedication, the speaker refers to himself as one "wandering with pedestrian Muse" in contrast to Southey depicted as one seated on a winged steed. In the tenth stanza the evocation of Milton is not merely hinted at, for the speaker alludes to a passage in Paradise Lost in which there is a clear reference to Pegasus and "wandering" conflating the word's associations with poetic inspiration and disorientation. Up led by thee Into the Heav'n of Heav'ns I have presumed, An Earthly Guest, and drawn Empyreal Air, Thy temp'ring, with like safety guided down Return me to my Native Element Lest from this flying steed unrein'd, (as once Bellephoron, though from a lower Clime) Dismounted, on th'Aleian Field I fall Erroneous, there to wander and forlorn (12-20) Again, as in the dispute between Eve and Adam, the word "wander" is foregrounded, here in a brief exercise in comparative philology. Milton recalls the original meaning of "erroneous" in the light of its derivation from errare in Latin (to stray, to wander). Similarly, "Aleian" means "land of wandering" in Greek. In this passage Milton seems to anticipate the crisis in modern poetry centring on the nature of poetic inspiration and the identity of the poet. B: The Light Etymology Throws on the Inclusive and Specific Aspects of Wandering When we consider the line “All wandering is the worst of sinning" in the light of the wider contexts the definitions of which were outlined earlier, we have found reasons to draw into the ambit of our discussion passages in Don Juan and Paradise Lost in accordance with the linguistic theories of de Saussure and J. Tynjanov which state that language has both a synchronic and diachronic aspect and their axes intersect in any word found within a poetic work. Must the ambit of this discussion be confined to works written English? The word "wanderer" straddles both the English and the German Languages: can we speak of the same word despite the participation of words that appear in the same form in two
  20. 20. 20 different languages? Is this a case of what is commonly termed "false friends" or faux amis? In terms of the definitions of words listed in a dictionary the German "Wanderer" will be translated into English by "wayfarer," "hiker,"" migrant" and somewhere down the list "wanderer" might appear. Similarly, "to wander" in English would be translated into German by several words other that the outwardly similar “wandern.” However, people usually consult dictionaries when they are reading a text in prose in which the meaning of each word is determined by its “context” demanding a one word for one meaning equivalence. This is only the first kind of context in the four-fold system of contexts discussed earlier. We are concerned with the word in verse though. Two notable translations of Goethe's poems into English retain the word "wanderer" as the equivalent of the German "Wanderer" ("Wandrer" according to the orthography of Goethe's time). The first of these in William of Norwich’s translation of Goethe’s “Der Wandrer,” and this translation exerted a powerful effect on Wordsworth with the result that the figure of the Wanderer plays a leading role in The Excursion. In the second case H. W. Longfellow rendered the title "Wandrers Nachtlied" as "Wanderer’s Night-Songs.” The great American poet intuited the basic transcendent unity of the word wanderer whose overall significance is the same in English and German poetry. Intuition is not dependent on logic and reason alone but on the powers and influences of the subconscious or what Carl Jung termed the collective unconscious. Jung frequently discussed the etymological origins of words? What is the etymological origin of the word "Wanderer" and the verbs “wandern" and “to wander” which give rise to the common form of the noun “Wanderer”? The scope of a word’s power of association results from the cumulative effects of a word’s evolution over long periods of time. This we can judge from words sharing this root such as "Wandel" ("change") and "verwandeln" ("to change"). In earlier times all changes in nature were attributed to unseen forces often deemed to be divine or spiritual in character. Thus Odin received the name of the "Wanderer," and magical powers attributed to a magician's stick became a "wand.“ In the Christian era wandering designated those who turned from a certain course, either as repentant pilgrims or moral deviators like Cain and Ahasuerus. Wandering was also deemed an attribute of a guiding spirit, hence references to a "wandering Muse“ found in Milton’s works and elsewhere,
  21. 21. 21 and to Odin the Wanderer, the Germanic deity of poetry. This implication of a source of inspiration was readily transferred to guiding forces belonging to the Christian concepts of truth. On a negative level wandering became associated with error, madness and death (cf. Shakespeare’s 18th Sonnet). I anticipate a further objection based on a failure to recognize the polyvalence of the word "wanderer." How could one blanket term acquire such an infinitude of different nuances? This argument is yet again predicated on the notion that a word in verse is subject to the limitations of a dictionary definition. Even a great poet like Ezra Pound had a low view of "words" as opposed to "images." In his view words are like numerals, each with a precise denotation while images are like algebraic notations such as x and y, which are capable of signifying an unlimited number of variables. According to de Saussure words have just this algebraic elasticity that Pound accorded to images because words, or more precisely singular word occurrences, (see discussion of "honourable" lie at the centre of several contexts. "The Wanderer" was taken to be a cognomen of the quintessential modern poet by Goethe and the Romantic poets of his day but the word was also proved to become the basis of distinctions between poets, and distinctions that sometimes aroused acrimony at that. Goethe introduced the word "Wanderer" into the public arena and his use of the word in this sense was taken over by Romantic poets and applied to themselves thanks largely to the publication of Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, the novel that acted as the principal catalyst that generated the Romantic movement. The same kind of differentiation on the basis of shared commonality is shown by comparing passages in English poetry. Byron mocks Wordsworthian “wandering” in a passage in Don Juan, where there is a reference to Juan as a youth who "wandered by glassy brooks, / Thinking unutterable things." These words, found in the 19th stanza of the first Canto, are followed in the next stanza by a pointed reference to Wordsworth: He, Juan (and not Wordsworth), so pursued His self-communion with his own high soul. Yet Byron's own brand of wandering is revealed in this passage from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage:
  22. 22. 22 There, in a moment, we may plunge our years In fatal penitence, and in the blight Of our own soul turn all our blood to tears, And colour things to come with hues of Night; The race of life becomes a hopeless flight To those that walk in darkness: on the sea, The boldest steer but where their ports invite, But there are wanderers o'er Eternity Whose bark drives on and on, and anchor'd ne'er shall be. Wordsworth's and his fellow Lakers` preference for descriptions of country walks and evocations of historical migrations earned them William Blake's somewhat disparaging appellation of “cold-earth wanderers” in "The Mental Traveller." Yet even in such an oneiric vision such as that conveyed by Blake’s “London” the poetic wanderer must encounter whatever sight, whatever symbol exciting joy or horror, might lie or lurk in the speaker's path, whether the objects encountered originate in external nature, like Wordsworth’s daffodils, or in the creations of the subconscious as they enter the poet’s field of vision. In Wordsworth's famous poem telling of the experience of his visual encounter with daffodils the first two words form the past tense, the preferred tense of historians and reporters. The first two words in “London” are “I wander“ in the present tense, one might say the ever-present transcending time altogether. However, both poets use the same verb, which suggests some affinity. Wandering implies the reciprocity of the mind subject to external impulses and the mind creating images that are no less palpable and concrete than their external counterparts. Blake’s “London” speaks of the real world and pronounces judgment on its social injustices no less severely and tellingly that any poem by Shelley or Byron. As Milton's self-appointed heir, Blake recognized what “wandering” meant to Milton, the journey through the world of experience, through post-Edenic history, as the final lines of Paradise Lost so resoundingly declare. The last two lines of Book XII tell of Adam and Eve leaving Paradise: "They hand in hand with wand'ring feet and slow, / Through Eden took their solitary way.” “London”, let us remember, falls under the general heading of the Songs of Experience. Experience here entails exposure to the power of sin, Satanic bondage and the ravages of adversity that inhere in the physical
  23. 23. 23 world but also mankind's passage through this world is an essential part of its ultimate recovery and redemption. Experience can therefore be understood as progress, a striving for a future New Jerusalem. Of this Northrop Frye takes little account in his evaluation of the literary archetype he perceives in the wanderings of the Israelites from Egypt towards the primal state of Eden, and if to the Promised Land, then only to some original state owing nothing to the experience of wandering, which he sees only negatively as the labyrinth of the Law. 17 Perhaps too much misapplied Pauline theology has spilt into his thinking. Goethe, on the other hand, saw the wandering journey of the Israelites positively, and the combined images of "the Wanderer" and "the Hut" has a biblical foundation in the Festival of the Tabernacles. Like Northrop Frye, most modern critics cannot get a grip on the phenomenon posed by the word “Wanderer” in English and German poetry. This they ignore, even though the word to wander slips into their writings. To appreciate the significance of this phenomenon would mean for them an abandonment of the prevalent view that literature is divorced from the common needs of mankind, and devoid of any bearing on eternal truth only to become some elusive, emasculated corpus without relevance to history and biography -in other words – to LIFE. C: A Comparison of Two Scholarly Essays Concerned with Wandering and an Evaluation of their Shared Opinions and Differences Our minds possess the capability of recognizing patterns in whatever form and also the ability to construct theories that should explain the underlying causes that give rise to patterns once recognized. Inevitably there is a time lag between the first recognition of a pattern and the arrival of a plausible theory to explain it, which might be irritating for tidy minds that want a quick answer to everything. Without necessarily being explicable within the present state of our knowledge, recurrent patterns may arouse attention by the frequency of their manifestations, the combinations they form with certain events or sequences of events and their pervasiveness over a wide area. . On all these counts the appearance of the word "wanderer" and words derived from the verbs "wandern" or "to wander" in the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the German and English Romantic poets constitutes a phenomenon that is not easy to explain away or simply ignore, except
  24. 24. 24 perhaps by scholars and literary critics of a certain disposition. However, two writers of academic articles have focused their attention on the Wanderer as a literary phenomenon in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are Professor L. A. Willoughby, the author of "The Image of the 'Wanderer' and the 'Hut' in Goethe's Poetry" 18 and Geoffrey Hartman, the author of "Romanticism and 'Anti-Self-Consciousness'." 19 Professor Willoughby's article is almost exclusively concerned with the word "wanderer" in Goethe's poetry and wider literary works; Geoffrey Hartman's article focuses on the significance of "the Wanderer" as a term that characterizes generically the modern self-conscious poet in the Romantic era though it does include remarks on Goethe's two Faust tragedies and the novel Willhelm Meisters Lehrjahre within the ambit of discussion. Both Professor Willoughby and Geoffrey Hartman refer the word, with its implications and ramifications to the same premise, which they understand as being rooted in psychology, namely in the quest of the libido to achieve union with its female counterpart, the anima, "das ewig Weibliche" ("the Eternally Female") as expressed in the final verse of Faust Part II. Professor Willoughby's arguments rest on the Jungian version of this theory with its postulation of the collective unconscious while Geoffrey Hartman cites sources representing the Freudian position regarding the relationship between the libido and the anima. Here the similarities between the positions adopted by Professor Willoughby and Geoffrey Hartman end. Professor Willoughby limits the ambit of his study to Goethe, his life and works despite his reference to the collective unconscious, the influence of which surely transcends any one person's mind. He finds that only subconscious forces of the mind could coordinate and lend unity to so vast a corpus of works as those written by Goethe throughout his life, lending this continuity and an integral and consistent course of development. Willoughby sees the destruction of the home of Philemon and Baucis present in a scene near the close of Faust II as an act that complements the destruction of Gretchen's cottage, a symbol of domestic innocence and calm. He also relates the quest of the libido to the practical matters of life, the need of a man to settle down, marry and make a useful contribution to society, albeit after a certain period of "philandering." Professor Willoughby notes the word "Wanderer" often appears in the neighbourhood of the word ""Hütte," this denoting a hut, cottage or other humble dwelling which represents the family hearth.in the course of his later life crowned by success and recognition the image of the
  25. 25. 25 hut gives way to that of a house. Geoffrey Hartman sees the libidinal quest purely as an inward process leading to a sublime union between libidinal love and the object of its longing, a union that, once attained, leaves no room for further development and progress. He claims that Wordsworth and Blake demonstrated that they had reached such a point of termination in the process of composing The Prelude and Jerusalem. This meant not only the cessation of any further progress in the poetic sphere achievable by Wordsworth and Blake but the end of poetry itself, at least to the extent that no future poet could supersede Wordsworth's and Blake's consummate achievements. It seems to me that those critics who stress the singular and inimitable quality of some poem of their choice in order to promote the notion of "internalization" do so at the cost of any comparable virtues they attribute to all other poetic works. Though Geoffrey Hartman refers mainly to the English Romantics he does include Goethe within the scope of his discussion and thus intrudes, if only cursorily, into an area covered by Willoughby's study of Goethe's literary works. Hartman sees in the novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre a historic turning-point marking the end of the age of poetry and its eclipse by the age of prose. Interestingly, Willoughby takes this novel as a source of evidence for his contention that Goethe censured "romantic" wanderers in the person of Mignon, a young singer and artiste and the distraught harp, whose vagaries and premature demise Professor Willoughby contrasts with the robust and steadfast character of the protagonist Wilhelm Meister. The latter's meandering life as an actor serves a prelude to a socially useful career in the medical profession in Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre, a novel written in Goethe's later years. With due respect to Professor Willoughby, it should be pointed out that there were no Romantics around when Goethe composed Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Indeed it was this novel that provided one of the stimuli that brought the German Romantic movement into existence. Professor Willoughby and Hartman approached the phenomenon of the "Wanderer” via different routes; the former noted the frequency of the words "Wanderer" and "Hütte throughout Goethe's poetry and thus, unwittingly at least, applied a logocentric method to his enquiries, while the latter discerned the essential characteristics of the "Wanderer" or "Wandering Jew" in the person of the Ancient Mariner, whose nightmarish experiences are recounted in T. S. Coleridge's haunting Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Strange as it may seem, the word "wanderer" is nowhere
  26. 26. 26 to be found in this poem . It is only the resemblance of the Mariner to archetypal wanderers such as Ahasuerus and Cain that warrants his status of "wanderer." In both the articles which we are comparing great stress in laid on the fact that much of the symbolism found in the "Wanderer" is borrowed from biblical characters and themes. Like Harold Bloom, the editor of the collection of essays that includes "Romanticism and 'Anti-Self-Consciousness,'" Hartman denies the possibility any remaining religious significance residing in such symbolic figures such as Cain and Ahasuerus as these served only the aesthetic needs of "internalized" poetry, which evinced no relevance to external realities touching religion but lost all relevance to religious concerns and, for that matter, all "external" domains such as history, society or the concerns of common humanity. Willoughby does not go so far. He stresses that Goethe availed himself of figures and themes rooted in religious tradition to portray the artist-poet as creator or martyr, (even Jesus in Die Leiden des jungen Werthers), but never denied a vital connection between poetry and personal experience, between art and life to the exclusion of any concern for common human needs. Wandering is a part of man's moral education analogous to the wanderings of the Israelites towards the Promised Land. The wanderer-hut association, Willoughby points out, recalls the pilgrim Festival of Tabernacles. In Dichtung und Wahrheit Goethe recalled how as a boy he had attended services held by the Frankfurt Jewish community during Succoth, the festival in question. The history of the Israelites from the Exodus from Egypt until the building of the Temple in Jerusalem provides a sustained metaphor for Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, recording the wanderings of itinerant actors in preparation for the founding of a German national theatre to be housed in a permanent building. The Lehrjahre end on a somewhat sardonic note as Wilhelm is compared to Saul before his promotion to royal status, for he was searching for his father's donkeys and found a kingdom." Even the Faust dramas evince a theological master plan for in “The Prologue in Heaven” the Voice of the Lord prophesies that Faust, His servant, will reach a divinely appointed goal, albeit after much meandering. It is as "the Wanderer" that Faust enters Eternity. Professor Willoughby and Geoffrey Hartman are concerned with one and the same phenomenon. In general they concur that the Wanderer represents the self-conscious poet adrift in an age when earlier assumptions about the relationship between art, truth and life were no
  27. 27. 27 longer tenable, or at least when they were no longer based on generally shared assumptions. They also allow that Goethe played a key role in ushering in some fundamental change in the course of European literature but they do not have anything to say about the propagation of this new understanding of the poet qua "wanderer," which they could hardly do without setting Goethe and the Romantics within their historical context. To do that they would have needed to review the course of literary, and indeed socio-political, developments leading up to the emergence of the "Wanderer," the self-conscious modern poet. D: Wandering in its Historical Context In order to get a handle on the wanderer phenomenon we need a coordinated approach integrating the disciplines employed by historians and psychologists as well as literary scholars. In this we must establish a probable causal chain of events, something which Willoughby signally failed to do when taking the early demise of Mignon and the Harper as evidence of Goethe's disapproval of "romantic" tendencies before Romanticism had come into being. We need to find a similar case in which one man contended with issues of his age, found a formula with which to resolves conflicts and anomalies of age and through this formula unleashed a massive transformation with the help of the appeal of an idea or rather association of ideas aroused by one word. We need to understand how this word condensed vital associations in the word "Wanderer" and how these accorded with the spirit of the age. To facilitate a discussion of the wanderer in its historical context, let us make a comparison between the situation in Goethe's age, which saw the French Revolution and the rise of Romanticism, and the age of religious turmoil that culminated in the Reformation. Developments of this magnitude surface unexpectedly but the fundamental factors contributing to them had long been in the making. The great changes that have occurred in history have done so in conjunction with the thoughts and actions of a leading personality. Whether we are speaking of a Luther, a Rousseau or a Goethe, such a person was acutely aware of the principal issues and controversies of his
  28. 28. 28 times and yet was able to offer a resolution of those conflicts and problems that had emerged from what may have initially been a personal crisis. In such terms Luther was appalled by many excesses committed in the name of religion, grappled with an agonizing concern with his personal salvation, formulated the doctrine of justification by faith alone, aired his opinions in public, and, as they say, the rest is history. Let us impute to Goethe a role similar to that which applies to Luther as the initiator of the Reformation. What was the situation in Europe when Goethe began his life as an author and poet? How did he contend with the unresolved issues of his day as an individual and representative of his age? Why did the word "Wanderer" play a central role in the formulation of his resolution of the issues with which he contended? How did his promotion of the word "Wanderer" strike the attention of the informed and educated public of his day and what factors led to the widespread adoption of the word among Romantic poets? E: The Automatic Dynamic Effect of Verbs Denoting Movement and the Exploitation of this Effect by Poets and other Writers Let us consider what potential lay in the word "wanderer" and the verbs "wandern" and "to wander" from which it is derived. These verbs often, but by no means always, denote some act of movement such as walking or travelling. John Frederick Nims points out that an allegory is spontaneously generated whenever a statement in a poem, or in any sentence for that matter, contains a verb of motion: In Western Wind, a handbook for students of poetry, he writes: A mountain may be a symbol of salvation, a traveler may be a symbol of a human being in his life. But if the traveler takes as much as one step toward the mountain, it seems that the traveler and the mountain become allegorical figures, because a story has begun. Western Wind, an Introduction to Poetry 20 The dynamic released by the use of any verb denoting motion posited by Frederick Nims was life-giving oxygen to poets living in an age when an unquestioning belief in a divine Muse was no longer a shared cultural assumption and the conventions governing poetry were no longer tenable, desirable and enforceable. The driving power of verbs of motion allowed
  29. 29. 29 poets to overcome a fear-induced paralysis of the imagination. As we have noted, while any verb denoting acts of motion may serve as a means to jump-start the process of verbal discourse but "to wander" and "wandern" are especially well qualified to serve the needs of poetic expression. Tradition has accorded them a wide range of associations with allegorical figures that includes Cain, the Prodigal son, the Wandering Jew. The last-named figure held an immense grip on the imagination of poets after its appearance in Bishop Percy's Reliques. We find explicit references to this haunting figure in Shelley's Queen Mab as in Charles Baudelaire's "Le Voyage" with its evocation of "le juif errant," but beyond these its presence, according to Geoffrey Hartman, pervades The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and epitomised the mentality of the self-conscious poet during and since the age of Romanticism. For C. G. Jung it poses a symbol of the suppressed unconscious in western civilization no less. Modern critics, including Frederick Nims, despite his words quoted above, tend to look askance at the allegory as an artificial literary device for they allege that its primary function is transparently didactic to the point of becoming stilted and outmoded after services rendered as a useful tool in medieval times. The allegorical mode lived on in the eighteenth century, if not as a vehicle of received notions of truth then as a reflection of the inner processes at work deep within the human mind. Allegories based on representations of journeys expressed the quest for a new foundation after the theoretical and moral foundation of the old order based on the authority of the Church and divine right of kings, the recognized status of court poets and neoclassical conventions had lost their credibility in philosophical circles. The allegory carried with it a heavy load of religious baggage even in the increasingly secular environment of Europe in the eighteenth century, and this, far from being a burden, proved useful, even necessary, to poets and writers, whatever their ideological bent or religious persuasion. A verb of motion supplies the dynamic needed by writers and poets, but what about their need to draw on a force promoting direction and form? Here the verb "to wander" and its German relative" wandern" proved their worth for they convey two basic associations rooted in religious symbolism, namely the circuitous meandering path of Cain and Ahasuerus and the winding path of pilgrims and seekers leading to a destination and with this a resolution of emotions and tensions. The shaping force of the pilgrimage as a sustained metaphor becomes clear when we compare two works by the same author. Let us take as examples John Bunyan’s The Holy War in
  30. 30. 30 contrast to The Pilgrims Progress and Byron's Don Juan in contrast to Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. While many to this day relish The Pilgrim's Progress, considered by some to be the first novel, relatively few take great interest in The Holy War with its essentially static frame of reference, a city under siege. Don Juan, though thoroughly entertaining and sometimes profound despite its flippancy, follows the path of an ever widening spiral or series of concentric circles that some have seen as a reflection of Dante's Inferno or Purgatory. This poem nowhere plumbs the depths of feeling and serious meditation shown by Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. The next case we consider marks the transition from overtly religious allegory to the allegory of an age no longer subject to the dominating influence of religious doctrines and authority. f: What has “Wandering” to Do with Robinson Crusoe’s Guilt Complex? As the supposed editor of the second version of Robinson Crusoe (1720) Crusoe remarks (I place in bold print words that appear especially significant to me): The story, although allegorical, is also historical… In a word, the Adventures of Robinson Crusoe are one whole scheme of a real life of eight and twenty years, spent in the most wandering desolate and afflicting circumstances that ever man went through. Three words in this citation are of particular interest from the point of view taken in this study. As "history," Crusoe's story describes in plausibly realistic terms the experience of a man who was forced to survive almost thirty years of isolation from European civilisation. The "allegorical" character of the story is not made explicit. The word "wandering" acquires a negative tone by its juxtaposition with "desolate" and "afflicting. "The negative connotations of the word suggest disorientation and a punishment for sin or folly. The uncertainties surrounding these references to "allegory" and "wandering" may be clarified if we inspect occurrences of the verb "to wander" in the story itself. In the opening paragraphs of Robinson Crusoe the verbs "to ramble" and "to wander" are associated with "thought" and "inclination" in a manner that is fully consistent with common usage. The third paragraph
  31. 31. 31 opens with the words: "Being the third son of the family and not bred to a trade, my head began to be filled very early with rambling thoughts." The fourth paragraph contains a sentence in which Crusoe states that he had no reason other than "a mere wandering inclination" for leaving his native country. Although any verb of motion may acquire a metaphorical meaning in whatever form of language, some have become linked by usage with such notions as digression, deviation, transgression and so on. "To ramble" does not conventionally imply a moral judgment. When referring to thought or speech, it suggests that one or the other of these is logically disconnected or lacking in purposeful direction. The connotative range of "to wander" finds no parallel in other verbs of motion such as "to ramble," "to stray," "to digress," "to transgress," "to roam," etc. The juxtaposition of "wandering inclination" and "leaving my father's house" obviously recalls the strong biblical associations of the word "to wander" with the wilderness journey of the Israelites, the parable of the Prodigal Son and other well-known motifs. A reference to "father's house" recurs in the story, pointing to the central significance of the figure of the Prodigal Son. In fact Crusoe refers directly to the parable of the Prodigal Son in the twelfth paragraph in the first chapter of "his" book. Referring to his father the author writes: Now I saw plainly the goodness of his observations about the middle station of life, how easy, how comfortably he had lived all his days, and never had been exposed to tempests at sea or troubles on shore; and I resolved that I would, like a true repenting prodigal, go home to my father. In one way this reference to the Prodigal Son is strange, as Crusoe returns to England long after his parents' death. If we take Crusoe's father to be a figure representing the patriarchal order of established society rather than Crusoe's progenitor, the reason for Crusoe's being likened to the Prodigal Son becomes understandable. Cut off from the civilisation of his native land, Crusoe must establish a new social order based - let us say - on the "Protestant work ethic." Certainly the novel's social and political implications were immediately grasped by the reading public in England and on the Continent of Europe, and those writers who were prompted by Defoe's novel to write their own Robinsonades dwelt more on the idea of establishing a new civilisation than on that of Crusoe's isolation and loneliness and on the theme of isolated individual endeavour. Crusoe's
  32. 32. 32 sense of guilt and fear aroused by his crossing what he felt to be a forbidden threshold might also by understood as the indirect expression of feelings known to Defoe himself, for we may imagine that it was not without great trepidation that the author, approaching the age of sixty, ventured for the first time into the realm of pure novelistic fiction. Defoe anticipated a later generation of poets that included Goethe and the Romantics in exploiting images and allegories of biblical and religious origin in order to contend with issues of an essentially psychological or aesthetic nature. Byron and Shelley made Ahasuerus and Cain symbols for "thought" and self-consciousness. In the figure of Goethe's Faust, Cain and the Prodigal Son finally merge under the influence of Goethe's concern with aesthetics rather than orthodox religion. Defoe's novel excited a bevy of so-called Robinsonades, not least in Germany. In 1731 Johann Gottfried Schnabel published his famous work known under its short title of Insel Felsenburg (Wunderliche Fata einiger See-Fahrer, absonderlich Alberti Julii, eines geborenen Sachsen, auf der Insel Felsenburg), which took its cue from Robinson Crusoe insofar as Defoe's story deals with the establishment of a new society on a remote and distant island with no regard to the motif of one individual's lonely battle for survival under desperate circumstances. Robinsonades presenting the perspective of various regional patriotisms throughout Germany became a literary fashion and Goethe for one enjoyed reading them in his boyhood. To what special factor did Robinson Crusoe owe its powerful impact? What accounts for its success? It struck a chord. The world was ready to receive its message; and so one could go on finding expressions that posit the influence of some spirit of the age or zeitgeist. Whatever lay behind the appeal of Robinson Crusoe to so many in Europe and whatever induced writers to reinterpret the story in their own terms. The zeitgeist is an animal that evades capture by any precise system of analysis, and if in some sense it is to be captured at all then only through a process involving leaps of the imagination and recourse to appropriate examples, parallels and metaphors. At least some attempt ought to be made to set the phenomenon of wandering in its historical context if we are to resolve the contradictions that come to light in scholarly discussions about the nature of "the wanderer" as a literary phenomenon. We face the task of understanding how the specifics of the history of the eighteenth century relate to general or universal history, as the influence of subconscious influences so central to any discussion of
  33. 33. 33 "the wanderer" phenomenon transcends any one period of history. We also need to understand how Goethe's mind mastered the divergent trends and pulling forces in the world around him so as to utilize their energy in the service of poetic literature in which the verb "wandern" played so vital a part. We need to review the potentialities residing in the word "wanderer" and view if effects and applications in their historical context. F: Four Aspects of "Wandering" Earlier we considered the four contexts that impinge on any word found in a poetic text. our special interest is now focused onwards subsumed under the rubric of wandering as derivatives of the verbs "to wander" and "wandern." Let us consider the properties of wandering in the service of poetic and literary expression in the following sequence. First, its most common and obvious meaning in the most important poems we shall review. What structural implications does "wandering" have? This question was broached in an earlier consideration of Byron's lines. "All wandering is the worst of sinning." What relevance has wandering to any discussion of human psychology with special reference to Goethe's exploration of what we now term the unconscious? Fourth, what role does wandering play in the phenomenon often termed intertextuality, a matter also broached in earlier discussions concerning " I wandered lonely as a cloud," The Prelude and Paradise Lost as in connections between the latter and Don Juan´? 1. In common speech "to wander" is not the dictionary equivalent of "wandern" especially in regard to one of the concrete and typical senses of the German verb "wandern." In modern German the word commonly bears the meaning of "rambling" or even "hiking," that is to say engaging in the physical act of walking. In Goethe famous poems during his Sturm und Drang period, "Wandrers Sturmlied" and "Der Wandrer," the wanderer is a foot-traveller. The journey itself, the itinerary and so forth are of secondary importance in comparison with the mental transports that the act of walking sets in motion. 2. The essential difference between travelling and wandering in its sense pertaining to physical movements resides in the fact that "wandering" never leads directly to a certain goal and it is questionable in certain cases whether the goal is in any way important. At its core. wandering means turning and changing with a strong implication of the
  34. 34. 34 involvement of movement and mental processes that result in a deviation of some kind. The most inclusive form of wandering" does not lead to endless rambling or submitting to the fate of lost souls but it does involve delay, a postponement of the inevitable end that awaits a work of art as it does human life. As the story of Scheherazade in The Arabian Nights brings home, the two are inextricably connected. Conversely, poems about a dash to a certain goal, usually on horseback or in a horse-drawn means of transport, evoke notions of the brevity and transience of life, as shown by "Der Erlkönig" and "Schwager Chronos." Wandering's very indeterminacy, on the other hand, allows the poet to condense vast fields of associations into very few lines, as is preeminently clear in "Wandrers Nachtlied." 3. The key to understanding why wandering is so central an aspect of psychology insofar as this field concerns literature is the recognition that the quest of the libido to achieve union with the anima underlies all the great epics recorded in the annals of world literature from the epic of Gilgamesh onwards to Goethe 's Faust Part II and doubtless beyond. Faust enters eternity as the "Wanderer," so indicated in the marginal references of the play. The words "das ewig Weibliche zieht uns heran" ("the Eternally Female leads us yonder") is to my knowledge the first explicit formulation of the cardinal notion that underlies the theories of Freud and Jung concerning the human consciousness and the unconscious. Goethe's discovery of the unconscious, so much bound up with occurrences of the word "wanderer" in his literary works, was anticipated by Edward Young, whose Night Thoughts deeply impressed not only Goethe but poets and thinkers in his generation. 4. Taking a leaf from Professor Willoughby observation about the frequency of the words "Wander" and "Hütte" in Goethe's poetry, in fact in his works generally. Let us consider what patterns emerge when we compare occurrences of the verb "to wander" and its derivatives in the works of "the greatest Wanderer" himself, as Goethe called Shakespeare in the "Rede zum Shakespears Tag." In the Eighteenth Sonnet the association of wandering with "death's vale" is hardly a consoling. Puck, by contrast, is that "merry wanderer of the night" in A Midsummer-Night's Dream. In Julius Caesar Cinna the poet is caught somewhere between the lugubrious side of "wandering" and it more sanguine aspect. A connection between Wandering" and poetry is implicit here long before the connection was fully recognized by Goethe and the Romantics. Cinna "wanders forth" on to the streets of Rome but owing to the confusion based on his name being shared by the conspirator Cinna he is lynched by an angry mob. His
  35. 35. 35 consolation? He dreamed that he could dine with Caesar in some realm beyond death where life's inconsistences are resolved. The notion of a partnership between ruler and poet found expression in Petrarch's concept of the crown of laurels being the joint symbol of political power and the honour due to the greatest of poets. Does "wandering" present an incoherent assortment of contradictory meanings? I believe we can discern an underlying system that coordinates the occurrences of the verb "to wander" under consideration. According to the theories of Freud and Jung "wandering" is rooted in the correspondence between human consciousness and solar mythology based on the quest of the libido to achieve union with the anima, the female principle understood as a denizen of the night. The most felicitous aspect of "wandering" finds its context in midsummer, its most chilling in association to winter and its intrusion into spring. Cinna is caught in the middle at a time just before the vernal equinox when both the negative and positive implications of wandering interact. It is unlikely that Shakespeare was aware of the different associations of "wandering" or deliberately contrasted them, which is not to deny that the subconscious powers of his mind played a role in the pattern we discern. An inter-personal intertextual connection is open to discussion if we consider the following passages, one found in A Midsummer-Night's Dream and the other in the libretto of Die Zauberflöte ("The Magic Flute"), which Mozart composed with the ancient Egyptian variant solar_mythology in_ mind. Over hill, over dale, Thorough bush, thorough briar, Over park, over pale, Thorough flood, thorough fire, I do wander everywhere, ***************************** Der, welcher wandert diese Strasse voll Beschwerden, wird rein durch Feuer, Wasser, Luft und Erden: (Whoever wanders this path full of woes becomes pure through fire, water, air and earth) Schikaneder, who wrote the score of Mozart's opera, being a Shakespearean actor, was well able to recall the passages in A Midsummer-Night's Dream. 21 As in other cases we have considered,
  36. 36. 36 "wandern "and “to wander" mean the same to poets though not necessarily to others for reasons already discussed. In Die Zauberflöte the wanderer pursues the course of the sun according to the Masonic and ancient Egyptian version of the solar mythology that seems to inform all cultures and religious systems of belief. The image of one passing through water and fire is also found in the Bible. (Isaiah 6. 43), New American Standard Bible When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. G: The Eighteenth Century within Universal History In antiquity wandering journeys posed the initial phase for the foundation of a realm, a new political and social order in the great epics of Homer and in the narrative of a wandering journey through the wilderness in the Pentateuch. The solar heroes, so-called by Jung in his propositions concerning the quest of the libido to achieve union with the anima, were, apart from all else, those who established or re-established kingdoms and theocracies - Gilgamesh, Ulysses, Aeneas and Moses. The excursions of the Romantic wanderers retraced the great migrations of history in a suitably downscaled and humble mode such as in the case revealed in the opening dedication of The Prelude with the breeze replacing Milton’s conflated Muse and Holy Spirit and a mere cloud of the kind we experience day by day replacing the pillar of cloud that guided the Israelites on their long path to the Promised Land. "I wandered lonely as a cloud" lies within the same mystical and religious field of association purely on the strength of the choice and alignment of words without any explicit allusion being made to classical or biblical sources. From earliest times, at least from the composition of the first epic, Gilgamesh, literature has always recorded, reflected and interpreted the various migrations, explorations and significant travels that have taken place through the ages. This is no less true of the eighteenth century in which knowledge of global geography and cultural tourism encouraged by the works of Rousseau and Winckelmann broadened both spatial and temporal horizons among the educated classes of Europe. Journeys as
  37. 37. 37 they are described in literature are no travelogues or chronicles. Like words in poetry the contemplation of a journey set in the contemporary world evoked the journeys and migrations important to the culture of those writing about travels and journeys, their own included. Here we can return to Professor Willoughby’s assertions concerning "the wanderer" and "the hut" as a constant throughout Goethe's literary works, in particular the observation that the wanderer-hut connection has an origin in the history of Israel's wanderings through the wilderness of Sinai on the way to the Promised Land. Goethe was not alone I tapping the imagery and symbolism of the wandering journey and C. G Jung, whose theory Willoughby himself adduced in furtherance of his arguments, posited the universal and pervasive nature of the libido’s eternal quest for union with the anima as expressed in the image of the sun and the solar hero as its human embodiment travelling into the realm of nocturnal darkness, the domain of the anima as mother-bride, hence the Oedipal fear of committing incest and the need to sublimate this fear in art and literature. Gilgamesh, the first solar hero known to us in literature, found counterparts in Ulysses, Aeneas, and, down to more recent times, in Peer Gynt. All these heroes enter at some stage during their travels the nether realm of the Dead, in the case of Aeneas, to acquire the wisdom needed to guide him on his journey to Rome and legitimate its status as the seat of imperial rule. Thus a psychological paradigm whenever revealed in literature, has needed, and presumably still needs, the flesh of history and contemporary actuality to cover the bare bones of a deep-seated subconscious abstraction. We have noted that Geoffrey Hartmann proposed that the libidinal quest for the anima was a purely "internal" process with no connection with religious, social, biographical or political realities. He seems to ignore the fact that since time immemorial it was been deeply involved in the search for cultural origins and for the legitimacy of authority besides any personal quest for fulfillment. As we can conclude from poems such as "Der Wanderer" by both Goethe and Hölderlin the quest for origins and personal identity cannot be set apart from a search for cultural and historic origins. Both kinds of search were characteristic of the eighteenth century and terminated in the vision of a new age, this term being used by William Blake in the introduction to his poem, now hymn, "Jerusalem." As this inquiry concerns principles governing history, we do well to reflect on the phenomenon of historical cycles in the light of the theory put forward by Giovanni Battista Vico (1668–1744). 22 He conceived of a
  38. 38. 38 threefold sequence beginning with the age of the gods, the age of heroes and lastly that of the common man. The eighteenth century saw the transition from the second to the third phase, a fact reflected by the middle-class tragedy promoted by Lessing. Heroes no longer had to be great princes or noblemen but could be members of the middle class or even lower in social status. In Faust I a humble and devout Gretchen is Faust’s consort, not Helen of Greece. The flighty queen had to bide her time until Goethe wrote Faust Part II. As an age in transition from one form of hierarchy to another, the eighteenth century bears a resemblance to previous ages subject to the forces of radical change, the dawning of Christianity, the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. Common to all is an ideological focus on the individual as the source of renewal. When religious belief ruled the minds of men and women in periods of radical change, in the sixteenth century, leading Protestant theologians accorded each individual soul the position of having a direct relationship with God without the need for the mediation of the presiding religious establishment. In the eighteenth century the focus on the individual lost much of its religious force and drew attention to the privileged yet isolated status of the artist and poet. Another feature of these ages of transition has been a trend to downscale the great founding migrations of the past to the walks and excursions of individuals. Thirdly, in these ages of transition the use of metaphor undergoes highly significant shifts of emphasis and priority. The historical core of some great event becomes secondary to the allegoric import assigned to it, we might say the truth that is deemed to underlie such an event. For example, the description of the wanderings of the Israelites as a historical event supplies the allegorical basis of a teaching about the Christian life, but the same religious truths could be supported by parables with no claim to affirmation on the basis of recalling historical facts. In the Reformation the central issue revolved around the literal or metaphorical interpretation of the body and blood of Christ. In the process of translating the Bible into German Martin Luther confronted basic questions concerning the nature of language and its various aspects: semantics, comprehension as well as the use of metaphors. The story of Dr. Faustus began as a Lutheran tract, and Goethe's Faust is shown in the celebrated opening scene to be engaged in a very Lutheran pursuit, the exposition of the New Testament. In this he ponders how he should best translate the Greek "logos" into German. Instead of choosing "Wort" ("word") he decides on "Tat" ("deed"), but here Faust voices an attitude to
  39. 39. 39 "the Word" that arose in Goethe's age, not Luther's. For Luther, words were vital, creative and challenging, not bookish and dry. It was in the eighteenth century that philosophers began to doubt the validity of words as adequate representations of reality and truth, which itself seemed remote and unattainable. Strangely enough, the Russian Formalists incurred the censure of Leon Trotsky, who asserted that the Formalists were the followers of Saint John; thus he echoed the words of Goethe's Faust and his assertion of that "the deed" should replace "the word." 23 The battle against the validity of words rages on today in the areas of literary criticism supported certain philosophical theories such as that proposed by Jacques Derrida according to which any statement purporting to state a truth carries the seeds of its own refutation. H: Germania quo vadis? The states and nations that composed the German-speaking linguistic and cultural area underwent immense changes in the course of the eighteenth century at every level, politically, socially and culturally. If one were to name the most important shaping events affecting the German-speaking nations, one would have to mention the rise of Prussia, the Prussian annexation of Silesia, the union of Britain and the House of Hannover under a joint monarchy and the French revolution with its sequel, the French occupation of parts of the Rhineland. During the war of the Spanish Succession, Prussia was a junior ally of the French against an alliance between Austria and Britain. In the War of Austrian Succession these alliances remained intact, but little more than formally. Now that it was united with Hannover, Britain had little stomach for a head-on clash with Prussia, any more that Austria felt great enmity with France, a possible future ally against Prussia after the seizure of Silesia. In the Seven Years War the old alliances were now fully reversed with Britain and Prussia fighting against France and Austria, For all the vagaries of war and national policy French cultural influence over Germany remained strong, even dominant, in Germany as elsewhere in Europe, at least up to the cultural repercussions that attended the Sturm und Drang outburst in the 1770s . George I and Walpole conducted their conversations in French as did Frederick the Great with Voltaire. French neoclassicism set the standards for the German theatre under the strict surveillance of Johann Christoph
  40. 40. 40 Gottsched until Lessing somewhat tentatively challenged his neoclassical orthodoxy and instituted the so-called middle-class tragedy. This development marked the process of emancipation of the middle classes from aristocratic patronage and tutelage, revealing the increasing influence of English literature, particularly in the form of the novel on developments in the German-speaking world. Samuel Richardson's portrayal of distressed middle class girls who ward off the advances of lascivious aristocrats in Pamela and other novels added spice to a contentious sociological issue and served as a vital element in Lessing's plays Miss Sara Sampson and Emilia Galotti. Goethe's early days as a university student were spent in Leipzig where Gottsched still enjoyed the status of a leading authority on literary decorum. The shift from French classical literary models to English ones reflected a general desire among German thinkers and writers to achieve cultural emancipation by shaking off what was felt to be an overweening foreign influence rather than unadulterated admiration of modern English literature. Klopstock and Herder felt aggrieved that the state of German culture had not been on a par with that of France and England, the result of the setback of the Thirty Years War and its aftermath. Klopstock even set out to outdo Milton by writing Der Messias and Herder expected that Goethe's Goetz von Berlichingen, and the new era in German drama it promised, would make the the dramas of Shakespeare seem glorious relics of a bygone age. Poets belonging to the Göttinger Hain recalled the days of Hermann the glorious victor over the Roman legions in the Teutoburger Forest. Among Germans from Goethe to Wilhelm Müller, an increasingly acclaimed model for a future Germany lay in ancient Greece, the cradle of democracy, and western art and culture. Some indications of this trend can be adduced briefly as follows. An early manifestation of this interest was the immense popularity of translations of Homer's epics by Johann Heinrich Voss, an interest shared by the British as a result of Alexander Pope's equally illustrious translations. In Die Leiden des jungen Werthers the protagonist relishes his readings in The Odyssey, until he submits to the allurements of Ossian, McPherson's supposed "translation" of an ancient Gaelic saga. As Goethe pointed out to Eckermann, Werther's dereliction of The Odyssey, which told of the hero's return to his family and patrimony, and addiction to Ossian, marked the beginning of Werther's descent towards despair and death. Wide interest in Greek architecture received a powerful impetus from Winkelmann's literary works praising the nobility and grandeur of the remains of Greek