Steppenwolf – Novalis

Franz_Gareis_-_Novalis

“‘Now, this morning I came on a passage in Novalis. May I show it you? It would delight you, I know…This: ‘Most men will not swim before they are able to.’ Is not that witty? Naturally they won’t swim. They are born for the solid earth, not for the water. And naturally they won’t think. They are made for life, not for thought. Yes, and he who thinks, what’s more, he who makes thought his business, he may go far in it, but he has bartered the solid earth for the water all the same, and one day he will drown.’”

Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse, 1927 (trans. Joseph Mileck and Horst Frenz)

“Soon after Novalis’s death, his friends amongst the romantics…started spinning the myth about the über-sensitive visionary poet and aesthete, the beautiful soul, forever longing for the unattainable blue flower, the symbol of eternal love and divine grace that would so enthrall the character of Heinrich von Ofterdingen. The legend of Novalis as the arch-romantic author rapidly gained credence, and his literary style became influential for writers from Georg Büchner, via the symbolists, to Hermann Hesse and the avant-garde movement in France and Germany. In the philosophical domain, the reception of Novalis has been more reluctant. Some of this reluctance must be explained by the fact that until the publication of the critical edition, it was difficult to distinguish between the posthumously created image of Novalis, on the one hand, and his real philosophical contribution, on the other.”

-Gjesdal, Kristin, “Georg Friedrich Philipp von Hardenberg [Novalis],” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014)

[Image: Novalis, Franz Gareis, 1799]

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