Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 14, pp. 133 -138

More talk about the peris in Lalla Rukh with quotations and occasional puns (like peni(s)tence). At one point René Descartes’ attraction to cross-eyed women is mentioned. In the 4th Act of Moore’s poem there is a description of theatre wings, which makes us think again about Poe’s early childhood. Pagenstecher also draws the Jacobis’ attention to the “jets of water” issuing from the canal described in the same act. This water image leads to Daniel’s quoting from Goethe’s Faust, Part II. Here is A. S. Kline’s translation of this fragment, in which Mephistopheles suggests to Faust the ideas about their next possible venture:

For myself, I’d deliberately create

A pleasure house in a pleasant place.


Waterfalls, spanning the rocks, in pairs,

And all those kinds of water-jet affairs:

Rising nobly, while all round the dish,

A thousand little fountains hiss and piss.

Then I’d have a hut, snug and convenient,

Where beautiful women might be content:


Women, I say: since, one and all,

I think of their loveliness in the plural.

For Pagenstecher, fountains in literature are inextricably linked with urination. He also points out that although the influence of Lalla Rukh on Poe is especially evident in Al Araaf and Tamerlane, it can also be found in his other works. Thus the “winged tulips” from The Island of the Fay refer us to Moore’s “blue damsel flies that fluttered round the jasmine stems like winged flowers”. Finally, the prolonged (and rather boring I should say) discussion of Lalla Rukh comes to an end, and Pagenstecher  asks the Jacobis’  permission to talk privately to Franziska.

Daniel speaks about the decline and degradation inherent in the modern epoch, which, in his view, has been unfolding since the First World War. This epoch, which will last approximately two hundred years, can be compared to the Migration Period (300 to 700 CE). Just like in the time of the Barbarian Invasions, the state of art nowadays is in great danger. According to Pagenstecher’s pessimistic picture of the modern world, most people have realised they do not need any art at all. They have come to the conclusion that life without art is quite comfortable and  gratifying. Both the creation and the consumption of art is hard work, and humankind has other things to worry about. Daniel makes a grim prediction that in this epoch of dissolution 90% of art works will disappear. He specifically addresses youthful Franziska with such grim misgivings because she represents for him the new generation that, unfortunately, is bound to continue and intensify this process of scrapping art. The doomsday talk over, Pagenstecher and Franziska hurry to catch up with the Jacobis.

This brings us to the end of the First Part of Zettel’s Traum.

to be continued

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