T HE vicissitudes which the fame of Angelus Silesius has undergone since his death reflect the revolutions of popular taste and philosophic temper. As soon as the blaze of the religious controversies of the seventeenth century had smouldered out, the dust of their ashes settled thickly over his polemical writings.
Angelus silesius the cherubinic wanderer pdf
The vital experience which inspired his devotional poetry kept it afloat long after most of the religious versification or his day had sunk into oblivion. The piety of Germany never ceased to find an appropriate voice in the language of his hymns. It emerged to view, however, at the turn of the century, when the troubled and questing soul of Romanticism began to re-explore the forgotten habitations of man's spirit. An article by Friedrich Schlegel in reawakened interest in the seventeenth-century mystic.
Both Hegel and Schopenhauer acknowledged the depth of his spiritual insight.
by Angelus Silesius
Monographs, in which the Christian orthodoxy of his doctrines were debated, followed one another in the succeeding years. The generation that experienced the wave of prosperity following the establishment of the Empire lent a less attentive ear to the spokesman p.
Held are proofs that the voice of the Silesian mystic still finds a response in the modern world. It was divided into five books, containing in all 1, verses, mostly couplets, together with ten supplementary sonnets.
To the second edition, printed at Glatz in and bearing the title of Cherubinischer Wandersmann , a sixth book was added. A third edition, the last to appear during the author's lifetime, was issued without change in the following year at Glogau. The first five books may be presumed to have been written after Scheffler's arrival at Oels and before his public confession of the Catholic faith, that is to say, between the years and In their concentration upon inward spiritual experience and in their freedom from specific dogmatic tenets these books may be said to represent that Cor Religionum , the kernel of the Christian faith, which Franckenberg claimed to have exemplified.
The soul needs no induction into the presence of God. The authority of the Book is no more binding than that of the Church. Scripture is mere writing Die Schrift ist Schrift, sonst nichts. God speaks his word only to the heart. The doctrine of justification by faith is dismissed as worthless—belief unaccompanied by love is like an empty cask, "it soundeth but within is naught.
In the third book and first part of the fourth a change of tone is noticeable. The gaze which had sought to pierce beyond the stars now turns towards the person of the human Saviour and to the figures of the saints.
Verses dedicated to St. Teresa and St.
Ignatius suggest a new orientation towards the literature of Neo-Catholicism. The epitaphs for St. Gertrude and St.
Mechtild may furnish an indication of the date of this section if they are taken in conjunction with Franckenberg's gift of the book containing their Revelations, which Scheffler caused to be so preciously rebound in March In the later portion of the fourth and the whole of the fifth book the Christological motives once again recede into the background and the wider themes of the first and second books are resumed.
The transition to overt Catholicism appears not yet to have taken place. The supplementary sixth book, first published in , breathes a different atmosphere. The mystical p. The gleams of purest spiritual insight which light up its pages show like rifts of blue between threatening clouds. The emphasis falls principally upon the need for action. The dominant image is that of the soldier. The drums roll and the bugle summons the Christian to rouse himself from the bed of sloth, to cast away all the impediments of worldly goods and to devote himself to a life of ceaseless vigilance and warfare.
Exhortation passes occasionally from expostulation into abuse. As in the Sinnliche Beschreibung der vier letzten Dinge the reader is to be shocked and goaded into the narrow path. The assertion that "wisdom in God" belongs exclusively to the Catholic Christian measures the distance traversed from the undogmatic detachment of the earlier books.
The poet is writing no longer for the mystical initiate but for the practising Catholic whom he seeks to spur to more strenuous moral effort. Nevertheless the intercurrence of the earlier mystical strain links the sixth book with the preceding five and suggests that its composition, at least in part, antedates by a considerable period its publication in The Cherubinic Wanderer consists of a series of detached reflections upon the spiritual world and the moral life, for the most part expressed in a more or less epigrammatic form.
Its range embraces metaphysical and theological speculation, moral apophthegms, hortatory maxims, outpourings of personal devotion, spontaneous expressions of hope, endeavour, joy and compunction.
The sources of these brief notations of the phases of religious experience are widely various. Others owe their occasions to meditation upon an incident of Scripture, the succession of the Christian feasts, an aspect of nature, an encounter with a friend, the introspection of the depths of the soul.
No general design governs the arrangement of the individual books or of the work as a whole. There are frequent repetitions and, consequent upon the poet's changing moods, frequent contradictions.
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The only unity which the work possesses is that of the author's mind; it follows the path traced by his wandering footsteps as he explores, with confidence or misgiving, the realm of the spirit. The explorer was not adventuring upon uncharted regions. However obscure or bewildering the landscape that presented itself to his gaze, it had been surveyed and described by innumerable travellers before him.
The Cherubinic Wanderer made no new discoveries, added nothing to the reports which had been compiled by the great Christian mystics in the thousand years between St. Augustine and St.
John of the Cross. In his Preface, Angelus Silesius acknowledges his indebtedness to St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Eckhart, to whom perhaps his debt was the greatest, he passes over in silence, mindful no doubt of his condemnation by the Holy See; still less does he care to acknowledge his obligations to his Protestant p.
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As in the content of his verse so also in its form Angelus Silesius can claim no large measure of originality. The rhymed hexametric couplet was already established as a popular vehicle for epigram and aphorism, spiritual as well as profane, and had been skilfully handled by the poets Martin von Opitz, Friedrich von Logau and Andreas Gryphius, all of whom, it is of interest to note, were natives of Silesia.
Among the members of the Franckenberg circle it had provided a convenient means for the concise formulation of their distinctive doctrines. By far the most proficient versifier of the group was Daniel von Czepko, whose Sexcenta Monodisticha Sapientium was certainly in Franckenberg's hands, and therefore accessible to Angelus Silesius, in It may indeed have been this work that gave him the immediate stimulus to the composition of the Cherubinic Wanderer.
Certainly it served him as a model, and even in certain instances as a quarry, from which he appropriated with but slight verbal alterations the finished products of Czepko's workmanship. It was not, however, in the writings of his contemporaries, but in the classical works of the great German mystics of the fourteenth century, that Angelus Silesius discovered the major part of his treasure-trove. His achievement was to melt down the gold of the Gothic mintage and reissue it with a stamp that would give it currency in the age of Baroque.
His task was facilitated by the nature of the material that he worked upon. Eckhart, the father of German speculative mysticism, found the most effective channel for the conveyance of his teaching in the popular sermon.
In order to impress his message most sharply upon his hearers, he sought for the vivid image, the startling paradox, the brief, pregnant, incisive, unforgettable phrase.
The Cherubinic Wanderer
These were further shaped in passing from mouth to mouth and from pen to pen until they attained complete independence of their context and came to constitute a kind of corpus of mystical wisdom, forming the elements from which subsequent discourses and tractates were built up.
Hence the Spruch —the sentence, the gnomic saying, the epigram—tended to become the unit of mystic literature. The bulk of his matter, therefore, came to Angelus Silesius already cast in a more or less epigrammatic, at any rate in an aphoristic, mould. The answer to the inquiry as to whether and how far he was able to improve upon his originals must of necessity rest upon the adoption of a particular standard of taste.
To the age of Opitz the diction of Eckhart sounded as uncouth as that of Chaucer to the age of Dryden. A later generation may find the ruggedness of the Gothic p. It must be remembered, moreover, that while Eckhart had at his command an organ with a multitude of stops, Angelus played upon an instrument of far smaller compass. Nevertheless, as a French critic remarked, even a distich may have its longueurs. The alexandrine couplet was a Procrustean bed, the fixed dimensions of which necessitated a forced stretching or curtailment, both alike capable of inflicting injury upon the limbs of speech destined to be fitted to it.
In general, however, the locus classicus of mystical literature emerged from its transmutation into the couplet of the Cherubinic Wanderer with sharper precision and not seldom with greater vigour. Angelus Silesius was a match for any of his predecessors in audacity of phrase.
His common practice was to arrest the attention immediately by an assertion designed to provoke astonishment. Conversely the surprise may be delayed till the conclusion, following upon the enunciation of a commonplace.
To the moderation of "Too much is never good" succeeds the seeming immoderation of "and yet I wish I were as full of God as Jesus is! He hath no will. Yet another means of vivifying his statements was sought in the use of unfamiliar images. Tolerate differences in others, "for the nightingale finds no fault with the cuckoo's note.
It was precisely in his search for astonishing novelties and unprecedented effects of chiaroscuro that Angelus Silesius reveals most unmistakeably the influence of the spirit of Baroque. In his translation of the script of mysticism it cannot but be admitted that he occasionally lapsed from the purity of his models. Fertility in the invention of the conceit was demanded p. If the rank of Angelus Silesius as a poet is to be measured by the degree of the resonance and sweetness of those overtones which detach themselves from the bare logical sense of the words and without which verse is only formally distinguished from prose, he can scarcely be assigned a very exalted place in the poetic hierarchy.
He did not possess the poet's magical Open Sesame to aid him in forcing the locks of the doors which open upon infinity. A great part of the content of his verse was indeed intractable to the transmuting touch of poetry.
He was a moralist as well as a mystic; and while the field of morals yields a rich harvest to the aphorist, it affords but a scanty gleaning to the poet. It was much if by a happy stroke of the pen he promoted many of his moral truisms to the rank of epigrams. But the temper which makes the fortune of the aphorist, the aroused tolerance spiced p. For Angelus the spectacle of human life was not a comedy but a tragedy; and if at times his voice became strident and shrill he could plead in excuse that it was not his business to amuse but to warn and exhort.
In his view also of the natural world he never attained to that disinterestedness of gaze by virtue of which brooks and stones possess a precious value for the spirit apart from the books and sermons which a moralizing eye may find inscribed in them.
For the poet the least of the objects of sense exists in its own right and in its own integrity; but for Angelus Silesius even the noblest shone only with the splendour of its unseen original, for a glimpse of which he was willing to barter all the fragmentary gleams of merely earthly beauty.
If it is inferred from this inevitable bias of vision that the mystic is self-excluded from the company of the poets—a conclusion which would have to meet a challenging citation of names—the inference may be allowed to hold good of the medieval mystics who followed the Negative Way, and it was from them rather than from their post-Reformation successon, who read delightedly in the open book of Nature, that the author of the Cherubinic Wanderer traced his lineage.
Mysticism did indeed give wings to his verse, but only to enable him to soar above the world of sense until at last words themselves proved too opaque and ponderous to serve as pinions in so pure an ether.