From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Preface, pages 1-6

From my life:

Poetry and Truth

Part I

Without torment, no education. *


Page 2 is blank.

As preface to this work, which might be in more need of a preface than any other work, I give here the letter from a friend * which prompted the production of a serious undertaking. *

"We have, dear friend, now assembled the second part * of your poetic works and find as we read through them, that many things are familiar but others are unknown to us. * Indeed many items which were forgotten have reappeared in this collection. People will not consider the 12 volumes, as they are presented in their current format, a complete set of works. They would gladly have a biographical volume giving them a picture of the author and a display of his talents. It cannot be denied that for someone who has enjoyed such a long and sustained literary career 12 little volumes seem too few. One cannot hide the fact that in examining the individual works, most were produced in response to specific events and arose from particular external stimuli to become the building blocks of creativity. In them one perceives the prevalence of certain temporary moral and aesthetic maxims and convictions. * In total these works remain disconnected and one is often led to believe that they did not come from the same author.

"Your friends have not given up the search;

"as close associates of your life and thoughts, they still attempt to solve many puzzles and problems. Indeed, they see a certain charm in the difficulties which are ahead and they rely upon your sympathy, derived from many years of close association, to assist them. A little help here and there would not be unappreciated. You certainly can not deny the amicable nature of our intentions. *

"The first request we would make of you is this. For the new edition we would like to show the inner relationships between the poetic works by introducing them in chronological order. * We would also like to know the life circumstances and frame of mind you were in, which prompted their creation. We would like examples of the stimuli which worked upon you and the theoretical principles you followed so we can give context to your compositions. If you will devote yourself to a more defined task perhaps something will arise from it which will be of welcome use in the larger scheme of things. Until his very old age the author should not forsake the opportunity to yield to the desires of those who support him in the outside world. Plus if it hasn't been granted to an individual to produce truly unexpected and powerfully new works in a certain number of years, then perhaps the time has come, when cognitive skills and awareness are fully developed and keen, to renew people's support and interest by using the past products of his literary career to create a picture showing the influences which shaped the artist."

This truly amicable request made by my friend awakened in me the immediate desire to follow his advice. As we enthusiastically travel our path in the early years

we try not to become distracted, thus we impatiently deny the requests of others. However in later years we welcome any interest others show in us and are more than willing to take on a new activity. I took up this task of reviewing the larger and smaller poetic works in twelve volumes and indicated their chronological order. * I attempted to recall the times and the circumstances which prompted their creation. However the task soon became extremely difficult because it was necessary to make introductory remarks and clarifications in order to fill the gaps between things that had already been published. Furthermore I did not have any of the original copies of my works. Many initial drafts and intermediate renderings were missing. In other cases the outward form of completed works had completely disappeared since later they had been totally reworked and set in another form. Besides this I still thought about how I endeavor to apply myself to the sciences and other forms of art. While dealing with these seeminly foreign fields of knowledge, what works were produced in association with friends, which ones did I work on alone and which ones were published?

I wanted to incorporate all these things in order to please my well-wishers but the attempts and the reflections led me farther afield. I very much wanted to incorporate these elements and I made every effort to show the inner workings, the external influences, the theoretical and practical steps in the process. I backed away from my tight personal life and went out to the outside world: the images of a hundred important people, who have influenced me either up close or afar; the enormous commotion in the world of politics,

which imposed such great influence on me and the masses, also had to be considered. This seemed to me to be the major task of the biography *, to show people in their relationship to the age and to demonstrate how that age worked for and against them, to show how world views and human opinions are formed and how a man, if he is an artist, a poet, or a writer, reflects those views and opinions back upon the outside world. To achieve this goal it would be required that the individual know himself and the century in which he lives, perceive the extent to which he remained the same amid changing circumstances as the century carried off, conditioned, and shaped both the willing and the unwilling, and in the end recognize that someone may truly state that anyone born ten years earlier or later may indeed have been someone completely different based on the external influences upon his education and his activity.

This description arose from similar modes of thought and research derived from memories and deliberation. Taken from this perspective perhaps they can be best enjoyed and used or at least evaluated. With regard to the half poetic, half historical treatment, whatever needs to be said will find ample opportunity in the course of the narration. *

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Text provided by the Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks