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Old 02-25-2010, 03:57 PM   #1
Faramir Jones
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Leaf 'Sleeps a Song in Things Abounding', Julian Eilmann

The loveliest title of any article in this collection has to be 'Sleeps a Song in Things Abounding: J.R.R. Tolkien and the German Romantic Tradition', by Julian Eilmann, quoted from the poem Divining Rod by Joseph von Eichendorff:

Sleeps a song in things abounding
That deep dreaming to be heard:
Earth'es tune will start resounding
If you find the magic word.


Mr. Eilmann explains the poem as expressing 'the fundamental poetological idea of German Romanticism’. ‘A poetic magic sleeps deep in the being of the world that surrounds us. Those who are aware of the magic and recognize it are the happy Romantic characters who know the secret of existence’. Just as a thirsty person can find water, the elixir of life, with a divining rod, ‘a poetic mind can trace by way of its artistic talent the crucial elixir of life for Romanticism, poetry’. (p. 167)

He correctly says that research has paid ‘almost no attention to the fact that Tolkien also stands in the tradition of German Romanticism with his literary work and his concept of poetic enchantment'. While most research on Tolkien is from the Anglo-American world, even in German-language research the results are ‘similarly disappointing’. (pp. 168-169)

This article is to ‘focus on the analogy between the usage of songs in Tolkien’s works and the poetology of German Romanticism’. He hopes to lay the foundation of ‘a more intensive discussion of the literary historical line of tradition between Tolkien and German Romanticism', and make it clear that ‘a song truly sleeps in things abounding’. (p. 169)

The author starts with The Hobbit and LotR, pointing out that ‘the integration of poems in a subordinate literary context' was also characteristic of the Romanticist novel, which was the result of wanting art to have ‘an encompassing pervasion of artistic and social life as its goal, in order to make the poetic context of existence tangible…’ (pp. 169-170) The author points out that the songs and poems in both novels are not ‘accidental attachments to an epic narrative'; they are ‘an integral element of the narrative'. (p. 171)

He discusses the ‘prominent position of the walking motive in the narrative structure of the stories'. Included in this is the claim that numerous songs in the two novels ‘are walking songs in the Romantic sense'. (pp. 172-178)

Both novels are ‘walking and artist novels in the tradition of Romanticism’, the author referring to a number of novels in the latter category to make his point. (pp. 171-172)

The author then looks at how it is possible for a person to awaken the sleeping song ‘in order to look behind the veil of the objective world’. The Romanticists said that this song ‘can only be awakened through song itself’, i.e. through poetry. (p. 178)

The author, to show that something similar is in operation in Middle-earth, explains the Romanticist understanding of art more closely, quoting a number of theoreticians of that tradition. (pp. 178-180)

He then points out that ‘Poetic enchantment is omnipresent in Middle-earth'. He refers to On Fairy Stories to show that Tolkien ‘deals extensively’ with ‘the possibilities and limitations of poetic linguistic magic'. It is ‘crucial’ that the ‘magical word’ of the Elvish artist has ‘a similar function to poetry in German Romanticism’.(p. 180) Examples are given in LotR of the ‘enchanting effect’ of Elvish poetry on Frodo Baggins, in particular the musical dream he had in Rivendell. (pp. 181-182)

The article concludes with a reference to the first line of the poem quoted at the start:

the sleeping song constitutes the foundation of Tolkien’s mythological world: In Arda and Middle-earth a song does actually sleep in all things, since the cosmos, created of music, is essentially itself music and poetry. (p. 182)

The author ends by saying that ‘Poetically gifted individuals’ like Frodo ‘enchanted by linguistic magic, can hence achieve for a brief moment an impression of the world in a romanticized condition'. (Ibid.)

To all this I say, like Bilbo, 'Hear, hear!' This article clearly confirms a connection I wondered about, but of which I was not sure, due to my unfamiliarity with the German texts.

This article is well worth reading; and readers should not be deterred by some of the terminology or unfamiliarity with the German texts. All is well explained by the author.

I finish by observing that while Tolkien may have been influenced by the integration of songs and poems in German Romantic novels, I wonder if he may have also been influenced by such a practice in the novels of Sir Walter Scott. To be fair, Scott was heavily influenced by the German Romantic tradition; the first published work of his was a translation of a poem by Goethe.

Last edited by Faramir Jones; 02-25-2010 at 04:00 PM. Reason: I wanted to cut something
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Old 02-26-2010, 10:03 AM   #2
mark12_30
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Originally Posted by Faramir Jones View Post
The author ends by saying that Poetically gifted individuals like Frodo enchanted by linguistic magic, can hence achieve for a brief moment an impression of the world in a romanticized condition'. (Ibid.)
Reminds me of sehnsucht, that quality of barely-expressible longing that is present in so much of Tolkien's works. It is wrapped in song. Sometimes it is only expressible in song.

Have you read -- I think it's in the Sil-- that the music of rivers (by Ulmo?) brings a longing to the heart of men? Elsewhere it says that the horns of Ulmo awaken the sea-longing. Makes sense to me.

How often was Frodo "peirced" by music!
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Old 02-26-2010, 05:24 PM   #3
Faramir Jones
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Thumbs up Ulmo's music

Mark, you asked me this:

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Originally Posted by mark12_30 View Post

Have you read -- I think it's in the Sil-- that the music of rivers (by Ulmo?) brings a longing to the heart of men? Elsewhere it says that the horns of Ulmo awaken the sea-longing. Makes sense to me.

How often was Frodo "pierced" by music!
I have read that piece, which is in the Valaquenta part of The Silmarillion:

At times he [Ulmo] will come unseen to the shores of Middle-earth, or pass far inland up firths of the sea, and there make music upon his great horns, the Ulumuri, that are wrought of white shell; and those to whom that music comes hear it ever in their hearts, and longing for the sea never leaves them again. But mostly Ulmo speaks to those who dwell in Middle-earth with voices that are heard only as the music of water. For all seas, lakes, rivers, fountains and springs are in his government; so that the Elves say that the spirit of Ulmo runs in all the veins of the world. (The Silmarillion, p. 29)

Lovely!
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Old 03-08-2010, 04:16 PM   #4
Estelyn Telcontar
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For those who are interested in this chapter and would like to hear more about the connection between Tolkien and romanticism, the German Tolkien Seminar (April 23 - 25 2010) will concentrate on this topic. Julian Eilmann will be one of the speakers.
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Old 03-26-2010, 10:54 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
For those who are interested in this chapter and would like to hear more about the connection between Tolkien and romanticism, the German Tolkien Seminar (April 23 - 25 2010) will concentrate on this topic. Julian Eilmann will be one of the speakers.
Also to be attended by Patrick Curry BTW, so it looks as if there will be an impressive lineup of top-notch speakers.
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