The Role of Irony in H.C. Andersen’s Nattergalen and C.M. Wieland’s Der Vogelsang

While in Weimar during his trip to Germany in 1856 H.C. Andersen learned that his bust had been placed among those of Goethe, Schiller, and other German luminaries in the gallery on the Etterburg northwest of town.[1] In a letter to Edvard and Henriette Collin written during this stay he expresses pleasant surprise at finding himself in such illustrious company, as well he might.[2] For the Weimar Classicists were revered in Denmark, of course, as well as in Germany and elsewhere. They had themselves bequeathed a supremely imposing literary legacy which, moreover, had exerted a formative influence on the younger Romantic generation. And it was against the background of German Romanticism that the celebrated discussion between Henrik Steffens and Adam Oehlenschlaeger had ushered in the Golden Age of Danish literature, in which Andersen’s own work figured so prominently.[3]

In this context it seems entirely fitting that Andersen’s bust found its “al for hæderfuld Plads” next to that of Christoph Martin Wieland.[4] For through his long and varied literary activity Wieland had in many ways prepared the ground for German Idealism and its Danish counterpart.[5] It is not clear which, if any, of Wieland’s works Andersen actually read.[6] Unlike many contemporary Germans, however, he held Wieland in high esteem, more than once mentioning him together with Goethe and Schiller.[7] In any event a comparison of his Nattergalen with the German’s Der Vogelsang oder die drey Lehren lends credence to the contention that, with respect to his usage of irony as an expression of an attitude toward art and life, he was more closely akin to Wieland and the eighteenth-century tradition than to the German Romantics with whom he is more commonly associated.[8]

Scholarship has traditionally interpreted Andersen’s tale of the nightingale that overcomes its artificial relative to save the Chinese emperor’s life as an allegory of the Romantic view of the artist and his art, seeing in the bird and its song corresponding symbols.[9] The nightingale dwells at the end of the wood in the emperor’s gardens in the branches of trees hanging out over the sea – the symbolic border between nature and the eternal.[10] Its song “tager sig bedst ud i det Grønne,” from which it comes and to which it always returns (p. 21). While simple, gray, and altogether unimposing in appearance, the bird and the endlessly varied beauty of its melodies enchant the common fisherman and kitchen girl time and again and, to visitors at court, represent the best that the emperor’s realm has to offer. For Andersen, as for the German Romantics, art signifies here a beautiful, spontaneous, and fecund power within the artist analogous to the creative force of nature.[11]

The nightingale’s song is capable of stirring the emotions of its receptive listeners deeply. It draws tears of joy to the eyes of both the poor kitchen girl and the emperor, for “det gik ret til hjertet.” (p. 21) Even Death grows homesick on hearing the bird sing of the graveyard and leaves the emperor’s side to return to it. At the same time, this song appeals to the intellect. The nightingale tells the emperor that it will sing for him, “at Du kan blive glad og tankefuld tillige!;” (p. 26) it then promises to sing of the happy and the suffering, the good and the evil, in his realm and thus, implicitly, to remind him of his duty. As suggested here, Romantic art, while exploiting the cognitive possibilities of emotion and imagination, was anything but indifferent to the value of practical, rational thought.[12]

In order to remain true to its nature and to carry out its mission the nightingale requires freedom. During its stay at court it takes three strolls a day. With twelve ribbons tied to its leg, however, each held firmly by a servant, there was “slet ingen Fornøielse ved den Tour.” (p. 22) It will accept no gifts from the emperor in return for its singing, for his tears of happiness are sufficient reward. And, while given its own cage as a sign of the emperor’s favor, it soon flies unnoticed through an open window back to its green woods. As it tells the emperor after returning toward the end of the work, “jeg kan ikke bygge og boe paa Slottet, men lad mig komme, naar jeg selv har Lyst, da vil jeg. . . synge for Dig,” (p. 26) whereupon it indeed leaves.[13] Like the artist and art of Romanticism, the nightingale and its song are autonomous and to that extent “disinterested.”[14] But through their very existence they have the potential to beautify life, to allay its troubles, and to point the way to a better world.

Despite its sovereignty the nightingale does not remain aloof from men. Of its own free will it enters into the everyday life of society and has a close, if problematic, relationship to reality. The realm represented by the emperor’s court has been called a “Tivoli-China,” fashioned of all the West’s most superficial views of the “heavenly empire.”[15] Nevertheless, it is recognizable as Andersen’s Denmark – the world of absolute monarchy, where the whole court “skal. . . dunkes paa Maven” (p. 19) if it cannot produce the nightingale for the emperor’s entertainment and where a courtier need only answer “P!” (p. 19) to his inferiors.[16] Life there is regulated by a code of forms so pervasive and accepted so uncritically that the impending death of the emperor is viewed merely as a changing of the guard; if authority is all, it matters little who sits upon the throne.[17] The inflexible complacency of the court is suggested by the fact that the emperor and his attendants have never so much as heard of the nightingale prior to the beginning of the tale. The courtiers mistake cows and frogs for it on their search, while the ladies see its refusal of the emperor’s gifts as “det elskeligste Koketteri.” (p. 21)

Soon enough, the court shifts its favor to the jewel-encrusted mechanical bird presented as a gift by the Emperor of Japan. For, as the learned spillemester says, “hos Kunstfuglen er Alt bestemt!… man kan gjøre rede for det, man kan spraette den op og vise den menneskelige Tænkning,” while “hos den virkelige Nattergal kan man aldrig beregne, hvad der vil komme….” (p. 23) Subsequently, he indeed devotes twenty-five volumes of the most difficult Chinese words to the artificial bird. Meanwhile, the new arrival outlasts its living counterpart, singing the same waltz thirty-three times without growing tired, upon which the nightingale leaves and is banished from court as an ingrate. In this world, governed by rigid external form and arid intellectualism, the nightingale and its naturpoesi have a very precarious footing.

The nightingale demonstrates its superiority and that of a free, spontaneous art, to be sure. In time, the mechanical bird malfunctions and, even after being repaired, can be wound only once a year. The nightingale, on the other hand, returns to sing comfort and hope to the sick emperor and to conquer Death itself. Indeed, it is so magnanimous as to tell the emperor not to destroy the artificial bird, for “den har jo gjort det Gode, den kunde!” (p. 26) The “sentimental” art and systematic poetics of the Heibergian variety have a valid, if subordinate, place next to the “naive” art of a Jenny Lind – and a H.C. Andersen.[18] However, the evaluation of the position of this art in life is pessimistic enough. The contrast between the court and the nightingale dominates the work, and the miracle at the end is precisely that – a miracle, predicated on its very unlikelihood. While natural art can work wonders, it is subject to severe limitations in life.

Here is no projection of a comparatively utopian view of art, as in the early critical writing of Friedrich Schlegel, Wackenroder’s Herzensergiessungen, and Novalis’ Heinrich von Ofterdingen. Moreover, here is no destruction of the “illusion” of mundane reality, calculated to reveal an ideal realm of phantasy or spirit, as in Tieck’s Märchendramen, Brentano’s Godwi, and E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Der goldene Topf – that is to say, nothing of Romantic dualism and specifically Romantic irony. Andersen’s tale abounds with irony all the same, but it is irony of a related, but ultimately different sort. At this point it may be well to recall briefly the major features of Romantic irony before proceeding to a discussion of Andersen’s usage of the device in Nattergalen.[19]

For Friedrich Schlegel and his adherents irony was relevant both for the attitude of the artist toward his work and for the creative act itself. In contrast to the Storm and Stress’s equation of literary art and Erlebnisdichtung, the immediate expression of soul and emotion, German Romantics felt that true art emerges only when the artist overcomes his enthusiasm for his subject and its unreflected expression. Irony, above all, provided him with the means of modifying his engagement through the power of mind. It enabled him to distance himself from himself, his work, and all conditional reality and thereby to attain free, critical self-determination.

Moreover, irony could determine a congenial, particular structure of the poetic work. Rather than appearing as so many individual ironic turns, it could and should inform the entire work as an immanent element. It was to lead beyond the objective plane of the work and to destroy its illusion, for the work was to express not just a specific subject outside itself but itself as well. That is, it was to become self-referential.

While lending the work a specifically aesthetic reality, irony should, finally, always point the way to unconditional reality. Art was only a part, never the whole, of reality and represented an endless sequence of approximations to the ultimate. Irony could both express and demonstrate this relationship by revealing the boundary between the finite and the infinite and their eternal confrontation. Despite all consecration of joy and praise of the Dionysian, despite all high valuation of practical activity, the empiric world was for German Romantics never the only or essential reality, but rather something to overcome and therefore a world of appearance and contradiction.[20] Unlike the organically and harmoniously self-constituting art of Classicism, the self-referential art of German Romanticism thrived on the tension between the real and the ideal.

Andersen’s Nattergalen begins with the words, “I China veed Du jo nok ere Keiseren en Chineser, og Alle de han har om sig ere Chinesere. Det er nu mange Aar siden, men just derfor er de værd at høre Historien, før man glemmer den!” (p. 18) By allowing his narrator to address the reader directly and remind him of the patently obvious as if it were significant and subject to the vagaries of memory, Andersen from the outset creates a sense of eye-winking understanding between narrator and reader. At the same time he implies the veracity and value of what is in fact a fiction; that is, he implies the verisimilitude of what follows. This once done, he can sustain the relationship by using similar ploys at various intervals. At one point the narrator reminds the reader that the courtier’s response to his inferiors -“P!” – means nothing at all (p. 19) and, later, that the heart lies on the left side of an emperor’s breast as well as on that of all men. And at the end of the work he has the nightingale, his mouthpiece within the narrated world, suggest that the emperor will fare better if he lets no-one know he has a little bird that tells him everything. On reading these words a Dane immediately recalls the idiom “jeg har hørt en fugl synge om.” Given the rational obtuseness of the court and the implications of the expression, the suggestion is absolutely superfluous. By making it, Andersen adds a final personal touch to the relationship between narrator and reader and underscores the truth of his fiction.

The fictional sphere of the narrator and reader, which lies as it were above the narrated world, is complemented by another fictional realm within and at the same time beyond the fictional world of the court. The emperor and his retinue may never have heard of the nightingale, but seemingly everyone else has. Visitors from all over the world return home to tell and write books and poems about the castle, the harbor, and, above all, the nightingale and its song. Indeed, the emperor first learns of his greatest treasure in a book sent him by the Emperor of Japan. It is he, one recalls, who later presents him with the jewel-encrusted artificial bird.

On failing initially to locate the nightingale, a courtier suggests, significantly, that the bird must be a fable created by those who wrote the books. The emperor should not believe what is written in them, for “det er Opfindelser og noget, som kaldes den sorte Kunst!” (p. 19) Moreover, the cavaliers and the emperor as well fail to take into account the fact that the artificial bird is accompanied by a ribbon which reads, “‘Keiseren af Japans Nattergal er fattig imod Keiserens af China (p. 22) and that it represents a tribute to the real nightingale rather than a competitor or substitute.

In the universe of Nattergalen reality is both truth and fiction, depending on one’s point of view. The world represented by the narrator and the Emperor of Japan is essentially true; for the Emperor of China, however, it long appears to be false and remains a fiction in the eyes of his courtiers. Indeed, it is false in the sense that it circumscribes only a portion of reality. The same applies to the natural realm of the nightingale within the emperor’s gardens. The world of the Chinese court, on the other hand, is at base false; yet, it is true insofar as it assumes, indeed dominates, reality in the work.

Of course, the universe of Nattergalen is itself both truth and fiction – Andersen’s miniature portrait of a contradictory empirical reality. His task is to provide the proper point or points of view from which to survey this reality. He does so by exploiting the possibilities of perspectivism. Creating a sphere of complicity between narrator and reader above the narrated world and another, related realm within it, he establishes a system of values, enables the reader to reflect critically on the events in the tale, and thereby demonstrates the truth and value of art.

While gaining his reader’s understanding, Andersen unleashes a veritable barrage of individual ironic turns (beyond those already mentioned in passing) which assume various forms. His seemingly innocuous description of the extreme fragility of the castle walls becomes significant when only lines later he writes that ships sail right up beneath the branches of the trees in the nightingale’s wood. He parodies the conventions – and obtundity – of the court by allowing the emperor to grant the poor kitchen girl the title of “virkelige Kokkepige” (p. 21) and the successful cavalier that of “Over-keiserlig-nattergale-bringer” (p. 23) for their services; the artificial bird rises, indeed, to the dignity of “Høi-keiserlig Natbord-Sanger.” (p. 23) He extends his parody to caricature when he has the ladies of court take water in their mouths and “cluck” in the belief that they, too, are nightingales and when he allows his Chinese to exchange the greeting “Nat” and “gal” (p. 22) on the street and then to sigh in mutual understanding. He may allow the situation to speak for itself. Death appears initially to be the true master of court and life; sitting upon the emperor’s chest, he takes the crown, sword, and banner – symbols of imperial rule – one after the other. However, he gives each to the nightingale in return for a song before floating back to the graveyard. Or Andersen may interpret directly from his higher vantage point. While describing the emperor’s garden at the beginning of the tale, he interjects, “Ja, Alting var udspekuleret i Keiserens Have;” (p. 18) and after relating that twelve delicatessen shop keepers named their children after the nightingale, he states, “men ikke een af dem havde en Tone i Livet. -”(p. 22)

The list of such individual ironic twists could be extended much further. Suffice it to say that they all function within the broad framework created by the narrator-reader relationship and the realm of the Emperor of Japan. By means of this spectrometer Andersen is able to distance himself and his real reader from his work and thus to attain that critical overview required by Friedrich Schlegel’s theory of irony. Furthermore, this framework and its various elements form not a random addition to the work, but rather a basic part of its structure. That is to say, the work exists through the fictions of the narrator and reader and the Emperor of Japan as much as through that of the nightingale and the Chinese court. To this extent, moreover, the work goes beyond itself to reflect itself. It makes its statement on the nature and place of art not only through its allegory but through its very disposition as a work of art.

Here, however, the resemblance of Andersen’s use of irony to that of German Romantics ends. His self-reflective art seeks not to sweep back an illusory veil of appearances in order to disclose an ultimate reality, but rather to reveal the conditions of empirical reality itself. Through its various fictions and points of view it creates a broad situational irony – a telling discrepancy between what is and what should be – that emerges from the givens of this reality. The nightingale and its song are an ideal, identical in essence to that of the German Romantics. Unlike its southern counterpart, however, Andersen’s ideal springs from the world as it is; the weal and woe of his nightingale are inseparable from common life and unthinkable without it. Next to the conquest of Death the most optimistic aspect of the work is the nightingale’s promise at the end to return to sing “om de Lykkelige, og om dem, som lide! jeg skal synge om Ondt og Godt, der rundtom Dig holdes skjult! den lille Sangfugl flyver vidt omkring til den fattige Fisker, til Bondemandens Tag, til hver, der er langt fra Dig og Dit Hof!” (p. 26) Indeed, some recent scholars have stressed less the Romantic view of art expressed in the work than its socio-political dimension, seeing in the nightingale a mediator between people and ruler.[21]

In terms of its motifs, its attitude toward art and its place in life, and its usage of irony, Wieland’s Der Vogelsang oder die drey Lehren is strikingly similar to Andersen’s Nattergalen.[22] On the estate of a medieval parvenu there is a grove formed by a seven fold circle of linden trees with branches intertwined so as to create eternal twilight. In the center a rose hedge surrounds a marble fountain bubbling forth clear, ice-cold water. Twice a day a little bird endowed by fairies with magical powers appears at the fountain to sing. As long as it is present, the beauty of the grove endures. Whenever it leaves, however, the grove withers and the fountain runs dry, leaving a barren wasteland behind.

As in Nattergalen, the tale of the little bird can be read as an allegory of art and the artist. The grove with its mystical seven circles of lindens and clear fountain shaded from the sun represents the realm of art. And the bird, which through its presence and song creates this realm, stands for the artist. While a common, gray sparrow, it gives life to what is called “ein zweytes Paradies.” (p. 288) For Wieland, as for Andersen and the Romantics, art appears here as a second creation, comparable to the original creation of nature.

Moreover, Wieland’s art addresses both the intellect and the emotions. Whenever a thinker enters the quiet grove, “so freut er sich, allein, / Und ist’s ein Liebender, so wünscht er zwey zu sein.” (p. 288) With the knights and ladies of court in mind the bird says,

Und sie hörten meine Lieder gern;
Denn sit hatten Lieb’ im Herzen! desto lieber
War ich ihnen und mein Liederspiel,
Und vor wonniglichem pressendem Gefühl
Gingen manche klare Äuglein über;
Und der liederwerthen Thaten wurden viel,
Viel gethan, und mancher Dank erstritten,
Und sie lohnten deß der Lieb’ und mir; (p. 292)

It can change the mood of its listeners at will with its melodies: “Da war kein Schmerz noch Gram so groß, / Der nicht in seinem Sang zerfloß.” (p. 289) And, much as the emperor in Nattergalen, the dying recover in a single night spent in its grove.

No less than Andersen’s nightingale, Wieland’s sparrow demands freedom. One finds the beauties of its grove “Nicht bloß im Treibhaus hinter Glase; / Frey stand es da im frischen Grase.” (p. 287) When the parvenu, Hans, snares it and puts it in a cage, it explains,

Der Käfig ist mir stark zuwider.
Ich liebe freyen Himmel, ich,
Und Wald und Wiesen; setze mich
Wo mir’s beliebt im Grünen nieder,
Und wiege mich nach Herzenslust
Auf meinem Ast; und, sing’ ich Lieder,
So sing’ ich sie aus freyer Brust.
Drum, lieber Herr, seyd nun so bieder
Und schenkt mir meine Freyheit wieder:
Denn, glaubt mir, da geht nichts davon,
Im Bauer sing’ ich keinen Ton. (p. 293)

The art of the little bird is self-sufficient. Nevertheless, its presence can heighten one’s sensibilities and quicken one’s experience of life.

Living in the grove in the midst of Hans’s estate and pursued by him, Wieland’s bird, too, has an intimate but troubled relationship to reality. Hans embodies certain of the Philistine attitudes toward art represented by the court in Andersen’s tale. He listens to the bird sing, “Doch, daß er was empfunden hätte, / Das war nun seine Sache nicht.” (p. 289) He traps the bird in order to give it to the king in exchange for a handsome reward:

Zwar singt er hübsch; allein, was schere
Ich mich um seine Dudeley?
Kommt doch zuletzt nichts ’raus dabey! (p. 291)

In his insensitivity and materialism Hans indeed stands for all those forces that would in some way circumscribe the province of art.

Ultimately, the sparrow regains its freedom by promising to tell Hans three things that will be of great profit to him. From the safety of a nearby tree it then announces its Lehren: “Glaub’ nicht gleich alles was du hörst!” (p. 295) “Weine nicht / Um etwas das du nicht gehabt!” (p. 295) and “Narr, was du in den Händen hast, / Halt fest, und laß es nimmerfahren!“(p. 296) Hans’s rage over such treachery and banality is doubled when he hears that the bird has a magic diamond in its stomach and then trebled when this, too, turns out to be a trick:

Als du mich fingst, du dummer Bär,
Da war ich keine Unze schwer;
Wo käme denn in meinem Magen
Ein Kiesel von drey Unzen her? (p. 298)

Here, Wieland’s figure of Naturpoesie goes with the times, rather, with a reality inimical to itself, and overcomes it on its own terms. Employing a clever ruse, it turns its adversary’s scheming rationalism against him and demonstrates the value of experience in the process.

At the end of the work the sparrow exercises its freedom by leaving the grove, whereupon it immediately becomes desolate. For Wieland, as for Andersen, the art of nature is inherently superior to the forces arrayed against it. In light of the conflict with Hans that controls the tale, however, one must conclude that his view of the place of art in life was as skeptical as Andersen’s. Clearly, one finds here no trace of the optimism of early Romanticism. Nor, significantly, does one find the dualism and illusion-shattering irony characteristic of the Romantics. Nevertheless, Der Vogelsang reveals a basic irony at once different from and related to that of Andersen and the Romantics.

At the beginning of the work the narrator sets the scene of his tale “in meinem Schwabenland.” (p. 286) He then launches into a long, detailed description of Hans’s estate – the beauty of the grounds and mansion, the richness of the furnishings, and the opulence of the cellars and larders. He even jokes about his own garrulity: “Ich sage nichts von all dem feinen / Geräthe drin,” (p. 286) and then proceeds to wander leisurely through the mansion enumerating all he sees. Immediately thereafter he concedes,

Den [Garten] wie ein Gärtner zu beschreiben,
Damit geschäh’ euch, wie ich weiß,
Kein großer Dienst; drum laß’ ich’s bleiben: (p. 287)

All the same, he devotes fully twelve lines to its characterization. At this juncture he reflects,

Es geht doch, sagt mir was ihr wollt,
Nichts über Wald- und Gartenleben,
Und schlürfen ein dein trinkbar Gold,
O Morgensonn’, und sorglos schweben
Daher im frischen Blumenduft,
Und, mit dem sanften Weben
Der freyen Luft,
Als wie aus tausend offnen Sinnen
Dich in sich ziehn, Natur, und ganz in dir zerrinnen! (pp. 287-288)

Suddenly becoming aware of his self-indulgence, the narrator halts:

Wo war ich? – Gutes Volk, verzeiht!
Ich ließ euch doch nicht lange warten?
Der Abweg ist zum Glück nicht weit;
Wir sind ja noch in Hansens Garten, (p. 288)

In his description of the beautiful magic grove only a few lines later he sinks into reverie once again and must catch himself and regain his reader’s attention with a sharp, “Nun merket auf!” (p. 288)

The narrator’s loquacity is less important in itself, of course, than for the narrative posture to which it attests. By allowing him to emerge from the impersonality of the third person from the very beginning, Wieland fictionalizes his narrator as a character within the fictive world of the work. And by having him speak in the second person from time to time, he also creates a fictitious reader whom he draws into the narrative act. The narrator becomes so absorbed by the sensual splendor of the estate he is forming that he is reluctant to end the description. He becomes so caught up in the Naturstimmung of his own making that he forgets momentarily what he set out to do. Time and again he loses himself in his imaginative world, whether it be the castle and garden, the vagaries of Hans’s acquisition of the estate, or his daily routine. Together, he and his reader – both fictional and real – consciously create and enjoy the experience of this fictitious world, of which the bird, Hans, and their fortunes are only part. Indeed, the establishment of their collaboration and the mutual creation and enjoyment of their fictive world comprise more than a fourth of the entire work; the plot proper sets in only with line 145.[23]

Moreover, the expressed themes of the plot bear only a peripheral relationship to its real purpose and that of the work as a whole. The bird sings in praise of the medieval courtly virtues of eternal love and honor; it waxes didactic in presenting its three Lehren and chastizing Hans for not living according to the truths he professes to know. While valid enough in themselves, however, the proverbs and the imperative to realize one’s insights have no explicit or implicit connection with the bird’s song or any other attitude or body of wisdom presented as ideal. Contrary to the expectations raised by the tide of the work, they therefore give the impression of the random and dispensable, and their purely didactic thrust is vitiated. The ostensible themes exist only for the sake of the true theme of art and the artist.

From this state of affairs one must infer that the broad aesthetic experience created by the fictitious world of the narrator and reader, rather than the particular elements that form it, is the true raison d’être of the work.[24] The allegory with its specific motifs of castle and garden, sparrow and parvenu, could be exchanged for another, as long as it provided a similar experience. Of course, the real theme of the allegory – the power of the naive artist and his art and the value of experience – is a mirror image of the ethos of the narrative technique; together, they lend the work its unity. However, the form as such remains subordinate to the spirit in which it is used.[25]

Like Andersen, Wieland creates an autonomous aesthetic sphere within his work which reflects ironically on the content of the piece. This sphere and its significance are the true Sinn of the work which Hans fails to perceive. (p. 298) Indeed, it is far more independent of the particulars of content than in Andersen’s tale. Considerably more space is devoted to its creation and development; clearly related to and manifested in part through the allegory in Andersen’s work, it has only an indirect relationship to that of Wieland’s narrative. Hence, the ironic distance between author-reader and work is even greater. For this reason as well the narrative framework with its numerous incidental ironic turns informs the structure of the tale more thoroughly than in Andersen’s work. Wieland’s Vogelsang thus possesses an even more pronounced self-reflective character than Andersen’s Nattergalen.

In Der Vogelsang Wieland takes significant steps in the direction of the irony propounded by Friedrich Schlegel. Like Andersen, however, he halts before taking the final step. In the manner of Andersen, he approaches the world about him not as an illusion to be destroyed in order to provide glimpses of a more essential reality, but rather as reality itself. His art and artist, too, have their roots in the here and now; like Andersen’s nightingale, his sparrow will return to the scene of its mixed fortunes. The two serve not to impart some higher truth; they and their world are the truth of the works.

Andersen’s and Wieland’s attitudes toward the nature and mission of art, as expressed in Nattergalen and Der Vogelsang are identical and Romantic. Their views of the relationship of art to reality and of reality itself are the same as well. In this respect, however, they depart from the position of Schlegel and the Romantics. Here, they appear to be closer to the German Classicists, especially Goethe, who “held to his faith in the telling power of the concrete phenomenon and the morphological coherence of its Gestalt[26] For Wieland, born in an age of rationalism and empiricism, the phenomenal world still retained its rights. With Andersen, writing in the 1840’s, this world reasserted these rights. In both cases art and the artist had an integral, if complicated, place in life. In Der Vogelsang and Nattergalen Wieland and Andersen stand at opposite ends of Romanticism, anticipating it on the one hand and, on the other, looking back on and beyond it to a realism similar to that of the eighteenth century.



  1. ^ Letter to Edvard and Henriette Collin, June 26th, 1856, H.C. Andersens brevveksling med Edvard og Henriette Collin, ed. C. Behrend and H. Topsøe Jensen (Copenhagen: Levin and Munksgaard, 1934), 11,277.
  2. ^ ibid.
  3. ^ F.J. Billeskov Jansen, Danmarks Digtekunst (Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1958), III, 14-18.
  4. ^ H.C. Andersens brevveksling med Edvard og Henriette Collin, II, 277.
  5. ^ See Friedrich Sengle’s ground-breaking general treatment, Christoph Martin Wieland (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1948), as well as the specialized works of Frederick Maurice Ivey, “The Development of Pre-Romantic Elements in Wieland’s Works as Illustrated in His Fairy Tales,” Diss. Tulane 1966, and Hansjörg Schelle, “Wielands Märchendichtung zwischen Aufklärung und Romantik. Einige Bemerkungen zur Forschungslage,” Fairy Tales as Ways of Knowing: Essays, ed. Michael Metzger, Germanic Studies in America, 41 (Bern, Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1981).
  6. ^ I have been unable to fine any evidence of a first-hand acquaintance with Wieland’s writing. It is certain that Andersen’s library included none of the works at the time of his death. See Estrid and Erik Dal, Fra H.C. Andersens boghylde: Hans bogsamling belyst gennem breve, kataloger og bevarede bøger (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1961).
  7. ^ See, for example, H.C. Andersen Dagbøger 1825-1875, ed. Kåre Olsen and H. Topsøe-Jensen (Copenhagen: G.E.C. Gads Forlag, 1971-1975), II, 403 and IV, 80 and 285.
  8. ^ In this study I have used “Nattergalen,” H.C. Andersens Eventyr, ed. Erik Dal and Erling Nielsen (Copenhagen: Reitzel, 1963), II, 18-26, and “Der Vogelsang oder die drey Lehren,” Wielands gesammelte Schriften, ed. Deutsche Kommission der Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: Weidmann, 1909), 1/12, 286-298. References appear in the text in parenthesis. Niels Kofoed alludes to the similarity between Andersen’s and Wieland’s understanding and treatment of the fairy tale, without, however, going into detail, in Studier i H.C. Andersens fortællekunst (Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1967), p. 253. For Andersen’s relationship to German Romanticism see Victor A. Schmitz, H.C. Andersens Märchendichtung: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der dänischen Spätromantik (Mit Ausblicken auf das deutsche romantische Kunstmärchen, Nordische Studien, 7 (Greifswald: L. Bamberg, 1925) and “Andersen und die deutsche Romantik,” in his Dänische Dichter in ihrer Begegnung mit deutscher Klassik und Romantik, Studien zur Philosophie und Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, 23 (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1974), pp. 121-133.
  9. ^ See John Chr. Jørgensen, “Methodologischer Pluralismus: Literarmethodische Rotation als Zweig und als Stimulans in der Literaturpädagogik – veranschaulicht an Hand einer Untersuchung des Märchens ‘Die Nachtigall’ von H.C. Andersen,” Orbis litterarum, XXX (1975), 81-108, and Teddy Brunius, “Näktergalen,” in his Ord och övertygelser (Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, 1955), pp. 169-183, especially pp. 1 76-1 77.
  10. ^ See Arne Duve, Symbolikken i H.C. Andersens eventyr (Oslo: Psychopress, 1967), p. 174.
  11. ^ See Paul Kluckhohn, Das Ideengut der deutschen Romantik, 5th ed., Handbücher der Deutschkunde, 8 (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1966), p. 158. Erling Nielsen detects a discrepancy between the praise of poetry of the heart and nature in the work and its own refined artistry, H.C. Andersen, Gyldendals Uglebøger, U63 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1963), p. 101. This discrepancy vanishes if one views art in the sense of the Romantics as a second creation or “form giving,” like that of nature.
  12. ^ Kluckhohn, Das Ideengut, pp. 160-161 and 174.
  13. ^ Hans Brix overlooks the nightingale’s free departure and promise to return when he suggests that the work is “et Digt om de Mægtiges Bifald,” H.C. Andersen og hans Eventyr, 2nd ed. (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1970),p. 149. See the discussion of the social dimension of the work below.
  14. ^ See Kluckhohn, Das Ideengut, pp. 158 and 161, and Brunius, Näktergalen, p. 181.
  15. ^ Bo Grønbech, H.C. Andersen: Levnedsløb -Digtning – Personlighed (Copenhagen: Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck, 1971), p. 195.
  16. ^ See Bo Grønbech, H.C. Andersens Eventyrverden (Copenhagen: Povl Branners Forlag, 1945), pp. 23-26.
  17. ^ ibid., p. 24.
  18. ^ See Leif Nedergaard, “H.C. Andersen’s ‘Nattergalen’ og J.L. Heiberg’s ‘Digter-Misundelse,’” Danske Studier, (1970), 143-145, and Richard Engländer, “H.C. Andersens ‘Nattergalen’ och Jenny Lind,” Ord och Bild, 62 (1953), 394-396. The terms “sentimental” and “naive” allude, of course, to Schiller’s essay, Über naive und sentimentale Dichtung.
  19. ^ I am indebted here to Ingrid Stroh-schneider-Kohrs, “Zur Poetik der deutschen Romantik II: Die romantische Ironie,” Die deutsche Romantik, ed. Hans Steffen, Kleine Vandenhoeck-Reihe, 250 S (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1967), pp. 75-97.
  20. ^ Kluckhohn, Das Ideengut, p. 23.
  21. ^ See Niels Kofoed, “Kunst og Politik,” Berlingske Tidende, 2 April, 1971, and Peer E. Sørensen, H.C. Andersen og Herskabet: Studier i borgerlig krisebevidsthed (Copenhagen: GMT, 1973), pp. 206-208.
  22. ^ Portions of the following are drawn from my “Wieland’s Der Vogelsang: Prodesse Between Enlightenment and Idealism,”MLN, 95 (1980), 655-663.
  23. ^ The work contains only 439 lines.
  24. ^ Hermann Müller-Solger writes, “Daher ist es letzten Endes nicht von Belang, was erzählt wird. . . Ebenso ist es für den Erzähler erst in zweiter Linie von Bedeutung, wie diese Erzählung im Einzelnen verläuft. Wichtig ist allein, daß erzählt wird. . .,” Der Dichtertraum: Studien zur Entwicklung der dichterischen Phantasie im Werk Christoph Martin Wielands, Göppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik, 24 (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1970), p. 128.
  25. ^ Cornelius Sommer says of Wieland’s verse narratives as a whole, “Es ist also von vornherein auszuschließen, daß es der Zweck der Dichtung sei, das Inhaltliche durch eine schöne und überzeugende Gestaltung eingängiger zu machen; sondern die Dichtung soll als Dichtung wirken, als Erlebnis der Seelenkräfte,” “Wielands Epen und Verser-zählungen: Form und dichtungstheoretischer Hintergrund,” Diss. Tübingen 1966, pp. 22-23.
  26. ^ Victor Lange, The Classical Age of German Literature 1740-1815 (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1982), p. 172. For F.J. Billeskov Jansen, Danish Romanticism as a whole was indebted to the German Classicists as well as the German Romantics, Danmarks Digtekunst, III, 19.


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