15 May 2008

Quote of the day

For Schopenhauer, the object of art is a form which has a universal quality, which rises above the confines of space and time, and can only be seen by one who detaches himself from what is local and personal. This view leads us to a difficulty in the case of lyric poetry.

Lyric poetry is essentially personal and the singer fills it with his own moods, his loves and his sorrows. But lovers are fickle, and sorrows do not last for ever. How is it possible to reconcile this personal, individual, fleeting aspect with the claim that the object of art must be universal and above change?

Schopenhauer is half-hearted, and solves the difficulty by a compromise, according to which the poet, or the singer, alternates between two attitudes, sometimes taking up that of the individual and sometimes that of the universal.

Nietzsche will have none of this; boldly and in accordance with Schopenhauer's own fundamental principles he unites the two principles directly. And surely he is right!

Lyric poetry is personal and the life of the song is a mood. But who is the person? The poet? Yes, but more than the poet. The singer? Yes, but which singer? Surely every singer; and every hearer too.

Everyman is the hero of the song, and therein lies its universality. Again, it expresses a mood, and moods are fleeting. But in the song the mood is lifted out of its context, raised above mutability, and enshrined for ever in a timeless, passionless calm. The individual and the universal, passion and the passionless, time and the timeless come together in the lyric and are at one. In the song the mortal puts on immortality, and the singer becomes the vehicle of something infinitely greater and more universal than himself.

- HA Reyburn, Nietzsche

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