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Novalis, Stahlstich von Eichens, 1845
He Praised the Night


He was always young and ready to listen to the voice of his age, Schiller's and Schlegel's close friend and student, especially of Fichte, but also of Goethe, Schelling, Kant, Hoelderlin... He was a deep and tender soul, seeing life as bewitching, in the passing of a glorious and creative sun, - hard, difficult, and almost happy, in the heroic abandonment to a love coming only like a holy dream in the sleep of the night. However, Novalisí dream is not exhausted in an eternal tension between the (not-that-)opposites, in a paradise lost and always imminent. In his Hymns to the Night, death is most of all a synonym to resurrection, and night, going back to the Orphic awareness of the mystical source of love and of all creation, represents especially the ascetic way of living. Novalisí night does not have the meaning of forgetfulness, evil or despair, but, like in some passages of the Song of Songs, night denotes a spiritual watchfulness free from all wordly cares and open to the revelation and reception of Godís love. It is St. Paulís mirror, through which appears the enigma of the face of God.

According to Novalis' philosophy of history, a philosophy based on his faith in the incarnation and resurrection of Christ, happiness disappeared because of fear (especially of the fear of death), but it is again possible since Christís work revealed life and love as a sacrifice (which makes fear impossible), and death as a passage to eternity (which replaces fear with hope). This way, art takes on a prophetic task, and this kind of art becomes the only possible kind for Europe, provided that Europe wants to overcome her nihilistic self. 

Novalis' asceticism, ensured by his acceptance of the death of both his wives, is revealed in his work mainly as a careful and compassionate observation of the creation of God and as a faithful will to salvation. God should not become an excuse of forsaking the world, but a way to a sanctified and sanctifying relationship with the creatures (see esp. the story of Hyacinth and Roseblossom). Voltaire wanted God as a source of morality. Novalis may sometimes seem to want Him as a source of artistry, but this is not the case. He tried to believe in God, and as he was trying this, he realised that, without a real stand-point outside creation, man will not be able to see and love the world, to let the creatures die a blissful death, in the prophetic awareness of the world to come, in the ascetic reception of God's grace.  

Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg, - or, as he preferred to limit it, Novalis, - was born in 1772 and lived the night of his love until 1801. He is the honoured person of a few internet sites.Add a note! You will find the Story of Hyacinth and Roseblossom at vcu.edu.Add a note!See also D. Cox's note on Novalis and Carlyle at the Victorian web.Add a note! ELLOPOS, besides this comment, publishes a small, but characteristic, fragment from Christendom or Europe, in English.Add a note!

Wanderer, Feb. 2001

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