Tieck's Notice on the Continuation of Novalis' "Heinrich von Ofterdingen"

Tieck's Notice on the Continuation of Novalis' "Heinrich von Ofterdingen"  (1802) 
by Ludwig Tieck

Novalis' unfinished novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen was published posthumously by Tieck and Schlegel in 1802. Tieck appended this notice on Novalis' plans for the continuation of the work.

Tieck's Notice on the continuation of Novalis' Heinrich von Ofterdingen

The author advanced no farther in the composition of this second part, which he called The Fulfilment, as he had called the first The Expectation, because all that was left to anticipation in the latter, was explained and fulfilled in the former. It was the design of the author to write, after the completion of Ofterdingen, six romances for the statement of his views of physical science, civil life, commerce, history, political science, and of love; as his views of poetry had been given in Ofterdingen. I need not remind the intelligent reader, that the author in this poem has not adhered very closely to the time or the person of that well known Minnesinger, though every part brings him and his time to remembrance. It is an irreparable loss, not only to the friends of the author, but to art itself, that he could not have finished this romance, the originality and great design of which would have been better developed in the second than in the first part. For it was by no means his object to represent this or that occurrence, to embrace one side of poetry, and explain it by figures and narrative; but it was his intention, as is plain from the last chapter of the first part, to express the real essence of poetry and explain its inmost aim.

To this end nature, history, war, and civil life, with their usual events, are all transformed to poetry, as that is the spirit which animates all things.

I shall endeavor as far as possible, from my memory of conversations with my friend, and from what I can discover in the papers he has left, to give the reader some idea of the plan and subject-matter of the second part of this work.

To the poet, who has apprehended the essence of his art at its central point, nothing appears contradictory or strange; to him all riddles are solved. By the magic of fancy he can unite all ages and all worlds; wonders vanish, and all things change to wonders. So is this book written; and the reader will find the boldest combinations, particularly in the tale which closes the first part. Here are renewed all those differences by which ages seem separated, and hostile worlds meet each other. The poet wished particularly to make this tale the transition-point to the second part, in which the narrative soars from the common to the marvellous, and both are mutually explained and restored; the spirit of the prologue in verse should return at each chapter, and this state of mind, this wonderful view of things should be permanent. By this means the invisible world remains in eternal connexion with the visible. This speaking spirit is poetry itself; but at the same time the sidereal man who is born from the love of Henry and Matilda. In the following lines, which should have their place in Ofterdingen, the author has expressed in the simplest manner the interior spirit of his works:

When marks and figures cease to be
For every creature's thoughts the key,
When they will even kiss or sing
Beyond the sage's reckoning,
When life to Freedom will attain,
And Freedom in creation reign,
When Light and Shade, no longer single,
In genuine splendor intermingle,
And one in tales and poems sees
The world's eternal histories,—
Then will our whole inverted being
Before a secret word be fleeing.

The gardener, who converses with Henry, is the same old man who had formerly entertained Ofterdingen's father. The young girl, whose name is Cyane, is not his child, but the daughter of the Count of Hohenzollern. She came from the East; and though it was at an early age, yet she can recollect her home. She has long lived a strange life in the mountains, among which she was brought up by her deceased mother. She has lost in early life a brother, and has narrowly escaped death in a vaulted tomb; but an old physician rescued her in some peculiar way. She is gentle, and kind, and very familiar with the supernatural. She tells the poet her history as she had heard it once from her mother. She sends him to a distant cloister, whose monks seem to be a kind of spirit-colony; everything is like a mystic, magic lodge. They are the priests of the holy fire in youthful minds. He hears the distant chant of the brothers; in the church itself, he has a vision. With an old monk Henry converses about death and magic, has presentiment of death — and of the philosopher's stone; visits the cloister-garden and the churchyard, concerning which latter I find the following poem:—

Praise ye now our still carousals,
Gardens, chambers decked so gaily,
Household goods as for espousals,
Our possessions praise.
New guests are coming daily,
Some late, the others early;
On the spacious hearth forever
Glimmereth a new life-blaze.

Thousand vessels wrought with cunning,
Once bedewed with thousand tears,
Golden rings and spurs and sabres,
Are our treasury;
Many gems of costly mounting
Wist we of in dark recesses,
None can all our wealth be counting,
Counts he even ceaselessly.

Children of a time evanished,
Heroes from the hoary ages,
Starry spirits high excelling,
Wondrously combine,
Graceful women, solemn sages,
Life in all its motley stages,
In one circle here are dwelling,
In the olden world recline.

None is evermore molested;
None who joyously hath feasted,
At our sumptuous table seated,
Wisheth to be gone.
Hushed is sorrow's loud complaining,
Wonders are no longer greeted,
Bitter tears no longer raining,
Hour-glass ever floweth on.

Holy kindness deeply swelling,
In blest contemplation buried,
Heaven in the soul is dwelling
With a cloudless breast;
In our raiment long and flowing
Through spring-meadows are we carried,
Where rude winds are never blowing,
In this land of perfect rest.

Pleasing lure of midnight hours,
Quiet sphere of hidden powers,
Rapture of mysterious pleasure,
These alone our prize;
Ours alone that highest measure,
Where ourselves in streamlets pouring,
Then in dew-drops upward soaring,
Drink we as we flow or rise.

First with us grew life from love;
Closely like the elements
Do we mingle Being's waves,
Foaming heart with heart.
Hotly separate the waves,
For the strife of elements
Is the highest life of love,
And the very heart of hearts.

Whispered talk of gentle wishes
Hear we only, we are gazing
Ever into eyes transfigured,
Tasting nought but mouth and kiss;
All that we are only touching,
Change to balmy fruits and glowing,
Change to bosoms soft and tender,
Offerings to daring bliss.

The desire is ever springing,
On the loved one to be clinging,
Round him all our spirit flinging,
One with him to be,—
Ardent impulse ever heeding
To consume in turn each other,
Only nourished, only feeding
On each other's ecstasy.

So in love and lofty rapture
Are we evermore abiding,
Since that lurid life subsiding,
In the day grew pale;
Since the pyre its sparkles scattered,
And the sod above us sinking,
From around the spirit shrinking
Melted then the earthly veil.

Spells around remembrance woven,
Holy sorrow's trembling gladness,
Tone-like have our spirits cloven,
Cooled their glowing blood.
Wounds there are, forever paining;
A profound, celestial sadness,
Within all our hearts remaining,
Us dissolveth in one flood.

And in flood we forth are gushing,
In a secret manner flowing
To the ocean of all living,
In the One profound;
And from out His heart while rushing,
To our circle backward going,
Spirit of the loftiest striving
Dips within our eddying round.

All your golden chains be shaking
Bright with emeralds and rubies,
Flash and clang together making,
Shake with joyous note.
From the damp recesses waking,
From the sepulchres and ruins,
On your cheeks the flush of heaven,
To the realm of Fable float.

O could men, who soon will follow
To the spirit-land, be dreaming
That we dwell in all their joyance,
All the bliss they taste,
They would burn with glad upbuoyance
To desert the life so hollow,—
O, the hours away are streaming,
Come, beloved, hither haste.

Aid to fetter the Earth-spirit,
Learn to know the sense of dying,
And the word of life discover;
Hither turn at last.
Soon will all thy power be over,
Borrowed light away be flying,
Soon art fettered, O Earth-spirit,
And thy time of empire past.

This poem was perhaps a prologue to a second chapter. Now an entirely new period of the work would have opened; the highest life proceeding from the stillest death; he has lived among the dead and conversed with them. Now the book would have become nearly dramatic, the epic tone, as it were, uniting together and simply explaining the single scenes. Henry suddenly finds himself in Italy, distracted, rent with wars; he sees himself the leader of an army. All the elements of war play in poetic colors. With an irregular band, he attacks a hostile city; here appears in episode the love of a noble of Pisa for a Florentine maiden. War-songs—"a great war, like a duel, noble, philosophical, human throughout. Spirit of the old chivalry; the tournament. Spirit of bacchanalian sadness. Men must fall by each other,—nobler than to fall by fate. They seek death.—Honor, fame, is the warrior's joy and life. The warrior lives in death and like a shade. Desire for death is the warrior-spirit. Upon the earth is war at home; it must be upon earth."—In Pisa Henry finds the son of Frederick II, who becomes his confidential friend. He also travels to Loretto. Several songs were to follow here.

The poet is cast away on the shores of Greece by a tempest. The old world with its heroes and treasures of art fills his mind. He converses with a Grecian about morality. Everything from ancient times is present to him; he learns to understand the old pictures and histories. Conversation upon Grecian polity and mythology.

After becoming acquainted with the heroic age and with antiquity, he visits the Holy Land, for which he had felt so great a longing from his youth. He seeks Jerusalem, and acquaints himself with Oriental poetry. Strange events among the infidels detain him in desert regions; he discovers the family of the eastern girl (see Part I.): the manners and life of nomadic tribes.—Persian tales, recollections of the remotest antiquity. The book during all these various events was to retain its characteristic hue, and recall to mind the blue flower: throughout, the most distant and distinct traditions were to be knit together, Grecian, Oriental, Biblical, Christian, with reminiscences of and references to both the Indian and Northern mythology.—The Crusades.—Life at sea.—Henry visits Rome. Roman history.

Sated with his experiences, Henry at length returns to Germany. He finds his grandfather, a profound character; Klingsohr is in his society. An evening's conversation with them.

Henry joins the court of Frederick, and becomes personally acquainted with the emperor. The court would have made a worthy appearance, portraying the best, greatest, and most remarkable men, collected from the whole world, whose centre is the emperor himself. Here appears the greatest splendor, and the truly great world. German character and German history are explained. Henry converses with the emperor concerning government and the empire; obscure hints of America and the Indies. The sentiments of a prince,—the mystic emperor,—the book, De tribus impostoribus.

Henry having now, in a new and higher method than in the Expectation, lived through and observed nature, life, and death, war, the East, history, and poetry, turns back into his mind as to an old home. From his knowledge of the world and of himself arises the impulse for expression; the wondrous world of fable now draws the nearest, because the heart is fully open to its comprehension.

In the Manesian collection of Minnesingers, we find a rather obscure rival song of Henry of Ofterdingen and Klingsohr with other poets; instead of this jousting, the author would have represented another peculiar poetic contest, the war of the good and evil principles in songs of religion and irreligion, the invisible world contrasted with the visible. "Out of Enthusiasm the poets in bacchanalian intoxication contend for death." The sciences are poetized; mathematics also enters the lists. The plants of India are commemorated in song; new glorification of Indian mythology.

This is Henry's last act upon the earth; the transition to his own glorification. This is the solution of the whole work, the Fulfilment of the allegory which concludes the First Part. Everything is explained and completed, supernaturally and yet most naturally. The partition between Fiction and Truth, between the Past and the Present has fallen down. Faith, Fancy, and Poetry lay open the internal world.

Henry reaches Sophia's land, in Nature, such as might be allegorically painted; after having conversed with Klingsohr concerning certain singular signs and omens. These are mostly awakened by an old song which he hears by chance, and in which is described a deep water in a secluded spot. The song excites within him long forgotten recollections; he visits the water, and finds a small golden key, which a raven had stolen from him some time before, and which he had never expected to find. An old man had given it to him soon after Matilda's death, with the injunction that he should carry it to the emperor, who would tell him what to do with it. Henry seeks the emperor, who is highly rejoiced and gives him an ancient manuscript, in which it is written that the emperor should give it to that man who ever brought him a golden key; that this man would discover in a secret place an old talisman, a carbuncle for his crown, in which a space was yet left for it. The place itself is also described in the parchment. After reading the description, Henry takes the road to a mountain, and meets on the way the stranger who first told him and his parents concerning the blue flower; he converses with him about Revelation. He enters the mountain and Cyane trustingly follows him.

He soon reaches that wonderful land in which air and water, flowers and animals, differ entirely from those of earthly nature. The poem at the same time changes in many places to a play. "Men, beasts, plants, stones and stars, the elements, sounds, colors, meet like one family, act and converse like one race. Flowers and brutes converse concerning men. The world of fable is again visible; the real world is itself regarded as a fable." He finds the blue flower; it is Matilda, who sleeps and has the carbuncle. A little girl, their child, sits by a coffin, and renews his youth. "This child is the primeval world, the close of the golden time." "Here the Christian religion is reconciled with the Heathen. The history of Orpheus, of Psyche, and others are sung."

Henry plucks the blue flower, and delivers Matilda from her enchantment, but she is lost to him again; he becomes senseless through pain, and changes to a stone. "Edda (the blue flower, the Eastern Maiden, Matilda) sacrifices herself upon the stone; he is transformed to a melodious tree. Cyane hews down the tree and burns herself with him. He becomes a golden ram. Edda, Matilda, is obliged to sacrifice it. He becomes a man again. During these metamorphoses he has the very strangest conversations."

He is happy with Matilda, who is both the Eastern Maiden and Cyane. A joyous spirit-festival is celebrated. All that has past was Death, the last dream and awakening. "Klingsohr comes again as king of Atlantis. Henry's mother is Fancy, his father, Sense. Swaning is the Moon; the miner is the antiquary and at the same time Iron. The emperor Frederick is Arcturus. The Count of Hohenzollern and the merchants also return." Everything flows into an allegory. Cyane brings the stone to the emperor; but Henry is now himself the poet of the fabulous tale which the merchants had formerly related to him.

The blissful land suffers yet again by enchantment, while subjected to the changes of the Seasons. Henry destroys the realm of the Sun. The whole work was to close with a long poem, only the begining of which was composed.


Deep buried in thought stood the new monarch. He was recalling
   Dreams of the midnight, and every wonderful tale,
Which gathered he first from the heavenly flower, when stricken
   Gently by prophecy, love all-subduing he felt.
He thought still he heard the accents deeply impressive,
   Just as the guest was deserting the circle of joy;
Fleeting gleams of the moon illumined the clattering window,
   And in the breast of the youth there raged a passionate glow.
Edda, whispered the monarch, what is the innermost longing
   In the bosom that loves? What his ineffable grief?
Say it, for him would we comfort, the power is ours, and noble
   Be the time when thou art the joy of heaven again.—
"Were the times not so cold and morose, if were united
   Future with Present, and both with the holy Past time;
Were the Spring linked to Autumn, and the Summer to Winter,
   Were into serious grace childhood with silver age fused;
Then, O spouse of my heart, would dry up the fountain of sorrow,
   Every deep cherished wish would be secured to the soul."
Thus spake the queen, and gladsomely clasped her the radiant beloved:
   Thou hast uttered in sooth to me a heavenly word,
Which long ago over the lips of the deep-feeling hovered,
   But on thine alone first pure and in season did light.
Quickly drive here the chariot, ourselves we will summon
   First the times of the year, then all the seasons of man.—

They ride to the sun, and first bring the Day, then the Night; then to the North, for Winter, then to the South, to find Summer; from the East they bring the Spring, from the West the Autumn. Then they hasten after Youth, next to Age, to the Past and to the Future.

This is all I have been able to give the reader from my own recollection, and from scattered words and hints in the papers of my friend. The accomplishment of this great task would have been a lasting memorial of a new poesy. In this notice I have preferred to be short and dry, rather than expose myself to the danger of adding anything from my own fancy. Perhaps many a reader will be grieved at the fragmentary character of these verses and words, as well as myself, who would not regard with any more devout sadness a piece of some ruined picture of Raphael or Corregio.

L. Tieck.

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.