The Value of Ephemerality in Eichendorff

Published: 2021-06-29 06:54:42
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Romantic thought is a concept that has many faces and is portrayed in a plethora of ways through varying forms of expression. One particular sub-category is the notion of a romantic poet finding a sense of ethereal beauty in settings that would normally be perceived as ephemeral and trite in nature. Depth is added to that which would typically go unnoticed in order to portray a range of emotions in a given fragment of time. This notion of savoring a moment comes across particularly strong in the poetry of Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff. To strive to find the poetry in a fleeting instant that others would disregard as simply temporary and invaluable, and to even take this a step further to the point of being lyrical while still maintaining a solid level of seriousness, is the mark of a authentic romantic thinker and transcends the conventions that had existed prior to the romantic generation. Eichendorff uses heavy imagery to create what can be described as a living canvas that forms a picturesque image in the reader's mind and causes the reader to pause and imagine this world Eichendorff creates within his poetry and carry the world on beyond the end of the last stanza.
Eichendorff's poem, "Moonlit Night" (1837), provides a vivid narrative from the perspective of a particularly enlightened lyric I who finds himself in the middle of a seemingly transcendental experience in which there is an overwhelming sense of peace that captivates him. The title itself of the poem gives the impression that the topic is of a memory of an experience that was very temporary in nature, particularly limited to one night. Lines 1 and 2 of the first stanza set the tone with the statement, "It was as if the heavens/The earth had calmly kissed". The use of a human sign of affection personifies both the heavens and earth and gives the setting a living, breathing quality. This connection forms a symbolic unity between earth and sky that is comparable to that of beings with a range of emotions and sets up a sense of calm that will be relevant as the lyric I continues to describe this moment in time. He also refers to "flow'ry glints of mist" (4) as a setting descriptor to set up a haziness and dreamlike quality of the world that surrounds the lyric I.
The second stanza of "Moonlit Night" brings the reader into the exact setting by describing the sensory effects of this described moment of unity. In lines 5-7, Eichendorff uses verbs referring to the senses ("blew", "billowed", "rustled") to give added dimension to the setting and causing the reader to be placed in this exact moment in time when the humanized earth and the heavens are seemingly in love with one another and there is a universal sense of calm and beauty within this living and breathing environment. Eichendorff's use of verbs give motion, sound, and texture to the setting and add a glimmer of reality to what was first described as a wholly fantastic and otherworldly occurrence that is happening while this lyric I is sitting right in the middle of it.
The third and final stanza of "Moonlit Night" describes the lyric I reaching the point at which an experience that is either literal or metaphoric in which his "soul outstretched" (9) and "sailed through the quiet lands...toward home it flew" (11-12) occurs. The lyric I becomes completely immersed in the surroundings and becomes an actual part of this idealized moment in time that has been described in the two previous stanzas. Eichendorff builds up to the climax using the previously mentioned devices to establish an entirely mythological, yet relatable setting around this glorious moment in time in which his soul was capable of taking flight toward an unnamed home. He presents the lyric I reaching a sense of enlightenment and an action that would be largely considered physically impossible that is reached in the poem through this one moment of a flawless sense of unity with nature and all existence that he or she is recalling to the reader as he or she zooms in on this particular moment.

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