by B. E. Seidl
In 1800, the German poet, writer and philosopher Georg Philip Friedrich von Hardenberg (1772-1819), who called himself “Novalis”, wrote his “Hymnen an die Nacht”. With this poetic cycle, he built an important bridge that transcended the religious lyric poetry of the baroque era and lead to a broader horizon where not only meter but also social norms were set free. By associating the night with beauty and justifying drugs in order to enter another sphere where the lover could be united with the dead bride, he found a way to overcome death and express the inexpressible.
His passion for both the mythical and science were overshadowed by an ever present limerence for death, which was caused by the early passing of his fiancé. This unique perspective left notable footprints on the road towards Dark Romance.
What I found intriguing was the shift of perspective taking place within Novalis’ poems and the other works of his time. Only in the moment when the obsession with nature and science became stronger than the obedience to religion did the beauty of darkness and “forbidden” things become more apparent. Death had suddenly become fascinating, the dark night a place to explore. Still, no matter the point of view from which it was analyzed, darkness never entirely lost its horror.
It’s like that feeling of taking a walk at night, where, at first, everything is so peaceful and quiet. Then, after a while, an unsettling feeling creeps in and all you really want is to get back inside where there are lights and you feel safe. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and all I can hear is my own heartbeat. At times I get the strangest ideas lying there in the dark.
Many cities look more enchanting at night, yet there seems to be a sense of sadness about them, no matter how many lights glimmer in the dark. In the end it is the sun that gives life and the light to see things clearly.
Wouldn’t we rather switch on the lights instead of facing our fears?