AN HOUR AFTER MIDNIGHT
A REALM OF THE ARCHETYPE
“A long and slow wave landed my rounded bow skiff between the rocks. The dreamer who inhabited under the skin of the shipwrecked abandoned the thwart and extended his arms in the direction of the silent land. The purple cloak slip from my shoulders creasing down my hips. My arms and neck thin by so much rowing, and fasting; my hair now long and curly covered my nape with it’s abundance. In the still green shaded waters of the bay my image reflected thick; however I could attest that the long voyage had turned my body flexible and lean, my now bronzed skin. Cruel hours had carved in my cheeks a testimony of their danger, their defeat and my triumph. All the gray downs that witnessed grasping the boat with my sore members, all the storms that rippled the Oceans pointing to it’s depths had etched creases in my face and neck.
But I preserved the clarity of my eyes within the wide hallow orbs and my awake child like sight. They had been open through many nights in the look for the eternal stars; My eyes had penetrated deeply vigilant in the iridescent night in search of a coast or the sighting of the sail of a traveling boat. During many days they have not looked at land, and in very few occasions they have glimpsed distantly, smiling and with longing the greenery of the forest that passed port side, and starboard, the faint smoke of faraway hidden cities. At that moment those eyes reflected in the terse surface of the water they stared at me big, true and smiling.”
This is the beginning words for Hermann Hesse’s An Hour After Midnight, translated in to English as An Hour Behind Midnight. During his time in Tübingen Hesse immersed himself in an atmosphere of Romantic Literature finding faith and inspiration in the world of beauty, and specifically the world of poetry. Hesse strived to familiarize himself with the history of literature, and the world of romanticism, and aestheticism. He read Schlegel, Brentano, Eichendorff, Schleiermacher, and his favorite, Novalis. He even went as far as to describe the acquisition of his two volumes of Novalis in a little novel titled: “The Novalis, from the papers of an old fashioned man“. This resonance with the Romantic Archetypes formed the background of Hesse’s first poems. It dominates in An Hour After Midnight, as also in parts of Hermann Lauscher, and was finally beginning to mellow down in Peter Camenzind. But in fact never goes away completely in all of his writings, impregnating them with the ethereal aura of a World beyond reality, the Realm of the Archetypes.
Here is an excerpt of Novalis:” Hymns to the Night” that captures with his Imagination a realm beyond ordinary reality that reaches towards the vision of the purity of the Archetype:
“Now I know when will come the last morning — when the Light no more scares away Night and Love — when sleep shall be without waking, and but one continuous dream. I feel in me a celestial exhaustion. Long and weariful was my pilgrimage to the holy grave, and crushing was the cross. The crystal wave, which, imperceptible to the ordinary sense, springs in the dark bosom of the mound against whose foot breaks the flood of the world, he who has tasted it, he who has stood on the mountain frontier of the world, and looked across into the new land, into the abode of the Night — truly he turns not again into the tumult of the world, into the land where dwells the Light in ceaseless unrest.”
However the most important thing is not to see Novalis as an old fashioned Romantic but as the “Priest” of a New Spirituality, as he claimed a Poet should be the Prophet of a mystical world view, a high standard of education, and the frequently perceptible pietistic influences are combined in Novalis’ attempt to reach a new concept of Christianity, faith, and God. He forever endeavors to align these with his own view of transcendental philosophy, which acquired the mysterious name “Magical idealism”. Magical idealism draws heavily from the critical or transcendental Idealism of Kant and Fichte, and incorporates the artistic element central to Early German Romanticism The subject must strive to conform the external, natural world to its own will and genius; hence the term “magical”. David Krell calls magical idealism “thaumaturgic idealism.”
Now, this part Novalis wrote and it is important:
“The imagination places the world of the future either far above us, or far below, or in a relation of metempsychosis to ourselves. We dream of traveling through the universe – but is not the universe within ourselves? The depths of our spirit are unknown to us – the mysterious way leads inwards. Eternity with its worlds – the past and future – is in ourselves or nowhere. The external world is the world of shadows – it throws its shadow into the realm of light. At present this realm certainly seems to us so dark inside, lonely. shapeless. But how entirely different it will seem to us – when this gloom is past, and the body of shadows has moved away. We will experience greater enjoyment than ever, for our spirit has been deprived.”
This exploration of the Universe within it is reached through a premeditated tune up of the Imagination towards a sensitive state of the Soul were the emotions manifest in the without, specially in Nature a return to the Archetypal of the perfect form, a sort of Gate to a Paradise on Earth reached through the contemplation of the beauty of Nature. Here again Hermann Hesse:
“A gentle breeze come to greet me from the direction of the land, it come flying with displicency. It brought me a smell of wild plants, and an aroma of distant blooming gardens. Like in a spell I extended my arms towards it, and felt with pleasure it’s breath between the hands, fingers and temples, so used to the sharp wind of the sea.
I pushed the gray boat dragging it over the sand. My right hand touched the hard curve of the gunwale, now made smooth by my constant grip. I walk in to the land and got near to the dense, and high thicket that formed a circular wall as far as the eye could see. I skirted along it’ greenery, enjoying the warm bluish shade, light weaved yellow and green. The path took me to a meadow of soft vegetation that tenderly caressed with it’s silky flowers my knees.”
In this fashion Hermann Hesse, in great length describe beautifully, and intimately every detail, and nuance of a primeval enchanted forest, flowery fields, greenery laden hills, and valleys flooding in sunlight, or shade until his arrival to the Realm of the Queen.
“In the deepest part of my being happiness grew along with pain, and my voice trembled as I start to sing. My fingers pulsated the fine strings; it was a long time since last time that I played, despite of that the rhythm, and the verses took hold of me with new vigor and generosity.
My song evoked a past Autumn many years ago when still an adolescent my eyes followed for the first time the gracious gait, and curves of a young girl. I sang about the sunsets, and the nights when under the growing perfume of the silver linden trees carried my bittersweet longings with the hard rowing of the oars through dark lagoons; when many times I visited sand banks, trails, and forest spots were I would contemplate the beautiful first rays of the down. My song remembered the days that love made me ride fiery horses at full gallop. I remembered the many roses in bloom, the shady cottonwoods invaded by the perfume of the Jasmine…”
The Realm of the Queen it is this semi-Pagan paradise where the Archetype of the Mother-Lover resides, every woman it is the reflection of the ideal beloveds from our past, all rolled in to one, or many!
In a small chapter subtitled for Frau Gertrud Hermann Hesse pours in this woman the very Archetype of womanhood.
“You the most friendly of my dead, you appear many times in the most lonely place in my Castle, under the small vault of an arched window. Your presence , inexplicable but kind endures beyond all the moments we were together linking our hands like the light of a Star that no longer exist, but that it’s rays still come to us for a long time.
I can’t count the many times when strolling idle under the heavens of Vita Nova. I can’t tell the times I have lost all hope of ever seeing your apparition again. No other beauty, except of that sweet poem can compare with yours. I think sometimes than in another Age when Dante in ecstasy you walked by his side, and since then only once more you have dwelt Earthly roads under the shade of my longing youth. That I could see you with corporeal eyes, that your hand would rest on mine, that your light steps would trod the ground by my side, it is not this a Mercy from the Almighty? A blessed finger that rest in my forehead, a gate that provide access to Eternal Beauty?
Frequently, when sleep, in dreams I can see your physical beauty; I stare at your white fingers–what fine phalanx’s–from your noble hands, that rested on the piano’s keys! Or I see you contemplating alongside the window an evening sky that turns pale; the prodigious knowledge of beauty gave your eyes a deep shine. Your eyes had awaken in me numberless artistic dreams. They are maybe the most precious gift to my existence, they are stars of beauty, and truthfulness: severe eyes, but kind, infallible, judging; they give punishment and reward; they are enemies to the unworthy, the insignificant, and casual. They dictate laws, weight, pronounce judgments; they know to charm, with super abundance of happiness. What is Glory, favors, mankind praise,without the gleaming shine of approval of those pure lights?”
Hermann Hesse in the chapter titled : Nocturne goes back to a recurrent Archetype of Medieval abandoned Castles, in the middle of a lake, surrounded by a forest, a ghost like apparition of an old guardian knight. What secret he guards? What past echoes of the ancient past this reveals? Is this not a look in to a Mythical Realm that lays thinly submerged in our Imagination?
“My horse stop, stretching it’s beautiful neck neighs unto the twilight of the evening.
I salute you!
I salute you, my dark refuge of cedars, far from the world, untouched, with your dark belt, you carry in your bosom peace.
At the recondite thick center of cedars, there is a lake with a made out of granite Castle: A fortress made to endure eternity; on top of hard rock, rise colossal, flanked by enormous Norman towers, a single gate.
The gate on top of a stair made out of stones that descend in to the deep, dark lake. The Guardian gray, gelid, listen to my horse’s familiar steps, and recognize me. He goes out through the iron gate, and descend slowly through the moss covered stairs. Unties the heavy chain of the royal boat, with a single oar he slide silently over the dark mirror of the surface of the lake. He pick me up and return the boat to the castle, we anchor it using the heavy square chain.
We sat at the threshold of the gate, with the wind of the evening, the rumor coming from the top of the trees grows; The night slides over the trunks of the trees at the far side of the lake. The Guardian rest his head on his hands and looks in to the growing darkness with tranquility. In front of us the green, dark steps, and the quiet lake, surrounded by the ancient walls of the Sacred Forest that circle around the lake. Flying with soundless wings the hours go by.
Beyond the waters on top of the peaks a trembling glow, grows and rise, turns in to a bright light, and finally stands over the forest, flying over the sky: The full Moon. It’s rays conquer slowly the surface of the surface of the lake a bright beam lights up the lake with pure luminosity, the quiet, and deep lake now an immense mirror. The silver Moon gazes from it’s mysterious observatory.
Critics dismiss easily this early period of the writer as an affectation, the product of an immature youth impregnated with the Aestheticism of his Romantic readings, a sort of pretentious old fashion style no longer in vogue. I differ, some individuals through their Art can bring us close to the Realm of the Archetype that lays veiled from our eyes in the twilight of consciousness, sensitive souls can discover the gate of this Realm, Hermann Hesse in An Hour After Midnight certainly show us that.