Monday, October 13, 2008

The delicate Theodor Storm - the expression of all that was lovely

Theodor Storm's Immensee (1850), aka The Lake of the Bees, is almost too delicate to write about. It's too beautiful, too sweet, too sad. Storm was already a lyric poet of distinction when he wrote Immensee, so perhaps it is no surprise that this tiny novella, only 41 little pages in the Hesperus Press edition, has some of the gossamer texture of a lyric poem.

"One afternoon in late autumn an elderly, well-dressed man was making his way slowly down the road." That's the beginning. He arrives home and sits alone in the dark. A moonbeam rests on a painting. "'Elisabeth!' said the old man softly. And as he spoke, time shifted and he found himself once more in the days of his youth." (p. 4)

Now, after this, what sort of surprise can be left for the story? Elisabeth either marries someone else or dies young (the former). Reinhard either loses her because he does something stupid or malicious (the former). A reader may get a litle jolt at the very beginning of the flashback, where one learns that Reinhard is ten years old and Elisabeth is only five. But after that - they should marry, but they don't, then they meet again. That's it.

But of course, Immensee is actually full of surprises, in the small things, in the details, in the scattering of poems:

"The forest stands so silent,
So wise that child appears
As round her soft brown hair
The sun her charm reveres.

The distant cuckoo laughs,
And now my heart has seen
The lovely golden eyes
Of my own forest queen!

And so she was not only his little charge; she was also the expression of all that was lovely, all that was wonderful at the opening of his life." (p. 14)

Let's see if I can write about this story without killing it.

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