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Sunday, July 20, 2008

“The double sense of life accuses me...”

In 1797 and 98, Schiller was working on his Wallenstein cycle of plays. Wallenstein, a Bohemian warlord who figured in the thirty years war, was not at first glance an ideal figure for create, in the German language, theater in the Shakespearian vein. In her history of the thirty years war, C.V. Wedgewood pens this portrait:

“He was not a popular man: tall, thin, forbidding, his face in the unexpressive portraits which have survived is not prepossessing. No great master painted him and the limners who attempted his saturnine features agree only in a few particulars. The irregular features, the high cheek bones and prominent nose, the heavy jowl, the thick, out jutting underlip...

Already Wallenstein had a reputation for pretensions beyond his station. A Czech by birth, speaking the language fluently and allied to many of the leading families, dispossessed and otherwise, Wallenstein was influential if not popular in many sections of society...

Meanwhile, before the end of 1623 Wallenstein had contracted a second marriage, with Isabella von Harrach, a lady who regarded him with the nearest approximation to love which we may suppose it was ever his fate to inspire...”


Kepler, who worked for the Bohemian court, had drawn up his horoscope. Although astrologers were employed by all the royal houses in the early 17th century (Campanella, the author of City of the Son, had drawn up Louis XIV’s horoscope), Schiller decided to make astrology as central to Wallenstein’s Death as witchcraft was to MacBeth. Wallenstein did have his own astronomer, “Sini”. Voltaire, in the Philosophical Dictionary, under the entry Astronomy, made some typical acerbic comments about this:

"You should still less be astonished that so many men, who were, besides, elevated above the vulgar, so many princes, so many popes, who one could not fool about the least of their interests, were so ridiculously seduced by that impertinence of astrology. They were very proud and very ignorant. The stars were only for them: the rest of the universe was scum in whose affairs the stars didn’t meddle at all. They were like that prince who trembled at a comet, and who responded gravely to those who didn’t fear it at all: you can talk – you aren’t a prince.

The famous Duke of Wallenstein was one of the most infatuated by this chimera. He called himself a prince, and consequently thought that the zodiac was formed expressly for him. He never besieged a city, he never began a battle, then after having held council with the heavens. But as this great man was extremely ignorant, he had established for the chief of his council an Italian rogue named Jean Baptiste Seni, on whom he bestowed a six horse carriage and a stipend of twenty thousand livres. Jean-Baptiste Seni could not predict, however, that Wallstein would be assassinated by the orders of his gracious lord, Ferdinand II, and that he, Seni, would be returning to Italy on foot.

It is plain that one can know nothing of the future but by conjectures. These conjectures can be so strong that they approach certitude. You see a whale swallow a small boy: you can bet 10,000 to 1 that he will be eaten. However, you can’t be absolutely sure, after the adventures of Hercules, of Jonah and of Roland the fool, who remained so long in the belly of a fish.”

Hmm, I wonder if this entry gives us the seed of the story of Pinocchio? Anyway, in LI’s daunting pursuit of whatever, we will be using Schiller’s Wallenstein and Goethe’s more “instinctive” sense of astrology –as one commentator puts it – to discuss superstition.

4 comments:

northanger said...

when you stop contemplating your morning woody you sure do come up with good stuff woggia.

Giovanni Battista Seni

Seni an der Leiche Wallensteins

Horoskop Keplers für Wallenstein

Zodiac & the Swastika by Wilhelm Wulff, Astrologer to Himmler's Court: Chapter One - I Become An Astrologer

roger said...

Well, I need something to cheer me up in the mornings!

Алексей (rewritoff) said...

northanger said...

AO 62 = THE STERNER TRIBUNES.

AO 91 = PHALLOPLETHYSMOGRAPH = WHEN FASCISM COMES TO AMERICA.

AO 69 = FASCISM COMES TO AMERICA = EYES OF TETRAGRAMMATON = KNIGHT OF THE SWAN = PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE = THE COMMANDATORE SCENE.

AO 121 = CONQUERING THE DRAWBACKS OF DEMOCRACY = THE RAKE PUNISH'D, OR DON GIOVANNI = WRAPPED IN THE FLAG AND CARRYING A CROSS.

AO 248 = WHEN FASCISM COMES TO AMERICA IT WILL BE WRAPPED IN THE FLAG AND CARRYING A CROSS = AN ASTROLOGICAL MANDALA - THE CYCLE OF TRANSFORMATION AND ITS 360 SYMBOLIC PHASES = BUT IF YOU WORK WITH GAS IT'S MUCH DEPENDENT ON HOW YOU TUNE THE FLAME = SUBLIMATED BY EVERY POSSIBLE TRIAL, BLOODIED FROM EVERY POSSIBLE SACRIFICE = THE TABLET OF SPIRIT IN THE ENOCHIAN SYSTEM IS THE KEY TO ALL MISCHIEF.