“Jezt aber, drinn im Gebirg,
Tief unter den silbernen Gipeln,
Und unter fröhlichem Grün,
Wo die Wälder schauernd zu ihm,
Und der Felsen Häupter übereinander
Hinabschaun, taglang, dort
Im kältesten Abgrund hört’
Ich um Erlösung jammern
Den Jüngling, es hörten ihn, wie er tobt’,
Und die Mutter Erd’ anklagt’,
Und den Donnerer, der ihn gezeuget,
Erbarmend die Eltern, doch
Die Sterblichen flohn von dem Ort,
Denn furchtbar war, da lichtlos er
In den Fesseln sich wälzte,
Das Rasen des Halbgotts.”
“Yet now, in the mountains,
Deep beneath the silvery summits,
And beneath the merry Greenness,
Where the woods shudder to him,
And the rock heads gaze down over one another
Upon him, the whole day long, there
In the coldest Abyss heard I
The youth groaning for salvation;
They heard him, how he blustered,
And railed at Mother Earth,
And the Thunderer, who begat him,
The parents pitying; yet
Mortals fled the place,
For it was dreadful, since he, lightless,
Tossed about in his chains:
the rage of the Demigod.” (Friedrich Hölderlin, “Der Rhein,” p.t.)
Youth’s high-esteemed vitality, grace in form, and strong, prattling innocence have as their all-too-easy obverses its seething rage, misdirection, and choking, desperate thirst for the authority. The last failing, the outcome is violence. The stuffy back-closet of psychoanalysis has already vomited forth a whole host of “complexes” in the past century to attempt to explain the nebulous workings of the psyche.
Jung may find his panacea in dream-analysis, in analyzing anecdotes of young men having their genitals bitten by snakes, and Freud may trawl the muck of the Archaic Greek mythos in search of a new name for the desire to bed one’s twice-removed cousin on the full moon in October. It is all, in truth, quite simpler than that. Bottled-up, youthful frustration breeds inactivity, breeds contempt, breeds the hot darkness of unquenchable hate.
Perhaps the talk of 20th century, psychoanalytic cocktail-troglodytes is to be left to another occasion. This is just as well. I shan’t object, being inscrutable.
Nevertheless, it is all, in truth, quite simpler than that. Bottled-up, youthful frustration breeds inactivity, breeds contempt, breeds the hot darkness of unquenchable hate. When life and its material circumstances degrade to meniality, or worse still, to a suspended animation of catatonic consumption as in this most hateful period of human existence, the unavoidable outcome is the atrophy of youth, which is, essentially the atrophy of civilization, the weak-willed forfeiture of one’s destiny. There is nothing more disgraceful to be, as Hölderlin puts it, “gedankenvoll und thatenarm,” full of thoughts, and poor in deeds.
If one momentarily adopts the seasonality of Oswald Spengler’s conception of history, id est, that the moral waxing and waning of a civilization can be measured by the schematic of its youthful spring to its final, frigid winter, the Germans of Arminius’ age were, in their odd way, half-virginal, glowing flushed-faced with the luster of youth. They were ancient in the soil of their homeland, but unacquainted with the vicissitudes of civilization. Arminius was only around 26 or 27 when he repelled the Romans in the Teutoburg Forest.
Tacitus goes further: the name Germania itself is comparatively recent, by the exacting standards of a Roman ethnographer. The land is bounded by bogs, silt-clogged rivers, and forest, unmoving but humming with life. Of the habits of the people, particularly their youth, he goes on:
“…ex omni iuventute delectos ante aciem locant. Definitur et numerus; centeni ex singulis pagis sunt, idque ipsum inter suos vocantur, et quod primo numerus fuit, iam nomen et honor est. Acies per cuneos componitur.”
“…those chosen from the whole of their youth they place ahead in the battle-line. The number is designated; there are one hundred from individual villages, which they are referred to as amongst themselves; and what at first was a number, presently becomes a name, and an honor. The battle-line is arranged in wedges.”
“(Tacitus, Germania, p.t.)
A wedge, a schiltron of one bristling pike and gnawed-at wooden shield alongside another. The youth is coordinated, and yet not subordinated: the phalanx is the ultimate proving-ground, the Schauplatz des Lebens, to be run-through with iron or to stand, the survivor, astride the fallen. Natural selection, from the same people that, according to Caesar, despised agriculture, the crafting of pottery, commerce, et al, so long as they be domesticities.
Such are the Germans as they appear to outsiders in their world-historical youth.
Healthy cultures slay serpents in their infancy. They wrestle the tusks off boars, they offer up the burnt limbs of wild aurochs on bronze-grated braziers.
Dragon-slaying lies at the root of nearly every proto-culture. One need only call to mind (at the risk of coining a neologism) the Ophiomachies of the Hittite Sky God, his fisticuffs with Illuyanka, or Thor and the Midgard Serpent, or Zeus and the god-monster Typhon. It is as elemental a statement of man’s subjugation and overcoming of his material baseness, his nakedness, as harnessing fire. The worship habits of the Germans, then, are unsurprising.
Tacitus adds a dash of Roman syncretism in his observance of the Sweboz gods:
“Deorum maxime Mercurium colunt, cui certis diebus humanis quoque hostiis litare fas habent. Herculem et Martem concessis animalibus placant.”
“Of the gods they esteem Mercury the most, to whom on certain days they have it as custom to make offerings of humans, as well as captured enemies. They placate Hercules and Mars with offered-up animals,” (Tacitus, Germania, p.t.).
Hercules, moreover, is supposedly honored especially in incantations, battle-chants, and barbarian liturgy.
“Est et alia observatio auspiciorum, qua gravium bellorum eventus explorant. Eius gentis, cum qua bellum est, captivum quoquo modo interceptum cum electo popularium suorum, patriis quemque armis, committunt: victoria huius vel illius pro praeiudicio accipitur.”
“There is another means of observation of the auspices, with which they investigate the outcome of the gravest wars. A captive of that people with whom there is war, having been taken in some way or another, they commit with a man chosen of their own people, and with the arms of their countries: the victory of the latter or the former is accepted as a prejudgment,” (Tacitus, Germania, p.t.)
The lives of the ancient Germans are governed by the rhythms of feuds, presaged in ritual combat, the flight of birds, and songs to ancestors. What violence there is, is cyclical, it erupts, gluts itself and is consumed in its own uproar.
The incursion of the Romans into the darkness of the European continent, which ended so disastrously in 9 A.D. after the Varusschlacht, the Varus-Slaughter, represented something wholly new to these people. It was more than an invasion by an ironclad, stubble-faced people bred into existence under canopies of olive trees and concrete arches, it was myth-making, worthy of immortal memory. The chief anxiety of the proto-German is the anxiety of any self-respecting Indo-European aristocrat, namely, the veil of obscurity after death, the inevitability of being forgotten, being lost to history, the obverse of which, undying game, an Illiadic hero would dub κλέος.
Even beyond the grave, life is a struggle for existence, slamming in delirium against the confines of a river’s alpine prison, an echo chamber of agony. There is no paradise.
The Judeo-Christian tradition, that is the idol-destroying Abrahamic one, is unique for allowing its dragon-figure, the deceiving serpent in Eden, the perverse satisfaction of overcoming Adam, the Mensch. How great a statement of cynicism, that the first human did not spring from the soil armed, like a sown dragon tooth, but had to be led under the yoke like a beast of chattel out of his own home by a distant, unresponsive, greedy God?
Henceforth every Crusade, every sycophantic catechism at gunpoint, and every stupid spectacle of oh-so-pious almsgiving has been preceded by the most humble, effusive prayer-giving and flutters of incense burned at the Altar of Self-Validation. The Indo-European tradition, stripped to the trifunctional hypothesis of Georges Dumézil, is defined by the apparatus of societal duties its adherents fulfill. Fertility, war-making, and the sphere of the divine, there is no world beyond this, it is reflected in the hierarchy of the gods themselves.. It is simply a fact.
I cannot help but be drawn to the opinion of Heinrich Heine, writing in the 19th century:
“Diese Weltansicht, die eigentliche Idee des Christentums, hatte sich, unglaublich schnell, über das ganze römische Reich verbreitet, wie eine ansteckende Krankheit, das ganze Mittelalter hindurch dauerten die Leiden, manchmal Fieberwut, manchmal Abspannung, und wir Modernen fühlen noch immer Krämpfe und Schwäche in den Gliedern.”
“This world-outlook, the actual idea of Christianity, had, unimaginably swiftly, like an infecting sickness, spread itself over the entire Roman Empire; the suffering persisted through the whole of the Middle Ages, sometimes feverish rage, sometimes fatigue, and we, the Moderns, still feel convulsions and frailty in our limbs.” (p.t., Heinrich Heine, Zur Geschichte der Religion und der Philosophie)
One yearns for purer, freer-breathing vistas, when original sin and transubstantiation and Kyrie eleison had not touched Europe. I must, therefore, though I disavow and balk at its nationalistic bombast, repeat the evaluation of A. Beneke, the German author of the 1911 tract “Siegfried ist Armin!”:
“Wenn eine Sage überhaupt, so entspricht die Siegfriedsage, unser National-Epos, in allen ihren Teilen so der Eigenart unseres Volksstammes, ist geradezu so die Verkörperung seiner Wesenheit, daß an eine Enthlehnung dieses Kleinods von andern Völkern ebensowenig gedacht werden kann, wie an eine Allgemeingültigkeit der darin geschilderten Ideen und Charaktere – sonst müßten ja Denken, Wollen und Handeln der verschiedensten Rassen gleich sein.”
“When, in general, a Saga, as does the Siegfried-Saga, our national epic, in all its parts so much the uniqueness of our clan, our Volk, is so totally the embodiment of its wisdom, such that one can so little think of a borrowing of this treasure from other people, as one can for the general validity of the ideas and characters depicted therein – otherwise the thoughts, desires, and actions of the most different races would need to be the same.” (A. Beneke, p.t.)
Christianity is a universal doctrine, supposedly tailor-made to assuage the deepest blood-urgings and pangs of longing for every person of every people in every country. Simply transplant a carpenter’s creed from the Palestinian desert, and it shall fit everywhere, because it has no home, no backbone to support itself on, and because the locus of its faith is claimed by two other faiths disagreeing with it with the utmost invective. For everyone to kneel in unison before the same God, for everyone to be equal, everyone must be made equal, with force, if need be.
What tragedy, what waste of life there exists in German history is the result of some deeper violation of a mythic rhythm that governed life undisturbed As one can read the health of a stream in the plentifulness of its fish, one can see the noxious influence of universalism in the eyes of the youth. Feuds of the Germanic Heroic Age cannot be shoehorned into the spittle-choked, filth-enriched Marxist conception of history. The only moralizing a Viking would offer is propounded, like a hammer-blow, in Skaldic maxim, not sermon:
“The son of a king shall be silent and wise,
And bold in battle as well;
Bravely and gladly a man shall go,
Till the day of his death is come.” -Hávamál, “The Poetic Edda”
It is a counter-intuitive lie of popular culture that youth yearns for rebellion, that adolescence is a time to flex one’s radical-leftness, to prattle on about “praxis” and “proles.” Stone-throwers, sit-strikers, what-not, they are all feeble cries for help. Youth does not want leisure, or pat-on-the-back egalitarianism, youth despises equality, and shrinks back from every manner of atrocity only by fear of its own obliteration. Youth should lead the charge, youth should choke the life out of serpents, youth should step over the cold, desiccated remains of stillborn creeds and ideologies and pursue its own undying fame. Let the Rhein flow free, down from the mountains. It should not, and cannot be broken.
“O Brausen des Meers und Stimme des Sturms
Und Irren im Nebelschwarm!
In Hafens Ruhe, im Schutze des Turms,
Wie eng und arm.
Ich will kein Kissen mir unters Haupt,
Kein Schreiten auf Teppichen weich;
Hat mir der Sturm auch die Segel geraubt,
Da war ich reich!
O herrliche Fahrt im Windeshauch
Hinauf und hinab und zurück!
Nur kämpfend, und unterlieg ich auch,
Ist Leben Glück.” -Ricarda Octavia Huch, “Sturmlied”