Tag Archives: Novalis Hymns to the NIght

Well! Now We Know Just How I Feel About That!!

Yesterday was sort of magnificent.

Letter #5 for Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse began its transmigration from the ether to the page!! I was not really expecting it, so I was really excited.

It’s titled “Hymn to the Dark” and it begins with the idea that angels can be pretty dark, that they aren’t always about “hallelujah,” but that my Muse has shown me that the dark can sometimes be glorious.

So it goes to some beautiful  (& erotic) places.

The title came as a sort of play on Novalis’ famous Hymnen an die Nacht (Hymns to the Night; Germany, 1800).

Novalis’ real name was Georg Friedrich Philipp, Freiherr von Hardenberg. He lived only from 1772-1801. And Hymns of the Night is an often heart-rending poem of grief that he wrote after his beloved Sophie died (very young) and then he died shortly after her, at age 29. They both had consumption.

The poem was a sensation when it was published in Germany in a literary magazine,  Athenaeum 3 (in 1800), and the poem heralded the birth of German Romanticism.

The book (it’s a long poem mixed with prose), is a staple of Divinity studies and so I’d read it when I was studying for the ministry.  But I think that Christian theologians only look at one specific segment of the poem and don’t really consider the entirety of what Novalis wrote. Even while he does do an uncanny job of capturing what the idea of Christ brought to masses of people who moved out of paganism and into monotheism and then needed to re-frame their idea of Death.

I’m making the poem sound scholarly, but it’s not; it’s really fluid and deep and beautiful. Still, Novalis has a really succinct grasp on how three different eras of Western humanity dealt with the loss & grief of death, and since it was still only 1800 A.D., he ends with the Christian era, nailing it precisely:

“No longer was the Light the seat of the gods or their heavenly sign — over themselves they drew the veil of Night. Night became the mighty womb of revelations — the gods drew back into it — and fell asleep, only to go out in new and more splendid forms over the changed world.”

But in the beginning of the poem, where he’s talking only about his own deep grief and deep loss, he is surprisingly modern and doesn’t represent traditional Christian thinking at all, so why Christians sort of seem to ignore that part is a bit of a question mark for me. But it’s that early, non-Christian, part of the poem that moves me most. Lines about how the secret heart remains true to the Night, where creative Love comes alive, and how we owe everything to that Love (and you can easily read several passages of it as implications of erotic love):

“Won’t Love’s secret offering ever burn forever? …Only fools misrecognize you… They don’t feel you in the grapes’ golden flood — in almond trees’ wonder oil — in poppies’ brown juice. They don’t know that it’s you hovering around a tender girl’s breasts making her womb heaven — and don’t suspect that, out of old stories, you, opening heaven up, come and carry the key to the Dwellings of the Blessed, quiet messenger of infinite mysteries.”

“Doesn’t all that inspires us bear the color of the Night? It bears you mother-like, and you owe all your magnificence to her. You’d evaporate inside yourself — you’d crumble away in endless space if she didn’t hold you, tie you, so that you became warm and, flaming, sired the world.”

His beginning premise seems to be that the Night saved him from his grief and returned his passion, as well as his lover, to him; that in the Night, he engages in some sort of erotic  coupling with her soul once more. And at the very end of the poem, he seems to be plainly speaking about it:

You come, beloved —
The Night is here —
My soul’s enraptured —
The earthly day’s past
And you’re mine again.
I look into your deep dark eyes,
See nothing but love and bliss
We sink onto the altar of night
Onto the soft bed —
The veil is gone
And, lit by the warm pressure,
There glow the pure embers
Of the sweet offering.

None of those sentiments are encouraged in true Christian theological mindsets. Unless, of course, you’re subversively dressing it up in the guise of how you feel about Christ. But Novalis isn’t talking there about Christ at all; he is plainly talking about Sophie’s soul coming to him at Night after her death.

Well. All right. I have truly digressed there. I only meant to say that Letter #5 of Girl in the Night is underway… And won’t it be fun!

Anyway, yesterday was wonderful and I’m thinking today might hold more of the same wonder. I will indeed make time to drive into town and buy groceries!! Yay! That’s always fun — having food in the house.

(And I did go to the gas station yesterday and I begrudgingly bought the smallest bottle of milk available. And then, while making my way to the counter to pay for it, I passed through the candy aisle.  I am not a big candy-eating person, at all. However. What to my wondering eyes should appear but a Kit-Kat bar in dark chocolate!! I did not know they made such a thing! I do love dark chocolate. So I bought the darn thing, and four-hundred-and-ten calories later!!!!!! I had eaten it in its entirety and it was incredibly good.)

Okay-doke, gang. Oh — Nick Cave sent out a Red Hand Files newsletter today. (Linked there.) But only read it when you truly have the time to contemplate his always-eloquent reply. If you hurry through it, you will only do yourself a disservice.

I am, of course, joking, This time, his reply was only 2 words long. (If you’d like to know which words, they are linked above.)

Okay. I’m gonna scoot!! Thanks for visiting, gang. I’ll leave you with something somewhat appropriate, somewhat not, for today’s ramblings.

This is the song I personally played (over & over) when I graduated from Divinity School (Magna Cum Laude, but on my heady way to nowhere because I just see Christ so darn differently than everyone else does.) It was in December, so it was around Christmas and this song was appropriate to the season. While I do not believe in transubstantiation, I do believe this is a truly beautiful (and beautifully sung) hymn. (It’s actually about Easter, but we sing it at Christmas…) Okay, I love you guys. Have a splendid day!! See ya!

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
manducat Dominum
Pauper, servus, et humilis.
Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.