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Poetic Technique

Inasmuch as Gerhardt is a poet of unusually fine feeling for the rhythmical and melodious peculiarities of the German tongue, he appreciates the interdependence of verse rhythm and thought showing always a nicety in choosing the right word to suit the measure. The lines:

"Nun ruhen aller Wälder,
Vieh, Menschen, Stadt, und Felder . . ."6161Goed. 60, 1 and 2.

are at once suggestive of Nature in repose. The harmonious connection of words of kindred meaning, "Ruh und Rast," "Gnad und Gunst,"6262For a tabulation of Alliteration, Assonance, etc., cf. Appendix, pp. 149 ff. and frequent use of assonance, "Not und Tod," "Füll und Hüll," etc. are introduced not merely to catch the ear, but to accentuate the artistic effect, which shows us that Gerhardt is more than a master of the language, that he writes with an inexhaustible naturalness. He intended his style to be popular in the sense of appealing to the people, and it is here that he manifests the intimate relation of his poetry to the Volkslied without forsaking the proper limits of artistic poetry.

In observing certain defects such as the awkwardness and imperfect rhyme in the couplet:

"Aber nun steh ich
Bin munter und frölich."6363Goed. 293, 8 and 9.

even Gerhardt's most devoted admirers must regret that he did not feel the necessity of giving to his verses the final rounding-off, or did not possess the ability to do so. Yet what many critics have regarded as faults, must, when fairly analyzed, be recognized as contributing much to the effect and as being in accord with the Sprachpoesie of the people. For example, the richness in alliteration, "Ich mein Heil und Hülfe hab,"6464Goed. 93, 6. "Ich lechze wie ein Land,"6565Goed. 65, 46. the juxtaposition of words of the same root, "Erbarm dich, o 20 barmherzigs Herz,"6666Goed. 7, 76. "Ich lieb ihr liebes Angesicht,"6767Goed. 260, 41. as well as the frequent repetition of words or use of refrains6868Cf. the refrains in Goed. 106; 139; 235. show the power of his language and offer a striking method of expressing inmost sympathy. What real fervor is indicated in the lines:

"Dasz ich dich möge Eir und für
In, bei und an mir tragen."6969Goed. 158, 94.

Just as Gerhardt was a loyal devotee to his mother-tongue, so also he stood aloof from the tendency of his time to adopt foreign characteristics in verse. Only twice7070"Du liebe Unschuld du, wie schlecht wirst du geacht!" (Goed. 3) and "Herr Lindholtz legt sich hin und schläft in Gottes Namen" (Goed. 252). has he employed the Alexandrine so fashionable in the period, and other foreign verse-forms he avoids entirely. On the other hand in so comparatively small a number of poems the variety of his verse structure is unusual. Gerhardt knew Buchner7171Cf. p. 2. in his Wittenberg student days and owes to him his technical training in versification which his strophes show. He uses in them iambic, trochaic and especially dactyllic-anapaestic metres which Buchner had declared permissible. Hahne7272Hahne, F., P. Gerhardt und A. Buchner in Euphorion 15, p. 19-34. enumerates in Gerhardt's poems fifty-one kinds of strophe among which six are quite complicated. Three of these, as appear in the poems, "Frölich soll mein Herze springen," Goed. 155; "Gib dich zufrieden," 274; and "Die güldne Sonne," 293, must be regarded as original with Gerhardt. While these three are not artistic and harmonious, they are, nevertheless, in exact accord with the type of melody prevalent in the XVIIth century.

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