What makes Eichendorff's poem Mondnacht so extraordinary

Intermediality and Synesthesia in Romantic Literature

Perception as a construct in Joseph von Eichendorff's "Mondnacht"

Even the title "Mondnacht" of Eichendorff's poem is already programmatic. According to Peter Paul Schwarz, the poet associates "the idea of ​​a transformation or enchantment of reality" with this motif (Schwarz 1970, p. 85). In fact, the lyrical ego is put into a dream-like state in which the sense of sight can no longer really be relied on. Under the influence of the moonlight, the senses merge, which enables universal perception. The lyrical ego associates with the nocturnal nature things that are actually not possible according to the ideas of our experience. The first and third stanzas in particular are illusory phenomena that are only conceivable in an unreal world. Eichendorff made this clear with the subjunctive. The opening and closing formulas - "It was as if it had" (line 1) and "As if she flew" (line 12) - even suggest that the lyrical self is well aware of the fantastic character of its impressions is. These can in turn be understood as the wishful dreams of the lyrical ego, expressing its longing for union with the unearthly. Eichendorff constructs perception here by pressing it into a fixed concept of cause and effect. While the impressions of the first and third stanzas take place in the transcendental realm, the second stanza remains stuck in the earthly. The lyrical ego attaches extraordinary importance to the actually everyday natural phenomena, since it believes the wishful imagination of the first stanza to be realized in a tangible range. His intense experience of the nocturnal nature finally triggers the delimitation visions of the third stanza.


Moon night

1 It was as if heaven had
Kissed the earth silently,
That she was in the shimmer of flowers
Dream of him now.

5 The air went through the fields
The ears of wheat swayed gently,
The woods rustled softly,
so starry was the night.

9 And my soul tensed
Spread your wings
Flew through the still lands
As if she was flying home.




1st verse

Here Eichendorff creates the unreal image of the mythical bride kiss between heaven and earth. The earth is so moved by this kiss that from now on it dreams of heaven "in the shimmer of flowers".

2nd stanza

In this stanza Eichendorff describes common occurrences in nature. He describes how the entire landscape - "the fields", "the ears", "the forests" - is set in motion under the influence of the draft. The perception of nature takes place in the lyrical ego primarily via the tactile and auditory area.

3rd stanza

Now for the first time the lyrical ego comes in. The sensations triggered by the two previous stanzas put this into an unreal state of consciousness in which the soul - like a bird - seems to fly "home".


Subjective perception

Stanzas 1 and 3 in Eichendorff's "Mondnacht" differ grammatically from the second, as they are in the subjunctive and each have an unrealis - "It was as if she had" (line 1) / "As if she flew" (line 12 The grammatical form corresponds to the content of the two stanzas insofar as it allows the lyrical ego a perception that would be inconceivable in reality. For Peter Paul Schwarz, a "floating dream mood" (Schwarz 1970, p. 86). Klaus-Dieter Krabiel does not want to be so specific and describes the image of the kiss between heaven and earth in general as a "subjective feeling", an "experience" (Krabiel 1973, p. 45) of the lyrical self. Within this unreal image, the load-bearing elements are revitalized. Heaven and earth are represented in the first stanza as kissing lovers (cf. line 1 f), the soul is supposed to embody a bird that spreads its wings and flies away towards heaven (cf. line 10 f). Both images express an encounter between the heavenly and the earthly sphere. Often in the research literature one finds the thesis that this encounter is a wishful thinking of the lyrical ego. Wolfgang Frühwald describes it as "the wonderful connection of everything distant and separated from one another" (Frühwald 1984, p. 403). Robert Mühlher claims that Eichendorff would think of a "reunification of separate opposites" (Mühlher 1960, p. 193) and also for Black is the night here “The meeting place for what is separated in space and time (Schwarz 1970, p. 86). It is very obvious that the images in the first and third stanzas arise from sensual experiences in nature. Krabiel already points out that at best one can speculate how these experiences come about:

"Here we have the phenomenon, which has already been observed several times, that emphatically sensual ideas oppose the sensual, pictorial and rational execution, but nevertheless become clearly and symbolically effective in the context of the poem's meaning." (Krabiel 1973, p. 47)

In the first stanza it is under the visual influence of the moonlight that the lyrical ego believes that heaven and earth are approaching each other. The idea of ​​Frühwald also seems plausible, who in the second stanza equates the lyrical self with an implicit viewer whose gaze follows the movement of the night wind in the fields and the treetops up to the sky. (See Frühwald 1984, p. 397). Following on from this, it would be conceivable that the touch of the wind in the lyrical self in the third verse triggers the feeling that the soul is being carried by the breeze.



Love relationship between heaven and earth

According to Wolfgang Frühwald, Eichendorff processed the ancient myth of Uranos and Gaia here. Gaia, goddess of the earth, born out of chaos, gave birth to her son and husband Uranus. But Uranus, the sky that was to become the seat of the gods, turned against its own children. In revenge, Gaia instigated her son Kronos to emasculate Uranus, and so it came to the division of heaven and earth.

In his poem "Mondnacht" Eichendorff strives for the reunification of what has been separated. Heaven and earth seem to meet in a wedding kiss, and the earth, which once rejected her beloved, must now dream of heaven. In these dreams there is, as it were, the lyrical Me again. His own longing for the detachment from earthly existence and the union with heaven is expressed through the allegory of heaven and earth: "There is no longer any separation between nature and man" (Kayser, p.68) The fact that the earth "has to dream" of heaven (line 4) is an insinuation of the lyrical self.

The observer of this unreal scene willingly succumb to the beauty of the nocturnal nature that spreads before him. It seems more like a wishful thinking when the sky leans down to the earth to kiss it - caused by the reflections of the moonlight.

"It is [...] about the transformation of the real into an imaginative night dream, which the fantasy creates out of a longing for opposite reality - dream or fairy tale." (Schwarz 1970, p. 85)

In its dream-like state, the lyrical ego succumbs to the magic of this fantasy image that it longs for. The fact that something is associated with the nocturnal natural phenomena that is not real is ultimately only an expression of a suppressed desire for delimitation and liberation, bundled in the exaggerated vision of an impossible encounter. It is also significant that heaven and earth appear as concrete perceptions only within the unreal image in the first stanza.


Perception of light

The title "Mondnacht" suggests a large, round full moon in the dark sky and already conveys the image of a very bright, friendly night. In addition, the full moon is a time of unreal fantasies and dreams. So it is no wonder that the lyrical ego lets itself be carried away by the reflections of light that the moonlight conjures up on the earth and that it is a natural phenomenon that is stylized into the mythological reunification of heaven and earth.

"From the beginning of the poem, in the restrained tone of It was as if it were, a floating dream mood unfolds from which the visionary image of a sky leaning towards the earth in a bride-kiss unfolds. This does not happen in a present, but rather from the memory of the earth to this love affair, to which her present transfiguration in dreams and blossoms suggests. " (Schwarz 1970, p. 86/87)

The neologism "Blütenschimmer" (line 3) evokes the vision of a sea of ​​flowers in the reader that blooms in virgin white in the milky light of the moon. In the lyrical ego, the unusual lighting conditions set a chain of associations in motion, which, especially in the first and third stanzas, create the unreal feeling of dreaming.

"The dream atmosphere surrounds the whole poem, and the bridal jewelry of the earth shimmers in the moonlight. It is as if this light were the kiss of heaven's marriage to earth." (Frühwald, p. 403)

For the lyrical ego, the light of this "moonlit night" becomes, so to speak, representational. It is almost symbolic of the reunification of Uranos and Gaia. In the second stanza, the bright moonlight finally enables the senses to merge. The lyrical ego hears the rustling of the woods, feels the breeze that goes through the fields and sees the starry clarity of the night, which makes this universal perception possible in the first place.

In contrast to "Mondnacht", the light in Eichendorff's "Nachtwanderer" seems to be almost entirely absent. The rider rides through a "dark night" (line 4), which emphasizes the threatening atmosphere of the poem. The lyrical self does not have the intoxicating, bright heavenly visions of "Silberreif" (line 23), "Sun" (line 27) and "Moon" (line 27) as in Brentano's "Swan Song", but seems much more surrounded by the frightening darkness of hell, which is also completely different from the harmonious purity of the milky light of the full moon of the "moonlit night".



Meaning of the night wind

Peter Paul Schwarz regards the paratactically arranged sequence of images in the second stanza as a clear continuation of the love relationship between heaven and earth established in the first stanza (cf. Schwarz 1970, p. 87):

"The air went through the fields,
The ears of wheat swayed gently,

The woods rustled softly, "(lines 5-7)

His thesis seems plausible because he "assigns the waves of ears of corn to the air passing through the fields, the rustling of the forests [as] an answer to the starry clarity of the night" (Schwarz 1970, p. 87) add that both the wind and the starry sight of the firmament as intangible natural phenomena belong to the "sky" of the first stanza, while the fields, ears of wheat and forests exemplarily represent the "earth".

The unreal image of the kiss of the bride and groom between heaven and earth in the first stanza is translated here into an ordinary and thus understandable natural process. If one imagines the lyrical ego like Frühwald as a viewer in nature, whose gaze follows the movement of the night wind in the fields and the treetops up to the sky (cf. Frühwald 1984, p. 397), the image appears of the one flying away Soul in the third stanza as a consistent sensation of the tactile stimulus of the wind: The lyrical self feels as if it were carried up by the wind.

“And my soul tensed
Spread her wings
Flew through the still lands
As if she was flying home. "
(Lines 9-12)

If not explicitly mentioned, Eichendorff certainly wants to address human death with the homecoming of the soul. Frühwald's positive interpretation of this stanza as "liberation from earthly heaviness and bitterness" (Frühwald, p. 405) seems plausible, since an atmosphere of harmony is already created by "going home" (line 12).

While in the first stanza the merging between heaven and earth still represents an abstract wishful thinking of the lyrical self, in the third stanza this wish is implemented in death through the image of the flying soul. The second stanza represents the bridge between the first and the third insofar as the ascent of the soul is made possible by the draft in the first place.



Superiority of hearing and feeling

It is not for nothing that Eichendorff chooses the time of night when the only source of light is the moon in the sky for his visions of redemption. In the cool, dim light of the moon, you can no longer rely on your eyes. With a keen sense of the noises of nature, the lyrical ego perceives the mythical music of the night, hears "the forests rustled" (line 7) and the "air went" (line 5). Wolfgang Frühwald even speaks of the "orphic melody of the night" (Frühwald, p. 403).

"[...] all the differentiations of a music immanent in the night appear as ciphers for the otherwise inexpressible world secret, as back references to an ultimately mythical reason for the past." (Schwarz 1970, p. 89)

And indeed what was separated in the past - heaven and earth - will be reunited against the backdrop of the moonlight and the nocturnal music of nature. The feelings and sensations triggered by this break into the wishful image of the flight of the soul in the third stanza.

A very similar phenomenon can also be found in Eichendorff's "Nachtwanderer" - although the siren song of the pale girl (line 6) and the call of Aquarius (line 10) are more threatening than inviting. In Clemens Brentano's "Swan Song" alone this betrays Title the primary importance of hearing, but also the melancholy mood that is evoked by the song of the dying swan.

Eichendorff seems quite consciously to divide the second stanza of his "Mondnacht" into two pairs of metaphors (lines 4/5; lines 6/7).

"[...] the air moving through the fields corresponds to the waves of the ears, the rustling of the forests is the answer to the starry clarity of the night." (Schwarz 1970, p. 87)

The intermingling of the levels of perception is striking. Seeing and hearing react like a single sense. "The woods rustled softly / The night was so clear as stars" (Z. 6/7)

Through the choice of verbs and adjectives, nature develops a certain dynamic of its own. Everything starts to move, and the lyrical self stylizes its acoustic perceptions until it literally seems to feel the breeze on its skin. Especially the adjectives in the first and third stanzas speak primarily to the ear. The lyrical ego seems to be listening intently into the silence, on the one hand so as not to destroy the magic of the night, and on the other hand so as not to overhear the sound of her voice.



Redemption of the human soul

Eichendorff describes the feelings of the lyrical self in the third stanza through the image of the soul flying along.


“And my soul tensed
Spread her wings
Flew through the still lands
As if she was flying home. "(Lines 9-12)


It has already been explained under a draft that the lyrical ego is enabled to ascend the soul through the tactile perceptions in the previous stanza and that it fulfills the wishful thinking of the first stanza. The fact that this merging of heaven and earth has not yet been fulfilled for the lyrical self in the first stanza is expressed by the bride's kiss. The lyrical self only perceives this as an outside observer, but has not yet personally participated in it. In the third stanza the lyrical self is finally integrated into this fusion, since its own soul rises ("And my soul strained" / line 9).

For Frühwald this picture represents a moment "in which man experiences the luster of paradise" (Frühwald 1984, p. 402). This paradisiacal state would find its linguistic equivalent through the syncopation of the iambic meter at the beginning of the fourth line of verse the third stanza and the enjambement "spanned far" (Frühwald 1984, p. 402). Through the enjambement and the adjective "wide" (line 10), the reader can really feel that expanse and freedom that is represented by the image of the bird. The adjective "still [...]" (line 11) and the designation of the goal as home (cf. line 12), with which the poem ends, creates an atmosphere of calm and harmony. The interpretation of the last stanza as redemption for the lyrical ego, as Frühwald undertakes it - "the liberation from earthly heaviness and bitterness" (Frühwald 1984, p. 405) can be underpinned by this.

Brentano's "Swan Song" also picks up on this feeling. The lyrical I already hears "the angel's songs" (line 6) and thus experiences a reflection of the forthcoming, longed-for kingdom of heaven. In contrast, the only release in Eichendorff's "Nachtwanderer" seems to be the dawn of a new day.Because "the dark night is the enemy of man" (line 4), and the lyrical self is waiting for the horse to shovel the black rider "snorting its own grave" (line 16).



The romantic motif complex of night and death

The time of night is often related to death in romance. Eichendorff also makes use of this complex of motifs. But the title "Mondnacht" already suggests that the lyrical ego feels no fear of death here. In fact, life seems to him to be just a burden that has to be overcome, a transitional phase after which he is finally allowed to To return "home" (line 12).

Eichendorff's portrayal of night and death in "Nachtwanderer" stands in stark contrast to this. The loneliness and silence of the landscape, which are welcome accompaniments on "Mondnacht" - noises would only disturb the lyrical self sunk in its dreams - are a source of danger here; and "The dark night is man's enemy!" (line 4). Clemens Brentano's "Swan Song" is closer to the yearning expectation of the "moonlit night", even if the exclamation at the end of the poem - "Sweet death, sweet death, / Between the dawn and the sunset! " (Z. 32/33) - rather creates a melancholy atmosphere.

The lyrical self in Eichendorff's "Mondnacht" reacts in a very extreme way when it is confronted with the nocturnal nature. The further the poem progresses, the more the real world seems to recede into the background. According to Wolfgang Kayser, he answers People "actively respond to the call of heaven" (Kayser, p. 68). The longing for delimitation goes so far that the lyrical ego believes it can feel how its soul rises into the air and like a bird into the sky, that is, "after." House "(line 12) flies. But the intense sensations of the lyrical self are just a wishful idea of ​​his own exaggerated imagination and his overstimulated senses. A homecoming, as it is longed for here, is not possible in space and time, which is why this phenomenon is meaningfully in the unrealis.

Wolfgang Frühwald is also of the opinion

"That Eichendorff's >> home << only superficially means the Silesian homeland Lubowitz, which has been lost through mismanagement, then - on a first stage of transformation - the constant return to youthful, poetic joie de vivre, and finally the eternal homeland of people [... ] ". (Frühwald 1984, p. 401)


Central position of the second stanza

Under 'Significance of the night wind', the position of Peter Paul Schwarz was presented and spun further. Schwarz emphasizes the natural phenomena described in the second stanza as a continuation of the love relationship between heaven and earth established in the first stanza. (Cf. Schwarz 1970, p. 87) From this we drew the conclusion that the second stanza serves as a bridge for the lyrical ego to achieve its goal. The aim is to understand the union between heaven and earth expressed in the first stanza. For the lyrical ego, however, this union is only fulfilled in the third stanza: The soul of the lyrical ego is allowed to fly "home" (line 12). This interpretation can be underpinned by Wolfgang Kayser's thesis that "there is no longer any separation between nature and man" (Kayser 1948, p. 68) and that man would respond to the "call of heaven" (Kayser 1948, p. 68) reply. This middle stanza with its description of the nocturnal natural processes can therefore only take the position of the second stanza. According to Kayser, it functions as the cause of the "religious [...] experience" (Kayser 1948, p. 69) that happens to the lyrical self in the third stanza. Kayser claims that the religious experience comes about solely because "the night [is experienced by the lyrical ego] in its peculiarity" (Kayser 1948, p. 69). The natural phenomena described in the second stanza are therefore to be valued as the special natural perceptions of the lyrical ego, which make the religious experience of the third stanza possible. The perceptions of nature seem to be 'constructed' not only from the point of view of the poet, but even from the point of view of the lyrical ego: in order to experience the longed-for merging with the heavenly sphere, the lyrical ego perceives the natural phenomena or lets them affect itself.

This 'lyric self' approach can be explained by the medical significance of synesthesia. In medicine, synesthesia means hallucinations or imaginations that the individual experiences with full consciousness. According to the latest findings, people perceive the world as a unified whole. (cf. www.medicine-worldwide.de) In order to achieve that holistic experience, the lyrical self constructs the perception of nature according to its own laws. The result is the religious experience, which is to be understood as a holistic experience.


Jasmin Jobst and Christine Kerler: Synesthesia and Intermediality in Romantic Poetry. 12/02/2002.