The Hidden Poet (Der Verkleidete Dichter)

Egon Friedell

People are strange. They run around lost and confused, looking for art and poets. They want to heighten their lives, have the meaning of the times explained to them, and experience beauty. They leaf through old books, but they talk to people who have been empty shells for ages. They look, worried and stressed, for a new light on the horizon. There is none to be seen, because the horizon is the wrong place to look for it. It must shine among them, next to them, inside them. But they never look there. They think that a poet must arise like a distant, blinding sun, in ostentatious blood-red colours. But poets are not ostentatious.

That’s how people approach everything. They always expect something ‘special’. But what is special is the time which is running away from them unnoticed. They undertake great voyages and observe strange plants, unknown animals, exotic lands, and people of different colours and customs. But these things have nothing to do with them. What does have to do with them is their own small space, with its thousand baubles and trinkets, which are unimportant, but they are theirs. This is all that is theirs, nothing else. They search the entire planet for poetry, and don’t find a verse. And in the meantime, poetry is sitting in their room, waiting for them. Waiting endlessly and in vain.

And their poets wait just as vainly. They move incognito among them, like the kings in the fairy tales. They speak to the people,but the people hardly answer, and pass them by. Someone comes by later and tells the people who it was that they had had among them. But by then the disguised king is long gone

Two hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, some people came and said, “Do you know who this little actor and director of sketches, whose own time only remembered of him that he was once arrested for poaching, was? It was William Shakespeare!” They were all astonished, but Shakespeare was long gone.

That that remains of a poet, his sparse left-over works, is the least valuable part of him. They are a few thin rays of light and warmth, not the source of the light and warmth itself. Of course the source continues to provide some light and warmth, even after it has gone cold, but only because its rays take so long to reach us.

Published in: FriedellSammelsurium Friedell Collection

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