Egon Friedell on Stefan George

The Viennese polymath Egon Friedell once said of the poet Stefan George, “Schaut aus wie eine alte Frau, die wie ein alter Mann ausschaut.” (“He looks like an old woman who looks like an old man.”)

Superlatively witty, moreover I’m inclined to agree. LJ

Stefan George [1868 - 1933], Deutscher Lyriker

 

From Satire III, by John Donne

Let him ask his; though truth and falsehood be
Near twins, yet truth a little elder is;
Be busy to seek her; believe me this,
He’s not of none, nor worst, that seeks the best.
To adore, or scorn an image, or protest,
May all be bad; doubt wisely; in strange way
To stand inquiring right, is not to stray;
To sleep, or run wrong, is. On a huge hill,
Cragged and steep, Truth stands, and he that will
Reach her, about must and about must go,
And what the hill’s suddenness resists, win so.
Yet strive so that before age, death’s twilight,
Thy soul rest, for none can work in that night.
To will implies delay, therefore now do;
Hard deeds, the body’s pains; hard knowledge too
The mind’s endeavours reach, and mysteries
Are like the sun, dazzling, yet plain to all eyes.

Le grand café (Charles Trenet & Georges Brassens)

Le Grand Café

Au Grand Café vous êtes entré par hasard
Tout ébloui par les lumières du boul’vard
Bien installé devant la grande table
Vous avez bu, quelle soif indomptable
De beaux visages fardés vous disaient bonsoir
Et la caissière se levait pour mieux vous voir
Vous étiez beau vous étiez bien coiffé
Vous avez fait beaucoup d’effet
Beaucoup d’effet au Grand Café.

Comme on croyait que vous étiez voyageur
Vous avez dit des histoires d’un ton blagueur
Bien installé devant la grande table
On écoutait cet homme intarissable
Tous les garçons jonglaient avec Paris-Soir
Et la caissière pleurait au fond d’son tiroir
Elle vous aimait, elle les aurait griffés
Tous ces gueulards, ces assoiffés
Ces assoiffés du Grand Café.

Par terre on avait mis de la sciure de bois
Pour que les cracheurs crachassent comme il se doit
Bien installé devant la grande table
Vous invitiez des Ducs, des Connétables
Quand on vous présenta, soudain, l’addition
Vous avez déclaré : Moi, j’ai pas un rond.
Cette phrase-là produit un gros effet
On confisqua tous vos effets
Vous étiez fait au Grand Café.

Depuis ce jour, depuis bientôt soixante ans
C’est vous l’chasseur, l’commis de restaurant
Vous essuyez toujours la grande table
C’est pour payer cette soirée lamentable
Ah, vous eussiez mieux fait de rester ailleurs
Que d’entrer dans ce café plein d’manilleurs
Vous étiez beau, le temps vous a défait
Les mites commencent à vous bouffer
Au Grand Café, au Grand Café.

With delicious Lucianic irony, the great and gentle Erasmus, through the eyes of Folly and with the problems afflicting the sixteenth century Church in the crosshairs, prophetically describes, with a comprehensiveness that leaves little left to be said, the patterns of management and administration prevalent in the independent school system in the twenty-first century: “Whereas if there be anything burdensome, they prudently lay that on other men’s shoulders and shift it from one to the other, as men toss a ball from hand to hand, following herein the example of lay princes who commit the government of their kingdoms to their grand ministers, and they again to others, and leave all study of piety to the common people. In like manner the common people put it over to those they call ecclesiastics, as if themselves were no part of the Church, or that their vow in baptism had lost its obligation. Again, the priests that call themselves secular, as if they were initiated to the world, not to Christ, lay the burden on the regulars; the regulars on the monks; the monks that have more liberty on those that have less; and all of them on the mendicants; the mendicants on the Carthusians, among whom, if anywhere, this piety lies buried, but yet so close that scarce anyone can perceive it. In like manner the popes, the most diligent of all others in gathering in the harvest of money, refer all their apostolical work to the bishops, the bishops to the parsons, the parsons to the vicars, the vicars to their brother mendicants, and they again throw back the care of the flock on those that take the wool. But it is not my business to sift too narrowly the lives of prelates and priests for fear I seem to have intended rather a satire than an oration, and be thought to tax good princes while I praise the bad.” from “In Praise of Folly (Dover Thrift Editions)” by Desiderius Erasmus, John Wilson

Masterful Lucianic irony from the great and gentle Erasmus: “For what is there at all done among men that is not full of folly, and that too from fools and to fools? Against which universal practice if any single one shall dare to set up his throat, my advice to him is, that following the example of Timon, he retire into some desert and there enjoy his wisdom to himself.” from “In Praise of Folly (Dover Thrift Editions)” by Desiderius Erasmus, John Wilson

“And as to the place of my birth, forasmuch as nowadays that is looked upon as a main point of nobility, it was neither, like Apollo’s, in the floating Delos, nor Venus-like on the rolling sea, nor in any of blind Homer’s as blind caves: but in the Fortunate Islands, where all things grew without plowing or sowing; where neither labor, nor old age, nor disease was ever heard of; and in whose fields neither daffodil, mallows, onions, beans, and such contemptible things would ever grow, but, on the contrary, rue, angelica, bugloss, marjoram, trefoils, roses, violets, lilies, and all the gardens of Adonis invite both your sight and your smelling. And being thus born, I did not begin the world, as other children are wont, with crying; but straight perched up and smiled on my mother. Nor do I envy to the great Jupiter the goat, his nurse, forasmuch as I was suckled by two jolly nymphs, to wit, Drunkenness, the daughter of Bacchus, and Ignorance, of Pan. And as for such my companions and followers as you perceive about me, if you have a mind to know who they are, you are not like to be the wiser for me, unless it be in Greek: this here, which you observe with that proud cast of her eye, is Philautia, Self-love; she with the smiling countenance, that is ever and anon clapping her hands, is Kolakia, Flattery; she that looks as if she were half asleep is Lethe, Oblivion; she that sits leaning on both elbows with her hands clutched together is Misoponia, Laziness; she with the garland on her head, and that smells so strong of perfumes, is Hedone, Pleasure; she with those staring eyes, moving here and there, is Anoia, Madness; she with the smooth skin and full pampered body is Tryphe, Wantonness; and, as to the two gods that you see with them, the one is Komos, Intemperance, the other Eegretos hypnos, Dead Sleep. These, I say, are my household servants, and by their faithful counsels I have subjected all things to my dominion and erected an empire over emperors themselves. Thus have you had my lineage, education, and companions.” from “In Praise of Folly (Dover Thrift Editions)” by Desiderius Erasmus, John Wilson. The great and gentle Erasmus.