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Eurythmy as Visible Speech
GA 279

V. The Mood and Feeling of a Poem

30 June 1924, Dornach

My dear Friends,

To-day we will continue our study of those things with which we have already made a beginning in the previous lecture took as our starting point the inner feeling and mood of the individual sounds, and from this we passed over to the more general characteristics of speech. In so doing we considered not only the sounds as such, but also the feeling lying behind them, and their logical content.

In this lecture I shall not be dealing so much with the single sounds, but I shall speak about the mood and feeling which may be called up within us by a poem taken as a whole. In the first place, — later we shall gather the different threads together, — in the first place, we have something which can serve to bring out the finer nuances and shades of feeling which arise out of the word, out of the way in which the different sounds are put together. We can, for instance, say something aloud, and, by emphasizing one word more than another, show by our manner of speaking the feeling lying behind the actual words. It is obvious that much depends upon emphasis, and in writing, this emphasis is shown by such things as question marks, exclamation marks, and so on.

The simple little example which follows will give you an insight into the importance of correct emphasis. If I remember rightly, in Szegedin, in Hungary, there was once a company of actors who were giving a performance of Schiller’s Räuber, in a barn, of all places, next door to a cattle shed. One of the actors did not know the text perfectly, and was also unable to under stand the prompter. The prompter’s text may have been inaccurate; in any case, the whole affair was somewhat primitive.

And the amateurish effect was not lessened when a regular dispute took place in the presence of the audience. This dispute arose owing to the fact that one of the oxen suddenly broke through the wall and gazed around, so that its horns and muzzle were visible on the stage. At this moment the actor, who was somewhat alarmed, said, looking in the direction of the cow: ‘Seid Ihr auch wohl mein Vater?’ (Are you indeed my father?) The prompter corrected him, saying: Should he not say: Seid Ihr auch wohl, mein Vater? (Are you well, my father?) And that did not please the stage manager, who made the following correction: Here he should say: ‘Seid Ihr arch wohl mein Vater? (Can you be my father?)

So you see everything depends upon emphasis. And as we must be able to express in eurhythmy all the fundamental elements of language, it must also be possible to express what in speech would be brought about by means of emphasis, and in writing by means of the question mark, the exclamation mark, or something of that kind. To fulfil this need we have a movement which gives rise to a feeling similar to that called up in written language by the exclamation or the question mark. This movement must be carried out in the following way.

The eurhythmist places both the right and left arms in the position indicated in the diagram, the left hand being turned slightly inwards and the fingers held loosely. (See figure 1)

This then is a movement which should be made use of as occasion offers. I shall speak about colour in eurhythmy later on. Now, of course, the eurhythmist must only make use of this movement at suitable moments, and the way in which it is used must be very carefully studied. For instance, the eurhythmist must come to an understanding with the reciter, so that a slight pause is made in the reading. And it must be done in such a way that the onlooker can see clearly that the eurhythmist is here passing over from the movement, first into a relative, and then into a complete state of rest; so that the movement brings about a distinct break in the poem. For example, if I say: ‘How lovely the sunshine is to-day! We must make the most of it.’ — the point would be to express the exclamation adequately. Therefore, at the point where the exclamation mark is, you would bring the movement, which otherwise is in constant flow, to a standstill. You would take up this position quite quietly, and then proceed. Such an example offers a good opportunity for the clear expression of this movement.

An excellent opportunity for applying this movement is to be found in such a poem as Goethe’s Zauberlehrling, where many exclamations occur. In this poem the movement would serve to bring out what may be called humour in the truly artistic sense of that word. For instance, at the end of the, line: ‘In die Ecke, Besen, Besen, seid’s gewesen!’ — the movement for the exclamation is strongly called for; and again at the end, of the next line: ‘Denn als Geister.... !’ When the magician himself is speaking, the movement would not be suitable, for he is a stately personage. But it would be particularly good if the eurhythmist who is interpreting the part of the pupil would introduce this movement quite frequently. Again it could be made use of after: ‘brav getroffen’, and also after: ‘ ich atme frei!’

There is another gesture expressing mood, which we may use when we wish to show Liveliness or Mirth (Heiterkeit). You must carry out this gesture in such a way that you try, when making it, to stand on tip-toe. Thus, when the mirth is at its height, you must rise on the toes; and then, supposing this to be your head (See diagram) proceed to take up this position with your arms, spreading out your fingers as widely as possible. In this way we get the movement for Mirth or Liveliness.

When in addition to spreading out your fingers you move them about, the feeling of gaiety will be particularly well expressed. Such a movement gives the effect of merry laughter and possesses very great charm.

Let us take the following sentence: ‘He went up into the reading desk, but before he could begin his lecture a fly settled’, on his nose! General consternation!’ (The movement should be made after the word ‘nose’.) You see, even you who are behind the scenes and know all about it – (addressing one of the eurhythmists present) – have succumbed to a very natural expression of mirth. And this feeling of mirth, as it seems to me, is expressed remarkably well by this movement.

There are many opportunities in dialogue, in poems of a dramatic nature, where you wish to make a dramatic effect, when you can use another movement which is extraordinarily expressive picture the upper arm drawn downwards, with the forefinger pointing upwards, while the left arm is held pressed against the side. Picture this movement to yourselves. And now imagine that somebody says: ‘I could have done that much more cleverly than you’ – This could be expressed in eurhythmy by the movement for ‘confoundedly clever’ (Verflucht gescheit). This movement must be shown by making a sharp angle with the left arm, and pointing upwards with the right.

In these eurhythmy figures you see before you the movements for the Question or Exclamation, Mirth and ‘confoundedly clever’. 1The eurhythmy figures carved in wood were shown in this connection.

Here (indicating the next figure), you have a movement which requires the closest study. The movement consists in bringing the hand and lower arm into this position (see diagram), with the first anger pointing upwards; for the characteristic feature of this movement is that it always indicates insight, discernment.

Whenever this movement makes its appearance it expresses insight; the finger, however, must not actually point, but it must be held in an upright position. In this way something of the movement for Cleverness is contained in this solemn gesture expressing Knowledge (Erkenntnis).

When, therefore, you hold the right arm in an upright position, in the way I have described, and when you separate the rhythmic system and the head, which are chiefly concerned here, from the lower part of the human being, by holding the left arm across the body with the hand turned upwards as if to support the right; elbow, then you have the complete movement for Knowledge. There are many opportunities for making use of this movement, for every word which indicates that one has perceived something, that one has absorbed something into one’s being, can certainly be regarded as coming into the sphere of knowledge. The mood of a poem can be greatly enhanced when at the end of a line this gesture is used to show that the content of the poem has been absorbed and understood. Many poems, – as for example Uhland’s Des Sängers Fluch:

‘Es stand in alten Zeiten Ein Schloss so hoch und hehr...’ gain very much if the eurhythmist makes this movement for Knowledge before actually beginning the text. How much has been added to the interest of a poem by introducing such a movement at the beginning, will become apparent as the poem proceeds. From any natural, simple position pass over into the gesture for Knowledge. By so doing, you develop the poem out of a mood which in itself at once gives the key-note to the poem, showing that its character is reflective and thoughtful.

There is another gesture of mood which rightly claims our attention, one which lays special stress on the mood otherwise shown by the gesture for i – that is to say, the mood of self-assertion. I is always the assertion of self. But when the self-assertion does not lie in the sound, when it goes beyond the round into the general mood and feeling of the poem, then it can be expressed in another way, by another gesture. In this gesture one must stand on the left leg, with the right knee bent. Both arms must be held in front of the body, but in such a way that they are bent somewhat backwards, especially the hands. Here we have the movement expressing exaggerated self-assertion (Starke Selbstbehauptung).

Frl. V... will you show the following sentence in eurhythmy, passing at the end into this gesture, the gesture expressing the wildest delusion: ‘Am I not the Emperor of China ...?’ Now for the movement! This is how life can be brought into what we have to express; and the essential, the all-important thing is that eurhythmy should be filled with life.

I wanted to-day to bring before you such expressive gestures as these, so that we shall be able in the following lectures to lead on without a break into a consideration of much that is of the greatest interest.

There is yet another gesture which consists, in the first place, of making oneself appear as broad as possible. Then one proceeds to make the movement for Insatiable Desire (Unersättlichkeit) (see diagram), a movement which indicates that one cannot get enough of something, – in other words the gesture for intense desire.

Let us take, for instance, the following sentence, and when I have come to the end of it, pass over immediately, as you did before, into this gesture of craving for more. Let us now take this quite serious sentence, and follow it with the gesture: ‘Thou gavest me everything, everything that I asked of thee.’ But you must not turn your hands outwards, for that would express more the feeling of rejection. You want more; the movement showing the desire for more must be turned inwards, and you must make yourself as broad as possible, standing with both feet firmly on the earth.

One need not only apply this movement when one’s own feeling of longing is unappeased, but also when something occurs giving rise to the feeling of craving, of dissatisfaction, of the longing for more. Take the following sentence as I repeat it, and here also make the movement at the conclusion in such a way that no pause ensues but that you simply pass over into this movement at the end of the text: ‘Soll das ganze Haus ersaufen?’ (‘Is the whole house to be swamped?’) (Corresponding gesture). There is to be no end to it. Hence the feeling of a demand which can never be satisfied. 2See Goethe’s poem Der Zauberlehrling.

Now we come to those things which lead us more into the inward part of man’s being. Here we have a movement which expresses inwardness of feeling, which is intended to express that mood of soul which manifests itself as inwardness of feeling. This may be shown by standing on the ball of the foot, the: heel slightly raised above the ground, but only very slightly, for if it is raised too high it does not give the feeling of inwardness. Thus with heels raised slightly above the ground, standing, on the ball of the foot, we should take up this position with both arms. The arms should be held in front of the body, the thumb touching the forefinger. This gesture expresses the feeling of Inwardness, of Tenderness (Innigkeit).

If you imagined to yourselves that you were holding a baby, and that you wanted to enter into a certain relationship with the guardian angel of this baby, you would hold it in this way, and you would then have the movement for Inwardness. Let us take a particularly solemn sentence and make this gesture at its close. Try to express in eurhythmy: ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden....’ and now the gesture. This is purely lyrical. If now you wish to raise the whole thing out of the lyric mood and give a grander impression, you can pass over from the movement for Inwardness to that of the Exclamation. Thus: ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden –’ now make the movement for Inwardness followed by that of the Exclamation. If these movements are carried out in the tempo which one feels to be suitable a very powerful impression will be created.

Something which in its feeling is closely related to the mood of Inwardness, but which at the same time is quite different is the feeling of Lovableness (Liebenwürdigkeit), the feeling of being charmed by somebody. This feeling is also expressed by raising the heels slightly from the ground; but the arms, while retaining to some extent the former position, are moved, the left arm being raised upwards, and the right arm drawn downwards. This then is the gesture for expressing the quality of Lovableness.

You must, however, feel that this really is the gesture which expresses lovableness. Very much depends upon holding the arms quite lightly, and in giving the feeling of really going out beyond oneself. I need only remind you how charming children can be when one coaxes them, and says: ‘Come and show me how big you are!’ – Children are never more delightful than at such a moment.

If we wished to show the following sentence in eurhythmy: I have to thank your smile for many a happy moment ’... then it would be very appropriate to finish with the movement for Lovableness.

At one time, when in Vienna, I knew a certain composer, who has since become very famous. He liked very much to be invited out, and one of his hostesses always exerted herself to provide him with the most delectable fare. She brought this to quite an art. This composer had a particularly fine appreciation for such things, and as a rule he said to this lady when taking his departure: ‘What a glorious symphony we have partaken, of to-day!’ – That was always the compliment he paid to his hostess. It was a stereotyped compliment enough, but – he was a great man! Let us take the sentence and at its end make use of the gesture expressing Charm, Lovableness. You will find that it goes absolutely by itself, and from this example you must see how it must be felt. But the composer who was responsible for this saying would hardly have been able to make the movement with the same ease as a eurhythmist, for it was no other than Brahms.

Another gesture which brings us into relationship with the outer world, with other human beings, is the one which we can make use of when we wish to impart something, when we wish to make a Communication (Mitteilung). This gesture is carried out in the following way. You must stand quite naturally on the one foot, the heel of the other foot, which is further forward, resting lightly on the ground. The right arm must be lifted up, with the thumb, first finger and middle finger pointing forwards; the left arm must be held lower, and must also be stretched somewhat outwards, towards the front, the palm of the hand turned upwards. This movement indicates that something is given; not in this case an actual gift, but something is imparted by means of speech. There is, therefore, at the same time an indication of a gift, and here (in the left arm) the gesture of Communication: I communicate something. – This is the significance of the movement.

Let us take, for instance, the words: ‘Verily, verily I say unto you.’ Here we see very clearly the wish to impart something, to communicate something; and it is a wonderful opportunity for the use of this gesture of Communication.

Now we come to a movement, the character of which is shown when, at the appropriate moment, one stands firmly on the ground, the hands clenched, the arms stretched downwards and pressed against the body. The head should be held erect. In addition to this the eurhythmist should try to have the feeling that the eyes are not actually looking at anything, that they are not actually seeing anything, but that the gaze is rigid and fixed. Then the movement will be very expressive. It is one which can often be made use of during the text of a poem:

Blass lag der Kranke,
Sein Auge erlosch,
Scbluchzen umgab ihn.

(Pale was the sick man,
Dim was his eye,
Weeping friends surrounded him.)

The mood underlying such a sentence will be brought out particularly well if the eurhythmist succeeds in making use of this movement in the places which I will here indicate with dots.

Blass lag... der Kranke,
Sein Auge... erlosch
Schluchzen... umgab ihn.

You will easily see how individual eurhythmy can become when such movements are introduced, and how fine can be the nuances of its expression. This then is the movement for Sadness (Traurigkeit).

There is another movement which consists once more of standing firmly on both feet, with the arms held right back and the hands also right back. This is the movement for Despair (Verzweiflung); and you will very soon discover how strongly this feeling is expressed by the movement, particularly by the muscles of the inner arm. You will have the feeling: This is indeed the expression of despair.

Now we will try to do in eurhythmy the first lines of the monologue in Faust, and after the word ‘student’ we will make the movement for Despair:

Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medicin
Und, 1eider ! auch Theologie
Durchaus studiert.
I’ve studied now Philosophy
And Jurisprudence, Medicine,–
And even alas! Theology,–
From end to end, with labour keen.

Here make the movement for Despair. You see, when a movement really expresses the corresponding mood of soul, it undeniably enhances the dramatic effect of what has preceded it. I should like to close to-day’s lecture by saying a few words which may help to throw light on these movements and the way in which they should be studied. Study all such movements, then, by making use of them, you will be able to bring to plastic eurhythmic expression many different shades of feeling. You will be able to enter more fully into the way in which a poem unfolds, and to study its dramatic, lyric or epic content you really feel your way into these movements, you will be able to bring a strong dramatic element into your eurhythmy.