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Well, all right: it’s really a poem by Stefan George.

George, roughly a contemporary of Rilke, was tremendously influential in early 20th-century Germany. He’s always been much less-known abroad, partly because his voice is usually so mannered and obscure that it’s hard to translate without losing much of the original tone and feeling (which, I fear, is the case here). But more importantly, George’s whole sensibility, his Weltanschauung, is deeply rooted in a particular German mind-space — the dark, pagan, post-moral, sometimes apocalyptic outlands of Late Romanticism — that is hard to re-enter imaginatively from our modern, rational thought-world.

Two factoids that bracket George’s legacy:

In 1933, upon the Nazi accession to power, he was offered the post of German poet laureate, in appreciation of his fierce nationalism, his anti-modern and anti-liberal views, and his authorship of poems like “The New Reich”, a deeply strange generational manifesto. (From his self-imposed exile in Switzerland, George dispatched a Jewish devotee to deliver his demurral.)

In 1944, when Claus von Stauffenberg was executed for trying to kill Hitler, he was wearing a gold ring inscribed with a line from a George poem, “The End of the Beginning.”

So here we go: a sprightly George joint, penned in 1907, that has always put readers in mind of certain historical monsters, hucksters and creeps. It puts me in mind of the longtime leader of the Church of Scientology.

The Anti-Christ

“He comes from the mountain, he stands in the grove!
Our own eyes have seen it: the wine that he wove
From water, the corpses he wakens.”

O could you but hear it, at midnight my laugh:
My hour is striking; come step in my trap;
Now into my net stream the fishes.

The masses mass madder, both numbskull and sage;
They root up the arbours, they trample the grain;
Make way for the new Resurrected.

I’ll do for you everything heaven can do.
A hair-breadth is lacking – your gape too confused
To sense that your senses are stricken.

I make it all facile, the rare and the earned;
Here’s something like gold (I create it from dirt)
And something like scent, sap, and spices –

And what the great prophet himself never dared:
The art without sowing to reap out of air
The powers still lying fallow.

The Lord of the Flies is expanding his Reich;
All treasures, all blessings are swelling his might . . .
Down, down with the handful who doubt him!

Cheer louder, you dupes of the ambush of hell;
What’s left of life-essence, you squander its spells
And only on doomsday feel paupered.

You’ll hang out your tongues, but the trough has been drained;
You’ll panic like cattle whose farm is ablaze . . .
And dreadful the blast of the trumpet.

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