THE LAST DAYS OF MANKIND ACT I SCENE 19
War Welfare Department. Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the Begrudger.
HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL (looking at a newspaper): Ah, an open letter to me? – Sweet of Bahr not to forget me in these dreadful times! (He reads aloud.) ‘A salutation to Hofmannsthal. I only know that you are under arms, dear Hugo, though no one can tell me where. That’s why I am writing to you via a newspaper. Perhaps a kindly wind will waft its way to your watchfire and bring you my fond regards - ’ (he breaks off from reading.)
BEGRUDGER: Well – read on! Hermann Bahr does write nicely!
HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL (screws up the paper): It’s dreadful!
BEGRUDGER: (Takes paper, reads snatches) ‘Every German, at home or in the field, now wears a uniform. It is the godly fortune of this moment. This ancient track the Nibelung trod, Minnesinger and Meistersinger, Germanic mysticism, the baroque, Klopstock, Herder, Goethe, Schiller, Kant, Fichte, Bach, Beethoven, Wagner. – Hail, my dear Lieutenant - ’
HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL: Stop it!
BEGRUDGER (reads): ‘You feel profound joy at being a part of it all.’
HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL: If you don’t stop now -
BEGRUDGER (reading): ‘Being part of it all is what matters. We have to ensure we always hold on to something of what it was to be there. Then we will have reached our goal along our German road, Minnesinger and Meistersinger, Walther von Vogelweide and Hans Sachs, Eckhart and Tauler, mysticism and the baroque, Klopstock and Herder, Goethe and Schiller, Kant and Fichte, Beethoven and Wagner, all fulfilled in this -’ What’s the connection? Maybe they’re all exempt from conscription. ‘This is how an all-powerful God blesses our feeble generation!’ God be praised!
(Hofmannsthal runs inside, hands over ears.)
 In the original a character called the Cynic.
 Hermann Bahr (1863-1934), writer and critic; prodigious, fêted, influential. Kraus wrote an essay ‘Overcoming Hermann Bahr’, parodying the title of Bahr’s book on modernism, ‘Overcoming Naturalism’; he considered Bahr an opportunist who had sold out to commercial interests, subordinating literature to the journalism of the feuilleton in a downward spiral of mutual trivialisation. ‘Gruss ins Feld’, ‘Greetings from the Front’ (Bahr to Hofmannsthal) appeared in the ‘Neues Wiener Journal’ (1893-1939), 26 August 1914.
 The word Nibelung has a range of meanings in Germanic mythology, from the East Germanic tribe, the Burgundians, to the Nibelung dwarf Alberich who forged the magic ring in Wagner’s ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’; in the broadest terms the subject matter is the origin of the Germanic peoples, their gods and goddesses, and their ancient unity; as in Wagner’s work the Rhine is often central to the mythology. But at least one medieval version places elements of the story on the Danube, near Passau. Wherever it appears in the play Nibelung is an expression of mystical ideas of ‘sacred’ pan-Germanic bonds of blood and race.
 This trawl through German culture is partly familiar; but Minnesinger and Meistersinger both refer to German poets of the Middle Ages, the Minnesinger being particularly associated with courtly love; Friedrich Klopstock (1724-1803), lyric and epic poet, translator of Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’; Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), poet, philosopher, closely associated with the Enlightenment; Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), a philosopher who developed the ideas of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in the direction of German Idealism. But this is not about the qualities of these people; it’s culture by the yard.