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Sunken Bell

heights, york and mountain

SUNKEN BELL, The. Gerhart Haupt mann's 'Versunkene ('The Sunken Bell') (1896) is commonly supposed to be the poet's elegy on the failure of the hopes which he had set upon the attempt to adapt naturalis tic methods to the treatment of an historical subject in 'Florian Geyer) (first played 4 Jan. 18%). Quite as probably, however, Haupt mann symbolized in this fairy drama a mood to which poets as such are no strangers, even without the chagrin of recent defeat: the melancholy sense that ascent to spiritual heights is toilsome and is impeded by fetters to the lower earth. Moreover, there are spirits of the depths as well as of the heights.

The bell-founder Heinrich is thwarted of his supreme ambition, to place a bell in a mountain chapel, by the malice of a wood-sprite who cannot abide the ringing of it, and despairing he plunges into the abyss which engulfs the product of his Christian devotion. His humble, unesthetic wife can give him neither comfort nor the courage to live. Both come to him from a mountain elf, Rautendelein. In asso ciation with her, he plans a new masterpiece, half church, half temple to the sun, but he is not destined to accomplish his design. The

humdrum dwellers in the valley persecute him as a renegade; the wood-sprites assail him in hostility like Loki's to Balder; the tolling of his submerged bell recalls him to where his wife and children have died of grief. He repulses Rautendelein and hastens belowóbut only to return and discover, a moment before he breathes his last, that his proper dwelling place is with her on the heights, and that the nether sphere, the realm of failure and of death, is that from which no man can escape.

The play, rich in elements derived from Ger man folklore, with some reminiscences of class ical mythology, is enhanced by the contrast of naturalism and fantasy, and contains, along with some hollowness, the most intense and musical poetry that its gifted author has ever written. Translated by Mary Harned in