'A Letter from Germany' by D.H. Lawrence (1924)


Thomas Mann wrote in his diary in October 1934 of the "admirably insightful letter by Lawrence.... about Germany and its return to barbarism - when Hitler was hardly even heard of as a factor."

In a Letter written in September 1922, Lawrence wrote to Schiegermutter :

"I think a good deal about you and Germany. [...] It must be dreadful in Germany: makes one shudder! How can it happen that an entire great people is so cast down? I really don't understand such a miserable fate. I do hate the European world of men for being so vulgar and despondent. I can't come back, while it's such a pit of shamefulness. One could howl like a dog from helplessness and distance. Courage gone means everything gone, and Europe has lost its courage to live. [...]  I'm going next week to Mexico..., to find a home for the winter. [....] I hope we'll find something nice and a long way from the world, where the Lord God still rules, and not man.

cont here.....

Note: This essay could be compared with 'The Plumed Serpent' for its description of the forest, its as if Lawrence saw in the Black Forest in Germany an equivalent to Mexico.

From a letter written in October 1923:

"There is something good about Mexico, something that opens again, at least in part, the flood-gates of ones soul. The USA and the world shut the flood-gates of my soul tight. And here they begin to open, and the life flows, even if it flows in oneself alone. - But there is a sort of basic childishness about these people, that for me is the only manliness. When I say childishness, I only mean they don't superimpose ideas and ideals, but follow the stream of the blood. A certain innocence, even if sometimes evil. And a certain child-like patience and stoicism. - I like it really, our tough, dry, papier-mache world recedes. [...] - Sometimes I am driven to hating the white-white world, with its whitness like a leprosy. "

"Murry declares England will again lead the world. But I myself know that England alone cannot. She must be juxtaposed with something that is in the dark volcanic blood of these people. One thing alone won't work: nore one spirit alone. It needs a polarity ot two."

In a letter he wrote to Schwiegermutter in November 1923, Lawrence said:

"I like it very much here. I don't know how, it gives me strength, this black land. It is full of man-strength - perhaps not woman-strength - but it is good like old German hero-beer, for me. Oh Schwiegermutter, you are nice and old and understand again as the first virgin understands, that a man must be more than nice and good, and that heroes have more value than saints. Frieda doesn't understand that today a man needs to be a hero, and more than a husband. Husband yes, also. but more. I must go back and forth, through the world. I must balance Germany against Mexico, and Mexico against Germany. I do not come for peaec. the devil, the holy devil himself has peace round his neck. I know well, the courageous old one understands me better than the young one: or some of me, she understands better. Frieda must always think and write and say and ponder how she loves me. it's stupidity. I am after all no Christ lying on his mother's lap. I go my way through the world, and if Frieda finds it very hard work to love me, then, dear God, let her give her love a rest, give it a holiday. Oh Schwiegermutter, you understand, as my mother finally understood, that the man does not need, does not ask for love from his wife, but strength, strength, strength. It is fighting, fighting, fighting and still fighting. And one needs strength and courage and weapons. And the stupid woman always sings love! love! love! - and the rights of love! The rights of woman's love! To the devil with love. Give me strength, only battle-strength, weapon-strength, fighting-strength. Give me this, you woman.
I don't know if my German can be understood.
England is so peaceful: writes Frieda. Shame on you, that today you ask for peace. I want no peace: I go about the world fighting. Pfui Pfui! In the grave I will find my peace. First let me fight and win through.

Yes yes, Schwiegermutter, make me an oak-wreath and bring the town music under the windows, when the demi-hero comes home"

In Letter he wrote to Koteliansky sometime between 1923 and 1924 (Letters Vol IV, 574), Lawrence said:

"Germany is queer - seems to be turning - as if she would make a great change, and become manly again, and a bit dangerous in a manly way. I hope so... there is a certain healthiness, more than in France, far more than in England, the old fierceness coming back."

Evidently, Lawrence saw the awakening in Germany as equivalent to his vision of Mexican regeneration in Quetzalcoatl.

A year after he wrote A Letter from Germany, he wrote a short story called "The Border-Line", in which he transposes aspects of "Quetzalcoatl" into a German context.  "The Plumed Serpent" is clearly anticapted in "The Border-Line".

From the text:

The Rentenmark, the new gold mark of Germany, is abominably dear. [...] And there is no work - consequently no money. Nobody buys anything, except absolute necessities. The shop-keepers are in despair. And there is less and less work.

Money becomes insane, and people with it.
At night the place is almost dark, economizing light. Economy, economy, economy - that too becomes an insanity. Luckily the government keeps bread fairly cheap.
But at night you feel strange things stirring in the darkness, strange feelings stirring out of this still-unconquered Black Forest. You stiffen your backbone and you listen to the night. There is a sense of danger. It is not the people. They don't seem dangerous. Out of the very air comes a sense of danger, a queer, bristling feeling of uncanny danger.
Something has happened. Something has happened which has not yet eventuated. The old spell of the old world has broken, and the old, bristling, savage spirit has set in. The war did not break the old peace-and-production hope of the world, though it gave it a severe wrench. Yet the old peace-and-production hope still governs, at least the consciousness. Even in Germany it has not quite gone.
But it feels as if, virtually, it were gone. The last two years have done it. The hope in peace-and-production is broken. The old flow, the old adherence is ruptured. And a still older flow has set in. Back, back to the savage polarity of Tartary, and away from the polarity of civilized Christian Europe. This, it seems to me, has already happened. And it is a happening of far more profound import than any actual event. It is the father of the next phase of events.
And the feeling never relaxes. As you travel up the Rhine valley, still the same latent sense of danger, of silence, of suspension. Not that the people are actually planning or ploting or preparing. I don't believe it for a minute. But something has happened to the human soul, beyond all help. The human soul recoiling now from unison, and making itself strong elsewhere. The ancient spirit of prehistoric Germany coming back, at the end of history.

Heidelberg full of people. Students the same, youths with rucksacks the same, boys and maidens in gangs come down from the hills. The same, and not the same. These queer gangs of young Socialists, youths and girls, with their non-materialistic professions, their half-mystic assertions, they strike one as strange. Something primitive, like loose, roving gangs of broken, scattered tribes, so they affect one. And the swarms of people somehow produce an impression of silence, of secrecy, of stealth. It is as if everything and everybody recoiled away from the old unison, as barbarians lurking in a wood recoil out of sight. The old habits remain. But the bulk of the people have no money. And the whole stream of feeling is reversed.

And it all looks as if the years were wheeling swiftly backwards, no more onwards. Like a spring that is broken, and whirls swiftly back, so time seems to be whirling with mysterious swiftness to a sort of death. Whirlingto the ghost of the Middle Ages of Germany, then to the Roman days, then to the days of the silent forest and the dangerous, lurking barbarians.
Something about the Germanic races is unalterable. White-skinned, elemental, and dangerous. Our civilization has come from the fusion of the dark-eyes with the blue. The meeting and mixing and mingling of the two races has been the joy of our ages. And the Celt has been there, alien, but necessary as some chemical re-agent to the fusion. So the civilization of Europe rose up. So these cathedrals and these thoughts.
But now the Celt is the disintegrating agent. And the Latin and southern races are falling out of association with the northern races, the northern Germanic impulse is recoiling towards Tartary, the destructive vortex of Tartary.
It is fate; nobody now can alter it. It is a fate. The very blood changes. Within the last three years, the very constituency of the blood has changed, in European veins. But particularly in Germanic veins.
At the same time, we have brought it about ourselves - by a Ruhr occupation, by an English nullity, and by a German false will. We have done it ourselves. But apparently it was not to be helped.