Tuesday, November 16, 2021

What Were Hoffmann and Schiller Smoking?

German author E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose stories became the “Tales of Hoffmann” in the Offenbach opera and The Nutcracker in the Tchaikovsky ballet, published a story titled “The Golden Flower Pot” in 1814. In it, a student named Anselmus sits under an elder tree where he “filled a pipe with the health-tobacco which his friend Sub-Rector Paulmann had given him.” The word used in the original is Sanitatsknaster, meaning health-tobacco box. 

According to a 2018 article, "Der Knaster-Mythos," by Von Jörg Auf dem Hövel (in Google translation): "Hans-Georg Behr reported that while traveling with hippie friends in a pub in Thalhausen around 1970, Bavarian farmers told him that in their youth, when hemp cultivation was still common, they smoked hemp 'herb' as a tobacco substitute, just like her grandparents would once have done. An exiled Thuringian said that in his homeland they used to call the stuff Knaster." 

“Anselmus’s self-communings were interrupted by a strange rushing, swishing sound which started in the grass just beside him,” Hoffmann writes. He soon sees three little green and gold snakes who whisper to him. “An electric shock went through his entire body…everything around him began to stir, as if waking into joyful life.” That's some pretty healthy "tobacco." 

Anselmus is led to an enchanted world of a woman named Serpentina and her father, in whose room, “he could now perceive sights, sounds and smells he’d formerly been unaware of." He was soon, as the Beatles put it, “looking through a glass onion” where “you are drowned in dazzling splendor; everything around you appears illuminated and beaming in rainbow hues.”  

Hoffmann wrote several books from 1813-1822 featuring his alter ego Kreisler and drew a sketch of Kreisler smoking a pipe (shown). Honore de Balzac harkened to Hoffmann's character in his book Cousin Pons (1846-7): “[H]is religion never bordered on mania, as in the case of Hoffmann's Kreislers; he kept his enthusiasm to himself; his delight, like the paradise reached by opium or hashish, lay within his own soul.” Confirmation that hashish, and opium, were known and used at the time. 

In My Cousin’s Corner Window, Hoffmann’s final manuscript, the author tells of a cousin confined to a wheelchair who spins fantastic tales without end. One day, the narrator writes, “I was not a little astonished to see in this window the well-known red cap which my cousin used to wear in happier time. Nor was that all! As I came closer, I noticed that my cousin had put on his fine Warsaw dressing-gown and was smoking tobacco in the Turkish pipe he used on Sundays.” 

“In the early 1800s a pipe filled with hemp and tobacco was known as a Sonntagspfeife (Sunday pipe),” writes Christian Ratsch in Marijuana Medicine. It seems likely that something other than just tobacco was in the pipes of Hoffmann's characters, and perhaps the author himself.  

Hoffmann’s The Devil's Elixirs, in which a young preacher is inspired by a sip of ancient wine, was a great influence on Very Important Pothead Gérard de Nerval, among others. Hoffmann's review of Beethoven’s 5th symphony was widely read. He wrote, “the magical power of music acts like the philosopher’s miraculous elixir, a few drops of which make any drink so much more wonderfully delicious…Beethoven’s music sets in motion the machinery of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain, and awakens that infinite yearning which is the essence of romanticism.”

The German author of the poem that was incorporated into Beethoven's 9th Symphony, "Ode to Joy," was Friedrich Schiller, depicted here riding a donkey and smoking a pipe. His most influential work Letters of Aesthetic Education (1795) expresses his belief that art, rather than religion, plays a central role in the moral education of an individual. "Schiller’s early tragedies are attacks upon political oppression and the tyranny of social convention." Brittanica

Unlike the sappy lyrics we were taught as schoolchildren in the US, Schiller's poem celebrates the ecstasy that can be found by reuniting with the sacred Goddess: 

Ode to Joy

Joy, beautiful spark of gods,
Daughter of Elysium
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly one, thy sanctuary!
Thy magic binds again
What custom strictly divided;
All people become brothers,
Where thy gentle wing abides...

All creatures drink of joy
At nature's breasts.
All the Just, all the Evil
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us and grapevines,
A friend, proven in death.
Ecstasy was given to the worm
And the cherub stands before God.

In ancient Germanic culture, hemp was associated with the goddess of love Freyja, who was believed to live in the female flowers of cannabis. Is she the daughter of Elysium who makes one "drunk with fire" when burned? 

Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" has remained a protest anthem and a celebration of music. Demonstrators in Chile sang the piece during demonstrations against the Pinochet regime's dictatorship. Chinese students broadcast it at Tiananmen Square. It was performed (conducted by Leonard Bernstein) on Christmas Day after the fall of the Berlin Wall replacing "Freude" (joy) with "Freiheit" (freedom), as some argue Schiller intended. It was played after Emmanuel Macron's victory in the 2017 French Presidential elections, when Macron gave his victory speech at the Louvre. Wikipedia
Schiller also composed a Dithyramb, a hymn to the god Dionysus (aka Bacchus), who supplanted the goddesses as the god of ecstasy in the Greco-Roman religion. Schiller's poem celebrates the gods more than the goddesses; Hebe shows up in her role as cup bearer of the nectar that makes the heart grow calm and the eye grow bright, and Styx is the "hated" goddess of the river that passes between the world and the underworld. 


Never, believe me, never, do the gods appear
Alone. No sooner is merry Bacchus to hand,
Than Cupid comes too, the smiling boy,
Glorious Phoebus also drops by.
The Immortals are coming, one and all,
This earthly abode is filled with gods.
Say, how shall I, born of this earth,
Entertain the heavenly choir?
Grant me your immortal life,
Ye gods! What can a mere mortal give you?
Raise me up to your Olympus!
Joy dwells only in Jupiter’s hall,
O pour me some nectar, O hand me the cup!
Pass him the cup! O fill the poet’s cup,
Hebe, fill!
Moisten his eyes with heavenly dew,
So he does not see the hated Styx,
And think himself as one of us.
The heavenly spring murmurs and sparkles,
The heart grows calm, the eye grows bright. 
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)


No comments: