The Poetic Kiss” [*]
An oratorical monodrama, to be monodramatized after reading some of the most recent alleged reviews published in the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung under the rubric Fine Arts.
Scene: A schoolroom with benches and a stool; a sort of public sits on the benches, among them Madam La Choisie [Fr., “the chosen one”; i.e., Therese Forster], in a fire-red dress, the paramour of Huberulus Murzuphlus [Ludwig Ferdinand Huber]. He himself, the Murzuffel, a peruke on his head and a schoolmaster’s stick under his arm, bows and speaks:
Not without solicitation, and yet certainly with discretion, Not without trepidation, and yet certainly with firm voice, Repressed here, on the one hand, elevated there, on the other, By the wishes of the one, the zeal of the other to praise me, Do I appear here today, with art and e — energy, Before you, O my public, and before you, La Choisie! With critical desire to receive, as an artist, The praise of tenderness, the praise of the ideal, To dare what frightens ordinary spirits' wit, To teach, that is, how to kiss perfectly and correctly, And to climb up over the stool, when the audience bows, With a single masculine leap into the torus [marriage bed]. Enjoy the first fruits of this lovely, gracious consequence (For nothing happens for nothing) in such a reverence! (He bows and climbs onto the stool, lacking a lectern) So, am I not still such? Having climbed so high? Climbed? — But no! — Ha! — But no! This climbing is flying! Who would have thought that from a darkened hole Of namelessness I, even I, such a poor mouse, would creep And, since my wit did otherwise none delight, Like a wren would don even an eagle's wings? Who would have thought! — But quiet! Your glance does summon me, Madam La Choisie, back to this wood. Thus you ask why on such heights Of dried wood I now stand before you, quite perfected? Well then, Murzuffel! Speak! To you is given To teach what does greatly perplex your own guild, To teach which of all the kisses of love We may rightly call the only correct one; And which the connoisseur may with neither remorse nor shame, The batteur under his arm, can kiss with dignity! And once I have indeed taught such in my thorough manner, Then will I know, Choisie! — for insensitive you are not, — Then you yourself, smiling, demure emotion calm, And quietly seducing toward the victor's goal, Then you yourself, carefree, unafraid, will Allow me to apply such kiss to you in my own way. With thorough examination do I begin. Two kinds of kisses do we have: The first find us, the others we — by reasoning. Art does call the first the kisses of nature, Using them much like a mineral spring cure; But the others, well, those who would engage them critically Must plunge into the quiet sea of ideals. In this sea I am at home like a shark, And what displeases me I do bite out with my teeth; Ah, but be not concerned because of me and my bites, Madam La Choisie! The discussion was of kisses. Well, then, whither do I then direct my mouth? What? To yours? Fie! The same does do your little dog. A kiss on the mouth is ordinary, flaccid, insipid, cannibalistic, And impertinent and imitated and still not idealistic. Did Herr Adam perhaps kiss Eve thus? Quiet! Adam did not know what you now through me know. What is a mouth? A hole; an abyss, to be avoided By young and old, barricaded with palisades strong; An entrance of nature that, once the stomach is full, Is related only distantly to its exit. That exit, however, is the purpose of all things. If the imagination is indeed to attain purposiveness, So must it focus strictly on that end goal and exit, And thus the ideal stand before it in perfection. The mouth does also elude just sentencing, And its effect is never gained, no! but betricked! For at the very moment the kissing subject Does press upon its object, the object is — completely hidden. In vain does one try to seal up the petty part from masters, As do I, with a coating of oil. And that is what for me makes kissing on the mouth, Though my dear does also laugh, particularly repugnant. I now come then to the forehead. At the proper place a kiss, By all appearance, ought sit enthroned where the soul itself does dwell, Moreover there one can at most, thinking about Just why it be of so little value there, also grant it a few glances. A forehead kiss, you all doubtless believe, is simply too transcendental, A kiss wherein the ideal itself does fly beyond. Alas, if truth be told, a forehead kiss is too animalistic; And that such is indeed the case, I can prove to you empirically. Forgive, O Choisie, O bride of my heart, Forgive this remark! Truth does loudly speak. Never do I a forehead see without grasping unwearyingly For my own; for I know that there is where the horns do grow. Where clouds of crimson and white do cross, Can there your cheek entice me to such kiss? By no means! For as my accountant say, my Heinz, Half is not whole, something I also maintain in Mainz. Well! Is one's cheek not on the whole but half? For the human face is whole, as is that of a calf. The left cheek enables one to know the right. Whosoever does kiss the one thus sunders the face itself. But yes, aesthetically, when my spirit lofts itself in flight Of fantasy, the tip of your nose I do indeed kiss. Yet theory dire, that never its rights can forget, Does reproach both the one and the other here. In a word, whatsoever does belong to the face is repugnant. This force drags us down, and what is high becomes what is low. Those who prattle on with such enthusiasm about kisses on the breast, Well, let them drink cool juice from ripened grapefruits. A kiss that fails its purpose so flagrantly The critic does not even reckon as a kiss. Aesthetically the woman's breast does not create The orb of earthly nature, no, the secret surging. That orb is not what one strives to kiss; The surging is that whereby the orb does rise. Well! Is not that surging a genuine abstraction, And quite acknowledged as an effect in the situation just described? Just as the bosom sinks, so also does the kisser's labor sag With this pomp device of charlatanry. Allegro do I now approach the goal so grand. But when one hunts for birds, one best avoid the jay! Well! Here goes! — Let me to the point return, for my glance perceives In yours a signal signaling to brevity. Criticism does also teach me, if I am not to fail, To choose the straightforward path to the goal, And then, Madam La Choisie, then, then our science Would drift into the mystical realm. Where the lines of beauty according to life do go blurry In the otherworldliness of Urania, Here does criticism help itself along with a bit of deception, That it might, as if in a trice, swing round about heaven. Here, where humankind, untormented by restlessness, Gently united in semi-majesty into a whole; Here, on the curvature, which, when my gracious lady sits, Supports the slender upper structure of her dear and precious life; Here, where the exit shows how with complete attainment Of purpose one's efforts attain the goal of perfection; Here, where the soft material divides and yet at once is Also kissable as a whole, here is Cythera's realm [birthplace of Aphrodite]! Whosoever would become a doctor in my lofty school, Whosoever would differentiate, as I myself, from the wooden lectern, Whosoever knows how to kiss ideally and correctly, Kisses his Choisie with good grace on her ar**. And thus have I myself already once swung boldly Aloft in victory to this Sinai's summit. And thus have I myself already once kissed Thalia's ar**, Just as the published proof of such abundantly attests.  Hence you, too, should now advance to such critical-beauteous victory, O, do come thou now into my arms, affectionate Callipyge!
(While he climbs down from the stool, Madam La Choisie stretches out her arms to him, and the curtain falls.)
[See the accompanying poems in the same issue of Göttinger Musenalmanach (1793), 215 (“Murzuphlus der Kritiker”) and 55 (“Wie man sich irren kann”), both by “Baiocco Romano” (the second plays on the meaning of “Huberulus” as “little Huber”):]
Murzuphlus the CriticWildly does the hero snort about in his reviewer's glow; Then fiercely, taking his dull quill like Argalia's lance,  Does he bore down into my book [Donamar]. But what ails him? Ah, how ardently did he recently Petition the muse for a lovers' tryst, Only to find — horror of horrors — himself To be a eunuch!
How one can be mistaken.A little man, a criticus, Became a real man's famulus, Believing then himself to be A man as well, but, ah! how mistaken he! He rubbed his brow both day and night, Rubbed early, late, 'twas such a fright! Then sensing, "Ay, a spark I feel!" Ah, but how mistaken! How not real! He then cried out, "Listen unto me! Rub ye your brow, like here you see! Else a Caliban  must ye remain!" But, ah! how mistaken, how in vain! And when no followers found him sage, He bespat himself in grief and rage, Thinking 'twas his neighbor covered o'er in spittle, But, ah! how mistaken! 'twas himself, still little!
[*] Göttinger Musenalmanach (1793), 178–88; frontispiece to volume, title on p. 178. Back.
 Thalia: muse of comedy, also the title of Schiller’s periodical. Ludwig Ferdinand Huber had published his play Juliane. Ein Lustspiel in Schiller’s Thalia 3, no. 9 (1790), 110–142, continued in no. 12 (1791), 78–97, “by the author of the Das heimliche Gericht. Eine dramatisirte Geschichte,” the latter a tragedy by Huber that first appeared in Thalia 2, no. 5 (1788), 1–66, continued in no. 6 (1789), 72–83 and no. 9 (1790), 3–40. Back.
 Character in Matteo Maria Boiardo, Orlando Innamorato (first published 1495). Back.
Translation © 2011 Doug Stott