Supplementary Appendix: Gigantomachia

The anonymous satire Gigantomachia ([Leipzig] 1800)


The anonymous Gigantomachia, das ist heilloser Krieg einer gewaltigen Riesenkorporation gegen den Olympos. An das Licht gestellt durch Augenzeugen (“Gigantomachia, that is: terrible war of a powerful gigantic corporation against Olympus. Brought to light by eyewitnesses”) ([Leipzig] 1800), presents an excessively lengthy description (twenty-four scenes) of a battle of contemporary upstarts against the ancient gods, upstarts who attempt to build their own stone access to the mount and eventually storm it.

The Schlegels appear as the twins Pelorus (Wilhelm) and Alcyoneus (Friedrich), who are on good terms with Enceladus (Goethe) but not with Ephialtes (Schiller). Bryareus is Christian Gottfried Schütz, and Silen is August von Kotzebue riding his hyperborean ass. “Literary-review dogs” also make an appearance.

Here the frontispiece to the volume:


August Koberstein, Koberstein, 4:863, suggests August von Kotzebue himself was the author. Cf., however, Ludwig Geiger, “Miscellen: B. Aus seltenen und vergessenen Büchern,” Goethe Jahrbuch 7 (1886), 305–6:

“Have you already heard,” Caroline writes to Wilhelm Schlegel on 27 April 1801 [letter 312], “that the author of the Gigantomachia is almost surely a certain Bothe? [Fuhrmans, 2:471fn8, suggests that Theodor Heinrich Bode may have been the author.] He must live in Berlin, I have occasionally seen him in the Berlin Archiv.” Johann Diederich Gries, too, as Caroline later writes (1 June 1801) [letter 319], heard from the young Christian Friedrich Voss that Bothe was indeed the author. Caroline then writes on 12 June 1801 [letter 320]: “Gries says that Bothe, who is currently in Erfurt, is now supplying all the belletrist reviews in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung; if he had not heard it for a fact from Hufeland, I would have my doubts, since Briareus [Bryareus: Schütz, Hufeland’s earlier co-editor] was, after all, similarly parodied in the Gigantomachia and because Bothe’s translations from the Greek were recently quite justifiably criticized.”

These passages offer an excellent corrective to Koberstein 4:863. . . . The Gigantomachia is a satire against the Schlegels, who are derided as the twins Pelorus and Alcyoneus; but many others are derided as well, including Kotzebue as Silen, Wieland as Merkur, Bernhardi (Bernhardians), Schmidt von Werneuchen, [Christian Gottfried] Schütz, Voss, apparently as Cottus; Gyges ist Böttiger with his “Roscius anatomy” (dissection of the play by Iffland); Ephialtes is Schiller, Enceladus Goethe. Schiller is made to speak quite ill of the Schlegels, especially of Friedrich Schlegel, and is portrayed as someone “seduced” into participating in the Xenien. His verses, however, are quite witty:

Well, that, too, would have been quite nice, O
Woe! there came Benvenuto,
Told me, of which I was not aware,
That he was dead but not yet finished.

Goethe plays a role similar to that in a somewhat later satire, Ästhetische Prügelei auf dem Parnass. He introduces himself with the verses,

From the morning heat till the twilight rosiness
You all dance according to the flute of your Lord
Indeed, I do believe were I but to command it,
You would all become frogs or perhaps turtles.

He is protective of Alcyoneus, who in his own turn pays him excessive homage. He does not participate in the battle of the giants, whereas Ephialtes-Schiller is portrayed as one of the leaders; only after the giants are beaten back does he appear and say to Jupiter:

The noise woke me and prompted me
To see who won victory.
But in this riotous indulgence
I can simply no longer endure, O brother.
Toward Olympus do I now direct my course,
Hence open wide the gates for me.
Just behold me, you know me a little,
I am called King of the Giants.

To which Jupiter responds,

Enter as adornment for these halls,
which I will cleanse for your pleasure.

Schelling, too, mentions Bothe (with the orthography “Bode”) as the author in a letter from Jena to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin on 29 November 1802 (letter 373a).

Wilhelm Schlegel, in a letter to Schleiermacher on 7 July 1800 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:198–99), ascribes it with certainty to Johann Daniel Falk, and in contrast to Ludwig Tieck, he found that he himself got off with a “fairly light treatment” for reasons of old gratitude (viz., for Wilhelm’s earlier praise).

Wilhelm writes from Jena to Schleiermacher in Berlin on 7 July 1800 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:198–99):

Have you seen the Gigantomachia? It is allegedly quite a bit of deviltry that is, however, not quite properly be-deviled. Earlier gratitude prompted the author (who is undeniably Falk) to accord me fairly light treatment, whereas by contrast no one was taken to task more severely than Tieck, from whom the author obviously has learned quite a bit with respect to word play and other such niceties. I myself, however, am contemplating a private bit of devilry of my own, about which I prefer to say nothing more until it has been finished. This business is not entirely over yet, and there is still a bit of laughter to come.

Wilhelm Dilthey adds the following footnote to this passage (ibid., 3:19–99fn**):

This satire directs itself not only against the Romantics, but also against their adversaries, especially Kotzebue, whose Der hyperboreische Esel oder die heutige Bildung had appeared previously. The basic story is that the giants, namely, the Romantics, among whom the author does, by the way, includes both Goethe as their King (Enceladus) and Schiller, storm Olympus in order to drive out the classical writers of the preceding epoch. Their king, Enceladus-Goethe, however, refuses to participate, but a pack of hungry dogs join them, namely, the Romantics’ literary comrades, among whom especially one experienced bulldog stands out, namely, Rambach, the critic from the Archiv der Zeit. The gods are loath to enter the battle. In the midst of that battle, Kotzebue-Silen appears, and in the face of the baying of the ass (namely, the hyperborean ass) the giants quickly retreat. The ancient gods, however, now joyfully welcome Enceladus-Goethe into Olympus.

Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule, 750, is unsure whether Falk really is the author; Haym mentions this piece in connection with August Ferdinand Bernhardi’s criticism of Falk in the Archiv der Zeit:

Finally, Falk was subjected to rather harsh instruction concerning the distinction between true and merely gossipy satire, and is, moreover, the addressee of what one must call a wasted parodic poem on “the art of producing Falkian anthologies.” For Falk simply could not be viewed as being on the same level as Daniel Jenisch and Garlieb Merkel, and it was only a year later that he spiced up his Almanach with rather coarse material along the lines of the Diogenes-Laterne [by Daniel Jenisch (Leipzig 1799), which Haym, ibid., 749, describes as “a satirical Taschenbuch with an appendix of smutty allusions to the personal relationships of both Friedrich Schlegel and Schleiermacher”] and derided — if he genuinely was the author — the Schlegels and their relationship with Goethe in the Gigantomachia.

Here the final scene of the battle, at the conclusion of which Goethe’s lines cited above are spoken. Toward the end of the play, the battle has gotten fierce:

(The struggle becomes heated. Jupiter’s lightning bolts do not seem to help. The giants are storming one rock cliff after the other.) . . .

(The heavens become dark from the stones of the giants, who are already reaching certain parts of Olympus. The ruckus and confusion is universal.)

Pelorus. Onward! Onward! soon Enceladus
Will come and appear, our master and friend!

And if we are already up on the mount,
He will surely praise us loudly and powerfully! . . .

(A stone that was lying below collapses, the ones above follow, the lesser giants Askus, Rhunkus, Echion, and Klytius are buried beneath. A bolt of lightning wounds Pelorus, who tries to conceal his pain.)

Pelorus. O woe! o woe! I can surely see
That the Satanisken have forsaken me!

(A cloud of dust rises, Silen comes galloping by on his ass. He stops, his ass fearfully approaches.)

Chorus of Giants and Allies

O woe! o lament! let us flee, —
What good is it that we are courageous and bold?
The ass howls, we tremble like aspens,
And swarm futilely like wasps.

Alcynoneus Those who still have courage, heart, and strength,
Whose fame is noble, righteous, and old,
Follow me,
I will show them the noble path!

(No one pays attention, a terrible confusion arises, the allies bite one another. Zeus causes darkness to fall, and shatters the giants’ stone edifice with his bolts of lightning.)

Silen. (puffing and blowing out on his ass) Aye, I confess, how touching!
What scenes do occur here!
The play’s energy does wane,
The act will conclude incomparably.
(to his ass)
Cry out, cry out, my trusty ass,
For I must perpetually have noise about me.

Pelorus. Shrink not, O brethren, behold, I stand yet,
And I already behold Olympus quite near indeed!

Ephialtes. (Dragging a large stone.) Here! Here I am bringing yet another stone,
Which I broke out of that wall yonder,
Those who are artificial or ordinary,
They — did well to have crept away!

(Casts the stone at Zeus.)

Jupiter. (To the other gods.) Good that this fellow has not discovered
That I myself respect this stone.
And whether rebellious and common,
I intend to spare him for the sake of this stone.

(The giants sink in defeat, Silen’s ass does not cease.)

Alcyoneus. (To himself.) Did I not tell myself this from the beginning?
That nothing helps, thus my complaint to God!
To avoid scandal,
I myself quietly slink away.
In my countenance shall no one see
That I took part in this joke.

(Wraps himself up in his cloak and steals away.)

Ephialtes. I wanted to believe myself to be on Olympus,
And instead find myself here among stones.
I would cast one, but am too old
To sling another one with any power.
Hence must I on adroit legs flee,
That the blame may fall on the lesser ones.

(The giants disperse; many lie crushed between the rocks.)

Jupiter. I still have a lightning bolt in my hand,
And was about to sling it at Silen.
But do speak, what do you think? Should I proceed,
Or let the fool live?

Bryareus. Aye, that would be useless and truly a pity!
For even if what is insipid is useless, yet does it amuse.

(Silen gallops away on his ass.)

Enceladus. (Strides around through the dark scene, then turns to Zeus.)
The noise woke me and prompted me
To see who won victory.
But in this riotous indulgence
I can simply no longer endure, O brother.
Toward Olympus do I now direct my course,
Hence open wide the gates for me.
Just behold me, you know me a little,
I am called King of the Giants.

Jupiter. Enter as adornment for these halls,
which I will cleanse for your pleasure.

(Enceladus strides in; Jupiter embraces him.)