Nachtbegeisterung

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Once upon a time I was in a graduate Literature program, in which I was introduced to the German poet Novalis, and this work written after the death of his fiance, Sophie von Kuhn, at the age of 15.

A lot of things are interesting about Novalis – particularly that he fell in love with his fiance when he was 22 and she was only 12, as the story goes, after seeing her out with her parents. They became engaged on her 13th birthday.

Though some of his friends attempted to praise her beauty, Sophie was apparently neither particularly beautiful nor particularly intelligent (as her own diaries seem to show) and many have wondered what it was that drew the poet to this seemingly ordinary, bland young girl. Yet Novalis saw *something* in Sophie that no one else seemed to see – whether it was some subtle spark that others tended to miss, or whether he merely built her up within his own imagination, remains lost to time.

But what gets me every time I read passage this is the footnote to the word “nachtbegeisterung,” translated as Night-Inspiration. It could also (I think) be translated to Night-Rapture. This word comes after the poet describes freeing himself from “Light’s chains” – inversing the binary of light/good vs. dark/bad. Night brings about transformation, and reunion with the beloved.

Nachtbegeisterung. I love that.