An sich; To himself

This page by Madeleine Brook

This sonnet adheres to the Opitzian model of alexandrine lines with an ABBA ABBA rhyme scheme in the first octave – in which the first rhyme sound is a feminine, the second rhyme sound a masculine ending – followed by a CDD CDD rhyme pattern in the closing sestet. Here, Fleming puts together a philosophical programme for virtuous behaviour based on neo-stoical ideas. Themes of vanitas and constantia are emphasised, particularly through the repeated forms of Glück (fortune). This is also evident in the opening line, where use of the double negative (‘dennoch unverzagt’, ‘dennoch unverloren’) gives additional strength to the imperative instruction. The use of double negatives is continued in the following line. The (self-)reflexive nature of the poem is embodied in the chiastic structure of line 12, but can also be seen in the balance of ideas across the caesurae of line 5 and line 9. In line 5, grief and comfort (‘betrüben’ vs ‘laben’) are subsumed into a single grouping (‘alles’); in line 9, lament and praise (‘klagen’ vs ‘loben’), equated with misfortune and fortune (‘Unglück’ and ‘Glücke’), are shown in line 10 to be the pointless railings of the unstoic individual against himself. The series of imperatives culminates in an epigrammatic aphorism asserting individual autonomy over the self in the face of the changing fortunes of the outside world. The poem is markedly masculine; unlike Fleming’s love poetry, the neo-stoic sentiments expressed here have both a masculine lyrical subject and a masculine lyrical object.

Further Reading in German

Konstanze Fliedl, ‘Das Gedicht an sich. Paul Flemings Trostsonett’, Modern Language Notes 117 (2002), 634-49