The Blue Flower is considered an important symbol of Romanticism (cf. Literaturepochen) and is therefore also referred to as the Blue Flower of Romanticism. It represents the romantic longing for the unattainable, the infinite and the unconditioned, whereby it is often interpreted as a combination of man and nature. In addition, the Blue Flower has become a symbol of the wandering, which is equally characteristic of the epoch of romance. This motif can be traced back to an old German legend, which says that one could find the blue miracle-flower at night and was rewarded with it. Consequently, this miracle flower stands for a thing that is difficult to achieve but is longed for by many. This motif is taken up by Novalis, a German poet, in his novel fragment Heinrich von Ofterdingen. Henry, the protagonist of the work, is attracted by a blue flower, from which the longing symbol of Romanticism was derived.
In the novel it becomes very clear that Novalis was known as the legend of the miraculous, but a very different event is very likely to be the motive. On November 17, 1794, Novalis met the twelve-year-old Christiane Wilhelmine Sophie von Kühn, and, in a letter to his brother Erasmus, he wrote about his life within a quarter of an hour, and on 17 March 1795, the thirteenth birthday of Sophie, unofficial liaison of the two came.
As a result, Sophie fell seriously ill with tuberculosis and could not recover from the disease despite several operations. Sophie succumbed to the illness and died on 19 March 1797 at the age of fifteen. Novalis, when the news reached him, was shattered to death. When he told his friend Friedrich Friedrichstein, a German painter, of the death of the fiancée, he sent him a watercolor painting showing dried-up blue cornflowers. Although the painting is not preserved, Novalis worked on the subject in his novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen.
In the novel of Heinrich von Ofterdingen, a legendary – but historically unrecordable – singer of the 13th century, Heinrich. Already at the beginning of the work one learns that a young stranger has visited the young Heinrich – even before the actual romance – and has told him about mysterious distances, magnificent treasures and a miracle-flower. By introducing the miraculous miracle, Novalis refers to the Old German saga, which states that it is possible to find this miracle-flower in St. John’s. In addition, the folk beliefs suggest that in the Johannisnacht – a night before the summer revival – a look into the future is possible.
The first chapter of the work begins with the young Heinrich thinking about the previous encounter and the stories of the stranger, an unspeakable desire being aroused in him. He does not yearn for the treasures and riches, but for the blue flower which the stranger mentioned, and falls asleep over this thought and begins to dream. In the dream he finds at the foot of a mountain a mysterious cave entrance, behind which is a water pool, which he floats through. On the other side, he draws himself to the shore. According to this,
But what attracted him with full force was a tall, light-blue flower that […] touched him with her broad, shining leaves. Around them were innumerable flowers of all colors, and the delicious smell filled the air. He saw nothing but the blue flower, and looked at her for a long time with unutterable tenderness. At last he wanted to approach her as she began to move and change; the leaves became more shining and nestled against the growing stem, the flower tending toward him, and the petals showing a blue spread collar, with a delicate face hovering. His sweet astonishment grew with the strange transformation, when suddenly the voice of his mother aroused him […]
Novalis unites in this extract several motifs, which were connected in advance with the blue flower. Thus she embodies – as already evident in the Old German saga – the longing for an unattainable thing and beyond, Heinrich sees a delicate face in the flower. This – as is shown in the course of the action – is that of his later fiance. Furthermore, the human is connected with nature when the plant turns into a face.
In addition, the text is full of typical symbols of the Romantic period. Romantic works often use emerging motifs, that is, motifs that mark a boundary between reality and the dreamlike, such as twilight, moonlight, twilight, or even a distant view of the lyrical ego / protagonist has been.
Interpretation of the Blue Flower
So far, the symbol of the flower has been classified into the legendary world of German and the work Novalis. With this knowledge, it is conceivable to interpret the symbol which is often taken up in romantic works. It is to be assumed that the representatives of the current knew Novalis’s work and thus, through the mere naming of the blue flower, allude to the longing of his protagonist Heinrich. Thus, the background need not be explained and the reader can see what is played with the nomination.
Consequently the symbol of the miraculous flower stands for an immense longing for an unattainable thing. In part, it is not even clear where this longing comes from. The fact is that she always accompanies the respective protagonist. This vacillation between homesickness and wanderlust is decisive for the epoch of Romanticism. This “being driven” is also the reason why one speaks of a moving motif in the romanticism – the human being is always looking for himself, an ambiguous goal and thus commutes between the stations of his own life.
In addition, the Romans used the Middle Ages as the ideal age of history, since during this time all men were united in the mythical Christian faith and, moreover, the Germanic cultural heritage was present, which brought life through myth and legend – and not through science and philosophy the progress. In the Middle Ages man and nature were one, and nature was considered an inexorable, inexhaustible force. This image, too, is evident in Novalis’ blue flower, when Heinrich recognizes a face in her, and thus finds in nature what is the answer to his own longing. Thus it is said at the end of Henry of Ofterdingen:
I do not feel like in that dream, at the sight of the blue flower? What a strange connection between Mathilden and this flower? That face, which turned from the cup to me, it was Mathilden’s heavenly face … … O! it is the visible spirit of the singing […]. She will dissolve me into music. It will be my innermost soul, the guardian of my holy fire. What eternity of loyalty I feel in me! I was only born to worship them, to serve them eternally, to think and feel them. Does not one’s own undivided existence belong to their intuition and worship? And am I the happy one whose nature is the echo, the mirror of theirs? It was no coincidence that I saw them at the end of my journey, that a blessed festival surrounded the highest moment of my life. It could not be otherwise; does not their presence make everything festive?
In the novel, the protagonist uncovers a blue flower in a dream, which for him becomes his personal object of longing and drives him from then on. To recognize this, however, he first had to recognize the face (target?) In nature (flower). Anyone who recognizes in the dream what his deepest longing is, will ultimately recognize himself. In short, the miracle-flower embodies the longing for an unattainable thing and only through the recognition of the self (in nature) the goal becomes clear and – Roman – ultimately leads to love. It is important that this realization of the self is a result of feeling and reflection and not of rationality and science. Consequently, the flower is usually interpreted as a symbol of love, longing, infinity and self-knowledge.
The Blue Flower in Art and Literature
The motif described has been processed in numerous works of art. Because of the great deal with ebendiesem symbol, it was enough to simply show the blue flower or to name it, and thus to point out what it was all about. The following is an overview of selected works that take up and edit the symbol.
One of the most famous works – next to Novalis’s novella – is surely the poem Die blaue Blume (1818) by Joseph von Eichendorff, a poet and writer of German romanticism. The short poem consists of three verses, each consisting of four verses, following the rhyming scheme of the cross-rhymes. Eichendorff’s poem reads as follows:
The blue flower
I’m looking for the blue flower,
I am looking for and never find them,
I dream that in the flower
My good luck blossomed.
I walk with my harp
Through countries, cities and towns,
Nowhere else in the round
The blue flower to be seen.
I’ve been wandering for a long time,
Have long hoped, trusted,
But alas, I have nowhere
The blue blum looked.
In this poem, the lyrical ego points to similar aspects, which are also found in Novalis. The first verse reveals that it is a search, but it is not successful. Moreover, the third verse refers to the dream that connects reality and dreamworld in a way that transcends reality. However – so it seems to me – the finding of the blue flower would mean good luck. Good luck means a state of life in continuous happiness.
Eichendorff also uses the hiking motif. His lyric self is constantly searching for the miracle, but can not find it anywhere and longs for it. The connection between Novalis’ text and Eichendorff’s poem is therefore quite clear. Adelbert von Chamisso also mentions that he has found the blue flower of Romanticism in the Harz, using Heinrich Zschokke as a symbol of love and longing in the Der Freihof of Aarau, and ETA Hoffmann recalls Novalis , by equating the blue flower with the sacred miracles of nature (cf Hommage) in the news of the latest fate of the dog Berganza.
But also in painting there are numerous works that play with the symbolic and pick it up. There is, however, the danger of over-interpreting the respective work of art and of seeing a meaning that is actually not included. However, it is to be assumed that most of the artists who are directly related to Romanticism are familiar with the symbol, and the showing of blue flowers thus refers to the well-known longing and love symbol. The morning is an example of romantic painting and shows the blue Flower of romance
Detail: The morning of Philipp Otto Runge
The above example shows a section of the painting The Morning of Philipp Otto Runge. The picture shows a transfigured landscape that awakens in the dawn of dawn. In the middle of the picture is a female figure, from whose hands a blue lily grows. Runge tries to portray a romantic-mystical vision and, through the Blue Flower and through the blurring of the boundaries of day and night, points to essential characteristics of Romanticism (→ Full view of “The Morning”).
Short overview: The most important overview
The Blue Flower is a symbol of the epoch of Romanticism and stands for the longing for unattainable, infinite and unconditioned. It is also often interpreted as a symbol of love, longing, infinity and self-knowledge, but also stands for the connection of man and nature and connects reality with dreamlike.
This motif can be traced back to an old German legend, which says that one could find the blue miracle-flower at night and was rewarded with it. As a result, Novalis, a romantic poet, took up this motif in his novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen, thereby demonstrating the characteristics described by many authors and illustrating the characteristics of a whole epoch.
Note: This symbol was subsequently used for the epitome of German poetry and was sometimes used synonymously. For example, there was the slogan in the student movement of 1968: “Let the German philosopher be dead, color the blue flower in red!”, The blue flower for German literature, which in turn stood for German studies (see Pars pro toto) Science. This stiffness was to be denounced by the motto and the desire for change expressed.