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A Chord of Leibniz’s Pre-Established Harmony in Novalis’ “Die Lehrlinge zu Sais”

In his literary fragment, “Die Lehrlinge zu Sais” (1798-1799), Novalis writes of novices searching for a lost language. Arriving at the temple in Sais, it is from within their own conversations that they find precisely what they were looking for. Novalis writes, “Ihre Aussprache war ein wunderbarer Gesang....” In that moment the novices realize that the life of the universe is “ein ewiges tausendstimmiges Gespräch (...), denn in ihrem Sprechen schienen alle Kräfte, alle Arten der Tätigkeit auf das unbegreiflichste vereinigt zu sein. Die Trümmer dieser Sprache (...) war ein Hauptzweck ihrer Reise gewesen.”
This universal language is not composed of instrumental or vocal music, but rather takes the form of speech—the pronunciation of which is a “wonderful song”. This novel conflation of disparate art forms is not only an effective representation of Schlegel’s Universalpoesie, in which music becomes a metaphor for the “song-like” quality of poetry, but also alludes to Leibniz’s theory of the prästabilierte Harmonie (with which Novalis was familiar),a harmony comprised of countless and small elementary “monads”, as Leibniz called them, which, created and choreographed by God, represent the fundamental substance of the universe.
In order to attain a new perspective on the question of music and language in early German Romanticism, this paper investigates the role of music in Novalis’ “universal language” in relation to Leibniz’s prästabilierte Harmonie. For Novalis, is music not only an element of Poësie but also the fundamental substance that connects the world—that invisible, unreachable, indescribable essence—the monads—just as Leibniz proposed in his prästabilierte Harmonie?