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Plank, R. (1977). Freud, Michelangelo's Moses and Conrad Ferdinand Meyer. Am. Imago, 34(2):109-114.
    

(1977). American Imago, 34(2):109-114

Freud, Michelangelo's Moses and Conrad Ferdinand Meyer

Robert Plank, Jur.D.

Professor Bremer's thought-provoking paper on “Freud and Michelangelo's Moses” shows that the enigma of Freud's compact study still radiates its old magic. It may be of interest, therefore, to draw attention to one literary figure who, I believe, has not been mentioned in this connection, the Swiss novelist and poet Conrad Ferdinand Meyer.

Two passages in his poems evoke the Moses of Michelangelo, one by implication, the other directly. Papst Julius is a monologue of the dying pope: “…Do not portray me as the shepherd of the lamb, but as Moses, who with his mighty staff struck down the oppressor of his tribe. Where the cataracts thunder into the fountain's basin, set me up as Moses who broke the rocky wall” (my translation can of, course, not convey the splendor of Meyer's verses; I am aiming solely at rendering their meaning faithfully). These lines are followed by a passage equating the thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai with the pope's new artillery, thus leading on to flaunting his ambition to drive the foreigners out of Italy and to unite the country under papal suzerainty. In Michelangelo und seine Statuen, likewise a monologue, the sculptor addresses his Moses (lines 5 and 6; see text, appended).

Did Freud know these verses? It is well known how familiar he was with Meyer's work and how deeply he valued it. Wilhelm Fliess had introduced him to it. In his letters to Fliess, Freud repeatedly refers to Meyer and with his letter of June 20, 1898 he sent Fliess a brief analysis of Meyer's novella Die Richterin.

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