Musical gypsies and anti-classical aesthetics: The Romantic reception of Goethe's Mignon character in Brentano's "Die Mehreren Wehmüller und Ungarische Nationalgesichter"
Stefanie Bach, University of Strathclyde
The image of the gypsy offered a source of association attracting many Romantic writers to lend their own interpretation of the perceived gypsy character and lifestyle. Thsi sundeniable fascination of the gypsy image, which accumulated notions of freedom from social norms, disrespect of boundaries both geographical and social, and their apparent closeness to nature initiated a plethora of literary manifestations of gypsy characters not only in German Romantic literature. The Romantic artists were able to find in the image of the gypsy a motif which lent itself to express a variety of preoccupations. However, more than being a motif in European romantic literature, the use of musical gypsy characters in Brentano's novella "Die mehreren Wehmüller und ungarische Nationalgesichter" postitions the presentation of the crossroad dwellers characters at the writer's own crossroads of literary tastes and the contemporary aesthethic discourse. The portrayal of Mitidika and Michaly presents an aesthetic counter argument to Goethe’s classical aesthetic discourse through the use of gypsy figures and notions of musicality attributed to them. The objective is to show that the musical gypsies of Brentano‘s novella, Mitidika and Michaly, are a criticism of Goethe‘s Mignon figure, another musical gypsy. Brentano revives Mignon in the form of Mitidika and Michaly while making a statement in favour of music as the guiding aesthetic principle for literature and art in general and as a symbol for artistic inspiration and genius. Mignon has to die in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre because she can only express herself through the intuitive and unreflected mode of music. Her lack of linguistic, and thus structural form-giving abilities dooms her artistic being, while Wilhelm Meister masters form over intuition. Brentano reverses this argument favouring music instead of language through an ironic play on the literary gypsy figures transforming them into a viable aesthetic alternative. He does this through an alternative use of central elements of Goethe‘s novel, namely androgyny, antagonistic artist figures and music.
Gypsy figures have been used as symbolic characters from German classical literature onwards. Representations of them draw on sources such as the ethnographic treatment of the Romanies by Grellmann in 1782 and the fictional representation in Cervantes‘ exemplary novella "La Gitanilla". Already Grellmann stresses the musicality of gypsies, in particular, he mentions the unsurpassed musical talent of a fiddler by the name of Mihaly: „Ein solcher Orpheus war ein gewisser Barna Mihaly, […] der sich gegen die Mitte dieses Jahrhunderts auf besagte Weise [durch das Violinspiel] auszeichnete," one of the rare instances of a positive value judgement with regards to the gypsy character and lifestyle he studies. Grellmann also introduces the foundation of an androgenous perception of female gypsies when he observes that female Romanies are often "Bastarde des männlichen Geschlechts" because they wear trousers, smoke, and generally show masculine features. Similarly, In Cervantes' "La Gitanilla", the protagonist "Preciosa" is characterised by an explicit musical ability. She combines a talent in music, song, dance and literature in a synthesis of intuitive art and masterly skill while being supplemented with a beautiful countenance and character. She therefore embodies an idealised image of woman:
Salió la tal Preciosa, y la más única bailadora que se hallaba en todo el gitanismo, y la más hermosa y discreta que pudiera hallarse, no entre los gitanos, sino entre cuantas hermosas y discretas pudiera pregonar la fama. […] y lo que es más, que la crianza tosca en que se criaba no descubría en ella sino ser nacida de mayores prendas que de gitana, porque era en extremo cortés y bien razonada. (LG, 61-62)
Both Goethe and Brentano draw on these sources of the current image of the gypsy, but while Goethe uses aspects of this image in an indirect way, Brentano copies boldly from Grellmann and bases the female of the two gypsies in his novella, Mitidika, firmly on the female ideal as encountered in Cervantes‘ novella.
Both Goethe’s Mignon character and Brentano’s Mitidika and Michaly draw on the contemporary image of the gypsy, but the interpretation of this image differs between Goethe and Brentano. The reception and reworking of the Mignon figure by Brentano among others has to be understood within the romantic discourse of the gypsy which appropriated aspects associated with gypsies and used them as symbolic sites and illustration of Romantic aesthetics. While gypsies were endowed with negative attributes in classical literature, the same traits were seen in a very different light in romantic literature. In a marked contrast to the classical authors, the gypsy character held an attraction for the Romantics: The gypsy represented an uncivilised and ethnically pure group at the edge of society, unalienated from themselves and their existence in a paradisiacal notion of the noble being before the Fall from Grace. The image of the gypsy was invoked to express ideas of simple folk, of exoticism and danger, and of uncontrolled sexuality, in particular that of women. In this context, gypsy characters are particularly adept in expressing a male fear of women. They are thus essentially the image of the dangerous yet fascinating Other, of everything that is either lacking and wished for, and, because not fully understood, simultaneously feared, in the civilised and industrialised bourgeois society of the nineteenth century, because of their potential to undermine the basis of this society through an incompatible set of mores and customs. As they are seen as being close to the unalienated pre-capitalist society, they are also the bearers of folk knowledge and culture, of folk music and oral poetry, occultism and supernatural forces.
The ambivalent nature of the figure of Mignon has produced numerous interpretations of her significance within Goethe's Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. However, the significance of Mignon for the purpose of this paper lies in the fact that her image was reappropriated by German Romanticism and that this image seems to be even more enduring than the original in Goethe‘s novel. Her association with contemporary descriptions of Romanies or gypsies, her musicality and her androgenous appearance are the threads that link Goethes Mignon and the Mignon of German Romanticism. Already contemporary readers saw Mignon as a romantic character, as Friedrich Schlegels essay, published in 1798, shows when he describes Mignon as a character which "dem Ganzen romantischen Zauber und Musik gibt."
Mignon possesses many features common to the contemporary image of the gypsy. Although she is in reality the daughter of an aristocrat and not a gypsy, we only find this out after her death. In her lifetime, however, the reader is presented with a different image through the eyes of Wilhelm Meister in the first half of the novel and through the narration of Natalie and Therese in the closing part of the novel. This image places her in the contemporary concept that is made up of a specific set of characteristics which are interpreted and understood as constituting a gypsy: Mignon is dark ("düstere Gestalt," WML, 92), mysterious, suffers from "growth which has been stunted", yet she is attractive "Ihre Bildung war nicht regelmäßig; aber auffallend, ihre Stirne geheimnisvoll, ihre Nase außerordentlich schön […] und reizend genug" (WML, 99-100), she speaks many languages but none correctly („indem sie ein gebrochnes, mit Französisch und Italienisch durchflochtenes Deutsch sprach", WML, 111), she is part of a group of travelling acrobats, shrouds her provenance in mystery and, above all, she can only express her innermost feelings through music. When she does so, however, the music seems to come from a primeval locus, unmediated and unreflected, the prototype of romantic inspiration. Through her musical expression, she thus gives voice to unformed and unrepressed feeling - in complete contrast to Wilhelm Meister, whose aim in life is to rationally control his feelings and thus succeed in his development. Mignon's music encompasses both song and dance, and both are equally significant. The character of her music is either that of folk songs, "Lieder", and thus a naïve art form, or it is expressed in a wild and immoderate dance, accompanied by her play on the tambourine:
Sie schlug das Tamburin mit aller möglichen Zierlichkeit und Lebhaftigkeit, indem sie bald mit druckendem Finger auf dem Felle schnell hin und her schnurrte, bald mit dem Rücken der Hand, bald mit den Knöcheln darauf pochte, ja mit abwechselnden Rhythmen das Pergament bald wider die Kniee, bald wieder den Kopf schlug, bald schüttelnd die Schellen allein klingen ließ und so aus dem einfachsten Instrumente gar verschiedene Töne hervorlockte. (WML, 336-337)
Here her musicality is linked to the body. Music is expressed through bodily movements by means of rhythmic expression. The body itself becomes a musical instrument when the bones of her fingers create the sounds on the tambourine. Her body instills the instrument with life and sound, governed by the unmediated expression of her emotions. These emotions are characterised by a wildness and immoderacy which, while attractive and spellbinding, are also unformed, uncontrolled and immediate in the sense of originating in a locus that precedes representation. The effect of her musical expression is thus situated beyond rationalisation and linguistic or logic representation. The directness of her music is established through the primarily sensual character of the musical performance which relies on touch, auricy, vibrating vocal chords and a specific and evanescent moment in time. The latter means that music is irreconcilably beyond representation as the physical musical act is truly impossible to copy or represent. It fades completely with as its physical effects on the body cease, leaving only the memory of the experience.
The sexual character of her musical play, as expressed through her manner of playing the tambourine and her dance, links her musicality with her androgeny. Both are statements on her ambivalent sensuality and, indeed, sexuality. Her being revolves around her erotic but repressed relationship to Wilhelm Meister. Like other female characters in the novel that have amourous intentions towards Wilhelm Meister, she too has to die for her dangerous sexuality and musicality to be controlled, while Wilhelm Meister‘s unconsummated union with Therese is one of reason. Although Mignon is much more ambivalent than this sketch indicates, these are the aspects that were to be central for the romantic rewriting of her character.
The two main and intertwined characteristics of Mignon's gypsy soul for both Goethe and Brentano are her androgynous nature and her musicality. As far as her gender is concerned, at no point in the novel is it ascertained beyond doubt. She is referred to by the narrator with nouns that are neuter or abstract, such as "Wesen", "Geschöpf", "Gestalt" and "Kind". Her very name is masculine, the female version being "mignonne". She remains an asexual child throughout the novel, her sexuality in general and her femininity in particular are denied, as is adulthood. At the same time, both her femininity and sexuality are surpressed in a language that is highly sexually charged, so that her sexuality is indeed manifest in the text through the act of narration. Wilhelm Meister is attracted to her mysterious and androgynous nature, just as he is attracted to other sexually ambivalent characters: Therese and Natalie as well as Mariane all appear at some instance in male clothes, as amazons or are even mistaken for men by Wilhelm Meister. His attraction to the sexually uncertain is intertwined with his attraction to the emotive powers of its mode of expression, namely music and dance, which too are difficult to contain or control and threaten his rational development.
In Brentano‘s novella, the two musical gypsy figures of Michaly and Mitidika present another notion of the androgenous. Brentano‘s two characters are Mignon, or the Androgyn, split into two halves who have to be reunited and it is only through their union at the fake border of the Pestkordon, the symbolic location of the human state of Zerrissenheit, or inner conflict, that the narrative knot is disentangled and order achieved.
To understand the significance of the androgynous, let us go back to its origins. In Plato, Aristophanes introduces us to the Androgyn in his speech about the original unity of man and woman in this mythological figure. This being, similar to a round yingyang moving about quickly and in all directions with the help of 8 limbs, is a symbol for the harmony between all things universal, the harmony at the essence of the world. To weaken this strong and harmonious being, Zeus split it into two. While the outer appearance of this cut was successfully hidden by the gods, the inner, emotional split is beyond healing. As a consequence, man and woman have insatiable desire for the other half in an attempt to re-establish their original unity. This desire and longing is the basis for all love between man and woman. Androgyny, as Inge Stephan defines it, "ist harmonische Ganzheitsvorstellung und zugleich ist sie Steigerung des Erotischen und wird mit Unmäßigkeit, Gesetzesübertretung und Treulosigkeit assoziiert."
This combination of the ideal of an harmonious unity between man and woman and an increase in the erotic attraction of the androgynous character accounts both for Mignon’s treatment in Goethe’s novel and the positive portrayal of the androgynous musical gypsies in Brentano’s novella. Mignon's behaviour and feelings are indeed immoderate and uncontrolled, and, consequently erotic. This immoderate exuberance of the erotic is best exemplified when she expresses herself through music and dance. When performing her egg-dance, Wilhelm perceives it as "streng, scharf, trocken, heftig" (WML, 117) which is mirrored and developed in the description of her playful dance and banging on the tambourine. Here, she bares her innermost emotion and childish wildness. Full of life, Wilhelm sees her vigorously joyful: "und besonders war Mignon ausgelassen, wie man sie niemals gesehen." (WML, 336) Similarly, when reciting her songs in conjunction with the harpist, she touches an emotional connection with Wilhelm Meister, lending expression to and an outlet for his feelings in a way that opposes indirect linguistic representation. The nature of the harpist's and Mignon's music conceptually opposes that of language, while the former is formless, direct and unalienated, the latter is structured, indirect and definite. The narrator insists on a description of their recital that stresses the originality of Mignon's expression, that is the unmediated and direct nature of her manner to express feeling. Mignon achieves to express Wilhelm Meisters emotional state directly as opposed to the indirect expression that is the narrative transformation of the original event. At the same time, the song that expresses both Wilhelm Meisters's and Mignon's nostalgia, keeps an element of unruliness and irregularity which links it to her androgynous eroticism: "das Lied," which Mignon and the harpist sing, is an "unregelmäßiges Duett" yet, or rather consequently, is characterised by "herzlichsten Ausdrucke." (WML, 250) It is through music, then, that Mignon touches the abyss of feeling. She does this both in a manner appreciated by Wilhelm Meister, when she lends expression to his emotional conflicts, and in a manner which disconcerts Wilhelm Meister, when her unruliness and wild androgynous eroticism threaten Wilhelm Meister's control over his feelings, putting him in touch with aspects of his character which he strives to control, or indeed surpress, through reason. Mignon, however, upholds her motto that "Die Vernunft ist grausam, […] das Herz ist besser" (WML, 504).
The argument of WML condemns Mignon's emotional being, her eroticism, her childishness and refusal of genderspecific adulthood, her wildness and indulgence in unmediated forms of expression to death, while Wilhelm Meister rises to be the prime example of successful character development through temperance, moderation and reason. Brentano, however, chooses to perceive Mignon's musicality and androgeny in a different way, and re-appropriates her in the two characters of Mitidika and Michaly. They, as opposed to Mignon who is forever trapped in her childhood and uncontrolled emotions, and who fails when measured against the ideal process of character development as exemplified by Wilhelm Meister, stand for the original state of humanity before the split into male and female, reason and emotion, which placed man and woman on a neverending quest for the other to achieve their primeval, original and unalienated state of unity. This sounds familiar: Kleist, in his "Marionettentheater," argues quite similarly: originally, in a childlike primeval and paradisiacal, and harmonious state of mankind, human beings are characterised by natural grace because they lack self-awareness and self-knowledge. From an ontological perspective, this stage describes childhood of the individual person, from a phyllogenetic perspective, it refers to humanity before the Fall from Grace. In a second stage after tasting the fruit of the tree of knowledge, mankind is in a state of affectedness or "Zierde" due to an awareness and knowledge of himself. This state can only be overcome in a third phase of this trichotomy so as to reach infinite knowledge and a divine existence, which is unachievable during our limited human existence:
so findet sich auch, wenn die Erkenntnis gleichsam durch ein Unendliches gegangen ist, die Grazie wieder ein; so, daß sie, zu gleicher Zeit, in demjenigen menschlichen Körperbau am reinsten erscheint, der entweder gar keins, oder ein unendliches Bewußtsein hat, d.h. in dem Gliedermann, oder in dem Gott. ("ÜdM", 189)
This state of grace, too, finds its expression in dance, that is the combination of music and bodily movement. For Kleist, it is the puppet on the string that symbolises the possibility of this regained state of grace. Its perfection stems from its independence from the laws of gravity ("weil die Kraft, die sie in die Lüfte erhebt, größer ist, als jene, die sie an die Erde fesselt", ("ÜdM", 185)) and thus free from the social practice of Ziererei, or affectedness for the self-aware person. In fact, compared to a human dancer, the marionette performs a superior dance, because it only touches the ground occasionally:
Die Puppen brauchen den Boden nur, wie die Elfen, um ihn zu streifen, und den Schwung der Glieder, durch die augenblickliche Hemmung neu zu beleben; wir brauchen ihn, um darauf zu ruhen, und uns von der Anstrengung des Tanzes zu erholen: ein Moment, der offenbar selber kein Tanz ist. ("ÜdM", 185).
The puppet on the string thus offers a free play of art and is the sign of perfect art, utopia and of both the childlike and divine state of grace, best symbolised and illustrated in dance. Unsurprisingly then, this gravity defying marionette-dancer displays angelic characteristics similar to those of Mignon: They are both creatures of the air rather than the earth and their character is best expressed through dance.
Let us reconsider Mignon in this light: she is androgenous, representing the unity of male and female before the Fall from Grace, she is childlike and resembles a puppet on a string, is unaware of her attractiveness and graceful when performing her egg dance, and in touch with ineffable inspiration when expressing herself through music. In her dance, Kleist’s Marionette seems to have come alive: she defies physical laws as she dances blindly around the eggs without touching a single one of them. She appears to be guided by a force outside herself, resembling Wilhelm Meister’s own childhood puppet theatre. Her dance is highly artistic and artificial at the same time: "Künstlich abgemessen schritt sie nunmehr auf dem Teppich hin und her," (WML,116) yet in spite of, or rather because of, this artificial character, it is graceful and erotic: "Er [Wilhelm Meister] empfand, was er schon für Mignon gefühlt, in diesem Augenblicke auf einmal. Er sehnte sich, dieses verlassene Wesen an Kindestatt seinem Herzen einzuverleiben, es in seine Arme zu nehmen und mit der Liebe eines Vaters Freude des Lebens in ihm zu erwecken." (WML,117). Like the Marionette in Kleist's essay, Mignon only seems to touch the ground occasionally, she is part of the "springende Gesellschaft", the bouncing group, and eventually loses all contact with the ground in her transformation to an angel. "Die Kraft, die sie in die Lüfte erhebt," is indeed "größer [..] als jene, die sie an die Erde fesselt" ("ÜdM", 185). Furthermore, she is not aware of herself as a person as she is mostly unable to use the first-person pronoun and thus introduces herself with "man nennt mich Mignon" (WML, 99). She acts as a mirror for Wilhelm Meister by wanting to wear clothes of the same colour as his and by expressing his feelings in her songs However, she is unable to reflect her own feelings or put them into any other form such as language other than the non-language of music. Her music, on the other hand, fails to be deciphered into words because it is so true to human nature and feelings that any mediation of it other than through music is doomed. Transcribing it means imperfectly reflecting it: "Aber die Originalität der Wendungen konnte er nur von ferne nachahmen. Die kindliche Unschuld des Ausdrucks verschwand, indem die gebrochene Sprache übereinstimmend und das Unzusammenhängende verbunden ward" (WML, 152). In WML this is the characteristic that dooms Mignon. As she is unable to give form to her feelings, she cannot live. Kleist delivers the counter argument: being conscious of our actions and being able to reflect our existence has alienated us from nature and God and we have to die or eat the apple of temptation for a second time to find our unalientated, harmonious and strong state of being again. Although condemned by Goethe's novel, Mignon is therefore the primeval marionette that was to become the muse for the Romantic artist as a promise for a paradise regained.
In "Die Mehreren Wehmüller und Ungarische Nationalgesichter" we are presented with Mignon split in two: the existential split into two spheres of experience which is the curse of humanity and which is to be overcome, if not in reality, through and in poetry which offers the Romantic artist the utopian possibility of overcoming the frontiers existing between the sexes and social status, just like the narrative proves in the eventual transgression of both geographical and symbolic boundaries. In the novella, then, the same characteristics that were endowed with values that eventually proved Mignon to be unfit for developmental success and her integration into society and adulthood are reinterpreted in a positive light in the representation of the characters of Mitidika and Michaly. The similarities of outer appearance and character are striking: Mignon and Mitidika do not only share the same name (both names mean "little one"), but just like Mignon, Mitidika appears in male clothing. Yet unlike her, she combines physical beauty with virtue ("MW": 299), and dance with courage: "denn sie war ein wunderschönes, frei, kühn, scheu und züchtig bewegtes Menschenbild" ("MW": 295). She is symbolically situated in a childlike proximity to nature. She dwells in the forest and exhibits a fascination with all things shiny and with making up which is that of a child rather than an adult. Most significantly, however, it becomes manifest through the art of dance, when she demonstrates a dionysical wild exuberance. Brentano comments on his own attraction to the implications of dance when writing to Bettina in 1802 "Tanz ist doch edel! - ja gewiß mit die reinste, die erhabenste der Künste." Combined with the repeated linking of Mitidika's appearance with the description of a princess or, indeed, a queen, ("WM", 294 and 295) her symbolic relevance of an incarnation of pure poetry becomes apparent. The symbolic use of both music and androgeny are thus approximations towards an unalienated poetic existence.
Mignon redivivus in Mitidika and her male counterpart Michaly are characterised by an idealised beauty and purety that articulates their symbolic status as the allegory of pure and perfect poetry. Mitidika's dance to her brother Michaly's violin music, whose play is described by Brentano quoting Grellman as that of an Orpheus', is a mirror image of Mignon's egg dance: both dance on a carpet, and both transfix their audience, expressing the ineffable. While Mignon's musical and androgenous nature with its erotic connotations had to be controlled through her death and transformation into an embalmed artefact and icon, "das Wunder der Kunst" (WML, 592), Mitidika's and Michaly's music and androgeny are celebrated as the promised return to a better society through poetry and music: "So ward der Friede gestiftet" ("MW", 310) as the narrator explicitly comments on the effect Mitidika's and Michaly's music has on the party. Mitidika's dance and singing is full of magic, "Zauber", she is in fact a "Zauberin" ("MW", 299 and 310) and just like Mignon, she plays the tambourine, while Michaly accompanies her on the fiddle, mirroring the scene where Mignon was accompanied by a violinist when she performed her egg-dance. In the novella, their music is the missing link that is capable of reuniting representatives of all ways of life, social class and gender. In this way, through those arts that are both social and individual in nature, namely music and storytelling, borders are crossed, communities established and confusion is cleared while they simultaneously provide joy and entertainment in a worrysome and threateningly chaotic situation. The explicit association of Michaly with Orpheus is in this context more than a quotation from Grellmann: Michaly's music achieves to calm and appease the tensions present just like Orpheus pacified the demons of the underworld through his singing.
The positive impact on society through the musical gypsies Michaly and Mitidika is further emphasised by the effects of their art and actions. Thus it is through the narrative event on the one hand and the musical event on the other that chaos is controlled and people are united in "Die mehreren Wehmüller". The gypsies play an essential role in this. Just like Mignon, Mitidika and Michaly are artist figures through their use of music and they offer the romantic artist a potential for identification. In the novella, they are counterpositioned with Wehmüller and Froschauer, two painters and artists who succeed in mass-producing their art which is devoid of individuality so that, as a curse, their own individuality is denied by the witty use of the Doppelgänger motif. Brentano juxtaposes this industrialised, mass-produced art with two forms of folk art: the art of storytelling and the art of music. These oral arts do not materially enrich their practitioner, but they spiritually enrich the travelling group of people who, with their variety of backgrounds, represent contemporary society in miniature. Consequently, while Wehmüller is a problematic artist, Michaly is not, and while Wehmüller represents perverted art, Michaly represents authentic art. Brentano's argument in favour of the authentic folk arts, though delivered with a wink of an eye, incorporates Baciochi's storytelling, Mitidika's dance and Michaly's fiddling. All three involve their audience, and it is no coincidence that the storyteller‘s name echoes that of the master of the genre, Giovanni Boccaccio. More than involving their audience in the process of their performance, Michaly links the inset story through his musical interpretation of the song to the frame narrative - just as Mitidika performs her dance in both the inset and frame narrative - and thus they link the past with the present, culminating in Mitidika's appearance in the frame narrative when her story is being narrated. Eventually, it is Mitidika who concludes the narration of the internal story on the external level of the novella, uniting the two levels, as she and Michaly unite Wehmüller and Tonerl, themselves, Froschauer and his bride, Devillier and Mitidika, and of course the two Wehmüllers, and in so doing, they break down the very frontier that had been the cause of all divisions. Thus, identities are found and established, and through music and narration, truth, unity and order are created. Poetry, that is music and storytelling, succeeds in distinguishing appearance from reality and creates peace among nationalities. In fact, brother and sister Michaly and Mitidika appear as the family of poetry and music because of their extraordinary beauty, which, of course, in physiognomic terms guarantees the beauty of the soul, through their singing, dancing and transcendence of frontiers as gypsies. Finally, just like Mignon's song, Michaly's tune also defies written notation. In its originality and individuality, his art, that is his music, is pure expression and signified without the need of a signifier. Its essence is in its articulation and depends on the moment and situation, the social context and its emotional adequacy for the listener: "so was diktirt sich nicht, ich wüßte es auch jetzt nicht mehr und wenn Sie mir den Hals abschnitten; wenn ich einmal wieder eine schöne Jungfer betrübt habe, wird es mir auch wieder einfallen," ("MW", 276). Such evanescent oral, and indeed, aural arts present an aesthetic contrast to the favoured visual and plastic arts of classicism: "visual reality is so equivocal that even love’s discrimination must be based on aural evidence;" thus identities have to be confirmed by aural recognition. Michaly and Mitidika thus represent natural, naïve and oral folk poetry. The holy family of nature poetry, "die heilige Familie der Naturpoesie" as Friedrich Schlegel christianed Mignon, Sperata and Augustino, has indeed come alive again in Michaly and Mitidika. The union between the representative of enlightened France, Devillier, and Mitidika is then - while essentially problematic - also that of the sensual art of music and reason, the union of the Dionysic and Apollinian principles. Through music, the age of reason can be transcended to a higher, possibly poetic existence. The enlightened representative of reason, Devillier, is allowed to cry like a child ("MW", 311).
The Romantics interpreted Mignon as the embodiment of what music stands for in their aesthetics. Her being is led by emotions and feelings, she is the naïve but direct gateway to poetry and the human soul, a symbol for artistic genius and inspirational intuition. Her death has thus to be reversed and all she stands for has to be celebrated in a lively picture which is just what Brentano attempts in his portrayal of the two gypsies Mitidika and Michaly. In Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, their sister or indeed brother in androgyny and gypsyhood, Mignon, is transformed into an icon and embalmed artefact through an act of narration which, while transforming her into art and thus controlling her and her erotic attraction, also kills her, the narratee. Her character has to be killed for the image to live. Michaly and Mitidika, on the other hand, are a celebration of life, poetry and music, brought to live through the narrative process and the effects music displays in the novella. The aesthetic implications of the poetics of music have, like Mignon’s revival in Mitidika and Michaly, come of age and can enter the world confident in their significance and power. Mignon has been resurrected and is wearing a new gown.