HotFreeBooks.com
A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century
by Henry A. Beers
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

In 1819-20 Byron was living at Ravenna, the place of Dante's death and burial[13] and of the last years of his exile. He used to ride for hours together through Ravenna's "immemorial wood," [14] and the associations of the scene prompted him to put into English (March, 1820) the Francesca episode, that "thing woven as out of rainbows on a ground of eternal black." In the letter to Murray, sent with his translation, he wrote: "Enclosed you will find, line for line, in third rhyme (terza rima), of which your British blackguard reader as yet understands nothing, Fanny of Rimini. You know that she was born here, and married and slain, from Cary, Boyd, and such people." In his diary, Byron commented scornfully on Frederick Schlegel's assertions that Dante had never been a favourite with his own countrymen; and that his main defect was a want of gentle feelings. "Not a favourite! Why they talk Dante—write Dante—and think and dream Dante at this moment (1821) to an excess which would be ridiculous, but that he deserves it. . . . Of gentle feelings!—and Francesca of Rimini—and the father's feelings in Ugolino—and Beatrice—and 'La Pia'! Why there is a gentleness in Dante beyond all gentleness." Byron had not the patience to be a good translator. His rendering is closer and, of course, more spirited than Hayley's; but where long search for the right word was needed, and a delicate shading of phrase to reproduce without loss the meaning of this most meaning and least translatable of masters, Byron's work shows haste and imperfection.

"Love, who to none beloved to love again Remits."

is neither an idiomatic nor in any way an adequate englishing of

"Amor, che a nullo amato amar perdona."

Nor does

"Accursed was the book and he who wrote,"

fully give the force of the famous

"Galeotto fu il libro, e chi lo scrisse." [15]

The year before Byron had composed "The Prophecy of Dante," an original poem in four cantos, in terza rima,

". . . imitative rhyme, Harsh Runic copy of the Soutb's sublime." [16]

The poem foretells "the fortunes of Italy in the ensuing centuries," and is a rheotorical piece, diffuse and declamatory, and therein quite the opposite of Dante. It manifests Byron's self-conscious habit of submitting his theme to himself, instead of losing himself in his theme. He is Dante in exile, and Gemma Donati is Lady Byron—

"That fatal she, Their mother, the cold partner who hath brought Destruction for a dowry—this to see And feel and know without repair, hath taught A bitter lesson; but it leaves me free: I have not vilely found nor basely sought, They made an exile not a slave of me."

Dante's bitter and proud defiance found a response in Byron's nature, but his spirit, as a whole, the English poet was not well fitted to interpret. In the preface to "The Prophecy," Byron said that he had not seen the terza rima tried before in English, except by Hayley, whose translation he knew only from an extract in the notes to Beckford's "Vathek."

Shelley's knowledge and appreciation of Dante might be proved from isolated images and expressions in many parts of his writings. He translated the sonnet to Guido Cavalcanti with greater freedom and elegance than Hayley, and wrote a short copy of verses on the Hunger Tower at Pisa, the scene of Ugolino's sufferings. In the preface to "Epipsychidion" he cites the "Vita Nuova" as the utterance of an idealised and spiritualised love like that which his own poem records. In the "Defence of Poetry" he pays a glowing tribute to Dante as the second of epic poets and "the first awakener of entranced Europe." His poetry is the bridge "which unites the modern and the ancient world." Contrary to the prevailing critical tradition, Shelley preferred the "Purgatory" and the "Paradise" to the "Hell." Shelley also employed terza rima in his fragmentary pieces, "Prince Athanase," "The Triumph of Life," "The Woodman and the Nightingale," and in one of his best lyrics, the "Ode to the West Wind," [17] written in 1819 "in a wood that skirts the Arno, near Florence." This linked measure, so difficult for the translator and which gives a hampered movement to Byron's and Hayley's specimens of the "Inferno," Shelley may be said to have really domesticated in English verse by his splendid handling of it in original work:

"Make me thy lyre even as the forest is: What if my leaves are falling, like its own? The tumult of thy mighty harmonies Will take from both a deep autumnal tone, Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, spirit fierce, My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!"

Shelley expressed to Medwin his dissatisfaction with all English renderings from Dante—even with Cary—and announced his intention, or desire, to translate the whole of the "Divine Comedy" in terza rima. Two specimens of this projected version he gave in "Ugolino," and "Matilda Gathering Flowers" ("Purg.," xxviii., 1-51). He also made a translation of the first canzone of the "Convito."

After the appearance of Cary's version, critical comprehension of Dante grew rapidly. In the same year when Coleridge gave his lectures, Hallam published his "Middle Ages," which contained a just though somewhat coldly worded estimate of the great Italian. This was amplified in his later work, "The Literature of Europe" (1838-39). Hallam said that Dante was the first name in the literature of the Middle Ages, the creator of his nation's poetry, and the most original of all writers, and the most concise. But he blamed him for obscurity, forced and unnatural turns of expression, and barbarous licenses of idiom. The "Paradise" seemed to him tedious, as a whole, and much of the "Purgatory" heavy. Hallam repeated, if he did not originate that nice bit of discernment, that in his "Paradise" Dante uses only three leading ideas—light, music, and motion. Then came Macaulay's essay "Milton," in the Edinburgh for 1825, with the celebrated parallel between the "Divine Comedy" and the "Paradise Lost," and the contrast between Dante's "picturesque" and Milton's "imaginative" method. Macaulay's analysis has been questioned by Ruskin and others; some of his positions were perhaps mistaken, but they were the most advanced that English Dante criticism had as yet taken up. And finally came Carlyle's vivid piece of portrait painting in "Hero Worship" (1841). The first literal prose translation of any extent from the "Commedia" was the "Inferno" by Carlyle's brother John (1849).

Since the middle of the century Dante study and Dante literature in English-speaking lands have waxed enormously. Dante societies have been founded in England and America. Almost every year sees another edition, a new commentary or a fresh translation in prose, in blank verse, in terza rima, or in some form of stanza. It is not exaggerating to say that there is more public mention of Dante now in a single year than in all the years of the eighteenth century together. It would be interesting, if it were possible, to count the times that Dante's name occurs in English writings of the eighteenth and then of the nineteenth century; afterwards to do the same with Ariosto and Tasso and compare the results. It would be found that, while the eighteenth century set no very high value on Ariosto and Tasso, it ignored Dante altogether; and that the nineteenth has put aside the superficial mediaevalism of the Renaissance romancers and gone back to the great religious romancer of the Italian Middle Age. There is no surer plummet than Dante's to sound the spiritual depth of a time. It is in the nineteenth century first that Shakspere and Dante took possession of the European mind. In 1800 Shakspere was an English, or at most an English and German poet, and Dante exclusively an Italian. In 1900 they had both become world poets. Shakspere's foreign conquests were the earlier and are still the wider, as wide perhaps as the expanse—

"That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne."

But the ground that Dante has won he holds with equal secureness. Not that he will ever be popular, in Shakspere's way; and yet it is far gone when the aesthete in a comic opera is described as a "Francesca da Rimini young man."

As a stimulus to creative work the influence of Dante, though not entirely absent, is not conspicuous in the first half of the century. It is not until the time of the Rossettis in England and of Longfellow and Dr. Parsons in America that any poetry of a really Dantesque inspiration and, at the same time, of high original value was added to our literature.[18]

The first fruits of the Dante revival in England, in the shape of original production, was Leigh Hunt's "Story of Rimini" (1816)—"Mr. Hunt's smutty story of Rimini," as the Tory wits of Blackwood were fond of calling it in their onslaughts upon the Cockney school. This was a romaunt in four cantos upon the already familiar episode of Francesca, that "lily in the mouth of Tartarus." Hunt took Dryden's "Fables" as his model in versification, employing the heroic couplet with the frequent variation of the triplet and the alexandrine. The poem is not at all Dantesque in its lax and fluent sweetness, and in that colloquial, familiar manner which is constant in all Hunt's writing, both prose and verse; reminding one, at its best, of Chaucer, who was, indeed, one of his favourite masters. Hunt softens the ferocity of the tale as given by Boccaccio, according to whom the husband Giovanni Malatesta was a cripple, and killed the lovers in flagrante delicto. Hunt makes him a personable man, though of proud and gloomy temper. He slays his brother Paolo in chivalrous fashion and in single combat, and Francesca dies of a broken heart. The descriptive portions of the "Story of Rimini" are charming: the feudal procession with trumpeters, heralds, squires, and knights, sent to escort home the bride, the pine forest outside Ravenna, and the garden at Rimini in which the lovers used to meet—

"Places of nestling green for poets made."

Hunt had a quick eye for colour; a fondness, not altogether free from affectation, for dainty phrases; and a feminine love of little niceties in dress, tapestry, needlework, and furnishings. The poem was written mostly in prison where its author spent two years for a libel on the Prince Regent. Byron used to visit him there and bring him books bearing on Francesca's history. Hunt brought into the piece romantic stuff from various sources, including a summary of the book which betrayed the lovers to their fatal passion, the romance of "Lancelot du Lac." And Giovanni speaks to his dying brother a paraphrase of the celebrated eulogy pronounced over Lancelot by Sir Ector in the "Morte Darthur":

"And, Paulo, thou wert the completest knight That ever rode with banner to the fight; And thou wert the most beautiful to see, That ever came in press of chivalry: And of a sinful man thou wert the best That ever for his friend put spear in rest; And thou wert the most meek and cordial That ever among ladies eat in hall; And thou wert still, for all that bosom gored, The kindest man that ever struck with sword."

Hunt makes the husband discover his wife's infidelity by overhearing her talking in her sleep. In many other particulars he enfeebles, dandifies, and sentimentalises Dante's fierce, abrupt tragedy; holding the reader by the button while he prattles in his garrulous way of Paulo's "taste"—

"The very nose, lightly yet firmly wrought, Showed taste"—

and of

"The two divinest things in earthly lot, A lovely woman in a rural spot!"

a couplet which irresistibly suggests suburban picnics.

Yet no one in his generation did more than Leigh Hunt to familiarise the English public with Italian romance. He began the study of Italian when he was a schoolboy at Christ Hospital, being attracted to Ariosto by a picture of Angelica and Medoro, in West's studio. Like his friend Keats, on whose "Eve of St. Agnes" he wrote an enthusiastic commentary,[19] Hunt was eclectic in his choice of material, drawing inspiration impartially from the classics and the romantics; but, like Keats, he became early a declared rebel against eighteenth-century traditions and asserted impulse against rule. "In antiquarian corners," he says, in writing of the influences of his childish days, "Percy's 'Reliques' were preparing a nobler age both in poetry and prose." At school he fell passionately in love with Collins and Gray, composed a "Winter" in imitation of Thomson, one hundred stanzas of a "Fairy King" in emulation of Spenser, and a long poem in Latin inspired by Gray's odes and Malet's "Northern Antiquities." In 1802 [aetate 18] he published a volume of these juvenilia—odes after Collins and Gray, blank verse after Thomson and Akenside, and a "Palace of Pleasure" after Spenser's "Bower of Bliss." [20] It was in this same year that on a visit to Oxford, he was introduced to Kett, the professor of poetry, who expressed a hope that the youthful bard might be inspired by "the muse of Warton," whom Hunt had never read. There had fallen in Hunt's way when he was a young man, Bell's edition of the poets, which included Chaucer and Spenser. "The omission of these in Cooke's edition," he says, "was as unpoetical a sign of the times as the present familiarity with their names is the reverse. It was thought a mark of good sense; as if good sense, in matters of literature, did not consist as much in knowing what was poetical poetry, as brilliant wit." Of his "Feast of the Poets" (1814) he writes:[21] "I offended all the critics of the old or French school, by objecting to the monotony of Pope's versification, and all the critics of the new or German school by laughing at Wordsworth." In the preface to his collected poems [1832] occurs the following interesting testimony to the recentness of the new criticism. "So long does fashion succeed in palming its petty instincts upon the world for those of a nation and of nature, that it is only of late years that the French have ceased to think some of the most affecting passages in Shakespeare ridiculous. . . . Yet the English themselves, no great while since, half blushed at these criticisms, and were content if the epithet 'bizarre' ('votre bizarre Shakespeare') was allowed to be translated into 'a wild, irregular genius.' Everything was wild and irregular except rhymesters in toupees. A petty conspiracy of decorums took the place of what was becoming to humanity." In the summer of 1822 Hunt went by sailing vessel through the Mediterranean to Italy. The books which he read chiefly on board ship were "Don Quixote," Ariosto, and Berni; and his diary records the emotion with which he coasted the western shores of Spain, the ground of Italian romance, where the Paynim chivalry used to land to go against Charlemagne: the scene of Boiardo's "Orlando Inamorato" and Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso." "I confess I looked at these shores with a human interest, and could not help feeling that the keel of our vessel was crossing a real line, over which knights and lovers had passed. And so they have, both real and fabulous; the former not less romantic, the latter scarcely less real. . . . Fair speed your sails over the lucid waters, ye lovers, on a lover-like sea! Fair speed them, yet never land; for where the poet has left you, there ought ye, as ye are, to be living forever—forever gliding about a summer sea, touching at its flowery islands and reposing beneath its moon."

Hunt's sojourn in Italy, where he lived in close association with Byron and Shelley, enabled him to preciser his knowledge of the Italian language and literature. In 1846 he published a volume of "Stories from the Italian Poets," containing a summary or free paraphrase in prose of the "Divine Comedy" and the poems of Pulci, Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso, "with comments throughout, occasional passages versified and critical notices of the lives and genius of the authors." Like our own romanticist poet Longfellow, who rediscovered Europe for America, Leigh Hunt was a sympathetic and interpretative rather than a creative genius; and like Longfellow, an admirable translator. Among his collected poems are a number of elegant and spirited versions from various mediaeval literatures. "The Gentle Armour" is a playful adaptation of a French fabliau "Les Trois Chevaliers et la Chemise," which tells of a knight whose hard-hearted lady set him the task of fighting his two rivals in the lists, armed only in her smock; and, in contrition for this harsh imposure, went to the altar with her faithful champion, wearing only the same bloody sark as her bridal garment. At least this is the pretty turn which Hunt gave to the story. In the original it had a coarser ending. There are also, among these translations from mediaeval sources, the Latin drinking song attributed to Walter Map—

Mihi est propositum in taberna mori—

and Andrea de Basso's terrible "Ode to a Dead Body," in fifteenth-century Italian; which utters, with extraordinary power, the ascetic thought of the Middle Age, dwelling with a kind of gloomy exultation on the foulness of the human frame in decay.

In the preface to his "Italian Poets," Hunt speaks of "how widely Dante has re-attracted of late the attention of the world." He pronounces him "the greatest poet for intensity that ever lived," and complains that his metrical translators have failed to render his "passionate, practical, and creative style—a style which may be said to write things instead of words." Hunt's introduction is a fine piece of critical work. His alert, sparkling, and nimble intellect—somewhat lacking in concentration and seriousness—but sensitive above all things to the picturesque, was keenly awake to Dante's poetic greatness. On the other hand, his cheerful philosophy and tolerant, not to say easy-going moral nature, was shocked by the Florentine's bitter pride, and by what he conceives to be his fanaticism, bigotry, superstition, and personal vindictiveness, when

"Hell he peoples with his foes, Dark scourge of many a guilty line."

Hunt was a Universalist, and Dante was a Catholic Calvinist. There was a determined optimism about Hunt, and a buoyancy as of a cork or other light body, sometimes a little exasperating to men of less sanguine temperament.[22] He ends by protesting that Dante is a semi-barbarian and his "Divine Comedy" too often an infernal tragedy. "Such a vision as that of his poem (in a theological point of view) seems no better than the dream of an hypochondriacal savage." It was some years before this, in his lecture on "The Hero as Poet," delivered in 1840, that a friend of Leigh Hunt, of a temperament quite the opposite of his, had spoken a very different word touching this cruel scorn—this saeva indignatio of Dante's. Carlyle, like Hunt, discovered intensity to be the prevailing character of Dante's genius, emblemed by the pinnacle of the city of Dis; that "red-hot cone of iron glowing through the dim immensity of gloom." Hunt, the Universalist, said of Dante, "when he is sweet-natured once he is bitter a hundred times." "Infinite pity," says Carlyle, the Calvinist, "yet also infinite rigour of law, it is so nature is made; it is so Dante discerned that she was made. What a paltry notion is that of his 'Divine Comedy's' being a poor splenetic, impotent terrestrial libel; putting those into hell whom he could not be avenged upon on earth! I suppose if ever pity tender as a mother's was in the heart of any man, it was in Dante's. But a man who does not know rigour cannot pity either. His very pity will be cowardly, egoistic—sentimentality, or little better. . . . Morally great above all we must call him; it is the beginning of all. His scorn, his grief are as transcendent as his love; as, indeed, what are they but the inverse or converse of his love?"

It is interesting to note that, antipathetic as Hunt's nature was, in many ways, not only to the individual Dante but to the theological thought of which he was the spokesman, in his view of the sacred art of the Italian Middle Age he anticipated the Pre-Raphaelites and the modern interpreters of Dante. Here is a part of what he says of the paintings in the Campo Santo at Pisa: "The best idea, perhaps, which I can give an Englishman of the general character of the painting is by referring him to the engravings of Albert Durer and the serious parts of Chaucer. There is the same want of proper costume—the same intense feeling of the human being, both in body and soul—the same bookish, romantic, and retired character—the same evidences, in short, of antiquity and commencement, weak (where it is weak) for want of a settled art and language, but strong for that very reason in first impulses, and in putting down all that is felt. . . . The manner in which some of the hoary saints in these pictures pore over their books and carry their decrepit old age, full of a bent and absorbed feebleness—the set limbs of the warriors on horseback—the sidelong unequivocal looks of some of the ladies playing on harps and conscious of their ornaments—the people of fashion seated in rows, with Time coming up unawares to destroy them—the other rows of elders and doctors of the Church, forming part of the array of heaven—the uplifted hand of Christ denouncing the wicked at the day of judgment—the daring satires occasionally introduced against monks and nuns—the profusion of attitudes, expressions, incidents, broad draperies, ornaments of all sorts, visions, mountains, ghastly looking cities, fiends, angels, sibylline old women, dancers, virgin brides, mothers and children, princes, patriarchs, dying saints, it would be simply blind injustice to the superabundance and truth of conception in all this multitude of imagery not to recognize the real inspirers as well as harbingers of Raphael and Michael Angelo, instead of confining the honour to the Masaccios and Peruginos, [who] . . . are no more to be compared with them than the sonneteers of Henry VIII.'s time are to be compared with Chaucer. Even in the very rudest of the pictures, where the souls of the dying are going out of their mouths, in the shape of little children, there are passages not unworthy of Dante and Michael Angelo. . . . Giotto, be thou one to me hereafter, of a kindred brevity, solidity, and stateliness with that of thy friend, Dante!" [23]

Among all the writers of his generation, Keats was most purely the poet, the artist of the beautiful. His sensitive imagination thrilled to every touch of beauty from whatever quarter. That his work is mainly retrospective and eclectic in subject is because a young poet's mind responds more readily to books than to life, and this young poet did not outlive his youth. In the Greek mythology he found a world of lovely images ready to his hand, in the poetry of Spenser, Chaucer, and Ariosto, he found another such world. Arcadia and Faeryland—"the realms of gold"—he rediscovered them both for himself, and he struck into the paths that wound through their enchanted thickets with the ardour of an explorer. This was the very mood of the Renaissance—this genial heat which fuses together the pagan and the Christian systems—this indifference of the creative imagination to the mere sources and materials of its creations. Indeed, there is in Keats' style a "natural magic" which forces us back to Shakspere for comparison, a noticeable likeness to the diction of the Elizabethans, when the classics were still a living spring of inspiration, and not a set of copies held in terrorem over the head of every new poet.

Keats' break with the classical tradition was early and decisive. In his first volume (1817) there is a piece entitled "Sleep and Poetry," composed after a night passed at Leigh Hunt's cottage near Hampstead, which contains his literary declaration of faith. After speaking of the beauty that fills the universe, and of the office of Imagination to be the minister and interpreter of this beauty, as in the old days when "here her altar shone, even in this isle," and "the muses were nigh cloyed with honours," he asks:

"Could all this be forgotten? Yes, a schism Nurtured by foppery and barbarism, Made great Apollo blush for this, his land. Men were thought wise who could not understand His glories: with a puling infant's force, They swayed about upon a rocking horse And thought it Pegasus. Ah, dismal-souled! The winds of heaven blew, the ocean rolled Its gathering waves—ye felt it not. The blue Bowed its eternal bosom, and the dew Of summer night collected still, to make The morning precious. Beauty was awake! Why were ye not awake? But ye were dead To things ye knew not of—were closely wed To musty laws, lined out with wretched rule And compass vile: so that ye taught a school Of dolts to smooth, inlay and clip and fit; Till, like the certain wands of Jacob's wit, Their verses tallied. Easy was the task: A thousand handicraftsmen wore the mask Of Poesy. Ill-fated, impious race! That blasphemed the bright Lyrist to his face, And did not know it,—no, they went about, Holding a poor decrepit standard out, Marked with most flimsy mottoes, and, in large, The name of one Boileau!"

This complaint, so far as it relates to the style of the rule-ridden eighteenth-century poetry, had been made before: by Cowper, by Wordsworth, by Coleridge. But Keats, with his instinct for beauty, pierces to the core of the matter. It was because of Pope's defective sense of the beautiful that the doubt arose whether he was a poet at all. It was because of its

". . . forgetting the great end Of Poetry, that it should be a friend To soothe the cares and lift the thoughts of man,"

that the poetry of the classical school was so unsatisfying. This is one of the very few passages of Keats that are at all doctrinal[24] or polemic; and as such it has been repeatedly cited by biographers and essayists and literary historians. Lowell quotes it, in his essay on Dryden, and adds; "Keats was the first resolute and wilful heretic, the true founder of the modern school, which admits no cis-Elizabethan authority save Milton." Mr. Gosse quotes it and says, "in these lines he has admirably summed up the conceptions of the first half of the present century with regard to classical poetry." [25] The passage was still fresh when Byron, in the letter to Disraeli already quoted[26] (March 15th, 1820), held it up to scorn as the opinion of "a young person learning to write poetry and beginning by teaching the art. . . . The writer of this is a tadpole of the Lakes, a young disciple of the six or seven new schools, in which he has learned to write such lines and such sentiments as the above. He says 'easy were the task' of imitating Pope, or it may be of equalling him, I presume. I recommend him to try before he is so positive on the subject, and then compare what he will have then written, and what he has now written, with the humblest and earliest compositions of Pope, produced in years still more youthful than those of Mr. Keats when he invented his new 'Essay on Criticism,' entitled 'Sleep and Poetry' (an ominous title) from whence the above canons are taken."

In a manuscript note on this passage made after Keats' death, Byron wrote: "My indignation at Mr. Keats' depreciation of Pope has hardly permitted me to do justice to his own genius. . . . He is a loss to our literature, and the more so, as he himself, before his death, is said to have been persuaded that he had not taken the right line, and was reforming his style upon the more classical models of the language," Keats made a study of Dryden's versification before writing "Lamia"; but had he lived to the age of Methusaleh, he would not have "reformed his style" upon any such classical models as Lord Byron had in mind. Classical he might have become, in the sense in which "Hyperion" is classical; but in the sense in which Pope was classical—never. Pope's Homer he deliberately set aside for Chapman's—

"Yet did I never breathe its pure serene Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold." [27]

Keats had read Virgil, but seemingly not much Latin poetry besides, and he had no knowledge of Greek. He made acquaintance with the Hellenic world through classical dictionaries and a study of the casts in the British Museum. But his intuitive grasp of the antique ideal of beauty stood him in as good stead as Landor's scholarship. In such work as "Hyperion" and the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" he mediates between the ancient and the modern spirit, from which Landor's clear-cut marbles stand aloof in chill remoteness. As concerns his equipment, Keats stands related to Scott in romance learning much as he does to Landor in classical scholarship. He was no antiquary, and naturally made mistakes of detail. In his sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," he makes Cortez, and not Balboa, the discoverer of the Pacific. A propos of a line in "The Eve of St. Agnes"—

"And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor"—

Leigh Hunt called attention to the fact that rushes and not carpets covered the floors in the Middle Ages. In the same poem, Porphyro sings to his lute an ancient ditty,

"In Provence called 'La Belle Dame sans Merci.'"

The ditty was by Alain Chartier, who was not a troubadour, but a Norman by birth and a French court poet of the fifteenth century. The title, which Keats found in a note in an edition of Chaucer, pleased his fancy and suggested his ballad,[28] of the same name, which has nothing in common with Chartier's poem. The latter is a conventional love estrif in the artificial taste of the time. But errors of this sort, which any encyclopaedia can correct, are perfectly unimportant.

Byron's sneer at Keats, as "a tadpole of the Lakes," was ridiculously wide of the mark. He was nearly of the second generation of romantics; he was only three years old when "The Ancient Mariner" was published; "Christabel" and Scott's metrical romances had all been issued before he put forth his first volume. But though he owes much to Coleridge[29] and more perhaps to Chatterton, he took no imprint from Wordsworth, and cared nothing for Scott. Keats, like his friend Hunt, turned instinctively away from northern to southern Gothic; from rough border minstrelsy to the mythology and romance of the races that dwelt about the midland sea. Keats' sensuous nature longed for "a beaker full of the warm South." "I have tropical blood in my veins," wrote Hunt, deprecating "the criticism of a Northern climate" as applied to his "Story of Rimini." Keats' death may be said to have come to him from Scotland, not only by reason of the brutal attacks in Blackwood's—to which there is some reason for believing that Scott was privy—but because the hardships and exposure of his Scotch tour laid the foundation of his fatal malady. He brought back no literary spoils of consequence from the North, and the description of the journey in his letters makes it evident that his genius could not find itself there. This uncomfortable feeling of alienation is expressed in his "Sonnet on Visiting the Tomb of Burns." The Scotch landscape seems "cold—strange."

"The short-lived paly Summer is but won From Winter's ague."

And in the letter from Dumfries, enclosing the sonnet he writes: "I know not how it is, the clouds, the sky, the houses, all seem anti-Grecian and anti-Charlemagnish." Charlemagnish is Keats' word for the true mediaeval-romantic. It is noteworthy that Keats avoided Scott's favourite verse forms. "La Belle Dame sans Merci" is not in the minstrel ballad measure; and when Keats uses the eight-syllabled couplet, he uses it very differently from Scott, without the alternate riming which prevails in "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" and all the rest of the series.

A spark from Spenser kindled the flame of poetry in Keats. His friend, Cowden Clarke, read him the "Epithalamium" one day in 1812 in an arbour in the old school garden at Enfield, and lent him a copy of "The Faery Queene" to take home with him. "He romped through the scenes of the romance," reports Mr. Clarke, "like a young horse turned into a spring meadow." There is something almost uncanny—like the visits of a spirit—about these recurrent appearances of Spenser in English literary history. It must be confessed that nowadays we do not greatly romp through "The Faery Queene." There even runs a story that a certain professor of literature in an American college, being consulted about Spenser by one of his scholars, exclaimed impatiently, "Oh, damn Spenser!" But it is worth while to have him in the literature, if only as a starter for young poets. Keats' earliest known verses are an "Imitation of Spenser" in four stanzas. His allusions to him are frequent, and his fugitive poems include a "Sonnet to Spenser" and a number of "Spenserian Stanzas." But his only really important experiment in the measure of "The Faery Queene" was "The Eve of St. Agnes." It was with fine propriety that Shelley chose that measure for his elegy on Keats in "Adonais." Keats made a careful study of Spenser's verse, the

"Spenserian vowels that elope with ease"—

and all the rest of it. His own work in this kind is thought to resemble most closely the "Psyche" of the Irish poetess, Mary Tighe, published in 1805[30] on the well-known fable of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius. It is inferred that Keats knew the poem from a mention of the author in one of his pieces. He also wrote an "Ode to Psyche," which seems, however, to have been inspired by an engraving in Spenser's "Polymetis." Mrs. Tighe was one of the latest and best of the professed imitators of Spenser. There is beauty of a kind in her languidly melodious verse and over-profuse imagery, but it is not the passionate and quintessential beauty of Keats. She is quite incapable of such choice and pregnant word effects as abound in every stanza of "St. Agnes":

"Unclasps her warmed jewels, one by one":

"Buttressed from moonlight":

"The music, yearning like a God in pain":

"The boisterous, midnight, festive clarion."

Keats' intimate association with Leigh Hunt, whose acquaintance he made in 1816, was not without influence on his literary development. He admired the "Story of Rimini," [31] and he adopted in his early verse epistles and in "Endymion" (1818), that free ante-Popean treatment of the couplet with enjambement, or overflow, double rimes, etc., which Hunt had practised in the poem itself and advocated in the preface. Many passages in "Rimini" and in Keats' couplet poems anticipate, in their easy flow, the relaxed versification of "The Earthly Paradise." This was the Elizabethan type of heroic couplet, and its extreme instance is seen in William Chamberlayne's "Pharonnida" (1659). There is no proof of Keats' alleged indebtedness to Chamberlayne, though he is known to have been familiar with another specimen of the type, William Browne's "Britannia's Pastorals." Hunt also confirmed Keats in the love of Spenser, and introduced him to Ariosto whom he learned to read in the Italian, five or six stanzas at a time. Dante he read in Cary's translation, a copy of which was the only book that he took with him on his Scotch trip. "The fifth canto of Dante," he wrote (March, 1819), "pleases me more and more; it is that one in which he meets with Paulo and Francesca." He afterwards dreamed of the story and wrote a sonnet upon his dream, which Rossetti thought "by far the finest of Keats' sonnets" next to that on Chapman's "Homer." [32] Mr. J. M. Robertson thinks that the influence of Gary's "Dante" is visible in "Hyperion," especially in the recast version "Hyperion: A Vision." [33] And Leigh Hunt suggests that in the lines in "The Eve of St. Agnes"—

"The sculptured dead on each side seem to freeze, Emprisoned in black, purgatorial rails: Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat'ries, He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails"—

the germ of the thought is in Dante.[34] Keats wished that Italian might take the place of French in English schools. To Hunt's example was also due, in part, that fondness for neologisms for which the latter apologises in the preface to "Rimini," and with which Keats was wont to enrich his diction, as well as with Chattertonian archaisms, Chapmanese compounds, "taffeta phrases, silken terms precise" from Elizabethan English, and coinages like poesied, jollying, eye-earnestly—licenses and affectations which gave dire offence to Gifford and the classicals generally.

In the 1820 volume, which includes Keats' maturest work, there was a story from the "Decameron," "Isabella, or the Pot of Basil," which tells how a lady exhumes the body of her murdered lover, cuts off the head and buries it in a pot of sweet basil, which she keeps in her chamber and waters with her tears. It was perhaps symptomatic of a certain morbid sensibility in Keats to select this subject from so cheerful a writer as Boccaccio. This intensity of love surviving in face of leprosy, torment, decay, and material horrors of all kinds; this passionate clinging of spirit to body, is a mediaeval note, and is repeated in the neo-romantic school which derives from Keats; in Rossetti, Swinburne, Morris, O'Shaughnessy, Marzials, and Paine. Think of the unshrinking gaze which Dante fixes upon the tortures of the souls in pain; of the wasted body of Christ upon the cross; of the fasts, flagellations, mortifications of penitents; the unwashed friars, the sufferings of martyrs. Keats apologises for his endeavour "to make old prose in modern rime more sweet," and for his departure from the even, unexcited narrative of his original:

"O eloquent and famed Boccaccio, Of thee we now should ask forgiving boon. . . . For venturing syllables that ill beseem The quiet glooms of such a piteous theme. . . .

"Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance? Why linger at the yawning tomb so long? O for the gentleness of old Romance, The simple plaining of the minstrel's song."

But it is just this wormy circumstance that rivets the poet's attention; his imagination lingers over Isabella kissing the dead face, pointing each eyelash, and washing away the loam that disfigures it with her tears; over the basil tufts growing rankly from the mouldering head,

"The thing was vile with green and livid spot,"

but Keats' tenderness pierces the grave.

It is instructive to compare "Isabella" with Dryden's "Sigismonda and Guiscardo," also from the "Decameron" and surcharged with the physically horrible. In this tale Tancred sends his daughter her lover's heart in a golden goblet. She kisses the heart, fills the cup with poison, drinks, and dies. The two poems are typical examples of romantic and classical handling, though neither is quite a masterpiece in its kind. The treatment in Dryden is cool, unimpassioned, objective—like Boccaccio's, in fact. The story is firmly told, with a masculine energy of verse and language. Sigismonda and Tancred are characters, confronted wills, as in drama, and their speeches are like tirades from a tragedy of Racine. But here Dryden's rhetorical habit and his fondness for reasoning in rime run away with him, and make his art inferior to Boccaccio's. Sigismonda argues her case like counsel for the defendant. She even enjoys her own argument and carries it out with a gusto into abstractions.

"But leaving that: search we the secret springs, And backward trace the principles of things; There shall we find, that when the world began One common mass composed the mould of man," etc.

Dryden's grossness of taste mars his narrative at several points. The satirist in him will not let him miss the chance for a sneer at priests and another at William III.'s standing army. He makes his heroine's love ignobly sensual. She is a widow, who having "tasted marriage joys," is unwilling to live single. Dryden's bourgeois manner is capable even of ludicrous descents.

"The sudden bound awaked the sleeping sire, And showed a sight no parent can desire."

In Keats' poem there are no characters dramatically opposed. Lorenzo and Isabella have no individuality apart from their love; passion has absorbed character. The tale is not evolved firmly and continuously, but with lyrical outbursts, a poignancy of sympathy at the points of highest tragic tensity and a swooning sensibility all through, that sometimes breaks into weakness. There can be no question, however, which poem is the more felt; no question, either, as to which method is superior—at least as between these two artists, and as applied to subjects of this particular kind.

"Isabella" is in ottava rima, "The Eve of St. Agnes" in the Spenserian stanza. This exquisite creation has all the insignia of romantic art and has them in a dangerous degree. It is brilliant with colour, richly ornate, tremulous with emotion. Only the fine instinct of the artist saved it from the overladen decoration and cloying sweetness of "Endymion," and kept it chaste in its warmth. As it is, the story is almost too slight for its descriptive mantle "rough with gems and gold." Such as it is, it is of Keats' invention and of the "Romeo and Juliet" variety of plot. A lover who is at feud with his mistress' clan ventures into his foemen's castle while a revel is going on, penetrates by the aid of her nurse to his lady's bower, and carries her off while all the household are sunk in drunken sleep. All this in a night of wild weather and on St. Agnes' Eve, when, according to popular belief, maidens might see their future husbands in their dreams, on the performance of certain conditions. The resemblance of this poem to "Christabel" at several points, has already been mentioned,[35] and especially in the description of the heroine's chamber. But the differences are even more apparent. Coleridge's art is temperate and suggestive, spiritual, too, with an unequalled power of haunting the mind with a sense of ghostly presences. In his scene the touches are light and few; all is hurried, mysterious, shadowy. But Keats was a word painter, his treatment more sensuous than Coleridge's, and fuller of imagery. He lingers over the figure of the maiden disrobing, and over the furnishings of her room. The Catholic elegancies of his poem, as Hunt called them, and the architectural details are there for their own sake—as pictures; the sculptured dead in the chapel, the foot-worn stones, the cobwebbed arches, broad hall pillar, and dusky galleries; the "little moonlight room, pale, latticed, chill"; the chain-drooped lamp:

"The carven angels ever eager-eyed"

that

"Stared, where upon their heads the cornice rests, With hair blown back and wings put crosswise on their breasts."

Possibly "La Belle Dame sans Merci" borrows a hint from the love-crazed knight in Coleridge's "Love," who is haunted by a fiend in the likeness of an angel; but here the comparison is to Keats' advantage. Not even Coleridge sang more wildly well than the singer of this weird ballad strain, which has seemed to many critics[36] the masterpiece of this poet, wherein his "natural magic" reaches its most fascinating subtlety and purity of expression.

The famous picture of the painted "casement, high and triple-arched" in Madeline's chamber, "a burst of richness, noiseless, coloured, suddenly enriching the moonlight, as if a door of heaven were opened," [37] should be compared with Scott's no less famous description of the east oriel of Melrose Abbey by moonlight, and the comparison will illustrate a distinction similar to that already noted between the romanticism of Coleridge and Scott. The latter is here depicting an actual spot, one of the great old border abbeys; national pride and the pathos of historic ruins mingle with the description. Madeline's castle stood in the country of dream; and it was an "elfin storm from fairyland" that came to aid the lovers' flight,[38] and all the creatures of his tale are but the

"Shadows haunting fairily The brain new stuffed in youth with triumphs gay Of old Romance."

In Keats is the romantic escape, the longing to

"leave the world unseen. And with thee fade away into the forest dim." [39]

Keats cared no more for history than he did for contemporary politics. Courthope[40] quotes a passage from "Endymion" to illustrate his indifference to everything but art;

"Hence, pageant history! Hence, gilded cheat! . . . Many old rotten-timbered boats there be Upon thy vaporous bosom, magnified To goodly vessels, many a sail of pride, And golden-keeled, is left unlaunched and dry. But wherefore this? What care, though owl did fly About the great Athenian admiral's mast? What care though striding Alexander past The Indus with his Macedonian numbers? . . . Juliet leaning Amid her window-flowers,—sighing,—weaning Tenderly her fancy from its maiden snow, Doth more avail than these: the silver flow Of Hero's tears, the swoon of Imogen, Fair Pastorella in the bandit's den, Are things to brood on with more ardency Than the death-day of empires."

This passage should be set beside the complaint in "Lamia" of the disenchanting touch of science:

"There was an awful rainbow once in heaven," etc.

Keats is the poet of romantic emotion, as Scott of romantic action. Professor Gates says that Keats' heroes never do anything.[41] It puzzles the reader of "The Eve of St. Agnes" to know just why Porphyro sets out the feast of cates on the little table by Madeline's bedside unless it be to give the poet an opportunity for his luscious description of "the lucent syrups tinct with cinnamon" and other like delicacies. In the early fragment "Calidore," the hero—who gets his name from Spenser—does nothing in some hundred and fifty lines but assist two ladies to dismount from their palfreys. To revert, as before, to Ariosto's programme, it was not the arme and audaci imprese which Keats sang, but the donne, the amori, and the cortesie. Feudal war array was no concern of his, but the "argent revelry" of masque and dance, and the "silver-snarling trumpets" in the musicians' gallery. He was the poet of the lute and the nightingale, rather than of the shock of spear in tourney and crusade. His "Specimen of an Induction to a Poem" begins

"Lo! I must tell a tale of chivalry."

But he never tells it. The piece evaporates in visions of pure loveliness; "large white plumes"; sweet ladies on the worn tops of old battlements; light-footed damsels standing in sixes and sevens about the hall in courtly talk. Meanwhile the lance is resting against the wall.

"Ah! shall I ever tell its cruelty, When the fire flashes from a warrior's eye, And his tremendous hand is grasping it?"

"No," answers the reader, "I don't think you ever will. Leave that sort of thing to Walter Scott, and go on and finish your charming fragment of 'The Eve of St. Mark,' which stops provokingly just where Bertha was reading the illuminated manuscript, as she sat in her room of an April evening, when

"'On the western window panes, The chilly sunset faintly told Of unmatured green valleys cold.'" [42]

This quaintly attractive fragment of Keats was written while he was living in the old cathedral and college city of Winchester. "Some time since," he writes to his brother George, September, 1819, "I began a poem called 'The Eve of St. Mark,' quite in the spirit of town quietude. I think it will give you the sensation of walking about an old country town in a coolish evening." The letter describes the maiden-lady-like air of the side streets, with doorsteps fresh from the flannel, the doors themselves black, with small brass handles and lion's head or ram's head knockers, seldom disturbed. He speaks of his walks through the cathedral yard and two college-like squares, grassy and shady, dwelling-places of deans and prebendaries, out to St. Cross Meadows with their Gothic tower and Alms Square. Mr. Colvin thinks that Keats "in this piece anticipates in a remarkable degree the feeling and method of the modern pre-Raphaelite schools"; and that it is "perfectly in the spirit of Rossetti (whom we know that the fragment deeply impressed and interested)." Mr. Forman, indeed, quotes Rossetti's own dictum (works of John Keats, vol. ii., p. 320) that the poem "shows astonishingly real mediaevalism for one not bred as an artist."

It is in the Pre-Raphaelites that Keats' influence on our later poetry is seen in its most concentrated shape. But it is traceable in Tennyson, in Hood, in the Brownings, and in many others, where his name is by no means written in water. "Wordsworth," says Lowell, "has influenced most the ideas of succeeding poets; Keats their forms."

[1] Scott's friend, William Stewart Rose—to whom the first verse epistle in "Marmion" is addressed. He also translated the "Orlando Furioso" (1823-31). His "Partenopex" was made from a version in modern French.

[2] A new translation of the "Orlando," by Hoole, appeared in 1773-83; of Tasso's "Jerusalem" in 1763; and of Metastasio's dramas in 1767. These were in the heroic couplets of Pope.

[3] "Childe Harold," Canto iv., xxxviii. And Cf. vol. i., pp. 25, 49, 100, 170, 219, 222-26.

[4] Vide supra, p. 5.

[5] Vide supra, p. 40. Goethe pronounced the "Inferno" abominable, the "Purgatorio" doubtful, and the "Paradise" tiresome (Plumptre's "Dante," London, 1887, vol. ii., p. 484).

[6] See Walpole's opinion, vol. i., p. 235.

[7] For early manuscript renderings see "Les Plus Anciennes Traductions Francaises de la Divine Comedie," par C. Morel, Paris, 1897.

[8] Lowell says Kannegiesser's, 1809.

[9] "Present State of Polite Learning" (1759).

[10] "Mentre che l'uno spirto questo disse, L'altro piangeva si, che di pietade I venni men, cosi com' io morisse: E cadde come corpo morte cade." —"Inferno," Canto v.

[11] Vol. i., p. 236.

[12] Plumptre's "Dante," vol. ii., p. 439.

[13] "Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar, Like Scipio, buried, by the upbraiding shore." —"Childe Harold," iv., 57.

[14] See vol. i., p. 49; and "Purgatorio," xxviii., 19-20.

"Tal, qual di ramo in ramo si raccoglie Per la pineta in sal lito di Chiassi."

[15] He did better in free paraphrase than in literal translation. Cf. Stanza cviii., in "Don Juan," Canto iii.—

"Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart"—

with its original in the "Purgatorio," viii., 1-6.

[16] Dedication to La Guiccioli.

[17] But in this poem each thirteenth and fourteenth line make a couplet, thus breaking up the whole into a series of loose sonnets.

[18] T. W. Parsons' "Lines on a Bust of Dante" appeared in the Boston Advertiser in 1841. His translation of the first ten cantos of the "Inferno" was published in 1843: later instalments in 1867 and 1893. Longfellow's version of the "Divine Comedy" with the series of sonnets by the translator came out in 1867-70. For the Dante work of the Rossettis, vide infra, pp. 282 ff.

[19] "The Seer."

[20] He named a daughter, born while he was in prison, after Spenser's Florimel.

[21] "Autobiography," p. 200 (ed. of 1870).

[22] See Dickens' caricature of him as Harold Skimpole in "Bleak House."

[23] "When I was last at Haydon's," wrote Keats to his brother George in 1818-19, "I looked over a book of prints taken from the fresco of the church at Milan, the name of which I forget. In it were comprised specimens of the first and second age of art in Italy. I do not think I ever had a greater treat out of Shakespeare; full of romance and the most tender feeling; magnificence of drapery beyond everything I ever saw, not excepting Raphael's—but grotesque to a curious pitch—yet still making up a fine whole, even finer to me than more accomplished works, as there was left so much room for imagination."

[24] Against the hundreds of maxims from Pope, Keats furnishes a single motto—the first line of "Endymion"—

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

[25] "From Shakespeare to Pope." See also Sidney Colvin's "Keats." New York, 1887, pp. 61-64.

[26] Vide supra, p. 70.

[27] That he knew Pope's version is evident from a letter to Haydon of May, 1817, given in Lord Houghton's "Life."

[28] He could have known extremely little of mediaeval literature; yet there is nothing anywhere, even in the far more instructed Pre-Raphaelite school which catches up the whole of the true mediaeval romantic spirit—the spirit which animates the best parts of the Arthurian legend, and of the wild stories which float through mediaeval tale-telling, and make no small figure in mediaeval theology—as does the short piece of 'La Belle Dame sans Merci'. (Saintsbury: "A Short History of English Literature," p. 673).

[29] Vide supra, p. 85. And for Keats' interest in Chatterton see vol. i., pp. 370-72.

[30] The Dict. Nat. Biog. mentions doubtfully an earlier edition in 1795.

[31] See "Sonnet on Leigh Hunt's Poem 'The Story of Rimini.'" Forman's ed., vol. ii., p. 229.

[32] See Forman's ed., vol. ii., p. 334.

[33] "New Essays toward a Critical Method," London, 1897, p. 256.

[34] "Come, per sostentar solaio o tetto, Per mensola talvolta una figura Si vede giunger le ginocchia al petto, La qual fa del non ver vera rancura Nascere in chi la vede." —"Purgatorio," Canto x., 130-34.

[35] Vide supra, p. 85.

[36] Rossetti, Colvin, Gates, Robertson, Forman, and others.

[37] Leigh Hunt. It has been objected to this passage that moonlight is not strong enough to transmit colored rays, like sunshine (see Colvin's "Keats," p. 160). But the mistake—if it is one—is shared by Scott.

"The moonbeam kissed the holy pane And threw on the pavement a bloody stain." —"Lay of the Last Minstrel," Canto ii., xi.

[38] It is interesting to learn that the line

"For o'er the Southern moors I have a home for thee"

read in the original draught "Over the bleak Dartmoor," etc. Dartmoor was in sight of Teignmouth where Keats once spent two months; but he cancelled the local allusion in obedience to a correct instinct.

[39] "Ode to a Nightingale,"

[40] "The Liberal Movement in English Literature," London, 1885, p. 181.

[41] "Studies and Appreciations." Lewis G. Gates. New York, 1890, p. 17.

[42] See vol. i., p. 371, and for Cumberland's poem, on the same superstition, ibid., 177.



CHAPTER IV.

The Romantic School in Germany.[1]

Cross-fertilization, at least in these modern eras, is as necessary in the life of a literature as in that of an animal or a plant. English romanticism, though it started independently, did not remain an isolated phenomenon; it was related to the general literary movement in Europe. Even Italy had its romantic movement; Manzoni began, like Walter Scott, by translating Buerger's "Lenore" and "Wild Huntsman", and afterwards, like Schlegel in Germany and Hugo in France, attacked the classical entrenchments in his "Discourse of the Three Unities." It is no part of our undertaking to write the history of the romantic schools in Germany and France. But in each of those countries the movement had points of likeness and unlikeness which shed light upon our own; and an outline sketch of the German and French schools will help the reader better to understand both what English romanticism was, and what it was not.

In Germany, as in England, during the eighteenth century, the history of romanticism is a history of arrested development. Romanticism existed in solution, but was not precipitated and crystallised until the closing years of the period. The current set flowing by Buerger's ballads and Goethe's "Goetz," was met and checked by a counter-current, the new enthusiasm for the antique promoted by Winckelmann's[2] works on classic art, by the neo-paganism of Goethe's later writings, and by the influence of Lessing's[3] clear, rationalising, and thoroughly Protestant spirit.[4]

We may note, at the outset, the main features in which the German romanticism differed from the English. First, then, it was more definitely a movement. It was organised, self-conscious, and critical. Indeed, it was in criticism and not in creative literature that its highest successes were won. Coleridge, Scott, and Keats, like their English forerunners in the eighteenth century,[5] worked independently of one another. They did not conspire to a common end; had little personal contact—were hardly acquaintances, and in no sense a "school." But the German romanticists constituted a compact group with coherent aims. They were intimate friends and associates; travelled, lived, and worked together; edited each other's books and married each other's sisters.[6] They had a theory of art, a programme, and a propaganda, were aggressive and polemical, attacking their adversaries in reviews, and in satirical tales,[7] poems, and plays. Their headquarters were at Jena, "the central point," says Heine, "from which the new aesthetic dogma radiated. I advisedly say dogma, for this school began with a criticism of the art productions of the past, and with recipes for the art works of the future." Their organ was the Athenaeum, established by Friedrich Schlegel at Berlin in 1798, the date of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's "Lyrical Ballads," and the climacteric year of English and German romanticism.

The first number of the Athenaeum contained the manifesto of the new school, written by Friedrich Schlegel, the seminal mind of the coterie. The terms of this pronunciamento are somewhat rapt and transcendental; but through its mist of verbiage, one discerns that the ideal of romantic art is announced to be: beauty for beauty's sake, the union of poetry and life, and the absolute freedom of the artist to express himself. "Romantic poetry," says Schlegel—"and, in a certain sense, all poetry ought to be romantic—should, in representing outward objects, also represent itself." There is nothing here to indicate the precise line which German romantic poetry was to take, but there is the same rejection of authority, the same assertion of the right of original genius to break a path for itself, which was made, in their various ways, by Wordsworth and Coleridge in the "Lyrical Ballads," by Keats in "Sleep and Poetry," and by Victor Hugo in the preface to "Cromwell."

A second respect in which German romanticism differed from English was in its thoroughgoing character. It is the disposition of the German mind to synthesise thought and life, to carry out theory into practice. Each of those imposing systems of philosophy, Kant's, Fichte's, Schelling's, Hegel's, has its own aesthetik as well as its own ethik. It seeks to interpret all human activities from a central principle; to apply its highest abstractions to literature, government, religion, the fine arts, and society. The English mind is practical rather than theoretical. It is sensible, cautious, and willing to compromise; distrusting alike the logical habit of the French to push out premises into conclusions at all hazards; and the German habit of system-building. The Englishman has no system, he has his whim, and is careless of consistency. It is quite possible for him to have an aesthetic liking for the Middle Ages, without wishing to restore them as an actual state of society. It is hard for an Englishman to understand to what degree a literary man, like Schiller, was influenced in his writings by the critical philosophy of Kant; or how Schelling's transcendental idealism was used to support Catholicism, and Hegel made a prop to Protestant orthodoxy and Junkerism. "Tragedies and romances," wrote Mme. de Stael, "have more importance in Germany than in any other country. They take them seriously there; and to read such and such a book, or see such and such a play, has an influence on the destiny and the life. What they admire as art, they wish to introduce into real life; and poetry, philosophy, the ideal, in short, have often an even greater empire over the Germans than nature and the passions." In proof of this, she adduces the number of young Germans who committed suicide in consequence of reading "Werther"; or took to highway robbery in emulation of "Die Raeuber."

In England, accordingly, romanticism was a merely literary revolution and kept strictly within the domain of art. Scott's political conservatism was indeed, as we have seen, not unrelated to his antiquarianism and his fondness for the feudal past; but he remained a Protestant Tory. And as to his Jacobitism, if a Stuart pretender had appeared in Scotland in 1815, we may be sure that the canny Scott would not have taken arms in his behalf against the Hanoverian king. Coleridge's reactionary politics had nothing to do with his romanticism; though it would perhaps be going too far to deny that his reverence for what was old and tested by time in the English church and constitution may have had its root in the same temper of mind which led him to compose archaic ballad-romances like "Christabel" and "The Dark Ladye." But in Germany "throne and altar" became the shibboleth of the school; half of the romanticists joined the Catholic Church, and the new literature rallied to the side of aristocracy and privilege.

A third respect in which the German movement differed from the English is partly implied in what has been said above. In Germany the romantic revival was contemporaneous with a great philosophical development which influenced profoundly even the lighter literature of the time. Hence the mysticism which is found in the work of many of the romanticists, and particularly in the writings of Novalis. Novalis was a disciple of Schelling, and Schelling the continuator of Fichte. Fichte's "Wissenschaftslehre" (1794) is the philosophical corner-stone of the German romantic school. The freedom of the fancy from the thraldom of the actual world; the right of the Ego to assert itself fully; the principle formulated by Friedrich Schlegel, that "the caprice of the poet knows no law"; all these literary doctrines were corollaries of Fichte's objective idealism.[8] It is needless to say that, while romantic art usually partakes of the mysterious, there is nothing of this philosophical or transcendental mysticism in the English romanticists. If we were to expect it anywhere it would be in Coleridge, who became the mediator between German and English thought. But Coleridge's poetry was mainly written before he visited Germany and made acquaintance with the systems of Kant and Schelling; and in proportion as his speculative activity increased, his creative force declined. There is enough of the marvellous and the unexplained in "Christabel," and "The Ancient Mariner"; but the "mystic ruby" and the "blue flower" of the Teutonic symbolists are not there.

The German romantic school, in the limited and precise sense of the term, consisted of the brothers August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel, Ludwig Tieck, Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis), Johann Dietrich Gries, Tieck's friend Wackenroder, and—at a distance—Zacharias Werner, the dramatist; besides a few others, their associates or disciples, whose names need not here be mentioned. These were, as has been said, personal friends, they began to be heard of about 1795; and their quarters were at Jena and Berlin. A later or younger group (Spaetromantiker) gathered in 1808 about the Zeitung fuer Einsiedler, published at Heidelberg. These were Clemens Brentano, Achim von Arnim, Ludwig Uhland, Joseph Goerres, and the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Arnim, Brentano, and Goerres were residing at the time at Heidelberg; the others contributed from a distance. Arnim edited the Einsiedler; Goerres was teaching in the university. There were, of course, many other adherents of the school, working individually at different times and places, scattered indeed all over Germany, and of various degrees of importance or unimportance, of whom I need mention only Friedrich de la Motte Fouque, the popular novelist and author of "Undine."

The history of German romanticism has been repeatedly told. There are exhaustive treatments of the subject by Julian Schmidt, Koberstein, Hettner ("Die Romantische Schule," Braunschweig, 1850); Haym ("Die Romantische Schule," Berlin, 1870); by the Danish critic, Georg Brandes ("Den Romantiske Skole i Tydskland"). But the most famous review of this passage of literary history is the poet Heine's brilliant little book, "Die Romantische Schule," [9] published at Paris in 1833. This was written as a kind of supplement to Mme. de Stael's "L'Allemagne" (1813), and was intended to instruct the French public as to some misunderstandings in Mme. de Stael's book, and to explain what German romanticism really was. Professor Boyesen cautions us to be on our guard against the injustice and untrustworthiness of Heine's report. The warning is perhaps not needed, for the animus of his book is sufficiently obvious. Heine had begun as a romantic poet, but he had parted company with the romanticists because of the reactionary direction which the movement took. He had felt the spell, and he renders it with wonderful vividness in his history of the school. But, at the same time, the impatience of the political radical and the religious sceptic—the "valiant soldier in the war for liberty"—and the bitterness of the exile for opinion's sake, make themselves felt. His sparkling and malicious wit turns the whole literature of romanticism into sport; and his abuse of his former teacher, A. W. Schlegel, is personal and coarse beyond description. Twenty years ago, he said, when he was a lad, what overflowing enthusiasm he would have lavished upon Uhland! He used to sit on the ruins of the old castle at Duesseldorf declaiming Uhland's poem

"A wandering shepherd young and fair Beneath the royal castle strayed."

"But so much has happened since then! What then seemed to me so grand; all that chivalry and Catholicism; those cavaliers that hack and hew at each other in knightly tournaments; those gentle squires and virtuous dames of high degree; the Norseland heroes and minnesingers; the monks and nuns; ancestral tombs thrilling with prophetic powers; colourless passion, dignified by the high-sounding title of renunciation, and set to the accompaniment of tolling bells; a ceaseless whining of the 'Miserere'; how distasteful all that has become to me since then!" And—of Fouque's romances—"But our age turns away from all fairy pictures, no matter how beautiful. . . . This reactionary tendency, this continual praise of the nobility, this incessant glorification of the feudal system, this everlasting knight-errantry balderdash . . . this everlasting sing-song of armours, battle-steeds, high-born virgins, honest guild-masters, dwarfs, squires, castles, chapels, minnesingers, faith, and whatever else that rubbish of the Middle Ages may be called, wearied us."

It is a part of the irony of things that this satirist of romance should have been precisely the one to compose the most popular of all romantic ballads; and that the most current of all his songs should have been the one in which he sings of the enchantress of the Rhine,

"Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten Dass ich so traurig bin."

The "Loreley" is translated into many tongues, and is sung everywhere. In Germany it is a really national song. And yet the tale on which it is founded is not an ancient folk legend—"ein Maehrchen aus alten Zeiten"—but a modern invention of Clemens Brentano, who first published it in 1802 in the form of a ballad inserted in one of his novels:

"Zu Bacharach am Rheine Wohnt' eine Zauberin: Sie war so schoen und feine Und riss viel Herzen hin."

A certain forgotten romanticist, Graf Loeben, made a lyrical tale out of it in 1821, and Heine composed his ballad in 1824, afterwards set to the mournful air in which it is now universally familiar.

It has been mentioned that Heine's "Romantische Schule" was a sort of continuation and correction of Mme. de Stael's "L'Allemagne." That very celebrated book was the result of the distinguished lady's residence in Germany, and of her determination to reveal Germany to France. It has been compared in its purpose to the "Germania" of Tacitus, in which the historian held up the primitive virtues of the Teutonic race as a lesson and a warning to corrupt Rome. Mme. de Stael had arranged to publish her book in 1810, and the first impression of ten thousand copies had already been printed, when the whole edition was seized and destroyed by the police, and the author was ordered to quit France within twenty-four hours. All this, of course, was at the instance of Napoleon, who was by no means above resenting the hostility of a lady author. But the Minister of Police, General Savary, assumed the responsibility of the affair; and to Mme. de Stael's remonstrance he wrote in reply: "It appeared to me that the air of this country did not agree with you, and we are not yet reduced to seek for models amongst the people you admire [the Germans]. Your last work is not French." It was not, accordingly, until 1813 that Mme. de Stael's suppressed work on Germany saw the light.

The only passages in it that need engage our attention are those in which the author endeavours to interpret to a classical people the literature of a Gothic race. In her chapter entitled "Of Classic and Romantic Poetry," she says: "The word romantic has been lately introduced in Germany to designate that kind of poetry which is derived from the songs of the troubadours; that which owes its birth to the union of chivalry and Christianity." She mentions the comparison—evidently derived from Schlegel's lectures which she had attended—of ancient poetry to sculpture and modern to painting; explains that the French incline towards classic poetry, and the English—"the most illustrious of the Germanic nations"—towards "that which owes its birth to chivalry and romance." "The English poets of our times, without entering into concert with the Germans, have adopted the same system. Didactic poetry has given place to the fictions of the Middle Ages." She observes that simplicity and definiteness, that a certain corporeality and externality—or what in modern critical dialect we would call objectivity—are notes of antique art; while variety and shading of colour, and a habit of self-reflection developed by Christianity [subjectivity], are the marks of modern art. "Simplicity in the arts would, among the moderns, easily degenerate into coldness and abstraction, while that of the ancients was full of life and animation. Honour and love, valour and pity, were the sentiments which distinguished the Christianity of chivalrous ages; and those dispositions of the soul could only be displayed by dangers, exploits, love, misfortunes—that romantic interest, in short, by which pictures are incessantly varied." Mme. de Stael's analysis here does not go very deep, and her expression is lacking in precision; but her meaning will be obvious to those who have well considered the various definitions and expositions of these contrasted terms with which we set out. Without deciding between the comparative merits of modern classic and romantic work, Mme. de Stael points out that the former must necessarily be imitative. "The literature of the ancients is, among the moderns, a transplanted literature; that of chivalry and romance is indigenous. . . . The literature of romance is alone capable of further improvement, because, being rooted in our own soil, that alone can continue to grow and acquire fresh life; it expresses our religion; it recalls our history." Hence she notes the fact that while the Spaniards of all classes know by heart the verses of Calderon; while Shakspere is a popular and national poet among the English; and the ballads of Goethe and Buerger are set to music and sung all over Germany, the French classical poets are quite unknown to the common people, "because the arts in France are not, as elsewhere, natives of the very country in which their beauties are displayed." In her review of German poetry she gives a brief description, among other things, of the "Nibelungen Lied," and a long analysis of Buerger's "Leonora" and "Wilde Jaeger." She says that there are four English translations of "Leonora," of which William Spenser's is the best. "The analogy between the English and German allows a complete transfusion of the originality of style and versification of Buerger. . . . It would be difficult to obtain the same result in French, where nothing strange or odd seems natural." She points out that terror is "an inexhaustible source of poetical effect in Germany. . . . Stories of apparitions and sorcerers are equally well received by the populace and by men of more enlightened minds." She notes the fondness of the new school for Gothic architecture, and describes the principles of Schlegelian criticism. She transcribes A. W. Schlegel's praises of the ages of faith and the generous brotherhood of chivalry, and his lament that "the noble energy of ancient times is lost," and that "our times alas! no longer know either faith or love." The German critics affirm that the best traits of the French character were effaced during the reign of Louis XIV.; that "literature, in ages which are called classical, loses in originality what it gains in correctness"; that the French tragedies are full of pompous affectation; and that from the middle of the seventeenth century, a constrained and affected manner had prevailed throughout Europe, symbolised by the wig worn by Louis XIV. in pictures and bas-reliefs, where he is portrayed sometimes as Jupiter and sometimes as Hercules clad only in his lion's skin—but always with the perruque. Heine complains that Mme. de Stael fell into the hands of the Schlegels, when in Germany, and that her account of German literature was coloured by their prejudices; that William Schlegel, in particular, became her escort at all the capitals of Europe and won great eclat thereby

Schlegel's elegiac lament over the decay of chivalry may remind the English reader of the famous passage in Burke[10] about Marie Antoinette. "Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness." [11]

But Burke's reaction against the levelling spirit of French democracy was by no means so thoroughgoing as the romanticist protest in Germany. It was manifestly impossible to revive the orders of chivalry, as a practical military system; or to recreate the feudal tenures in their entirety. Nor did even the most romantic of the German romanticists dream of this. They appealed, however, to the knightly principles of devotion to church and king, of honour, of religious faith, and of personal loyalty to the suzerain and the nobility. It was these political and theological aspects of the movement that disgusted Heine. He says that just as Christianity was a reaction against Roman materialism; and the Renaissance a reaction against the extravagances of Christian spiritualism; and romanticism in turn a reaction against the vapid imitations of antique classic art, "so also do we now behold a reaction against the re-introduction of that Catholic, feudal mode of thought, of that knight-errantry and priestdom, which were being inculcated through literature and the pictorial arts. . . . For when the artists of the Middle Ages were recommended as models . . . the only explanation of their superiority that could be given was that these men believed in that which they depicted. . . . Hence the artists who were honest in their devotion to art, and who sought to imitate the pious distortions of those miraculous pictures, the sacred uncouthness of those marvel-abounding poems, and the inexplicable mysticisms of those olden works . . . made a pilgrimage to Rome, where the vicegerent of Christ was to re-invigorate consumptive German art with asses' milk."

A number of the romanticists were Catholic by birth. There was Joseph von Eichendorff, e.g., who had a strong admiration for the Middle Ages, wrote sacred poetry, and published in 1815 a novel entitled "Ahnung und Gegenwart," the hero of which ends by retiring to a monastery. And Joseph Goerres, who published a work on German Volksbuecher[12] (1807); a follower of Schelling and editor of Der Rheinische Merkur, a violent anti-Gallican journal during the war of liberation. Goerres, according to Heine, "threw himself into the arms of the Jesuits," and became the "chief support of the Catholic propaganda at Munich"; lecturing there on universal history to an audience consisting chiefly of pupils from the Romish seminaries. Another Spaetromantiker, born Catholic, was Clemens Brentano, whom Heine describes in 1833 as having lived at Frankfort for the last fifteen years in hermit-like seclusion, as a corresponding member of the propaganda. For six years (1818-24) Brentano was constantly at the bedside of the invalid nun, Anna Katharina Emmerich, at Duelmen. She was a "stigmatic," afflicted, i.e., with a mysterious disease which impressed upon her body marks thought to be miraculous counterfeits of the wounds of Christ. She had trances and visions, and uttered revelations which Brentano recorded and afterwards published in several volumes, that were translated into French and Italian and widely circulated among the faithful.

As adherents of the romantic school who were born and bred Protestants, but became converts to the Catholic faith, Heine enumerates Friedrich Schlegel, Tieck, Novalis, Werner, Schuetz, Carove, Adam Mueller, and Count Stolberg. This list, he says, includes only authors, "the number of painters who in swarms simultaneously abjured Protestantism and reason was much larger." But Tieck and Novalis never formally abjured Protestantism. They detested the Reformation and loved the mediaeval Church, but looked upon modern Catholicism as a degenerate system. Their position here was something like that of the English Tractarians in the earlier stages of the Oxford movement. Novalis composed "Marienlieder." Tieck complained of the dryness of Protestant ritual and theology, and said that in the Middle Ages there was a unity (Einheit) which ought to be again recovered. All Europe was then one fatherland with a single faith. The period of the Arthursage was the blossoming time of romance, the vernal season of love, religion, chivalry, and—sorcery! He pleaded for the creation of a new Christian, Catholic mythology.

In 1808 Friedrich Schlegel became a Roman Catholic—or, as Heine puts it—"went to Vienna, where he attended mass daily and ate broiled fowl." His wife, a daughter of Moses Mendelssohn, a Jewess by race, followed her husband into the Catholic Church. Zacharias Werner, author of a number of romantic melodramas, the heroes of which are described as monkish ascetics, religious mystics, and "spirits who wander on earth in the guise of harp-players"—Zacharias Werner also went to Vienna and joined the order of Ligorians. This conversion made a prodigious noise in Germany. It occurred at Rome in 1811, and the convert afterwards witnessed the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples, that annual miracle in which Newman expresses so firm a belief. Werner then spent two years in the study of theology, visited Our Lady's Chapel at Loretto in 1813; was ordained priest at Aschaffenburg in 1814; and preached at St. Stephen's Church, Vienna, on the vanity of worldly pleasures, with fastings many, with castigations and mortifications of the flesh. The younger Voss declared that Werner's religion was nothing but a poetic coquetting with God, Mary, the wounds of Christ, and the holy carbuncle (Karfunkelstein). He had been a man of dissolute life and had been divorced from three wives. "His enthusiasm for the restoration of the Middle Ages," says Heine, "was one-sided; it applied only to the hierarchical, Catholic phase of mediaevalism; feudalism did not so strongly appeal to his fancy. . . . Pater Zacharias died in 1823, after sojourning for fifty-four years in this wicked, wicked world." Carlyle contributed to the Foreign Review in 1828 an essay on "Werner's Life and Writings," with translations of passages from his drama, "The Templars in Cyprus."

But the conversion which caused the greatest scandal was that of Count Friedrich Stolberg, whose apostasy was denounced by his early friend Voss, the translator of Homer, in a booklet entitled "Wie ward Fritz Stolberg ein Unfreier?" Voss showed, says Heine, that "Stolberg had secretly joined an association of the nobility which had for its purpose to counteract the French ideas of liberty; that these nobles entered into a league with the Jesuits; that they sought, through the re-establishment of Catholicism, to advance also the interests of the nobility." [13]

The German literary historians agree that the fresh outbreak of romanticism in the last decade of the eighteenth century was the resumption of an earlier movement which had been interrupted; that it was furthered by the new feeling of German nationality aroused by the Bonapartist tyranny; and finally that it was a protest against the flat mediocrity which ruled in the ultra-evangelical circle headed by Nicolai, the Berlin bookseller and editor. Into this mere Philistinism had narrowed itself the nobler rationalism of Lessing, with its distrust of Traeumerei and Schwaermerei—of superstition and fanaticism. "Dry light is best," says Bacon, but the eye is hungry for colour, that has looked too steadily on the lumen siccum of the reason; and then imagination becomes the prism which breaks the invisible sunbeam into beauty. Hence the somewhat extravagant romantic love of colour, and the determination to believe, at all hazards and even in the teeth of reason. Hence the imperfectly successful attempt to force back the modern mind into a posture of child-like assent to the marvellous. Tieck's "Maehrchen" and the Grimm brothers' nursery tales belong to this "renascence of wonder," like Lewis' "Tales of Terror," Scott's "Demonology," and Coleridge's "Christabel" in England. "The tendencies of 1770 to 1780," says Scherer, "which had now quite disappeared, asserted themselves with new and increased force. The nations which were groaning under Napoleon's oppression sought comfort in the contemplation of a fairer and grander past. Patriotism and mediaevalism became for a long time the watchwords and the dominating fashion of the day."

Allowing for the differences mentioned, the romantic movements in England and Germany offer, as might be expected, many interesting parallels. Carlyle, writing in 1827,[14] says that the recent change in German literature is only a part of a general change in the whole literature of Europe. "Among ourselves, for instance, within the last thirty years, who has not lifted up his voice with double vigour in praise of Shakespeare and nature, and vituperation of French taste and French philosophy? Who has not heard of the glories of old English literature; the wealth of Queen Elizabeth's age; the penury of Queen Anne's; and the inquiry whether Pope was a poet? A similar temper is breaking out in France itself, hermetically sealed as that country seemed to be against all foreign influences; and doubts are beginning to be entertained, and even expressed, about Corneille and the three unities. It seems to be substantially the same thing which has occurred in Germany, and been attributed to Tieck and his associates; only that the revolution which is here proceeding, and in France commencing, appears in Germany to be completed."

In Germany, as in England—in Germany more than in England—other arts beside literature partook of the new spirit. The brothers Boisseree agitated for the completion of the "Koelner Dom," and collected their famous picture gallery to illustrate the German, Dutch, and Flemish art of the fifteenth century; just as Gothic came into fashion in England largely in consequence of the writings of Walpole, Scott, and Ruskin. Like our own later Pre-Raphaelite group, German art critics began to praise the naive awkwardness of execution and devout spirituality of feeling in the old Florentine painters, and German artists strove to paint like Fra Angelico. Friedrich Schlegel gave a strong impulse to the study of mediaeval art, and Heine scornfully describes him and his friend Joseph Goerres, rummaging about "among the ancient Rhine cities for the remains of old German pictures and statuary which were superstitiously worshipped as holy relics." Tieck and his friend Wackenroder brought back from their pilgrimage to Dresden in 1796 a devotion, a kind of sentimental Mariolatry, to the celebrated Madonnas of Raphael and Holbein in the Dresden gallery; and from their explorations in Nuernberg, that Perle des Mittelalters, an enthusiasm for Albrecht Duerer. This found expression in Wackenroder's "Herzensergiessungen eines Kunstliebenden Klosterbruders"; and in Tieck's novel, "Sternbald's Wanderungen," in which he accompanies a pupil of Duerer to Rome. Wackenroder, like Tieck's other friend, Novalis, was of a consumptive, emotional, and somewhat womanish constitution of mind and body, and died young. Tieck edited his remains, including letters on old German art. The standard editions of their joint writings are illustrated by engravings after Duerer, one of which in particular, the celebrated "Knight, Death, and the Devil," symbolizes the mysterious terrors of Tieck's own tales, and of German romance in general. The knight is in complete armour, and is riding through a forest. On a hilltop in the distance are the turrets of a castle; a lean hound follows the knight; on the ground between his horse's hoofs sprawls a lizard-like reptile; a figure on horseback approaches from the right, with the face half obliterated or eaten away to the semblance of a skull, and snakes encircling the temples. Behind comes on a demon or goblin shape, with a tall curving horn, which is "neither man nor woman, neither beast nor human," but one of those grotesque and obscene monsters which the mediaeval imagination sculptured upon the cathedrals. This famous copperplate prompted Fouque's romance, "Sintram and his Companions." He had received a copy of it for a birthday gift, and brooded for years over its mysterious significance; which finally shaped itself in his imagination into an allegory of the soul's conflict with the powers of darkness. His whole narrative leads up to the description of Duerer's picture, which occupies the twenty-seventh and climacteric chapter. The school of young German Pre-Raphaelite art students, associated at Rome in 1810 under the leadership of Overbeck and Cornelius, was considerably influenced by Wackenroder's "Herzensergiessungen."

Music, too, and particularly church music, was affected by the new taste. The ancient music of the "Dies Irae" and other Latin hymns was revived; and it would not be far wrong to say that the romantic school sowed the seed of Wagner's great music-dramas, profoundly Teutonic and romantic in their subject matter and handling and in their application of the united arts of poetry, music, and scene-painting to old national legends such as "Parzival," "Tannhaeuser," [15] "The Knight of the Swan," and the "Nibelungen Hoard."

History, too, and Germanic philology took impulse from this fresh interest in the past. Johannes Mueller, in his "History of the Swiss Confederation" (1780-95), drew the first appreciative picture of mediaeval life, and caught, in his diction, something of the manner of the old chroniclers. As in England ancient stores of folklore and popular poetry were gathered and put forth by Percy, Ritson, Ellis, Scott, and others, so in Germany the Grimm brothers' universally known collections of fairy tales, legends, and mythology began to appear.[16] Tieck published in 1803 his "Minnelieder aus dem Schwabischen Zeitalter." Karl Simrock made modern versions of Middle High German poetry. Uhland, whose "Walther von der Vogelweide," says Scherer, "gave the first complete picture of an old German singer," carried the war into Africa by going to Paris in 1810 and making a study of the French Middle Age. He introduced the old French epics to the German public, and is regarded, with A. W. Schlegel, as the founder of romance philology in Germany.

A pupil of Bodmer,[17] the Swiss Christian Heinrich Myller, had issued a complete edition of the "Nibelungenlied" in 1784-85. The romantic school now took up this old national epic and praised it as a German Iliad, unequalled in sublimity and natural power. Uhland gave a great deal of study to it, and A. W. Schlegel lectured upon it at Berlin in 1801-2. Both Schlegel and Tieck made plans to edit it; and Friedrich von der Hagen, inspired by the former's lectures, published four editions of it, and a version in modern German. "For a long time," testifies Heine, "the 'Nibelungenlied' was the sole topic of discussion among us. . . . It is difficult for a Frenchman to form a conception of this work, or even of the language in which it is written. It is a language of stone, and the verses are, as it were, blocks of granite." By way of giving his French readers a notion of the gigantic passions and rude, primitive strength of the poem, he imagines a battle of all the Gothic cathedrals of Europe on some vast plain, and adds, "But no! even then you can form no conception of the chief characters of the 'Nibelungenlied'; no steeple is so high, no stone so hard as the fierce Hagen, or the revengeful Chrimhilde."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse