A politico-religious ceremony possesses an infinite charm. We behold earthly majesty before our eyes, surrounded by all the symbols of its power; but, while it bends before that of heaven, it brings to our minds the communion of both. For even the individual can only prove his relationship with the Deity by subjecting himself and adoring.
The rejoicings which resounded from the market-place now spread likewise over the great square; and a boisterous /vivat/ burst forth from thousands upon thousands of throats, and doubtless from as many hearts. For this grand festival was to be the pledge of a lasting peace, which indeed for many a long year actually blessed Germany.
Several days before, it had been made known by public proclamation, that neither the bridge nor the eagle over the fountain was to be exposed to the people, and they were therefore not, as at other times, to be touched. This was done to prevent the mischief inevitable with such a rush of persons. But, in order to sacrifice in some degree to the genius of the mob, persons expressly appointed went behind the procession, loosened the cloth from the bridge, wound it up like a flag, and threw it into the air. This gave rise to no disaster, but to a laughable mishap; for the cloth unrolled itself in the air, and, as it fell, covered a larger or smaller number of persons. Those now who took hold of the ends and drew them towards them, pulled all those in the middle to the ground, enveloped them and teased them till they tore or cut themselves through; and everybody, in his own way, had borne off a corner of the stuff made sacred by the footsteps of majesty.
I did not long contemplate this rough sport, but hastened from my high position through all sorts of little steps and passages, down to the great Roemer-stairs, where the distinguished and majestic mass, which had been stared at from the distance, was to ascend in its undulating course. The crowd was not great, because the entrances to the city-hall were well garrisoned; and I fortunately reached at once the iron balustrades above. Now the chief personages ascended past me, while their followers remained behind in the lower arched passages; and I could observe them on the thrice-broken stairs from all sides, and at last quite close.
Finally both their majesties came up. Father and son were altogether dressed like Menaechmi. The emperor's domestic robes, of purple-colored silk, richly adorned with pearls and stones, as well as his crown, sceptre, and imperial orb, struck the eye with good effect. For all in them was new, and the imitation of the antique was tasteful. He moved, too, quite easily in his attire; and his true-hearted, dignified face, indicated at once the emperor and the father. The young king, on the contrary, in his monstrous articles of dress, with the crown-jewels of Charlemagne, dragged himself along as if he had been in a disguise; so that he himself, looking at his father from time to time, could not refrain from laughing. The crown, which it had been necessary to line a great deal, stood out from his head like an overhanging roof. The dalmatica, the stole, well as they had been fitted and taken in by sewing, presented by no means an advantageous appearance. The sceptre and imperial orb excited some admiration; but one would, for the sake of a more princely effect, rather have seen a strong form, suited to the dress, invested and adorned with it.
Scarcely were the gates of the great hall closed behind these figures, than I hurried to my former place, which, being already occupied by others, I only regained with some trouble.
It was precisely at the right time that I again took possession of my window, for the most remarkable part of all that was to be seen in public was just about to take place. All the people had turned towards the Roemer; and a reiterated shout of /vivat/ gave us to understand that the emperor and king, in their vestments, were showing themselves to the populace from the balcony of the great hall. But they were not alone to serve as a spectacle, since another strange spectacle occurred before their eyes. First of all, the handsome, slender hereditary marshal flung himself upon his steed: he had laid aside his sword; in his right hand he held a silver-handled vessel, and a tin spatula in his left. He rode within the barriers to the great heap of oats, sprang in, filled the vessel to overflow, smoothed it off, and carried it back again with great dignity. The imperial stable was now provided for. The hereditary chamberlain then rode likewise to the spot, and brought back a basin with ewer and towel. But more entertaining for the spectators was the hereditary carver, who came to fetch a piece of the roasted ox. He also rode, with a silver dish, through the barriers, to the large wooden kitchen, and came forth again with his portion covered, that he might go back to the Roemer. Now it was the turn of the hereditary cup- bearer, who rode to the fountain and fetched wine. Thus now was the imperial table furnished; and every eye waited upon the hereditary treasurer, who was to throw about the money. He, too, mounted a fine steed, to the sides of whose saddle, instead of holsters, a couple of splendid bags, embroidered with the arms of the Palatinate, were suspended. Scarcely had he put himself in motion than he plunged his hands into these pockets, and generously scattered, right and left, gold and silver coins, which, on every occasion, glittered merrily in the air like metallic rain. A thousand hands waved instantly in the air to catch the gifts; but hardly had the coins fallen when the crowd tumbled over each other on the ground, and struggled violently for the pieces which might have reached the earth. As this agitation was constantly repeated on both sides as the giver rode forwards, it afforded the spectators a very diverting sight. It was most lively at the close, when he threw out the bags themselves, and everybody tried to catch this highest prize.
Their majesties had retired from the balcony; and another offering was to be made to the mob, who, on such occasions, would rather steal the gifts than receive them tranquilly and gratefully. The custom prevailed, in more rude and uncouth times, of giving up to the people on the spot the oats, as soon as the hereditary marshal had taken away his share; the fountain and the kitchen, after the cup-bearer and the carver had performed their offices. But this time, to guard against all mischief, order and moderation were preserved as far as possible. But the old malicious jokes, that when one filled a sack with oats another cut a hole in it, with sallies of the kind, were revived. About the roasted ox, a more serious battle was, as usual, waged on this occasion. This could only be contested /en masse/. Two guilds, the butchers and the wine-porters, had, according to ancient custom, again stationed themselves so that the monstrous roast must fall to one of the two. The butchers believed that they had the best right to an ox which they provided entire for the kitchen: the wine-porters, on the other hand, laid claim because the kitchen was built near the abode of their guild, and because they had gained the victory the last time, the horns of the captured steer still projecting from the latticed gable-window of their guild and meeting-house as a sign of victory. Both these companies had very strong and able members; but which of them conquered this time, I no longer remember.
But, as a festival of this kind must always close with something dangerous and frightful, it was really a terrible moment when the wooden kitchen itself was made a prize. The roof of it swarmed instantly with men, no one knowing how they got there: the boards were torn loose, and pitched down; so that one could not help supposing, particularly at a distance, that each would kill a few of those pressing to the spot. In a trice the hut was unroofed; and single individuals hung to the beams and rafters, in order to pull them also out of their joinings: nay, many floated above upon the posts which had been already sawn off below; and the whole skeleton, moving backwards and forwards, threatened to fall in. Sensitive persons turned their eyes away, and everybody expected a great calamity; but we did not hear of any mischief: and the whole affair, though impetuous and violent, had passed off happily.
Everybody knew now that the emperor and king would return from the cabinet, whither they had retired from the balcony, and feast in the great hall of the Romer. We had been able to admire the arrangements made for it, the day before; and my most anxious wish was, if possible, to look in to-day. I repaired, therefore, by the usual path, to the great staircase, which stands directly opposite the door of the hall. Here I gazed at the distinguished personages who this day acted as the servants of the head of the empire. Forty-four counts, all splendidly dressed, passed me, carrying the dishes from the kitchen; so that the contrast between their dignity and their occupation might well be bewildering to a boy. The crowd was not great, but, considering the little space, sufficiently perceptible. The hall-door was guarded, while those who were authorized went frequently in and out. I saw one of the Palatine domestic officials, whom I asked whether he could not take me in with him. He did not deliberate long, but gave me one of the silver vessels he just then bore, which he could do so much the more, as I was neatly clad; and thus I reached the sanctuary. The Palatine buffet stood to the left, directly by the door; and with some steps I placed myself on the elevation of it, behind the barriers.
At the other end of the hall, immediately by the windows, raised on the steps of the throne, and under canopies, sat the emperor and king in their robes; but the crown and sceptre lay at some distance behind them on gold cushions. The three spiritual electors, their buffets behind them, had taken their places on single elevations; the Elector of Mentz opposite their majesties, the Elector of Treves at the right, and the Elector of Cologne at the left. This upper part of the hall was imposing and cheerful to behold, and excited the remark that the spiritual power likes to keep as long as possible with the ruler. On the contrary, the buffets and tables of all the temporal electors, which were, indeed, magnificently ornamented, but without occupants, made one think of the misunderstanding which had gradually arisen for centuries between them and the head of the empire. Their ambassadors had already withdrawn to eat in a side-chamber; and if the greater part of the hall assumed a sort of spectral appearance, by so many invisible guests being so magnificently attended, a large unfurnished table in the middle was still more sad to look upon; for there, also, many covers stood empty, because all those who had certainly a right to sit there had, for appearance' sake, kept away, that on the greatest day of honor they might not renounce any of their honor, if, indeed, they were then to be found in the city.
Neither my years nor the mass of present objects allowed me to make many reflections. I strove to see all as much as possible; and when the dessert was brought in, and the ambassadors re-entered to pay their court, I sought the open air, and contrived to refresh myself with good friends in the neighborhood, after a day's half-fasting, and to prepare for the illumination in the evening.
This brilliant night I purposed celebrating in a right hearty way; for I had agreed with Gretchen, and Pylades and his mistress, that we should meet somewhere at nightfall. The city was already resplendent at every end and corner when I met my beloved. I offered Gretchen my arm: we went from one quarter to another, and found ourselves very happy in each other's society. The cousins at first were also of our party, but were afterwards lost in the multitude of people. Before the houses of some of the ambassadors, where magnificent illuminations were exhibited,—those of the Elector-Palatine were pre-eminently distinguished,—it was as clear as day. Lest I should be recognized, I had disguised myself to a certain extent; and Gretchen did not find it amiss. We admired the various brilliant representations and the fairy-like structures of flame by which each ambassador strove to outshine the others. But Prince Esterhazy's arrangements surpassed all the rest. Our little company were enraptured, both with the invention and the execution; and we were just about to enjoy this in detail, when the cousins again met us, and spoke to us of the glorious illumination with which the Brandenburg ambassador had adorned his quarters. We were not displeased at taking the long way from the Ross-markt (Horse-market) to the Saalhof, but found that we had been vlllanously hoaxed.
The Saalhof is, towards the Main, a regular and handsome structure; but the part in the direction of the city is exceedingly old, irregular, and unsightly. Small windows, agreeing neither in form nor size, neither in a line nor placed at equal distances; gates and doors arranged without symmetry; a ground-floor mostly turned into shops,—it forms a confused outside, which is never observed by any one. Now, here this accidental, irregular, unconnected architecture had been followed; and every window, every door, every opening, was surrounded by lamps,—as indeed can be done with a well-built house; but here the most wretched and ill-formed of all facades was thus quite incredibly placed in the clearest light. Did one amuse one's self with this as with the jests of the /pagliasso/, [Footnote: A sort of buffoon.] though not without scruple, since everybody must recognize something intentional in it,— just as people had before glossed on the previous external deportment of Von Plotho, so much prized in other respects, and, when once inclined towards him, had admired him as a wag, who, like his king, would place himself above all ceremonies,—one nevertheless gladly returned to the fairy kingdom of Esterhazy.
This eminent envoy, to honor the day, had quite passed over his own unfavorably situated quarters, and in their stead had caused the great esplanade of linden-trees in the Horse-market to be decorated in the front with a portal illuminated with colors, and at the back with a still more magnificent prospect. The entire enclosure was marked by lamps. Between the trees, stood pyramids and spheres of light upon transparent pedestals; from one tree to another were stretched glittering garlands, on which floated suspended lights. In several places bread and sausages were distributed among the people, and there was no want of wine.
Here now, four abreast, we walked very comfortably up and down; and I, by Gretchen's side, fancied that I really wandered in those happy Elysian fields where they pluck from the trees crystal cups that immediately fill themselves with the wine desired, and shake down fruits that change into every dish at will. At last we also felt such a necessity; and, conducted by Pylades, we found a neat, well-arranged eating-house. When we encountered no more guests, since everybody was going about the streets, we were all the better pleased, and passed the greatest part of the night most happily and cheerfully, in the feeling of friendship, love, and attachment. When I had accompanied Gretchen as far as her door, she kissed me on the forehead. It was the first and last time that she granted me this favor; for, alas! I was not to see her again.
The next morning, while I was yet in bed, my mother entered, in trouble and anxiety. It was easy to see when she was at all distressed. "Get up," she said, "and prepare yourself for something unpleasant. It has come out that you frequent very bad company, and have involved yourself in very dangerous and bad affairs. Your father is beside himself; and we have only been able to get thus much from him, that he will investigate the affair by means of a third party. Remain in your chamber, and await what may happen. Councillor Schneider will come to you: he has the commission both from your father and from the authorities; for the matter is already prosecuted, and may take a very bad turn."
I saw that they took the affair for much worse than it was; yet I felt myself not a little disquieted, even if only the actual state of things should be detected. My old "Messiah"-loving friend finally entered, with the tears standing in his eyes: he took me by the arm, and said, "I am heartily sorry to come to you on such an affair. I could not have supposed that you could go astray so far. But what will not wicked companions and bad example do! Thus can a young, inexperienced man be led step by step into crime!"—"I am conscious of no crime," I replied, "and as little of having frequented bad company."—"The question now is not one of defense," said he, interrupting me, "but of investigation, and on your part of an upright confession."—"What do you want to know?" retorted I. He seated himself, drew out a paper, and began to question me: "Have you not recommended N. N. to your grandfather as a candidate for the ... place?" I answered "Yes."—"Where did you become acquainted with him?"—"In my walks."—"In what company?" I hesitated, for I would not willingly betray my friends. "Silence will not do now." he continued, "for all is sufficiently known."—"What is known, then?" said I. "That this man has been introduced to you by others like him—in fact, by. ..." Here he named three persons whom I had never seen nor known, which I immediately explained to the questioner. "You pretend," he resumed, "not to know these men, and have yet had frequent meetings with them."—"Not in the least," I replied; "for, as I have said, except the first, I do not know one of them, and even him I have never seen in a house."—"Have you not often been in ... street?"—"Never," I replied. This was not entirely conformable to the truth. I had once accompanied Pylades to his sweetheart, who lived in that street; but we had entered by the back-door, and remained in the summer-house. I therefore supposed that I might permit myself the subterfuge that I had not been in the street itself.
The good man put more questions, all of which I could answer with a denial; for of all that he wished to learn I knew nothing. At last he seemed to become vexed, and said, "You repay my confidence and good will very badly: I come to save you. You cannot deny that you have composed letters for these people themselves or for their accomplices, have furnished them writings, and have thus been accessory to their evil acts; for the question is of nothing less than of forged papers, false wills, counterfeit bonds, and things of the sort. I have come, not only as a friend of the family, I come in the name and by order of the magistrates, who, in consideration of your connections and youth, would spare you and some other young persons, who, like you, have been lured into the net." I had thought it strange, that, among the persons he named, none of those with whom I had been intimate were found. The circumstances touched, without agreeing; and I could still hope to save my young friends. But the good man grew more and more urgent. I could not deny that I had come home late many nights, that I had contrived to have a house-key made, that I had been seen at public places more than once with persons of low rank and suspicious looks, that some girls were mixed up in the affair,—in short, every thing seemed to be discovered but the names. This gave me courage to persist steadfastly in my silence. "Do not," said my excellent friend, "let me go away from you; the affair admits of no delay; immediately after me another will come, who will not grant you so much scope. Do not make the matter, which is bad enough, worse by your obstinacy."
I represented very vividly to myself the good cousins, and particularly Gretchen: I saw them arrested, tried, punished, disgraced; and then it went through my soul like a flash of lightning, that the cousins, though they always observed integrity towards me, might have engaged in such bad affairs, at least the oldest, who never quite pleased me, who came home later and later, and had little to tell of a cheerful sort. Still I kept back my confession. "Personally," said I, "I am conscious of nothing evil, and can rest satisfied on that side; but it is not impossible that those with whom I have associated may have been guilty of some daring or illegal act. They may be sought, found, convicted, punished: I have hitherto nothing to reproach myself with, and will not do any wrong to those who have behaved well and kindly to me." He did not let me finish, but exclaimed, with some agitation, "Yes, they will be found out. These villains met in three houses. (He named the streets, he pointed out the houses, and, unfortunately, among them was the one I used to frequent.) The first nest is already broken up, and at this moment so are the two others. In a few hours the whole will be clear. Avoid, by a frank confession, a judicial inquiry, a confrontation, and all other disagreeable matters." The house was known and marked. Now I deemed silence useless; nay, considering the innocence of our meetings, I could hope to be still more useful to them than to myself. "Sit down!" I exclaimed, fetching him back from the door: "I will tell all, and at once lighten your heart and mine; only one thing I ask,—henceforth let there be no doubt of my veracity."
I soon told my friend the whole progress of the affair, and was at first calm and collected; but the more I brought to mind and pictured to myself the persons, objects, and events, so many innocent pleasures and charming enjoyments, and was forced to depose as before a criminal court, the more did the most painful feeling increase, so that at last I burst forth in tears, and gave myself up to unrestrained passion. The family friend, who hoped that now the real secret was coming to light (for he regarded my distress as a symptom that I was on the point of confessing with repugnance something monstrous), sought to pacify me; as with him the discovery was the all-important matter. In this he only partly succeeded; but so far, however, that I could eke out my story to the end. Though satisfied of the innocence of the proceedings, he was still doubtful to some extent, and put further questions to me, which excited me afresh, and transported me with pain and rage. I asserted, finally, that I had nothing more to say, and well knew that I need fear nothing, for I was innocent, of a good family, and well reputed; but that they might be just as guiltless without having it recognized, or being otherwise favored. I declared at the same time, that if they were not spared like myself, that if their follies were not regarded with indulgence, and their faults pardoned, that if any thing in the least harsh or unjust happened to them, I would do some violence to myself, and no one should prevent me. In this, too, my friend tried to pacify me; but I did not trust him, and was, when he quitted me at last, in a most terrible state. I now reproached myself for having told the affair, and brought all the positions to light. I foresaw that our childlike actions, our youthful inclinations and confidences, would be quite differently interpreted, and that I might perhaps involve the excellent Pylades in the matter, and render him very unhappy. All these images pressed vividly one after the other before my soul, sharpened and spurred my distress, so that I did not know what to do for sorrow. I cast myself at full length upon the floor, and moistened it with my tears.
I know not how long I may have lain, when my sister entered, was frightened at my gestures, and did all that she could to comfort me. She told me that a person connected with the magistracy had waited below with my father for the return of the family friend, and that, after they had been closeted together for some time, both the gentlemen had departed, had talked to each other with apparent satisfaction, and had even laughed. She believed that she had heard the words, "It is all right: the affair is of no consequence."—"Indeed!" I broke out, "the affair is of no consequence for me,—for us: for I have committed no crime; and, if I had, they would contrive to help me through: but the others, the others," I cried, "who will stand by them?"
My sister tried to comfort me by circumstantially arguing that if those of higher rank were to be saved, a veil must also be cast over the faults of the more lowly. All this was of no avail. She had scarcely left than I again abandoned myself to my grief, and ever recalled alternately the images, both of my affection and passion, and of the present and possible misfortune. I repeated to myself tale after tale, saw only unhappiness following unhappiness, and did not fail in particular to make Gretchen and myself truly wretched.
The family friend had ordered me to remain in my room, and have nothing to do with any one but the family. This was just what I wanted, for I found myself best alone. My mother and sister came to see me from time to time, and did not fail to assist me vigorously with all sorts of good consolation; nay, even on the second day they came in the name of my father, who was now better informed, to offer me a perfect amnesty, which indeed I gratefully accepted: but the proposal that I should go out with him and look at the insignia of the empire, which were now exposed to the curious, I stubbornly rejected; and I asserted that I wanted to know nothing, either of the world or of the Roman Empire, till I was informed how that distressing affair, which for me could have no further consequences, had turned out for my poor acquaintance. They had nothing to say on this head, and left me alone. Yet the next day some further attempts were made to get me out of the house, and excite in me a sympathy for the public ceremonies. In vain! neither the great galaday, nor what happened on the occasion of so many elevations of rank, nor the public table of the emperor and king,—in short, nothing could move me. The Elector of the Palatinate might come and wait on both their majesties; these might visit the electors; the last electoral sitting might be attended for the despatch of business in arrear, and the renewal of the electoral union,—nothing could call me forth from my passionate solitude. I let the bells ring for the rejoicings, the emperor repair to the Capuchin Church, the electors and emperor depart, without on that account moving one step from my chamber. The final cannonading, immoderate as it might be, did not arouse me; and as the smoke of the powder dispersed, and the sound died away, so had all this glory vanished from my soul.
I now experienced no satisfaction except in ruminating on my misery, and in a thousand-fold imaginary multiplication of it. My whole inventive faculty, my poetry and rhetoric, had pitched on this diseased spot, and threatened, precisely by means of this vitality, to involve body and soul into an incurable disorder. In this melancholy condition nothing more seemed to me worth a desire, nothing worth a wish. An infinite yearning, indeed, seized me at times to know how it had gone with my poor friends and my beloved, what had been the result of a stricter scrutiny, how far they were implicated in those crimes, or had been found guiltless. This also I circumstantially painted to myself in the most various ways, and did not fail to hold them as innocent and truly unfortunate. Sometimes I longed to see myself freed from this uncertainty, and wrote vehemently threatening letters to the family friend, insisting that he should not withhold from me the further progress of the affair. Sometimes I tore them up again, from the fear of learning my unhappiness quite distinctly, and of losing the principal consolation with which hitherto I had alternately tormented and supported myself.
Thus I passed both day and night in great disquiet, in raving and lassitude; so that I felt happy at last when a bodily illness seized me with considerable violence, when they had to call in the help of a physician, and think of every way to quiet me. They supposed that they could do it generally by the sacred assurance that all who were more or less involved in the guilt had been treated with the greatest forbearance; that my nearest friends, being as good as innocent, had been dismissed with a slight reprimand; and that Gretchen had retired from the city, and had returned to her own home. They lingered the most over this last point, and I did not take it in the best part; for I could discover in it, not a voluntary departure, but only a shameful banishment. My bodily and mental condition was not improved by this: my distress now only augmented; and I had time enough to torment myself by picturing the strangest romance of sad events, and an inevitably tragical catastrophe.
PART THE SECOND.
OF WHAT ONE WISHES IN YOUTH, WHEN OLD HE HAS IN ABUNDANCE.
Thus I felt urged alternately to promote and to retard my recovery; and a certain secret chagrin was now added to my other sensations, for I plainly perceived that I was watched, that they were loath to hand me any sealed paper without taking notice what effect it produced, whether I kept it secret, whether I laid it down open and the like. I therefore conjectured that Pylades, or one of the cousins, or even Gretchen herself, might have attempted to write to me, either to give or to obtain information. In addition to my sorrow, I was now more cross than hitherto, and had again fresh opportunities to exercise my conjectures, and to mislead myself into the strangest combinations.
It was not long before they gave me a special overseer. Fortunately it was a man whom I loved and valued. He had held the place of tutor in the family of one of our friends, and his former pupil had gone alone to the university. He often visited me in my sad condition; and they at last found nothing more natural than to give him a chamber next to mine, as he was then to provide me with employment, pacify me, and, as I was well aware, keep his eye on me. Still, as I esteemed him from my heart, and had already confided many things to him, though not my affection for Gretchen, I determined so much the more to be perfectly candid and straightforward with him; as it was intolerable to me to live in daily intercourse with any one, and at the same time to stand on an uncertain, constrained footing with him. It was not long, then, before I spoke to him about the matter, refreshed myself by the relation and repetition of the minutest circumstances of my past happiness, and thus gained so much, that he, like a sensible man, saw it would be better to make me acquainted with the issue of the story, and that, too, in its details and particulars, so that I might be clear as to the whole, and that, with earnestness and zeal, I might be persuaded of the necessity of composing myself, throwing the past behind me, and beginning a new life. First he confided to me who the other young people of quality were who had allowed themselves to be seduced, at the outset, into daring hoaxes, then into sportive breaches of police, afterwards into frolicsome impositions on others, and other such dangerous matters. Thus actually had arisen a little conspiracy, which unprincipled men had joined, who, by forging papers and counterfeiting signatures, had perpetrated many criminal acts, and had still more criminal matters in preparation. The cousins, for whom I at last impatiently inquired, had been found to be quite innocent, only very generally acquainted with those others, and not at all implicated with them. My client, owing to my recommendation of whom I had been tracked, was one of the worst, and had sued for that office chiefly that he might undertake or conceal certain villanies. After all this, I could at last contain myself no longer, and asked what had become of Gretchen, for whom I, once for all, confessed the strongest attachment. My friend shook his head and smiled. "Make yourself easy," replied he: "this girl has passed her examination very well, and has borne off honorable testimony to that effect. They could discover nothing in her but what was good and amiable: she even won the favor of those who questioned her, and could not refuse her desire of removing from the city. Even what she has confessed regarding you, my friend, does her honor: I have read her deposition in the secret reports myself, and seen her signature."—"The signature!" exclaimed I, "which makes me so happy and so miserable. What has she confessed, then? What has she signed?" My friend delayed answering, but the cheerfulness of his face showed me that he concealed nothing dangerous." If you must know, then," replied he at last, "when she was asked about you, and her intercourse with you, she said quite frankly, 'I cannot deny that I have seen him often and with pleasure; but I have always treated him as a child, and my affection for him was truly that of a sister. In many cases I have given him good advice; and, instead of instigating him to any equivocal action, I have hindered him from taking part in wanton tricks, which might have brought him into trouble.'"
My friend still went on making Gretchen speak like a governess; but I had already for some time ceased to listen to him, for I was terribly affronted that she had set me down in the reports as a child, and believed myself at once cured of all passion for her. I even hastily assured my friend that all was now over. I also spoke no more of her, named her no more: but I could not leave off the bad habit of thinking about her, and of recalling her form, her air, her demeanor; though now, in fact, all appeared to me in quite another light. I felt it intolerable that a girl, at the most only a couple of years older than me, should regard me as a child; while I conceived I passed with her for a very sensible and clever youth. Her cold and repelling manner, which had before so charmed me, now seemed to me quite repugnant: the familiarities which she had allowed herself to take with me, but had not permitted me to return, were altogether odious. Yet all would have been well enough, if by signing that poetical love-letter, in which she had confessed a formal attachment to me, she had not given me a right to regard her as a sly and selfish coquette. Her masquerading it at the milliner's, too, no longer seemed to me so innocent; and I turned these annoying reflections over and over within myself until I had entirely stripped her of all her amiable qualities. My judgment was convinced, and I thought I must cast her away; but her image!—her image gave me the lie as often as it again hovered before me, which indeed happened often enough.
Nevertheless, this arrow with its barbed hooks was torn out of my heart; and the question then was, how the inward sanative power of youth could be brought to one's aid? I really put on the man; and the first thing instantly laid aside was the weeping and raving, which I now regarded as childish in the highest degree. A great stride for the better! For I had often, half the night through, given myself up to this grief with the greatest violence; so that at last, from my tears and sobbing, I came to such a point that I could scarcely swallow any longer; eating and drinking became painful to me; and my chest, which was so nearly concerned, seemed to suffer. The vexation I had constantly felt since the discovery made me banish every weakness. It seemed to me something frightful that I had sacrificed sleep, repose, and health for the sake of a girl who was pleased to consider me a babe, and to imagine herself, with respect to me, something very much like a nurse.
These depressing reflections, as I was soon convinced, were only to be banished by activity; but of what was I to take hold? I had, indeed, much to make up for in many things, and to prepare myself, in more than one sense, for the university, which I was now to attend; but I relished and accomplished nothing. Much appeared to me familiar and trivial: for grounding myself, in several respects, I found neither strength within nor opportunity without; and I therefore suffered myself to be moved by the taste of my good room-neighbor, to a study which was altogether new and strange to me, and which for a long time offered me a wide field of information and thought. For my friend began to make me acquainted with the secrets of philosophy. He had studied in Jena, under Daries, and, possessing a well-regulated mind, had acutely seized the relations of that doctrine, which he now sought to impart to me. But, unfortunately, these things would not hang together in such a fashion in my brain. I put questions, which he promised to answer afterwards: I made demands, which he promised to satisfy in future. But our most important difference was this: that I maintained a separate philosophy was not necessary, as the whole of it was already contained in religion and poetry. This he would by no means allow, but rather tried to prove to me that these must first be founded on philosophy; which I stubbornly denied, and, at every step in the progress of our discussions, found arguments for my opinion. For as in poetry a certain faith in the impossible, and as in religion a like faith in the inscrutable, must have a place, the philosophers appeared to me to be in a very false position who would demonstrate and explain both of them from their own field of vision. Besides, it was very quickly proved, from the history of philosophy, that one always sought a ground different from that of the other, and that the sceptic, in the end, pronounced every thing groundless and useless.
However, this very history of philosophy, which my friend was compelled to go over with me, because I could learn nothing from dogmatical discourse, amused me very much, but only on this account, that one doctrine or opinion seemed to me as good as another, so far, at least, as I was capable of penetrating into it. With the most ancient men and schools I was best pleased, because poetry, religion, and philosophy were completely combined into one; and I only maintained that first opinion of mine with the more animation, when the Book of Job and the Song and Proverbs of Solomon, as well as the lays of Orpheus and Hesiod, seemed to bear valid witness in its favor. My friend had taken the smaller work of Brucker as the foundation of his discourse; and, the farther we went on, the less I could make of it. I could not clearly see what the first Greek philosophers would have. Socrates I esteemed as an excellent, wise man, who in his life and death might well be compared with Christ. His disciples, on the other hand, seemed to me to bear a strong resemblance to the apostles, who disagreed immediately after their Master's death, when each manifestly recognized only a limited view as the right one. Neither the keenness of Aristotle nor the fulness of Plato produced the least fruit in me. For the Stoics, on the contrary, I had already conceived some affection, and even procured Epictetus, whom I studied with much interest. My friend unwillingly let me have my way in this one-sidedness, from which he could not draw me; for, in spite of his varied studies, he did not know how to bring the leading question into a narrow compass. He need only have said to me that in life action is every thing, and that joy and sorrow come of themselves. However, youth should be allowed its own course: it does not stick to false maxims very long; life soon tears or charms it away again.
The season had become fine: we often went together into the open air, and visited the places of amusement which surrounded the city in great numbers. But it was precisely here that matters went worse with me; for I still saw the ghosts of the cousins everywhere, and feared, now here, now there, to see one of them step forward. Even the most indifferent glances of men annoyed me. I had lost that unconscious happiness of wandering about unknown and unblamed, and of thinking of no observer, even in the greatest crowds. Now hypochondriacal fancies began to torment me, as if I attracted the attention of the people, as if their eyes were turned on my demeanor, to fix it on their memories, to scan and to find fault.
I therefore drew my friend into the woods; and, while I shunned the monotonous firs, I sought those fine leafy groves, which do not indeed spread far in the district, but are yet of sufficient compass for a poor wounded heart to hide itself. In the remotest depth of the forest I sought out a solemn spot, where the oldest oaks and beeches formed a large, noble, shaded space. The ground was somewhat sloping, and made the worth of the old trunks only the more perceptible. Round this open circle closed the densest thickets, from which the mossy rocks mightily and venerably peered forth, and made a rapid fall for a copious brook.
Scarcely had I dragged hither my friend, who would rather have been in the open country by the stream, among men, when he playfully assured me that I showed myself a true German. He related to me circumstantially, out of Tacitus, how our ancestors found pleasure in the feelings which Nature so provides for us, in such solitudes, with her inartificial architecture. He had not been long discoursing of this, when I exclaimed, "Oh! why did not this precious spot lie in a deeper wilderness! why may we not train a hedge around it, to hallow and separate from the world both it and ourselves! Surely there is no more beautiful adoration of the Deity than that which needs no image, but which springs up in our bosom merely from the intercourse with nature!" What I then felt is still present to my mind: what I said I know not how to recall. Thus much, however, is certain, that the undetermined, widely expanding feelings of youth and of uncultivated nations are alone adapted to the sublime, which, if it is to be excited in us through external objects, formless, or moulded into incomprehensible forms, must surround us with a greatness to which we are not equal.
All men, more or less, have such a disposition, and seek to satisfy this noble want in various ways. But as the sublime is easily produced by twilight and night, when objects are blended, it is, on the other hand, scared away by the day, which separates and sunders every thing; and so must it also be destroyed by every increase of cultivation, if it be not fortunate enough to take refuge with the beautiful, and unite itself closely with it, whereby both become equally undying and indestructible.
The brief moments of such enjoyments were still more shortened by my meditative friend: but, when I turned back into the world, it was altogether in vain that I sought, among the bright and barren objects around, again to arouse such feelings within me; nay, I could scarcely retain even the remembrance of them. My heart, however, was too far spoiled to be able to compose itself: it had loved, and the object was snatched away from it; it had lived, and life to it was embittered. A friend who makes it too perceptible that he designs to improve you, excites no feeling of comfort; while a woman who is forming you, while she seems to spoil you, is adored as a heavenly, joy-bringing being. But that form in which the idea of beauty manifested itself to me had vanished into distance; it often visited me under the shade of my oak- trees, but I could not hold it fast: and I felt a powerful impulse to seek something similar in the distance.
I had imperceptibly accustomed, nay, compelled, my friend and overseer to leave me alone; for, even in my sacred grove, those undefined, gigantic feelings were not sufficient for me. The eye was, above all others, the organ by which I seized the world. I had, from childhood, lived among painters, and had accustomed myself to look at objects, as they did, with reference to art. Now I was left to myself and to solitude, this gift, half natural, half acquired, made its appearance. Wherever I looked, I saw a picture; and whatever struck me, whatever gave me delight, I wished to fix, and began, in the most awkward manner, to draw after nature. To this end I lacked nothing less than every thing; yet, though without any technical means, I obstinately persisted in trying to imitate the most magnificent things that offered themselves to my sight. Thus, to be sure, I acquired the faculty of paying a great attention to objects; but I only seized them as a whole, so far as they produced an effect: and, little as Nature had meant me for a descriptive poet, just as little would she grant me the capacity of a draughtsman for details. This, however, being the only way left me of uttering my thoughts, I stuck to it with so much stubbornness, nay, even with melancholy, that I always continued my labors the more zealously the less I saw they produced.
But I will not deny that there was a certain mixture of roguery; for I had remarked, that if I chose for an irksome study a half-shaded old trunk, to the hugely curved roots of which clung well-lit fern, combined with twinkling maiden-hair, my friend, who knew from experience that I should not be disengaged in less than an hour, commonly resolved to seek, with his books, some other pleasant little spot. Now nothing disturbed me in prosecuting my taste, which was so much the more active, as my paper was endeared to me by the circumstance that I had accustomed myself to see in it, not so much what stood upon it, as what I had been thinking of at any time and hour when I drew. Thus plants and flowers of the commonest kind may form a charming diary for us, because nothing that calls back the remembrance of a happy moment can be insignificant; and even now it would be hard for me to destroy as worthless many things of the kind that have remained to me from different epochs, because they transport me immediately to those times which I like to remember, although not without melancholy.
But, if such drawings may have had any thing of interest in themselves, they were indebted for this advantage to the sympathy and attention of my father. He, informed by my overseer that I had become gradually reconciled to my condition, and, in particular, had applied myself passionately to drawing from nature, was very well satisfied,—partly because he himself set a high value on drawing and painting, partly because gossip Seekatz had once said to him, that it was a pity I was not destined for a painter. But here again the peculiarities of father and son came into conflict: for it was almost impossible for me to make use of a good, white, perfectly clean sheet of paper; gray old leaves, even if scribbled over on one side already, charmed me most, just as if my awkwardness had feared the touchstone of a white ground. Nor were any of my drawings quite finished; and how should I have executed a whole, which indeed I saw with my eyes, but did not comprehend, and how an individual object, which I had neither skill nor patience to follow out? My father's mode of training me in this respect was really to be admired. He kindly asked for my attempts, and drew lines round every imperfect sketch. He wished, by this means, to compel me to completeness and fulness of detail. The irregular leaves he cut straight, and thus made the beginning of a collection, in which he wished, at some future time, to rejoice at the progress of his son. It was, therefore, by no means disagreeable to him when my wild, restless disposition sent me roving about the country: he rather seemed pleased when I brought back a parcel of drawings on which he could exercise his patience, and in some measure strengthen his hopes.
They no longer said that I might relapse into my former attachments and connections: they left me by degrees perfect liberty. By accidental inducements and in accidental society I undertook many journeys to the mountain-range, which, from my childhood, had stood so distant and solemn before me. Thus we visited Homburg, Kroneburg, ascended the Feldberg, from which the prospect invited us still farther and farther into the distance. Koenigstein, too, was not left unvisited; Wiesbaden, Schwalbach, with its environs, occupied us many days; we reached the Rhine, which, from the heights, we had seen winding along far off. Mentz astonished us, but could not chain a youthful mind which was running into the open country; we were delighted with the situation of Biberich; and, contented and happy, we resumed our journey home.
This whole tour, from which my father had promised himself many a drawing, might have been almost without fruit; for what taste, what talent, what experience, does it not require to seize an extensive landscape as a picture! I was again imperceptibly drawn into a narrow compass, from which I derived some profit; for I met no ruined castle, no piece of wall which pointed to antiquity, that I did not think an object worthy of my pencil, and imitate as well as I could. Even the stone of Drusus, on the ramparts of Mentz, I copied at some risk, and with inconveniences which every one must experience who wishes to carry home with him some pictorial reminiscences of his travels. Unfortunately I had again brought with me nothing but the most miserable common paper, and had clumsily crowded several objects into one sheet. But my paternal teacher was not perplexed at this: he cut the sheets apart; had the parts which belonged to each other put together by the bookbinder; surrounded the single leaves with lines; and thus actually compelled me to draw the outline of different mountains up to the margin, and to fill up the foreground with some weeds and stones.
If his faithful endeavors could not increase my talent, nevertheless this mark of his love of order had upon me a secret influence, which afterwards manifested itself vigorously in more ways than one.
From such rambling excursions, undertaken partly for pleasure, partly for art, and which could be performed in a short time, and often repeated, I was again drawn home, and that by a magnet which always acted upon me strongly: this was my sister. She, only a year younger than I, had lived the whole conscious period of my life with me, and was thus bound to me by the closest ties. To these natural causes was added a forcible motive, which proceeded from our domestic position: a father certainly affectionate and well-meaning, but grave, who, because he cherished within a very tender heart, externally, with incredible consistency, maintained a brazen sternness, that he might attain the end of giving his children the best education, and of building up, regulating, and preserving his well-founded house; a mother, on the other hand, as yet almost a child, who first grew up to consciousness with and in her two eldest children; these three, as they looked at the world with healthy eyes, capable of life, and desiring present enjoyment. This contradiction floating in the family increased with years. My father followed out his views unshaken and uninterrupted: the mother and children could not give up their feelings, their claims, their wishes.
Under these circumstances it was natural that brother and sister should attach themselves close to each other, and adhere to their mother, that they might singly snatch the pleasures forbidden as a whole. But since the hours of solitude and toil were very long compared with the moments of recreation and enjoyment, especially for my sister, who could never leave the house for so long a time as I could, the necessity she felt for entertaining herself with me was still sharpened by the sense of longing with which she accompanied me to a distance.
And as, in our first years, playing and learning, growth and education, had been quite common to both of us, so that we might well have been taken for twins, so did this community, this confidence, remain during the development of our physical and moral powers. That interest of youth; that amazement at the awakening of sensual impulses which clothe themselves in mental forms; of mental necessities which clothe themselves in sensual images; all the reflections upon these, which obscure rather than enlighten us, as the fog covers over and does not illumine the vale from which it is about to rise; the many errors and aberrations springing therefrom,—all these the brother and sister shared and endured hand in hand, and were the less enlightened as to their strange condition, as the nearer they wished to approach each other, to clear up their minds, the more forcibly did the sacred awe of their close relationship keep them apart
Reluctantly do I mention, in a general way, what I undertook to set forth years ago, without being able to accomplish it. As I lost this beloved, incomprehensible being but too soon, I felt inducement enough to make her worth present to me: and thus arose in me the conception of a poetic whole, in which it might be possible to exhibit her individuality; but for this no other form could be devised than that of the Richardsonian novels. Only by the minutest detail, by endless particularities which bear vividly all the character of the whole, and, as they spring up from a wonderful depth, give some feeling of that depth,—only in such a manner would it have been in some degree possible to give a representation of this remarkable personality; for the spring can be apprehended only while it is flowing. But from this beautiful and pious design, as from so many others, the tumult of the world drew me away; and nothing now remains for me but to call up for a moment that blessed spirit, as if by the aid of a magic mirror.
She was tall, well and delicately formed, and had something naturally dignified in her demeanor, which melted away into a pleasing mildness. The lineaments of her face, neither striking nor beautiful, indicated a character which was not nor ever could be in union with itself. Her eyes were not the finest I have ever seen, but the deepest, behind which you expected the most; and when they expressed any affection, any love, their brilliancy was unequalled. And yet, properly speaking, this expression was not tender, like that which comes from the heart, and at the same time carries with it something of longing and desire: this expression came from the soul; it was full and rich; it seemed as if it would only give, without needing to receive.
But what in a manner quite peculiar disfigured her face, so that she would often appear positively ugly, was the fashion of those times, which not only bared the forehead, but, either accidentally or on purpose, did every thing apparently or really to enlarge it. Now, as she had the most feminine, most perfect arched forehead, and, moreover, a pair of strong black eyebrows, and prominent eyes, these circumstances occasioned a contrast, which, if it did not repel every stranger at the first glance, at least did not attract him. She early felt it; and this feeling became constantly the more painful to her, the farther she advanced into the years when both sexes find an innocent pleasure in being mutually agreeable.
To nobody can his own form be repugnant; the ugliest, as well as the most beautiful, has a right to enjoy his own presence: and as favor beautifies, and every one regards himself in the looking-glass with favor, it may be asserted that every one must see himself with complacency, even if he would struggle against the feeling. Yet my sister had such a decided foundation of good sense, that she could not possibly be blind and silly in this respect; on the contrary, she perhaps knew more clearly than she ought, that she stood far behind her female playfellows in external beauty, without feeling consoled by the fact that she infinitely surpassed them in internal advantages.
If a woman can find compensation for the want of beauty, she richly found it in the unbounded confidence, the regard and love, which all her female friends bore to her; whether they were older or younger, all cherished the same sentiments. A very pleasant society had collected around her: young men were not wanting who knew how to insinuate themselves; nearly every girl found an admirer; she alone had remained without a partner. While, indeed, her exterior was in some measure repulsive, the mind that gleamed through it was also more repelling than attractive; for the presence of any excellence throws others back upon themselves. She felt this sensibly: she did not conceal it from me, and her love was directed to me with so much the greater force. The case was singular enough. As confidants to whom one reveals a love-affair actually by genuine sympathy become lovers also, nay, grow into rivals, and at last, perchance, transfer the passion to themselves; so it was with us two: for, when my connection with Gretchen was torn asunder, my sister consoled me the more earnestly, because she secretly felt the satisfaction of having gotten rid of a rival; and I, too, could not but feel a quiet, half-mischievous pleasure, when she did me the justice to assure me that I was the only one who truly loved, understood, and esteemed her. If now, from time to time, my grief for the loss of Gretchen revived, and I suddenly began to weep, to lament, and to act in a disorderly manner, my despair for my lost one awakened in her likewise a similar despairing impatience as to the never-possessings, the failures, and miscarriages of such youthful attachments, that we both thought ourselves infinitely unhappy, and the more so, as, in this singular case, the confidants could not change themselves into lovers.
Fortunately, however, the capricious god of love, who needlessly does so much mischief, here for once interfered beneficially, to extricate us out of all perplexity. I had much intercourse with a young Englishman who was educated in Pfeil's boarding-school. He could give a good account of his own language: I practised it with him, and thus learned much concerning his country and people. He went in and out of our house long enough without my remarking in him a liking for my sister; yet he may have been nourishing it in secret, even to passion, for at last it declared itself unexpectedly and at once. She knew him, she esteemed him, and he deserved it. She had often made the third at our English conversations: we had both tried to catch from his mouth the irregularities of the English pronunciation, and thereby accustomed ourselves, not only to the peculiarities of its accent and sound, but even to what was most peculiar in the personal qualities of our teacher; so that at last it sounded strangely enough when we all seemed to speak as if out of one mouth. The pains he took to learn as much German from us in the like manner were to no purpose; and I think I have remarked that even this little love-affair was also, both orally and in writing, carried on in the English language. Both the young persons were very well suited to each other: he was tall and well built, as she was, only still more slender; his face, small and compact, might really have been pretty, had it not been too much disfigured by the small-pox; his manner was calm, precise,—one might often have called it dry and cold; but his heart was full of kindness and love, his soul full of generosity, and his attachments as lasting as they were decided and controlled. Now, this serious pair, who had but lately formed an attachment, were quite peculiarly distinguished among the others, who, being already better acquainted with each other, of more frivolous character, and careless as to the future, roved about with levity in these connections, which commonly pass away as the mere fruitless prelude to subsequent and more serious ties, and very seldom produce a lasting effect upon life.
The fine weather and the beautiful country did not remain unenjoyed by so lively a company: water-excursions were frequently arranged, because these are the most sociable of all parties of pleasure. Yet, whether we were going by water or by land, the individual attracting powers immediately showed themselves; each couple kept together: and for some men who were not engaged, of whom I was one, there remained either no conversation with the ladies at all, or only such as no one would have chosen for a day of pleasure. A friend who found himself in this situation, and who might have been in want of a partner chiefly for this reason, that, with, the best humor, he lacked tenderness, and, with much intelligence, that delicate attention, without which connections of this kind are not to be thought of,—this man, after often humorously and wittily lamenting his condition, promised at the next meeting to make a proposal which would benefit himself and the whole company. Nor did he fail to perform his promise; for when, after a brilliant trip by water, and a very pleasant walk, reclining on the grass between shady knolls, or sitting on mossy rocks and roots of trees, we had cheerfully and happily consumed a rural meal, and our friend saw us all cheerful and in good spirits, he, with a waggish dignity, commanded us to sit close round him in a semicircle, before which he stepped, and began to make an emphatic peroration as follows:—
"Most worthy friends of both sexes, paired and unpaired!"—It was already evident from this address, how necessary it was that a preacher of repentance should arise, and sharpen the conscience of the company. "One part of my noble friends is paired, and they may find themselves quite happy; another unpaired, and these find themselves in the highest degree miserable, as I can assure you from my own experience: and although the loving couples are here in the majority, yet I would have them consider whether it is not a social duty to take thought for the whole. Why do we wish to assemble in such numbers, except to take a mutual interest in each other? and how can that be done when so many little secessions are to be seen in our circle? Far be it from me to insinuate any thing against such sweet connections, or even to wish to disturb them; but 'there is a time for all things,'—an excellent great saying, of which, indeed, nobody thinks when his own amusement is sufficiently provided for."
He then went on with constantly increasing liveliness and gayety to compare the social virtues with the tender sentiments. "The latter," said he, "can never fail us; we always carry them about with us, and every one becomes a master in them without practice: but we must go in quest of the former, we must take some trouble about them; and, though we progress in them as much as we will, we have never done learning them." Now he went into particulars. Many felt hit off, and they could not help casting glances at each other: yet our friend had this privilege, that nothing he did was taken ill; and so he could proceed without interruption.
"It is not enough to discover deficiencies: indeed, it is unjust to do so, if at the same time one cannot contrive to give the means for bettering the state of affairs. I will not, therefore, my friends, something like a preacher in Passion Week, exhort you in general terms to repentance and amendment: I rather wish all amiable couples the longest and most enduring happiness; and, to contribute to it myself in the surest manner, I propose to sever and abolish these most charming little segregations during our social hours. I have," he continued, "already provided for the execution of my project, if it should meet your approbation. Here is a bag in which are the names of the gentlemen: now draw, my fair ones, and be pleased to favor as your servant, for a week, him whom fate shall send you. This is binding only within our circle; as soon as that is broken up, these connections are also abolished, and the heart may decide who shall attend you home."
A great part of the company had been delighted with this address, and the manner in which he delivered it, and seemed to approve of the notion; yet some couples looked at each other as if they thought that it would not answer their purpose: he therefore cried with humorous vehemence,—
"Truly! it surprises me that some one does not spring up, and, though others hesitate, extol my plan, explain its advantages, and spare me the pain of being my own encomiast. I am the oldest among you: may God forgive me for that! Already have I a bald pate, which is owing to my great meditation."—
Here he took off his hat—
"But I should expose it to view with joy and honor if my lucubrations, which dry up my skin, and rob me of my finest adornment, could only be in some measure beneficial to myself and others. We are young, my friends,—that is good; we shall grow older,—that is bad; we take little offence at each other,—that is right, and in accordance with the season. But soon, my friends, the days will come when we shall have much to be displeased at in ourselves; then, let every one see that he makes all right with himself; but, at the same time, others will take things ill of us, and on what account we shall not understand; for this we must prepare ourselves; this shall now be done."
He had delivered the whole speech, but especially the last part, with the tone and gesture of a Capuchin; for, as he was a Catholic, he might have had abundant opportunity to study the oratory of these fathers. He now appeared out of breath, wiped his youthful, bald head, which really gave him the look of a priest, and by these drolleries put the light- hearted company in such good humor that every one was eager to hear him longer. But, instead of proceeding, he drew open the bag, and turned to the nearest lady. "Now for a trial of it!" exclaimed he: "the work will do credit to the master. If in a week's time we do not like it, we will give it up, and stick to the old plan."
Half willingly, half on compulsion, the ladies drew their tickets; and it was easy to see that various passions were in play during this little affair. Fortunately it happened that the merry-minded were separated, while the more serious remained together, and so, too, my sister kept her Englishman; which, on both sides, they took very kindly of the god of Love and Luck. The new chance-couples were immediately united by the /Antistes/, their healths were drank, and to all the more joy was wished, as its duration was to be but short. This was certainly the merriest moment that our company had enjoyed for a long time. The young men to whose share no lady had fallen, held, for this week, the office of providing for the mind, the soul, and the body, as our orator expressed himself, but especially, he hinted, for the soul, since both the others already knew how to help themselves.
These masters of ceremonies, who wished at once to do themselves credit, brought into play some very pretty new games, prepared at some distance a supper, which we had not reckoned on, and illuminated the yacht on our return at night, although there was no necessity for it in the bright moonlight; but they excused themselves by saying that it was quite conformable to the new social regulation to outshine the tender glances of the heavenly moon by earthly candles. The moment we touched the shore, our Solon cried, "/Ite, missa est!/" Each one now handed out of the vessel the lady who had fallen to him by lot, and then surrendered her to her proper partner, on receiving his own in exchange.
At our next meeting this weekly regulation was established for the summer, and the lots were drawn once more. There was no question but that this pleasantry gave a new and unexpected turn to the company; and every one was stimulated to display whatever of wit and grace was in him, and to pay court to his temporary fair one in the most obliging manner, since he might depend on having a sufficient store of complaisance for one week at least.
We had scarcely settled down, when, instead of thanking our orator, we reproached him for having kept to himself the best part of his speech,— the conclusion. He thereupon protested that the best part of a speech was persuasion, and that he who did not aim at persuasion should make no speech; for, as to conviction, that was a ticklish business. As, however, they gave him no peace, he began a Capuchinade on the spot, more comical than ever, perhaps, for the very reason that he took it into his head to speak on the most serious subjects. For with texts out of the Bible, which had nothing to do with the business; with similes which did not fit; with allusions which illustrated nothing,—he carried out the proposition, that whosoever does not know how to conceal his passions, inclinations, wishes, purposes, and plans, will come to no good in the world, but will be disturbed and made a butt in every end and corner; and that especially if one would be happy in love, one must take pains to keep it a most profound secret.
This thought ran through the whole, without, properly speaking, a single word of it being said. If you would form a conception of this singular man, let it be considered, that, being born with a good foundation, he had cultivated his talents, and especially his acuteness, in Jesuit schools, and had amassed an extensive knowledge of the world and of men, but only on the bad side. He was some two and twenty years old, and would gladly have made me a proselyte to his contempt for mankind; but this would not take with me, as I always had a great desire to be good myself, and to find good in others. Meanwhile, I was by him made attentive to many things.
To complete the /dramatis personae/ of every merry company, an actor is necessary who feels pleasure when the others, to enliven many an indifferent moment, point the arrows of their wit at him. If he is not merely a stuffed Saracen, like those on whom the knights used to practise their lances in mock battles, but understands himself how to skirmish, to rally, and to challenge, how to wound lightly, and recover himself again, and, while he seems to expose himself, to give others a thrust home, nothing more agreeable can be found. Such a man we possessed in our friend Horn, whose name, to begin with, gave occasion for all sorts of jokes, and who, on account of his small figure, was called nothing but Hoernchen (little Horn). He was, in fact, the smallest in the company, of a stout but pleasing form; a pug-nose, a mouth somewhat pouting, little sparkling eyes, made up a swarthy countenance which always seemed to invite laughter. His little compact skull was thickly covered with curly black hair: his beard was prematurely blue; and he would have liked to let it grow, that, as a comic mask, he might always keep the company laughing. For the rest, he was neat and nimble, but insisted that he had bandy legs, which everybody granted, since he was bent on having it so, but about which many a joke arose; for, since he was in request as a very good dancer, he reckoned it among the peculiarities of the fair sex, that they always liked to see bandy legs on the floor. His cheerfulness was indestructible, and his presence at every meeting indispensable. We two kept more together because he was to follow me to the university; and he well deserves that I should mention him with all honor, as he adhered to me for many years with infinite love, faithfulness, and patience.
By my ease in rhyming, and in winning from common objects a poetical side, he had allowed himself to be seduced into similar labors. Our little social excursions, parties of pleasure, and the contingencies that occurred in them, we decked out poetically; and thus, by the description of an event, a new event always arose. But as such social jests commonly degenerate into personal ridicule, and my friend Horn, with his burlesque representations, did not always keep within proper bounds, many a misunderstanding arose, which, however, could soon be softened down and effaced.
Thus, also, he tried his skill in a species of poetry which was then very much the order of the day,—the comic heroical poem. Pope's "Rape of the Lock" had called forth many imitations: Zachariae cultivated this branch of poetry on German soil; and it pleased every one, because the ordinary subject of it was some awkward fellow, of whom the genii made game, while they favored the better one.
Although it is no wonder, yet it excites wonderment, when contemplating a literature, especially the German, one observes how a whole nation cannot get free from a subject which has been once given, and happily treated in a certain form, but will have it repeated in every manner, until, at last, the original itself is covered up, and stifled by the heaps of imitations.
The heroic poem of my friend was a voucher for this remark. At a great sledging-party, an awkward man has assigned to him a lady who does not like him: comically enough, there befalls him, one after another, every accident that can happen on such an occasion, until at last, as he is entreating for the sledge-driver's right (a kiss), he falls from the back-seat; for just then, as was natural, the Fates tripped him up. The fair one seizes the reins, and drives home alone, where a favored friend receives her, and triumphs over his presumptuous rival. As to the rest, it was very prettily contrived that the four different kinds of spirits should worry him in turn, till at the end the gnomes hoist him completely out of the saddle. The poem, written in Alexandrines, and founded on a true story, highly delighted our little public; and we were convinced that it could well be compared with the "Walpurgisnight" of Loewen, or the "Renommist" of Zachariae. [Footnote: This word, which signifies something like our "bully," is specially used to designate a fighting student.—TRANS.]
While, now, our social pleasures required but an evening, and the preparations for them only a few hours, I had enough time to read, and, as I thought, to study. To please my father, I diligently repeated the smaller work of Hopp, and could stand an examination in it forwards and backwards, by which means I made myself complete master of the chief contents of the institutes. But a restless eagerness for knowledge urged me farther: I lighted upon the history of ancient literature, and from that fell into an encyclopaedism, in which I hastily read Gessner's "Isagoge" and Morhov's "Polyhistor," and thus gained a general notion of how many strange things might have happened in learning and life. By this persevering and rapid industry, continued day and night, I became more confused than instructed; but I lost myself in a still greater labyrinth when I found Bayle in my father's library, and plunged deeply into this work.
But a leading conviction, which was continually revived within me, was that of the importance of the ancient tongues; since from amidst this literary hurly-burly, thus much continually forced itself upon me, that in them were preserved all the models of oratory, and at the same time every thing else of worth that the world has ever possessed. Hebrew, together with biblical studies, had retired into the background, and Greek likewise, since my acquaintance with it did not extend beyond the New Testament. I therefore the more zealously kept to Latin, the masterpieces in which lie nearer to us, and which, besides its splendid original productions, offers us the other wealth of all ages in translations, and the works of the greatest scholars. I consequently read much in this language, with great ease, and was bold enough to believe I understood the authors, because I missed nothing of the literal sense. Indeed, I was very indignant when I heard that Grotius had insolently declared, "he did not read Terence as boys do." Happy narrow-mindedness of youth!—nay, of men in general, that they can, at every moment of their existence, fancy themselves finished, and inquire after neither the true nor the false, after neither the high nor the deep, but merely after that which is suited to them.
I had thus learned Latin, like German, French, and English, merely by practice, without rules, and without comprehension. Whoever knows the then condition of scholastic instruction will not think it strange that I skipped grammar as well as rhetoric; all seemed to me to come together naturally: I retained the words, their forms and inflexions, in my ear and mind, and used the language with ease in writing and in chattering.
Michaelmas, the time fixed for my going to the university, was approaching; and my mind was excited quite as much about my life as about my learning. I grew more and more clearly conscious of an aversion to my native city. By Gretchen's removal, the heart had been broken out of the boyish and youthful plant: it needed time to bud forth again from its sides, and surmount the first injury by a new growth. My ramblings through the streets had ceased: I now, like others, only went such ways as were necessary. I never went again into Gretchen's quarter of the city, not even into its vicinity: and as my old walls and towers became gradually disagreeable to me, so also was I displeased at the constitution of the city; all that hitherto seemed so worthy of honor now appeared to me in distorted shapes. As grandson of the /Schultheiss/ I had not remained unacquainted with the secret defects of such a republic; the less so, as children feel quite a peculiar surprise, and are excited to busy researches, as soon as something which they have hitherto implicitly revered becomes in any degree suspicious to them. The fruitless indignation of upright men, in opposition to those who are to be gained and even bribed by factions, had become but too plain to me: I hated every injustice beyond measure, for children are all moral rigorists. My father, who was concerned in the affairs of the city only as a private citizen, expressed himself with very lively indignation about much that had failed. And did I not see him, after so many studies, endeavors, pains, travels, and so much varied cultivation, between his four walls, leading a solitary life, such as I could never desire for myself? All this put together lay as a horrible load on my mind, from which I could only free myself by trying to contrive a plan of life altogether different from that which had been marked out for me. In thought I threw aside my legal studies, and devoted myself solely to the languages, to antiquities, to history, and to all that flows from them.
Indeed, at all times, the poetic imitation of what I had perceived in myself, in others, and in nature, afforded me the greatest pleasure. I did it with ever-increasing facility, because it came by instinct, and no criticism had led me astray; and, if I did not feel full confidence in my productions, I could certainly regard them as defective, but not such as to be utterly rejected. Although here and there they were censured, I still retained my silent conviction that I could not but gradually improve, and that some time I might be honorably named along with Hagedorn, Gellert, and other such men. But such a distinction alone seemed to me too empty and inadequate; I wished to devote myself professionally and with zeal to those aforesaid fundamental studies, and, whilst I meant to advance more rapidly in my own works by a more thorough insight into antiquity, to qualify myself for a university professorship, which seemed to me the most desirable thing for a young man who strove for culture, and intended to contribute to that of others.
With these intentions I always had my eye upon Goettingen. My whole confidence rested upon men like Heyne, Michaelis, and so many others: my most ardent wish was to sit at their feet, and attend to their instructions. But my father remained inflexible. Howsoever some family friends, who were of my opinion, tried to influence him, he persisted that I must go to Leipzig. I was now resolved, contrary to his views and wishes, to choose a line of studies and of life for myself, by way of self-defense. The obstinacy of my father, who, without knowing it, opposed himself to my plans, strengthened me in my impiety; so that I made no scruple to listen to him by the hour, while he described and repeated to me the course of study and of life which I should pursue at the universities and in the world.
All hopes of Goettingen being cut off, I now turned my eyes towards Leipzig. There Ernesti appeared to me as a brilliant light: Morus, too, already awakened much confidence. I planned for myself in secret an opposition-course, or rather I built a castle in the air, on a tolerably solid foundation; and it seemed to me quite romantically honorable to mark out my own path of life, which appeared the less visionary, as Griesbach had already made great progress in a similar way, and was commended for it by every one. The secret joy of a prisoner, when he has unbound the fetters, and rapidly filed through the bars of his jail- window, cannot be greater than was mine as I saw day after day disappear, and October draw nigh. The inclement season and the bad roads, of which everybody had something to tell, did not frighten me. The thought of making good my footing in a strange place, and in winter, did not make me sad; suffice it to say, that I only saw my present situation was gloomy, and represented to myself the other unknown world as light and cheerful. Thus I formed my dreams, to which I gave myself up exclusively, and promised myself nothing but happiness and content in the distance.
Closely as I kept these projects a secret from every one else, I could not hide them from my sister, who, after being very much alarmed about them at first, was finally consoled when I promised to send after her, so that she could enjoy with me the brilliant station I was to obtain, and share my comfort with me.
Michaelmas, so longingly expected, came at last, when I set out with delight, in company with the bookseller Fleischer and his wife (whose maiden name was Triller, and who was going to visit her father in Wittemberg); and I left behind me the worthy city in which I had been born and bred, with indifference, as if I wished never to set foot in it again.
Thus, at certain epochs, children part from parents, servants from masters, /proteges/ from their patrons; and, whether it succeed or not, such an attempt to stand on one's own feet, to make one's self independent, to live for one's self, is always in accordance with the will of nature.
We had driven out through the Allerheiligen (/All Saints/) gate, and had soon left Hanau behind us, after which we reached scenes which aroused my attention by their novelty, if, at this season of the year, they offered little that was pleasing. A continual rain had completely spoiled the roads, which, generally speaking, were not then in such good order as we find them now; and our journey was thus neither pleasant nor happy. Yet I was indebted to this damp weather for the sight of a natural phenomenon which must be exceedingly rare, for I have seen nothing like it since, nor have I heard of its having been observed by others. It was this; namely, we were driving at night up a rising ground between Hanau and Gelhausen, and, although it was dark, we preferred walking to exposing ourselves to the danger and difficulty of that part of the road. All at once, in a ravine on the right-hand side of the way, I saw a sort of amphitheatre, wonderfully illuminated. In a funnel- shaped space there were innumerable little lights gleaming, ranged step- fashion over one another; and they shone so brilliantly that the eye was dazzled. But what still more confused the sight was, that they did not keep still, but jumped about here and there, as well downwards from above as /vice versa/, and in every direction. The greater part of them, however, remained stationary, and beamed on. It was only with the greatest reluctance that I suffered myself to be called away from this spectacle, which I could have wished to examine more closely. The postilion, when questioned, said that he knew nothing about such a phenomenon, but that there was in the neighborhood an old stone-quarry, the excavation of which was filled with water. Now, whether this was a pandemonium of will-o'-the-wisps, or a company of luminous creatures, I will not decide.
The roads through Thuringia were yet worse; and unfortunately, at night- fall, our coach stuck fast in the vicinity of Auerstaedt. We were far removed from all mankind, and did every thing possible to work ourselves out. I failed not to exert myself zealously, and might thereby have overstrained the ligaments of my chest; for soon afterwards I felt a pain, which went off and returned, and did not leave me entirely until after many years.
Yet on that same night, as if it had been destined for alternate good and bad luck, I was forced, after an unexpectedly fortunate incident, to experience a teasing vexation. We met, in Auerstaedt, a genteel married couple, who had also just arrived, having been delayed by a similar accident; a pleasing, dignified man, in his best years, with a very handsome wife. They politely persuaded us to sup in their company, and I felt very happy when the excellent lady addressed a friendly word to me. But when I was sent out to hasten the soup which had been ordered, not having been accustomed to the loss of rest and the fatigues of travelling, such an unconquerable drowsiness overtook me, that actually I fell asleep while walking, returned into the room with my hat on my head, and, without remarking that the others were saying grace, placed myself with quiet unconsciousness behind the chair, and never dreamed that by my conduct I had come to disturb their devotions in a very droll way. Madame Fleischer, who lacked neither spirit nor wit nor tongue, entreated the strangers, before they had seated themselves, not to be surprised at any thing they might see here; for that their young fellow- traveller had in his nature much of the peculiarity of the Quakers, who believe that they cannot honor God and the king better than with covered heads. The handsome lady, who could not restrain her laughter, looked prettier than ever in consequence; and I would have given every thing in the world not to have been the cause of a merriment which was so highly becoming to her countenance. I had, however, scarcely laid aside my hat, when these persons, in accordance with their polished manners, immediately dropped the joke, and, with the best wine from their bottle- case, completely extinguished sleep, chagrin, and the memory of all past troubles.
I arrived in Leipzig just at the time of the fair, from which I derived particular pleasure; for here I saw before me the continuation of a state of things belonging to my native city, familiar wares and traders,—only in other places, and in a different order. I rambled about the market and the booths with much interest; but my attention was particularly attracted by the inhabitants of the Eastern countries in their strange dresses, the Poles and Russians, and, above all, the Greeks, for the sake of whose handsome forms and dignified costume I often went to the spot.
But this animating bustle was soon over; and now the city itself appeared before me, with its handsome, high, and uniform houses. It made a very good impression upon me; and it cannot be denied, that in general, but especially in the silent moments of Sundays and holidays, it has something imposing; and when in the moonlight the streets were half in shadow, half-illuminated, they often invited me to nocturnal promenades.
In the mean time, as compared with that to which I had hitherto been accustomed, this new state of affairs was by no means satisfactory. Leipzig calls up before the spectator no antique time: it is a new, recently elapsed epoch, testifying commercial activity, comfort and wealth, which announces itself to us in these monuments. Yet quite to my taste were the houses, which to me seemed immense, and which, fronting two streets, and embracing a citizen-world within their large court- yards, built round with lofty walls, are like large castles, nay, even half-cities. In one of these strange places I quartered myself; namely, in the Bombshell Tavern (/Feuerkugel/), between the Old and the New Newmarket (/Neumarkt/). A couple of pleasant rooms looking out upon a court-yard, which, on account of the thoroughfare, was not without animation, were occupied by the bookseller Fleischer during the fair, and by me taken for the rest of the time at a moderate price. As a fellow-lodger I found a theological student, who was deeply learned in his professional studies, a sound thinker, but poor, and suffering much from his eyes, which caused him great anxiety for the future. He had brought this affliction upon himself by his inordinate reading till the latest dusk of the evening, and even by moonlight, to save a little oil. Our old hostess showed herself benevolent to him, always friendly to me, and careful for us both.
I now hastened with my letters of introduction to Hofrath Boehme, who, once a pupil of Maskow, and now his successor, was professor of history and public law. A little, thick-set, lively man received me kindly enough, and introduced me to his wife. Both of them, as well as the other persons whom I waited on, gave me the pleasantest hopes as to my future residence; but at first I let no one know of the design I entertained, although I could scarcely wait for the favorable moment when I should declare myself free from jurisprudence, and devoted to the study of the classics. I cautiously waited till the Fleischers had returned, that my purpose might not be too prematurely betrayed to my family. But I then went, without delay, to Hofrath Boehme, to whom, before all, I thought I must confide the matter, and with much self- importance and boldness of speech disclosed my views to him. However, I found by no means a good reception of my proposition. As professor of history and public law, he had a declared hatred for every thing that savored of the /belles-lettres/. Unfortunately he did not stand on the best footing with those who cultivated them; and Gellert in particular, in whom I had, awkwardly enough, expressed much confidence, he could not even endure. To send a faithful student to those men, therefore, while he deprived himself of one, and especially under such circumstances, seemed to him altogether out of the question. He therefore gave me a severe lecture on the spot, in which he protested that he could not permit such a step without the permission of my parents, even if he approved of it himself, which was not the case in this instance. He then passionately inveighed against philology and the study of languages, but still more against poetical exercises, which I had indeed allowed to peep out in the background. He finally concluded, that, if I wished to enter more closely into the study of the ancients, it could be done much better by the way of jurisprudence. He brought to my recollection many elegant jurists, such as Eberhard, Otto, and Heineccius, promised me mountains of gold from Roman antiquities and the history of law, and showed me, clear as the sun, that I should here be taking no roundabout way, even if afterwards, on more mature deliberation, and with the consent of my parents, I should determine to follow out my own plan. He begged me, in a friendly manner, to think the matter over once more, and to open my mind to him soon; as it would be necessary to come to a determination at once, on account of the impending commencement of the lectures.
It was, however, very polite of him not to press me on the spot. His arguments, and the weight with which he advanced them, had already convinced my pliant youth; and I now first saw the difficulties and doubtfulness of a matter which I had privately pictured to myself as so feasible. Frau Hofrath Boehme invited me shortly afterwards. I found her alone. She was no longer young, and had very delicate health; was gentle and tender to an infinite degree; and formed a decided contrast to her husband, whose good nature was even blustering. She spoke of the conversation her husband had lately had with me, and once more placed the subject before me, in all its bearings, in so cordial a manner, so affectionately and sensibly, that I could not help yielding: the few reservations on which I insisted were also agreed upon by the other side.
Thereupon her husband regulated my hours; for I was to hear lectures on philosophy, the history of law, the Institutes, and some other matters. I was content with this; but I carried my point so as to attend Gellert's history of literature (with Stockhausen for a text-book), and his "Practicum" besides.
The reverence and love with which Gellert was regarded by all young people was extraordinary. I had already called on him, and had been kindly received by him. Not of tall stature; elegant without being lean; soft and rather pensive eyes; a very fine forehead; a nose aquiline, but not too much so; a delicate mouth; a face of an agreeable oval,—all made his presence pleasing and desirable. It cost some trouble to reach him. His two /Famuli/ appeared like priests who guard a sanctuary, the access to which is not permitted to everybody, nor at every time: and such a precaution was very necessary; for he would have sacrificed his whole time, had he been willing to receive and satisfy all those who wished to become intimate with him.
At first I attended my lectures assiduously and faithfully, but the philosophy would not enlighten me at all. In the logic it seemed strange to me that I had so to tear asunder, isolate, and, as it were, destroy, those operations of the mind which I had performed with the greatest ease from my youth upwards, and this in order to see into the right use of them. Of the thing itself, of the world, and of God, I thought I knew about as much as the professor himself; and, in more places than one, the affair seemed to me to come into a tremendous strait. Yet all went on in tolerable order till towards Shrovetide, when, in the neighborhood of Professor Winkler's house on the Thomas Place, the most delicious fritters came hot out of the pan just at the hour of lecture: and these delayed us so long, that our note-books became disordered; and the conclusion of them, towards spring, melted away, together with the snow, and was lost.
The law-lectures very soon fared not any better, for I already knew just as much as the professor thought good to communicate to us. My stubborn industry in writing down the lectures at first, was paralyzed by degrees; for I found it excessively tedious to pen down once more that which, partly by question, partly by answer, I had repeated with my father often enough to retain it forever in my memory. The harm which is done when young people at school are advanced too far in many things was afterwards manifested still more when time and attention were diverted from exercises in the languages, and a foundation in what are, properly speaking, preparatory studies, in order to be applied to what are called "Realities," which dissipate more than they cultivate, if they are not methodically and thoroughly taught.
I here mention, by the way, another evil by which students are much embarrassed. Professors, as well as other men in office, cannot all be of the same age: but when the younger ones teach, in fact, only that they may learn, and moreover, if they have talent, anticipate their age, they acquire their own cultivation altogether at the cost of their hearers; since these are not instructed in what they really need, but in that which the professor finds it necessary to elaborate for himself. Among the oldest professors, on the contrary, many are for a long time stationary: they deliver on the whole only fixed views, and, in the details, much that time has already condemned as useless and false. Between the two arises a sad conflict, in which young minds are dragged hither and thither, and which can scarcely be set right by the middle- aged professors, who, though possessed of sufficient learning and culture, always feel within themselves an active desire for knowledge and reflection.
Now, as in this way I learned to know much more than I could digest, whereby a constantly increasing uncomfortableness was forced upon me; so also from life I experienced many disagreeable trifles,—as, indeed, one must always pay one's footing when one changes one's place and comes into a new position. The first thing the ladies blamed me for was my dress, for I had come from home to the university rather oddly equipped.
My father, who detested nothing so much as when something happened in vain, when any one did not know how to make use of his time, or found no opportunity for turning it to account, carried his economy of time and abilities so far, that nothing gave him greater pleasure than to kill two birds with one stone. [Footnote: Literally, "to strike two flies with one flapper."—TRANS.] He had, therefore, never engaged a servant who could not be useful to the house in something else. Now, as he had always written every thing with his own hand, and had, latterly, the convenience of dictating to the young inmate of the house, he found it most advantageous to have tailors for his domestics, who were obliged to make good use of their time, as they not only had to make their own liveries, but the clothes for my father and the children, besides doing all the mending. My father himself took pains to have the best materials and the best kind of cloth, by getting fine wares of the foreign merchants at the fair, and laying them up in store. I still remember well that he always visited the Herr von Loewenicht, of Aix-la-Chapelle, and from my earliest youth made me acquainted with these and other eminent merchants.
Care was also taken for the fitness of the stuff: and there was a plentiful stock of different kinds of cloth, serge, and Goetting stuff, besides the requisite lining; so that, as far as the materials were concerned, we might well venture to be seen. But the form spoiled almost every thing. For, if one of our home-tailors was any thing of a clever hand at sewing and making up a coat which had been cut out for him in masterly fashion, he was now obliged also to cut out the dress for himself, which did not always succeed to perfection. In addition to this, my father kept whatever belonged to his clothing in very good and neat order, and preserved more than used it for many years. Thus he had a predilection for certain old cuts and trimmings, by which our dress sometimes acquired a strange appearance.