Here a youthful pair join hands, not for a passing salutation or for the dance: the priest pronounces his blessing upon them, and the bond is indissoluble. It is not long before this wedded pair bring a likeness to the threshold of the altar: it is purified with holy water, and so incorporated into the church, that it cannot forfeit this benefit but through the most monstrous apostasy. The child in the course of life goes on progressing in earthly things of his own accord, in heavenly things he must be instructed. Does it prove on examination that this has been fully done, he is now received into the bosom of the church as an actual citizen, as a true and voluntary professor, not without outward tokens of the weightiness of this act. Now, only, he is decidedly a Christian, now for the first time he knows his advantages and also his duties. But, in the mean time, a great deal that is strange has happened to him as a man: through instruction and affliction he has come to know how critical appears the state of his inner self, and there will constantly be a question of doctrines and of transgressions; but punishment shall no longer take place. For here, in the infinite confusion in which he must entangle himself, amid the conflict of natural and religious claims, an admirable expedient is given him, in confiding his deeds and misdeeds, his infirmities and doubts, to a worthy man, appointed expressly for that purpose, who knows how to calm, to warn, to strengthen him, to chasten him likewise by symbolical punishments, and at last, by a complete washing away of his guilt, to render him happy, and to give him back, pure and cleansed, the tablet of his manhood. Thus prepared, and purely set at rest by several sacramental acts, which on closer examination branch forth again into minuter sacramental traits, he kneels down to receive the host; and, that the mystery of this high act may be still enhanced, he sees the chalice only in the distance: it is no common eating and drinking that satisfies, it is a heavenly feast, which makes him thirst after heavenly drink.
Yet let not the youth believe that this is all he has to do; let not even the man believe it. In earthly relations we are at last accustomed to depend on ourselves; and, even there, knowledge, understanding, and character will not always suffice: in heavenly things, on the contrary, we have never finished learning. The higher feeling within us, which often finds itself not even truly at home, is, besides, oppressed by so much from without, that our own power hardly administers all that is necessary for counsel, consolation, and help. But, to this end, that remedy is instituted for our whole life; and an intelligent, pious man is continually waiting to show the right way to the wanderers, and to relieve the distressed.
And what has been so well tried through the whole life, is now to show forth all its healing power with tenfold activity at the gate of Death. According to a trustful custom, inculcated from youth upwards, the dying man receives with fervor those symbolical, significant assurances; and there, where every earthly warranty fails, he is assured, by a heavenly one, of a blessed existence for all eternity. He feels perfectly convinced that neither a hostile element nor a malignant spirit can hinder him from clothing himself with a glorified body, so that, in immediate relation with the Godhead, he may partake of the boundless happiness which flows forth from him.
Then, in conclusion, that the whole may be made holy, the feet also are anointed and blessed. They are to feel, even in the event of possible recovery, a repugnance to touching this earthly, hard, impenetrable soil. A wonderful elasticity is to be imparted to them, by which they spurn from under them the clod of earth which hitherto attracted them. And so, through a brilliant cycle of equally holy acts, the beauty of which we have only briefly hinted at, the cradle and the grave, however far asunder they may chance to be, are joined in one continuous circle.
But all these spiritual wonders spring not, like other fruits, from the natural soil, where they can neither be sown nor planted nor cherished. We must supplicate for them from another region,—a thing which cannot be done by all persons nor at all times. Here we meet the highest of these symbols, derived from pious tradition. We are told that one man may be more favored, blessed, and sanctified from above than another. But, that this may not appear as a natural gift, this great boon, bound up with a heavy duty, must be communicated to others by one authorized person to another; and the greatest good that a man can attain, without his having to obtain it by his own wrestling or grasping, must be preserved and perpetuated on earth by spiritual inheritance. In the very ordination of the priest is comprehended all that is necessary for the effectual solemnizing of those holy acts by which the multitude receive grace, without any other activity being needful on their part than that of faith and implicit confidence. And thus the priest joins the line of his predecessors and successors, in the circle of those anointed with him, representing the highest source of blessings, so much the more gloriously, as it is not he, the priest, whom we reverence, but his office: it is not his nod to which we bow the knee, but the blessing which he imparts, and which seems the more holy, and to come the more immediately from heaven, because the earthly instrument cannot at all weaken or invalidate it by its own sinful, nay, wicked, nature.
How is this truly spiritual connection shattered to pieces in Protestantism, by part of the above-mentioned symbols being declared apocryphal, and only a few canonical!—and how, by their indifference to one of these, will they prepare us for the high dignity of the others?
In my time I had been confided to the religious instruction of a good old infirm clergyman, who had been confessor of the family for many years. The "Catechism," a "Paraphrase" of it, and the "Scheme of Salvation," I had at my finger's ends: I lacked not one of the strongly proving biblical texts, but from all this I reaped no fruit; for, as they assured me that the honest old man arranged his chief examimation according to an old set form, I lost all pleasure and inclination for the business, spent the last week in all sorts of diversions, laid in my hat the loose leaves borrowed from an older friend, who had gotten them from the clergyman, and unfeelingly and senselessly read aloud all that I should have known how to utter with feeling and conviction.
But I found my good intention and my aspirations in this important matter still more paralyzed by a dry, spiritless routine, when I was now to approach the confessional. I was indeed conscious of having many failings, but no great faults; and that very consciousness diminished them, since it directed me to the moral strength which lay within me, and which, with resolution and perseverance, was at last to become master over the old Adam. We were taught that we were much better than the Catholics for the very reason, that we were not obliged to confess any thing in particular in the confessional,—nay, that this would not be at all proper, even if we wished to do it. I did not like this at all; for I had the strangest religious doubts, which I would readily have had cleared up on such an occasion. Now, as this was not to be done, I composed a confession for myself, which, while it well expressed my state of mind, was to confess to an intelligent man, in general terms, that which I was forbidden to tell him in detail. But when I entered the old choir of the Barefoot Friars, when I approached the strange latticed closets in which the reverend gentlemen used to be found for that purpose, when the sexton opened the door for me, when I now saw myself shut up in the narrow place face to face with my spiritual grandsire, and he bade me welcome with his weak, nasal voice, all the light of my mind and heart was extinguished at once, the well- conned confession-speech would not cross my lips: in my embarrassment I opened the book I had in my hand, and read from it the first short form I saw, which was so general, that anybody might have spoken it with quite a safe conscience. I received absolution, and withdrew neither warm nor cold; went the next day with my parents to the Table of the Lord, and, for a few days, behaved myself as was becoming after so holy an act.
In the sequel, however, there came over me that evil, which, from the fact of our religion being complicated by various dogmas, and founded on texts of scripture which admit of several interpretations, attacks scrupulous men in such a manner, that it brings on a hypochondriacal condition, and raises this to its highest point, to fixed ideas. I have known several men, who, though their manner of thinking and living was perfectly rational, could not free themselves from thinking about the sin against the Holy Ghost, and from the fear that they had committed it. A similar trouble threatened me on the subject of the communion; for the text, that one who unworthily partakes of the sacrament /eateth and drinketh damnation to himself/, had, very early, already made a monstrous impression upon me. Every fearful thing that I had read in the histories of the Middle Ages, of the judgments of God, of those most strange ordeals, by red-hot iron, flaming fire, swelling water, and even what the Bible tells us of the draught which agrees well with the innocent, but puffs up and bursts the guilty,—all this pictured itself to my imagination, and formed itself into the most frightful combinations; since false vows, hypocrisy, perjury, blasphemy, all seemed to weigh down the unworthy person at this most holy act, which was so much the more horrible, as no one could dare to pronounce himself worthy: and the forgiveness of sins, by which every thing was to be at last; done away, was found limited by so many conditions, that one could not with certainty dare appropriate it to one's self.
This gloomy scruple troubled me to such a degree, and the expedient which they would represent to me as sufficient seemed so bald and feeble, that it gave the bugbear only a more fearful aspect; and, as soon as I had reached Leipzig, I tried to free myself altogether from my connection with the church. How oppressive, then, must have been to me the exhortations of Gellert, whom, considering the generally laconic style with which he was obliged to repel our obtrusiveness, I was unwilling to trouble with such singular questions, and the less so as in my more cheerful hours I way myself ashamed of them, and at last left completely behind me this strange anguish of conscience, together with church and altar.
Gellert, in accordance with his pious feelings, had composed for himself a course of ethics, which from time to time he publicly read, and thus in an honorable manner acquitted himself of his duty to the public. Gellert's writings had already, for a long time, been the foundation of German moral culture, and every one anxiously wished to see that work printed; but, as this was not to be done till after the good man's death, people thought themselves very fortunate to hear him deliver it himself in his lifetime. The philosophical auditorium [Footnote: The lecture-room. The word is also used in university language to denote a professor's audience.] was at such times crowded: and the beautiful soul, the pure will, and the interest of the noble man in our welfare, his exhortations, warnings, and entreaties, uttered in a somewhat hollow and sorrowful tone, made indeed an impression for the moment; but this did not last long, the less so as there were many scoffers, who contrived to make us suspicious of this tender, and, as they thought, enervating, manner. I remember a Frenchman travelling through the town, who asked what were the maxims and opinions of the man who attracted such an immense concourse. "When we had given him the necessary information, he shook his head, and said, smiling, "/Laissez le faire, il nous forme des dupes./"
And thus also did good society, which cannot easily endure any thing worthy near it, know how to spoil, on occasion, the moral influence which Gellert might have had upon us. Now it was taken ill of him that he instructed the Danes of distinction and wealth, who were particularly recommended to him, better than the other students, and had a marked solicitude for them; now he was charged with selfishness and nepotism for causing a /table d'hote/ to be established for these young men at his brother's house. This brother, a tall, good-looking, blunt, unceremonious, and somewhat coarse, man, had, it was said, been a fencing-master; and, notwithstanding the too great lenity of his brother, the noble boarders were often treated harshly and roughly: hence the people thought they must again take the part of these young folks, and pulled about the good reputation of the excellent Gellert to such a degree, that, in order not to be mistaken about him, we became indifferent towards him, and visited him no more; yet we always saluted him in our best manner when he came riding along on his tame gray horse. This horse the elector had sent him, to oblige him to take an exercise so necessary for his health,—a distinction for which he was not easily to be forgiven.
And thus, by degrees, the epoch approached when all authority was to vanish from before me, and I was to become suspicious—nay, to despair, even—of the greatest and best individuals whom I had known or imagined.
Frederick the Second still stood at the head of all the distinguished men of the century in my thoughts; and it must therefore have appeared very surprising to me, that I could praise him as little before the inhabitants of Leipzig as formerly in my grandfather's house. They had felt the hand of war heavily, it is true; and therefore they were not to blame for not thinking the best of him who had begun and continued it. They, therefore, were willing to let him pass as a distinguished, but by no means as a great, man. "There was no art," they said, "in performing something with great means; and, if one spares neither lands nor money nor blood, one may well accomplish one's purpose at last. Frederick had shown himself great in none of his plans, and in nothing that he had, properly speaking, undertaken. So long as it depended on himself, he had only gone on making blunders, and what was extraordinary in him had only come to light when he was compelled to make these blunders good again. It was purely from this that he had obtained his great reputation; since every man wishes for himself that same talent of making good, in a clever way, the blunders which he frequently commits. If one goes through the Seven Years' War, step by step, it will be found that the king quite uselessly sacrificed his fine army, and that it was his own fault that this ruinous feud had been protracted to so great a length. A truly great man and general would have got the better of his enemies much sooner." In support of these opinions they could cite infinite details, which I did not know how to deny; and I felt the unbounded reverence which I had devoted to this remarkable prince, from my youth upwards, gradually cooling away.
As the inhabitants of Leipzig had now destroyed for me the pleasant feeling of revering a great man; so did a new friend, whom I gained at the time, very much diminish the respect which I entertained for my present fellow-citizens. This friend was one of the strangest fellows in the world. He was named Behrisch, and was tutor to the young Count Lindenau. Even his exterior was singular enough. Lean and well-built, far advanced in the thirties, a very large nose, and altogether marked features: he wore from morning till night a scratch which might well have been called a peruke, but dressed himself very neatly, and never went out but with his sword by his side, and his hat under his arm. He was one of those men who have quite a peculiar gift of killing time, or, rather, who know how to make something out of nothing, in order to pass time away. Every thing he did had to be done with slowness, and with a certain deportment which might have been called affected if Behrisch had not even by nature had something affected in his manner. He resembled an old Frenchman, and also spoke and wrote French very well and easily. His greatest delight was to busy himself seriously about drolleries, and to follow up without end any silly notion. Thus he was constantly dressed in gray; and as the different parts of his attire were of different material, and also of different shades, he could reflect for whole days as to how he should procure one gray more for his body, and was happy when he had succeeded in this, and could put to shame us who had doubted it, or had pronounced it impossible. He then gave us long, severe lectures about our lack of inventive power, and our want of faith in his talents.
For the rest, he had studied well, was particularly versed in the modern languages and their literature, and wrote an excellent hand. He was very well disposed towards me; and I, having been always accustomed and inclined to the society of older persons, soon attached myself to him. My intercourse served him, too, for a special amusement; since he took pleasure in taming my restlessness and impatience, with which, on the other hand, I gave him enough to do. In the art of poetry he had what is called taste,—a certain general opinion about the good and bad, the mediocre and tolerable: but his judgment was rather censorious; and he destroyed even the little faith in contemporary writers which I cherished within me, by unfeeling remarks, which he knew how to advance with wit and humor, about the writings and poems of this man and that. He received my productions with indulgence, and let me have my own way, but only on the condition that I should have nothing printed. He promised me, on the other hand, that he himself would copy those pieces which he thought good, and would present me with them in a handsome volume. This undertaking now afforded an opportunity for the greatest possible waste of time. For before he could find the right paper, before he could make up his mind as to the size, before he had settled the breadth of the margin and the form of handwriting, before the crow- quills were provided and cut into pens, and Indian ink was rubbed, whole weeks passed, without the least bit having been done. With just as much ado he always set about his writing, and really, by degrees, put together a most charming manuscript. The title of the poems was in German text; the verses themselves in a perpendicular Saxon hand; and at the end of every poem was an analogous vignette, which he had either selected somewhere or other, or had invented himself, and in which he contrived to imitate very neatly the hatching of the wood-cuts and tail- pieces which are used for such purposes. To show me these things as he went on, to celebrate beforehand in a comico-pathetical manner my good fortune in seeing myself immortalized in such exquisite handwriting, and that in a style which no printing-press could attain, gave another occasion for passing the most agreeable hours. In the mean time, his intercourse was always secretly instructive, by reason of his liberal acquirements, and, as he knew how to subdue my restless, impetuous disposition, was also quite wholesome for me in a moral sense. He had, too, quite a peculiar abhorrence of roughness; and his jests were always quaint without ever falling into the coarse or the trivial. He indulged himself in a distorted aversion from his countrymen, and described with ludicrous touches even what they were able to undertake. He was particularly inexhaustible in a comical representation of individual persons, as he found something to find fault with in the exterior of every one. Thus, when we lay together at the window, he could occupy himself for hours criticising the passers-by, and, when he had censured them long enough, in showing exactly and circumstantially how they ought to have dressed themselves, ought to have walked, and ought to have behaved, to look like orderly people. Such attempts, for the most part, ended in something improper and absurd; so that we did not so much laugh at how the man looked, but at how, perchance, he might have looked had he been mad enough to caricature himself. In all such matters. Behrisch went quite unmercifully to work, without being in the slightest degree malicious On the other hand, we knew how to tease him, on our side, by assuring him, that, to judge from his exterior, he must be taken, if not for a French dancing-master, at least for the academical teacher of the language. This reproval was usually the signal for dissertations an hour long, in which he used to set forth the difference, wide as the heavens, which there was between him and an old Frenchman. At the same time he commonly imputed to us all sorts of awkward attempts, that we might possibly have made for the alteration and modification of his wardrobe.
My poetical compositions, which I only carried on the more zealously as the transcript went on becoming more beautiful and more careful, now inclined altogether to the natural and the true: and if the subjects could not always be important, I nevertheless always endeavored to express them clearly and pointedly, the more so as my friend often gave me to understand what a great thing it was to write down a verse on Dutch paper, with the crow-quill and Indian ink; what time, talent, and exertion it required, which ought not to be squandered on any thing empty and superfluous. He would, at the same time, open a finished parcel, and circumstantially to explain what ought not to stand in this or that place, or congratulate us that it actually did not stand there. He then spoke with great contempt of the art of printing, mimicked the compositor, ridiculed his gestures and his hurried picking out of letters here and there, and derived from this manoeuvre all the calamities of literature. On the other hand, he extolled the grace and noble posture of a writer, and immediately sat down himself to exhibit it to us; while he rated us at the same time for not demeaning ourselves at the writing-table precisely after his example and model. He now reverted to the contrast with the compositor, turned a begun letter upside down, and showed how unseemly it would be to write any thing from the bottom to the top, or from the right to the left, with other things of like kind with which whole volumes might have been filled.
With such harmless fooleries we squandered our precious time; while it could have occurred to none of us, that any thing would chance to proceed out of our circle which would awaken a general sensation and bring us into not the best repute.
Gellert may have taken little pleasure in his "Practicum;" and if, perhaps, he took pleasure in giving some directions as to prose and poetical style, he did it most privately only to a few, among whom we could not number ourselves. Professor Clodius thought to fill the gap which thus arose in the public instruction. He had gained some renown in literature, criticism, and poetry, and, as a young, lively, obliging man, found many friends, both in the university and in the city. Gellert himself referred us to the lectures now commenced by him; and, as far as the principal matter was concerned, we remarked little difference. He, too, only criticised details, corrected likewise with red ink; and one found one's self in company with mere blunders, without a prospect as to where the right was to be sought. I had brought to him some of my little labors, which he did not treat harshly. But just at this time they wrote to me from home, that I must without fail furnish a poem for my uncle's wedding. I felt far removed from that light and frivolous period in which a similar thing would have given me pleasure; and, since I could get nothing out of the actual circumstance itself, I determined to trick out my work in the best manner with extraneous ornament. I therefore convened all Olympus to consult about the marriage of a Frankfort lawyer, and seriously enough, to be sure, as well became the festival of such an honorable man. Venus and Themis had quarrelled for his sake; but a roguish prank, which Amor played the latter, gained the suit for the former: and the gods decided in favor of the marriage.
My work by no means displeased me. I received from home a handsome letter in its praise, took the trouble to have another fair copy, and hoped to extort some applause from my professor also. But here I had missed my aim. He took the matter severely; and as he did not notice the tone of parody, which nevertheless lay in the notion, he declared the great expenditure of divine means for such an insignificant human end in the highest degree reprehensible; inveighed against the use and abuse of such mythological figures, as a false habit originating in pedantic times; found the expression now too high, now too low; and, in divers particulars, had indeed not spared the red ink, though he asserted that he had yet done too little.
Such pieces were read out and criticised anonymously, it is true; but we used to watch each other, and it remained no secret that this unfortunate assembly of the gods was my work: yet since his critique, when I took his point of view, seemed to be perfectly just, and those divinities more nearly inspected were in fact only hollow shadow-forms, I cursed all Olympus, flung the whole mythic Pantheon away; and from that time Amor and Luna have been the only divinities which at all appear in my little poems.
Among the persons whom Behrisch had chosen as the butts of his wit, Clodius stood just at the head; nor was it hard to find a comical side in him. Being of small stature, rather stout and thick-set, he was violent in his motions, somewhat impetuous in his utterances, and restless in his demeanor. In all this he differed from his fellow- citizens, who, nevertheless, willingly put up with him on account of his good qualities, and the fine promise which he gave.
He was usually commissioned with the poems which had become necessary on festive occasions. In the so-called "Ode," he followed the manner employed by Ramler, whom, however, it alone suited. But Clodius, as an imitator, had especially marked the foreign words by means of which the poems of Ramler come forth with a majestic pomp, which, because it is conformable to the greatness of his subject and the rest of his poetic treatment, produces a very good effect on the ear, feelings, and imagination. In Clodius, on the contrary, these expressions had a heterogeneous air; since his poetry was in other respects not calculated to elevate the mind in any manner.
Now, we had often been obliged to see such poems printed and highly lauded in our presence; and we found it highly offensive, that he who had sequestered the heathen gods from us, now wished to hammer together another ladder to Parnassus out of Greek and Roman word-rungs. These oft-recurring expressions stamped themselves firmly on our memory; and in a merry hour, when we were eating some most excellent cakes in the kitchen-gardens (/Kohlgaerten/), it all at once struck me to put together these words of might and power, in a poem on the cake-baker Hendel. No sooner thought than done! And let it stand here too, as it was written on the wall of the house with a lead-pencil.
"O Hendel, dessen Ruhm vom /Sued/ zum /Norden/ reicht, Vernimm den /Paean/ der zu deinen Ohren steigt. Du baeckst was /Gallien/ und /Britten/ emsig suchen, Mit /schoepfrischen Genie, originelle/ Kuchen. Des Kaffee's /Ocean/, der sich vor dir ergiesst, Ist suessev als der Saft der vom /Hymettus/ fliesst. Dein Haus ein /Monument/, wie wir den Kuensten lohnen Umhangen mit /Trophaen/, erzaehlt den /Nationen/: Auch ohne /Diadem/ fand Hendel hier sein Glueck Und raubte dem /Cothurn/ gar manch Achtgroschenstueck. Glaenzt deine /Urn/ dereinst in majestaets'chen /Pompe/, Dann weint der /Patriot/ an deinem /Katacombe/. Doch leb! dein /Torus/ sey von edler Brut ein /Nest/, Steh' hoch wie der /Olymp/, wie der /Parnassus/ fest! Kein /Phalanx/ Griechenland mit roemischen /Ballisten/ Vermoeg /Germanien/ und Hendel zu verwuesten. Dein /Wohl/ is unser /Stolz/, dein /Leiden/, unser /Schmerz/, /Und/ Hendel's /Tempel ist der Musensoehne Herz/."
[Footnote: The humor of the above consists, not in the thoughts, but in the particular words employed. These have no remarkable effect in English, as to us the words of Latin origin are often as familiar as those which have Teutonic roots; and these form the chief peculiarity of the style. We have therefore given the poem in the original language, with the peculiar words (as indicated by Goethe) in Italics, and subjoin a literal translation. It will be observed that we have said that the peculiarity consists /chiefly/, not /solely/, in the use of the foreign words; for there are two or three instances of unquestionably German words, which are Italicized on account of their high-sounding pomp.
"O Hendel, whose fame extends from /south/ to /north/, hear the /paean/i> which ascends to thine ears! Thou bakest that which /Gauls/ and /Britons/ industriously seek, (thou bakest) with /creative genius original/ cakes. The /ocean/ of coffee which pours itself out before thee is sweeter than the juice which flows from /Hymettus/. Thy house, a /monument/, how we reward the arts, hung round with /trophies/, tells the nations: 'Even without a /diadem/, Hendel formed his fortune here, and robbed the /Cothurnus/ of many an eight-groschen-piece.' When thy /urn/ shines hereafter in majestic /pomp/, then will the /patriot/ weep at thy /catacomb/. But live! let /thy/ bed (/torus/) be the /nest/ of a noble brood, stand high as /Olympus/, and firm as /Parnassus/. May no /phalanx/ of Greece with Roman /ballistoe/ be able to destroy /Germania/ and Hendel. Thy /weal/ is our /pride/, thy /woe/ our /pain/, and Hendel's /temple/ is the /heart/ of the /sons of the Muses/."-TRANS.]
This poem had its place for a long time among many others which disfigured the walls of that room, without being noticed; and we, who had sufficiently amused ourselves with it, forgot it altogether amongst other things. A long time afterwards, Clodius came out with his "Medon," whose wisdom, magnanimity, and virtue we found infinitely ridiculous, much as the first representation of the piece was applauded. That evening, when we met together in the wine-house, I made a prologue in doggerel verse, in which Harlequin steps out with two great sacks, places them on each side of the /proscenium/, and, after various preliminary jokes, tells the spectators in confidence, that in the two sacks moral aesthetic dust is to be found, which the actors will very frequently throw into their eyes. One, to wit, was filled with good deeds, that cost nothing; and the other with splendidly expressed opinions, that had no meaning behind them. He reluctantly withdrew, and sometimes came back, earnestly exhorted the spectators to attend to his warning and shut their eyes, reminded them that he had always been their friend, and meant well with them, with many more things of the kind. This prologue was acted in the room, on the spot, by friend Horn: but the jest remained quite among ourselves, not even a copy had been taken; and the paper was soon lost. However, Horn, who had performed the Harlequin very prettily, took it into his head to enlarge my poem to Hendel by several verses, and then to make it refer to "Medon." He read it to us; but we could not take any pleasure in it, for we did not find the additions even ingenious: while the first poem, being written for quite a different purpose, seemed to us disfigured. Our friend, displeased with our indifference, or rather censure, may have shown it to others, who found it new and amusing. Copies were now made of it, to which the reputation of Clodius's "Medon" gave at once a rapid publicity. Universal disapproval was the consequence, and the originators (it was soon found out that the poem had proceeded from our clique) were severely censured; for nothing of the sort had been seen since Cronegk's and Rost's attacks upon Gottsched. We had besides already secluded ourselves, and now found ourselves quite in the case of the owl with respect to the other birds. In Dresden, too, they did not like the affair; and it had for us serious, if not unpleasant, consequences. For some time, already, Count Lindenau had not been quite satisfied with his son's tutor. For although the young man was by no means neglected, and Behrisch kept himself either in the chamber of the young count, or at least close to it, when the instructors gave their daily lessons, regularly frequented the lectures with him, never went out in the daytime without him, and accompanied him in all his walks, yet the rest of us were always to be found in Apel's house, and joined them whenever they went on a pleasure ramble: this already excited some attention. Behrisch, too, accustomed himself to our society, and at last, towards nine o'clock in the evenings, generally transferred his pupil into the hands of the /valet de chambre/, and went in quest of us to the wine-house, whither, however, he never used to come but in shoes and stockings, with his sword by his side, and commonly his hat under his arm. The jokes and fooleries, which he generally started, went on /ad infinitum/. Thus, for instance, one of our friends had a habit of going away precisely at ten, because he had a connection with a pretty girl, with whom he could converse only at that hour. We did not like to lose him; and one evening, when we sat very happily together, Behrisch secretly determined that he would not let him off this time. At the stroke of ten, the other arose and took leave. Behrisch called after him, and begged him to wait a moment, as he was just going with him. He now began, in the most amusing manner, first to look after his sword, which stood just before his eyes, and in buckling it on behaved awkwardly, so that he could never accomplish it. He did this, too, so naturally, that no one took offence at it. But when, to vary the theme, he at last went farther, so that the sword came now on the right side, now between his legs, an universal laughter arose, in which the man in a hurry, who was like-wise a merry fellow, chimed in, and let Behrisch have his own way till the happy hour was past, when, for the first time, there followed general pleasure and agreeable conversation till deep into the night.
Unfortunately Behrisch, and we through him, had a certain other propensity for some girls who were better than their reputation,—by which our own reputation could not be improved. We had often been seen in their garden; and we directed our walks thither, even when the young count was with us. All this may have been treasured up, and at last communicated to his father: enough, he sought, in a gentlemanly manner, to get rid of the tutor, to whom the event proved fortunate. His good exterior, his knowledge and talents, his integrity, which no one could call in question, had won him the affection and esteem of distinguished persons, on whose recommendation he was appointed tutor to the hereditary prince of Dessau, and at the court of a prince, excellent in every respect, found a solid happiness.
The loss of a friend like Behrisch was of the greatest consequence to me. He had spoiled while he cultivated me; and his presence was necessary, if the pains he had thought good to spend upon me were in any degree to bring forth fruit for society. He knew how to engage me in all kinds of pretty and agreeable things, in whatever was just appropriate, and to bring out my social talents. But as I had gained no self- dependence in such things, so when I was alone again I immediately relapsed into my confused and crabbed disposition, which always increased, the more discontented I was with those about me, since I fancied that they were not contented with me. With the most arbitrary caprice, I took offence at what I might have considered an advantage; thus alienated many with whom I had hitherto been on a tolerable footing; and on account of the many disagreeable consequences which I had drawn on myself and others, whether by doing or leaving undone, by doing too much or too little, was obliged to hear the remark from my well-wishers, that I lacked experience. The same thing was told me by every person of sound sense who saw my productions, especially when these referred to the external world. I observed this as well as I could, but found in it little that was edifying, and was still forced to add enough of my own to make it only tolerable. I had often pressed my friend Behrisch, too, that he would make plain to me what was meant by experience? But, because he was full of nonsense, he put me off with fair words from one day to another, and at last, after great preparations, disclosed to me, that true experience was properly when one experiences how an experienced nvan must experience in experiencing his experience. Now, when we scolded him outrageously, and called him to account for this, he assured us that a great mystery lay hidden behind these words, which we could not comprehend until we had experienced ...and so on without end,—for it cost him nothing to talk on in that way by the quarter of an hour,—since the experience would always become more experienced and at last come to true experience. When we were about to despair at such fooleries, he protested that he had learned this way of making himself intelligible and impressive from the latest and greatest authors, who had made us observe how one can rest a restful rest, and how silence, in being silent, can constantly become more silent.
By chance an officer, who came among us on furlough, was praised in good company as a remarkable, sound-minded, and experienced man, who had fought through the Seven Years' War, and had gained universal confidence. It was not difficult for me to approach him, and we often went walking with each other. The idea of experience had almost become fixed in my brain, and the craving to make it clear to me passionate. Being of a frank disposition, I disclosed to him the uneasiness in which I found myself. He smiled, and was kind enough to tell me, as an answer to my question, something of his own life, and generally of the world immediately about us; from which, indeed, little better was to be gathered than that experience convinces us that our best thoughts, wishes, and designs are unattainable, and that he who fosters such vagaries, and advances them with eagerness, is especially held to be an inexperienced man.
Yet, as he was a gallant, good fellow, he assured me that he had himself not quite given up these vagaries, and felt himself tolerably well off with the little faith, love, and hope which remained. He then felt obliged to tell me a great deal about war, about the sort of life in the field, about skirmishes and battles, especially so far as he had taken part in them; when these vast events, by being considered in relation to a single individual, gained a very marvellous aspect. I then led him on to an open narration of the late situation of the court, which seemed to me quite like a tale. I heard of the bodily strength of Augustus the Second, of his many children and his vast expenses, then of his successor's love of art and of making collections; of Count Bruehl and his boundless love of magnificence, which in detail appeared almost absurd, of his numerous banquets and gorgeous amusements, which were all cut off by Frederick's invasion of Saxony. The royal castles now lay in ruins, Bruehl's splendors were annihilated, and, of the whole, a glorious land, much injured, alone remained.
When he saw me astonished at that mad enjoyment of fortune, and then grieved by the calamity that followed, and informed me that one expects from an experienced man exactly this, that he shall be astonished at neither the one nor the other, nor take too lively an interest in them, I felt a great desire still to remain a while in the same inexperience as hitherto; in which desire he strengthened me, and very urgently entreated me, for the present at least, always to cling to agreeable experiences, and to try to avoid those that were disagreeable as much as possible, if they should intrude themselves upon me. But once, when the discussion was again about experience in general, and I related to him those ludicrous phrases of my friend Behrisch, he shook his head, smiling, and said, "There, one sees how it is with words which are only once uttered! These sound so comical, nay, so silly, that it would seem almost impossible to put a rational meaning into them; and yet, perhaps, the attempt might be made."
And, when I pressed him, he replied in his intelligent, cheerful manner, "If you will allow me, while commenting on and completing your friend's observations, to go on after his fashion, I think he meant to say, that experience is nothing else than that one experiences what one does not wish to experience; which is what it amounts to for the most part, at least in this world."
Another man, although infinitely different from Behrisch in every respect, might yet be compared with him in a certain sense: I mean Oeser, who was also one of those men who dream away their lives in a comfortable state of being busy. His friends themselves secretly acknowledged, that, with very fine natural powers, he had not spent his younger years in sufficient activity; for which reason he never went so far as to practise his art with perfect technicality. Yet a certain diligence appeared to be reserved for his old age; and, during the many years which I knew him, he never lacked invention or laboriousness. From the very first moment he had attracted me very much: even his residence, strange and portentous, was highly charming to me. In the old castle Pleissenburg, at the right-hand corner, one ascended a repaired, cheerful, winding staircase. The saloons of the Academy of Design, of which he was director, were found to the left, and were light and roomy; but he himself could only be reached through a narrow, dark passage, at the end of which one first sought the entrance into his apartments, having just passed between the whole suite of them and an extensive granary. The first apartment was adorned with pictures from the later Italian school, by masters whose grace he used highly to commend. As I, with some noblemen, had taken private lessons of him, we were permitted to draw here; and we often penetrated into his adjoining private cabinet, which contained at the same time his few books, collections of art and natural curiosities, and whatever else might have most interested him. Every thing was arranged with taste, simply, and in such a manner that the little space held a great deal. The furniture, presses, and portfolios were elegant, without affection or superfluity. Thus also the first thing which he recommended to us, and to which he always recurred, was simplicity in every thing that art and manual labor united are called upon to produce. Being a sworn foe to the scroll-and- shell style, and of the whole taste for quaintness, he showed us in copper-plates and drawings old patterns of the sort contrasted with better decorations and simpler forms of furniture, as well as with other appurtenances of a room; and, because every thing about him corresponded with these maxims, his words and instructions made a good and lasting impression on us. Besides this, he had an opportunity to let us see his opinions in practice; since he stood in good consideration, both with private and with official persons, and was asked for advice when there were new buildings and alterations. He seemed in general to be more fond of preparing things on occasion, for a certain end and use, than of undertaking and completing such as exist for themselves and require a greater perfection; he was therefore always ready and at hand when the publishers needed larger and smaller copper-plates for any work: thus the vignettes to Winckelmann's first writings were etched by him. But he often made only very sketchy drawings, to which Geyser knew very well how to adapt himself. His figures had throughout something general, not to say ideal. His women were pleasing and agreeable, his children /naive/ enough; only he could not succeed with the men, who, in his spirited but always cloudy, and at the same time foreshortening, manner, had for the most part the look of Lazzaroni. Since he designed his composition less with regard to form than to light, shade, and masses, the general effect was good; as indeed all that he did and produced was attended by a peculiar grace. As he at the same time neither could nor would control a deep-rooted propensity to the significant and the allegorical—to that which excites a secondary thought, so his works always furnished something to reflect upon, and were complete through a conception, even where they could not be so from art and execution. This bias, which is always dangerous, frequently led him to the very bounds of good taste, if not beyond them. He often sought to attain his views by the oddest notions and by whimsical jests; nay, his best works always have a touch of humor. If the public were not always satisfied with such things, he revenged himself by a new and even stranger drollery. Thus he afterwards exhibited, in the ante-room of the great concert-hall, an ideal female figure, in his own style, who was raising a pair of snuffers to a taper; and he was extraordinarily delighted when he was able to cause a dispute on the question, whether this singular muse meant to snuff the light or to extinguish it? when he roguishly allowed all sorts of bantering by-thoughts to peep forth.
But the building of the new theatre, in my time, made the greatest noise; in which his curtain, when it was still quite new, had certainly an uncommonly charming effect. Oeser had taken the Muses out of the clouds, upon which they usually hover on such occasions, and set them upon the earth. The statues of Sophocles and Aristophanes, around whom all the modern dramatic writers were assembled, adorned a vestibule to the Temple of Fame. Here, too, the goddesses of the arts were likewise present; and all was dignified and beautiful. But now comes the oddity! Through the open centre was seen the portal of the distant temple: and a man in a light jerkin was passing between the two above-mentioned groups, and, without troubling himself about them, directly up to the temple; he was seen from behind, and was not particularly distinguished. Now, this man was to represent Shakespeare, who without predecessors or followers, without concerning himself about models, went to meet immortality in his own way. This work was executed on the great floor over the new theatre. "We often assembled round him there, and in that place I read aloud to him the proof-sheets of "Musarion." As to myself, I by no means advanced in the practice of the art. His instructions worked upon our mind and our taste; but his own drawing was too undefined to guide me, who had only glimmered along by the objects of art and of nature, to a severe and decided practice. Of the faces and bodies he gave us rather the aspect than the forms, rather the postures than the proportions. He gave us the conceptions of the figures, and desired that we should impress them vividly upon our minds. That might have been beautifully and properly done, if he had not had mere beginners before him. If, on this account, a pre-eminent talent for instruction may be well denied him, it must, on the other hand, be acknowledged that he was very discreet and politic, and that a happy adroitness of mind qualified him very peculiarly for a teacher in a higher sense. The deficiencies under which each one labored he clearly saw; but he disdained to reprove them directly, and rather hinted his praise and censure indirectly and very laconically. One was now compelled to think over the matter, and soon came to a far deeper insight. Tims, for instance, I had very carefully executed, after a pattern, a nosegay on blue paper, with white and black crayon, and partly with the stump, partly by hatching it up, had tried to give effect to the little picture. After I had been long laboring in this way, he once came behind me, and said, "More paper!" upon which he immediately withdrew. My neighbor and I puzzled our heads as to what this could mean; for my bouquet, on a large half-sheet, had plenty of space around it. After we had reflected a long while, we thought, at last, that we had hit his meaning, when we remarked, that, by working together the black and the white, I had quite covered up the blue ground, had destroyed the middle tint, and, in fact, with great industry, had produced a disagreeable drawing. As to the rest, he did not fail to instruct us in perspective, and in light and shade, sufficiently indeed, but always so that we had to exert and torment ourselves to find the application of the principles communicated. Probably his view with regard to us who did not intend to become artists, was only to form the judgment and taste, and to make us acquainted with the requisites of a work of art, without precisely requiring that we should produce one. Since, moreover, patient industry was not my talent, for nothing gave me pleasure except what came to me at once, so by degrees I became discouraged, if not lazy; and, as knowledge is more comfortable than doing, I was quite content to follow wherever he chose, after his own fashion, to lead us.
At this time the "Lives of the Painters," by D'Argenville, was translated into German: I obtained it quite fresh, and studied it assiduously enough. This seemed to please Oeser; and he procured us an opportunity of seeing many a portfolio out of the great Leipzig collections, and thus introduced us to the history of the art. But even these exercises produced in me an effect different from that which he probably had in mind. The manifold subjects which I saw treated by artists awakened the poetic talent in me: and, as one easily makes an engraving for a poem; so did I now make poems to the engravings and drawings, by contriving to present to myself the personages introduced in them, in their previous and subsequent condition, and sometimes to compose a little song which might have suited them; and thus accustomed myself to consider the arts in connection with each other. Even the mistakes which I made, so that my poems were often descriptive, were useful to me in the sequel, when I came to more reflection, by making me attentive to the differences between the arts. Of such little things many were in the collection which Behrisch had arranged, but there is nothing left of them now.
The atmosphere of art and taste in which Oeser lived, and into which one was drawn, provided one visited him frequently, was the more and more worthy and delightful, because he was fond of remembering departed or absent persons, with whom he had been, or still continued to be, on good terms; for, if he had once given any one his esteem, he remained unalterable in his conduct towards him, and always showed himself equally friendly.
After we had heard Caylus pre-eminently extolled among the French, he made us also acquainted with Germans of activity in this department. Thus we learned that Professor Christ, as an amateur, a collector, a connoisseur, a fellow-laborer, had done good service for art, and had applied his learning to its true improvement. Heinecken, on the contrary, could not be honorably mentioned, partly because he devoted himself too assiduously to the ever-childish beginnings of German art; which Oeser little valued, partly because he had once treated Winckelmann shabbily, which could never be forgiven him. Our attention, however, was strongly drawn to the labors of Lippert, since our instructor knew how to set forth his merits sufficiently. "For," he said, "although single statues and larger groups of sculpture remain the foundation and the summit of all knowledge of art, yet, either as originals or as casts, they are seldom to be seen; on the contrary, by Lippert, a little world of gems is made known, in which the more comprehensible merit of the ancients, their happy invention, judicious composition, tasteful treatment, are made more striking and intelligible, while, from the great number of them, comparison is much more possible." While now we were busying ourselves with these as much as was allowed, Winckelmann's lofty life of art in Italy was pointed out, and we took his first writings in hand with devotion; for Oeser had a passionate reverence for him, which he was able easily to instil into us. The problematical part of those little treatises, which are, besides, confused even from their irony, and from their referring to opinions and events altogether peculiar, we were, indeed, unable to decipher; but as Oeser had great influence over us, and incessantly gave them out to us as the gospel of the beautiful, and still more of the tasteful and the pleasing, we found out the general sense, and fancied, that, with such interpretations, we should go on the more securely, as we regarded it no small happiness to draw from the same fountain from which Winckelmann had allayed his earliest thirst.
No greater good fortune can befall a city, than when several educated men, like-minded in what is good and right, live together in it. Leipzig had this advantage, and enjoyed it the more peacefully, as so many differences of judgment had not yet manifested themselves. Huber, a print collector and well-experienced connoisseur, had furthermore the gratefully acknowledged merit of having determined to make the worth of German literature known to the French; Kreuchauf, an amateur with a practised eye, who, as the friend of the whole society of art, might regard all collections as his own; Winkler, who much loved to share with others the intelligent delight he cherished for his treasures; many more who were added to the list,—all lived and labored with one feeling; and, often as I was permitted to be present when they examined works of art, I do not remember that a dispute ever arose. The school from which the artist had proceeded, the time in which he lived, the peculiar talent which nature had bestowed on him, and the degree of excellence to which he had brought it in his performances, were always fairly considered. There was no predilection for spiritual or temporal subjects, for landscape or for city views, for animate or inanimate: the question was always about the accordance with art.
Now, although from their situation, mode of thought, abilities, and opportunities, these amateurs and collectors inclined more to the Dutch school, yet, while the eye was practised on the endless merits of the north-western artist, a look of reverential longing was always turned towards the south-east.
And so the university, where I neglected the ends of both my family and myself, was to ground me in that in which I afterwards found the greatest satisfaction of my life: the impression of those localities, too, in which I received such important incitements, has always remained to me most dear and precious. The old Pleissenburg; the rooms of the Academy; but, above all, the abode of Oeser; and no less the collections of Winkler and Richter,—I have always vividly present before me.
But a young man, who, while older persons are conversing with each other on subjects already familiar to them, is instructed only incidentally, and for whom the most difficult part of the business—that of rightly arranging all—yet remains, must find himself in a very painful situation. I therefore, as well as others, looked about with longing for some new light, which was indeed to come to us from a man to whom we owed so much already.
The mind can be highly delighted in two ways,—by perception and conception. But the former demands a worthy object, which is not always at hand, and a proportionate culture, which one does not immediately attain. Conception, on the other hand, requires only susceptibility: it brings its subject-matter with it, and is itself the instrument of culture. Hence that beam of light was most welcome to us which that most excellent thinker brought down to us through dark clouds. One must be a young man to render present to one's self the effect which Lessing's "Laocooen" produced upon us, by transporting us out of the region of scanty perceptions into the open fields of thought. The /ut pictura poesis/, so long misunderstood, was at once laid aside: the difference between plastic and speaking art [Footnote: Bildende und Redende Kunst." The expression "speaking art" is used to produce a corresponding antithesis, though "/belles-lettres/ would be the ordinary rendering.—TRANS.] was made clear; the summits of the two now appeared sundered, however near their bases might border on each other. The plastic artist was to keep himself within the bounds of the beautiful, if the artist of language, who cannot dispense with the significant in any kind, is permitted to ramble abroad beyond them. The former labors for the outer sense, which is satisfied only by the beautiful; the latter for the imagination, which may even reconcile itself to the ugly. All the consequences of this splendid thought were illumined to us as by a lightning-flash: all the criticism which had hitherto guided and judged was thrown away like a worn-out coat. We considered ourselves freed from all evil, and fancied we might venture to look down with some compassion upon the otherwise so splendid sixteenth century, when, in German sculptures and poems, they knew how to represent life only under the form of a fool hung with bells, death under the misformed shape of a rattling skeleton, and the necessary and accidental evils of the world under the image of the caricatured Devil.
What enchanted us most was the beauty of that thought, that the ancients had recognized death as the brother of sleep, and had represented them similar, even to confusion, as becomes Menaechmi. Here we could first do high honor to the triumph of the beautiful, and banish the ugly of every kind into the low sphere of the ridiculous within the realm of art, since it could not be utterly driven out of the world.
The splendor of such leading and fundamental conceptions appears only to the mind upon which they exercise their infinite activity,—appears only to the age in which, after being longed for, they come forth at the right moment. Then do those at whose disposal such nourishment is placed fondly occupy whole periods of their lives with it, and rejoice in a superabundant growth; while men are not wanting, meanwhile, who resist such an effect on the spot, nor others who afterwards haggle and cavil at its high meaning.
But, as conception and perception mutually require each other, I could not long work up these new thoughts without an infinite desire arising within me to see important works of art, once and away, in great number. I therefore determined to visit Dresden without delay. I was not in want of the necessary cash: but there were other difficulties to overcome, which I needlessly increased still further, through my whimsical disposition; for I kept my purpose a secret from every one, because I wished to contemplate the treasures of art there quite after my own way, and, as I thought, to allow no one to perplex me. Besides this, so simple a matter became more complicated by still another eccentricity.
We have weaknesses, both by birth and by education; and it may be questioned which of the two gives us the most trouble. Willingly as I made myself familiar with all sorts of conditions, and many as had been my inducements to do so, an excessive aversion from all inns had nevertheless been instilled into me by my father. This feeling had taken firm root in him on his travels through Italy, France, and Germany. Although he seldom spoke in images, and only called them to his aid when he was very cheerful, yet he used often to repeat that he always fancied he saw a great cobweb spun across the gate of an inn, so ingeniously that the insects could indeed fly in, but that even the privileged wasps could not fly out again unplucked. It seemed to him something horrible that one should be obliged to pay immoderately for renouncing one's habits and all that was dear to one in life, and living after the manner of publicans and waiters. He praised the hospitality of the olden time; and, reluctantly as he otherwise endured even any thing unusual in the house, he yet practised hospitality, especially towards artists and virtuosi. Thus gossip Seekatz always had his quarters with us; and Abel, the last musician who handled the /viol di gamba/ with success and applause, was well received and entertained. With such youthful impressions, which nothing had as yet rubbed off, how could I have resolved to set foot in an inn in a strange city? Nothing would have been easier than to find quarters with good friends. Hofrath Krebel, Assessor Hermann, and others, had often spoken to me about it already; but even to these my trip was to remain a secret, and I hit upon a most singular notion. My next-room neighbor, the industrious theologian, whose eyes unfortunately constantly grew weaker and weaker, had a relation in Dresden, a shoemaker, with whom from time to time he corresponded. For a long while already this man had been highly remarkable to me on account of his expressions, and the arrival of one of his letters was always celebrated by us as a holiday. The mode in which he replied to the complaints of his cousin, who feared blindness, was quite peculiar: for he did not trouble himself about grounds of consolation, which are always hard to find; but the cheerful way in which he looked upon his own narrow, poor, toilsome life, the merriment which he drew, even from evils and inconveniences, the indestructible conviction that life is in itself and on its own account a blessing, communicated itself to him who read the letter, and, for the moment at least, transposed him into a like mood. Enthusiastic as I was, I had often sent my compliments to this man, extolled his happy natural gift, and expressed the wish to become acquainted with him. All this being premised, nothing seemed to me more natural than to seek him out, to converse with him,—nay, to lodge with him, and to learn to know him intimately. My good candidate, after some opposition, gave me a letter, written with difficulty, to carry with me; and, full of longing, I went to Dresden in the yellow coach, with my matriculation in my pocket.
I went in search of my shoemaker, and soon found him in the suburb (/Vorstadt/). He received me in a friendly manner, sitting upon his stool, and said, smiling, after he had read the letter, "I see from this, young sir, that you are a whimsical Christian."—"How so, master?" I replied. "No offence meant by '/whimsical/,'" he continued: "one calls every one so who is not consistent with himself; and I call you a whimsical Christian because you acknowledge yourself a follower of our Lord in one thing, but not in another." On my requesting him to enlighten me, he said further, "It seems that your view is, to announce glad tidings to the poor and lowly; that is good, and this imitation of the Lord is praiseworthy: but you should reflect, besides, that he rather sat down to table with prosperous rich folks, where there was good fare, and that he himself did not despise the sweet scent of the ointment, of which you will find the opposite in my house."
This pleasant beginning put me at once in good humor, and we rallied each other for some time. His wife stood doubting how she should board and lodge such a guest. On this point, too, he had notions which referred, not only to the Bible, but also to "Gottfried's Chronicle;" and when we were agreed that I was to stay, I gave my purse, such as it was, into the charge of my hostess, and requested her to furnish herself from it, if any thing should be necessary. When he would have declined it, and somewhat waggishly gave me to understand that he was not so burned out as he might appear, I disarmed him by saying, "Even if it were only to change water into wine, such a well-tried domestic resource would not be out of place, since there are no more miracles nowadays." The hostess seemed to find my conduct less and less strange: we had soon accommodated ourselves to each other, and spent a very merry evening. He remained always the same, because all flowed from one source. His peculiarity was an apt common sense, which rested upon a cheerful disposition, and took delight in uniform habitual activity. That he should labor incessantly was his first and most necessary care; that he regarded every thing else as secondary,—this kept up his comfortable state of mind; and I must reckon him before many others in the class of those who are called practical unconscious philosophers. [Footnote: "Pratische Philosophen, bewusstlose Weltweisen." It is impossible to give two substantives, as in the original, since this is effected by using first the word of Greek, then the word of German origin, whereas we have but one.—TRANS.]
The hour when the gallery was to be opened appeared, after having been expected with impatience. I entered into this sanctuary, and my astonishment surpassed every conception which I had formed. This room, returning into itself, in which splendor and neatness reigned together with the deepest stillness; the dazzling frames, all nearer to the time in which they had been gilded; the floor polished with bees'-wax; the spaces more trodden by spectators than used by copyists,—imparted a feeling of solemnity, unique of its kind, which so much the more resembled the sensation with which one treads a church, as the adornments of so many a temple, the objects of so much adoration, seemed here again set up only for the sacred purposes of art. I readily put up with the cursory description of my guide, only I requested that I might be allowed to remain in the outer gallery. Here, to my comfort, I felt really at home. I had already seen the works of several artists, others I knew from engravings, others by name. I did not conceal this, and I thus inspired my conductor with some confidence: nay, the rapture which I expressed at pieces where the pencil had gained the victory over nature delighted him; for such were the things which principally attracted me, where the comparison with known nature must necessarily enhance the value of art.
When I again entered my shoemaker's house for dinner, I scarcely believed my eyes; for I fancied I saw before me a picture by Ostade, so perfect that all it needed was to be hung up in the gallery. The position of the objects, the light, the shadow, the brownish tint of the whole, the magical harmony,—every thing that one admires in those pictures, I here saw in reality. It was the first time that I perceived, in so high a degree, the faculty which I afterwards exercised with more consciousness; namely, that of seeing nature with the eyes of this or that artist, to whose works I had devoted a particular attention. This faculty has afforded me much enjoyment, but has also increased the desire zealously to abandon myself, from time to time, to the exercise of a talent which nature seemed to have denied me.
I visited the gallery at all permitted hours, and continued to express too loudly the ecstasy with which I beheld many precious works. I thus frustrated my laudable purpose of remaining unknown and unnoticed; and whereas only one of the unclerkeepers had hitherto had intercourse with me, the gallery-inspector, Counsellor Riedel, now also took notice of me, and called my attention to many things which seemed chiefly to lie within my sphere. I found this excellent man just as active and obliging then, as when I afterwards saw him during many years, and as he shows himself to this day. His image has, for me, interwoven itself so closely with those treasures of art, that I can never regard the two apart: the remembrance of him has even accompanied me to Italy, where, in many large and rich collections, his presence would have been very desirable.
Since, even with strangers and unknown persons, one cannot gaze on such works silently and without mutual sympathy,—nay, since the first sight of them is rather adapted, in the highest degree, to open hearts towards each other, I there got into conversation with a young man who seemed to be residing at Dresden, and to belong to some embassy. He invited me to come in the evening to an inn where a lively company met, and where, by each one's paying a moderate reckoning, one could pass some very pleasant hours.
I repaired thither, but did not find the company; and the waiter somewhat surprised me when he delivered the compliments of the gentleman who made the appointment with me, by which the latter sent an excuse for coming somewhat later, with the addition that I must not take offence at any thing that might occur; also, that I should have nothing to pay beyond my own score. I knew not what to make of these words: my father's cobwebs came into my head, and I composed myself to await whatever might befall. The company assembled; my acquaintance introduced me; and I could not be attentive long, without discovering that they were aiming at the mystification of a young man, who showed himself a novice by an obstreperous, assuming deportment: I therefore kept very much on my guard, so that they might not find delight in selecting me as his fellow. At table this intention became more apparent to everybody, except to himself. They drank more and more deeply: and, when a vivat in honor of sweethearts was started, every one solemnly swore that there should never be another out of those glasses; they flung them behind them, and this was the signal for far greater follies. At last I withdrew very quietly; and the waiter, while demanding quite a moderate amount, requested me to come again, as they did not go on so wildly every evening. I was far from my lodgings, and it was near midnight when I reached them. I found the doors unlocked; everybody was in bed; and one lamp illuminated the narrow domestic household, where my eye, more and more practised, immediately perceived the finest picture by Schalken, from which I could not tear myself away, so that it banished from me all sleep.
The few days of my residence in Dresden were solely devoted to the picture-gallery. The antiquities still stood in the pavilion of the great garden; but I declined seeing them, as well as all the other precious things which Dresden contained, being but too full of the conviction, that, even in and about the collection of paintings, much must yet remain hidden from me. Thus I took the excellence of the Italian masters more on trust and in faith, than by pretending to any insight into them. What I could not look upon as nature, put in the place of nature, and compare with a known object, was without effect upon me. It is the material impression which makes the beginning even to every more elevated taste.
With my shoemaker I lived on very good terms. He was witty and varied enough, and we often outvied each other in merry conceits: nevertheless, a man who thinks himself happy, and desires others to do the same, makes us discontented; indeed, the repetition of such sentiments produces weariness. I found myself well occupied, entertained, excited, but by no means happy; and the shoes from his last would not fit me. We parted, however, as the best friends; and even my hostess, on my departure, was not dissatisfied with me.
Shortly before my departure, something else very pleasant was to happen. By the mediation of that young man, who wished to somewhat regain his credit with me, I was introduced to the Director Von Hagedorn, who, with great kindness, showed me his collection, and was highly delighted with the enthusiasm of the young lover of art. He himself, as becomes a connoisseur, was quite peculiarly in love with the pictures which he possessed, and therefore seldom found in others an interest such as he wished. It gave him particular satisfaction that I was so excessively pleased with a picture by Schwanefeld, and that I was not tired of praising and extolling it in every single part; for landscapes, which again reminded me of the beautiful clear sky under which I had grown up, of the vegetable luxuriance of those spots, and of whatever other favors a warmer climate offers to man, were just the things that most affected me in the imitation, while they awakened in me a longing remembrance.
These delightful experiences, preparing both mind and sense for true art, were nevertheless interrupted and damped by one of the most melancholy sights,—by the destroyed and desolate condition of so many of the streets of Dresden through which I took my way. The Mohrenstrasse in ruins, and the Church (/Kreuzkirche/) of the Cross, with its shattered tower, impressed themselves deeply upon me, and still stand like a gloomy spot in my imagination. From the cupola of the Lady Church (/Frauenkirche/) I saw these pitiable ruins scattered about amid the beautiful order of the city. Here the clerk commended to me the art of the architect, who had already fitted up church and cupola for so undesirable an event, and had built them bomb-proof. The good sacristan then pointed out to me the ruins on all sides, and said doubtfully and laconically, "/The enemy hath done this/!"
At last, though very loath, I returned to Leipzig, and found my friends, who were not used to such digressions in me, in great astonishment, busied with all sorts of conjectures as to what might be the import of my mysterious journey. When, upon this, I told them my story quite in order, they declared it was only a made-up tale, and sagaciously tried to get at the bottom of the riddle which I had been waggish enough to conceal under my shoemaker-lodgings.
But, could they have looked into my heart, they would have discovered no waggery there; for the truth of that old proverb, "He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow," had struck me with all its force: and the more I struggled to arrange and appropriate to myself what I had seen, the less I succeeded. I had at last to content myself with a silent after-operation. Ordinary life carried me away again; and I at last felt myself quite comfortable when a friendly intercourse, improvement in branches of knowledge which were suitable for me, and a certain practice of the hand, engaged me in a manner less important, but more in accordance with my strength.
Very pleasant and wholesome for me was the connection I formed with the Breitkopf family. Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf, the proper founder of the family, who had come to Leipzig as a poor journeyman printer, was yet living, and occupied the Golden Bear, a respectable house in the new Newmarket, with Gottsched as an inmate. The son, Johann Gottlob Immanuel, had already been long married, and was the father of many children. They thought they could not spend a part of their considerable wealth better than in putting up, opposite the first house, a large new one, the Silver Bear, which they built higher and more extensive than the original house itself. Just at the time of the building I became acquainted with the family. The eldest son, who might have been some years older than I, was a well-formed young man, devoted to music, and practised to play skilfully on both the piano and the violin. The second, a true, good soul, likewise musical, enlivened the concerts which were often got up, no less than his elder brother. They were both kindly disposed towards me, as well as their parents and sisters. I lent them a helping hand during the building up and the finishing, the furnishing and the moving in, and thus formed a conception of much that belongs to such an affair: I also had an opportunity of seeing Oeser's instructions put in practice. In the new house, which I had thus seen erected, I was often a visitor. We had many pursuits in common; and the eldest son set some of my songs to music, which, when printed, bore his name, but not mine, and have been little known. I have selected the best, and inserted them among my other little poems. The father had invented or perfected musical type. He granted me the use of a fine library, which related principally to the origin and progress of printing; and thus I gained some knowledge in that department. I found there, moreover, good copper-plates, which exhibited antiquity, and advanced on this side also my studies, which were still further promoted by the circumstance that a considerable collection of casts had fallen into disorder in moving. I set them right again as well as I could, and in doing so was compelled to search Lippert and other authorities. A physician, Doctor Reichel, likewise an inmate of the house, I consulted from time to time when I felt, if not sick, yet unwell; and thus we led together a quiet, pleasant life.
I was now to enter into another sort of connection in this house; for the copper-plate engraver, Stock, had moved into the attic. He was a native of Nuremberg, a very industrious man, and, in his labors, precise and methodical. He also, like Geyser, engraved, after Oeser's designs, larger and smaller plates, which came more and more into vogue for novels and poems. He etched very neatly, so that his work came out of the aquafortis almost finished; and but little touching-up remained to be done with the graver, which he handled very well. He made an exact calculation how long a plate would occupy him, and nothing could call him off from his work if he had not completed the daily task he had set himself. Thus he sat working by a broad table, by the great gable- window, in a very neat and orderly chamber, where his wife and two daughters afforded him a domestic society. Of these last, one is happily married, and the other is an excellent artist: they have continued my friends all my life long. I now divided my time between the upper and lower stories, and attached myself much to the man, who, together with his persevering industry, possessed an excellent humor, and was good nature itself.
The technical neatness of this branch of art charmed me, and I associated myself with him to execute something of the kind. My predilection was again directed towards landscape, which, while it amused me in my solitary walks, seemed in itself more attainable and more comprehensible for works of art than the human figure, which discouraged me. Under his directions, therefore, I etched, after Thiele and others, various landscapes, which, although executed by an unpractised hand, produced some effect, and were well received. The grounding (varnishing) of the plates, the putting in the high lights, the etching, and at last the biting with aquafortis, gave me variety of occupation; and I soon got so far that I could assist my master in many things. I did not lack the attention necessary for the biting, and I seldom failed in any thing; but I had not care enough in guarding against the deleterious vapors which are generated on such occasions, and these may have contributed to the maladies which afterwards troubled me for a long time. Amidst such labors, lest any thing should be left untried, I often made wood-cuts also. I prepared various little printing-blocks after French patterns, and many of them were found fit for use.
Let me here make mention of some other men who resided in Leipzig, or tarried there for a short time. Weisse, the custom-house collector of the district, in his best years, cheerful, friendly, and obliging, was loved and esteemed by us. We would not, indeed, allow his theatrical pieces to be models throughout, but we suffered ourselves to be carried away by them; and his operas, set to music by Hiller in an easy style, gave us much pleasure. Schiebler, of Hamburgh, pursued the same track; and his "Lisuard and Dariolette" was likewise favored by us. Eschenburg, a handsome young man, but little older than we were, distinguished himself advantageously among the students. Zachariae was pleased to spend some weeks with us, and, being introduced by his brother, dined every day with us at the same table. We rightly deemed it an honor to gratify our guest in return, by a, few extra dishes, a richer dessert, and choicer wine; for, as a tall, well-formed, comfortable man, he did not conceal his love of good eating. Lessing came at a time when we had I know not what in our heads: it was our good pleasure to go nowhere on his account,—nay, even to avoid the places to which he came, probably because we thought ourselves too good to stand at a distance, and could make no pretension to obtain a closer intimacy with him. This momentary absurdity, which, however, is nothing rare in presuming and freakish youth, proved, indeed, its own punishment in the sequel; for I have never set eyes on that eminent man, who was most highly esteemed by me.
Notwithstanding all our efforts relative to art and antiquity, we each of us always had Winckelmann before our eyes, whose ability was acknowledged in his country with enthusiasm. We read his writings diligently, and tried to make ourselves acquainted with the circumstances under which he had written the first of them. We found in them many views which seemed to have originated with Oeser, even jests and whims after his fashion: and we did not rest until we had formed some general conception of the occasion on which these remarkable and sometimes so enigmatical writings had arisen, though we were not very accurate; for youth likes better to be excited than instructed, and it was not the last time that I was to be indebted to Sibylline leaves for an important step in cultivation.
It was then a fine period in literature, when eminent men were yet treated with respect; although the disputes of Klotz and Lessing's controversies already indicated that this epoch would soon close. Winckelmann enjoyed an universal, unassailed reverence; and it is known how sensitive he was with regard to any thing public which did not seem commensurate with his deeply felt dignity. All the periodical publications joined in his praise, the better class of tourists came back from him instructed and enraptured, and the new views which he gave extended themselves over science and life. The Prince of Dessau had raised himself up to a similar degree of respect. Young, well and nobly minded, he had on his travels and at other times shown himself truly desirable. Winckelmann was in the highest degree delighted with him, and, whenever he mentioned him, loaded him with the handsomest epithets. The laying out of a park, then unique, the taste for architecture, which Von Erdmannsdorf supported by his activity, every thing spoke in favor of a prince, who, while he was a shining example for the rest, gave promise of a golden age for his servants and subjects. We young people now learned with rejoicings that Winckelmann would return back from Italy, visit his princely friend, call on Oeser by the way, and so come within our sphere of vision. We made no pretensions to speaking with him, but we hoped to see him; and, as at that time of life one willingly changes every occasion into a party of pleasure, we had already agreed upon a journey to Dessau, where in a beautiful spot, made glorious by art, in a land well governed and at the same time externally adorned, we thought to lie in wait, now here, now there, in order to see with our own eyes these men so highly exalted above us walking about. Oeser himself was quite elated if he only thought of it, and the news of Winckelmann's death fell down into the midst of us like a thunderbolt from a clear sky. I still remember the place where I first heard it: it was in the court of the Pleissenburg, not far from the little gate through which one used to go up to Oeser's residence. One of my fellow- pupils met me, and told me that Oeser was not to be seen, with the reason why. This monstrous event [Footnote: Winckelmann was assassinated.—TRANS.] produced a monstrous effect: there was an universal mourning and lamentation, and Winckelmann's untimely death sharpened the attention paid to the value of his life. Perhaps, indeed, the effect of his activity, if he had /continued/ it to a more advanced age, would probably not have been so great as it now necessarily became, when, like many other extraordinary men, he was distinguished by fate through a strange and calamitous end.
Now, while I was infinitely lamenting the death of Winckelmann, I did not think that I should soon find myself in the case of being apprehensive about my own life; since, during all these events, my bodily condition had not taken the most favorable turn. I had already brought with me from home a certain touch of hypochondria, which, in this new sedentary and lounging life, was rather increased than diminished. The pain in my chest, which I had felt from time to time ever since the accident at Auerstaedt, and which after a fall from horseback had perceptibly increased, made me dejected. By an unfortunate diet I destroyed my powers of digestion; the heavy Merseburg beer clouded my brain; coffee, which gave me a peculiarly melancholy tone, especially when taken with milk after dinner, paralyzed my bowels, and seemed completely to suspend their functions, so that I experienced great uneasiness on this account, yet without being able to embrace a resolution for a more rational mode of life. My natural disposition, supported by the sufficient strength of youth, fluctuated between the extremes of unrestrained gayety and melancholy discomfort. Moreover, the epoch of cold-water bathing, which was unconditionally recommended, had then begun. One was to sleep on a hard bed, only slightly covered, by which all the usual perspiration was suppressed. These and other follies, in consequence of some misunderstood suggestions of Rousseau, would, it was promised, bring us nearer to nature, and deliver us from the corruption of morals. Now, all the above, without discrimination, applied with injudicious alternation, were felt by many most injuriously; and I irritated my happy organization to such a degree, that the particular systems contained within it necessarily broke out at last into a conspiracy and revolution, in order to save the whole.
One night I awoke with a violent hemorrhage, and had just strength and presence of mind enough to waken my next-room neighbor. Dr. Reichel was called in, who assisted me in the most friendly manner; and thus for many days I wavered betwixt life and death: and even the joy of a subsequent improvement was embittered by the circumstance that, during that eruption, a tumor had formed on the left side of the neck, which, after the danger was past, they now first found time to notice. Recovery is, however, always pleasing and delightful, even though it takes place slowly and painfully: and, since nature had helped herself with me, I appeared now to have become another man; for I had gained a greater cheerfulness of mind than I had known for a long time, and I was rejoiced to feel my inner self at liberty, although externally a wearisome affliction threatened me.
But what particularly set me up at this time was, to see how many eminent men had, undeservedly, given me their affection. Undeservedly, I say; for there was not one among them to whom I had not been troublesome through contradictory humors, not one whom I had not more than once wounded by morbid absurdity,—nay, whom I had not stubbornly avoided for a long time, from a feeling of my own injustice. All this was forgotten: they treated me in the most affectionate manner, and sought, partly in my chamber, partly as soon as I could leave it, to amuse and divert me. They drove out with me, entertained me at their country houses, and I seemed soon to recover.
Among these friends I name first of all Docter Hermann, then senator, afterwards burgomaster at Leipzig. He was among those boarders with whom I had become acquainted through Schlosser, the one with whom an always equable and enduring connection was maintained. One might well reckon him the most industrious of his academical fellow-citizens. He attended his lectures with the greatest regularity, and his private industry remained always the same. Step by step, without the slightest deviation, I saw him attain his doctor's degree, and then raise himself to the assessorship, without any thing of all this appearing arduous to him, or his having in the least hurried or been too late with any thing. The gentleness of his character attracted me, his instructive conversation held me fast; indeed, I really believe that I took delight in his methodical industry especially for this reason, because I thought, by acknowledgments and high esteem, to appropriate to myself at least a part of a merit of which I could by no means boast.
He was just as regular in the exercise of his talents and the enjoyment of his pleasures as in his business. He played the harpsichord with great skill, drew from nature with feeling, and stimulated me to do the same; when, in his manner, on gray paper and with black and white chalk, I used to copy many a willow-plot on the Pleisse, and many a lovely nook of those still waters, and at the same time longingly to indulge in my fancies. He knew how to meet my sometimes comical disposition with merry jests; and I remember many pleasant hours which we spent together when he invited me, with mock solemnity, to a /tete-a-tete/ supper, where, with some dignity, by the light of waxen candles, we ate what they call a council-hare, which had run into his kitchen as a perquisite of his place, and, with many jokes in the manner of Behrisch, were pleased to season the meat and heighten the spirit of the wine. That this excellent man, who is still constantly laboring in his respectable office, rendered me the most faithful assistance during a disease, of which there was indeed a foreboding, but which had not been foreseen in its full extent; that he bestowed every leisure hour upon me, and, by remembrances of former happy times, contrived to brighten the gloomy moment,—-I still acknowledge with the sincerest thanks, and rejoice that after so long a time I can give them publicly.
Besides this worthy friend, Groening of Bremen particularly interested himself in me. I had made his acquaintance only a short time before, and first discovered his good feeling towards me during my misfortune: I felt the value of this favor the more warmly, as no one is apt to seek a closer connection with invalids. He spared nothing to give me pleasure, to draw me away from musing on my situation, to hold up to my view and promise me recovery and a wholesome activity in the nearest future. How often have I been delighted, in the progress of life, to hear how this excellent man has in the weightiest affairs shown himself useful, and indeed a blessing to his native city.
Here, too, it was that friend Horn uninterruptedly brought into action his love and attention. The whole Breitkopf household, the Stock family, and many others, treated me like a near relative; and thus, through the good will of so many friendly persons, the feeling of my situation was soothed in the tenderest manner.
I must here, however, make particular mention of a man with whom I first became acquainted at this time, and whose instructive conversation so far blinded me to the miserable state in which I was, that I actually forgot it. This was Langer, afterwards librarian at Wolfenbuettel. Eminently learned and instructed, he was delighted at my voracious hunger after knowledge, which, with the irritability of sickness, now broke out into a perfect fever. He tried to calm me by perspicuous summaries; and I have been very much indebted to his acquaintance, short as it was, since he understood how to guide me in various ways, and made me attentive whither I had to direct myself at the present moment. I felt all the more obliged to this important man, as my intercourse exposed him to some danger; for when, after Behrisch, he got the situation of tutor to the young Count Lindenau, the father made it an express condition with the new Mentor that he should have no intercourse with me. Curious to become acquainted with such a dangerous subject, he frequently found means of meeting me indirectly. I soon gained his affection; and he, more prudent than Behrisch, called for me by night: we went walking together, conversed on interesting things, and at last I accompanied him to the very door of his mistress; for even this externally severe, earnest, scientific man had not kept free from the toils of a very amiable lady.