"It has pained me in the heart, Full many a time, That I yearned after that Which I may not have, Nor ever shall win. It is very grievous. I do not mean gold or silver; It is more like a human heart.
"I trained me a falcon, More than a year. When I had tamed him, As I would have him, And had well tied his feathers With golden chains, He soared up very high, And flew into other lands.
"I saw the falcon since, Flying happily; He carried on his foot Silken straps, And his plumage was All red of gold.... May God send them together, Who would fain be loved."
The key-note of the whole poem of the "Nibelunge," such as it was written down at the end of the twelfth, or the beginning of the thirteenth century, is "Sorrow after Joy." This is the fatal spell against which all the heroes are fighting, and fighting in vain. And as Hagen dashes the Chaplain into the waves, in order to belie the prophecy of the Mermaids, but the Chaplain rises, and Hagen rushes headlong into destruction, so Chriemhilt is bargaining and playing with the same inevitable fate, cautiously guarding her young heart against the happiness of love, that she may escape the sorrows of a broken heart. She, too, has been dreaming "of a wild young falcon that she trained for many a day, till two fierce eagles tore it." And she rushes to her mother Ute, that she may read the dream for her; and her mother tells her what it means. And then the coy maiden answers:—
"No more, no more, dear mother, say, From many a woman's fortune this truth is clear as day, That falsely smiling Pleasure with Pain requites us ever. I from both will keep me, and thus will sorrow never."
But Siegfried comes, and Chriemhilt's heart does no longer cast up the bright and the dark days of life. To Siegfried she belongs; for him she lives, and for him, when "two fierce eagles tore him," she dies. A still wilder tragedy lies hidden in the songs of the "Edda," the most ancient fragments of truly Teutonic poetry. Wolfram's poetry is of the same sombre cast. He wrote his "Parcival" about the time when the songs of the "Nibelunge" were written down. The subject was taken by him from a French source. It belonged originally to the British cycle of Arthur and his knights. But Wolfram took the story merely as a skeleton, to which he himself gave a new body and soul. The glory and happiness which this world can give is to him but a shadow,—the crown for which his hero fights is that of the Holy Grail.
Faith, Love, and Honor are the chief subjects of the so-called Minnesaenger. They are not what we should call erotic poets. Minne means love in the old German language, but it means, originally, not so much passion and desire, as thoughtfulness, reverence, and remembrance. In English Minne would be "Minding," and it is different therefore from the Greek Eros, the Roman Amor, and the French Amour. It is different also from the German Liebe, which means originally desire, not love. Most of the poems of the "Minnesaenger" are sad rather than joyful,—joyful in sorrow, sorrowful in joy. The same feelings have since been so often repeated by poets in all the modern languages of Europe, that much of what we read in the "Minnesaenger" of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries sounds stale to our ears. Yet there is a simplicity about these old songs, a want of effort, an entire absence of any attempt to please or to surprise; and we listen to them as we listen to a friend who tells us his sufferings in broken and homely words, and whose truthful prose appeals to our heart more strongly than the most elaborate poetry of a Lamartine or a Heine. It is extremely difficult to translate these poems from the language in which they are written, the so-called Middle High-German, into Modern German,—much more so to render them into English. But translation is at the same time the best test of the true poetical value of any poem, and we believe that many of the poems of the Minnesaengers can bear that test. Here is another poem, very much in the style of the one quoted above, but written by a poet whose name is known,—Dietmar von Eist:—
"A lady stood alone, And gazed across the heath, And gazed for her love. She saw a falcon flying. "O happy falcon that thou art, Thou fliest wherever thou likest; Thou choosest in the forest A tree that pleases thee. Thus I too had done. I chose myself a man: Him my eyes selected. Beautiful ladies envy me for it. Alas! why will they not leave me my love? I did not desire the beloved of any one of them. Now woe to thee, joy of summer! The song of birds is gone; So are the leaves of the lime-tree: Henceforth, my pretty eyes too Will be overcast. My love, thou shouldst take leave Of other ladies; Yes, my hero, thou shouldst avoid them. When thou sawest me first, I seemed to thee in truth Right lovely made: I remind thee of it, dear man!' "
These poems, simple and homely as they may seem to us, were loved and admired by the people for whom they were written. They were copied and preserved with the greatest care in the albums of kings and queens, and some of them were translated into foreign languages. The poem which we quoted first was translated as an Italian sonnet in the thirteenth century, and has been published in Franc Trucchi's "Poesie Italiane Inedite:"—
"Tapina me, che amava uno sparviero; amaval tanto ch'io me ne moria: a lo richiamo ben m'era maniero ed unque troppo pascer no' l dovia. or e montato e salito si altero, assai piu altero che far non solia; ed e assiso dentro a un verziero, e un'altra donna l'avera in balia. isparvier mio, ch'io t'avea nodrito; sonaglio d'oro ti facea portare, perche nell'uccellar fossi piu ardito. or sei salito siccome lo mare, ed hai rotti li getti, e sei fuggito quando eri fermo nel tuo uccellare."
One of the most original and thoughtful of the "Minnesaenger" is the old Reinmar. His poems are given now for the first time in a correct and readable text by Lachmann and Haupt, and many a difficult passage has been elucidated by their notes. His poems, however, are not easy to read, and we should have been thankful for some more help than the editors have given us in their notes. The following is a specimen of Reinmar's poetry:—
"High as the sun stands my heart; That is because of a lady who can be without change In her grace, wherever she be. She makes me free from all sorrow.
"I have nothing to give her, but my own life, That belongs to her: the beautiful woman gives me always Joy, and a high mind, If I think of it, what she does for me.
"Well is it for me that I found her so true! Wherever she dwell, she alone makes every land dear to me; If she went across the wild sea, There I should go; I long so much for her.
"If I had the wisdom of a thousand men, it would be well That I keep her, whom I should serve: May she take care right well, That nothing sad may ever befall me through her.
"I was never quite blessed, but through her: Whatever I wish to her, may she allow it to me! It was a blessed thing for me That she, the Beautiful, received me into her grace."
Carlyle, no doubt, is right when he says that, among all this warbling of love, there are infinite twitterings which, except their gladness, have little to charm us. Yet we like to read them as part of the bright history of those by-gone days. One poet sings:—
"If the whole world was mine, From the Sea to the Rhine, I would gladly give it all, That the Queen of England Lay in my arms," etc.
Who was the impertinent German that dared to fall in love with a Queen of England? We do not know. But there can be no doubt that the Queen of England whom he adored was the gay and beautiful Eleanor of Poitou, the Queen of Henry II., who filled the heart of many a Crusader with unholy thoughts. Her daughter, too, Mathilde, who was married to Henry the Lion of Saxony, inspired many a poet of those days. Her beauty was celebrated by the Provencal Troubadours; and at the court of her husband, she encouraged several of her German vassals to follow the example of the French and Norman knights, and sing the love of Tristan and Isolt, and the adventures of the knights of Charlemagne. They must have been happy times, those times of the Crusades! Nor have they passed away without leaving their impress on the hearts and minds of the nations of Europe. The Holy Sepulchre, it is true, is still in the hands of the Infidels, and the bones of the Crusaders lie buried in unhallowed soil, and their deeds of valor are well-nigh forgotten, and their chivalrous Tournaments and their Courts of Love are smiled at by a wiser generation. But much that is noble and heroic in the feelings of the nineteenth century has its hidden roots in the thirteenth. Gothic architecture and Gothic poetry are the children of the same mother; and if the true but unadorned language of the heart, the aspirations of a real faith, the sorrow and joy of a true love, are still listened to by the nations of Europe; and if what is called the Romantic school is strong enough to hold its ground against the classical taste and its royal patrons, such as Louis XIV., Charles II., and Frederick the Great,—we owe it to those chivalrous poets who dared for the first time to be what they were, and to say what they felt, and to whom Faith, Love, and Honor were worthy subjects of poetry, though they lacked the sanction of the Periclean and Augustan ages.
The new edition of the Poems of the "Minnesaenger" is a masterpiece of German scholarship. It was commenced by Lachmann, the greatest critic, after Wolf, that Germany has produced. Lachmann died before the work was finished, and Professor Haupt, his successor at Berlin, undertook to finish it. His share in the edition, particularly in the notes, is greater than that of Lachmann; and the accuracy with which the text has been restored from more than twenty MSS., is worthy of the great pupil of that great master.
III. YE SCHYPPE OF FOOLES.(9)
The critical periods in the history of the world are best studied in the lives of a few representative men. The history of the German Reformation assumes a living, intelligible, and human character in the biographies of the Reformers; and no historian would imagine that he understood the secret springs of that mighty revolution in Germany without having read the works of Hutten, the table-talk of Luther, the letters of Melancthon, and the sermons of Zwingle. But although it is easy to single out representative men in the great decisive struggles of history, they are more difficult to find during the preparatory periods. The years from 1450 to 1500 are as important as the years from 1500 to 1550,—nay, to the thoughtful historian, that silent period of incubation is perhaps of deeper interest than the violent outburst of the sixteenth century. But where, during those years, are the men of sufficient eminence to represent the age in which they lived? It was an age of transition and preparation, of dissatisfaction and hesitation. Like the whole of the fifteenth century, "It was rich in scholars, copious in pedants, but poor in genius, and barren of strong thinkers." We must not look for heroes in so unheroic an age, but be satisfied with men if they be but a head taller than their contemporaries.
One of the most interesting men in whose life and writings the history of the preliminary age of the German Reformation may be studied, is Sebastian Brant, the famous author of the famous "Ship of Fools." He was born in the year 1457. The Council of Basle had failed to fulfill the hopes of the German laity as to a _reformatio ecclesiae in capite et membris_. In the very year of Brant's birth, Martin Meyer, the Chancellor of Mayence, had addressed his letter to his former friend, AEneas Sylvius,—a national manifesto, in boldness and vigor only surpassed by the powerful pamphlet of Luther, "To the Nobility of the German Nation." Germany seemed to awaken at last to her position, and to see the dangers that threatened her political and religious freedom. The new movement which had taken place in Italy in classical learning, supported chiefly by Greek refugees, began to extend its quickening influence beyond the Alps. AEneas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius II., 1458, writes in one of his letters, that poets were held in no estimation in Germany, though he admits that their poetry is less to be blamed for this than their patrons, the princes, who care far more for any trifles than for poetry. The Germans, he says, do not care for science nor for a knowledge of classical literature, and they have hardly heard the name of Cicero or any other orator. In the eyes of the Italians, the Germans were barbarians; and when Constantine Lascaris saw the first specimen of printing, he was told by the Italian priests that this invention had lately been made _apud barbaros in urbe _ Germaniae_. They were dangerous neighbors—these barbarians, who could make such discoveries as the art of printing; and Brant lived to see the time when Joh. Caesarius was able to write to a friend of his: "At this moment, Germany, if she does not surpass Italy, at least need not, and will not, yield to her, not so much on account of her empire, as for her wonderful fecundity in learned men, and the almost incredible growth of learning."
This period of slow but steady progress, from the invention of printing to the Council of Worms, is bridged over by the life of Sebastian Brant, who lived from 1457 to 1521. Brant was very early the friend of Peter Schott, and through him had been brought in contact with a circle of learned men, who were busily engaged in founding one of the first schools of classical learning at Schlettstadt. Men like Jac. Wimpheling, Joh. Torrentinus, Florentius Hundius, and Johannes Hugo, belonged to that society. Brant afterwards went to Basle to study law. Basle was then a young university. It had only been founded in 1459, but it was already a successful rival of Heidelberg. The struggle between the Realists and Nominalists was then raging all over Europe, and it divided the University of Basle into two parties, each of them trying to gain influence and adherents among the young students. It has been usual to look upon the Realists as the Conservative, and upon the Nominalists as the Liberal party of the fifteenth century. But although at times this was the case, philosophical opinions, on which the differences between these two parties were founded, were not of sufficient strength to determine for any length of time the political and religious bias of either school. The Realists were chiefly supported by the Dominicans, the Nominalists by the Franciscans; and there is always a more gentle expression beaming in the eyes of the followers of the seraphic Doctor, particularly if contrasted with the stern frown of the Dominican. Ockam himself was a Franciscan, and those who thought with him were called doctores renovatores and sophistae. Suddenly, however, the tables were turned. At Oxford, the Realists, in following out their principles in a more independent spirit, had arrived at results dangerous to the peace of the Church. As philosophers, they began to carry out the doctrines of Plato in good earnest; as reformers, they looked wistfully to the early centuries of the Christian Church. The same liberal and independent spirit reached from Oxford to Prague, and the expulsion of the German nation from that university may be traced to the same movement. The Realists were at that time no longer in the good odor of orthodoxy; and, at the Council of Constanz, the Nominalists, such as Joh. Gerson and Petrus de Alliaco, gained triumphs which seemed for a time to make them the arbiters of public opinion in Germany, and to give them the means of securing the Church against the attacks of Huss on one side, and against the more dangerous encroachments of the Pope and the monks on the other. This triumph, however, was of short duration. All the rights which the Germans seemed to have conquered at the Councils of Constanz and Basle were sacrificed by their own Emperor. No one dared to say again what Gregory von Heimburg had said to the Italian clergy,—"Quid fines alienos invaditis? quid falcem vestram in messem alienam extenditis?" Under AEneas Sylvius, the power of the Pope in Germany was as absolute as ever. The Nominalist party lost all the ground which it had gained before. It was looked upon with suspicion by Pope and Emperor. It was banished from courts and universities, and the disciples of the Realistic school began a complete crusade against the followers of Ockam.
Johannes Heynlin a Lapide, a former head of a house in Paris, migrated to Basle, in order to lend his influence and authority to the Realist party in that rising university. Trithemius says of him: "Hic doctrinam eorum Parisiensium qui reales appellantur primus ad Basiliensium universitatem transtulit, ibidemque plantavit, roboravit et auxit." This Johannes Heynlin a Lapide, however, though a violent champion of the then victorious Realist party, was by no means a man without liberal sentiments. On many points the Realists were more tolerant, or at least more enlightened, than the Nominalists. They counted among themselves better scholars than the adherents of Ockam. They were the first and foremost to point out the uselessness of the dry scholastic system of teaching grammar and logic, and nothing else. And though they cherished their own ideas as to the supreme authority of the Pope, the divine right of the Emperor, or the immaculate conception of the Virgin (a dogma denied by the Dominicans, and defended by the Franciscans), they were always ready to point out abuses and to suggest reforms. The age in which they lived was not an age of decisive thought or decisive action. There was a want of character in individuals as well as in parties; and the points in which they differed were of small importance, though they masked differences of greater weight. At Basle, the men who were gathered round Johannes a Lapide were what we should call Liberal Conservatives, and it is among them that we find Sebastian Brant. Basle could then boast of some of the most eminent men of the time. Besides Agricola, and Wimpheling, and Geiler von Kaisersberg, and Trithemius, Reuchlin was there for a time, and Wessel, and the Greek Kontablacos. Sebastian Brant, though on friendly terms with most of these men, was their junior; and, among his contemporaries, a new generation grew up, more independent and more free-spoken than their masters, though as yet very far from any revolutionary views in matters of Church or State. Feuds broke out very soon between the old and the young schools. Locher, the friend of Brant,—the poet who had turned his "Ship of Fools" into Latin verse,—published a poem, in which he attacked rather petulantly the scholastic philosophy and theology. Wimpheling, at the request of Geiler of Kaisersberg, had to punish him for this audacity, and he did it in a pamphlet full of the most vulgar abuse. Reuchlin also had given offense, and was attacked and persecuted; but his party retaliated by the "Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum." Thus the Conservative, or Realistic party became divided; and when, at the beginning of a new century and a new era in the history of the world, Luther raised his voice in defense of national and religious freedom, he was joined not only by the more advanced descendants of the Nominalistic school, but by all the vigor, the talent, and the intellect of the old Conservatives.
Brant himself, though he lived at Strassburg up to 1521, did not join the standard of the Reformation. He had learned to grumble, to find fault, to abuse, and to condemn; but his time was gone when the moment for action arrived. And yet he helped toward the success of the Reformation in Germany. He had been one of the first, after the discovery of printing, to use the German language for political purposes. His fly-sheets, his illustrated editions, had given useful hints how to address the large masses of the people. If he looked upon the world, as it then was, as a ship of fools, and represented every weakness, vice, and wickedness under the milder color of foolery, the people who read his poems singled out some of his fools, and called them knaves. The great work of Sebastian Brant was his "Narrenschiff." It was first published in 1497, at Basle, and the first edition, though on account of its wood-cuts it could not have been a very cheap book, was sold off at once. Edition after edition followed, and translations were published in Latin, in Low-German, in Dutch, in French, and English. Sermons were preached on the "Narrenschiff;" Trithemius calls it Divina Satira, Locher compares Brant with Dante, Hutten calls him the new lawgiver of German poetry. The "Narrenschiff" is a work which we may still read with pleasure, though it is difficult to account for its immense success at the time of its publication. Some historians ascribe it to the wood-cuts. They are certainly very clever, and there is reason to suppose that most of them were, if not actually drawn, at least suggested by Brant himself. Yet even a Turner has failed to render mediocre poetry popular by his illustrations, and there is nothing to show that the caricatures of Brant were preferred to his satires. Now his satires, it is true, are not very powerful, nor pungent, nor original. But his style is free and easy. Brant is not a ponderous poet. He writes in short chapters, and mixes his fools in such a manner that we always meet with a variety of new faces. It is true that all this would hardly be sufficient to secure a decided success for a work like his at the present day. But then we must remember the time in which he wrote. What had the poor people of Germany to read toward the end of the fifteenth century? Printing had been invented, and books were published and sold with great rapidity. People were not only fond, but proud, of reading books. Reading was fashionable, and the first fool who enters Brant's ship is the man who buys books. But what were the books that were offered for sale? We find among the early prints of the fifteenth century religious, theological, and classical works in great abundance, and we know that the respectable and wealthy burghers of Augsburg and Strassburg were proud to fill their shelves with these portly volumes. But then German aldermen had wives, and daughters, and sons, and what were they to read during the long winter evenings? The poetry of the thirteenth century was no longer intelligible, and the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had produced very little that would be to the taste of young ladies and gentlemen. The poetry of the "Meistersaenger" was not very exhilarating. The romances of "The Book of Heroes" had lost all their native charms under the rough treatment they had experienced at the hand of their latest editor, Casper von der Roen. The so-called "Misteries" (not mysteries) might be very well as Christmas pantomimes once a year, but they could not be read for their own sake, like the dramatic literature of later times. The light literature of the day consisted entirely in novels; and in spite of their miserable character, their popularity was immense. Besides the "Gesta Romanorum," which were turned into German verse and prose, we meet with French novels, such as "Lother and Maler," translated by a Countess of Nassau in 1437, and printed in 1514; "Pontus and Sidonia," translated from the French by Eleanor of Scotland, the wife of Sigismund of Austria, published 1498; "Melusina," equally from the French, published 1477. The old epic poems of "Tristan," and "Lancelot," and "Wigalois," were too long and tedious. People did not care any longer for the deep thoughts of Wolfram von Eschenbach, and the beautiful poetry of Gottfried von Strassburg. They wanted only the plot, the story, the dry bones; and these were dished up in the prose novels of the fifteenth century, and afterwards collected in the so-called "Book of Love." There was room, therefore, at that time for a work like the "Ship of Fools." It was the first printed book that treated of contemporaneous events and living persons, instead of old German battles and French knights. People are always fond of reading the history of their own times. If the good qualities of their age are brought out, they think of themselves or their friends; if the dark features of their contemporaries are exhibited, they think of their neighbors and enemies. Now, the "Ship of Fools" is just such a satire which ordinary people would read, and read with pleasure. They might feel a slight twinge now and then, but they would put down the book at the end, and thank God that they were not like other men. There is a chapter on Misers,—and who would not gladly give a penny to a beggar? There is a chapter on Gluttony,—and who was ever more than a little exhilarated after dinner? There is a chapter on Church-goers,—and who ever went to church for respectability's sake, or to show off a gaudy dress, or a fine dog, or a new hawk? There is a chapter on Dancing,—and who ever danced except for the sake of exercise? There is a chapter on Adultery,—and who ever did more than flirt with his neighbor's wife? We sometimes wish that Brant's satire had been a little more searching, and that, instead of his many allusions to classical fools (for his book is full of scholarship), he had given us a little more of the chronique scandaleuse of his own time. But he was too good a man to do this, and his contemporaries no doubt were grateful to him for his forbearance.
Brant's poem is not easy to read. Though he was a contemporary of Luther, his language differs much more from modern German than Luther's translation of the Bible. His "Ship of Fools" wanted a commentary, and this want has been supplied by one of the most learned and industrious scholars of Germany, Professor Zarncke, in his lately published edition of the "Narrenschiff." This must have been a work of many years of hard labor. Nothing that is worth knowing about Brant and his works has been omitted, and we hardly know of any commentary on Aristophanes or Juvenal in which every difficulty is so honestly met as in Professor Zarncke's notes on the German satirist. The editor is a most minute and painstaking critic. He tries to reestablish the correct reading of every word, and he enters upon his work with as much zeal as if the world could not be saved till every tittle of Brant's poem had been restored. He is, however, not only a critic, but a sensible and honest man. He knows what is worth knowing and what is not, and he does not allow himself to be carried away by a desire to display his own superior acquirements,—a weakness which makes so many of his colleagues forgetful of the real ends of knowledge, and the real duties of the scholar and the historian.
We have to say a few words on the English translation of Brant's "Ship of Fools." It was not made from the original, but from Locher's Latin translation. It reproduces the matter, but not the manner of the original satire. Some portions are added by the translator, Alexander Barclay, and in some parts his translation is an improvement on the original. It was printed in 1508, published 1509, and went through several editions.
The following may serve as a specimen of Barclay's translation, and of his original contributions to Brant's "Navis Stultifera:"—
"Here beginneth the 'Ship of Fooles,' and first of unprofitable books:—
"I am the first foole of all the whole navie, To keep the Pompe, the Helme, and eke the Sayle: For this is my minde, this one pleasure have I, Of bookes to have great plentie and apparayle. I take no wisdome by them, not yet avayle, Nor them perceave not, and then I them despise: Thus am I a foole, and all that sue that guise.
"That in this Ship the chiefe place I governe, By this wide Sea with fooles wandring, The cause is plaine and easy to discerne, Still am I busy, bookes assembling, For to have plentie it is a pleasant thing In my conceyt, and to have them ay in hande: But what they meane do I not understande.
"But yet I have them in great reverence And honoure, saving them from filth and ordure, By often brusshing and much diligence, Full goodly bounde in pleasant coverture, Of Damas, Sattin, or els of Velvet pure: I keepe them sure, fearing least they should be lost, For in them is the cunning wherein I me boast.
"But if it fortune that any learned men Within my house fall to disputation, I drawe the curtaynes to shewe my bokes then, That they of my cunning should make probation: I kepe not to fall in alterication, And while they comment, my bookes I turne and winde, For all is in them, and nothing in my minde."
In the fourth chapter, "Of newe fassions and disguised garmentes," there is at the end what is called "The Lenvoy of Alexander Barclay," and in it an allusion to Henry VIII.:—
"But ye proude galants that thus your selfe disguise, Be ye ashamed, beholde unto your prince: Consider his sadness, his honestie devise, His clothing expresseth his inwarde prudence, Ye see no example of such inconvenience In his highness, but godly wit and gravitie, Ensue him, and sorrowe for your enormitie."
IV. LIFE OF SCHILLER.(10)
The hundredth anniversary of the birthday of Schiller, which, according to the accounts published in the German newspapers, seems to have been celebrated in most parts of the civilized, nay, even the uncivilized world, is an event in some respects unprecedented in the literary annals of the human race. A nation honors herself by honoring her sons, and it is but natural that in Germany every town and village should have vied in doing honor to the memory of one of their greatest poets. The letters which have reached us from every German capital relate no more than what we expected. There were meetings and feastings, balls and theatrical representations. The veteran philologist, Jacob Grimm, addressed the Berlin Academy on the occasion in a soul-stirring oration; the directors of the Imperial Press at Vienna seized the opportunity to publish a splendid album, or "Schillerbuch," in honor of the poet; unlimited eloquence was poured forth by professors and academicians; school children recited Schiller's ballads; the German students shouted the most popular of his songs; nor did the ladies of Germany fail in paying their tribute of gratitude to him who, since the days of the Minnesaengers, had been the most eloquent herald of female grace and dignity. In the evening torch processions might be seen marching through the streets, bonfires were lighted on the neighboring hills, houses were illuminated, and even the solitary darkness of the windows of the Papal Nuncio at Vienna added to the lustre of the day.(11) In every place where Schiller had spent some years of his life, local recollections were revived and perpetuated by tablets and monuments. The most touching account of all came from the small village of Cleversulzbach. On the village cemetery, or, as it is called in German, the "God's-acre," there stands a tombstone, and on it the simple inscription, "Schiller's Mother." On the morning of her son's birthday the poor people of the village were gathered together round that grave, singing one of their sacred hymns, and planting a lime-tree in the soil which covers the heart that loved him best.
But the commemoration of Schiller's birthday was not confined to his native country. We have seen, in the German papers, letters from St. Petersburg and Lisbon, from Venice, Rome, and Florence, from Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Christiana, from Warsaw and Odessa, from Jassy and Bucharest, from Constantinople, Algiers, and Smyrna, and lately from America and Australia, all describing the festive gatherings which were suggested, no doubt, by Schiller's cosmopolitan countrymen, but joined in most cheerfully by all the nations of the globe. Poets of higher rank than Schiller—Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe—have never aroused such world-wide sympathies; and it is not without interest to inquire into the causes which have secured to Schiller this universal popularity. However superlative the praises which have lately been heaped on Schiller's poetry by those who cannot praise except in superlatives, we believe that it was not the poet, but the man, to whom the world has paid this unprecedented tribute of love and admiration. After reading Schiller's works we must read Schiller's life,—the greatest of all his works. It is a life not unknown to the English public, for it has been written by Carlyle. The last festivities, however, have given birth to several new biographies. Palleske's "Life of Schiller" has met with such success in Germany that it well deserved the honor which it has lately received at the hands of Lady Wallace, and under the special patronage of the Queen, of being translated into English. Another very careful and lucid account of the poet's life is due to the pen of a member of the French Institute, M. A. Regnier, the distinguished tutor of the Comte de Paris.
In reading these lives, together with the voluminous literature which is intended to illustrate the character of the German poet, we frequently felt inclined to ask one question, to which none of Schiller's biographers has returned a satisfactory answer: "What were the peculiar circumstances which brought out in Germany, and in the second half of the eighteenth century, a man of the moral character, and a poet of the creative genius, of Schiller?" Granted that he was endowed by nature with the highest talents, how did he grow to be a poet, such as we know him, different from all other German poets, and yet in thought, feeling, and language the most truly German of all the poets of Germany? Are we reduced to appeal to the mysterious working of an unknown power, if we wish to explain to ourselves why, in the same country and at the same time, poetical genius assumed such different forms as are seen in the writings of Schiller and Goethe? Is it to be ascribed to what is called individuality, a word which in truth explains nothing; or is it possible for the historian and psychologist to discover the hidden influences which act on the growing mind, and produce that striking variety of poetical genius which we admire in the works of contemporaneous poets, such as Schiller and Goethe in Germany, or Wordsworth and Byron in England? Men grow not only from within, but also from without. We know that a poet is born,—poeta nascitur,—but we also know that his character must be formed; the seed is given, but the furrow must be ploughed in which it is to grow; and the same grain which, if thrown on cultivated soil, springs into fullness and vigor, will dwindle away, stunted and broken, if cast upon shallow and untilled land. There are certain events in the life of every man which fashion and stamp his character; they may seem small and unimportant in themselves, but they are great and important to each of us; they mark that slight bend where two lines which had been running parallel begin to diverge, never to meet again. The Greeks call such events epochs, i.e. halts.
We halt for a moment, we look about and wonder, and then choose our further way in life. It is the duty of biographers to discover such epochs, such halting-points, in the lives of their heroes; and we shall endeavor to do the same in the life of Schiller by watching the various influences which determined the direction of his genius at different periods of his poetical career.
The period of Schiller's childhood is generally described with great detail by his biographers. We are told who his ancestors were. I believe they were bakers. We are informed that his mother possessed in her trousseau, among other things, four pairs of stockings,—three of cotton, one of wool. There are also long discussions on the exact date of his birth. We hear a great deal of early signs of genius, or rather, we should say, of things done and said by most children, but invested with extraordinary significance if remembered of the childhood of great men. To tell the truth, we can find nothing very important in what we thus learn of the early years of Schiller, nor does the poet himself in later years dwell much on the recollections of his dawning mind. If we must look for some determinating influences during the childhood of Schiller, they are chiefly to be found in the character of his father. The father was not what we should call a well-educated man. He had been brought up as a barber and surgeon; had joined a Bavarian regiment in 1745, during the Austrian war of succession; and had acted as a non-commissioned officer, and, when occasion required, as a chaplain. After the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle he had married the daughter of an innkeeper. He was a brave man, a God-fearing man, and, as is not unfrequently the case with half-educated people, a man very fond of reading. What he had failed to attain himself, he wished to see realized in his only son. The following prayer was found among the papers of the father: "And Thou, Being of all beings, I have asked Thee after the birth of my only son, that Thou wouldst add to his powers of intellect what I from deficient instruction was unable to attain. Thou hast heard me. Thanks be to Thee, bounteous Being, that Thou heedest the prayers of mortals." A man of this stamp of mind would be sure to exercise his own peculiar influence on his children. He would make them look on life, not as a mere profession, where the son has only to follow in the steps of his father; his children would early become familiar with such ideas as "making one's way in life," and would look forward to a steep path rather than to a beaten track. Their thoughts would dwell on the future at a time when other children live in the present only, and an adventurous spirit would be roused, without which no great work has ever been conceived and carried out.
When his children, young Frederick and his sisters, were growing up, their father read to them their morning and evening prayers; and so fond was the boy of the Old and New Testament stories that he would often leave his games in order to be present at his father's readings. In 1765 the family left Marbach on the Neckar. The father was ordered by the Duke of Wurtemberg to Lorch, a place on the frontier, where he had to act as recruiting officer. His son received his education in the house of a clergyman, began Latin at six, Greek at seven; and as far as we are able to see, he neither seems to have considered himself, nor to have been considered by his masters, as very superior to other boys. He was a good boy, tenderly attached to his parents, fond of games, and regular at school. There are but two marked features which we have an opportunity of watching in him as a boy. He knew no fear, and he was full of the warmest sympathy for others. The first quality secured him the respect, the second the love, of those with whom he came in contact. His parents, who were poor, had great difficulty in restraining his generosity. He would give away his school-books and the very buckles off his shoes. Both his fearlessness and universal sympathy are remarkable through the whole of his after-life. Not even his enemies could point out one trait of cowardice or selfishness in anything he ever did, or said, or wrote. There are some pertinent remarks on the combination of these two qualities, sympathy with others and courage, by the author of "Friends in Council."
"If greatness," he writes, "can be shut up in qualities, it will be found to consist in courage and in openness of mind and soul. These qualities may not seem at first to be so potent. But see what growth there is in them. The education of a man of open mind is never ended. Then with openness of soul a man sees some way into all other souls that come near him, feels with them, has their experience, is in himself a people. Sympathy is the universal solvent. Nothing is understood without it.... Add courage to this openness, and you have a man who can own himself in the wrong, can forgive, can trust, can adventure, can, in short, use all the means that insight and sympathy endow him with."
A plucky and warm-hearted boy, under the care of an honest, brave, and intelligent father and a tender and religious mother,—this is all we know and care to know about Schiller during the first ten years of his life. In the year 1768 there begins a new period in the life of Schiller. His father was settled at Ludwigsburg, the ordinary residence of the reigning Duke of Wurtemberg, the Duke Charles. This man was destined to exercise a decisive influence on Schiller's character. Like many German sovereigns in the middle of the last century, Duke Charles of Wurtemberg had felt the influence of those liberal ideas which had found so powerful an utterance in the works of the French and English philosophers of the eighteenth century. The philosophy which in France was smiled at by kings and statesmen, while it roused the people to insurrection and regicide, produced in Germany a deeper impression on the minds of the sovereigns and ruling classes than of the people. In the time of Frederick the Great and Joseph II. it became fashionable among sovereigns to profess Liberalism, and to work for the enlightenment of the human race. It is true that this liberal policy was generally carried out in a rather despotic way, and people were emancipated and enlightened very much as the ancient Saxons were converted by Charlemagne. We have an instance of this in the case of Schiller. Duke Charles had founded an institution where orphans and the sons of poor officers were educated free of expense. He had been informed that young Schiller was a promising boy, and likely to reflect credit on his new institution, and he proceeded without further inquiry to place him on the list of his proteges, assigning to him a place at his military school. It was useless for the father to remonstrate, and explain to the Duke that his son had a decided inclination for the Church. Schiller was sent to the Academy in 1773, and ordered to study law. The young student could not but see that an injustice had been done him, and the irritation which it caused was felt by him all the more deeply because it would have been dangerous to give expression to his feelings. The result was that he made no progress in the subjects which he had been commanded to study. In 1775 he was allowed to give up law, not, however, to return to theology, but to begin the study of medicine. But medicine, though at first it seemed more attractive, failed, like law, to call forth his full energies. In the mean time another interference on the part of the Duke proved even more abortive, and to a certain extent determined the path which Schiller's genius was to take in life. The Duke had prohibited all German classics at his Academy; the boys, nevertheless, succeeded in forming a secret library, and Schiller read the works of Klopstock, Klinger, Lessing, Goethe, and Wieland's translations of Shakespeare with rapture, no doubt somewhat increased by the dangers he braved in gaining access to these treasures. In 1780, the same year in which he passed his examination and received the appointment of regimental surgeon, Schiller wrote his first tragedy, "The Robbers." His taste for dramatic poetry had been roused partly by Goethe's "Goetz von Berlichingen" and Shakespeare's plays, partly by his visits to the theatre, which, under the patronage of the Duke, was then in a very flourishing state. The choice of the subject of his first dramatic composition was influenced by the circumstances of his youth. His poetical sympathy for a character such as Karl Moor, a man who sets at defiance all the laws of God and man, can only be accounted for by the revulsion of feeling produced on his boyish mind by the strict military discipline to which all the pupils at the Academy were subjected. His sense of right and wrong was strong enough to make him paint his hero as a monster, and to make him inflict on him the punishment he merited. But the young poet could not resist the temptation of throwing a brighter light on the redeeming points in the character of a robber and murderer by pointedly placing him in contrast with the even darker shades of hypocritical respectability and saintliness in the picture of his brother Franz. The language in which Schiller paints his characters is powerful, but it is often wild and even coarse. The Duke did not approve of his former protege; the very title-page of "The Robbers" was enough to offend his Serene Highness,—it contained a rising lion, with the motto "In tyrannos." The Duke gave a warning to the young military surgeon, and when, soon after, he heard of his going secretly to Mannheim to be present at the first performance of his play, he ordered him to be put under military arrest. All these vexations Schiller endured, because he knew full well there was no escape from the favors of his royal protector. But when at last he was ordered never to publish again except on medical subjects, and to submit all his poetical compositions to the Duke's censorship, this proved too much for our young poet. His ambition had been roused. He had sat at Mannheim a young man of twenty, unknown, amid an audience of men and women who listened with rapturous applause to his own thoughts and words. That evening at the theatre of Mannheim had been a decisive evening,—it was an epoch in the history of his life; he had felt his power and the calling of his genius; he had perceived, though in a dim distance, the course he had to run and the laurels he had to gain. When he saw that the humor of the Duke was not likely to improve, he fled from a place where his wings were clipped and his voice silenced. Now, this flight from one small German town to another may seem a matter of very little consequence at present. But in Schiller's time it was a matter of life and death. German sovereigns were accustomed to look upon their subjects as their property. Without even the show of a trial the poet Schubart had been condemned to life-long confinement by this same Duke Charles. Schiller, in fleeing his benefactor's dominions, had not only thrown away all his chances in life, but he had placed his safety and the safety of his family in extreme danger. It was a bold, perhaps a reckless step. But whatever we may think of it in a moral point of view, as historians we must look upon it as the Hegira in the life of the poet.
Schiller was now a man of one or two and twenty, thrown upon the world penniless, with nothing to depend on but his brains. The next ten years were hard years for him; they were years of unsettledness, sometimes of penury and despair, sometimes of extravagance and folly. This third period in Schiller's life is not marked by any great literary achievements. It would be almost a blank were it not for the "Don Carlos," which he wrote during his stay near Dresden, between 1785-87. His "Fiesco" and "Cabale und Liebe," though they came out after his flight from Stuttgard, had been conceived before, and they were only repeated protests, in the form of tragedies, against the tyranny of rulers and the despotism of society. They show no advance in the growth of Schiller's mind. Yet that mind, though less productive than might have been expected, was growing as every mind grows between the years of twenty and thirty; and it was growing chiefly through contact with men. We must make full allowance for the powerful influence exercised at that time by the literature of the day (by the writings of Herder, Lessing, and Goethe), and by political events, such as the French Revolution. But if we watch Schiller's career carefully, we see that his character was chiefly moulded by his intercourse with men. His life was rich in friendships, and what mainly upheld him in his struggles and dangers was the sympathy of several high-born and high-minded persons, in whom the ideals of his own mind seemed to have found their fullest realization.
Next to our faith in God, there is nothing so essential to the healthy growth of our whole being as an unshaken faith in man. This faith in man is the great feature in Schiller's character, and he owes it to a kind Providence which brought him in contact with such noble natures as Frau von Wolzogen, Koerner, Dalberg; in later years with his wife; with the Duke of Weimar, the Prince of Augustenburg, and lastly with Goethe. There was at that time a powerful tension in the minds of men, and particularly of the higher classes, which led them to do things which at other times men only aspire to do. The impulses of a most exalted morality—a morality which is so apt to end in mere declamation and deceit—were not only felt by them, but obeyed and carried out. Frau von Wolzogen, knowing nothing of Schiller except that he had been at the same school with her son, received the exiled poet, though fully aware that by doing so she might have displeased the Duke and blasted her fortunes and those of her children. Schiller preserved the tenderest attachment to this motherly friend through life, and his letters to her display a most charming innocence and purity of mind.
Another friend was Koerner, a young lawyer living at Leipzig, and afterwards at Dresden—a man who had himself to earn his bread. He had learned to love Schiller from his writings; he received him at his house, a perfect stranger, and shared with the poor poet his moderate income with a generosity worthy of a prince. He, too, remained his friend through life; his son was Theodore Koerner, the poet of "Lyre and Sword," who fell fighting as a volunteer for his country against French invaders.
A third friend and patron of Schiller was Dalberg. He was the coadjutor, and was to have been the successor, of the Elector of Hesse, then an ecclesiastical Electorate. His rank was that of a reigning prince, and he was made afterwards by Napoleon Fuerst-Primas—Prince Primate—of the Confederation of the Rhine. But it was not his station, his wealth, and influence, it was his mind and heart which made him the friend of Schiller, Goethe, Herder, Wieland, Jean Paul, and all the most eminent intellects of his time. It is refreshing to read the letters of this Prince. Though they belong to a later period of Schiller's life, a few passages may here be quoted in order to characterize his friend and patron. Dalberg had promised Schiller a pension of 4,000 florins (not 4,000 thalers, as M. Regnier asserts) as soon as he should succeed to the Electorate, and Schiller in return had asked him for some hints with regard to his own future literary occupations. The Prince answers: "Your letter has delighted me. To be remembered by a man of your heart and mind is a true joy to me. I do not venture to determine what Schiller's comprehensive and vivifying genius is to undertake. But may I be allowed to humbly express a wish that spirits endowed with the powers of giants should ask themselves, 'How can I be most useful to mankind?' This inquiry, I think, leads most surely to immortality, and the rewards of a peaceful conscience. May you enjoy the purest happiness, and think sometimes of your friend and servant, Dalberg." When Schiller was hesitating between history and dramatic poetry, Dalberg's keen eye discovered at once that the stage was Schiller's calling, and that there his influence would be most beneficial. Schiller seemed to think that a professorial chair in a German university was a more honorable position than that of a poet. Dalberg writes: "Influence on mankind" (for this he knew to be Schiller's highest ambition) "depends on the vigor and strength which a man throws into his works. Thucydides and Xenophon would not deny that poets like Sophocles and Horace have had at least as much influence on the world as they themselves." When the French invasion threatened the ruin of Germany and the downfall of the German sovereigns, Dalberg writes again, in 1796, with perfect serenity: "True courage must never fail! The friends of virtue and truth ought now to act and speak all the more vigorously and straightforwardly. In the end, what you, excellent friend, have so beautifully said in your 'Ideals' remains true: 'The diligence of the righteous works slowly but surely, and friendship is soothing comfort. It is only when I hope to be hereafter of assistance to my friends that I wish for a better fate.' " The society and friendship of such men, who are rare in all countries and in all ages, served to keep up in Schiller's mind those ideal notions of mankind which he had first imbibed from his own heart, and from the works of philosophers. They find expression in all his writings, but are most eloquently described in his "Don Carlos." We should like to give some extracts from the dialogue between King Philip and the Marquis Posa; but our space is precious, and hardly allows us to do more than just to glance at those other friends and companions whose nobility of mind and generosity of heart left so deep an impress on the poet's soul.
The name of Karl August, the Duke of Weimar, has acquired such a world-wide celebrity as the friend of Goethe and Schiller that we need not dwell long on his relation to our poet. As early as 1784 Schiller was introduced to him at Darmstadt, where he was invited to court to read some scenes of his "Don Carlos." The Duke gave him then the title of "Rath," and from the year 1787, when Schiller first settled at Weimar, to the time of his death, in 1804, he remained his firm friend. The friendship of the Prince was returned by the poet, who, in the days of his glory, declined several advantageous offers from Vienna and other places, and remained at the court of Weimar, satisfied with the small salary which that great Duke was able to give him.
There was but one other Prince whose bounty Schiller accepted, and his name deserves to be mentioned, not so much for his act of generosity as for the sentiment which prompted it. In 1792, when Schiller was ill and unable to write, he received a letter from the Hereditary Prince of Holstein-Augustenburg and from Count Schimmelmann. We quote from the letter:—
"Your shattered health, we hear, requires rest, but your circumstances do not allow it. Will you grudge us the pleasure of enabling you to enjoy that rest? We offer you for three years an annual present of 1,000 thalers. Accept this offer, noble man. Let not our titles induce you to decline it. We know what they are worth; we know no pride but that of being men, citizens of that great republic which comprises more than the life of single generations, more than the limits of this globe. You have to deal with men,—your brothers,—not with proud princes, who, by this employment of their wealth, would fain indulge but in a more refined kind of pride."
No conditions were attached to this present, though a situation in Denmark was offered if Schiller should wish to go there. Schiller accepted the gift so nobly offered, but he never saw his unknown friends.(12) We owe to them, humanly speaking, the last years of Schiller's life, and with them the master-works of his genius, from "Wallenstein" to "William Tell." As long as these works are read and admired, the names of these noble benefactors will be remembered and revered.
The name of her whom we mentioned next among Schiller's noble friends and companions,—we mean his wife,—reminds us that we have anticipated events, and that we left Schiller after his flight in 1782, at the very beginning of his most trying years. His hopes of success at Mannheim had failed. The director of the Mannheim theatre, also a Dalberg, declined to assist him. He spent the winter in great solitude at the country-house of Frau von Wolzogen, finishing "Cabale und Liebe," and writing "Fiesco." In the summer of 1783 he returned to Mannheim, where he received an appointment in connection with the theatre of about L40 a year. Here he stayed till 1785, when he went to Leipzig, and afterwards to Dresden, living chiefly at the expense of his friend Koerner. This unsettled kind of life continued till 1787, and produced, as we saw, little more than his tragedy of "Don Carlos." In the mean time, however, his taste for history had been developed. He had been reading more systematically at Dresden, and after he had gone to Weimar in 1787 he was able to publish, in 1788, his "History of the Revolt of the Netherlands." On the strength of this he was appointed professor at Jena in 1789, first without a salary, afterwards with about L30 a year. He tells us himself how hard he had to work: "Every day," he says, "I must compose a whole lecture and write it out,—nearly two sheets of printed matter, not to mention the time occupied in delivering the lecture and making extracts." However, he had now gained a position, and his literary works began to be better paid. In 1790 he was enabled to marry a lady of rank, who was proud to become the wife of the poor poet, and was worthy to be the "wife of Schiller." Schiller was now chiefly engaged in historical researches. He wrote his "History of the Thirty Years' War" in 1791-92, and it was his ambition to be recognized as a German professor rather than as a German poet. He had to work hard in order to make up for lost time, and under the weight of excessive labor his health broke down. He was unable to lecture, unable to write. It was then that the generous present of the Duke of Augustenburg freed him for a time from the most pressing cares, and enabled him to recover his health.
The years of thirty to thirty-five were a period of transition and preparation in Schiller's life, to be followed by another ten years of work and triumph. These intermediate years were chiefly spent in reading history and studying philosophy, more especially the then reigning philosophy of Kant. Numerous essays on philosophy, chiefly on the Good, the Beautiful, and the Sublime, were published during this interval. But what is more important, Schiller's mind was enlarged, enriched, and invigorated; his poetical genius, by lying fallow for a time, gave promise of a richer harvest to come; his position in the world became more honorable, and his confidence in himself was strengthened by the confidence placed in him by all around him. A curious compliment was paid him by the Legislative Assembly then sitting at Paris. On the 26th of August, 1792, a decree was passed, conferring the title of Citoyen Francais on eighteen persons belonging to various countries, friends of liberty and universal brotherhood. In the same list with Schiller were the names of Klopstock, Campe, Washington, Kosciusko, and Wilberforce. The decree was signed by Roland, Minister of the Interior, and countersigned by Danton. It did not reach Schiller till after the enthusiasm which he too had shared for the early heroes of the French Revolution had given way to disappointment and horror. In the month of December of the very year in which he had been thus honored by the Legislative Assembly, Schiller was on the point of writing an appeal to the French nation in defense of Louis XVI. The King's head, however, had fallen before this defense was begun. Schiller, a true friend of true liberty, never ceased to express his aversion to the violent proceedings of the French revolutionists. "It is the work of passion," he said, "and not of that wisdom which alone can lead to real liberty." He admitted that many important ideas, which formerly existed in books only or in the heads of a few enlightened people, had become more generally current through the French Revolution. But he maintained that the real principles which ought to form the basis of a truly happy political constitution were still hidden from view. Pointing to a volume of Kant's "Criticism of Pure Reason," he said, "There they are, and nowhere else; the French republic will fall as rapidly as it has risen; the republican government will lapse into anarchy, and sooner or later a man of genius will appear (he may come from any place) who will make himself not only master of France, but perhaps also of a great part of Europe." This was a remarkable prophecy for a young professor of history.
The last decisive event in Schiller's life was his friendship with Goethe. It dates from 1794, and with this year begins the great and crowning period of Schiller's life. To this period belong his "Wallenstein," his "Song of the Bell," his Ballads (1797-98), his "Mary Stuart" (1800), the "Maid of Orleans" (1801), the "Bride of Messina" (1803), and "William Tell;" in fact, all the works which have made Schiller a national poet and gained for him a worldwide reputation and an immortal name.
Goethe's character was in many respects diametrically opposed to Schiller's, and for many years it seemed impossible that there should ever be a community of thought and feeling between the two. Attempts to bring together these great rivals were repeatedly made by their mutual friends. Schiller had long felt himself drawn by the powerful genius of Goethe, and Goethe had long felt that Schiller was the only poet who could claim to be his peer. After an early interview with Goethe, Schiller writes, "On the whole, this meeting has not at all diminished the idea, great as it was, which I had previously formed of Goethe; but I doubt if we shall ever come into close communication with each other. Much that interests me has already had its epoch with him; his world is not my world." Goethe had expressed the same feeling. He saw Schiller occupying the very position which he himself had given up as untenable; he saw his powerful genius carrying out triumphantly "those very paradoxes, moral and dramatic, from which he was struggling to get liberated." "No union," as Goethe writes, "was to be dreamt of. Between two spiritual antipodes there was more intervening than a simple diameter of the spheres. Antipodes of that sort act as a kind of poles, which can never coalesce." How the first approach between these two opposite poles took place Goethe has himself described, in a paper entitled "Happy Incidents." But no happy incident could have led to that glorious friendship, which stands alone in the literary history of the whole world, if there had not been on the part of Schiller his warm sympathy for all that is great and noble, and on the part of Goethe a deep interest in every manifestation of natural genius. Their differences on almost every point of art, philosophy, and religion, which at first seemed to separate them forever, only drew them more closely together, when they discovered in each other those completing elements which produced true harmony of souls. Nor is it right to say that Schiller owes more to Goethe than Goethe to Schiller. If Schiller received from Goethe the higher rules of art and a deeper insight into human nature, Goethe drank from the soul of his friend the youth and vigor, the purity and simplicity, which we never find in any of Goethe's works before his "Hermann and Dorothea." And, as in most friendships, it was not so much Goethe as he was, but Goethe as reflected in his friend's soul, who henceforth became Schiller's guide and guardian. Schiller possessed the art of admiring, an art so much more rare than the art of criticising. His eye was so absorbed in all that was great, and noble, and pure, and high in Goethe's mind, that he could not, or would not, see the defects in his character. And Goethe was to Schiller what he was to no one else. He was what Schiller believed him to be; afraid to fall below his friend's ideal, he rose beyond himself until that high ideal was reached, which only a Schiller could have formed. Without this regenerating friendship it is doubtful whether some of the most perfect creations of Goethe and Schiller would ever have been called into existence.
We saw Schiller gradually sinking into a German professor, the sphere of his sympathies narrowed, the aim of his ambition lowered. His energies were absorbed in collecting materials and elaborating his "History of the Thirty Years' War," which was published in 1792. The conception of his great dramatic Trilogy, the "Wallenstein," which dates from 1791, was allowed to languish until it was taken up again for Goethe, and finished for Goethe in 1799. Goethe knew how to admire and encourage, but he also knew how to criticise and advise. Schiller, by nature meditative rather than observant, had been most powerfully attracted by Kant's ideal philosophy. Next to his historical researches, most of his time at Jena was given to metaphysical studies. Not only his mind, but his language suffered from the attenuating influences of that rarefied atmosphere which pervades the higher regions of metaphysical thought. His mind was attracted by the general and the ideal, and lost all interest in the individual and the real. This was not a right frame of mind, either for an historian or a dramatic poet. In Goethe, too, the philosophical element was strong, but it was kept under by the practical tendencies of his mind. Schiller looked for his ideal beyond the real world; and, like the pictures of a Raphael, his conceptions seemed to surpass in purity and harmony all that human eye had ever seen. Goethe had discovered that the truest ideal lies hidden in real life; and like the master-works of a Michael Angelo, his poetry reflected that highest beauty which is revealed in the endless variety of creation, and must there be discovered by the artist and the poet. In Schiller's early works every character was the personification of an idea. In his "Wallenstein" we meet for the first time with real men and real life. In his "Don Carlos," Schiller, under various disguises more or less transparent, acts every part himself. In "Wallenstein" the heroes of the "Thirty Years' War" maintain their own individuality, and are not forced to discuss the social problems of Rousseau, or the metaphysical theories of Kant. Schiller was himself aware of this change, though he was hardly conscious of its full bearing. While engaged in composing his "Wallenstein," he writes to a friend:—
"I do my business very differently from what I used to do. The subject seems to be so much outside me that I can hardly get up any feeling for it. The subject I treat leaves me cold and indifferent, and yet I am full of enthusiasm for my work. With the exception of two characters to which I feel attached, Max Piccolomini and Thekla, I treat all the rest, and particularly the principal character of the play, only with the pure love of the artist. But I can promise you that they will not suffer from this. I look to history for limitation, in order to give, through surrounding circumstances, a stricter form and reality to my ideals. I feel sure that the historical will not draw me down or cripple me. I only desire through it to impart life to my characters and their actions. The life and soul must come from another source, through that power which I have already perhaps shown elsewhere, and without which even the first conception of this work would, of course, have been impossible."
How different is this from what Schiller felt in former years! In writing "Don Carlos," he laid down as a principle, that the poet must not be the painter but the lover of his heroes, and in his early days he found it intolerable in Shakespeare's dreams that he could nowhere lay his hand on the poet himself. He was then, as he himself expresses it, unable to understand nature, except at second-hand.
Goethe was Schiller's friend, but he was also Schiller's rival. There is a perilous period in the lives of great men, namely, the time when they begin to feel that their position is made, that they have no more rivals to fear. Goethe was feeling this at the time when he met Schiller. He was satiated with applause, and his bearing towards the public at large became careless and offensive. In order to find men with whom he might measure himself, he began to write on the history of Art, and to devote himself to natural philosophy. Schiller, too, had gained his laurels chiefly as a dramatic poet; and though he still valued the applause of the public, yet his ambition as a poet was satisfied; he was prouder of his "Thirty Years' War" than of his "Robbers" and "Don Carlos." When Goethe became intimate with Schiller, and discovered in him those powers which as yet were hidden to others, he felt that there was a man with whom even he might run a race. Goethe was never jealous of Schiller. He felt conscious of his own great powers, and he was glad to have those powers again called out by one who would be more difficult to conquer than all his former rivals. Schiller, on the other hand, perceived in Goethe the true dignity of a poet. At Jena his ambition was to have the title of Professor of History; at Weimar he saw that it was a greater honor to be called a poet, and the friend of Goethe. When he saw that Goethe treated him as his friend, and that the Duke and his brilliant court looked upon him as his equal, Schiller, too modest to suppose he had earned such favors, was filled with a new zeal, and his poetical genius displayed for a time an almost inexhaustible energy. Scarcely had his "Wallenstein" been finished, in 1799, when he began his "Mary Stuart." This play was finished in the summer of 1800, and a new one was taken in hand in the same year,—the "Maid of Orleans." In the spring of 1801 the "Maid of Orleans" appeared on the stage, to be followed in 1803 by the "Bride of Messina," and in 1804 by his last great work, his "William Tell." During the same time Schiller composed his best ballads, his "Song of the Bell," his epigrams, and his beautiful Elegy, not to mention his translations and adaptations of English and French plays for the theatre at Weimar. After his "William Tell" Schiller could feel that he no longer owed his place by the side of Goethe to favor and friendship, but to his own work and worth. His race was run, his laurels gained. His health, however, was broken, and his bodily frame too weak to support the strain of his mighty spirit. Death came to his relief, giving rest to his mind, and immortality to his name.
Let us look back once more on the life of Schiller. The lives of great men are the lives of martyrs; we cannot regard them as examples to follow, but rather as types of human excellence to study and to admire. The life of Schiller was not one which many of us would envy; it was a life of toil and suffering, of aspiration rather than of fulfillment, a long battle with scarcely a moment of rest for the conqueror to enjoy his hard-won triumphs. To an ambitious man the last ten years of the poet's life might seem an ample reward for the thirty years' war of life which he had to fight single-handed. But Schiller was too great a man to be ambitious. Fame with him was a means, never an object. There was a higher, a nobler aim in his life, which upheld him in all his struggles. From the very beginning of his career Schiller seems to have felt that his life was not his. He never lived for himself; he lived and worked for mankind. He discovered within himself how much there was of the good, the noble, and the beautiful in human nature; he had never been deceived in his friends. And such was his sympathy with the world at large that he could not bear to see in any rank of life the image of man, created in the likeness of God, distorted by cunning, pride, and selfishness. His whole poetry may be said to be written on the simple text, "Be true, be good, be noble!" It may seem a short text, but truth is very short, and the work of the greatest teachers of mankind has always consisted in the unflinching inculcation of these short truths. There is in Schiller's works a kernel full of immortal growth, which will endure long after the brilliant colors of his poetry have faded away. That kernel is the man, and without it Schiller's poetry, like all other poetry, is but the song of sirens. Schiller's character has been subjected to that painful scrutiny to which, in modern times, the characters of great men are subjected; everything he ever did, or said, or thought, has been published; and yet it would be difficult, in the whole course of his life, to point out one act, one word, one thought, that could be called mean, untrue, or selfish. From the beginning to the end Schiller remained true to himself; he never acted a part, he never bargained with the world. We may differ from him on many points of politics, ethics, and religion; but though we differ, we must always respect and admire. His life is the best commentary on his poetry; there is never a discrepancy between the two. As mere critics, we may be able to admire a poet without admiring the man; but poetry, it should be remembered, was not meant for critics only, and its highest purpose is never fulfilled, except where, as with Schiller, we can listen to the poet and look up to the man.
V. WILHELM MUeLLER.(13) 1794-1827.
Seldom has a poet in a short life of thirty years engraven his name so deeply on the memorial tablets of the history of German poetry as Wilhelm Mueller. Although the youthful efforts of a poet may be appreciated by those few who are able to admire what is good and beautiful, even though it has never before been admired by others, yet in order permanently to win the ear and heart of his people, a poet must live with the people, and take part in the movements and struggles of his age. Thus only can he hope to stir and mould the thoughts of his contemporaries, and to remain a permanent living power in the recollections of his countrymen. Wilhelm Mueller died at the very moment when the rich blossoms of his poetic genius were forming fruit; and after he had warmed and quickened the hearts of the youth of Germany with the lyric songs of his own youth, only a short span of time was granted him to show the world, as he did more especially in his "Greek Songs" and "Epigrams," the higher goal toward which he aspired. In these his last works one readily perceives that his poetry would not have reflected the happy dreams of youth only, but that he could perceive the poetry of life in its sorrows as clearly as in its joys, and depict it in true and vivid colors.
One may, I think, divide the friends and admirers of Wilhelm Mueller into two classes: those who rejoice and delight in his fresh and joyous songs, and those who admire the nobleness and force of his character as shown in the poems celebrating the war of Greek independence, and in his epigrams. All poetry is not for every one, nor for every one at all times. There are critics and historians of literature who cannot tolerate songs of youth, of love, and of wine; they always ask "why?" and "wherefore?" and they demand in all poetry, before anything else, high or deep thoughts. No doubt there can be no poetry without thought, but there are thoughts which are poetical without being drawn from the deepest depths of the heart and brain, nay, which are poetical just because they are as simple and true and natural as the flowers of the field or the stars of heaven. There is a poetry for the old, but there is also a poetry for the young. The young demand in poetry an interpretation of their own youthful feelings, and first learn truly to understand themselves through those poets who speak for them as they would speak for themselves, had nature endowed them with melody of thought and harmony of diction. Youth is and will remain the majority of the world, and will let no gloomy brow rob it of its poetic enthusiasm for young love and old wine. True, youth is not over-critical; true, it does not know how to speak or write in learned phrases of the merits of its favorite poets. But for all that, where is the poet who would not rather live in the warm recollection of the never-dying youth of his nation than in voluminous encyclopaedias, or even in the marble Walhallas of Germany? The story and the songs of a miller's man who loves his master's daughter, and of a miller's daughter who loves a huntsman better, may seem very trivial, commonplace, and unpoetical to many a man of forty or fifty. But there are men of forty and fifty who have never lost sight of the bright but now far-off days of their own youth, who can still rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep, and love with those that love,—aye, who can still fill their glasses with old and young, and in whose eyes every-day life has not destroyed the poetic bloom that rests everywhere on life so long as it is lived with warm and natural feelings. Songs which, like the "Beautiful Miller's Daughter" and the "Winter Journey," could so penetrate and again spring forth from the soul of Franz Schubert, may well stir the very depths of our own hearts, without the need of fearing the wise looks of those who possess the art of saying nothing in many words. Why should poetry be less free than painting to seek for what is beautiful wherever a human eye can discover, wherever human art can imitate it? No one blames the painter if, instead of giddy peaks or towering waves, he delineates on his canvas a quiet narrow valley, filled with a green mist, and enlivened only by a gray mill and a dark brown mill-wheel, from which the spray rises like silver dust, and then floats away, and vanishes in the rays of the sun. Is what is not too common for the painter, too common for the poet? Is an idyl in the truest, warmest, softest colors of the soul, like the "Beautiful Miller's Daughter," less a work of art than a landscape by Ruysdael? And observe in these songs how the execution suits the subject; their tone is thoroughly popular, and reminds many of us, perhaps too much, of the popular songs collected by Arnim and Brentano in "Des Knaben Wunderhorn." But this could not be helped. Theocritus could not write his idyls in grand Attic Greek; he needed the homeliness of the Boeotian dialect. It was the same with Wilhelm Mueller, who must not be blamed for expressions which now perhaps, more than formerly, may sound, to fastidious ears, too homely or commonplace.
His simple and natural conception of nature is shown most beautifully in the "Wanderer's Songs," and in the "Spring Wreath from the Plauen Valley." Nowhere do we find a labored thought or a labored word. The lovely spring world is depicted exactly as it is, but over all is thrown the life and inspiration of a poet's eye and a poet's mind, which perceives and gives utterance to what others fail to see, and silent nature cannot utter. It is this recognition of the beautiful in what is insignificant, of greatness in what is small, of the marvelous in ordinary life,—yes, this perception of the divine in every earthly enjoyment,—which gives its own charm to each of Wilhelm Mueller's smallest poems, and endears them so truly to those who, amidst the hurry of life, have not forgotten the delight of absorption in nature, who have never lost their faith in the mystery of the divine presence in all that is beautiful, good, and true on earth. We need only read the "Fruehlingsmahl," or "Pfingsten" to see how a whole world, aye, a whole heaven, may be mirrored in the tiniest drop of dew.
And as enjoyment of nature finds so clear an echo in the poetry of Wilhelm Mueller, so also does the delight which man should have in man. Drinking songs and table songs do not belong to the highest flights of poetry; but if the delights of friendly meetings and greetings belong to some of the brightest moments of human happiness, why should a poet hold them to be beneath his muse? There is something especially German in all drinking songs, and no other nation has held its wine in such honor. Can one imagine English poems on port and sherry? or has a Frenchman much to tell us of his Bordeaux, or even of his Burgundy? The reason that the poetry of wine is unknown in England and France is, that in these countries people know nothing of what lends its poetry to wine, namely, the joyous consciousness of mutual pleasure, the outpouring of hearts, the feeling of common brotherhood, which makes learned professors and divines, generals and ministers, men once more at the sound of the ringing glasses. This purely human delight in the enjoyment of life, in the flavor of the German wine, and in the yet higher flavor of the German Symposium, finds it happiest expression in the drinking songs of Wilhelm Mueller. They have often been set to music by the best masters, and have long been sung by the happy and joyous. The name of the poet is often forgotten, whilst many of his songs have become popular songs, just because they were sung from the heart and soul of the German people, as the people were fifty years ago, and as the best of them still are, in spite of many changes in the Fatherland.
It is easy to see that a serious tone is not wanting even in the drinking songs. The wine was good, but the times were bad. Those who, like Wilhelm Mueller, had shared in the great sufferings and the great hopes of the German people, and who then saw that after all the sacrifices that had been made, all was in vain, all was again as bad or even worse than before, could with difficulty conceal their disaffection, however helpless they felt themselves against the brutalities of those in power. Many, who like Wilhelm Mueller had labored to reanimate German popular feeling; who like him had left the university to sacrifice as common soldiers their life and life's happiness to the freedom of the Fatherland, and who then saw how the terror felt by the scarcely rescued princes of their deliverers, and the fear of foreign nations of a united and strong Germany, joined hand in hand to destroy the precious seed sown in blood and tears,—could not always suppress their gloomy anger at such faint-hearted, weak-minded policy. On the first of January, 1820, Wilhelm Mueller wrote thus, in the dedication of the second part of his "Letters from Rome" to his friend Atterbom, the Swedish poet, with whom he had but a short time before passed the Carnival time in Italy joyously and carelessly: "And thus I greet you in your old sacred Fatherland, not jokingly and merrily, like the book, whose writer seems to have become a stranger to me, but earnestly and briefly; for the great fast of the European world, expecting the passion, and waiting for deliverance, can endure no indifferent shrug of the shoulders and no hollow compromises and excuses. He who cannot act at this time, can yet rest and mourn." For such words, veiled as they were, resigned as they were, the fortress of Mayence was at that time the usual answer.
"Deutsch und frei und stark und lauter In dem deutschen Land Ist der Wein allein geblieben An der Rheines Strand. Ist der nicht ein Demagoge, Wer soll einer sein? Mainz, du stolze Bundesfeste, Sperr ihn nur nicht ein."(14)
That Wilhelm Mueller escaped the petty and annoying persecutions of the then police system, he owed partly to the retired life he led in his little native country, partly to his own good spirits, which prevented him from entirely sinking the man in the politician. He had some enemies in the little court, whose Duke and Duchess were personally so attached to him. A prosperous life such as his could not fail to attract envy, and his frank, guileless character gave plenty of occasion for suspicion. But the only answer which he vouchsafed to his detractors was:—
"Und lasst mir doch mein volles Glass, Und lasst mir meinen guten Spass, Mit unsrer schlechten Zeit! Wer bei dem Weine singt und lacht, Den thut, ihr Herrn, nicht in die Acht! Ein Kind ist Froehligkeit."(15)
Wilhelm Mueller evidently felt that when words are not deeds, or do not lead to deeds, silence is more worthy of a man than speech. He never became a political poet, at least never in his own country. But when the rising of the Greeks appealed to those human sympathies of Christian nations which can never be quite extinguished, and when here, too, the faint-hearted policy of the great powers played and bargained over the great events in the east of Europe instead of trusting to those principles which alone can secure the true and lasting well-being of states, as well as of individuals, then the long accumulated wrath of the poet and of the man burst forth and found utterance in the songs on the Greek war of independence. Human, Christian, political, and classical sympathies stirred his heart, and breathed that life into his poems, which most of them still possess. It is astonishing how a young man in a small isolated town like Dessau, almost shut out from intercourse with the great world, could have followed step by step the events of the Greek revolution, seizing on all the right, the beauty, the grandeur of the struggle, making himself intimately acquainted with the dominant characters, whilst he at the same time mastered the peculiar local coloring of the passing events. Wilhelm Mueller was not only a poet, but he was intimately acquainted with classic antiquity. He knew the Greeks and the Romans. And just as during his stay in Rome he recognized at all points the old in what was new, and everywhere sought to find what was eternal in the eternal city, so now with him the modern Greeks were inseparably joined with the ancient. A knowledge of the modern Greek language appeared to him the natural completion of the study of old Greek; and it was his acquaintance with the popular songs of modern as well as of ancient Hellas that gave the color which imparted such a vivid expression of truth and naturalness to his own Greek songs. It was thus that the "Griechen Lieder" arose, which appeared in separate but rapid numbers, and found great favor with the people. But even these "Griechen Lieder" caused anxiety to the paternal governments of those days:—
"Ruh und Friede will Europa—warum hast du sie gestoert? Warum mit dem Wahn der Freiheit eigenmaechtig dich bethoert? Hoff' auf keines Herren Huelfe gegen eines Herren Frohn: Auch des Tuerkenkaisers Polster nennt Europa einen Thron."(16)
His last poems were suppressed by the Censor, as well as his "Hymn on the Death of Raphael Riego." Some of these were first published long after his death; others must have been lost whilst in the Censor's hands.
Two of the Greek songs, "Mark Bozzaris," and "Song before Battle," may help the English reader to form his own opinion both of the poetical genius and of the character of Wilhelm Mueller:—
Oeffne deine hohen Thore, Missolunghi, Stadt der Ehren, Wo der Helden Leichen ruhen, die uns froehlich sterben lehren, Oeffne deine hohen Thore, oeffne deine tiefen Gruefte, Auf, und streue Lorberreiser auf den Pfad und in die Luefte; Mark Bozzari's edlen Leib bringen wir zu dir getragen. Mark Bozzari's! Wer darf's wagen, solchen Helden zu beklagen? Willst zuerst du seine Wunden oder seine Siege zaehlen? Keinem Sieg wird eine Wunde, keiner Wund' ein Sieg hier fehlen. Sieh auf unsern Lanzenspitzen sich die Turbanhaeupter drehen, Sieh, wie ueber seiner Bahre die Osmanenfahnen wehen, Sieh, o sieh die letzten Werke, die vollbracht des Helden Rechte In dem Feld von Karpinissi, wo sein Stahl im Blute zechte! In der schwarzen Geisterstunde rief er unsre Schar zusammen. Funken spruehten unsre Augen durch die Racht wie Wetterflammen, Uebers Knie zerbrachen wir jauchzend unsrer Schwerter Scheiden, Um mit Sensen einzumaehen in die feisten Tuerkenweiden; Und wir drueckten uns die Haende, und wir strichen uns die Baerte, Und der stampfte mit dem Fusze, und der rieb an seinem Schwerte. Da erscholl Bozzari's Stimme: "Auf, ins Lager der Barbaren! Auf, mir nach! Verirrt euch nicht, Brueder, in der Feinde Scharen! Sucht ihr mich, im Zelt des Paschas werdet ihr mich sicher finden. Auf, mit Gott! Er hilft die Feinde, hilft den Tod auch ueberwinden! Auf!" Und die Trompete risz er hastig aus des Blaesers Haenden Und stiesz selbst hinein so hell, dasz es von den Felsenwaenden Heller stets und heller muszte sich verdoppelnd widerhallen; Aber heller widerhallt' es doch in unsern Herzen allen. Wie des Herren Blitz und Donner aus der Wolkenburg der Naechte, Also traf das Schwert der Freien die Tyrannen und die Knechte; Wie die Tuba des Gerichtes wird dereinst die Suender wecken, Also scholl durchs Tuerkenlager brausend dieser Ruf der Schrecken: "Mark Bozzari! Mark Bozzari! Sulioten! Sulioten!" Solch ein guter Morgengrusz ward den Schlaefern da entboten. Und sie ruettelten sich auf, und gleich hirtenlosen Schafen Rannten sie durch alle Gassen, bis sie aneinander trafen Und, bethoert von Todesengeln, die durch ihre Schwaerme gingen, Brueder sich in blinder Wuth stuerzten in der Brueder Klingen. Frag' die Nacht nach unsern Thaten; sie hat uns im Kampf gesehen— Aber wird der Tag es glauben, was in dieser Nacht geschehen? Hundert Griechen, tausend Tuerken: also war die Saat zu schauen Auf dem Feld von Karpinissi, als das Licht begann zu grauen. Mark Bozzari, Mark Bozzari, und dich haben wir gefunden— Kenntlich nur an deinem Schwerte, kenntlich nur an deinen Wunden, An den Wunden, die du schlugest, und an denen, die dich trafen— Wie du es verheiszen hattest, in dem Zelt des Paschas schlafen.
Oeffne deine hohen Thore, Missolunghi, Stadt der Ehren, Wo der Helden Leichen ruhen, die uns froehlich sterben lehren, Oeffne deine tiefen Gruefte, dasz wir in den heil'gen Staetten Neben Helden unsern Helden zu dem langen Schlafe betten!— Schlafe bei dem deutschen Grafen, Grafen Normann, Fels der Ehren, Bis die Stimmen des Gerichtes alle Graeber werden leeren.
Open wide, proud Missolonghi, open wide thy portals high, Where repose the bones of heroes, teach us cheerfully to die! Open wide thy lofty portals, open wide thy vaults profound; Up, and scatter laurel garlands to the breeze and on the ground! Mark Bozzaris' noble body is the freight to thee we bear,— Mark Bozzaris'! Who for hero great as he to weep will dare? Tell his wounds, his victories over! Which in number greatest be? Every victory has its wound, and every wound its victory! See, a turbaned head is grimly set on all our lances here! See, how the Osmanli's banner swathes in purple folds his bier! See, O see the latest trophies, which our hero's glory sealed, When his glaive with gore was drunken on great Karpinissi's field! In the murkiest hour of midnight did we at his call arise; Through the gloom like lightning-flashes flashed the fury from our eyes; With a shout, across our knees we snapped the scabbards of our swords, Better down to mow the harvest of the mellow Turkish hordes; And we clasped our hands together, and each warrior stroked his beard, And one stamped the sward, another rubbed his blade, and vowed its wierd. Then Bozzaris' voice resounded: "On, to the barbarian's lair! On, and follow me, my brothers, see you keep together there! Should you miss me, you will find me surely in the Pasha's tent! On, with God! Through Him our foemen, death itself through Him is shent! On!" And swift he snatched the bugle from the hands of him that blew, And himself awoke a summons that o'er dale and mountain flew, Till each rock and cliff made answer clear and clearer to the call, But a clearer echo sounded in the bosom of us all! As from midnight's battlemented keep the lightnings of the Lord Sweep, so swept our swords, and smote the tyrants and their slavish horde; As the trump of doom shall waken sinners in their graves that lie, So through all the Turkish leaguer thundered his appalling cry: "Mark Bozzaris! Mark Bozzaris! Suliotes, smite them in their lair!" Such the goodly morning greeting that we gave the sleepers there. And they staggered from their slumber, and they ran from street to street, Ran like sheep without a shepherd, striking wild at all they meet; Ran, and frenzied by Death's angels, who amidst their myriads strayed, Brother, in bewildered fury, dashed and fell on brother's blade. Ask the night of our achievements! It beheld us in the fight, But the day will never credit what we did in yonder night. Greeks by hundreds, Turks by thousands, there like scattered seed they lay, On the field of Karpinissi, when the morning broke in gray. Mark Bozarris, Mark Bozarris, and we found thee gashed and mown By thy sword alone we knew thee, knew thee by thy wounds alone; By the wounds thy hand had cloven, by the wounds that seamed thy breast, Lying, as thou hadst foretold us, in the Pasha's tent at rest!