The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VII.
Author: Various
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There is an ethical element in war. It must not be regarded as an absolute ill, or as merely an external calamity which is accidentally based upon the passions of despotic individuals or nations, upon acts of injustice, and, in general, upon what ought not to be. The recognition of the finite, such as property and life, as accidental, is necessary. This necessity is at first wont to appear under the form of a force of nature, for all things finite are mortal and transient. In the ethical order, in the State, however, nature is robbed of its force, and the necessity is exalted to a work of freedom, to an ethical law. The transient and negative nature of all things is transformed in the State into an expression of the ethical will. War, often painted by edifying speech as a state in which the vanity of temporal things is demonstrated, now becomes an element whereby the ideal character of the particular receives its right and reality. War has the deep meaning that by it the ethical health of the nations is preserved and their finite aims uprooted. And as the winds which sweep over the ocean prevent the decay that would result from its perpetual calm, so war protects the people from the corruption which an everlasting peace would bring upon it. History shows phases which illustrate how successful wars have checked internal unrest and have strengthened the entire stability of the State.

In peace, civic life becomes more extended, every sphere is hedged in and grows immobile, and at last all men stagnate, their particular nature becoming more and more hardened and ossified. Only in the unity of a body is health, and, where the organs become stiff, there is death. Eternal peace is often demanded as an ideal toward which mankind should move. Thus Kant proposed an alliance of princes, which should settle the controversies of States, and the Holy Alliance probably aspired to be an institution of this kind. The State, however, is individual, and in individuality negation is essentially contained. A number of States may constitute themselves into a family, but this confederation, as an individuality, must create an opposition and so beget an enemy. Not only do nations issue forth invigorated from their wars, but those nations torn by internal strife win peace at home as a result of war abroad. War indeed causes insecurity in property, but this real insecurity is only a necessary commotion. From the pulpits much is preached concerning the insecurity, vanity, and instability of temporal things, and yet every one, though he may be touched by his own words, thinks that he, at least, will manage to hold on to his possessions. Let the insecurity finally come, in the form of Hussars with glistening sabres, and show its earnest activity, and that touching edification which foresaw all this now turns upon the enemy with curses. In spite of this, wars will break out whenever necessity demands them; but the seeds spring up anew, and speech is silenced before the grave repetitions of history.

The military class is the class of universality. The defense of the State is its privilege, and its duty is to realize the ideality contained in it, which consists in self-sacrifice. There are different kinds of bravery. The courage of the animal, or the robber, the bravery which arises from a sense of honor, the chivalrous bravery, are not yet the true forms of it. In civilized nations true bravery consists in the readiness to give oneself wholly to the service of the State, so that the individual counts but as one among many. Not personal valor, but the important aspect of it, lies in self-subordination to the universal cause.

To risk one's life is indeed something more than mere fear of death, but this is only negative; only a positive character—an aim and content—gives meaning to bravery. Robbers and murderers in the pursuit of crime, adventurers in the search of their fanciful objects, etc., also possess courage, and do not fear death. The principle of the modern world—the power of thought and of the universal—has given to bravery a higher form; the higher form causes the expression of bravery to appear more mechanical. The brave deeds are not the deeds of any particular person, but those of the members of a whole. And, again, since hostility is directed, not against separate individuals, but against a hostile whole, personal valor appears as impersonal. This principle it is which has caused the invention of the gun; it is not a chance invention that has brought about the change of the mere personal form of bravery into the more abstract.


Just as the individual is not a real person unless related to other persons, so the State is no real individuality unless related to other States. The legitimate power of a State, and more especially its princely power, is, from the point of view of its foreign relations, a wholly internal affair. A State shall, therefore, not interfere with the internal affairs of another State. On the other hand, for a complete State, it is essential that it be recognized by others; but this recognition demands as a guarantee that it shall recognize those States which recognize it, and shall respect their independence. Hence its internal affairs cannot be a matter of indifference to them.

When Napoleon, before the peace of Campoformio, said, "The French Republic requires recognition as little as the sun needs to be recognized," his words suggest nothing but the strength of existence, which already carries with it the guarantee of recognition, without needing to be expressed.

When the particular wills of the State can come to no agreement their controversy can be decided only by war. What offense shall be regarded as a breach of a treaty, or as a violation of respect and honor, must remain indefinite, since many and various injuries can easily accrue from the wide range of the interests of the States and from the complex relations of their citizens. The State may identify its infinitude and honor with every one of its single aspects. And if a State, as a strong individuality, has experienced an unduly protracted internal rest, it will naturally be more inclined to irritability, in order to find an occasion and field for intense activity.

The nations of Europe form a family according to the universal principle of their legislation, their ethical code, and their civilization. But the relation among States fluctuates, and no judge exists to adjust their differences. The higher judge is the universal and absolute Spirit alone—the World-Spirit.

The relation of one particular State to another presents, on the largest possible scale, the most shifting play of individual passions, interests, aims, talents, virtues, power, injustice, vice, and mere external chance. It is a play in which even the ethical whole, the independence of the State, is exposed to accident. The principles which control the many national spirits are limited. Each nation as an existing individuality is guided by its particular principles, and only as a particular individuality can each national spirit win objectivity and self-consciousness; but the fortunes and deeds of States in their relation to one another reveal the dialectic of the finite nature of these spirits. Out of this dialectic rises the universal Spirit, the unlimited World-Spirit, pronouncing its judgment—and its judgment is the highest—upon the finite nations of the world's history; for the history of the world is the world's court of justice.



TRANSLATED BY J. LOEWENBERG, PH.D. Assistant in Philosophy, Harvard University


The appropriate expression for our subject is the "Philosophy of Art," or, more precisely, the "Philosophy of Fine Arts." By this expression we wish to exclude the beauty of nature. In common life we are in the habit of speaking of beautiful color, a beautiful sky, a beautiful river, beautiful flowers, beautiful animals, and beautiful human beings. But quite aside from the question, which we wish not to discuss here, how far beauty may be predicated of such objects, or how far natural beauty may be placed side by side with artistic beauty, we must begin by maintaining that artistic beauty is higher than the beauty of nature. For the beauty of art is beauty born—and born again—of the spirit. And as spirit and its products stand higher than nature and its phenomena, by so much the beauty that resides in art is superior to the beauty of nature.

To say that spirit and artistic beauty stand higher than natural beauty, is to say very little, for "higher" is a very indefinite expression, which states the difference between them as quantitative and external. The "higher" quality of spirit and of artistic beauty does not at all stand in a merely relative position to nature. Spirit only is the true essence and content of the world, so that whatever is beautiful is truly beautiful only when it partakes of this higher essence and is produced by it. In this sense natural beauty appears only as a reflection of the beauty that belongs to spirit; it is an imperfect and incomplete expression of the spiritual substance.

Confining ourselves to artistic beauty, we must first consider certain difficulties. The first that suggests itself is the question whether art is at all worthy of a philosophic treatment. To be sure, art and beauty pervade, like a kindly genius, all the affairs of life, and joyously adorn all its inner and outer phases, softening the gravity and the burden of actual existence, furnishing pleasure for idle moments, and, where it can accomplish nothing positive, driving evil away by occupying its place. Yet, although art wins its way everywhere with its pleasing forms, from the crude adornment of the savages to the splendor of the temple with its marvelous wealth of decoration, art itself appears to fall outside the real aims of life. And though the creations of art cannot be said to be directly disadvantageous to the serious purposes of life, nay, on occasion actually further them by holding evil at bay, on the whole, art belongs to the relaxation and leisure of the mind, while the substantial interests of life demand its exertion. At any rate, such a view renders art a superfluity, though the tender and emotional influence which is wrought upon the mind by occupation with art is not thought necessarily detrimental, because effeminate.

There are others, again, who, though acknowledging art to be a luxury, have thought it necessary to defend it by pointing to the practical necessities of the fine arts and to the relation they bear to morality and piety. Very serious aims have been ascribed to art. Art has been recommended as a mediator between reason and sensuousness, between inclination and duty, as the reconcilor of all these elements constantly warring with one another. But it must be said that, by making art serve two masters, it is not rendered thereby more worthy of a philosophic treatment. Instead of being an end in itself, art is degraded into a means of appealing to higher aims, on the one hand, and to frivolity and idleness on the other.

Art considered as means offers another difficulty which springs from its form. Granting that art can be subordinated to serious aims and that the results which it thus produces will be significant, still the means used by art is deception, for beauty is appearance, its form is its life; and one must admit that a true and real purpose should not be achieved through deception. Even if a good end is thus, now and then, attained by art its success is rather limited, and even then deception cannot be recommended as a worthy means; for the means should be adequate to the dignity of the end, and truth can be produced by truth alone and not by deception and semblance.

It may thus appear as if art were not worthy of philosophic consideration because it is supposed to be merely a pleasing pastime; even when it pursues more serious aims it does not correspond with their nature. On the whole, it is conceived to serve both grave and light interests, achieving its results by means of deception and semblance.

As for the worthiness of art to be philosophically considered, it is indeed true that art can be used as a casual amusement, furnishing enjoyment and pleasure, decorating our surroundings, lending grace to the external conditions of life, and giving prominence to other objects through ornamentation. Art thus employed is indeed not an independent or free, but rather a subservient art. That art might serve other purposes and still retain its pleasure-giving function, is a relation which it has in common with thought. For science, too, in the hands of the servile understanding is used for finite ends and accidental means, and is thus not self-sufficient, but is determined by outer objects and circumstances. On the other hand, science can emancipate itself from such service and can rise in free independence to the pursuit of truth, in which the realization of its own aims is its proper function.

Art is not genuine art until it has thus liberated itself. It fulfils its highest task when it has joined the same sphere with religion and philosophy and has become a certain mode of bringing to consciousness and expression the divine meaning of things, the deepest interests of mankind, and the most universal truths of the spirit. Into works of art the nations have wrought their most profound ideas and aspirations. Fine Art often constitutes the key, and with many nations it is the only key, to an understanding of their wisdom and religion. This character art has in common with religion and philosophy. Art's peculiar feature, however, consists in its ability to represent in sensuous form even the highest ideas, bringing them thus nearer to the character of natural phenomena, to the senses, and to feeling. It is the height of a supra-sensuous world into which thought reaches, but it always appears to immediate consciousness and to present experience as an alien beyond. Through the power of philosophic thinking we are able to soar above what is merely here, above sensuous and finite experience. But spirit can heal the breach between the supra-sensuous and the sensuous brought on by its own advance; it produces out of itself the world of fine art as the first reconciling medium between what is merely external, sensuous, and transient, and the world of pure thought, between nature with its finite reality and the infinite freedom of philosophic reason.

Concerning the unworthiness of art because of its character as appearance and deception, it must be admitted that such criticism would not be without justice, if appearance could be said to be equivalent to falsehood and thus to something that ought not to be. Appearance is essential to reality; truth could not be, did it not shine through appearance. Therefore not appearance in general can be objected to, but merely the particular kind of appearance through which art seeks to portray truth. To charge the appearance in which art chooses to embody its ideas as deception, receives meaning only by comparison with the external world of phenomena and its immediate materiality, as well as with the inner world of sensations and feelings. To these two worlds we are wont, in our empirical work-a-day life, to attribute the value of actuality, reality, and truth, in contrast to art, which is supposed to be lacking such reality and truth. But, in fact, it is just the whole sphere of the empirical inner and outer world that is not the world of true reality; indeed it may be called a mere show and a cruel deception in a far stricter sense than in the case of art. Only beyond the immediacy of sense and of external objects is genuine reality to be found. Truly real is but the fundamental essence and the underlying substance of nature and of spirit, and the universal element in nature and in spirit is precisely what art accentuates and makes visible. This essence of reality appears also in the common outer and inner world, but it appears in the form of a chaos of contingencies, distorted by the immediateness of sense perception, and by the capriciousness of conditions, events, characters, etc. Art frees the true meaning of appearances from the show and deception of this bad and transient world, and invests it with a higher reality, born of the spirit. Thus, far removed from being mere appearances, the products of art have a higher reality and a more genuine being than the things of ordinary life.


The content of art is spiritual, and its form is sensuous; both sides art has to reconcile into a united whole. The first requirement is that the content, which art is to represent, must be worthy of artistic representation; otherwise we obtain only a bad unity, since a content not capable of artistic treatment is made to take on an artistic form, and a matter prosaic in itself is forced into a form quite opposed to its inherent nature.

The second requirement demands of the content of art that it shall be no abstraction. By this is not meant that it must be concrete, as the sensuous is alleged to be concrete in contrast to everything spiritual and intellectual. For everything that is genuinely true, in the realm of thought as well as in the domain of nature, is concrete, and has, in spite of universality, nevertheless, a particular and subjective character. By saying, for example, that God is simply One, the Supreme Being as such, we express thereby nothing but a lifeless abstraction of an understanding devoid of reason. Such a God, as indeed he is not conceived in his concrete truth, can furnish no content for art, least of all for plastic art. Thus the Jews and the Turks have not been able to represent their God, who is still more abstract, in the positive manner in which the Christians have represented theirs. For in Christianity God is conceived in his truth, and therefore concrete, as a person, as a subject, and, more precisely still, as Spirit. What he is as spirit appears to the religious consciousness as a Trinity of persons, which at the same time is One. Here the essence of God is the reconciled unity of universality and particularity, such unity alone being concrete. Hence, as a content in order to be true must be concrete in this sense, art demands the same concreteness; because a mere abstract idea, or an abstract universal, cannot manifest itself in a particular and sensuous unified form.

If a true and therefore concrete content is to have its adequate sensuous form and shape, this sensuous form must—this being the third requirement—also be something individual, completely concrete, and one. The nature of concreteness belonging to both the content and the representation of art, is precisely the point in which both can coincide and correspond to each other. The natural shape of the human body, for example, is a sensuous concrete object, which is perfectly adequate to represent the spiritual in its concreteness; the view should therefore be abandoned that an existing object from the external world is accidentally chosen by art to express a spiritual idea. Art does not seize upon this or that form either because it simply finds it or because it can find no other, but the concrete spiritual content itself carries with it the element of external, real, yes, even sensuous, representation. And this is the reason why a sensuous concrete object, which bears the impress of an essentially spiritual content, addresses itself to the inner eye; the outward shape whereby the content is rendered visible and imaginable aims at an existence only in our heart and mind. For this reason alone are content and artistic shape harmoniously wrought. The mere sensuously concrete external nature as such has not this purpose for its only origin. The gay and variegated plumage of the birds shines unseen, and their song dies away unheard; the torch-thistle which blossoms only for a night withers without having been admired in the wilds of southern forests; and these forests, groves of the most beautiful and luxuriant vegetation, with the most odorous and fragrant perfumes, perish and waste, no more enjoyed. The work of art is not so unconsciously self-immersed, but it is essentially a question, an address to the responsive soul, an appeal to the heart and to the mind.

Although the sensuous form in which art clothes its content is not accidental, yet it is not the highest form whereby the spiritually concrete may be grasped. A higher mode than representation through a sensuous form, is thought. True and rational thinking, though in a relative sense abstract, must not be one-sided, but concrete. How far a definite content can be adequately treated by art and how far it needs, according to its nature, a higher and more spiritual form, is a distinction which we see at once if, for example, the Greek gods are compared with God as conceived in accordance with Christian notions. The Greek god is not abstract but individual, closely related to the natural human form. The Christian God is also a concrete personality, but he is pure spiritually, and can be known only as spirit and in spirit. His sphere of existence is therefore essentially inner knowledge, and not the outer natural shape through which he can be represented but imperfectly and not in the whole depth of his essence.

But the task of art is to represent a spiritual idea to direct contemplation in sensuous form, and not in the form of thought or of pure spirituality. The value and dignity of such representation lies in the correspondence and unity of the two sides, of the spiritual content and its sensuous embodiment, so that the perfection and excellency of art must depend upon the grade of inner harmony and union with which the spiritual idea and the sensuous form interpenetrate.

The requirement of the conformity of spiritual idea and sensuous form might at first be interpreted as meaning that any idea whatever would suffice, so long as the concrete form represented this idea and no other. Such a view, however, would confound the ideal of art with mere correctness, which consists in the expression of any meaning in its appropriate form. The artistic ideal is not to be thus understood. For any content whatever is capable, according to the standard of its own nature, of adequate representation, but yet it does not for that reason lay claim to artistic beauty in the ideal sense. Judged by the standard of ideal beauty, even such correct representation will be defective. In this connection we may remark that the defects of a work of art are not to be considered simply as always due to the incapacity of the artist; defectiveness of form has also its root in defectiveness of content. Thus, for instance, the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, in their artistic objects, their representations of the gods, and their idols, adhered to formlessness, or to a vague and inarticulate form, and were not able to arrive at genuine beauty, because their mythological ideas, the content and conception of their works of art, were as yet vague and obscure. The more perfect in form works of art are, the more profound is the inner truth of their content and thought. And it is not merely a question of the greater or lesser skill with which the objects of external nature are studied and copied, for, in certain stages of artistic consciousness and artistic activity, the misrepresentation and distortion of natural objects are not unintentional technical inexpertness and incapacity, but conscious alteration, which depends upon the content that is in consciousness, and is, in fact, demanded by it. We may thus speak of imperfect art, which, in its own proper sphere, may be quite perfect both technically and in other respects. When compared with the highest idea and ideal of art, it is indeed defective. In the highest art alone are the idea and its representation in perfect congruity, because the sensuous form of the idea is in itself the adequate form, and because the content, which that form embodies, is itself a genuine content.

The higher truth of art consists, then, in the spiritual having attained a sensuous form adequate to its essence. And this also furnishes the principle of division for the philosophy of art. For the Spirit, before it wins the true meaning of its absolute essence, has to develop through a series of stages which constitute its very life. To this universal evolution there corresponds a development of the phases of art, under the form of which the Spirit—as artist—attains to a comprehension of its own meaning.

This evolution within the spirit of art has two sides. The development is, in the first place, a spiritual and universal one, in so far as a gradual series of definite conceptions of the universe—of nature, man, and God—finds artistic representation. In the second place, this universal development of art, embodying itself in sensuous form, determines definite modes of artistic expression and a totality of necessary distinctions within the sphere of art. These constitute the particular arts.

We have now to consider three definite relations of the spiritual idea to its sensuous expression.


Art begins when the spiritual idea, being itself still indefinite and obscure and ill-comprehended, is made the content of artistic forms. As indefinite, it does not yet have that individuality which the artistic ideal demands; its abstractness and one-sidedness thus render its shape defective and whimsical. The first form of art is therefore rather a mere search after plasticity than a capacity of true representation. The spiritual idea has not yet found its adequate form, but is still engaged in striving and struggling after it. This form we may, in general, call the symbolic form of art; in such form the abstract idea assumes a shape in natural sensuous matter which is foreign to it; with this foreign matter the artistic creation begins, from which, however, it seems unable to free itself. The objects of external nature are reproduced unchanged, but at the same time the meaning of the spiritual idea is attached to them. They thus receive the vocation of expressing it, and must be interpreted as if the spiritual idea were actually present in them. It is indeed true that natural objects possess an aspect which makes them capable of representing a universal meaning, but in symbolic art a complete correspondence is not yet possible. In it the correspondence is confined to an abstract quality, as when, for example, a lion is meant to stand for strength.

This abstract relation brings also to consciousness the foreignness of the spiritual idea to natural phenomena. And the spiritual idea, having no other reality to express its essence, expatiates in all these natural shapes, seeks itself in their unrest and disproportion, but finds them inadequate to it. It then exaggerates these natural phenomena and shapes them into the huge and the boundless. The spiritual idea revels in them, as it were, seethes and ferments in them, does violence to them, distorts and disfigures them into grotesque shapes, and endeavors by the diversity, hugeness, and splendor of such forms to raise the natural phenomena to the spiritual level. For here it is the spiritual idea which is more or less vague and non-plastic, while the objects of nature have a thoroughly definite form.

The incongruity of the two elements to each other makes the relation of the spiritual idea to objective reality a negative one. The spiritual as a wholly inner element and as the universal substance of all things, is conceived unsatisfied with all externality, and in its sublimity it triumphs over the abundance of unsuitable forms. In this conception of sublimity the natural objects and the human shapes are accepted and left unaltered, but at the same time recognized as inadequate to their own inner meaning; it is this inner meaning which is glorified far and above every worldly content.

These elements constitute, in general, the character of the primitive artistic pantheism of the Orient, which either invests even the lowest objects with absolute significance, or forces all phenomena with violence to assume the expression of its world-view. This art becomes therefore bizarre, grotesque, and without taste, or it represents the infinite substance in its abstract freedom turning away with disdain from the illusory and perishing mass of appearances. Thus the meaning can never be completely molded into the expression, and, notwithstanding all the aspiration and effort, the incongruity between the spiritual idea and the sensuous form remains insuperable. This is, then, the first form of art-symbolic art with its endless quest, its inner struggle, its sphinx-like mystery, and its sublimity.


In the second form of art, which we wish to designate as the classical, the double defect of symbolic art is removed. The symbolic form is imperfect, because the spiritual meaning which it seeks to convey enters into consciousness in but an abstract and vague manner, and thus the congruity between meaning and form must always remain defective and therefore abstract. This double aspect disappears in the classical type of art; in it we find the free and adequate embodiment of the spiritual idea in the form most suitable to it, and with it meaning and expression are in perfect accord. It is classical art, therefore, which first affords the creation and contemplation of the completed ideal, realizing it as a real fact in the world.

But the congruity of idea and reality in classical art must not be taken in a formal sense of the agreement of a content with its external form; otherwise every photograph of nature, every picture of a countenance, landscape, flower, scene, etc., which constitutes the aim of a representation, would, through the conformity of content and form, be at once classical. The peculiarity of classical art, on the contrary, consists in its content being itself a concrete idea, and, as such, a concrete spiritual idea, for only the spiritual is a truly essential content. For a worthy object of such a content, Nature must be consulted as to whether she contains anything to which a spiritual attribute really belongs. It must be the World-Spirit itself that invented the proper form for the concrete spiritual ideal—the subjective mind—in this case the spirit of art—has only found it, and given it natural plastic existence in accordance with free individual spirituality. The form in which the idea, as spiritual and individual, clothes itself when revealed as a temporal phenomenon, is the human form. To be sure, personification and anthropomorphism have frequently been decried as a degradation of the spiritual; but art, in so far as its task is to bring before direct contemplation the spiritual in sensuous form, must advance to such anthropomorphism, for only in its body can mind appear in an adequately sensuous fashion. The migration of souls is, in this respect, an abstract notion, and physiology should make it one of its fundamental principles that life has necessarily, in its evolution, to advance to the human shape as the only sensuous phenomenon appropriate to the mind.

The human body as portrayed by classical art is not represented in its mere physical existence, but solely as the natural and sensuous form and garb of mind; it is therefore divested of all the defects that belong to the merely sensuous and of all the finite contingencies that appertain to the phenomenal. But if the form must be thus purified in order to express the appropriate content, and, furthermore, if the conformity of meaning and expression is to be complete, the content which is the spiritual idea must be perfectly capable of being expressed through the bodily form of man, without projecting into another sphere beyond the physical and sensuous representation. The result is that Spirit is characterized as a particular form of mind, namely, as human mind, and not as simply absolute and eternal; but the absolute and eternal Spirit must be able to reveal and express itself in a manner far more spiritual.

This latter point brings to light the defect of classical art, which demands its dissolution and its transition to a third and higher form, to wit, the romantic form of art.


The romantic form of art destroys the unity of the spiritual idea and its sensuous form, and goes back, though on a higher level, to the difference and opposition of the two, which symbolic art left unreconciled. The classical form of art attained, indeed, the highest degree of perfection which the sensuous process of art was capable of realizing; and, if it shows any defects, the defects are those of art itself, due to the limitation of its sphere. This limitation has its root in the general attempt of art to represent in sensuous concrete form the infinite and universal Spirit, and in the attempt of the classical type of art to blend so completely spiritual and sensuous existence that the two appear in mutual conformity. But in such a fusion of the spiritual and sensuous aspects Spirit cannot be portrayed according to its true essence, for the true essence of Spirit is its infinite subjectivity; and its absolute internal meaning does not lend itself to a full and free expression in the confinement of the bodily form as its only appropriate existence.

Now, romantic art dissolves the inseparable unity which is the ideal of the classical type, because it has won a content which goes beyond the classical form of art and its mode of expression. This content—if familiar ideas may be recalled—coincides with what Christianity declares to be true of God as Spirit, in distinction to the Greek belief in gods which constitutes the essential and appropriate subject for classical art. The concrete content of Hellenic art implies the unity of the human and divine nature, a unity which, just because it is merely implied and immediate, permits of a representation in an immediately visible and sensuous mold. The Greek god is the object of naive contemplation and sensuous imagination; his shape is, therefore, the bodily shape of man; the circle of his power and his essence is individual and confined. To man the Greek god appears as a being and a power with whom he may feel a kinship and unity, but this kinship and unity, are not reflected upon or raised into definite knowledge. The higher stage is the knowledge of this unconscious unity, which underlies the classical form of art and which it has rendered capable of complete plastic embodiment. The elevation of what is unconscious and implied into self-conscious knowledge brings about an enormous difference; it is the infinite difference which, for example, separates man from the animal. Man is an animal, but, even in his animal functions, does not rest satisfied with the potential and the unconscious as the animal does, but becomes conscious of them, reflects upon them, and raises them—as, for instance, the process of digestion—into self-conscious science. And it is thus that man breaks through the boundary of his merely immediate and unconscious existence, so that, just because he knows himself to be animal, he ceases in virtue of such knowledge to be animal, and, through such self-knowledge only, can characterize himself as mind or spirit.

If in the manner just described the unity of the human and divine nature is raised from an immediate to a conscious, unity, the true mold for the reality of this content is no longer the sensuous, immediate existence of the spiritual, the bodily frame of man, but self-consciousness and internal contemplation. For this reason Christianity, in depicting God as Spirit—not as particularized individual mind, but as absolute and universal Spirit—retires from the sensuousness of imagination into the sphere of inner being, and makes this, and not the bodily form, the material and mold of its content; and thus the unity of the human and divine nature is a conscious unity, capable of realization only by spiritual knowledge. The new content, won by this unity, is not dependent upon sensuous representation; it is now exempt from such immediate existence. In this way, however, romantic art becomes art which transcends itself, carrying on this process of self-transcendence within its own artistic sphere and artistic form.

Briefly stated, the essence of romantic art consists in the artistic object being the free, concrete, spiritual idea itself, which is revealed in its spirituality to the inner, and not the outer, eye. In conformity with such a content, art can, in a sense, not work for sensuous perception, but must aim at the inner mood, which completely fuses with its object, at the most subjective inner shrine, at the heart, the feeling, which, as spiritual feeling, longs for freedom within itself and seeks and finds reconciliation only within the inner recesses of the spirit. This inner world is the content of romantic art, and as such an inner life, or as its reflection, it must seek embodiment. The inner life thus triumphs over the outer world—indeed, so triumphs over it that the outer world itself is made to proclaim its victory, through which the sensuous appearance sinks into worthlessness.

On the other hand, the romantic type of art, like every other, needs an external mode of expression. But the spiritual has now retired from the outer mode into itself, and the sensuous externality of form assumes again, as it did in symbolic art, an insignificant and transient character. The subjective, finite mind and will, the peculiarity and caprice of the individual, of character, action, or of incident and plot, assume likewise the character they had in symbolic art. The external side of things is surrendered to accident and committed to the excesses of the imagination, whose caprice now mirrors existence as it is, now chooses to distort the objects of the outer world into a bizarre and grotesque medley, for the external form no longer possesses a meaning and significance, as in classical art, on its own account and for it own sake. Feeling is now everything. It finds its artistic reflection, not in the world of external things and their forms, but in its own expression; and in every incident and accident of life, in every misfortune, grief, and even crime, feeling preserves or regains its healing power of reconciliation.

Hence, the indifference, incongruity, and antagonism of spiritual idea and sensuous form, the characteristics of symbolic art, reappear in the romantic type, but with this essential difference. In the romantic realm, the spiritual idea, to whose defectiveness was due the defective forms of symbolic art, now reveals itself in its perfection within mind and feeling. It is by virtue of the higher perfection of the idea that it shuns any adequate union with an external form, since it can seek and attain its true reality and expression best within itself.

This, in general terms, is the character of the symbolic, classical, and romantic forms of art, which stand for the three relations of the spiritual idea to its expression in the realm of art. They consist in the aspiration after, and the attainment and transcendence of, the ideal as the true idea of beauty.


But, now, there inhere in the idea of beauty different modifications which art translates into sensuous forms. And we find a fundamental principle by which the several particular arts may be arranged and defined—that is, the species of art contain in themselves the same essential differences which we have found in the three general types of art. External objectivity, moreover, into which these types are molded by means of a sensuous and particular material, renders them independent and separate means of realizing different artistic functions, as far as each type finds its definite character in some one definite external material whose mode of portrayal determines its adequate realization. Furthermore, the general types of art correspond to the several particular arts, so that they (the particular arts) belong each of them specifically to one of the general types of art. It is these particular arts which give adequate and artistic external being to the general types.


The first of the particular arts with which, according to their fundamental principle, we have to begin, is architecture. Its task consists in so shaping external inorganic nature that it becomes homogeneous with mind, as an artistic outer world. The material of architecture is matter itself in its immediate externality as a heavy mass subject to mechanical laws, and its forms remain the forms of inorganic nature, but are merely arranged and ordered in accordance with the abstract rules of the understanding, the rules of symmetry. But in such material and in such forms the ideal as concrete spirituality cannot be realized; the reality which is represented in them remains, therefore, alien to the spiritual idea, as something external which it has not penetrated or with which it has but a remote and abstract relation. Hence the fundamental type of architecture is the symbolical form of art. For it is architecture that paves the way, as it were, for the adequate realization of the God, toiling and wrestling in his service with external nature, and seeking to extricate it from the chaos of finitude and the abortiveness of chance. By this means it levels a space for the God, frames his external surroundings, and builds him his temple as the place for inner contemplation and for reflection upon the eternal objects of the spirit. It raises an inclosure around those gathered together, as a defense against the threatening of the wind, against rain, the thunder-storm, and wild beasts, and reveals the will to gather together, though externally, yet in accordance with the artistic form. A meaning such as this, the art of architecture is able to mold into its material and its forms with more or less success, according as the determinate nature of the content which it seeks to embody is more significant or more trivial, more concrete or more abstract, more deeply rooted within its inner being or more dim and superficial. Indeed, it may even advance so far as to endeavor to create for such meaning an adequate artistic expression with its material and forms, but in such an attempt it has already overstepped the bounds of its own sphere, and inclines towards sculpture, the higher phase of art. For the limit of architecture lies precisely in this, that it refers to the spiritual as an internal essence in contrast with the external forms of its art, and thus whatever spirit and soul are possessed it must point to as something other than itself.


Architecture, however, has purified the inorganic external world, has given it symmetric order, has impressed upon it the seal of mind, and the temple of the God, the house of his community, stands ready. Into this temple now enters the God himself. The lightning-flash of individuality strikes the inert mass, permeates it, and a form no longer merely symmetrical, but infinite and spiritual, concentrates and molds its adequate bodily shape. This is the task of sculpture. Inasmuch as in it the inner spiritual element, which architecture can no more than hint at, completely abides with the sensuous form and its external matter, and as both sides are so merged into each other that neither predominates, sculpture has the classical form of art as its fundamental type. In fact, the sensuous realm itself can command no expression which could not be that of the spiritual sphere, just as, conversely, no spiritual content can attain perfect plasticity in sculpture which is incapable of being adequately presented to perception in bodily form. It is sculpture which arrests for our vision the spirit in its bodily frame, in immediate unity with it, and in an attitude of peace and repose; and the form in turn is animated by the content of spiritual individuality. Therefore the external sensuous matter is here not wrought, either according to its mechanical quality alone, as heavy mass, nor in forms peculiar to inorganic nature, nor as indifferent to color, etc., but in ideal forms of the human shape, and in the whole of the spatial dimensions. In this last respect sculpture should be credited with having first revealed the inner and spiritual essence in its eternal repose and essential self-possession. To such repose and unity with itself corresponds only that external element which itself persists in unity and repose. Such an element is the form taken in its abstract spatiality. The spirit which sculpture represents is that which is solid in itself, not variously broken up in the play of contingencies and passions; nor does its external form admit of the portrayal of such a manifold play, but it holds to this one side only, to the abstraction of space in the totality of its dimensions.


After architecture has built the temple and the hand of sculpture has placed inside it the statue of the God, then this sensuously visible God faces in the spacious halls of his house the community. The community is the spiritual, self-reflecting element in this sensuous realm, it is the animating subjectivity and inner life. A new principle of art begins with it. Both the content of art and the medium which embodies it in outward form now demand particularization, individualization, and the subjective mode of expressing these. The solid unity which the God possesses in sculpture breaks up into the plurality of inner individual lives, whose unity is not sensuous, but essentially ideal.

And now God comes to assume the aspect which makes him truly spiritual. As a hither-and-thither, as an alternation between the unity within himself and his realization in subjective knowledge and individual consciousness, as well as in the common and unified life of the many individuals, he is genuinely Spirit—the Spirit in his community. In his community God is released from the abstractness of a mysterious self-identity, as well as from the naive imprisonment in a bodily shape, in which he is represented by sculpture. Here he is exalted into spirituality, subjectivity, and knowledge. For this reason the higher content of art is now this spirituality in its absolute form. But since what chiefly reveals itself in this stage is not the serene repose of God in himself, but rather his appearance, his being, and his manifestation to others, the objects of artistic representation are now the most varied subjective expressions of life and activity for their own sake, as human passions, deeds, events, and, in general, the wide range of human feeling, will, and resignation. In accordance with this content, the sensuous element must differentiate and show itself adequate to the expression of subjective feeling. Such different media are furnished by color, by the musical sound, and finally by the sound as the mere indication of inner intuitions and ideas; and thus as different forms of realizing the spiritual content of art by means of these media we obtain painting, music, and poetry. The sensuous media employed in these arts being individualized and in their essence recognized as ideal, they correspond most effectively to the spiritual content of art, and the union between spiritual meaning and sensuous expression develops, therefore, into greater intimacy than was possible in the case of architecture and sculpture. This intimate unity, however, is due wholly to the subjective side.

Leaving, then, the symbolic spirit of architecture and the classical ideal of sculpture behind, these new arts in which form and content are raised to an ideal level borrow their type from the romantic form of art, whose mode of expression they are most eminently fitted to voice. They form, however, a totality of arts, because the romantic type is the most concrete in itself.


The first art in this totality, which is akin to sculpture, is painting. The material which it uses for its content and for the sensuous expression of that content is visibility as such, in so far as it is individualized, viz., specified as color. To be sure, the media employed in architecture and sculpture are also visible and colored, but they are not, as in painting, visibility as such, not the simple light which contrasts itself with darkness and in combination with it becomes color. This visibility as a subjective and ideal attribute, requires neither, like architecture, the abstract mechanical form of mass which we find in heavy matter, nor, like sculpture, the three dimensions of sensuous space, even though in concentrated and organic plasticity, but the visibility which appertains to painting has its differences on a more ideal level, in the particular kinds of color; and thus painting frees art from the sensuous completeness in space peculiar to material things only, by confining itself to a plane surface.

On the other hand, the content also gains in varied particularization. Whatever can find room in the human heart, as emotion, idea, and purpose, whatever it is able to frame into a deed, all this variety of material can constitute the many-colored content of painting. The whole range of particular existence, from the highest aspirations of the mind down to the most isolated objects of nature, can obtain a place in this art. For even finite nature, in its particular scenes and aspects, can here appear, if only some allusion to a spiritual element makes it akin to thought and feeling.


The second art in which the romantic form finds realization, on still a higher level than in painting, is music. Its material, though still sensuous, advances to a deeper subjectivity and greater specification. The idealization of the sensuous, music brings about by negating space. In music the indifferent extension of space whose appearance painting admits and consciously imitates is concentrated and idealized into a single point. But in the form of a motion and tremor of the material body within itself, this single point becomes a concrete and active process within the idealization of matter. Such an incipient ideality of matter which no longer appears under the spatial form, but as temporal ideality, is sound the sensuous acknowledged as ideal, whose abstract visibility is transformed into audibility. Sound, as it were, exempts the ideal from its absorption in matter.

This earliest animation and inspiration of matter furnishes the medium for the inner and intimate life of the spirit, as yet on an indefinite level; it is through the tones of music that the heart pours out its whole scale of feelings and passions. Thus as sculpture constitutes the central point between architecture and the arts of romantic subjectivity, so music forms the centre of the romantic arts, and represents the point of transition between abstract spatial sensuousness, which belongs to painting, and the abstract spirituality of poetry. Within itself music has, like architecture, an abstract quantitative relation, as a contrast to its inward and emotional quality; it also has as its basis a permanent law to which the tones with their combinations and successions must conform.


For the third and most spiritual expression of the romantic form of art, we must look to poetry. Its characteristic peculiarity lies in the power with which it subjugates to the mind and to its ideas the sensuous element from which music and painting began to set art free. For sound, the one external medium of which poetry avails itself, is in it no longer a feeling of the tone itself, but is a sign which is, by itself, meaningless. This sign, moreover, is a sign of an idea which has become concrete, and not merely of indefinite feeling and of its nuances and grades. By this means the tone becomes the word, an articulate voice, whose function it is to indicate thoughts and ideas. The negative point to which music had advanced now reveals itself in poetry as the completely concrete point, as the spirit or the self-consciousness of the individual, which spontaneously unites the infinite space of its ideas with the time-element of sound. But this sensuous element which, in music, was still in immediate union with inner feelings and moods, is, in poetry, divorced from the content of consciousness, for in poetry the mind determines this content on its own account and for the sake of its ideas, and while it employs sound to express them, yet sound itself is reduced to a symbol with out value or meaning. From this point of view sound may just as well be considered a mere letter, for the audible, like the visible, is now relegated to a mere suggestion of mind. Thus the genuine mode of poetic representation is the inner perception and the poetic imagination itself. And since all types of art share in this mode, poetry runs through them all, and develops itself independently in each. Poetry, then, is the universal art of the spirit which has attained inner freedom, and which does not depend for its realization upon external sensuous matter, but expatiates only in the inner space and inner time of the ideas and feelings. But just in this, its highest phase, art oversteps the bounds of its own sphere by abandoning the harmoniously sensuous mode of portraying the spirit and by passing from the poetry of imagination into the prose of thought.


Such, then, is the organic totality of the several arts the external art of architecture, the objective art of sculpture, and the subjective arts of painting, music, and poetry. The higher principle from which these are derived we have found in the types of art, the symbolic, the classical, and the romantic, which form the universal phases of the idea of beauty itself. Thus symbolic art finds its most adequate reality and most perfect application in architecture, in which it is self-complete, and is not yet reduced, so to speak, to the inorganic medium for another art. The classical form of art, on the other hand, attains its most complete realization in sculpture, while it accepts architecture only as forming an inclosure round its products and is as yet not capable of developing painting and music as absolute expressions of its meaning. The romantic type of art, finally, seizes upon painting, music, and poetry as its essential and adequate modes of expression. Poetry, however, is in conformity with all types of the beautiful and extends over them all, because its characteristic element is the esthetic imagination, and imagination is necessary for every product of art, to whatever type it may belong.

Thus what the particular arts realize in individual artistic creations are, according to the philosophic conception, simply the universal types of the self-unfolding idea of beauty. Out of the external realization of this idea arises the wide Pantheon of art, whose architect and builder is the self-developing spirit of beauty, for the completion of which, however, the history of the world will require its evolution of countless ages.


BY HENRY WOOD, PH.D. Professor of German, Johns Hopkins University

The ten years succeeding the publication of Goethe's Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde (1835) coincided in point of time with the awakening in England, through Thomas Carlyle, and in America as well, of an intense if not yet profound interest in German Literature. It must remain a tribute to the ideal enthusiasm of the movement that, among the first German works to receive a permanent welcome and become domiciled in American literary circles, was that strange and glittering mass, flotsam of a great poet's life dislodged and jettisoned from his personality by the subtle arts of the "Child" who had now gathered it up again and was presenting it to the astonished world. At a time when the Foreign Quarterly Review in England (1838) was vainly endeavoring to persuade "Madame von Arnim" not to undertake the translation of her work, "whose unrestrained effusions far exceed the-bounds authorized by English decorum," Margaret Fuller was preparing in Boston to translate Bettina's Guenderode, and soon felt herself in a position to state[3] that "Goethe's Correspondence with a Child is as popular here as in Germany." In one respect, indeed, Bettina's vogue in America remained for the rest of her lifetime more secure than in her own country, where the publication of her later politico-sociological works, Dies Buch gehoert dem Koenig (1843) and Gespraeche mit Daemonen (1852), was followed by a temporary eclipse of her popularity, and where also her fate, in persistently associating her with Rahel, the wife of Varnhagen, as a foil for Rahel's brilliant but transitory glitter, had tarnished her own fame.[4]

For these things American readers of the Correspondence seem to have cared but little. While German critics were deliberating as to what grouping of characteristics could best express Bettina as a type, the American public had already discovered in her a rare personality—the recipient and custodian of Frau Rat's fondest memories of Goethe's childhood; the "mythological nurse-maid,"[5] to whom, though in her proper name as well as to her first-born son, successive editions of Grimm's Fairy Tales had been dedicated; the youthful friend of Beethoven, from whom she had received treasured confidences as to the influence exerted by Goethe's verse upon his mind and art; at times the haunting Muse of Germany's greatest poet and, since 1811, the wife of the most chivalrous of German poets, Achim von Arnim. If we add to these characteristics the circumstance that, as Arnim's wife and as the mother of their rarely endowed children, she had become the centre of a distinguished and devoted circle in the Mark Brandenburg and in the Prussian capital, the distance separating us from Ben Jonson's attitude in his Epitaph on the Countess of Pembroke is no longer very great: "Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother."[6]

It is, nevertheless, not through the aid of Ben Jonson's line, "fair and wise and good as she," that Bettina may be described. She suggests far rather an electrical, inspired, lyrical nature. The spokesman of this literary estimate of Bettina was Margaret Fuller, and it is interesting to note that this best of American critics at once instituted a comparison between Bettina and Karoline von Guenderode, in which the former was made to stand for Nature and the latter for Art. But it appears to have escaped notice that Margaret Fuller, in presenting her example of the artistic type, has, with no express intention, given us a picture of herself.[7] The subtle harmonies, the soft aerial grace, the multiplied traits, the soul delicately appareled, the soft dignity of each look and gesture, the silvery spiritual clearness of an angel's lyre, drawing from every form of life its eternal meaning—these are all lineaments of the Countess of Pembroke type, and these characteristics Margaret Fuller herself shared. How different is her description of Bettina!

"Bettina, hovering from object to object, drawing new tides of vital energy from all, living freshly alike in man and tree, loving the breath of the damp earth as well as the flower which springs from it, bounding over the fences of society as well as over the fences of the field, intoxicated with the apprehension of each new mystery, never hushed into silence by the highest, flying and singing like a bird, sobbing with the hopelessness of an infant, prophetic, yet astonished at the fulfilment of each prophecy, restless, fearless, clinging to love, yet unwearied in experiment—is not this the pervasive vital force, cause of the effect which we call Nature?"

On the part of both Goethe and Bettina, there was always a recognition of such a natural force operating in her. As Guenderode once put it, "Bettina seems like clay, which a divine artificer, preparing to fashion it into something rare, is treading with his feet." On the 13th of August, 1807, Bettina wrote: "Farewell, glorious one, thou who dost both dazzle and intimidate me. From this steep cliff [Goethe] upon which my love has risked the climb, there is no possible path down again. That is not to be thought of; I should simply break my neck." Goethe's reply, in this as in other cases, was characteristic: "What can one say or give to thee, which thou hast not after thy own fashion already appropriated? There is nothing left for me but to keep still, and let thee have thy way." In this passage-at-arms, the whole of the Correspondence, though not its charm, is concentrated. Goethe was intent on keeping the relationship within its first limitations, that is to say, as a friendship in which his mother, Frau Rat, was included as a necessary third party. The impetuous young confidante was already transmitting to Goethe chapters from the history of his childhood, as seen through the communications of his mother to her. These had given the poet the purest pleasure, and he intended making use of them for his Autobiography.[8] But, on the other hand, as soon as Bettina risked independent judgments on his creations, as in the case of the Elective Affinities (1809), her inadequacy and her presumption in claiming for herself the role of a better Ottilie were both painfully apparent. Her attitude toward the adored object was a combination of meekness and pretension, the latter predominating as time went on. "It was sung at my cradle, that I must love a star that should always remain apart. But thou [Goethe] hast sung me a cradle song, and to that song, which lulls me into a dream on the fate of my days, I must listen to the end of my days." To this humility succeeded the self-deception of the so-called later Diary. Under date of March 22, 1832, Bettina relates that Goethe, at their last interview in the early days, had called her his Muse. Hence, on learning of his death, she reproached herself for ever having left him—"the tree of whose fame, with its eternally budding shoots, had been committed to my care. Alas for the false world, which separated us, and led me, poor blind child, away from my master!" Margaret Fuller[9] called Goethe "my parent." But how sharp is the contrast between her tone of reverent affection and the umbrageous jealousy of Bettina!

And Goethe? While the poet safeguarded his fatherly relation to Bettina, up to the break in 1811, in a hundred ways, we find him already, in 1807, inclosing in a letter to his mother the text of Sonnet I., which had been inspired, in the first instance, by his friendship with Minna Herzlieb. Bettina, left to draw her own conclusions, at once identified herself with "Oreas" in the sonnet, and reproached herself for having plunged, like a mountain avalanche, into the broad, full current of the poet's life. From the letter of September 17th it is plain that Bettina indulged, in all seriousness, the fanciful notion that her inspiration was, in a sense, necessary to Goethe's fame. In her fond, mystical interpretation of the sonnets, her heart seems to her the fruitful furrow, the earth-womb, in which Goethe's songs are sown, and out of which, accompanied by birth-pangs for her, they are destined to soar aloft as heavenly poems. She closes with a partial application to herself of the Biblical text (Luke 1. 40): "Blessed art thou among women."

Goethe's detractors, particularly among the literary school called Young Germany, were fond of repeating the insinuation of Fanny Tarnow (1835), that the poet prized in Bettina only her capacity for idolizing him. But Goethe's attitude toward the "Child" was far removed from that of poet-pasha, and Bettina had nothing of the vacuous odalisque in her composition. G. von Loeper has well said of her composite traits: "The tender radiance of first youth hovers over her descriptions; but, while one is beholding, Bettina suddenly changes into a mischievous elf, and, if we reach out to grasp the kobold, lo! a sibyl stands before us!" Behind all Bettina's mobility there is a force of individuality, as irresistible and as recurrent as the tides. Her brother Clemens and her brother-in-law Savigny tried in vain to temper the violence of her enthusiasm for the insurgent Tyrolese, of her flaming patriotism, of her hatred of philistinism in every form, of her scorn for the then fashionable neutrality and moderation in the expression of political opinion.

She was by nature and choice the advocate of the oppressed, whenever and wherever met with. The aristocratic elegant Rumohr was obliged to put up with the following from her: "Why are you not willing to exchange your boredom, your melancholy caprices, for a rifle? With your figure, slender as a birch, you could leap over abysses and spring from rock to rock; but you are lazy and infected with the disease of neutrality. You cannot hear the voices saying: 'Where is the enemy? On, on, for God, the Kaiser, and the Fatherland!'" Even Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, who is, according to Bettina, merely a supine hero, fails to elude her electric grasp: "Come, flee with me across the Alps to the Tyrolese. There will we whet our swords and forget thy rabble of comedians; and as for all thy darling mistresses, they must lack thee awhile."

The end of poets' friendships with literary women is not always marked by an anticlimax. Of Margaret Fuller, Emerson wrote in the privacy of his Journal: "I have no friend whom I more wish to be immortal than she. An influence I cannot spare, but would always have at hand for recourse." Words like these Bettina was continually listening for from her poet-idol, but she heard instead only the disillusioning echo of her own enthusiasms. Possessing neither stability of mind nor any consistent roundness of character, she was incapable of rendering herself necessary to Goethe. In her case, however, the gifts that were denied at her cradle seem to have been more than made up to her. Her ardent and aspiring soul, shutting out "all thoughts, all passions, all delights" else, was distilled into longing to share in the unending life of Goethe's poesy.[10]

Through the possession of this quality, Bettina, though not herself of heroic mold, enters the society of the great heroines and speaks to posterity. Ariadne on the island of Naxos lives not more truly in Ovid's poetical Epistles, than Bettina in the Correspondence. But Bettina has not, like Ariadne, had immortality conferred upon her through the verses of two great poets. She has rather taken it for herself, as Goethe said she was wont to do, in anticipating every gift. It is accordingly not in the Elegiacs of Ovid, flowing as a counter-stream to Lethe, that we may discern Bettina's gesture of immortal repose as a metamorphosed heroine. She is a type of the inspired lyrical nature, a belated child of the Renaissance. A graceful English song-writer of the Elizabethan period, Thomas Campion, who was as fond as Bettina of the figure of the flower and the sun, through which she symbolized her relation to Goethe, has in his verses anticipated her pose and her tone of agitated expectancy:

"Is [he] come? O how near is [he]? How far yet from this friendly place? How many steps from me? When shall I [him] embrace?

These armes I'll spread, which only at (his) sight shall close, Attending, as the starry flower that the sun's noone-tide knowes."

Campion termed his verses Light Conceits of Lovers. It is difficult to weigh Bettina's fancies, for she has, as it were, taken the scales with her when she closed the Correspondence: but it is only just to say of her Letters, that they realize, as a whole, Tasso's description of the permanent state of the true lover: "Brama assai, poco spera e nulla chiede" (Desire much, hope little and nothing demand).




May 11, 1807.

Dear Frau Rat:

I have been lying in bed for some time, but shall get up now to write you all about our trip. I wrote you that we passed through the military lines in male attire. Just before we reached the city gate my brother-in-law made us get out, because he wanted to see how becoming the clothes were. Lulu looked very well in them, for she has a splendid figure and the fit was perfect, whereas all my clothes were too loose and too long and looked as if I had bought them at a rag fair. My brother-in-law laughed at me and said I looked like a Savoyard boy and could be of great service to them. The coachman had driven us off the road through a forest, and when we came to a cross-road he didn't know which way to turn. Although it was only the beginning of the four weeks' trip, I was afraid we might get lost and then arrive in Weimar too late. I climbed up the highest pine and soon saw where the main road lay. I made the whole trip on the driver's box, with a fox-skin cap on my head and the brush hanging down my back. Whenever we arrived at a station, I would unharness the horses and help hitch up the fresh ones, and would speak broken German with the postilions as though I were a Frenchman. At first we had beautiful weather, just as though spring were coming; but soon it turned very cold and wintry. We passed through a forest of huge pines and firs all covered with frost; everything was spotless, for not a soul had driven along the road, which was absolutely white. Moreover the moon shone upon this deserted paradise of silver; a death-like stillness reigned-only the wheels creaked from the cold. I sat up on the box and wasn't a bit cold; winter weather strikes sparks from me! Along toward midnight we heard some one whistling in the forest. My brother-in-law handed me a pistol out of the carriage and asked whether I should have the courage to shoot in case robbers came along. I said "Yes," and he answered, "But don't shoot too soon." Lulu, who was inside the carriage, was frightened nearly to death, but where I was, out under the open sky, with my pistol cocked and my sabre buckled on, countless stars twinkled above me, the glistening trees casting their gigantic shadows on the broad, moon-lit way—all that made me brave away up on my lofty seat! Then I thought of him and wondered, if he had met me under such circumstances in his youthful years, whether it would not have made so poetic an impression on him that he would have composed sonnets to me and never have forgotten me. Now perhaps he thinks differently, and has probably risen above such a magic impression. It may be that higher qualities—how shall I ever attain them?—will maintain a right over him, unless eternal fidelity, cleaving to his threshold, finally wins him for me! Such was my mood on that cold, clear, winter night, in which I found no occasion to shoot off my pistol. Not until daybreak did I receive permission to fire it. The carriage stopped and I ran into the forest and bravely shot it off into the dense solitude, in honor of your son. In the meantime our axle had broken; we felled a tree with an axe we had with us and bound it securely with ropes; then my brother-in-law discovered how handy I was and complimented me. Thus we went on to Magdeburg. Precisely at seven o'clock in the evening the fortress gates are closed; we arrived just a minute late and had to wait outside till seven the next morning. It wasn't very cold, and the two inside the chaise went to sleep. In the night it began to snow; I had pulled my cloak over my head and sat quietly in my exposed seat. In the morning they peeped out of the carriage at me and beheld a snow man; but before they could get thoroughly frightened I threw off the cloak under which I had kept quite warm. In Berlin I was like a blind man in a throng and was so absent-minded that I could take no interest in anything. I only longed for a dark place where I shouldn't be disturbed and could think of the future that was so near at hand. Oh, mother, mother, think of your son! If you knew you were to see him in a short time, you too would be like a lightning-rod attracting every flash of lightning. When we were only a few miles from Weimar, my brother-in-law said he did not wish to make the detour through Weimar, but would rather take another road. I remained silent, but Lulu would not hear of it; she said it had been promised me and he would have to keep his word. Oh, mother, the sword hung by a hair over my head, but I managed to escape from under it.

We reached Weimar at twelve o'clock and sat down to dinner, but I couldn't eat. The other two lay down on the sofa and went to sleep, for we hadn't slept in three nights. "I advise you," said my brother-in-law, "to take a rest too; it won't make much difference to Goethe whether you go to see him or not, and there's nothing remarkable to see in him anyway." Can you imagine how these words discouraged me? Oh, I didn't know what to do, all alone in a strange town. I had changed my dress and stood at the window and looked at the town clock; it was just striking half-past two. It seemed to me, too, that Goethe wouldn't care particularly about seeing me; I remembered that people called him proud. I compresses my heart to quell its yearning. Suddenly the clock struck three, and then it seemed exactly as though he had called me. I ran down for the servant, but there was no carriage to be found. "Will a sedan chair do?" "No," I said, "that's an equipage for the hospital"—and we went on foot. There was a regular chocolate porridge in the streets and I had to have myself carried over the worst bogs. In this way I came to Wieland, not to your son. I had never seen Wieland, but I pretended to be an old acquaintance. He thought and thought, and finally said, "You certainly are a dear familiar angel, but I can't seem to remember when and where I have seen you." I jested with him and said, "Now I know that you dream of me, for you can't possibly have seen me elsewhere!" I had him give me a note to your son which I afterwards took with me and kept as a souvenir. Here's a copy of it: "Bettina Brentano, Sophie's sister, Maximilian's daughter, Sophie La Roche's granddaughter wishes to see you, dear brother, and pretends that she's afraid of you and that a note from me would serve as a talisman and give her courage. Although I am pretty certain that she is merely making sport of me, I nevertheless have to do what she wants and I shall be astonished if you don't have the same experience. W.

April 23, 1807."

With this note I sallied forth. The house lies opposite the fountain—how deafening the waters sounded in my ears! I ascended the simple staircase; in the wall stand plaster statues which impose silence—at any rate I couldn't utter a sound in this sacred hallway. Everything is cheery and yet solemn! The greatest simplicity prevails in the rooms, and yet it is all so inviting! "Do not fear," said the modest walls, "he will come, and he will be, and he will not claim to be more than you." And then the door opened and there he stood, solemnly serious, with his eyes fixed upon me. I stretched out my hands toward him, I believe, and soon I knew no more. Goethe caught me up quickly to his heart. "Poor child, did I frighten you?"—those were the first words through which his voice thrilled my heart. He led me into his room and placed me on the sofa opposite him. There we sat, both mute, until at last he broke the silence. "You have doubtless read in the paper that we suffered a great bereavement a few days ago in the death of the Duchess Amalia."

"Oh," I said, "I do not read the papers."

"Why, I thought everything that goes on in Weimar interests you."

"No, nothing interests me but you alone, and therefore I'm far too impatient to pore over the papers."

"You are a kind child." A long pause—I, glued in such anxiety to the odious sofa; you know how impossible it is for me to sit up in such well-bred fashion. Oh, mother, is it possible for any one to forget herself thus?

Suddenly I said, "I can't stay here on this sofa any longer," and jumped up.

"Well," said he, "make yourself comfortable;" and with that I flew into his arms. He drew me on his knee and pressed me to his heart. Everything was quiet, oh, so quiet, and then all vanished. I hadn't slept for so long—years had passed in longing for him—and I fell asleep on his breast. When I awoke a new life began for me. I'll not write you more this time.


May, 1807.

* * * Yes, man has a conscience; it exhorts him to fear nothing and to leave no demand of the heart unsatisfied. Passion is the only key to the world and through it the spirit learns to know and feel everything, for how could he enter the world otherwise? And so I feel that only through my love for him am I born into the spirit, that only through him the world is opened to me where the sun shines and day becomes distinct from night. The things I do not learn through this love, I shall never comprehend. I wish I were a poor beggar girl and might sit at his door-step, and take a morsel of bread from him, and that in my glance my soul would be revealed to him. Then he would draw me close to him and wrap me in his cloak, that I might grow warm. Surely he would not bid me depart; I could remain, wandering on and on in his home. And so the years would roll by and no one would know who I am and no one would know what had become of me, and thus the years and life itself would go by. The whole world would be mirrored in his face, and I should have no need of learning anything more.* * *

October, 1808.

* * * I hadn't yet seen him at that time when you used to while away for me those hours of ardent longing by picturing to me in a thousand different ways our first meeting and his joyous astonishment. Now I know him and I know how he smiles and the tone of his voice—how calm it is and yet so full of love; and his exclamations—how they come swelling from the depths of his heart like the tones of a melody, and how gently he soothes and affirms what surges forth in wild disorder from an overflowing heart. When I met him so unexpectedly again last year, I was so beside myself and wanted to speak, but simply could not compose myself. Then he placed his fingers on my lips and said, "Speak with your eyes—I understand it all"; and when he saw that they were full of tears he pressed my eyelids down and said; "Quiet, quiet, that is best for both of us!" Yes, dear mother, quiet was instantly suffused through my whole being, for didn't I possess everything for which I had longed for years! Oh, mother, I shall never cease thanking you for bearing this friend; where else could I have found him? Now don't laugh at me, but remember that I loved him before I knew the least thing about him, and if you had not borne him what would have become of him? That is a question you cannot answer.

* * * Thus a part of the winter passed. I was in a very happy frame of mind—others might call it exaltation, but it was natural to me. By the fortress wall that surrounded the large garden there was a watch-tower with a broken ladder inside. A house close by had been broken into, and though the thieves could not be traced it was believed they were concealed in the tower. I had examined it by day and seen that it would be impossible for a strong man to climb up this very high ladder, which was rotten and lacked many rungs. I tried it, but slid down again after I had gone up a short distance. In the night, after I had lain in bed awhile and Meline was asleep, the thought left me no peace. I threw a cloak about my shoulders, climbed out of the window, and walked by the old Marburg castle, where the Elector Philip and Elizabeth peeped laughingly out of the window. Often enough in the daytime I had observed this marble couple leaning far out of the window arm in arm, as though they wanted to survey their lands; but now at night I was so afraid of them that I jumped quickly into the tower. There I seized the ladder and helped myself up, heaven knows how; what I was unable to do in the daytime I accomplished at night with anxiously throbbing heart. When I was almost at the top, I stopped and considered that the thieves might really be up there and that they might attack me and hurl me from the tower. There I hung, not knowing whether to climb up or down, but the fresh air I scented lured me to the top. What feelings came over me when I suddenly, by snow and moonlight, surveyed the landscape spread out beneath me and stood there, alone and safe, with the great host of stars above me! Thus it is after death; the soul, striving to free itself, feels the burden of the body most as it is about to cast it off, but it is victorious in the end and relieved of its anguish. I was conscious only of being alone and nothing was closer to me at that moment than my solitude; all else had to vanish before this blessing. * * *


May 25, 1807.

* * * Ah, I can impart nothing else to thee than simply that which goes on in my heart! "Oh, if I could be with him now!" I thought, "the sunlight of my joy would beam on him with radiance as glowing as when his eye meets mine in friendly greeting. Oh, how splendid! My mind a sky of purple, my words the warm dew of love; my soul must issue like an unveiled bride from her chamber and confess: "Oh, lord and master, in the future I will see thee often and long by day, and the day shall often be closed by such an evening as this."

This I promise—that whatever goes on in my soul, all that is untouched by the outer world, shall be secretly and faithfully revealed to him who takes such loving interest in me and whose all-embracing power assures abundant, fruitful nourishment to the budding germs within my breast!

Without faith the lot of the soul is hard; its growth is slow and meagre like that of a hot-plant between rocks. Thus am I—thus I was until today—and this fountain of my heart, always without an outlet, suddenly finds its way to the light, and banks of balsam-breathing fields, blooming like paradise, accompany it on its way.

Oh, Goethe! My longing, my feelings, are melodies seeking a song to cling to! May I cling to thee? Then shall these melodies ascend high enough to accompany thy songs!* * *

June 20, 1807.

* * * I cannot resist telling thee what I have dreamed of thee at night—as if thou wert in the world for no other purpose. Often I have had the same dream and I have pondered much why my soul should always commune with thee under the same conditions. It is always as though I were to dance before thee in ethereal garments. I have a feeling that I shall accomplish all. The crowd surrounds me. Now I seek thee, and thou sittest opposite me calm and serene as if thou didst not observe me and wert busy with other things. Now I step out before thee with shoes of gold and my silvery arms hanging down carelessly—and wait. Then thou raisest thy head, involuntarily thy gaze is fixed upon me as I describe magic circles with airy tread. Thy eye leaves me no more; thou must follow me in my movements, and I experience the triumph of success! All that thou scarcely divinest I reveal to thee in the dance, and thou art astonished at the wisdom concealed in it. Soon I cast off my airy robe and show thee my wings and mount on high! Then I rejoice to see thy eye following me, and I glide to earth again and sink into thy embrace. Then thou sighest and gazest at me in rapture. Waking from these dreams I return to mankind as from a distant land; their voices seem so strange and their demeanor too! And now let me confess that my tears are flowing at this confession of my dreams. * * *

March 15, 1808.

When in a few weeks I go into the Rhine country, for spring will be here then, I shall write thee from every mountain; I am always so much nearer thee when I am outside the city walls. I sometimes seem to feel thee then with every breath I take. I feel thee reigning in my heart when it is beautiful without, when the air caresses; yes, when nature is good and kind like thee, then I feel thee so distinctly! * * *

* * * All other men seem to me as one and the same—I do not distinguish between them, and I take no interest in the great universal sea of human events. The stream of life bears thee, and thou me. In thy arms I shall pass over it, and thou wilt bear me until the end—wilt thou not? And even though there were thousands of existences yet to come, I can not take wing to them, for with thee I am at home. So be thou also at home in me—or dost thou know anything better than me and thee in the magic circle of life? * * *

March 30, 1808.

* * * The vineyards were still partially covered with snow. I was sitting on a broken window-bar and freezing, yet my ardent love for thee permeated my being. I was trembling for fear of falling, yet I climbed still higher because it occurred to me too venturesome for thy sake; thus thou often inspirest me with daring. It was fortunate that the wild wolves from the Odenwald[11] did not appear, for I should have grappled with them had I thought of thy honor. It seems foolish, but it's true.—Midnight, the evil hour of spirits, awakens me, and I lie at the window in the cold winter wind. All Frankfurt is dead, the wicks in the street lamps are on the point of expiring, and the old rusty weather-vanes cry out to me, and I ask myself, is that the eternal tune? Then I feel that this life is a prison where we all have only a pitiful vision of real freedom; that is one's own soul. Then a tumult rages in my breast and I long to soar above these old pointed gabled roofs that cut off heaven from me. I leave my chamber, run through the wide halls of our house, and search for a way through the old garrets. I suspect there are ghosts behind the rafters, but I do not heed them. Then I seek the steps to the little turret, and, when I am at last on top, I look out through the small window at the wide heavens and am not at all cold. It seems to me then as if I must give vent to all my pent-up tears, and the next day I am so cheerful and feel new-born, and I look with cunning for a prank to play. And—canst thou believe it?—all this is—thou!

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