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Imaginary Portraits by Walter Pater

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girl herself taking note of this, that on a former occasion of their
meeting he had seemed likely to respond to her inclination, and that his
father would readily consent to such a marriage, surprised him on the
sudden with those coquetries and importunities, all those little arts of
love, which often succeed with men. Only, to Sebastian they seemed
opposed to that absolute nature we suppose in love. And while, in the
eyes of all around him to-night, this courtship seemed to promise him,
thus early in life, a kind of quiet happiness, he was coming to an
estimate of the situation, with strict regard to that ideal of a calm,
intellectual indifference, of which he was the sworn chevalier. Set in
the cold, hard light of that ideal, this girl, with the pronounced
personal views of her mother, and in the very effectiveness of arts
prompted by a real affection, bringing the warm life they prefigured so
close to him, seemed vulgar! And still he felt himself bound in honour;
or judged from their manner that she and those about them thought him
thus bound. He did not reflect on the inconsistency of the feeling of
honour (living, as it does essentially, upon the concrete and minute
detail of social relationship) for one who, on principle, set so slight
a value on anything whatever that is merely relative in its character.

The guests, lively and late, were almost pledging the betrothed in the
rich wine. Only Sebastian's mother knew; and at that advanced hour,
while the company were thus intently occupied, drew away the Burgomaster
to confide to him the misgiving she felt, grown to a great height just
then. The young man had slipped from the assembly; but certainly not
with Mademoiselle van Westrheene, who was suddenly withdrawn also. And
she never appeared again in the world. Already, next day, with the
rumour that Sebastian had left his home, it was known that the expected
marriage would not take place. The girl, indeed, alleged something in
the way of a cause on her part; but seemed to fade away continually
afterwards, and in the eyes of all who saw her was like one perishing of
wounded pride. But to make a clean breast of her poor girlish
worldliness, before she became a beguine, she confessed to her mother
the receipt of the letter--the cruel letter that had killed her. And in
effect, the first copy of this letter, written with a very deliberate
fineness, rejecting her--accusing her, so natural, and simply loyal! of
a vulgar coarseness of character--was found, oddly tacked on, as their
last word, to the studious record of the abstract thoughts which had
been the real business of Sebastian's life, in the room whither his
mother went to seek him next day, littered with the fragments of the one
portrait of him in existence.

The neat and elaborate manuscript volume, of which this letter formed
the final page (odd transition! by which a train of thought so abstract
drew its conclusion in the sphere of action) afforded at length to the
few who were interested in him a much-coveted insight into the curiosity
of his existence; and I pause just here to indicate in outline the kind
of reasoning through which, making the "Infinite" his beginning and his
end, Sebastian had come to think all definite forms of being, the warm
pressure of life, the cry of nature itself, no more than a troublesome
irritation of the surface of the one absolute mind, a passing vexatious
thought or uneasy dream there, at its height of petulant importunity in
the eager, human creature.

The volume was, indeed, a kind of treatise to be:--a hard, systematic,
well-concatenated train of thought, still implicated in the
circumstances of a journal. Freed from the accidents of that particular
literary form with its unavoidable details of place and occasion, the
theoretic strain would have been found mathematically continuous. The
already so weary Sebastian might perhaps never have taken in hand, or
succeeded in, this detachment of his thoughts; every one of which,
beginning with himself as the peculiar and intimate apprehension of this
or that particular day and hour, seemed still to protest against such
disturbance, as if reluctant to part from those accidental associations
of the personal history which had prompted it, and so become a purely
intellectual abstraction.

The series began with Sebastian's boyish enthusiasm for a strange, fine
saying of Doctor Baruch de Spinosa, concerning the Divine Love:--That
whoso loveth God truly must not expect to be loved by him in return. In
mere reaction against an actual surrounding of which every circumstance
tended to make him a finished egotist, that bold assertion defined for
him the ideal of an intellectual disinterestedness, of a domain of
unimpassioned mind, with the desire to put one's subjective side out of
the way, and let pure reason speak.

And what pure reason affirmed in the first place, as the "beginning of
wisdom," was that the world is but a thought, or a series of thoughts:
that it exists, therefore, solely in mind. It showed him, as he fixed
the mental eye with more and more of self-absorption on the phenomena of
his intellectual existence, a picture or vision of the universe as
actually the product, so far as he really knew it, of his own lonely
thinking power--of himself, there, thinking: as being zero without him:
and as possessing a perfectly homogeneous unity in that fact. "Things
that have nothing in common with each other," said the axiomatic reason,
"cannot be understood or explained by means of each other." But to pure
reason things discovered themselves as being, in their essence,
thoughts:--all things, even the most opposite things, mere
transmutations, of a single power, the power of thought. All was but
conscious mind. Therefore, all the more exclusively, he must minister to
mind, to the intellectual power, submitting himself to the sole
direction of that, whithersoever it might lead him. Everything must be
referred to, and, as it were, changed into the terms of that, if its
essential value was to be ascertained. "Joy," he said, anticipating
Spinosa--that, for the attainment of which men are ready to surrender
all beside--"is but the name of a passion in which the mind passes to a
greater perfection or power of thinking; as grief is the name of the
passion in which it passes to a less."

Looking backward for the generative source of that creative power of
thought in him, from his own mysterious intellectual being to its first
cause, he still reflected, as one can but do, the enlarged pattern of
himself into the vague region of hypothesis. In this way, some, at all
events, would have explained his mental process. To him that process was
nothing less than the apprehension, the revelation, of the greatest and
most real of ideas--the true substance of all things. He, too, with his
vividly-coloured existence, with this picturesque and sensuous world of
Dutch art and Dutch reality all around that would fain have made him the
prisoner of its colours, its genial warmth, its struggle for life, its
selfish and crafty love, was but a transient perturbation of the one
absolute mind; of which, indeed, all finite things whatever, time
itself, the most durable achievements of nature and man, and all that
seems most like independent energy, are no more than petty accidents or
affections. Theorem and corollary! Thus they stood:

"There can be only one substance: (corollary) it is the greatest of
errors to think that the non-existent, the world of finite things seen
and felt, really is: (theorem): for, whatever is, is but in that:
(practical corollary): one's wisdom, therefore, consists in hastening,
so far as may be, the action of those forces which tend to the
restoration of equilibrium, the calm surface of the absolute, untroubled
mind, to tabula rasa, by the extinction in one's self of all that is but
correlative to the finite illusion--by the suppression of ourselves."

In the loneliness which was gathering round him, and, oddly enough, as a
somewhat surprising thing, he wondered whether there were, or had been,
others possessed of like thoughts, ready to welcome any such as his
veritable compatriots. And in fact he became aware just then, in
readings difficult indeed, but which from their all-absorbing interest
seemed almost like an illicit pleasure, a sense of kinship with certain
older minds. The study of many an earlier adventurous theorist satisfied
his curiosity as the record of daring physical adventure, for instance,
might satisfy the curiosity of the healthy. It was a tradition--a
constant tradition--that daring thought of his; an echo, or haunting
recurrent voice of the human soul itself, and as such sealed with
natural truth, which certain minds would not fail to heed; discerning
also, if they were really loyal to themselves, its practical
conclusion.--The one alone is: and all things beside are but its passing
affections, which have no necessary or proper right to be.

As but such "accidents" or "affections," indeed, there might have been
found, within the circumference of that one infinite creative thinker,
some scope for the joy and love of the creature. There have been
dispositions in which that abstract theorem has only induced a renewed
value for the finite interests around and within us. Centre of heat and
light, truly nothing has seemed to lie beyond the touch of its perpetual
summer. It has allied itself to the poetical or artistic sympathy, which
feels challenged to acquaint itself with and explore the various forms
of finite existence all the more intimately, just because of that sense
of one lively spirit circulating through all things--a tiny particle of
the one soul, in the sunbeam, or the leaf. Sebastian van Storck, on the
contrary, was determined, perhaps by some inherited satiety or fatigue
in his nature, to the opposite issue of the practical dilemma. For him,
that one abstract being was as the pallid Arctic sun, disclosing itself
over the dead level of a glacial, a barren and absolutely lonely sea.
The lively purpose of life had been frozen out of it. What he must
admire, and love if he could, was "equilibrium," the void, the tabula
rasa, into which, through all those apparent energies of man and nature,
that in truth are but forces of disintegration, the world was really
settling. And, himself a mere circumstance in a fatalistic series, to
which the clay of the potter was no sufficient parallel, he could not
expect to be "loved in return." At first, indeed, he had a kind of
delight in his thoughts--in the eager pressure forward, to whatsoever
conclusion, of a rigid intellectual gymnastic, which was like the making
of Euclid. Only, little by little, under the freezing influence of such
propositions, the theoretic energy itself, and with it his old eagerness
for truth, the care to track it from proposition to proposition, was
chilled out of him. In fact, the conclusion was there already, and might
have been foreseen, in the premises. By a singular perversity, it seemed
to him that every one of those passing "affections"--he too, alas! at
times--was for ever trying to be, to assert ITSELF, to maintain its
isolated and petty self, by a kind of practical lie in things; although
through every incident of its hypothetic existence it had protested that
its proper function was to die. Surely! those transient affections
marred the freedom, the truth, the beatific calm, of the absolute
selfishness, which could not, if it would, pass beyond the circumference
of itself; to which, at times, with a fantastic sense of wellbeing, he
was capable of a sort of fanatical devotion. And those, as he conceived,
were his moments of genuine theoretic insight, in which, under the
abstract "perpetual light," he died to self; while the intellect, after
all, had attained a freedom of its own through the vigorous act which
assured him that, as nature was but a thought of his, so himself also
was but the passing thought of God.

No! rather a puzzle only, an anomaly, upon that one, white, unruffled
consciousness! His first principle once recognised, all the rest, the
whole array of propositions down to the heartless practical conclusion,
must follow of themselves. Detachment: to hasten hence: to fold up one's
whole self, as a vesture put aside: to anticipate, by such individual
force as he could find in him, the slow disintegration by which nature
herself is levelling the eternal hills:--here would be the secret of
peace, of such dignity and truth as there could be in a world which
after all was essentially an illusion. For Sebastian at least, the world
and the individual alike had been divested of all effective purpose.
The most vivid of finite objects, the dramatic episodes of Dutch
history, the brilliant personalities which had found their parts to play
in them, that golden art, surrounding us with an ideal world, beyond
which the real world is discernible indeed, but etherealised by the
medium through which it comes to one: all this, for most men so powerful
a link to existence, only set him on the thought of escape--means of
escape--into a formless and nameless infinite world, quite evenly grey.
The very emphasis of those objects, their importunity to the eye, the
ear, the finite intelligence, was but the measure of their distance from
what really is. One's personal presence, the presence, such as it is, of
the most incisive things and persons around us, could only lessen by so
much, that which really is. To restore tabula rasa, then, by a continual
effort at self-effacement! Actually proud at times of his curious,
well-reasoned nihilism, he could but regard what is called the business
of life as no better than a trifling and wearisome delay. Bent on making
sacrifice of the rich existence possible for him, as he would readily
have sacrificed that of other people, to the bare and formal logic of
the answer to a query (never proposed at all to entirely healthy minds)
regarding the remote conditions and tendencies of that existence, he did
not reflect that if others had inquired as curiously as himself the
world could never have come so far at all--that the fact of its having
come so far was itself a weighty exception to his hypothesis. His odd
devotion, soaring or sinking into fanaticism, into a kind of religious
mania, with what was really a vehement assertion of his individual will,
he had formulated duty as the principle to hinder as little as possible
what he called the restoration of equilibrium, the restoration of the
primary consciousness to itself--its relief from that uneasy, tetchy,
unworthy dream of a world, made so ill, or dreamt so weakly--to forget,
to be forgotten.

And at length this dark fanaticism, losing the support of his pride in
the mere novelty of a reasoning so hard and dry, turned round upon him,
as our fanaticism will, in black melancholy. The theoretic or
imaginative desire to urge Time's creeping footsteps, was felt now as
the physical fatigue which leaves the book or the letter unfinished, or
finishes eagerly out of hand, for mere finishing's sake, unimportant
business. Strange! that the presence to the mind of a metaphysical
abstraction should have had this power over one so fortunately endowed
for the reception of the sensible world. It could hardly have been so
with him but for the concurrence of physical causes with the influences
proper to a mere thought. The moralist, indeed, might have noted that a
meaner kind of pride, the morbid fear of vulgarity, lent secret strength
to the intellectual prejudice, which realised duty as the renunciation
of all finite objects, the fastidious refusal to be or do any limited
thing. But besides this it was legible in his own admissions from time
to time, that the body, following, as it does with powerful
temperaments, the lead of mind and the will, the intellectual
consumption (so to term it) had been concurrent with, had strengthened
and been strengthened by, a vein of physical phthisis--by a merely
physical accident, after all, of his bodily constitution, such as might
have taken a different turn, had another accident fixed his home among
the hills instead of on the shore. Is it only the result of disease? he
would ask himself sometimes with a sudden suspicion of his intellectual
cogency--this persuasion that myself, and all that surrounds me, are but
a diminution of that which really is?--this unkindly melancholy?

The journal, with that "cruel" letter to Mademoiselle van Westrheene
coming as the last step in the rigid process of theoretic deduction,
circulated among the curious; and people made their judgments upon it.
There were some who held that such opinions should be suppressed by law;
that they were, or might become, dangerous to society. Perhaps it was
the confessor of his mother who thought of the matter most justly. The
aged man smiled, observing how, even for minds by no means superficial,
the mere dress it wears alters the look of a familiar thought; with a
happy sort of smile, as he added (reflecting that such truth as there
was in Sebastian's theory was duly covered by the propositions of his
own creed, and quoting Sebastian's favourite pagan wisdom from the lips
of Saint Paul) "in Him, we live, and move, and have our being."

Next day, as Sebastian escaped to the sea under the long, monotonous
line of wind-mills, in comparative calm of mind--reaction of that
pleasant morning from the madness of the night before--he was making
light, or trying to make light, with some success, of his late distress.
He would fain have thought it a small matter, to be adequately set at
rest for him by certain well-tested influences of external nature, in a
long visit to the place he liked best: a desolate house, amid the sands
of the Helder, one of the old lodgings of his family property now,
rather, of the sea-birds, and almost surrounded by the encroaching tide,
though there were still relics enough of hardy, sweet things about it,
to form what was to Sebastian the most perfect garden in Holland. Here
he could make "equation" between himself and what was not himself, and
set things in order, in preparation towards such deliberate and final
change in his manner of living as circumstances so clearly necessitated.

As he stayed in this place, with one or two silent serving people, a
sudden rising of the wind altered, as it might seem, in a few dark,
tempestuous hours, the entire world around him. The strong wind changed
not again for fourteen days, and its effect was a permanent one; so that
people might have fancied that an enemy had indeed cut the dykes
somewhere--a pin-hole enough to wreck the ship of Holland, or at least
this portion of it, which underwent an inundation of the sea the like of
which had not occurred in that province for half a century. Only, when
the body of Sebastian was found, apparently not long after death, a
child lay asleep, swaddled warmly in his heavy furs, in an upper room of
the old tower, to which the tide was almost risen; though the building
still stood firmly, and still with the means of life in plenty. And it
was in the saving of this child, with a great effort, as certain
circumstances seemed to indicate, that Sebastian had lost his life.

His parents were come to seek him, believing him bent on
self-destruction, and were almost glad to find him thus. A learned
physician, moreover, endeavoured to comfort his mother by remarking that
in any case he must certainly have died ere many years were passed,
slowly, perhaps painfully, of a disease then coming into the world;
disease begotten by the fogs of that country--waters, he observed, not
in their place, "above the firmament"--on people grown somewhat
over-delicate in their nature by the effects of modern luxury.


One stormy season about the beginning of the present century, a great
tree came down among certain moss-covered ridges of old masonry which
break the surface of the Rosenmold heath, exposing, together with its
roots, the remains of two persons. Whether the bodies (male and female,
said German bone-science) had been purposely buried there was
questionable. They seemed rather to have been hidden away by the
accident, whatever it was, which had caused death--crushed, perhaps,
under what had been the low wall of a garden--being much distorted, and
lying, though neatly enough discovered by the upheaval of the soil, in
great confusion. People's attention was the more attracted to the
incident because popular fancy had long run upon a tradition of buried
treasures, golden treasures, in or about the antiquated ruin which the
garden boundary enclosed; the roofless shell of a small but
solidly-built stone house, burnt or overthrown, perhaps in the time of
the wars at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Many persons went
to visit the remains lying out on the dark, wild plateau, which
stretches away above the tallest roofs of the old grand-ducal town, very
distinctly outlined, on that day, in deep fluid grey against a sky still
heavy with coming rain. No treasure, indeed, was forthcoming among the
masses of fallen stone. But the tradition was so far verified, that the
bones had rich golden ornaments about them; and for the minds of some
long-remembering people their discovery set at rest an old query. It had
never been precisely known what was become of the young Duke Carl, who
disappeared from the world just a century before, about the time when a
great army passed over those parts, at a political crisis, one result of
which was the final absorption of his small territory in a neighbouring
dominion. Restless, romantic, eccentric, had he passed on with the
victorious host, and taken the chances of an obscure soldier's life?
Certain old letters hinted at a different ending--love-letters which
provided for a secret meeting, preliminary perhaps to the final
departure of the young Duke (who, by the usage of his realm, could only
with extreme difficulty go whither, or marry whom, he pleased) to
whatever worlds he had chosen, not of his own people. The minds of those
still interested in the matter were now at last made up, the disposition
of the remains suggesting to them the lively picture of a sullen night,
the unexpected passing of the great army, and the two lovers rushing
forth wildly at the sudden tumult outside their cheerful shelter, caught
in the dark and trampled out so, surprised and unseen, among the horses and
heavy guns.

Time, at the court of the Grand-duke of Rosenmold, at the beginning of
the eighteenth century might seem to have been standing still almost
since the Middle Age--since the days of the Emperor Charles the Fifth,
at which period, by the marriage of the hereditary Grand-duke with a
princess of the Imperial house, a sudden tide of wealth, flowing through
the grand-ducal exchequer, had left a kind of golden architectural
splendour on the place, always too ample for its population. The sloping
Gothic roofs for carrying off the heavy snows still indented the sky--a
world of tiles, with space uncurtailed for the awkward gambols of that
very German goblin, Hans Klapper, on the long, slumberous, northern
nights. Whole quarryfuls of wrought stone had been piled along the
streets and around the squares, and were now grown, in truth, like
nature's self again, in their rough, time-worn massiveness, with weeds
and wild flowers where their decay accumulated, blossoming, always the
same, beyond people's memories, every summer, as the storks came back to
their platforms on the remote chimney-tops. Without, all was as it had
been on the eve of the Thirty Years' War: the venerable dark-green
mouldiness, priceless pearl of architectural effect, was unbroken by a
single new gable. And within, human life--its thoughts, its habits,
above all, its etiquette--had keen put out by no matter of excitement,
political or intellectual, ever at all, one might say, at any time. The
rambling grand-ducal palace was full to overflowing with furniture,
which, useful or useless, was all ornamental, and none of it new.
Suppose the various objects, especially the contents of the haunted old
lumber-rooms, duly arranged and ticketed, and their Highnesses would
have had a historic museum, after which those famed "Green Vaults" at
Dresden would hardly have counted as one of the glories of Augustus the
Strong. An immense heraldry, that truly German vanity, had grown,
expatiating, florid, eloquent, over everything, without and
within--windows, house-fronts, church walls, and church floors. And
one-half of the male inhabitants were big or little State functionaries,
mostly of a quasi decorative order--the treble-singer to the
town-council, the court organist, the court poet, and the like--each
with his deputies and assistants, maintaining, all unbroken, a sleepy
ceremonial, to make the hours just noticeable as they slipped away. At
court, with a continuous round of ceremonies, which, though early in the
day, must always take place under a jealous exclusion of the sun, one
seemed to live in perpetual candle-light.

It was in a delightful rummaging of one of those lumber-rooms, escaped
from that candle-light into the broad day of the uppermost windows, that
the young Duke Carl laid his hand on an old volume of the year 1486,
printed in heavy type, with frontispiece, perhaps, by Albert Duerer--Ars
Versificandi: The Art of Versification: by Conrad Celtes. Crowned poet
of the Emperor Frederick the Third, he had the right to speak on that
subject; for while he vindicated as best he might old German literature
against the charge of barbarism, he did also a man's part towards
reviving in the Fatherland the knowledge of the poetry of Greece and
Rome; and for Carl, the pearl, the golden nugget, of the volume was the
Sapphic ode with which it closed--To Apollo, praying that he would come
to us from Italy, bringing his lyre with him: Ad Apollinem, Ut ab Italis
cum lyra ad Germanos veniat. The god of light, coming to Germany from
some more favoured world beyond it, over leagues of rainy hill and
mountain, making soft day there: that had ever been the dream of the
ghost-ridden yet deep-feeling and certainly meek German soul; of the
great Duerer, for instance, who had been the friend of this Conrad
Celtes, and himself, all German as he was, like a gleam of real day amid
that hyperborean German darkness--a darkness which clave to him, too, at
that dim time, when there were violent robbers, nay, real live devils,
in every German wood. And it was precisely the aspiration of Carl
himself. Those verses, coming to the boy's hand at the right moment,
brought a beam of effectual daylight to a whole magazine of observation,
fancy, desire, stored up from the first impressions of childhood. To
bring Apollo with his lyre to Germany! It was precisely that he, Carl,
desired to do--was, as he might flatter himself, actually doing.

The daylight, the Apolline aurora, which the young Duke Carl claimed to
be bringing to his candle-lit people, came in the somewhat questionable
form of the contemporary French ideal, in matters of art and
literature--French plays, French architecture, French
looking-glasses--Apollo in the dandified costume of Lewis the
Fourteenth. Only, confronting the essentially aged and decrepit graces
of his model with his own essentially youthful temper, he invigorated
what he borrowed; and with him an aspiration towards the classical
ideal, so often hollow and insincere, lost all its affectation. His
doating grandfather, the reigning Grand-duke, afforded readily enough,
from the great store of inherited wealth which would one day be the
lad's, the funds necessary for the completion of the vast unfinished
Residence, with "pavilions" (after the manner of the famous Mansard)
uniting its scattered parts; while a wonderful flowerage of
architectural fancy, with broken attic roofs, passed over and beyond the
earlier fabric; the later and lighter forms being in part carved
adroitly out of the heavy masses of the old, honest, "stump Gothic"
tracery. One fault only Carl found in his French models, and was
resolute to correct. He would have, at least within, real marble in
place of stucco, and, if he might, perhaps solid gold for gilding.
There was something in the sanguine, floridly handsome youth, with his
alertness of mind turned wholly, amid the vexing preoccupations of an
age of war, upon embellishment and the softer things of life, which
soothed the testy humours of the old Duke, like the quiet physical
warmth of a fire or the sun. He was ready to preside with all ceremony
at a presentation of Marivaux's Death of Hannibal, played in the
original, with such imperfect mastery of the French accent as the lovers
of new light in Rosenmold had at command, in a theatre copied from that
at Versailles, lined with pale yellow satin, and with a picture, amid
the stucco braveries of the ceiling, of the Septentrional Apollo
himself, in somewhat watery red and blue. Innumerable wax lights in
cut-glass lustres were a thing of course. Duke Carl himself, attired
after the newest French fashion, played the part of Hannibal. The old
Duke, indeed, at a council-board devoted hitherto to matters of state,
would nod very early in certain long discussions on matters of
art--magnificent schemes, from this or that eminent contractor, for
spending his money tastefully, distinguishings of the rococo and the
baroque. On the other hand, having been all his life in close
intercourse with select humanity, self-conscious and arrayed for
presentation, he was a helpful judge of portraits and the various
degrees of the attainment of truth therein--a phase of fine art which
the grandson could not value too much. The sergeant-painter and the
deputy sergeant-painter were, indeed, conventional performers enough; as
mechanical in their dispensation of wigs, finger-rings, ruffles, and
simpers, as the figure of the armed knight who struck the bell in the
Residence tower. But scattered through its half-deserted rooms, state
bed-chambers and the like, hung the works of more genuine masters, still
as unadulterate as the hock, known to be two generations old, in the
grand-ducal cellar. The youth had even his scheme of inviting the
illustrious Antony Coppel to the court; to live there, if he would, with
the honours and emoluments of a prince of the blood. The illustrious
Mansard had actually promised to come, had not his sudden death taken
him away from earthly glory.

And at least, if one must forgo the masters, masterpieces might be had
for their price. For ten thousand marks--day ever to be remembered!--a
genuine work of "the Urbinate," from the cabinet of a certain
commercially-minded Italian grand-duke, was on its way to Rosenmold,
anxiously awaited as it came over rainy mountain-passes, and along the
rough German roads, through doubtful weather. The tribune, the throne
itself, were made ready in the presence-chamber, with hangings in the
grand-ducal colours, laced with gold, together with a speech and an ode.
Late at night, at last, the waggon was heard rumbling into the
courtyard, with the guest arrived in safety, but, if one must confess
one's self, perhaps forbidding at first sight. From a comfortless
portico, with all the grotesqueness of the Middle Age, supported by
brown, aged bishops, whose meditations no incident could distract, Our
Lady looked out no better than an unpretending nun, with nothing to say
the like of which one was used to hear. Certainly one was not stimulated
by, enwrapped, absorbed in the great master's doings; only, with much
private disappointment, put on one's mettle to defend him against
critics notoriously wanting in sensibility, and against one's self. In
truth, the painter whom Carl most unaffectedly enjoyed, the real vigour
of his youthful and somewhat animal taste finding here its proper
sustenance, was Rubens--Rubens reached, as he is reached at his best, in
well-preserved family portraits, fresh, gay, ingenious, as of privileged
young people who could never grow old. Had not he, too, brought
something of the splendour of a "better land" into those northern
regions; if not the glowing gold of Titian's Italian sun, yet the
carnation and yellow of roses or tulips, such as might really grow there
with cultivation, even under rainy skies? And then, about this time
something was heard at the grand-ducal court of certain mysterious
experiments in the making of porcelain; veritable alchemy, for the
turning of clay into gold. The reign of Dresden china was at hand, with
one's own world of little men and women more delightfully diminutive
still, amid imitations of artificial flowers. The young Duke braced
himself for a plot to steal the gifted Herr Boettcher from his enforced
residence, as if in prison, at the fortress of Meissen. Why not bring
pots and wheels to Rosenmold, and prosecute his discoveries there? The
Grand-duke, indeed, preferred his old service of gold plate, and would
have had the lad a virtuoso in nothing less costly than gold--gold

For, in truth, regarding what belongs to art or culture, as elsewhere,
we may have a large appetite and little to feed on. Only, in the things
of the mind, the appetite itself counts for so much, at least in
hopeful, unobstructed youth, with the world before it. "You are the
Apollo you tell us of, the northern Apollo," people were beginning to
say to him, surprised from time to time by a mental purpose beyond their
guesses--expressions, liftings, softly gleaming or vehement lights, in
the handsome countenance of the youth, and his effective speech, as he
roamed, inviting all about him to share the honey, from music to
painting, from painting to the drama, all alike florid in style, yes!
and perhaps third-rate. And so far consistently throughout he had held
that the centre of one's intellectual system must be understood to be in
France. He had thoughts of proceeding to that country, secretly, in
person, there to attain the very impress of its genius.

Meantime, its more portable flowers came to order in abundance. That the
roses, so to put it, were but excellent artificial flowers, redolent
only of musk, neither disproved for Carl the validity of his ideal nor
for our minds the vocation of Carl himself in these matters. In art, as
in all other things of the mind, again, much depends on the receiver;
and the higher informing capacity, if it exist within, will mould an
unpromising matter to itself, will realise itself by selection, and. The
preference of the better in what is bad or indifferent, asserting its
prerogative under the most unlikely conditions. People had in Carl,
could they have understood it, the spectacle, under those superficial
braveries, of a really heroic effort of mind at a disadvantage. That
rococo seventeenth-century French imitation of the true Renaissance,
called out in Carl a boundless enthusiasm, as the Italian original had
done two centuries before. He put into his reception of the aesthetic
achievements of Lewis the Fourteenth what young France had felt when
Francis the First brought home the great Da Vinci and his works. It was
but himself truly, after all, that he had found, so fresh and real,
among those artificial roses.

He was thrown the more upon such outward and sensuous products of
mind--architecture, pottery, presently on music--because for him, with
so large intellectual capacity, there was, to speak properly, no
literature in his mother-tongue. Books there were, German books, but of
a dulness, a distance from the actual interests of the warm, various,
coloured life around and within him, to us hardly conceivable. There was
more entertainment in the natural train of his own solitary thoughts,
humoured and rightly attuned by pleasant visible objects, than in all
the books he had hunted through so carefully for that all-searching
intellectual light, of which a passing gleam of interest gave fallacious
promise here or there. And still, generously, he held to the belief,
urging him to fresh endeavour, that the literature which might set heart
and mind free must exist somewhere, though court librarians could not
say where. In search for it he spent many days in those old book-closets
where he had lighted on the Latin ode of Conrad Celtes. Was German
literature always to remain no more than a kind of penal apparatus for
the teasing of the brain? Oh for a literature set free, conterminous
with the interests of life itself.

In music, it might be thought, Germany had already vindicated its
spiritual liberty. One and another of those North-german towns were
already aware of the youthful Sebastian Bach. The first notes had been
heard of a music not borrowed from France, but flowing, as naturally as
springs from their sources, out of the ever musical soul of Germany
itself. And the Duke Carl was a sincere lover of music, himself playing
melodiously on the violin to a delighted court. That new Germany of the
spirit would be builded, perhaps, to the sound of music. In those other
artistic enthusiasms, as the prophet of the French drama or the
architectural taste of Lewis the Fourteenth, he had contributed himself
generously, helping out with his own good-faith the inadequacy of their
appeal. Music alone hitherto had really helped HIM, and taken him out of
himself. To music, instinctively, more and more he was dedicate; and in
his desire to refine and organise the court music, from which, by leave
of absence to official performers enjoying their salaries at a distance,
many parts had literally fallen away, like the favourite notes of a
worn-out spinet, he was ably seconded by a devoted youth, the deputy
organist of the grand-ducal chapel. A member of the Roman Church amid a
people chiefly of the Reformed religion, Duke Carl would creep sometimes
into the curtained court pew of the Lutheran Church, to which he had
presented its massive golden crucifix, to listen to the chorales, the
execution of which he had managed to time to his liking, relishing, he
could hardly explain why, those passages of a pleasantly monotonous and,
as it might seem, unending melody--which certainly never came to what
could rightly be called an ending here on earth; and having also a
sympathy with the cheerful genius of Dr. Martin Luther, with his good
tunes, and that ringing laughter which sent dull goblins flitting.

At this time, then, his mind ran eagerly for awhile on the project of
some musical and dramatic development of a fancy suggested by that old
Latin poem of Conrad Celtes--the hyperborean Apollo, sojourning, in the
revolutions of time, in the sluggish north for a season, yet Apollo
still, prompting art, music, poetry, and the philosophy which interprets
man's life, making a sort of intercalary day amid the natural darkness;
not meridian day, of course, but a soft derivative daylight, good enough
for us. It would be necessarily a mystic piece, abounding in fine
touches, suggestions, innuendoes. His vague proposal was met half-way by
the very practical executant power of his friend or servant, the deputy
organist, already pondering, with just a satiric flavour (suppressible
in actual performance, if the time for that should ever come) a musical
work on Duke Carl himself; Balder, an Interlude. He was contented to
re-cast and enlarge the part of the northern god of light, with a now
wholly serious intention. But still, the near, the real and familiar,
gave precision to, or actually superseded, the distant and the ideal.
The soul of the music was but a transfusion from the fantastic but so
interesting creature close at hand. And Carl was certainly true to his
proposed part in that he gladdened others by an intellectual radiance
which had ceased to mean warmth or animation for himself. For him the
light was still to seek in France, in Italy, above all in old Greece,
amid the precious things which might yet be lurking there unknown, in
art, in poetry, perhaps in very life, till Prince Fortunate should come.

Yes! it was thither, to Greece, that his thoughts were turned during
those romantic classical musings while the opera was made ready. That,
in due time, was presented, with sufficient success. Meantime, his
purpose was grown definite to visit that original country of the Muses,
from which the pleasant things of Italy had been but derivative; to
brave the difficulties in the way of leaving home at all, the
difficulties also of access to Greece, in the present condition of the

At times the fancy came that he must really belong by descent to a
southern race, that a physical cause might lie beneath this strange
restlessness, like the imperfect reminiscence of something that had
passed in earlier life. The aged ministers of heraldry were set to work
(actually prolonging their days by an unexpected revival of interest in
their too well-worn function) at the search for some obscure rivulet of
Greek descent--later Byzantine Greek, perhaps,--in the Rosenmold
genealogy. No! with a hundred quarterings, they were as indigenous,
incorruptible heraldry reasserted, as the old yew-trees' asquat on the

And meantime those dreams of remote and probably adventurous travel lent
the youth, still so healthy of body, a wing for more distant expeditions
than he had ever yet inclined to, among his own wholesome German
woodlands. In long rambles, afoot or on horseback, by day and night, he
flung himself, for the resettling of his sanity, on the cheerful
influences of their simple imagery; the hawks, as if asleep on the air
below him; the bleached crags, evoked by late sunset among the dark
oaks; the water-wheels, with their pleasant murmur, in the foldings of
the hillside.

Clouds came across his heaven, little sudden clouds, like those which in
this northern latitude, where summer is at best but a flighty visitor,
chill out the heart, though but for a few minutes at a time, of the
warmest afternoon. He had fits of the gloom of other people--their dull
passage through and exit from the world, the threadbare incidents of
their lives, their dismal funerals--which, unless he drove them away
immediately by strenuous exercise, settled into a gloom more properly
his own. Yet at such times outward things also would seem to concur
unkindly in deepening the mental shadow about him, almost as if there
were indeed animation in the natural world, elfin spirits in those
inaccessible hillsides and dark ravines, as old German poetry pretended,
cheerfully assistant sometimes, but for the most part troublesome, to
their human kindred. Of late these fits had come somewhat more
frequently, and had continued. Often it was a weary, deflowered face
that his favourite mirrors reflected. Yes! people were prosaic, and
their lives threadbare:---all but himself and organist Max, perhaps, and
Fritz the treble-singer. In return, the people in actual contact with
him thought him a little mad, though still ready to flatter his madness,
as he could detect. Alone with the doating old grandfather in their
stiff, distant, alien world of etiquette, he felt surrounded by
flatterers, and would fain have tested the sincerity even of Max, and
Fritz who said, echoing the words of the other, "Yourself, Sire, are the
Apollo of Germany!"

It was his desire to test the sincerity of the people about him, and
unveil flatterers, which in the first instance suggested a trick he
played upon the court, upon all Europe. In that complex but wholly
Teutonic genealogy lately under research, lay a much-prized thread of
descent from the fifth Emperor Charles, and Carl, under direction, read
with much readiness to be impressed all that was attainable concerning
the great ancestor, finding there in truth little enough to reward his
pains. One hint he took, however. He determined to assist at his own

That he might in this way facilitate that much-desired journey occurred
to him almost at once as an accessory motive, and in a little while
definite motives were engrossed in the dramatic interest, the pleasing
gloom, the curiosity, of the thing itself. Certainly, amid the living
world in Germany, especially in old, sleepy Rosenmold, death made great
parade of itself. Youth even, in its sentimental mood, was ready to
indulge in the luxury of decay, and amuse itself with fancies of the
tomb; as in periods of decadence or suspended progress, when the world
seems to nap for a time, artifices for the arrest or disguise of old age
are adopted as a fashion, and become the fopperies of the young. The
whole body of Carl's relations, saving the drowsy old grandfather,
already lay buried beneath their expansive heraldries: at times the
whole world almost seemed buried thus--made and re-made of the dead--its
entire fabric of politics, of art, of custom, being essentially heraldic
"achievements," dead men's mementoes such as those. You see he was a
sceptical young man, and his kinsmen dead and gone had passed certainly,
in his imaginations of them, into no other world, save, perhaps, into
some stiffer, slower, sleepier, and more pompous phase of ceremony--the
last degree of court etiquette--as they lay there in the great,
low-pitched, grand-ducal vault, in their coffins, dusted once a year for
All Souls' Day, when the court officials descended thither, and Mass for
the dead was sung, amid an array of dropping crape and cobwebs. The lad,
with his full red lips and open blue eyes, coming as with a great cup in
his hands to life's feast, revolted from the like of that, as from
suffocation. And still the suggestion of it was everywhere. In the
garish afternoon, up to the wholesome heights of the Heiligenberg
suddenly from one of the villages of the plain came the grinding
death-knell. It seemed to come out of the ugly grave itself, and
enjoyment was dead. On his way homeward sadly, an hour later, he enters
by chance the open door of a village church, half buried in the tangle
of its churchyard. The rude coffin is lying there of a labourer who had
but a hovel to live in. The enemy dogged one's footsteps! The young Carl
seemed to be flying, not from death simply, but from assassination.

And as these thoughts sent him back in the rebounding power of youth,
with renewed appetite, to life and sense, so, grown at last familiar,
they gave additional purpose to his fantastic experiment. Had it not
been said by a wise man that after all the offence of death was in its
trappings? Well! he would, as far as might be, try the thing, while,
presumably, a large reversionary interest in life was still his. He
would purchase his freedom, at least of those gloomy "trappings," and
listen while he was spoken of as dead. The mere preparations gave
pleasant proof of the devotion to him of a certain number, who entered
without question into his plans. It is not difficult to mislead the
world concerning what happens to those who live at the artificial
distance from it of a court, with its high wall of etiquette. However
the matter was managed, no one doubted, when, with a blazon of
ceremonious words, the court news went forth that, after a brief
illness, according to the way of his race, the hereditary Grand-duke was
deceased. In momentary regret, bethinking them of the lad's taste for
splendour, those to whom the arrangement of such matters belonged (the
grandfather now sinking deeper into bare quiescence) backed by the
popular wish, determined to give him a funeral with even more than
grand-ducal measure of lugubrious magnificence. The place of his repose
was marked out for him as officiously as if it had been the delimitation
of a kingdom, in the ducal burial vault, through the cobwebbed windows
of which, from the garden where he played as a child, the young Duke had
often peered at the faded glories of the immense coroneted coffins, the
oldest shedding their velvet tatters around them. Surrounded by the
whole official world of Rosenmold, arrayed for the occasion in almost
forgotten dresses of ceremony as if for a masquerade, the new coffin
glided from the fragrant chapel where the Requiem was sung, down the
broad staircase lined with peach-colour and yellow marble, into the
shadows below. Carl himself, disguised as a strolling musician, had
followed it across the square through a drenching rain, on which
circumstance he overheard the old people congratulate the "blessed" dead
within, had listened to a dirge of his own composing brought out on the
great organ with much bravura by his friend, the new court organist, who
was in the secret, and that night turned the key of the garden entrance
to the vault, and peeped in upon the sleepy, painted, and bewigged
young pages whose duty it would be for a certain number of days to come
to watch beside their late master's couch.

And a certain number of weeks afterwards it was known that "the mad
Duke" had reappeared, to the dismay of court marshals. Things might have
gone hard with the youth had the strange news, at first as fantastic
rumour, then as matter of solemn enquiry, lastly as ascertained fact,
pleasing or otherwise, been less welcome than it was to the grandfather,
too old, indeed, to sorrow deeply, but grown so decrepit as to propose
that ministers should possess themselves of the person of the young
Duke, proclaim him of age and regent. From those dim travels, presenting
themselves to the old man, who had never been fifty miles away from
home, as almost lunar in their audacity, he would come back--come back
"in time," he murmured faintly, eager to feel that youthful, animating
life on the stir about him once more.

Carl himself, now the thing was over, greatly relishing its satiric
elements, must be forgiven the trick of the burial and his still greater
enormity in coming to life again. And then, duke or no duke, it was
understood that he willed that things should in no case be precisely as
they had been. He would never again be quite so near people's lives as
in the past--a fitful, intermittent visitor--almost as if he had been
properly dead; the empty coffin remaining as a kind of symbolical
"coronation incident," setting forth his future relations to his
subjects. Of all those who believed him dead one human creature only,
save the grandfather, had sincerely sorrowed for him; a woman, in tears
as the funeral train passed by, with whom he had sympathetically
discussed his own merits. Till then he had forgotten the incident which
had exhibited him to her as the very genius of goodness and strength;
how, one day, driving with her country produce into the market, and,
embarrassed by the crowd, she had broken one of a hundred little police
rules, whereupon the officers were about to carry her away to be fined,
or worse, amid the jeers of the bystanders, always ready to deal hardly
with "the gipsy," at which precise moment the tall Duke Carl, like the
flash of a trusty sword, had leapt from the palace stair and caused her
to pass on in peace. She had half detected him through his disguise; in
due time news of his reappearance had been ceremoniously carried to her
in her little cottage, and the remembrance of her hung about him not
ungratefully, as he went with delight upon his way.

The first long stage of his journey over, in headlong flight night and
day, he found himself one summer morning under the heat of what seemed a
southern sun, at last really at large on the Bergstrasse, with the rich
plain of the Palatinate on his left hand; on the right hand vineyards,
seen now for the first time, sloping up into the crisp beeches of the
Odenwald. By Weinheim only an empty tower remained of the Castle of
Windeck. He lay for the night in the great whitewashed guest-chamber of
the Capuchin convent.

The national rivers, like the national woods, have a family likeness:
the Main, the Lahn, the Moselle, the Neckar, the Rhine. By help of such
accommodation as chance afforded, partly on the stream itself, partly
along the banks, he pursued the leisurely winding course of one of the
prettiest of these, tarrying for awhile in the towns, grey, white, or
red, which came in his way, tasting their delightful native "little"
wines, peeping into their old overloaded churches, inspecting the church
furniture, or trying the organs. For three nights he slept, warm and
dry, on the hay stored in a deserted cloister, and, attracted into the
neighbouring minster for a snatch of church music, narrowly escaped
detection. By miraculous chance the grimmest lord of Rosenmold was there
within, recognised the youth and his companions--visitors naturally
conspicuous, amid the crowd of peasants around them--and for some hours
was upon their traces. After unclean town streets the country air was a
perfume by contrast, or actually scented with pinewoods. One seemed to
breathe with it fancies of the woods, the hills, and water--of a sort of
souls in the landscape, but cheerful and genial now, happy souls! A
distant group of pines on the verge of a great upland awoke a violent
desire to be there--seemed to challenge one to proceed thither. Was
their infinite view thence? It was like an outpost of some far-off fancy
land, a pledge of the reality of such. Above Cassel, the airy hills
curved in one black outline against a glowing sky, pregnant, one could
fancy, with weird forms, which might be at their old diableries again on
those remote places ere night was quite come there. At last in the
streets, the hundred churches, of Cologne, he feels something of a
"Gothic" enthusiasm, and all a German's enthusiasm for the Rhine.

Through the length and breadth of the Rhine country the vintage was
begun. The red ruins on the heights, the white-walled villages, white
Saint Nepomuc upon the bridges, were but isolated high notes of contrast
in a landscape, sleepy and indistinct under the flood of sunshine, with
a headiness in it like that of must, of the new wine. The noise of the
vineyards came through the lovely haze, still, at times, with the sharp
sound of a bell--death-bell, perhaps, or only a crazy summons to the
vintagers. And amid those broad, willowy reaches of the Rhine at length,
from Bingen to Mannheim, where the brown hills wander into airy, blue
distance, like a little picture of paradise, he felt that France was at
hand. Before him lay the road thither, easy and straight.--That well of
light so close! But, unexpectedly, the capricious incidence of his own
humour with the opportunity did not suggest, as he would have wagered it
must, "Go, drink at once!" Was it that France had come to be of no
account at all, in comparison of Italy, of Greece? or that, as he passed
over the German land, the conviction had come, "For you, France, Italy,
Hellas, is here!"--that some recognition of the untried spiritual
possibilities of meek Germany had for Carl transferred the ideal land
out of space beyond the Alps or the Rhine, into future time, whither he
must be the leader? A little chilly of humour, in spite of his manly
strength, he was journeying partly in search of physical heat. To-day
certainly, in this great vineyard, physical heat was about him in
measure sufficient, at least for a German constitution. Might it be not
otherwise with the imaginative, the intellectual, heat and light; the
real need being that of an interpreter--Apollo, illuminant rather as the
revealer than as the bringer of light? With large belief that the
Eclaircissement, the Aufklaerung (he had already found the name for the
thing) would indeed come, he had been in much bewilderment whence and
how. Here, he began to see that it could be in no other way than by
action of informing thought upon the vast accumulated material of which
Germany was in possession: art, poetry, fiction, an entire imaginative
world, following reasonably upon a deeper understanding of the past, of
nature, of one's self--an understanding of all beside through the
knowledge of one's self. To understand, would be the indispensable first
step towards the enlargement of the great past, of one's little present,
by criticism, by imagination. Then, the imprisoned souls of nature would
speak as of old. The Middle Age, in Germany, where the past has had such
generous reprisals, never far from us, would reassert its mystic spell,
for the better understanding of our Raffaelle. The spirits of distant
Hellas would reawake in the men and women of little German towns.
Distant times, the most alien thoughts, would come near together, as
elements in a great historic symphony. A kind of ardent, new patriotism
awoke in him, sensitive for the first time at the words NATIONAL poesy,
NATIONAL art and literature, GERMAN philosophy. To the resources of the
past, of himself, of what was possible for German mind, more and more
his mind opens as he goes on his way. A free, open space had been
determined, which something now to be created, created by him, must
occupy. "Only," he thought, "if I had coadjutors! If these thoughts
would awake in but one other mind?"

At Strasbourg, with its mountainous goblin houses, nine stories high,
grouped snugly, in the midst of that inclement plain, like a great
stork's nest around the romantic red steeple of its cathedral, Duke Carl
became fairly captive to the Middle Age. Tarrying there week after week
he worked hard, but (without a ray of light from others) in one long
mistake, at the chronology and history of the coloured windows.
Antiquity's very self seemed expressed there, on the visionary images of
king or patriarch, in the deeply incised marks of character, the hoary
hair, the massive proportions, telling of a length of years beyond what
is lived now. Surely, past ages, could one get at the historic soul of
them, were not dead but living, rich in company, for the entertainment,
the expansion, of the present; and Duke Carl was still without suspicion
of the cynic afterthought that such historic soul was but an arbitrary
substitution, a generous loan of one's self.

The mystic soul of Nature laid hold on him next, saying, "Come!
understand, interpret me!" He was awakened one morning by the jingle of
sledge-bells along the street beneath his windows. Winter had descended
betimes from the mountains: the pale Rhine below the bridge of boats on
the long way to Kehl was swollen with ice, and for the first time he
realised that Switzerland was at hand. On a sudden he was captive to the
enthusiasm of the mountains, and hastened along the valley of the Rhine
by Alt Breisach and Basle, unrepelled by a thousand difficulties, to
Swiss farmhouses and lonely villages, solemn still, and untouched by
strangers. At Grindelwald, sleeping at last in the close neighbourhood
of the greater Alps, he had the sense of an overbrooding presence, of
some strange new companions around him. Here one might yield one's self
to the unalterable imaginative appeal of the elements in their highest
force and simplicity--light, air, water, earth. On very early spring
days a mantle was suddenly lifted; the Alps were an apex of natural
glory, towards which, in broadening spaces of light, the whole of Europe
sloped upwards. Through them, on the right hand, as he journeyed on,
were the doorways to Italy, to Como or Venice, from yonder peak Italy's
self was visible!--as, on the left hand, in the South-german towns, in a
high-toned, artistic fineness, in the dainty, flowered ironwork for
instance, the overflow of Italian genius was traceable. These things
presented themselves at last only to remind him that, in a new
intellectual hope, he was already on his way home. Straight through
life, straight through nature and man, with one's own self-knowledge as
a light thereon, not by way of the geographical Italy or Greece, lay the
road to the new Hellas, to be realised now as the outcome of home-born
German genius. At times, in that early fine weather, looking now not
southwards, but towards Germany, he seemed to trace the outspread of a
faint, not wholly natural, aurora over the dark northern country. And it
was in an actual sunrise that the news came which finally put him on the
directest road homewards. One hardly dared breathe in the rapid uprise
of all-embracing light which seemed like the intellectual rising of the
Fatherland, when up the straggling path to his high beech-grown summit
(was one safe nowhere?) protesting over the roughness of the way, came
the too familiar voices (ennui itself made audible) of certain high
functionaries of Rosenmold, come to claim their new sovereign, close
upon the runaway.

Bringing news of the old Duke's decease! With a real grief at his heart,
he hastened now over the ground which lay between him and the bed of
death, still trying, at quieter intervals, to snatch profit by the way;
peeping, at the most unlikely hours, on the objects of his curiosity,
waiting for a glimpse of dawn through glowing church windows,
penetrating into old church treasuries by candle-light, taxing the old
courtiers to pant up, for "the view," to this or that conspicuous point
in the world of hilly woodland. From one such at last, in spite of
everything with pleasure to Carl, old Rosenmold was visible--the attic
windows of the Residence, the storks on the chimneys, the green copper
roofs baking in the long, dry German summer. The homeliness of true old
Germany! He too felt it, and yearned towards his home.

And the "beggar-maid" was there. Thoughts of her had haunted his mind
all the journey through, as he was aware, not unpleased, graciously
overflowing towards any creature he found dependent upon him. The mere
fact that she was awaiting him, at his disposition, meekly, and as
though through his long absence she had never quitted the spot on which
he had said farewell, touched his fancy, and on a sudden concentrated
his wavering preference into a practical decision. "King Cophetua" would
be hers. And his goodwill sunned her wild-grown beauty into majesty,
into a kind of queenly richness. There was natural majesty in the heavy
waves of golden hair folded closely above the neck, built a little
massively; and she looked kind, beseeching also, capable of sorrow. She
was like clear sunny weather, with bluebells and the green leaves,
between rainy days, and seemed to embody Die Ruh auf dem Gipfel--all
the restful hours he had spent of late in the wood-sides and on the
hilltops. One June day, on which she seemed to have withdrawn into
herself all the tokens of summer, brought decision to our lover of
artificial roses, who had cared so little hitherto for the like of her.
Grand-duke perforce, he would make her his wife, and had already
re-assured her with lively mockery of his horrified ministers. "Go
straight to life!" said his new poetic code; and here was the
opportunity;--here, also, the real "adventure," in comparison of which
his previous efforts that way seemed childish theatricalities, fit only
to cheat a little the profound ennui of actual life. In a hundred stolen
interviews she taught the hitherto indifferent youth the art of love.

Duke Carl had effected arrangements for his marriage, secret, but
complete and soon to be made public. Long since he had cast complacent
eyes on a strange architectural relic, an old grange or hunting-lodge on
the heath, with he could hardly have defined what charm of remoteness
and old romance. Popular belief amused itself with reports of the wizard
who inhabited or haunted the place, his fantastic treasures, his immense
age. His windows might be seen glittering afar on stormy nights, with a
blaze of golden ornaments, said the more adventurous loiterer. It was
not because he was suspicious still, but in a kind of wantonness of
affection, and as if by way of giving yet greater zest to the luxury of
their mutual trust that Duke Carl added to his announcement of the
purposed place and time of the event a pretended test of the girl's
devotion. He tells her the story of the aged wizard, meagre and wan, to
whom she must find her way alone for the purpose of asking a question
all-important to himself. The fierce old man will try to escape with
terrible threats, will turn, or half turn, into repulsive animals. She
must cling the faster; at last the spell will be broken; he will yield,
he will become a youth once more, and give the desired answer.

The girl, otherwise so self-denying, and still modestly anxious for a
private union, not to shame his high position in the world, had wished
for one thing at least--to be loved amid the splendours habitual to him.
Duke Carl sends to the old lodge his choicest personal possessions. For
many days the public is aware of something on hand; a few get delightful
glimpses of the treasures on their way to "the place on the heath." Was
he preparing against contingencies, should the great army, soon to pass
through these parts, not leave the country as innocently as might be

The short grey day seemed a long one to those who, for various reasons,
were waiting anxiously for the darkness; the court people fretful and on
their mettle, the townsfolk suspicious, Duke Carl full of amorous
longing. At her distant cottage beyond the hills, Gretchen kept herself
ready for the trial. It was expected that certain great military
officers would arrive that night, commanders of a victorious host making
its way across Northern Germany, with no great respect for the rights of
neutral territory, often dealing with life and property too rudely to
find the coveted treasure. It was but one episode in a cruel war. Duke
Carl did not wait for the grandly illuminated supper prepared for their
reception. Events precipitated themselves. Those officers came as
practically victorious occupants, sheltering themselves for the night in
the luxurious rooms of the great palace. The army was in fact in motion
close behind its leaders, who (Gretchen warm and happy in the arms, not
of the aged wizard, but of the youthful lover) are discussing terms for
the final absorption of the duchy with those traitorous old councillors.
At their delicate supper Duke Carl amuses his companion with caricature,
amid cries of cheerful laughter, of the sleepy courtiers entertaining
their martial guests in all their pedantic politeness, like people in
some farcical dream. A priest, and certain chosen friends to witness the
marriage, were to come ere nightfall to the grange. The lovers heard, as
they thought, the sound of distant thunder. The hours passed as they
waited, and what came at last was not the priest with his companions.
Could they have been detained by the storm? Duke Carl gently re-assures
the girl--bids her believe in him, and wait. But through the wind, grown
to tempest, beyond the sound of the violent thunder--louder than any
possible thunder--nearer and nearer comes the storm of the victorious
army, like some disturbance of the earth itself, as they flee into the
tumult, out of the intolerable confinement and suspense, dead-set upon

The Enlightening, the Aufklaerung, according to the aspiration of Duke
Carl, was effected by other hands; Lessing and Herder, brilliant
precursors of the age of genius which centered in Goethe, coming well
within the natural limits of Carl's lifetime. As precursors Goethe
gratefully recognised them, and understood that there had been a
thousand others, looking forward to a new era in German literature with
the desire which is in some sort a "forecast of capacity," awakening
each other to the permanent reality of a poetic ideal in human life,
slowly forming that public consciousness to which Goethe actually
addressed himself. It is their aspirations I have tried to embody in the
portrait of Carl.

"A hard winter had covered the Main with a firm footing of ice. The
liveliest social intercourse was quickened thereon. I was unfailing from
early morning onwards; and, being lightly clad, found myself, when my
mother drove up later to look on, fairly frozen. My mother sat in the
carriage, quite stately in her furred cloak of red velvet, fastened on
the breast with thick gold cord and tassels.

"'Dear mother,' I said, on the spur of the moment, 'give me your furs, I
am frozen.'

"She was equally ready. In a moment I had on the cloak. Falling below
the knee, with its rich trimming of sables, and enriched with gold, it
became me excellently. So clad I made my way up and down with a cheerful

That was Goethe, perhaps fifty years later. His mother also related the
incident to Bettina Brentano;--"There, skated my son, like an arrow
among the groups. Away he went over the ice like a son of the gods.
Anything so beautiful is not to be seen now. I clapped my hands for joy.
Never shall I forget him as he darted out from one arch of the bridge,
and in again under the other, the wind carrying the train behind him as
he flew." In that amiable figure I seem to see the fulfilment of the
Resurgam on Carl's empty coffin--the aspiring soul of Carl himself, in
freedom and effective, at last.

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