Part 3 out of 11
lines, for the purpose of more strongly marking the division, and of
giving it more rounding. This was injudiciously imitated by the
English tragic poets of a later date; they suddenly elevated the tone
in the rhymed lines, as if the person began all at once to speak in
another language. The practice was welcomed by the actors from its
serving as a signal for clapping when they made their exit. In
Shakespeare, on the other hand, the transitions are more easy: all
changes of forms are brought about insensibly, and as if of
themselves. Moreover, he is generally fond of heightening a series of
ingenious and antithetical sayings by the use of rhyme. We find other
passages in continued rhyme, where solemnity and theatrical pomp were
suitable, as, for instance, in the mask, as it is called, in _The
Tempest_ and in the play introduced in _Hamlet_. Of other pieces, for
instance, the _Midsummer Night's Dream_, and _Romeo and Juliet_, the
rhymes form a considerable part; either because he may have wished to
give them a glowing color, or because the characters appropriately
utter in a more musical tone their complaints or suits of love. In
these cases he has even introduced rhymed strophes, which approach to
the form of the sonnet, then usual in England. The assertion of
Malone, that Shakespeare in his youth was fond of rhyme, but that he
afterward rejected it, is sufficiently refuted by his own chronology
of the poet's works. In some of the earliest, for instance in the
second and third part of _Henry the Sixth_, there are hardly any
rhymes; in what is stated to be his last piece, _Twelfth Night, or
What You Will_, and in _Macbeth_, which is proved to have been
composed under the reign of King James, we find them in no
inconsiderable number. Even in the secondary matters of form
Shakespeare was not guided by humor and accident, but, like a genuine
artist, acted invariably on good and solid grounds. This we might also
show of the kinds of verse which he least frequently used (for
instance, of the rhyming verses of seven and eight syllables), were we
not afraid of dwelling too long on merely technical peculiarities.
In England the manner of handling rhyming verse, and the opinion as to
its harmony and elegance, have, in the course of two centuries,
undergone a much greater change than is the case with the rhymeless
iambic or blank verse. In the former, Dryden and Pope have become
models; these writers have communicated the utmost smoothness to
rhyme, but they have also tied it down to a harmonious uniformity. A
foreigner, to whom antiquated and new are the same, may perhaps feel
with greater freedom the advantages of the more ancient manner.
Certain it is, the rhyme of the present day, from the too great
confinement of the couplet, is unfit for the drama. We must not
estimate the rhyme of Shakespeare by the mode of subsequent times, but
by a comparison with his contemporaries or with Spenser. The
comparison will, without doubt, turn out to his advantage. Spenser is
often diffuse; Shakespeare, though sometimes hard, is always brief and
vigorous. He has more frequently been induced by the rhyme to leave
out something necessary than to insert anything superfluous. Many of
his rhymes, however, are faultless: ingenious with attractive ease,
and rich without false brilliancy. The songs interspersed (those, I
mean, of the poet himself) are generally sweetly playful and
altogether musical; in imagination, while we merely read them, we hear
The whole of Shakespeare's productions bear the certain stamp of his
original genius, but yet no writer was ever further removed from
everything like a mannerism derived from habit or personal
peculiarities. Rather is he, such is the diversity of tone and color
which vary according to the quality of his subjects he assumes, a very
Proteus. Each of his compositions is like a world of its own, moving
in its own sphere. They are works of art, finished in one pervading
style, which revealed the freedom and judicious choice of their
author. If the formation of a work throughout, even in its minutest
parts, in conformity with a leading idea; if the domination of one
animating spirit over all the means of execution, deserves the name of
correctness (and this, excepting in matters of grammar, is the only
proper sense of the term); we shall then, after allowing to
Shakespeare all the higher qualities which demand our admiration, be
also compelled, in most cases, to concede to him the title of a
It would be in the highest degree instructive to follow, if we could,
in his career step by step, an author who at once founded and carried
his art to perfection, and to go through his works in the order of
time. But, with the exception of a few fixed points, which at length
have been obtained, all the necessary materials for this are still
wanting. The diligent Malone has, indeed, made an attempt to arrange
the plays of Shakespeare in chronological order; but he himself gives
out only the result of his labors as hypothetical, and it could not
possibly be attended with complete success, since he excluded from his
inquiry a considerable number of pieces which have been ascribed to
the poet, though rejected as spurious by all the editors since Rowe,
but which, in my opinion, must, if not wholly, at least in great
measure be attributed to him.
* * * * *
INTRODUCTION TO LUCINDA
By CALVIN THOMAS
Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Columbia University
Friedrich Schlegel's _Lucinda_, published in 1799, was an explosion of
youthful radicalism--a rather violent explosion which still
reverberates in the histories of German Romanticism. It is a book
about the metaphysics of love and marriage, the emancipation of the
flesh, the ecstasies and follies of the enamored state, the nature and
the rights of woman, and other such matters of which the world was
destined to hear a great deal during the nineteenth century. Not by
accident, but by intention, the little book was shocking, formless,
incoherent--a riot of the ego without beginning, middle, or end. Now
and then it passed the present limits of the printable in its
exploitation of the improper and the unconventional.
Yet the book was by no means the wanton freak of a prurient
imagination; it had a serious purpose and was believed by its author
to present the essentials of a new and beautiful theory of life, art
and religion. The great Schleiermacher, one of the profoundest of
German theologians and an eloquent friend of religion, called
_Lucinda_ a "divine book" and its author a "priest of love and
wisdom." "Everything in this work," he declared, "is at once human and
divine; a magic air of divinity rises from its deep springs and
permeates the whole temple." Today no man in his senses would praise
the book in such terms. Yet, with all its crudities of style and its
aberrations of taste, _Lucinda_ reveals, not indeed the whole form and
pressure of the epoch that gave it birth, but certain very interesting
aspects of it.
[Illustration: #FRIEDRICH SCHLEGEL# E. HADER]
Then, too, it marks a curious stage in the development of the
younger Schlegel, a really profound thinker and one of the notable men
of his day. This explains why a considerable portion of the much
discussed book is here presented for the first time in an English
The earliest writings of Friedrich Schlegel--he was born in
1772--relate to Greek literature, a field which he cultivated with
enthusiasm and with ample learning. In particular he was interested in
what his Greek poets and philosophers had to say of the position of
women in society; of the _hetairai_ as the equal and inspiring
companions of men; of a more or less refined sexual love, untrammeled
by law and convention, as the basis of a free, harmonious and
beautiful existence. Among other things, he seems to have been much
impressed by Plato's notion that the _genus homo_ was one before it
broke up into male and female, and that sexual attraction is a desire
to restore the lost unity. In a very learned essay _On Diotima_,
published in 1797--Diotima is the woman of whose relation to Socrates
we get a glimpse in Plato's _Symposium_--there is much that
foreshadows _Lucinda_. Let two or three sentences suffice. "What is
uglier than the overloaded femininity, what is more loathesome than
the exaggerated masculinity, that rules in our customs, our opinions,
and even in our better art?" "Precisely the tyrannical vehemence of
the man, the flabby self-surrender of the woman, is in itself an ugly
exaggeration." "Only the womanhood that is independent, only the
manhood that is gentle, is good and beautiful."
In 1796 Friedrich Schlegel joined his brother at Jena, where Fichte
was then expounding his philosophy. It was a system of radical
idealism, teaching that the only reality is the absolute Ego, whose
self-assertion thus becomes the fundamental law of the world. The
Fichtean system had not yet been fully worked out in its metaphysical
bearings, but the strong and engaging personality of its author gave
it, for a little while, immense prestige and influence. To Friedrich
Schlegel it seemed the gospel of a new era sort of French Revolution
in philosophy. Indeed he proclaimed that the three greatest events of
the century were the French Revolution, Fichte's philosophy, and
Goethe's _Wilhelm Meister_. This last, which appeared in 1796 and
contained obvious elements of autobiography, together with poems and
disquisitions on this and that, was admired by him beyond all measure.
He saw in it the exemplar and the program of a wonderful new art which
he proposed to call "Romantic Poetry."
But gray theory would never have begotten _Lucinda_. Going to Berlin
in 1797, Schlegel made the acquaintance of Dorothea Veit, daughter of
Moses Mendelsohn and wife of a Berlin banker. She was nine years his
senior. A strong attachment grew up between them, and presently the
lady was persuaded to leave her husband and become the paramour of
Schlegel. Even after the divorce was obtained Schlegel refused for
some time to be married in church, believing that he had a sort of
duty to perform in asserting the rights of passion over against social
convention. For several years the pair lived in wild wedlock before
they were regularly married. In 1808 they both joined the Catholic
Church, and from that time on nothing more was heard of Friedrich
Schlegel's radicalism. He came to hold opinions which were for the
most part the exact opposite of those he had held in his youth. The
vociferous friend of individual liberty became a reactionary champion
of authority. Of course he grew ashamed of _Lucinda_ and excluded it
from his collected works.
Such was the soil in which the naughty book grew. It was an era of lax
ideas regarding the marriage tie. Wilhelm Schlegel married a divorced
woman who was destined in due time to transfer herself without legal
formalities to Schelling. Goethe had set the example by his conscience
marriage with Christiane Vulpius. It remains only to be said that the
most of Friedrich Schlegel's intimates, including his brother Wilhelm,
advised against the publication of _Lucinda_. But here, as in the
matter of his marriage, the author felt that he had a duty to
perform: it was necessary to declare independence of Mrs. Grundy's
tyranny and shock people for their own good. But the reader of today
will feel that the worst shortcomings of the book are not its
immoralities, but its sins against art.
It will be observed that while _Lucinda_ was called by its author a
"novel," it hardly deserves that name. There is no story, no
development of a plot. The book consists of disconnected glimpses in
the form of letters, disquisitions, rhapsodies, conversations, etc.,
each with a more or less suggestive heading. Two of these
sections--one cannot call them chapters--are omitted in the
translation, namely, "Allegory of Impudence" and, "Apprenticeship of
By FRIEDRICH SCHLEGEL
TRANSLATED BY PAUL BERNARD THOMAS
Smiling with emotion Petrarch opens the collection of his immortal
romanzas with a prefatory survey. The clever Boccaccio talks with
flattering courtesy to all women, both at the beginning and at the end
of his opulent book. The great Cervantes too, an old man in agony, but
still genial and full of delicate wit, drapes the motley spectacle of
his lifelike writings with the costly tapestry of a preface, which in
itself is a beautiful and romantic painting.
Uproot a stately plant from its fertile, maternal soil, and there will
still cling lovingly to it much that can seem superfluous only to a
But what shall my spirit bestow upon its offspring, which, like its
parent, is as poor in poesy as it is rich in love?
Just one word, a parting trope: It is not alone the royal eagle who
may despise the croaking of the raven; the swan, too, is proud and
takes no note of it. Nothing concerns him except to keep clean the
sheen of his white pinions. He thinks only of nestling against Leda's
bosom without hurting her, and of breathing forth into song everything
that is mortal within him.
[Illustration: #THE CREATION# _From the Painting by Moritz von
CONFESSIONS OF AN AWKWARD MAN
JULIUS TO LUCINDA
Human beings and what they want and do, seemed to me, when I thought
of it, like gray, motionless figures; but in the holy solitude all
around me everything was light and color. A fresh, warm breath of life
and love fanned me, rustling and stirring in all the branches of the
verdant grove. I gazed and enjoyed it all, the rich green, the white
blossoms and the golden fruit. And in my mind's eye I saw, too, in
many forms, my one and only Beloved, now as a little girl, now as a
young lady in the full bloom and energy of love and womanhood, and now
as a dignified mother with her demure babe in her arms. I breathed the
spring and I saw clearly all about me everlasting youth. Smiling I
said to myself: "Even if this world is not the best and most useful of
places, it is certainly the most beautiful."
From this feeling or thought nothing could have turned me, neither
general despair nor personal fear. For I believed that the deep
secrets of nature were being revealed to me; I felt that everything
was immortal and that death was only a pleasant illusion. But I really
did not think very much about it, since I was not particularly in a
mood for mental synthesis and analysis. But I gladly lost myself in
all those blendings and intertwinings of joy and pain from which
spring the spice of life and the flower of feeling--spiritual pleasure
as well as sensual bliss. A subtle fire flowed through my veins. What
I dreamed was not of kissing you, not of holding you in my arms; it
was not only the wish to relieve the tormenting sting of my desire,
and to cool the sweet fire by gratification. It was not for your lips
that I longed, or for your eyes, or for your body; no, it was a
romantic confusion of all of these things, a marvelous mingling of
memories and desires. All the mysteries of caprice in man and woman
seemed to hover about me, when suddenly in my solitude your real
presence and the glowing rapture in your face completely set me afire.
Wit and ecstasy now began their alternating play, and were the common
pulse of our united life. There was no less abandon than religion in
our embrace. I besought you to yield to my frenzy and implored you to
be insatiable. And yet with calm presence of mind I watched for the
slightest sign of joy in you, so that not one should escape me to
impair the harmony. I not only enjoyed, but I felt and enjoyed the
You are so extraordinarily clever, dearest Lucinda, that you have
doubtless long ere this begun to suspect that this is all nothing but
a beautiful dream. And so, alas, it is; and I should indeed feel very
disconsolate about it if I could not cherish the hope that at least a
part of it may soon be realized. The truth of the matter is this: Not
long ago I was standing by the window--how long I do not know, for
along with the other rules of reason and morality, I completely forgot
about the lapse of time. Well, I was standing by the window and
looking out into the open; the morning certainly deserves to be called
beautiful, the air is still and quite warm, and the verdure here
before me is fresh. And even as the wide land undulates in hills and
dales, so the calm, broad, silvery river winds along in great bends
and sweeps, until it and the lover's fantasy, cradled upon it like the
swan, pass away into the distance and lose themselves in the
immeasurable. My vision doubtless owes the grove and its southern
color-effect to the huge mass of flowers here beside me, among which I
see a large number of oranges. All the rest is readily explained by
psychology. It was an illusion, dear friend, all an illusion, all
except that, not long ago, I was standing, by the window and doing
nothing, and that I am now sitting here and doing something--something
which is perhaps little more than nothing, perhaps even less.
I had written thus far to you about the things I had said to myself,
when, in the midst of my tender thoughts and profound feelings about
the dramatic connection of our embraces, a coarse and unpleasant
occurrence interrupted me. I was just on the point of unfolding to you
in clear and precise periods the exact and straightforward history of
our frivolities and of my dulness. I was going to expound to you, step
by step, in accordance with natural laws, the misunderstandings that
attack the hidden centre of the loveliest existence, and to confess to
you the manifold effects of my awkwardness. I was about to describe
the apprenticeship of my manhood, a period which, taken as a whole or
in parts, I can never look back upon without a great deal of inward
amusement, a little melancholy, and considerable self-satisfaction.
Still, as a refined lover and writer, I will endeavor to refashion the
coarse occurrence and adapt it to my purpose. For me and for this
book, however, for my love of it and for its inner development, there
is no better adaptation of means to ends than this, namely, that right
at the start I begin by abolishing what we call orderly arrangement,
keep myself entirely aloof from it, frankly claiming and asserting the
right to a charming confusion. This is all the more necessary,
inasmuch as the material which our life and love offers to my spirit
and to my pen is so incessantly progressive and so inflexibly
systematic. If the form were also of that character, this, in its way,
unique letter would then acquire an intolerable unity and monotony,
and would no longer produce the desired effect, namely, to fashion and
complete a most lovely chaos of sublime harmonies and interesting
pleasures. So I use my incontestable right to a confused style by
inserting here, in the wrong place, one of the many incoherent sheets
which I once filled with rubbish, and which you, good creature,
carefully preserved without my knowing it. It was written in a mood of
impatient longing, due to my not finding you where I most surely
expected to find you--in your room, on our sofa--in the haphazard
words suggested by the pen you had lately been using.
The selection is not difficult. For since, among the dreamy fancies
which are here confided to you in permanent letters, the recollection
of this most beautiful world is the most significant, and has a
certain sort of resemblance to what they call thought, I choose in
preference to anything else a dithyrambic fantasy on the most lovely
of situations. For once we know to a certainty that we live in a most
beautiful world, the next need is obvious, namely, to inform ourselves
fully, either through ourselves or through others, about the most
lovely situation in this most beautiful world.
DITHYRAMBIC FANTASY ON THE LOVELIEST OF SITUATIONS
A big tear falls upon the holy sheet which I found here instead of
you. How faithfully and how simply you have sketched it, the old and
daring idea of my dearest and most intimate purpose! In you it has
grown up, and in this mirror I do not shrink from loving and admiring
myself. Only here I see myself in harmonious completeness. For your
spirit, too, stands distinct and perfect before me, not as an
apparition which appears and fades away again, but as one of the forms
that endure forever. It looks at me joyously out of its deep eyes and
opens its arms to embrace my spirit. The holiest and most evanescent
of those delicate traits and utterances of the soul, which to one who
does not know the highest seem like bliss itself, are merely the
common atmosphere of our spiritual breath and life.
The words are weak and vague. Furthermore, in this throng of
impressions I could only repeat anew the one inexhaustible feeling of
our original harmony. A great future beckons me on into the
immeasurable; each idea develops a countless progeny. The extremes of
unbridled gayety and of quiet presentiment live together within me. I
remember everything, even the griefs, and all my thoughts that have
been and are to be bestir themselves and arise before me. The blood
rushes wildly through my swollen veins, my mouth thirsts for the
contact of your lips, and my fancy seeks vainly among the many forms
of joy for one which might at last gratify my desire and give it rest.
And then again I suddenly and sadly bethink me of the gloomy time when
I was always waiting without hope, and madly loving without knowing
it; when my innermost being overflowed with a vague longing, which it
breathed forth but rarely in half-suppressed sighs.
Oh, I should have thought it all a fairy-tale that there could be such
joy, such love as I now feel, and such a woman, who could be my most
tender Beloved, my best companion, and at the same time a perfect
friend. For it was in friendship especially that I sought for what I
wanted, and for what I never hoped to find in any woman. In you I
found it all, and more than I could wish for; but you are so unlike
the rest. Of what custom or caprice calls womanly, you know nothing.
The womanliness of your soul, aside from minor peculiarities, consists
in its regarding life and love as the same thing. For you all feeling
is infinite and eternal; you recognize no separations, your being is
an indivisible unity. That is why you are so serious and so joyous,
why you regard everything in such a large and indifferent way; that is
why you love me, all of me, and will surrender no part of me to the
state, to posterity, or to manly pleasures. I am all yours; we are
closest to each other and we understand each other. You accompany me
through all the stages of manhood, from the utmost wantonness to the
most refined spirituality. In you alone I first saw true pride and
true feminine humility.
The most extreme suffering, if it is only surrounded, without
separating us, would seem to me nothing but a charming antithesis to
the sublime frivolity of our marriage. Why should we not take the
harshest whim of chance for an excellent jest and a most frolicsome
caprice, since we, like our love, are immortal? I can no longer say
_my_ love and _your_ love; they are both alike in their perfect
mutuality. Marriage is the everlasting unity and alliance of our
spirits, not only for what we call this world and that world, but for
the one, true, indivisible, nameless, endless world of our entire
being, so long as we live. Therefore, if it seemed the proper time, I
would drain with you a cup of poison, just as gladly and just as
easily as that last glass of champagne we drank together, when I said:
"And so let us drink out the rest of our lives." With these words I
hurriedly quaffed the wine, before its noble spirit ceased to sparkle.
And so I say again, let us live and love. I know you would not wish to
survive me; you would rather follow your dying husband into his
coffin. Gladly and lovingly would you descend into the burning abyss,
even as the women of India do, impelled by a mad law, the cruel,
constraining purpose of which desecrates and destroys the most
delicate sanctities of the will.
On the other side, perhaps, longing will be more completely realized.
I often wonder over it; every thought, and whatever else is fashioned
within us, seems to be complete in itself, as single and indivisible
as a person. One thing crowds out another, and that which just now was
near and present soon sinks back into obscurity. And then again come
moments of sudden and universal clarity, when several such spirits of
the inner world completely fuse together into a wonderful wedlock, and
many a forgotten bit of our ego shines forth in a new light and even
illuminates the darkness of the future with its bright lustre. As it
is in a small way, so is it also, I think, in a large way. That which
we call a life is for the complete, inner, immortal man only a single
idea, an indivisible feeling. And for him there come, too, moments of
the profoundest and fullest consciousness, when all lives fall
together and mingle and separate in a different way. The time is
coming when we two shall behold in one spirit that we are blossoms of
one plant, or petals of one flower. We shall then know with a smile
that what we now call merely hope was really memory.
Do you know how the first seed of this idea germinated in my soul
before you and took root in yours? Thus does the religion of love
weave our love ever and ever more closely and firmly together, just as
a child, like an echo, doubles the happiness of its gentle parents.
Nothing can part us; and certainly any separation would only draw me
more powerfully to you. I bethink me how at our last embrace, you
vehemently resisting, I burst into simultaneous tears and laughter. I
tried to calm myself, and in a sort of bewilderment I would not
believe that I was separated from you until the surrounding objects
convinced me of it against my will. But then my longing grew again
irresistible, until on its wings I sank back into your arms. Suppose
words or a human being to create a misunderstanding between us! The
poignant grief would be transient and quickly resolve itself into
complete harmony. How could separation separate us, when presence
itself is to us, as it were, too present? We have to cool and mitigate
the consuming fire with jests, and thus for us the most witty of the
forms and situations of joy is also the most beautiful. One among all
is at once the wittiest and the loveliest: when we exchange roles and
with childish delight try to see who can best imitate the other;
whether you succeed best with the tender vehemence of a man, or I with
the yielding devotion of a woman. But, do you know, this sweet game
has for me quite other charms than its own. It is not merely the
delight of exhaustion or the anticipation of revenge. I see in it a
wonderful and profoundly significant allegory of the development of
man and woman into complete humanity. * * *
* * * * *
That was my dithyrambic fantasy on the loveliest situation in the
loveliest of worlds. I know right well what you thought of it and how
you took it at that time. And I think I know just as well what you
will think of it and how you will take it here, here in this little
book, in which you expect to find genuine history, plain truth and
calm reason; yes, even morality, the charming morality of love. "How
can a man wish to write anything which it is scarcely permissible to
talk about, which ought only to be felt?" I replied: "If a man feels
it, he must wish to talk about it, and what a man wishes to talk about
he may write."
I wanted first to demonstrate to you that there exists in the original
and essential nature of man a certain awkward enthusiasm which likes
to utter boldly that which is delicate and holy, and sometimes falls
headlong over its own honest zeal and speaks a word that is divine to
the point of coarseness.
This apology would indeed save me, but perhaps only at the enormous
expense of my manhood itself; for whatever you may think of my manhood
in particular, you have nevertheless a great deal against the sex in
general. Meantime I will by no means make common cause with them, but
will rather excuse and defend my liberty and audacity by means of the
example of the little innocent Wilhelmina, since she too is a lady
whom I love most tenderly. So I will straightway attempt a little
sketch of her character.
SKETCH OF LITTLE WILHELMINA
When one regards the remarkable child, not from the viewpoint of any
one-sided theory, but, as is proper, in a large, impartial way, one
can boldly say--and it is perhaps the best thing one could possibly
say of her--that for her years she is the cleverest person of her
time. And that is indeed saying a great deal; for how seldom do we
find harmonious culture in people two years old? The strongest of the
many strong proofs of her inward perfection is her serene
self-complacency. After she has eaten she always spreads both her
little arms out on the table, and resting her cunning head on them
with amusing seriousness, she makes big eyes and casts cute glances at
the family all around her. Then she straightens up and with the most
vivid expression of irony on her face, smiles at her own cuteness and
our inferiority. She is full of buffoonery and has a nice
appreciation of it. When I imitate her gestures, she immediately
copies my imitation; thus we have created a mimic language of our own
and make each other understand by means of pantomime hieroglyphics.
For poetry, I think, she has far more inclination than for philosophy;
so also she likes to ride better than to walk, which last she does
only in case of necessity. The ugly cacophony of our mother-tongue
here in the north melts on her tongue into the sweet and mellow
euphony of Italian and Hindu speech. She is especially fond of rhymes,
as of everything else that is beautiful; she never grows tired of
saying and singing over and over again to herself, one after the
other, all her favorite little verses--as it were, a classic selection
of her little pleasures. Poetry binds the blossoms of all things
together into a light garland, and so little Wilhelmina talks in rhyme
about regions, times, events, persons, toys and things to eat--all
mixed together in a romantic chaos, every word a picture. And she does
all that without any qualifications or artistic transitions, which
after all only aid the understanding and impede the free flight of the
For her fancy everything in nature is alive and animate. I often
recall with pleasure the first time she ever saw and felt of a doll.
She was not more than a year old. A divine smile lighted up her little
face, as she pressed an affectionate kiss on the painted wooden lips.
Surely there lies deep in the nature of man an impulse to eat anything
he loves, to lift to his mouth every new object and there, if
possible, reduce it to its original, constituent parts. A wholesome
thirst for knowledge impels him to seize the object, penetrate into
its interior and bite it to pieces. On the other hand, touching stops
at the surface, while grasping affords only imperfect, mediate
knowledge. Nevertheless it is a very interesting spectacle, when a
bright child catches sight of another child, to watch her feel of it
and strive to orient herself by means of those antennae of the reason.
The strange baby creeps quietly away and hides himself, while the
little philosopher follows him up and goes busily on with her manual
But, to be sure, mind, wit and originality are just as rare in
children as in adults. All this, however, does not belong here, and is
leading me beyond the bounds of my purpose. For this sketch proposes
merely to portray an ideal, an ideal which I would ever keep before my
eyes, so that in this little artistic volume of beautiful and elegant
philosophy I may not wander away from the delicate line of propriety;
and so that you will forgive me in advance for the audacious liberties
that I am going to take, or at least you will be able to judge them
from a higher viewpoint.
Am I wrong, think you, in seeking for morality in children--for
delicacy and prettiness of thought and word?
Now look! Dear little Wilhelmina often finds inexpressible delight in
lying on her back and kicking her little legs in the air, unconcerned
about her clothes or about the judgment of the world. If Wilhelmina
does that, what is there that I may not do, since I, by Heaven, am a
man and under no obligation to be more modest than this most modest of
all feminine creatures? Oh, enviable freedom from prejudice! Do you,
too, dear friend, cast it from you, all the remnants of false modesty;
just as I have often torn off your odious clothes and scattered them
about in lovely anarchy. And if, perhaps, this little romance of my
life should seem to you too wild, just think to yourself: He is only a
child--and take his innocent wantonness with motherly forbearance and
let him caress you.
If you will not be too particular about the plausibility and inner
significance of an allegory, and are prepared for as much awkwardness
in it as one might expect in the confessions of an awkward man,
provided only that the costume is correct, I should like to relate to
you here one of my waking dreams, inasmuch as it leads to the same
result as my sketch of little Wilhelmina.
AN IDYL OF IDLENESS
"Behold, I am my own teacher, and a god hath planted all sorts of
melodies in my soul." This I may boldly say, now that I am not talking
about the joyous science of poetry, but about the godlike art of
idleness. And with whom indeed should I rather talk and think about
idleness than with myself. So I spoke also in that immortal hour when
my guardian genius inspired me to preach the high gospel of true joy
and love: "Oh, idleness, idleness! Thou art the very soul of innocence
and inspiration. The blessed spirits do breathe thee, and blessed
indeed is he who hath and cherisheth thee, thou sacred jewel, thou
sole and only fragment of godlikeness brought forth by us from
When I thus communed with myself I was sitting, like a pensive maiden
in a thoughtless romance, by the side of a brook, watching the
wavelets as they passed. They flowed by as smooth and quiet and
sentimental as if Narcissus were about to see his reflection on the
clear surface and become intoxicated with beautiful egoism. They might
also have enticed me to lose myself deeper and deeper in the inner
perspective of my mind, were not my nature so perpetually unselfish
and practical that even my speculations never concern themselves about
anything but the general good. So I fell to thinking, among other
things, while my mind was relaxed by a comfortable laziness and my
limbs by the powerful heat, of the possibility of a lasting embrace. I
thought out ways of prolonging the time of our being together and of
avoiding in the future those childishly pathetic expressions of pain
over sudden parting, and of finding pleasure, as hitherto, in the
comic side of Fate's inevitable and unchangeable decree that separate
we must. And only after the power of my reason, laboring over the
unattainableness of my ideal, broke and relaxed, did I give myself
over to a stream of thoughts. I listened eagerly to all the motley
fairy-tales with which imagination and desire, like irresistible
sirens in my breast, charmed my senses. It did not occur to me to
criticise the seductive illusion as ignoble, although I well knew that
it was for the most part a beautiful lie. The soft music of the
fantasy seemed to fill the gaps in my longing. I gratefully observed
this and resolved to repeat for us in the future by my own
inventiveness that which good fortune had given me, and to begin for
you this poem of truth. And thus the original germ of this wonderful
growth of caprice and love came into being. And just as freely as it
sprouted did I intend it should grow up and run wild; and never from
love of order and economy shall I trim off any of its profuse
abundance of superfluous leaves and shoots.
Like a wise man of the East, I had fallen into a holy lethargy and
calm contemplation of the everlasting substances, more especially of
yours and mine. Greatness in repose, most people say, is the highest
aim of plastic art. And so, without any distinct purpose and without
any unseemly effort, I thought out and bodied forth our everlasting
substances in this dignified style. I looked back and saw how gentle
sleep overcame us in the midst of our embrace. Now and then one of us
would open an eye, smile at the sweet slumber of the other, and wake
up just enough to venture a jesting remark and a gentle caress. But
ere the wanton play thus begun was ended, we would both sink back into
the blissful lap of half-conscious self-forgetfulness.
With the greatest indignation I then thought of the bad men who would
abolish sleep. They have probably never slept, and likewise never
lived. Why are gods gods, except because they deliberately do nothing;
because they understand that art and are masters of it? And how the
poets, the sages and the saints strive to be like the gods, in that
respect as in others! How they vie with one another in praise of
solitude, of leisure, of liberal freedom from care and of inactivity!
And they are right in doing so; for everything that is good and
beautiful in life is already there and maintains itself by its own
strength. Why then this vague striving and pushing forward without
rest or goal? Can this storm and stress give form and nourishing juice
to the everliving plant of humankind, that grows and fashions itself
in quiet? This empty, restless activity is only a bad habit of the
north and brings nothing but ennui for oneself and for others. And
with what does it begin and end except with antipathy to the world in
general, which is now such a common feeling? Inexperienced vanity does
not suspect that it indicates only lack of reason and sense, but
regards it as a high-minded discontent with the universal ugliness of
the world and of life, of which it really has not yet the slightest
presentiment. It could not be otherwise; for industry and utility are
the death-angels which, with fiery swords, prevent the return of man
into Paradise. Only when composed and at ease in the holy calm of true
passivity can one think over his entire being and get a view of life
and the world.
How is it that we think and compose at all, except by surrendering
ourselves completely to the influence of some genius? Speaking and
fashioning are after all only incidentals in all arts and sciences;
thinking and imagining are the essentials, and they are only possible
in a passive state. To be sure it is intentional, arbitrary,
one-sided, but still a passive state. The more beautiful the climate
we live in, the more passive we are. Only the Italians know what it is
to walk, and only the Orientals to recline. And where do we find the
human spirit more delicately and sweetly developed than in India?
Everywhere it is the privilege of being idle that distinguishes the
noble from the common; it is the true principle of nobility. Finally,
where is the greater and more lasting enjoyment, the greater power and
will to enjoy? Among women, whose nature we call passive, or among
men, in whom the transition from sudden wrath to ennui is quicker than
that from good to evil?
Satisfied with the enjoyment of my existence, I proposed to raise
myself above all its finite, and therefore contemptible, aims and
objects. Nature itself seemed to confirm me in this undertaking, and,
as it were, to exhort me in many-voiced choral songs to further
idleness. And now suddenly a new vision presented itself. I imagined
myself invisible in a theatre. On one side I saw all the well-known
boards, lights and painted scenery; on the other a vast throng of
spectators, a veritable ocean of curious faces and sympathetic eyes.
In the foreground, on the right, was Prometheus, in the act of
fashioning men. He was bound by a long chain and was working very fast
and very hard. Beside him stood several monstrous fellows who were
constantly whipping and goading him on. There was also an abundance of
glue and other materials about, and he was getting fire out of a large
coal-pan. On the other side was a figure of the deified Hercules, with
Hebe in his lap. On the stage in the foreground a crowd of youthful
forms were laughing and running about, all of whom were very happy and
did not merely seem to live. The youngest looked like amorettes, the
older ones like images of women. But each one of them had his own
peculiar manner and a striking originality of expression; and they all
bore a certain resemblance to the Christian painters' and poets' idea
of the devil--one might have called them little Satans. One of the
"He who does not despise, cannot respect; one can only do either
boundlessly, and good tone consists only in playing with men. And so
is not a certain amount of malice an essential part of harmonious
"Nothing is more absurd," said another, "than when the moralists
reproach you about your egoism. They are altogether wrong; for what
god, who is not his own god, can deserve respect from man? You are, to
be sure, mistaken in thinking that you have an ego; but if, in the
meantime, you identify it with your body, your name and your property,
you thereby at least make ready a place for it, in case by any chance
an ego should come."
"And this Prometheus you can all hold in deep reverence," said one of
the tallest. "He has made you all and is constantly making more like
And in fact just as soon as each new man was finished, the devils put
him down with all the rest who were looking on, and immediately it was
impossible to distinguish him from the others, so much alike were they
"The mistake he makes is in his method," continued the Sataniscus.
"How can one want to do nothing but fashion men? Those are not the
right tools he has."
And thereat he pointed to a rough figure of the God of the Gardens,
which stood in the back part of the stage between an Amor and a very
beautiful naked Venus.
"In regard to that our friend Hercules had better views, who could
occupy fifty maidens in a single night for the welfare of humanity,
and all of them heroic maids too. He did those labors of his, too, and
slew many a furious monster. But the goal of his career was always a
noble leisure, and for that reason he has gained entrance to Olympus.
Not so, however, with this Prometheus, the inventor of education and
enlightenment. To him you owe it that you can never be quiet and are
always on the move. Hence it is also, when you have absolutely nothing
to do, that you foolishly aspire to develop character and observe and
study one another. It is a vile business. But Prometheus, for having
misled man to toil, now has to toil himself, whether he wants to or
not. He will soon get very tired of it, and never again will he be
freed from his chains."
When the spectators heard this, they broke out into tears and jumped
upon the stage to assure their father of their heartfelt sympathy. And
thus the allegorical comedy vanished.
CONSTANCY AND PLAY
"Of course you are alone, Lucinda?"
"I do not know--perhaps--I think--"
"Please! please! dear Lucinda. You know very well that when little
Wilhelmina says 'please! please!' and you do not do at once what she
wants, she cries louder and louder until she gets her way."
"So it was to tell me that that you rushed into my room so out of
breath and frightened me so?"
"Do not be angry with me, sweet lady, I beg of you! Oh, my child!
Lovely creature! Be a good girl and do not reproach me!"
"Well, I suppose you will soon be asking me to close the door?"
"So? I will answer that directly. But first a nice long kiss, and then
another, and then some more, and after that more still."
"Oh! You must not kiss me that way--if you want me to keep my senses!
It makes one think bad thoughts."
"You deserve to. Are you really capable of laughing, my peevish lady?
Who would have thought so? But I know very well you laugh only because
you can laugh at me. You do not do it from pleasure. For who ever
looked so solemn as you did just now--like a Roman senator? And you
might have looked ravishing, dear child, with those holy dark eyes,
and your long black hair shining in the evening sunlight--if you had
not sat there like a judge on the bench. Heavens! I actually started
back when I saw how you were looking at me. A little more and I should
have forgotten the most important thing, and I am all confused. But
why do you not talk? Am I disagreeable to you?"
"Well, that _is_ funny, you surly Julius. As if you ever let any one
say anything! Your tenderness flows today like a spring shower."
"Like your talk in the night."
"Oh sir, let my neckcloth be."
"Let it be? Not a bit of it! What is the use of a miserable, stupid
neckcloth? Prejudice! Away with it!"
"If only no one disturbs us!"
"There she goes again, looking as if she wanted to cry! You are well,
are you not? What makes your heart beat so? Come, let me kiss it! Oh,
yes, you spoke a moment ago about closing the door. Very well, but not
that way, not here. Come, let us run down through the garden to the
summer-house, where the flowers are. Come! Oh, do not make me wait
"As you wish, sir."
"I cannot understand--you are so odd today."
"Now, my dear friend, if you are going to begin moralizing, we might
just as well go back again. I prefer to give you just one more kiss
and run on ahead of you."
"Oh, not so fast, Lucinda! My moralizing will not overtake you. You
will fall, love!"
"I did not wish to make you wait any longer. Now we are here. And you
came pretty fast yourself."
"And you are very obedient! But this is no time to quarrel."
"Be still! Be still!"
"See! Here is a soft, cosy place, with everything as it should be.
This time, if you do not--well, there will be no excuse for you."
"Will you not at least lower the curtain first?"
"You are right. The light will be much more charming so. How beautiful
your skin shines in the red light! Why are you so cold, Lucinda?"
"Dearest, put the hyacinths further away, their odor sickens me."
"How solid and firm, how soft and smooth! That is harmonious
"Oh no, Julius! Please don't! I beg of you! I will not allow it!"
"May I not feel * * *. Oh, let me listen to the beating of your heart!
Let me cool my lips in the snow of your bosom! Do not push me away! I
will have my revenge! Hold me tighter! Kiss upon kiss! No, not a lot
of short ones! One everlasting one! Take my whole soul and give me
yours! Oh, beautiful and glorious Together! Are we not children? Tell
me! How could you be so cold and indifferent at first, and then
afterward draw me closer to you, making a face the while as if
something were hurting you, as if you were reluctant to return my
ardor? What is the matter? Are you crying? Do not hide your face!
Look at me, dearest!"
"Oh, let me lie here beside you--I cannot look into your eyes. It was
very naughty of me, Julius! Can you ever forgive me, darling? You will
not desert me, will you? Can you still love me?"
"Come to me, sweet lady--here, close to my heart. Do you remember how
nice it was, not long ago, when you cried in my arms, and how it
relieved you? Tell me what the matter is now. You are not angry with
"I am angry with myself. I could beat myself! To be sure, it would
have served you right. And if ever again, sir, you conduct yourself so
like a husband, I shall take better care that you find me like a wife.
You may be assured of that. I cannot help laughing, it took me so by
surprise. But do not imagine, sir, that you are so terribly
lovable--this time it was by my own will that I broke my resolution."
"The first will and the last is always the best. It is just because
women usually say less than they mean that they sometimes do more than
they intend. That is no more than right; good will leads you women
astray. Good will is a very nice thing, but the bad part of it is that
it is always there, even when you do not want it."
"That is a beautiful mistake. But you men are full of bad will and you
persist in it."
"Oh no! If we seem to be obstinate, it is only because we cannot be
otherwise, not because our will is bad. We cannot, because we do not
will properly. Hence it is not bad will, but lack of will. And to whom
is the fault attributable but to you women, who have such a
super-abundance of good will and keep it all to yourselves, unwilling
to share it with us. But it happened quite against my will that we
fell a-talking about will--I am sure I do not know why we are doing
it. Still, it is much better for me to vent my feelings by talking
than by smashing the beautiful chinaware. It gave me a chance to
recover from my astonishment over your unexpected compunction, your
excellent discourse, and your laudable resolution. Really, this is one
of the strangest pranks that you have ever given me the honor of
witnessing; so far as I can remember, it has been several weeks since
you have talked by daylight in such solemn and unctuous periods as you
used in your little sermon today. Would you mind translating your
meaning into prose?"
"Really, have you forgotten already about yesterday evening and the
interesting company? Of course I did not know that."
"Oh! And so that is why you are so out of sorts--because I talked with
Amalia too much?"
"Talk as much as you please with anybody you please. But you must be
nice to me--that I insist on."
"You spoke so very loud; the stranger was standing close by, and I was
nervous and did not know what else to do."
"Except to be rude in your awkwardness."
"Forgive me! I plead guilty. You know how embarrassed I am with you in
society. It always hurts me to talk with you in the presence of
"How nicely he manages to excuse himself!"
"The next time do not pass it over! Look out and be strict with me.
But see what you have done! Isn't it a desecration? Oh no! It isn't
possible, it is more than that. You will have to confess it--you were
"All the evening you rudely forgot about me. I began to write it all
out for you today, but tore it up."
"And then, when I came?"
"Your being in such an awful hurry annoyed me."
"Could you love me if I were not so inflammable and electric? Are you
not so too? Have you forgotten our first embrace? In one minute love
comes and lasts for ever, or it does not come at all. Or do you think
that joy is accumulated like money and other material things, by
consistent behavior? Great happiness is like music coming out of the
air--it appears and surprises us and then vanishes again."
"And thus it was you appeared to me, darling! But you will not vanish,
will you? You shall not! I say it!"
"I will not, I will stay with you now and for all time. Listen! I feel
a strong desire to hold a long discourse with you on jealousy. But
first we ought to conciliate the offended gods."
"Rather, first the discourse and afterward the gods."
"You are right, we are not yet worthy of them. It takes you a long
time to get over it after you have been disturbed and annoyed about
something. How nice it is that you are so sensitive!"
"I am no more sensitive than you are--only in a different way."
"Well then, tell me! I am not jealous--how does it happen that you
"Am I, unless I have cause to be? Answer me that!"
"I do not know what you mean."
"Well, I am not really jealous. But tell me: What were you talking
about all yesterday evening?"
"So? It is Amalia of whom you are jealous? Is it possible? That
nonsense? I did not talk about anything with her, and that was the
funny part of it. Did I not talk just as long with Antonio, whom a
short time ago I used to see almost every day?"
"You want me to believe that you talk in the same way with the
coquettish Amalia that you do with the quiet, serious Antonio. Of
course! It is nothing more than a case of clear, pure friendship!"
"Oh no, you must not believe that--I do not wish you to. That is not
true. How can you credit me with being so foolish? For it is a very
foolish thing indeed for two people of opposite sex to form and
conceive any such relation as pure friendship. In Amalia's case it is
nothing more than playing that I love her. I should not care anything
about her at all, if she were not a little coquettish.
"Would that there were more like her in our circle! Just in fun, one
must really love all the ladies."
"Julius, I believe you are going completely crazy!"
"Now understand me aright--I do not really mean all of them, but all
of them who are lovable and happen to come one's way."
"That is nothing more than what the French call _galanterie_ and
"Nothing more--except that I think of it as something beautiful and
clever. And then men ought to know what the ladies are doing and what
they want; and that is rarely the case. A fine pleasantry is apt to be
transformed in their hands into coarse seriousness."
"This loving just in fun is not at all a funny thing to look at."
"That is not the fault of the fun--it is just miserable jealousy.
Forgive me, dearest--I do not wish to get excited, but I must confess
that I cannot understand how any one can be jealous. For lovers do not
offend each other, but do things to please each other. Hence it must
come from uncertainty, absence of love, and unfaithfulness to oneself.
For me happiness is assured, and love is one with constancy. To be
sure, it is a different matter with people who love in the ordinary
way. The man loves only the race in his wife, the woman in her husband
only the degree of his ability and social position, and both love in
their children only their creation and their property. Under those
circumstances fidelity comes to be a merit, a virtue, and jealousy is
in order. For they are quite right in tacitly believing that there are
many like themselves, and that one man is about as good as the next,
and none of them worth very much."
"You look upon jealousy, then, as nothing but empty vulgarity and lack
"Yes, or rather as mis-culture and perversity, which is just as bad or
still worse. According to that system the best thing for a man to do
is to marry of set purpose out of sheer obligingness and courtesy.
And certainly for such folk it must be no less convenient than
entertaining, to live out their lives together in a state of mutual
contempt. Women especially are capable of acquiring a genuine passion
for marriage; and when one of them finds it to her liking, it easily
happens that she marries half a dozen in succession, either
spiritually or bodily. And the opportunity is never wanting for a man
and wife to be delicate for a change, and talk a great deal about
"You used to talk as if you regarded us women as incapable of
friendship. Is that really your opinion?"
"Yes, but the incapability, I think, lies more in the friendship than
in you. Whatever you love at all, you love indivisibly; for instance,
a sweetheart or a baby. With you even a sisterly relation would assume
"You are right there."
"For you friendship is too many-sided and one-sided. It has to be
absolutely spiritual and have definite, fixed bounds. This boundedness
would, only in a more refined way, be just as fatal to your character
as would sheer sensuality without love. For society, on the other
hand, it is too serious, too profound, too holy."
"Cannot people, then, talk with each other regardless of whether they
are men or women?"
"That might make society rather serious. At best, it might form an
interesting club. You understand what I mean: it would be a great
gain, if people could talk freely, and were neither too wild nor yet
too stiff. The finest and best part would always be lacking--that
which is everywhere the spirit and soul of good society--namely, that
playing with love and that love of play which, without the finer
sense, easily degenerates into jocosity. And for that reason I defend
the ambiguities too."
"Do you do that in play or by way of joke?"
"No! No! I do it in all seriousness."
"But surely not as seriously and solemnly as Pauline and her lover?"
"Heaven forbid! I really believe they would ring the church-bell when
they embrace each other, if it were only proper. Oh, it is true, my
friend, man is naturally a serious animal. We must work against this
shameful and abominable propensity with all our strength, and attack
it from all sides. To that end ambiguities are also good, except that
they are so seldom ambiguous. When they are not and allow only one
interpretation, that is not immoral, it is only obtrusive and vulgar.
Frivolous talk must be spiritual and dainty and modest, so far as
possible; for the rest as wicked as you choose."
"That is well enough, but what place have your ambiguities in
"To keep the conversations fresh, just as salt keeps food fresh. The
question is not _why_ we say them, but _how_ we say them. It would be
rude indeed to talk with a charming lady as if she were a sexless
Amphibium. It is a duty and an obligation to allude constantly to what
she is and is going to be. It is really a comical situation,
considering how indelicate, stiff and guilty society is, to be an
"That reminds me of the famous Buffo, who, while he was always making
others laugh, was so sad and solemn himself."
"Society is a chaos which can be brought into harmonious order only by
wit. If one does not jest and toy with the elements of passion, it
forms thick masses and darkens everything."
"Then there must be passion in the air here, for it is almost dark."
"Surely you have closed your eyes, lady of my heart! Otherwise the
light in them would brighten the whole room."
"I wonder, Julius, who is the more passionate, you or I?"
"Both of us are passionate enough. If that were not so, I should not
want to live. And see! That is why I could reconcile myself to
jealousy. There is everything in love--friendship, pleasant
intercourse, sensuality, and even passion. Everything must be in it,
and one thing must strengthen, mitigate, enliven and elevate the
"Let me embrace you, darling."
"But only on one condition can I allow you to be jealous. I have often
felt that a little bit of cultured and refined anger does not
ill-become a man. Perhaps it is the same way with you in regard to
"Agreed! Then I do not have to abjure it altogether."
"If only you always manifest it as prettily and as wittily as you did
"Did I? Well, if next time you get into so pretty and witty a passion
about it, I shall say so and praise you for it."
"Are we not worthy now to conciliate the offended gods?"
"Yes, if your discourse is entirely finished; otherwise give me the
The childlike spirit slumbers in sweet repose, and the kiss of the
loving goddess arouses in him only light dreams. The rose of shame
tinges his cheek; he smiles and seems to open his lips, but he does
not awaken and he knows not what is going on within him. Not until
after the charm of the external world, multiplied and reinforced by an
inner echo, has completely permeated his entire being, does he open
his eyes, reveling in the sun, and recall to mind the magic world
which he saw in the gleam of the pale moonlight. The wondrous voice
that awakened him is still audible, but instead of answering him it
echoes back from external objects. And if in childish timidity he
tries to escape from the mystery of his existence, seeking the unknown
with beautiful curiosity, he hears everywhere only the echo of his own
Thus the eye sees in the mirror of the river only the reflection of
the blue sky, the green banks, the waving trees, and the form of the
absorbed gazer. When a heart, full of unconscious love, finds itself
where it hoped to find love in return, it is struck with amazement.
But we soon allow ourselves to be lured and deceived by the charm of
the view into loving our own reflection. Then has the moment of
winsomeness come, the soul fashions its envelop again, and breathes
the final breath of perfection through form. The spirit loses itself
in its clear depth and finds itself again, like Narcissus, as a
Love is higher than winsomeness, and how soon would the flower of
Beauty wither without the complementary birth of requited love. This
moment the kiss of Amor and Psyche is the rose of life. The inspired
Diotima revealed to Socrates only a half of love. Love is not merely a
quiet longing for the infinite; it is also the holy enjoyment of a
beautiful present. It is not merely a mixture, a transition from the
mortal to the immortal, but it is a complete union of both. There is a
pure love, an indivisible and simple feeling, without the slightest
interference of restless striving. Every one gives the same as he
takes, one just like the other, all is balanced and completed in
itself, like the everlasting kiss of the divine children.
By the magic of joy the grand chaos of struggling forms dissolves into
a harmonious sea of oblivion. When the ray of happiness breaks in the
last tear of longing, Iris is already adorning the eternal brow of
heaven with the delicate tints of her many-colored rainbow. Sweet
dreams come true, and the pure forms of a new generation rise up out
of Lethe's waves, beautiful as Anadyomene, and exhibit their limbs in
the place of the vanished darkness. In golden youth and innocence time
and man change in the divine peace of nature, and evermore Aurora
comes back more beautiful than before.
Not hate, as the wise say, but love, separates people and fashions the
world; and only in its light can we find this and observe it. Only in
the answer of its Thou can every I completely feel its endless unity.
Then the understanding tries to unfold the inner germ of godlikeness,
presses closer and closer to the goal, is full of eagerness to fashion
the soul, as an artist fashions his one beloved masterpiece. In the
mysteries of culture the spirit sees the play and the laws of caprice
and of life. The statue of Pygmalion moves; a joyous shudder comes
over the astonished artist in the consciousness of his own
immortality, and, as the eagle bore Ganymede, a divine hope bears him
on its mighty pinion up to Olympus.
Is it then really and truly so, what I have so often quietly wished
for and have never dared to express? I see the light of holy joy
beaming on your face, and you modestly give me the beautiful promise.
You are to be a mother!
Farewell, Longing, and thou, gentle Grief, farewell; the world is
beautiful again. Now I love the earth, and the rosy dawn of a new
spring lifts its radiant head over my immortal existence. If I had
some laurel, I would bind it around your brow to consecrate you to new
and serious duties; for there begins now for you another life.
Therefore, give to me the wreath of myrtle. It befits me to adorn
myself with the symbol of youthful innocence, since I now wander in
Nature's Paradise. Hitherto all that held us together was love and
passion. Now Nature has united us more firmly with an indissoluble
bond. Nature is the only true priestess of joy; she alone knows how to
tie the nuptial knot, not with empty words that bring no blessing, but
with fresh blossoms and living fruits from the fullness of her power.
In the endless succession of new forms creating Time plaits the wreath
of Eternity, and blessed is he whom Fortune selects to be healthy and
bear fruit. We are not sterile flowers among other living beings; the
gods do not wish to exclude us from the great concatenation of living
things, and are giving us plain tokens of their will.
So let us deserve our position in this beautiful world, let us bear
the immortal fruits which the spirit chooses to create, and let us
take our place in the ranks of humanity. I will establish myself on
the earth, I will sow and reap for the future as well as for the
present. I will utilize all my strength during the day, and in the
evening I will refresh myself in the arms of the mother, who will be
eternally my bride. Our son, the demure little rogue, will play around
us, and help me invent mischief at your expense.
* * * * *
You are right; we must certainly buy the little estate. I am glad that
you went right ahead with the arrangements, without waiting for my
decision. Order everything just as you please; but, if I may say so,
do not have it too beautiful, nor yet too useful, and, above all
things, not too elaborate.
If you only arrange it all in accordance with your own judgment and do
not allow yourself to be talked into the proper and conventional,
everything will be quite right, and the way I want it to be; and I
shall derive immense enjoyment from the beautiful property. Hitherto I
have lived in a thoughtless way and without any feeling of ownership;
I have tripped lightly over the earth and have never felt at home on
it. Now the sanctuary of marriage has given me the rights of
citizenship in the state of nature. I am no longer suspended in the
empty void of general inspiration; I like the friendly restraint, I
see the useful in a new light, and find everything truly useful that
unites everlasting love with its object--in short everything that
serves to bring about a genuine marriage. External things imbue me
with profound respect, if, in their way, they are good for something;
and you will some day hear me enthusiastically praise the blessedness
of home and the merits of domesticity.
I understand now your preference for country life, I like you for it
and feel as you do about it. I can no longer endure to see these
ungainly masses of everything that is corrupt and diseased in mankind;
and when I think about them in a general way they seem to me like wild
animals bound by a chain, so that they cannot even vent their rage
freely. In the country, people can live side by side without
offensively crowding one another. If everything were as it ought to
be, beautiful mansions and cosy cottages would there adorn the green
earth, as do the fresh shrubs and flowers, and create a garden worthy
of the gods.
To be sure we shall find in the country the vulgarity that prevails
everywhere. There ought really to be only two social classes, the
culturing and the cultured, the masculine and the feminine; instead of
all artificial society, there should be a grand marriage of these two
classes and universal brotherhood of all individuals. In place of that
we see a vast amount of coarseness and, as an insignificant exception,
a few who are perverted by a wrong education. But in the open air the
one thing which is beautiful and good cannot be suppressed by the bad
masses and their show of omnipotence.
Do you know what period of our love seems to me particularly
beautiful? To be sure, it is all beautiful and pure in my memory, and
I even think of the first days with a sort of melancholy delight. But
to me the most cherished period of all is the last few days, when we
were living together on the estate. Another reason for living again in
One thing more. Do not have the grapevines trimmed too close. I say
this only because you thought they were growing too fast and
luxuriantly, and because it might occur to you to want a perfectly
clear view of the house on all sides. Also the green grass-plot must
stay as it is; that is where the baby is to crawl and play and roll
Is it not true that the pain my sad letter caused you is now entirely
compensated? In the midst of all these giddy joys and hopes I can no
longer torment myself with care. You yourself suffered no greater pain
from it than I. But what does that matter, if you love me, really love
me in your very heart, without any reservation of alien thought? What
pain were worth mentioning when we gain by it a deeper and more fervid
consciousness of our love? And so, I am sure, you feel about it too.
Everything I am telling you, you knew long ago. There is absolutely no
delight, no love in me, the cause of which does not lie concealed
somewhere in the depths of your being, you everlastingly blessed
Misunderstandings are sometimes good, in that they lead us to talk of
what is holiest. The differences that now and then seem to arise are
not in us, not in either of us; they are merely between us and on the
surface, and I hope you will take this occasion to drive them off and
away from you.
And what is the cause of such little repulsions except our mutual and
insatiable desire to love and be loved? And without this
insatiableness there is no love. We live and love to annihilation. And
if it is love that first develops us into true and perfect beings,
that is the very life of life, then it need not fear opposition any
more than it fears life itself or humanity; peace will come to it only
after the conflict of forces.
I feel happy indeed that I love a woman who is capable of loving as
you do. "As you do" is a stronger expression than any superlative. How
can you praise my words, when I, without wishing to, hit upon some
that hurt you? I should like to say, I write too well to be able to
describe to you my inward state of mind. Oh, dearest! Believe me,
there is no question in you that has not its answer in me. Your love
cannot be any more everlasting than mine. Admirable, however, is your
beautiful jealousy of my fancy and its wild flights. That indicates
rightly the boundlessness of your constancy, and leads me to hope that
your jealousy is on the point of destroying itself by its own excess.
This sort of fancy--committed to writing--is no longer needed. I shall
soon be with you. I am holier and more composed than I was. I can only
see you in my mind and stand always before you. You yourself feel
everything without my telling you, and beam with joy, thinking partly
of the man you love and partly of your baby.
* * * * *
Do you know, while I have been writing to you, no memory could have
profaned you; to me you are as everlastingly pure as the Holy Virgin
of the Immaculate Conception, and you have wanted nothing to make you
like the Madonna except the Child. Now you have that, now it is there
and a reality. I shall soon be carrying him on my arm, telling him
fairy-tales, giving him serious instruction and lessons as to how a
young man has to conduct himself in the world.
And then my mind reverts to the mother. I give you an endless kiss; I
watch your bosom heave with longing, and feel the mysterious throbbing
of your heart. When we are together again we will think of our youth,
and I will keep the present holy. You are right indeed; one hour later
is infinitely later.
It is cruel that I cannot be with you right now. From sheer impatience
I do all sorts of foolish things. From morning until night I do
nothing but rove around here in this glorious region. Sometimes I
hasten my steps, as if I had something terribly important to do, and
presently find myself in some place where I had not the least desire
to be. I make gestures as if I were delivering a forcible speech; I
think I am alone and suddenly find myself among people. Then I have to
smile when I realize how absent-minded I was.
I cannot write very long either; pretty soon I want to go out again
and dream away the beautiful evening on the bank of the quiet stream.
Today I forgot among other things that it was time to send my letter
off. Oh well, so much the more joy and excitement will you have when
you receive it.
* * * * *
People are really very good to me. They not only forgive me for not
taking any part in their conversation, but also for capriciously
interrupting it. In a quiet way they seem even to derive hearty
pleasure from my joy. Especially Juliana. I tell her very little about
you, but she has a good intuition and surmises the rest. Certainly
there is nothing more amiable than pure, unselfish delight in love.
I really believe that I should love my friends here, even if they were
less admirable than they are. I feel a great change in my being, a
general tenderness and sweet warmth in all the powers of my soul and
spirit, like the beautiful exhaustion of the senses that follows the
highest life. And yet it is anything but weakness. On the contrary, I
know that from now on I shall be able to do everything pertaining to
my vocation with more liking and with fresher vigor. I have never felt
more confidence and courage to work as a man among men, to lead a
heroic life, and in joyous fraternal cooeperation to act for eternity.
That is my virtue; thus it becomes me to be like the gods. Yours is
gently to reveal, like Nature's priestess of joy, the mystery of love;
and, surrounded by worthy sons and daughters, to hallow this beautiful
life into a holy festival.
* * * * *
I often worry about your health. You dress yourself too lightly and
are fond of the evening air; those are dangerous habits and are not
the only ones which you must break. Remember that a new order of
things is beginning for you. Hitherto I have praised your frivolity,
because it was opportune and in keeping with the rest of your nature.
I thought it feminine for you to play with Fortune, to flout caution,
to destroy whole masses of your life and environment. Now, however,
there is something that you must always bear in mind, and regard
above everything else. You must gradually train yourself--in the
allegorical sense, of course.
* * * * *
In this letter everything is all mixed up in a motley confusion, just
as praying and eating and rascality and ecstasy are mixed up in life.
Well, good night. Oh, why is it that I cannot at least be with you in
my dreams--be really with you and dream in you. For when I merely
dream of you, I am always alone. You wonder why you do not dream of
me, since you think of me so much. Dearest, do you not also have your
long spells of silence about me?
* * * * *
Amalia's letter gave me great pleasure. To be sure, I see from its
flattering tone that she does not consider me as an exception to the
men who need flattery. I do not like that at all. It would not be fair
to ask her to recognize my worth in our way. It is enough that there
is one who understands me. In her way she appreciates my worth so
beautifully. I wonder if she knows what adoration is? I doubt it, and
am sorry for her if she does not. Aren't you?
* * * * *
Today in a French book about two lovers I came across the expression:
"They were the universe to each other." It struck me as at once
pathetic and comical, how that thoughtless phrase, put there merely as
a hyperbolical figure of speech, in our case was so literally true.
Still it is also literally true for a French passion of that kind.
They are the universe to each other, because they lose sense for
everything else. Not so with us. Everything we once loved we still
love all the more ardently. The world's meaning has now dawned upon
us. Through me you have learned to know the infinitude of the human
mind, and through you I have come to understand marriage and life, and
the gloriousness of all things.
Everything is animate for me, speaks to me, and everything is holy.
When people love each other as we do, human nature reverts to its
original godliness. The pleasure of the lover's embrace becomes
again--what it is in general--the holiest marvel of Nature. And that
which for others is only something to be rightly ashamed of, becomes
for us, what in and of itself it is, the pure fire of the noblest
potency of life.
* * * * *
There are three things which our child shall certainly have--a great
deal of wanton spirit, a serious face, and a certain amount of
predisposition for art. Everything else I await with quiet
resignation. Son or daughter, as for that I have no special
preference. But about the child's bringing-up I have thought a great,
great deal. We must carefully avoid, I think, what is called
"education;" try harder to avoid it than, say, three sensible fathers
try, by anxious thought, to lace up their progeny from the very cradle
in the bands of narrow morality.
I have made some plans which I think will please you. In doing so I
have carefully considered your ideas. But you must not neglect the
Art! For your daughter, if it should be a daughter, would you prefer
* * * * *
You foolish girl, with your external things! You want to know what is
going on around me, and where and when and how I live and amuse
myself? Just look around you, on the chair beside you, in your arms,
close to your heart--that is where I am. Does not a ray of longing
strike you, creep up with sweet warmth to your heart, until it reaches
your mouth, where it would fain overflow in kisses?
And now you actually boast because you write me such warm letters,
while I only write to you often, you pedantic creature. At first I
always think of you as you describe it--that I am walking with you,
looking at you, listening to you, talking with you. Then again it is
sometimes quite different, especially when I wake up at night.
How can you have any doubt about the worthiness and divineness of
your letters? The last one sparkles and beams as if it had bright
eyes. It is not mere writing--it is music. I believe that if I were to
stay away from you a few more months, your style would become
absolutely perfect. Meanwhile I think it advisable for us to forget
about writing and style, and no longer to postpone the highest and
loveliest of studies. I have practically decided to set out in eight
It is a remarkable thing that man does not stand in great awe of
himself. The children are justified, when they peep so curiously and
timidly at a company of unknown faces. Each individual atom of
everlasting time is capable of comprising a world of joy, and at the
same time of opening up a fathomless abyss of pain and suffering. I
understand now the old fairy-tale about the man whom the sorcerer
allowed to live a great many years in a few moments. For I know by my
own experience the terrible omnipotence of the fantasy.
Since the last letter from your sister--it is three days now--I have
undergone the sufferings of an entire life, from the bright sunlight
of glowing youth to the pale moonlight of sagacious old age. Every
little detail she wrote about your sickness, taken with what I had
already gleaned from the doctor and had observed myself, confirmed my
suspicion that it was far more dangerous than you thought; indeed no
longer dangerous, but decided, past hope. Lost in this thought and my
strength entirely exhausted on account of the impossibility of
hurrying to your side, my state of mind was really very disconsolate.
Now for the first time I understand what it really was, being new-born
by the joyful news that you are well again. For you are well again
now, as good as entirely well--that I infer from all the reports, with
the same confidence with which a few days ago I pronounced our
I did not think of it as about to happen in the future, or even in
the present. Everything was already past. For a long time you had been
wrapt in the bosom of the cold earth; flowers had started to grow on
the beloved grave, and my tears had already begun to flow more gently.
Mute and alone I stood, and saw nothing but the features I had loved
and the sweet glances of the expressive eyes. The picture remained
motionless before me; now and then the pale face smiled and seemed
asleep, just as it had looked the last time I saw it. Then of a sudden
the different memories all became confused; with unbelievable rapidity
the outlines changed, reassumed their first form, and transformed
themselves again and again, until the wild vision vanished. Only your
holy eyes remained in the empty space and hung there motionless, even
as the friendly stars shine eternally over our poverty. I gazed
fixedly at the black lights, which shone with a well-known smile in
the night of my grief. Now a piercing pain from dark suns burned me
with an insupportable glare, now a beautiful radiance hovered about as
if to entice me. Then I seemed to feel a fresh breath of morning air
fan me; I held my head up and cried aloud: "Why should you torment
yourself? In a few minutes you can be with her!"
I was already hastening to you, when suddenly a new thought held me
back and I said to my spirit: "Unworthy man, you cannot even endure
the trifling dissonances of this ordinary life, and yet you regard
yourself as ready for and worthy of a higher life? Go away and do and
suffer as your calling is, and then present yourself again when your
orders have been executed."
Is it not to you also remarkable how everything on this earth moves
toward the centre, how orderly everything is, how insignificant and
trivial? So it has always seemed to me. And for that reason I
suspect--if I am not mistaken, I have already imparted my suspicion to
you--that the next life will be larger, and in the good as well as in
the bad, stronger, wilder, bolder and more tremendous.
The duty of living had conquered, and I found myself again amid the
tumult of human life, and of my and its weak efforts and faulty deeds.
A feeling of horror came over me, as when a person suddenly finds
himself alone in the midst of immeasurable mountains of ice.
Everything about me and in me was cold and strange, and even my tears
Wonderful worlds appeared and vanished before me in my uneasy dream. I
was sick and suffered great pain, but I loved my sickness and welcomed
the suffering. I hated everything earthly and was glad to see it all
punished and destroyed. I felt so alone and so strangely. And as a
delicate spirit often grows melancholy in the very lap of happiness
over its own joy, and at the very acme of its existence becomes
conscious of the futility of it all, so did I regard my suffering with
mysterious pleasure. I regarded it as the symbol of life in general; I
believed that I was seeing and feeling the everlasting discord by
means of which all things come into being and exist, and the lovely
forms of refined culture seemed dead and trivial to me in comparison
with this monstrous world of infinite strength and of unending
struggle and warfare, even into the most hidden depths of existence.
On account of this remarkable feeling sickness acquired the character
of a peculiar world complete in itself. I felt that its mysterious
life was richer and deeper than the vulgar health of the dreaming
sleep-walkers all around me. And with the sickliness, which was not at
all unpleasant, this feeling also clung to me and completely separated
me from other men, just as I was sundered from the earth by the
thought that your nature and my love had been too sacred not to take
speedy flight from earth and its coarse ties. It seemed to me that all
was right so, and that your unavoidable death was nothing more than a
gentle awakening after a light sleep.
I too thought that I was awake when I saw your picture, which evermore
transfigured itself into a cheerful diffused purity. Serious and yet
charming, quite you and yet no longer you, the divine form irradiated
by a wonderful light! Now it was like the terrible gleam of visible
omnipotence, now like a soft ray of golden childhood. With long, still
drafts my spirit drank from the cool spring of pure passion and became
secretly intoxicated with it. And in this blissful drunkenness I felt
a spiritual worthiness of a peculiar kind, because every earthly
sentiment was entirely strange to me, and the feeling never left me
that I was consecrated to death.
The years passed slowly by, and deeds and works advanced laboriously
to their goal, one after the other--a goal that seemed as little mine
as the deeds and works seemed to be what they are called. To me they
were merely holy symbols, and everything brought me back to my one
Beloved, who was the mediatrix between my dismembered ego and the one
eternal and indivisible humanity; all existence was an uninterrupted
divine service of solitary love.
Finally I became conscious that it was now nearly over. The brow was
no longer smooth and the locks were becoming gray. My career was
ended, but not completed. The best strength of life was gone, and
still Art and Virtue stood ever unattainable before me. I should have
despaired, had I not perceived and idolized both in you, gracious
Madonna, and you and your gentle godliness in myself.
Then you appeared to me, beckoning with the summons of Death. An
earnest longing for you and for freedom seized me; I yearned for my
dear old fatherland, and was about to shake off the dust of travel,
when I was suddenly called back to life by the promise and reassurance
of your recovery.
Then I became conscious that I had been dreaming; I shuddered at all
the significant suggestions and similarities, and stood anxiously by
the boundless deep of this inward truth.
Do you know what has become most obvious to me as a result of it
all? First, that I idolize you, and that it is a good thing that I do
so. We two are one, and only in that way does a human being become one
and a complete entity, that is, by regarding and poetically conceiving
himself as the centre of everything and the spirit of the world. But
why poetically conceive, since we find the germ of everything in
ourselves, and yet remain forever only a fragment of ourselves?
And then I now know that death can also be felt as beautiful and
sweet. I understand how the free creature can quietly long in the
bloom of all its strength for dissolution and freedom, and can
joyfully entertain the thought of return as a morning sun of hope.
It has often struck my mind how extraordinary it is that sensible and
dignified people can keep on, with such great seriousness and such
never-tiring industry, forever playing the little game in perpetual
rotation--a game which is of no use whatever and has no definite
object, although it is perhaps the earliest of all games. Then my
spirit inquired what Nature, who everywhere thinks so profoundly and
employs her cunning in such a large way, and who, instead of talking
wittily, behaves wittily, may think of those naive intimations which
refined speakers designate only by their namelessness.
And this namelessness itself has an equivocal significance. The more
modest and modern one is, the more fashionable does it become to put
an immodest interpretation upon it. For the old gods, on the contrary,
all life had a certain classic dignity whereby even the immodest
heroic art is rendered lifelike. The mass of such works and the great
inventive power displayed in them settles the question of rank and
nobility in the realm of mythology.
This number and this power are all right, but they are not the
highest. Where does the longed-for ideal lie concealed? Or does the
aspiring heart evermore find in the highest of all plastic arts only
new manners and never a perfected style?
Thinking has a peculiarity of its own in that, next to itself, it
loves to think about something which it can think about forever. For
that reason the life of the cultured and thinking man is a constant
study and meditation on the beautiful riddle of his destiny. He is
always defining it in a new way, for just that is his entire destiny,
to be defined and to define. Only in the search itself does the human
mind discover the secret that it seeks.
But what, then, is it that defines or is defined? Among men it is the
nameless. And what is the nameless among women?--The Indefinite.
The Indefinite is more mysterious, but the Definite has greater magic
power. The charming confusion of the Indefinite is more romantic, but
the noble refinement of the Definite has more of genius. The beauty of
the Indefinite is perishable, like the life of the flowers and the
everlasting youth of mortal feelings; the energy of the Definite is
transitory, like a genuine storm and genuine inspiration.
Who can measure and compare two things which have endless worth, when
both are held together in the real Definiteness, which is intended to
fill all gaps and to act as mediator between the male and female
individual and infinite humanity?
The Definite and the Indefinite and the entire abundance of their
definite and indefinite relations--that is the one and all, the most
wonderful and yet the simplest, the simplest and yet the highest. The
universe itself is only a toy of the Definite and the Indefinite; and
the real definition of the definable is an allegorical miniature of
the life and activity of ever-flowing creation.
With everlasting immutable symmetry both strive in different ways to
get near to the Infinite and to escape from it. With light but sure
advances the Indefinite expands its native wish from the beautiful
centre of Finiteness into the boundless. Complete Definiteness, on the
other hand, throws itself with a bold leap out of the blissful dream
of the infinite will into the limits of the finite deed, and by
self-refinement ever increases in magnanimous self-restraint and
In this symmetry is also revealed the incredible humor with which
consistent Nature accomplishes her most universal and her most simple
antithesis. Even in the most delicate and most artistic organization
these comical points of the great All reveal themselves, like a
miniature, with roguish significance, and give to all individuality,
which exists only by them and by the seriousness of their play, its
final rounding and perfection.
Through this individuality and that allegory the bright ideal of witty
sensuality blooms forth from the striving after the Unconditioned.
Now everything is clear! Hence the omnipresence of the nameless,
unknown divinity. Nature herself wills the everlasting succession of
constantly repeated efforts; and she wills, too, that every individual
shall be complete, unique and new in himself--a true image of the
supreme, indivisible Individuality. Sinking deeper into this
Individuality, my Reflection took such an individual turn that it
presently began to cease and to forget itself.
"What point have all these allusions, which with senseless sense on
the outward boundaries of sensuality, or rather in the middle of it, I
will not say play, but contend with, each other?"
So you will surely ask, and so the good Juliana would ask, though no
doubt in different language.
Dear Beloved! Shall the nosegay contain only demure roses, quiet
forget-me-nots, modest violets and other maidenlike and childlike
flowers? May it not contain anything and everything that shines
strangely in wonderful glory?
Masculine awkwardness is a manifold thing, and rich in blossoms and
fruits of all kinds. Let the wonderful plant, which I will not name,
have its place. It will serve at least as a foil to the
bright-gleaming pomegranate and the yellow oranges. Or should there
be, perhaps, instead of this motley abundance, only one perfect
flower, which combines all the beauties of the rest and renders their
I do not apologize for doing what I should rather like to do again,
with full confidence in your objective sense for the artistic
productions of the awkwardness which, often and not unwillingly,
borrows the material for its creations from masculine inspiration.
It is a soft Furioso and a clever Adagio of friendship. You will be
able to learn various things from it; that men can hate with as
uncommon delicacy as you can love; that they then remold a wrangle,
after it is over, into a distinction; and that you may make as many
observations about it as pleases you.
JULIUS To ANTONIO
You have changed a great deal of late. Beware, my friend, that you do
not lose your sense for the great before you realize it. What will
that mean? You will finally acquire so much modesty and delicacy that
heart and feeling will be lost. Where then will be your manhood and
your power of action? I shall yet come to the point of treating you as
you treat me, since we have not been living with each other, but near
each other. I shall have to set limits for you and say: Even if he has
a sense for everything else that is beautiful, still he lacks all
sense for friendship. Still I shall never set myself up as a moral
critic of my friend and his conduct; he who can do that does not
deserve the rare good fortune to have a friend.
That you wrong yourself first of all only makes the matter worse. Tell
me seriously, do you think there is virtue in these cool subtleties of
feeling, in these cunning mental gymnastics, which consume the marrow
of a man's life and leave him hollow inside?
For a long time I was resigned and said nothing. I did not doubt at
all that you, who know so much, would also probably know the causes
that have destroyed our friendship. It almost seems as if I was
mistaken, since you were so astonished at my attaching myself to
Edward and asked how you had offended me, as if you did not understand
it. If it were only that, only some one thing like that, then it would
not be worth while to ask such a painful question; the question would
answer and settle itself. But is it not more than that, when on every
occasion I must feel it a fresh desecration to tell you everything
about Edward, just as it happened? To be sure you have done nothing,
have not even said anything aloud; but I know and see very well how
you think about it. And if I did not know it and see it, where would
be the invisible communion of our spirits and the beautiful magic of
this communion? It certainly cannot occur to you to want to hold back
still longer, and by sheer finesse to try to end the misunderstanding;
for otherwise I should myself really have nothing more to say.
You two are unquestionably separated by an everlasting chasm. The
quiet, clear depth of your being and the hot struggle of his restless
life lie at the opposite ends of human existence. He is all action,
you are a sensitive, contemplative nature. For that reason you should
have sense for everything, and you really do have it, save when you
cultivate an intentional reserve. And that really vexes me. Better
that you should hate the noble fellow than misjudge him. But where
will it lead, if you unnaturally accustom yourself to use your utmost
wit in finding nothing but the commonplace in what little of greatness
and beauty there is in him, and that without renouncing your claim to
a liberal mind?
Is that your boasted many-sidedness? To be sure you observe the
principle of equality, and one man does not fare much better than
another, except that each one is misunderstood in a peculiar way. Have
you not also forced me to say nothing to you, or to anyone else, about
that which I feel to be the highest? And that merely because you
could not hold back your opinion until it was the proper time, and
because your mind is always imagining limitations in others before it
can find its own. You have almost obliged me to explain to you how
great my own worth really is; how much more just and safe it would
have been, if now and then you had not passed judgment but had
believed; if you had presupposed in me an unknown infinite.
To be sure my own negligence is to blame for it all. Perhaps too it
was idiosyncrasy--that I wanted to share with you the entire present,
without letting you know anything about the past and the future.
Somehow it went against my feelings, and I regarded it too as
superfluous; for, as a matter of fact, I gave you credit for a great
deal of intelligence.
O Antonio, if I could be doubtful about the eternal truths, you might
have brought me to the point of regarding that quiet, beautiful
friendship, which is based merely upon the harmony of being and living
together, as something false and perverse.
Is it now still incomprehensible if I quite go over to the other side?
I renounce refined enjoyment and plunge into the wild battle of life.
I hasten to Edward. Everything is agreed upon. We will not only live
together, but we will work and act in fraternal unison. He is rough
and uncouth, his virtue is strong rather than sensitive. But he has a
great manly heart, and in better times than ours he would have been, I
say it boldly, a hero.
It is no doubt well that we have at last talked with each other again.
I am quite content, too, that you did not wish to write, and that you
spoke slightingly of poor innocent letters because you really have
more genius for talking. But I have in my heart one or two things more
that I could not say to you, and will now endeavor to intimate with
But why in this way? Oh, my friend, if I only knew of a more refined
and subtle mode of communicating my thoughts from afar in some
exquisite form! To me conversation is too loud, too near, and also too
disconnected. These separate words always present one side only, a
part of the connected, coherent whole, which I should like to intimate
in its complete harmony.
And can men who are going to live together be too tender toward each
other in their intercourse? It is not as if I were afraid of saying
something too strong, and for that reason avoided speaking of certain
persons and certain affairs. So far as that is concerned, I think that
the boundary line between us is forever destroyed.
What I still had to say to you is something very general, and yet I
prefer to choose this roundabout way. I do not know whether it is
false or true delicacy, but I should find it very hard to talk with
you, face to face, about friendship. And yet it is thoughts on that
subject that I wish to convey to you. The application--and it is about
that I am most concerned--you will yourself easily be able to make.
To my mind there are two kinds of friendship. The first is entirely
external. Insatiably it rushes from deed to deed, receives every
worthy man into the great alliance of united heroes, ties the old knot
tighter by means of every virtue, and ever aspires to win new
brothers; the more it has, the more it wants. Call to mind the antique
world and you will find this friendship, which wages honest war
against all that is bad, even were it in ourselves or in the beloved
friend--you will find this friendship everywhere, where noble strength
exerts influence on great masses, and creates or governs worlds. Now
times are different; but the ideal of this friendship will stay with
me as long as I live.
The other friendship is entirely internal. A wonderful symmetry of the
most intimately personal, as if it had been previously ordained that
one should always be perfecting himself. All thoughts and feelings
become social through the mutual excitation and development of the
holiest. And this purely spiritual love, this beautiful mysticism of
intercourse, does not merely hover as the distant goal of a perhaps
futile effort. No, it is only to be found complete. There no deception
occurs, as in that other heroic form. Whether a man's virtue will
stand the test, his actions must show. But he who inwardly sees and
feels humanity and the world will not be apt to look for public
disinterestedness where it is not to be found.
He only is capable of this friendship who is quite composed within
himself, and who knows how to honor with humility the divinity of the
When the gods have bestowed such friendship upon a man, he can do
nothing more than protect it carefully against everything external,
and guard its holy being. For the delicate flower is perishable.
LONGING AND PEACE
Lightly dressed, Lucinda and Julius stood by the window in the
summer-house, refreshing themselves in the cool morning air. They were
absorbed in watching the rising sun, which the birds were welcoming
with their joyous songs.
"Julius," asked Lucinda, "why is it that I feel a deep longing in this
"It is only in longing that we find peace," answered Julius. "Yes,
there is peace only when the spirit is entirely free to long and to
seek, where it can find nothing higher than its own longing."
"Only in the peace of the night," said Lucinda, "do longing and love
shine full and bright, like this glorious sun."
"And in the daytime," responded Julius, "the happiness of love shines
dimly, even as the pale moonlight."
"Or it appears and vanishes suddenly into the general darkness," added
Lucinda, "like those flashes of lightning which lighted up the room
when the moon was hidden."
"Only in the night," said Julius, "does the little nightingale utter
wails and deep sighs. Only in the night does the flower shyly open and
breathe freely the fragrant air, intoxicating both mind and senses in
equal delight. Only in the night, Lucinda, does the bold speech of
deep passion flow divinely from the lips, which in the noise of the
day close with tender pride their sweet sanctuary."
It is not I, my Julius, whom you portray as so holy; although I would
fain wail like the nightingale, and although I am, as I inwardly feel,
consecrated to the night. It is you, it is the wonderful flower of
your fantasy which you perceive in me, when the noise has died down
and nothing commonplace distracts your noble mind.
Away with modesty and flattery! Remember, you are the priestess of the
night. Even in the daylight the dark lustre of your abundant hair, the
bright black of your earnest eyes, the majesty of your brow and your
entire body, all proclaim it.
My eyes droop while you praise, because the noisy morning dazzles and
the joyous songs of the merry birds strengthen and awe my soul. At
another time my ear would eagerly drink in my lovely friend's sweet
talk here in the quiet, dark coolness of the evening.
It is not vain fantasy. My longing for you is constant and
Be it what it may, you are the object in which my being finds peace.
Holy peace, dear friend, I have found only in that longing.
And I have found that holy longing in this beautiful peace.
Alas, that the garish light is permitted to lift the veil that so
concealed those flames, that the play of the senses was fain to cool
and assuage the burning soul.
And so sometimes the cold and serious day will annihilate the warm
night of life, when youth flies by and I renounce you, even as you
once more greatly renounced great love.
Oh, that I might show you my unknown friend, and her the wonder of my
You love her still and will love her forever, though forever mine.
That is the wonder of your wondrous heart.
No more wondrous than yours. I see you, clasped against my breast,
playing with your Guido's locks, while we twain in brotherly union
adorn your serious brow with eternal wreaths of joy.
Let rest in darkness, bring not forth into light, that which blooms
sacredly in the quiet depths of the heart.
Where may the billow of life be sporting with the impulsive youth whom
tender feeling and wild fate vehemently dragged into the harsh world?
Uniquely transfigured, the pure image of the noble Unknown shines in
the blue sky of your pure soul.
Oh eternal longing! But surely the futile desire, the vain glare, of
the day will grow dim and go out, and there will be forever more the
restful feeling of a great night of love.
Thus does the woman's heart in my ardent breast feel, when I am
allowed to be as I am. It longs only for your longing, and is peaceful
where you find peace.
DALLYINGS OF THE FANTASY
Life itself, the delicate child of the gods, is crowded out by the
hard, loud preparations for living, and is pitifully stifled in the
loving embrace of apelike Care.
To have purposes, to carry out purposes, to interweave purposes
artfully with purposes for a purpose: this habit is so deeply rooted
in the foolish nature of godlike man, that if once he wishes to move
freely, without any purpose, on the inner stream of ever-flowing
images and feelings, he must actually resolve to do it and make it a
It is the acme of intelligence to keep silent from choice, to