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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VII. by Various

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central point between architecture and the arts of romantic
subjectivity, so music forms the centre of the romantic arts, and
represents the point of transition between abstract spatial
sensuousness, which belongs to painting, and the abstract spirituality
of poetry. Within itself music has, like architecture, an abstract
quantitative relation, as a contrast to its inward and emotional
quality; it also has as its basis a permanent law to which the tones
with their combinations and successions must conform.


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


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

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


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

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

[Illustration: BETTINA VON ARNIM]

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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




May 11, 1807.

Dear Frau Rat:

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

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

April 23, 1807."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


May, 1807.

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

October, 1808.

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

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


May 25, 1807.

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

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

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

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

June 20, 1807.

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

March 15, 1808.

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

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

March 30, 1808.

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

May, 1808.

If it pleases thee to see me at thy feet in deep shame and confusion,
then look down upon me now. Thus does the poor shepherd-maiden fare, on
whose head the king places a crown; even though her heart be proud to
love him, yet the crown is too heavy and her little head staggers under
the burden. And besides, she is intoxicated with the honor and the
homage which her beloved pays her.

Oh, I shall be careful never to complain again or to pray for fine
weather, for I cannot bear the blinding sunbeams! No, rather sigh in
silent darkness than be led by thy muse into the brilliant daylight,
confused and crowned--that breaks my heart. O, do not gaze on me so
long; remove the crown and press me to thy heart! Teach me to forget
in thee that thou returnest me, glorified, to myself.

July 7, 1808.

* * * Ah, the rainbow even now setting its diamond foot on the meadow at
Ingelheim and reaching over the house to Mount St. John is just like the
blissful illusion I have of thee and me! The Rhine, spreading out its
net to catch the vision of its banks of paradise, is like this flame of
life nourished by reflections of the unattainable. Let it then win
nothing more from reality than this illusion; it will give to me the
peculiar spirit and the character expressive of my own self, just as the
reflection does to the river in which it is mirrored. * * *

July 18, 1808.

* * * Yesterday evening I went up the Rochus mountain alone and wrote thee
thus far; then I dreamed a little, and when I came to myself I thought
the sun was just going down, but it was the rising moon. I was
astonished and should have been afraid, but the stars wouldn't let
me--these hundreds of thousands and _I_ together on that night. Who am
I, then, that I should be of raid? Am I not numbered with them? I didn't
dare descend and, besides, I shouldn't have found a boat to cross in.
The nights aren't so very long now, anyway, so I turned over on the
other side, said "good night" to the stars and was soon fast asleep. Now
and then I was awakened by flitting breezes, and then I thought of thee.
As often as I awoke I called thee to me and always said in my heart:
"Goethe be with me, that I may not be afraid." Then I dreamed that I was
floating along the reedy banks of the Rhine, and where it is deepest
between black rocky cliffs the ring thou gavest me slipped off. I saw it
sinking deeper and deeper till it reached the bottom. I wanted to call
for help, but then I awoke in the radiance of the morning, rejoicing
that the ring was still on my finger. Ah, prophet, interpret my dream
for me! Anticipate fate, and let no dangers beset our love after this
beautiful night when, betwixt fear and joy, in counsel with the stars, I
thought of thy future!

* * * No one knows where I was--and, even if they did, could they
imagine why I was there? Thou tamest toward me through the whispering
forest, enveloped in a soft haze, and when thou wert quite near me my
tired senses could not endure it, so strong was the fragrance of the
wild thyme. Then I fell asleep--it was so beautiful--all blossoms and
fragrance! And the great boundless host of stars and the flickering
silver moon that danced near and far upon the stream, the intense
stillness of nature in which one hears all that stirs--ah, I feel my
soul implanted here in this nocturnal trembling! Future thoughts are
blossoming here; these cold dew-pearls that weigh down grass and herbs,
from these the spirit grows! Oh, it hastens to blossom for _thee_,
Goethe! It will unfold its gayest colors before thee! It is for love of
thee that I wish to think, that I struggle with the inexpressible. Thou
lookest upon me in spirit and thy gaze draws thoughts from me, and then
I am often compelled to say things I do not understand but only see.

The spirit also has senses. Just as there is much that we only hear, or
only see, or only feel, so there are thoughts which the spirit also
perceives with only one of these senses. Often I only see what I am
thinking; often I only feel it, and when I hear it I experience a shock.
I do not know how I come by this knowledge which is not the fruit of my
own meditation. I look about me for the author of this opinion and then
conclude that it is all created from the fire of love. There is warmth
in the spirit; we feel it; the cheeks glow from our thoughts and cold
chills come over us, which fan our inspiration into new flame. Yes, dear
friend, this morning when I awoke it seemed to me as though I had
experienced great things, as though the pledges of my heart had wings
and soared over hill and dale into the pure, serene, radiant ether. No
vow, no conditions--nothing but appropriate motion, pure striving for
the divine. This is my pledge: Freedom from all ties, and that I will
have faith only in that spirit which reveals the beautiful and
prophesies eternal bliss. * * *

We were on the road five days, and since then it has rained incessantly.
The whole house full of guests, and not even a little corner where I
could enjoy solitude and write thee!

As long as I have anything to tell thee, I firmly believe that thy
spirit is fixed upon me as upon so many enigmas of nature. In fact, I
believe that every human being is such an enigma, and that the mission
of love between friends is to solve that enigma so that each shall learn
to know his deeper nature through and in his friend. Yes, dearest, it
makes me happy that my life is gradually developing through thee, and
for that reason I do not want to seem what I am not; I should prefer to
have all my faults and weaknesses known to thee rather than give thee a
false conception of what I am, for then thy love would not concern me
but rather an illusion that I had substituted for myself. For that
reason, also, a feeling often warns me that I must avoid this or that
for love of thee, because I should deny it in thy presence.

From the Rochusberg.

Oh, Goethe, thy letters are so dear to me that I have tied them up
in a silk kerchief embroidered with bright flowers and golden ornaments.
The last day before our Rhine trip I did not know what to do with them.
I did not want to take them along, since we had only one portmanteau
between us, and I did not want to leave them in my little room, which I
could not lock because it was being used; I thought the boat might sink
and I drown--and then these letters, one after the other of which has
reposed close to my heart, would fall into strange hands. At first I
wanted to leave them with the nuns in Vollratz (they are St. Bernard
nuns who were driven from their convent and are now living there), but I
changed my mind afterwards. The last time I was up here on the mountain
I found a spot. Beneath the confession-chair still standing in the
Rochus chapel, in which I'm also in the habit of keeping my writings, I
dug a hole and lined it on the inside with shells from the Rhine and
beautiful little pebbles that I found on the mountain. I placed the
letters in it, wrapped in their silken covering, and before the spot
planted a thistle which I had pulled up carefully by the roots together
with the earth about them. On the journey I was often worried about
them; what a shock it would have been if I had not found them again! My
heart stands still at the very thought of it!

August 24, 1808.

* * * It was midnight; the moon rose dim. The ship, whose shadow sailed
along beside it, like a monster, upon the illuminated Rhine, cast a
dazzling light upon the woody meadow of Ingelheim along which it was
moving. The moon appeared behind the meadow, mild and modest, and
gradually wrapped itself in a thin cloud of mist as in a veil. Whenever
we contemplate nature in calm meditation, it always lays hold of our
heartstrings. What could have turned my senses more fervently to God,
what could have more easily freed me from the trivial things that
oppress me? I am not ashamed to confess to thee that at that moment thy
image flamed up impetuously in my soul. It is true: Thy radiance pierces
me as the sun pours into the crystal of the grape and, like the sun,
thou dost ripen me with ever increasing fire and ever increasing
purity. * * *

February 23, 1809.

If thy imagination is supple enough to accompany me into all the
recesses of ruined walls, over mountains and chasms, then I shall
venture farther and introduce thee to the recesses of my heart.

I beg thee, therefore, to climb up here, still higher, up three flights
to my room; sit on the blue stool by the green table opposite me. I
merely want to gaze at thee--and, Goethe--does thy imagination still
follow me?--then thou must discover the most constant love in my eyes,
and must draw me lovingly into thy arms, and say, "Such a faithful child
is given me as a reward, as amends, for much! This child is dear to me,
'tis a treasure, a precious jewel that I do not wish to lose." Dost thou
understand? And thou must kiss me, for that is what _my_ imagination
bestows on thine!

I shall lead thee still farther! Step softly into the chamber of my
heart-here we are in the vestibule--utter stillness--no Humboldt--no
architect--no barking dog. Thou art not a stranger; go up and knock; it
will be alone and call to thee "Come in!" Thou wilt find it on a cool,
quiet couch, and a friendly light will greet thee. All will be peace and
order, and thou wilt be welcome! What is that? Heavens! See the flames
shooting up over him! Whence this conflagration? Who can save here? Poor
heart! Poor, suffering heart! What can reason accomplish here? It knows
everything better and yet can not help; its arms drop helpless by its
side. * * *

Good night, good night until tomorrow! Everything is quiet and all in
the house are asleep dreaming of the things they desire when awake; but
I alone am awake with thee. Outside, on the street, all is still. I
should like to be assured that at this moment no soul besides mine is
thinking of thee, that no other heart gives a throb for thee, and that I
alone in the wide world am sitting at thy feet, my heart beating with
full strokes. And while all are asleep I am awake in order to press thy
knee to my breast--and thou?--the world need not know that thou lovest

October 23, 1809.

The moon is shining from afar over the mountains and winter clouds drive
by in droves. I have been standing at the window awhile and watching the
tumult in the heavens. Dear Goethe! Good Goethe! I am all alone; it has
taken me out of myself again and up to thee. I must nurse this love
between us like a new-born babe. Beautiful butterflies balance
themselves on the flowers I have planted about his cradle, golden fables
adorn his dreams; I jest and play with him, and employ all my cunning to
gain his favor. But thou dost master it without effort by the splendid
harmony of thy spirit; with thee there is no need of tender outbursts,
of protestations. While I look after each moment of the present, the
power of blessing emanates from thee that transcends all reason and all
the universe. * * *

Last night I dreamed of thee! What could have been more beautiful? Thou
wast serious and very busy and didst ask me not to disturb thee. That
made me sad and then thou didst press my hand tenderly to my bosom and
didst say, "Be quiet; I know thee and understand all." Then I awoke, and
thy ring, which I had pressed to myself in my sleep, had left its
imprint on my bosom. I pressed it more firmly against the same spot,
since I could not embrace thee. Is there nothing, then, in a dream? To
me it is everything, and I will gladly give up the activities of the day
if I can be with thee and speak with thee at night. Oh, be thou my
happiness in my dreams!

Munich, November 9, 1809.

* * * This is my vow: I will gather flowers for thee and bright garlands
shall adorn thy entrance; should thy foot stumble, it will be over the
wreaths which I have laid on thy threshold, and shouldst thou dream, it
is the balsam of magic blossoms that intoxicates thee--flowers of a
strange and distant world where I am at home and not a stranger as in
this book[12] where a ravenous tiger devours the delicate image of
spiritual love. I do not understand this cruel riddle; I cannot
comprehend why they all make themselves unhappy and why they all serve a
malicious demon with a thorny sceptre, why Charlotte, who strews incense
before him daily, yes, hourly, should prepare misfortune for them all
with mathematical precision! Is not love free? Are those two not
affinities? Why should she prevent them from living this innocent life
with and near each other? They are twins; twined round each other they
ripen on to their birth into the light, and she would separate these
seedlings because she cannot believe in innocence, which she inoculates
with the monstrous sin of prejudice! O what a fatal precaution!

Let me tell you: No one seems to comprehend ideal love; they all believe
in sensual love, and consequently they neither experience nor bestow any
happiness that springs from that higher emotion or might be fully
realized through it. Whatever may fall to my lot, let it be through this
ideal love that tears down all barriers to new worlds of art,
divination, and poetry. Naturally it can live only in a noble element
just as it feels at home only in a lofty mind.

Here thy Mignon occurs to me--how she dances blindfolded between eggs.
My love is adroit; you can rely thoroughly on its instinct; it will also
dance on blindly, and will make no misstep. * * *

November 29, 1809.

I had written thus far yesterday, when I crept into bed from fear, but I
could not succeed yesterday in falling asleep at thy feet, lost in
contemplation of thee as I do every evening. I was ashamed that I had
chattered so arrogantly, and perhaps all is not as I mean it. Maybe it
is jealousy that excites me so and impels me to seek a way to draw thee
to me again and make thee forget _her_.[13]

Well, put me to the test, and, be it as it may, do not forget my love.
Forgive me also for sending thee my diary. I wrote it on the Rhine and
have spread out before thee my childhood years and shown thee how our
mutual affinity drove me on like a rivulet hastening on over crags and
rocks, through thorns and mosses, till thou, mighty stream, didst engulf
me. Yes, I wanted to keep this book until I should at last be with thee
again, so that I might tell by looking into thy eyes in the morning what
thou hadst read in it the evening before. But now it torments me to
think of thee substituting my diary for Ottilie's, and loving the living
one who remains with thee more than the one who has departed from thee.

Do not burn my letters, do not tear them up, for it might give thee
pain--so firmly, so absolutely, am I joined to thee. But do not show
them to any one; keep them concealed like a secret beauty, for my love
is becoming to thee; thou art beautiful because thou feelest thyself

February 29, 1810.

I will confess to thee and honestly acknowledge all my sins--first,
those for which thou art partly responsible and which thou too must
expiate with me, then those which weigh most heavily on me, and finally
those in which I actually rejoice.

First: I tell thee too often that I love thee, yet I know nothing else,
no matter how, much I turn it one way or the other; that's all there is.

Secondly: I am jealous of all thy friends, the playmates of thy youth,
the sun that shines into thy room, thy servants, and, above all, thy
gardener that lays out the asparagus-beds at thy command.

Thirdly: I begrudge thee all pleasure because I am not along. When any
one has seen thee and speaks of thy gaiety and charm, it does not please
me particularly; but when he says thou wast serious, cool, and reserved,
then I am delighted!

Fourthly: I neglect every one for thy sake; nobody is anything to me,
and I don't care anything about their love; indeed, if any one praises
me, he displeased me. That is jealousy of thee and me, and by no means a
proof of a generous heart; it is a sign of a wretched character that
withers on one side when it would blossom on the other.

Fifthly: I have a great inclination to despise everybody, especially
those that praise thee, and I cannot bear to hear anything good said of
thee. Only a few simple persons can I allow to speak of thee, and it
need not be praise at that. No, they may even make fun of thee a little,
and then, I can tell thee, an unmerciful roguishness comes over me when
I can throw off the chains of slavery for a brief spell.

Sixthly: I have a deep resentment in my soul that it is not thee with
whom I live under the same roof and with whom I breathe the same air. I
am afraid to be near strangers. In church I look for a seat on the
beggars' bench, because they are the most neutral; the finer the people,
the stronger my aversion. To be touched makes me angry, ill, and
unhappy, and so I cannot stand it long in society at dances. I am fond
of dancing, could I but dance alone in the open where the breath of
strangers would not touch me. What influence would it have on the soul
if one could always live near one's friend?--all the more painful the
struggle against that which must remain forever estranged, spiritually
as well as physically.

Seventhly: When I have to listen to any one reading aloud in company, I
sit in a corner and secretly hold my ears shut or, at the first word
that comes along, completely lose myself in thoughts. Then, when some
one does not understand, I awaken out of another world and presume to
supply the explanation, and what the rest consider madness is all
reasonable enough to me and consistent with an inner knowledge that I
cannot impart. Above all, I cannot bear to hear anything read from thy
works, nor can I bear to read them aloud; I must be alone with me and

Vienna, May 28, 1810.

It is Beethoven of whom I want to speak now, and in whom I have
forgotten the world and thee. I may not be qualified to judge, but I am
not mistaken when I say (what perhaps no one now realizes or believes)
that he is far in advance of the culture of all mankind, and I wonder
whether we can ever catch up with him! I doubt it. I only hope that he
may live until the mighty and sublime enigma that lies in his soul may
have reached its highest and ripest perfection. May he reach his highest
ideal, for then he will surely leave in our hands the key to a divine
knowledge which will bring us one step nearer true bliss!

To thee I may confess that I believe in a divine magic which is the
element of spiritual nature, and this magic Beethoven employs in his
music. All he can teach thee about it is pure magic; every combination
of sounds is a phase of a higher existence, and for this reason
Beethoven feels that he is the founder of a new sensuous basis in the
spiritual life. Thou wilt probably be able to feel intuitively what I am
trying to say, and that it is true. Who could replace this spirit? From
whom could we expect anything equivalent to it? All human activity
passes to and fro before him like clockwork; he alone creates freely
from his inmost self the undreamed of, the untreated. What would
intercourse with the outside world profit this man, who is at his sacred
work before sunrise and scarcely looks about him before sunset, who
forgets bodily nourishment, and who is borne in his flight by the stream
of inspiration past the shores of superficial, everyday life. He himself
said to me, "Whenever I open my eyes I cannot but sigh, for all I see is
counter to my religion and I must despise the world which does not
comprehend that music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and
philosophy. It is the wine which inspires new creations, and I am the
Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for men and intoxicates their
spirit! * * * I have no friend and must ever be alone, but I know that God
is nearer to me in my art than to others, and I commune with him
without fear; I have always recognized Him and understood Him. Nor have
I any fears for my music; it can meet no evil fate, for he to whom it
makes itself intelligible will be freed from all misery with which
others are burdened."

All this Beethoven said to me the first time I saw him, and I was
penetrated with a feeling of reverence when he expressed himself to me
with such friendly candor, since I must have seemed very unimportant to
him. Besides, I was astonished, for I had been told that he was
exceedingly reticent and avoided conversation with any one; in fact,
they were afraid to introduce me to him, so I had to look him up alone.
He has three dwellings in which he alternately conceals himself--one in
the country, one in the city, and the third on the bastion, in the third
story of which I found him. I entered unannounced and mentioned my name.
He was seated at the piano and was quite amiable. He inquired whether I
did not wish to hear a song that he had just composed. Then he sang, in
a shrill and piercing voice, so that the plaintiveness reacted upon the
listener, "Knowest thou the land?" "It is beautiful, isn't it, very
beautiful!" he cried, enraptured; "I'll sing it again;" and was
delighted at my ready applause. "Most people are stirred by something
good, but they are not artistic natures; artists are fiery--they do not
weep." Then he sang one of thy songs that he had composed lately, "Dry
not, Tears of Eternal Love."

Yesterday I went for a walk with him through a beautiful garden at
Schoenbrunn that was in full blossom; all the hothouses were open and the
fragrance was overpowering. Beethoven stopped in the burning sun and
said, "Goethe's poems exercise a great power over me, not alone through
their content, but also through their rhythm, and I am incited and moved
to compose by his language, which is built up as if by the aid of
spirits into a sublime structure that bears within it the mystery of
harmonies. Then from the focus of my inspiration I must let the melody
stream forth in every direction; I pursue it, passionately overtake it
again, see it escaping me a second time and disappearing in a host of
varying emotions; soon I seize it with renewed ardor; I can no longer
separate myself from it, but with impetuous rapture I must reproduce it
in all modulations, and, in the final moment, I triumph over the musical
idea--and that, you see, is a symphony! Yes, music is truly the mediator
between the spiritual and the sensuous world. I should like to discuss
this with Goethe; I wonder whether he would understand me! Melody is the
sensuous life of poetry. Does not the spiritual content of a poem become
sensuous feeling through melody? Do we not in the song of Mignon feel
her whole sensuous mood through melody, and does not this sensation
incite one in turn to new creations? Then the spirit longs to expand to
boundless universality where everything together forms a channel for the
_feelings_ that spring from the simple musical thought and that
otherwise would die away unnoted. This is harmony; this is expressed in
my symphonies; the blending of manifold forms rolls on to the goal in a
single channel. At such moments one feels that something eternal,
infinite, something that can never be wholly comprehended, lies in all
things spiritual; and although I always have the feeling of success in
my compositions, yet with the last stroke of the drum with which I have
driven home my own enjoyment, my musical conviction, to my hearers, I
feel an eternal hunger to begin anew, like a child, what a moment before
seemed to me to have been exhausted.

"Speak to Goethe of me; and tell him to hear my symphonies. Then he will
agree with me that music is the sole incorporeal entrance into a higher
world of knowledge which, to be sure, embraces man, but which he, on the
other hand, can never embrace. Rhythm of the spirit is necessary to
comprehend music in its essence; music imparts presentiments,
inspirations of divine science, and what the spirit experiences of the
sensuous in it is the embodiment of spiritual knowledge. Although the
spirits live upon music as man lives upon air, it is a very different
matter to _comprehend_ it with the spirit. But the more the soul draws
its sensuous nourishment from it, the riper the spirit becomes for a
happy mutual understanding.

"But few ever attain this understanding, for just as thousands marry for
love and yet love is never once revealed to them, although they all
pursue the trade of love, so do thousands hold communion with music and
yet do not possess its revelation. For music also has as its foundation
the sublime tokens of the moral sense, just as every art does; every
genuine invention indicates moral progress. To subject oneself to its
inscrutable laws, to curb and guide one's spirit by means of these laws,
so that it will pour forth the revelations of music--this is the
isolating principle of art. To be dissolved by its revelation--that is
the surrender to the divine, which quietly exercises its mastery over
the delirium of unbridled forces and thus imparts the greatest efficacy
to the imagination. Thus art always represents divinity, and the human
relationship to art constitutes religion. Whatever we acquire through
art comes from God; it is a divine inspiration, which sets up an
attainable goal for human capacities.

"We do not know whence our knowledge comes; the firmly inclosed seed
requires the warm, moist, electric soil to sprout, to think, to express
itself. Music is the electric soil in which the soul lives, thinks,
invents. Philosophy is a precipitation of its electric spirit, and the
need that philosophy feels of basing everything on an ultimate principle
is in turn relieved by music. Although the spirit is not master of what
it creates through the mediation of music, yet it experiences ecstasy in
this creation. In this way every genuine creation of art is independent,
mightier than the artist himself, and through its expression it returns
to its divine source; it is concerned with man only insomuch as it bears
witness to divine mediation in him.

"Music gives the spirit its relation to harmony. A thought, even when
isolated, still senses the totality of relationship in the spirit; thus
every thought in music is most intimately and inseparably related to the
totality of harmony, which is unity. Everything electric stimulates the
spirit to fluent, precipitous, musical creation. I myself am of an
electrical nature." * * *

He took me to a grand rehearsal with full orchestra, and I sat back in a
box all alone in the large, unlighted hall, and saw this mighty spirit
wield his authority. Oh, Goethe I No emperor, no king, is so conscious
of his power, so conscious that all power radiates from him, as this
same Beethoven is, who only now in the garden was searching for the
source of his inspiration. If I understood him as I feel him, I should
be omniscient. There he stood, so firmly resolved, his gestures and
features expressing the perfection of his creation, anticipating every
error, every misconception; every breath obeyed his will, and everything
was set into the most rational activity by the superb presence of his
spirit. One might well prophesy that such a spirit will reappear in a
later reincarnation as ruler of the universe!

November 4, 1810.

Dost thou want me to tell thee of bygone days, how, when thy spirit was
revealed to me, I gained control over my own spirit in order the more
perfectly to embrace and love thine? And why should I not become dizzy
with ecstasy? Is the prospect of a fall so fearful after all? Just as
the precious jewel, touched by a single ray of light, reflects a
thousand colors, so also thy beauty, illumined only by the ray of my
enthusiasm, will be enriched a thousandfold.

It is only when everything is comprehended that the Something can prove
its full worth, and so thou wilt understand when I tell thee that the
bed in which thy mother brought thee into the world had blue checkered
hangings. She was eighteen years old at the time, and had been married a
year. In this connection she remarked that thou wouldst remain forever
young and that thy heart would never grow old, since thou hadst received
thy mother's youth into the bargain. Thou didst ponder the matter for
three days before thou didst decide to come into the world, and thy
mother was in great pain. Angry that necessity had driven thee from thy
nature-abode and because of the bungling of the nurse, thou didst arrive
quite black and with no signs of life. They laid thee in a so-called
butcher's tray and bathed thee in wine, quite despairing of thy life.
Thy grandmother stood behind the bed, and when thou didst open thine
eyes she cried out, "Frau Rat, he lives!" "Then my maternal heart awoke
and it has lived in unceasing enthusiasm to this very hour," said thy
mother to me in her seventy-fifth year. Thy grandfather, one of the most
honored citizens of Frankfurt and at that time syndic, always applied
good as well as bad fortune to the welfare of the city, and so thy
difficult birth resulted in an accoucher being appointed for the poor.
"Even in his cradle he was a blessing to mankind," said thy mother. She
gave thee her breast but thou couldst not be induced to take
nourishment, and so a nurse was procured for thee. "Since he drank from
her with such appetite and comfort and we discovered that I had no
milk," she said, "we soon noticed that he was wiser than all of us when
he wouldn't take nourishment from me."

Now that thou art born at last I can pause a little; now that thou art
in the world, each moment is dear enough to me to linger over it, and I
have no desire to call up the second moment, since it will drive me away
from the first. "Where'er thou art are love and goodness, where'er thou
art is nature too." Now I shall wait till thou writest me again, "Pray
go on with thy story." Then I shall first ask, "Well, where did we leave
off?" and then I shall tell thee of thy grandparents, thy dreams, thy
beauty, pride, love, etc. Amen.

"Frau Rat, he lives!" These words always thrilled me through and
through whenever thy mother uttered them in exultant tones. Of thy birth
we may well say:

The sword that threatens danger
Hangs often by a thread;
But the blessing of eternity
On us one gracious glance may shed.

Extract from a letter written in 1822, ten years after the breach in
their relations.

To give perfect expression to thee would probably be the most powerful
seal of my love, indeed, being a creation of divine nature, it would
prove my affinity to thee. It would be an enigma solved, like unto a
long restrained mountain torrent which at last penetrates to the light,
enduring the tremendous fall in voluptuous rapture, at a moment of life
through which and after which a higher existence begins.

Thou destroyer, who hast taken my free will from me; thou creator, who
hast produced within me the sensation of awakening, who hast convulsed
me with a thousand electric sparks from the realm of sacred nature!
Through thee I learned to love the curling of the tender vine, and the
tears of my longing have fallen on its frost-kissed fruits; for thy sake
I have kissed the young grass, for thy sake offered my open bosom to the
dew; for thy sake I have listened intently when the butterfly and the
bee swarmed about me, for I wanted to feel _thee_ in the sacred sphere
of thy enjoyments. Oh, thou; toy in disguise with thy beloved--could I
help, after I had divined thy secret, becoming intoxicated with love for

Canst thou divine the thrills that shook me when the trees poured down
their fragrance and their blossoms upon me? For I thought and felt and
firmly believed that it was _thy_ caressing of nature, _thy_ enjoyment
of her beauty, that it was _her_ yearning, _her_ surrender to thee, that
loosened these blossoms from their trembling boughs and sent them gently
whirling into my lap.



BY MARTIN SCHUeTZE, PH.D. Associate Professor of German Literature,
University of Chicago

Karl Lebrecht Immermann was born in Magdeburg, in April, 1796. His
father, who held a good position in the Civil Service, was a very severe
and domineering man; his mother, imaginative and over-indulgent. Karl's
childhood and early youth were uneventful. After passing through the
regular course of preparatory education in a "Gymnasium," he entered, in
1813, the University of Halle. During his first year there, Germany rose
up to throw off the yoke of Napoleon, and the King of Prussia issued a
proclamation calling the nation to arms, to which the people responded
with unprecedented unanimity and enthusiasm. Schoolboys and bearded men,
laborers and professional men, merchants and soldiers, united in one
patriotic purpose. The regular army was everywhere supplemented by
volunteer organizations. An epoch began which in its enthusiasm, its
idealism, the force and richness of its inspiration, and its
overwhelming impetus deserved, more than any other in modern history,
its title: "The Spring of Nations."

Immermann's sensitive and responsive nature thrilled with the general
impulse, and he asked his father to let him join the army, but was told,
peremptorily, not to interrupt the first year of his studies. He
submitted, and plunged into the study of the literature of the
Romanticists, which, in its remoteness from actuality, offered
distraction from his disappointment. During this time he fell ill of
typhoid fever, from which he did not fully recover until the campaign
had victoriously ended in the battle of Leipzig. He joined, however,
after Napoleon's escape from Elba, the second campaign, in which he took
part in two battles. At the end of the war, having retired as an officer
of the reserves, he returned to Halle to finish his study of the law.

He found a new spirit dominant among the students. This spirit,
characterized by a strongly democratic desire for national unity, pride
of race, and impatience with external and conventional restraints, had a
rich network of roots in the immediate past: in the individualism and
the humanism of the Storm and Stress Movement and the Classic Era of the
eighteenth century; in the subjective idealism of the Romantic school;
in the nationalism of Klopstock, Herder, Schiller, and Fichte, and in
the self-reliant transcendentalism of Kant's philosophy and
Schleiermacher's theology. This spirit had received its political
direction principally through the genius of the Baron von Stein, the
Prussian statesman, whose aim was the restoration of German national
unity. He believed that the political unity of Germany must rest on the
soundness of the common people, rather than on the pretensions of the
aristocracy whose corruption he held responsible for the decadence of
the nation. Following the example of Frederick the Great, he tried to
foster the simple virtues of the common man. He was, however, opposed to
radicalism, seeing permanent progress only in order, self-discipline,
and moderation. His leading idea, which was shared by such men as
Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Niebuhr, and others, was that the principal task
of the time was to arouse the whole nation to independent political
thinking and activity, in order to develop self-confidence, courage, and
devotion to a great unselfish ideal. These ideas became a national
ideal, an active passion, under the pressure and stress of the
Napoleonic usurpation and in the heat and fervor of war and victory.


It was unavoidable that this spirit produced among the younger men,
and especially among the university students, traditionally unaccustomed
to patience with restraints, many excesses, absurdities and follies.
An extreme and tyrannical nativism, a tasteless archaism in dress,
manner, and speech, an intolerant and aggressive democratic propaganda
offended and bullied the more conservative. This spirit spread
particularly through the agencies of the student fraternities called
"Burschenschaften," and the athletic associations, the "Turners,"
advocated and fostered by Jahn.

Immermann became the mouthpiece of the conservatives among the students,
and he went so far as to publish some pamphlets denouncing specific acts
of violence of the leading radical fraternity, the "Teutonia." When the
university authorities, who to a considerable extent sympathized with
the radicals, neglected to act, Immermann addressed a complaint to the
King. This move resulted in the dissolution of the accused fraternity
and in governmental hostility to all fraternities, and brought the
hatred and contempt of the radicals on Immermann.

Immermann acted undoubtedly from sincere motives, yet deserved much of
the condemnation he suffered. He had not sufficient vision to penetrate
through the objectionable and tasteless externalities of the liberal
movement--with which he was unfairly preoccupied even at the time of
_Die Epigonen_, a score of years later--to the greater and enduring core
of the aspirations of the modern age. The petty things were too near to
his eye and obscured the greater things which were further removed. He
thought he upheld a higher principle of morality by applying the
principles of von Stein to a new situation; but be failed to see the
new, larger morality imbedded in much confusion. History has reversed
his judgment.

After completing his studies he received a government appointment in the
provincial capital of Westphalia, Muenster. Here, in this conservative
old town, began one of the most extraordinary relations between man and
woman in modern German literary history. Immermann fell in love with
Countess Elisa von Luetzow-Ahlefeldt, wife of the famous old commander
of volunteers, Brigadier-General von Luetzow. Elisa, an extremely gifted
and spirited woman, had formed a circle of interesting people, in which
her husband, a dashing soldier but a man of uninteresting mentality,
played a very subordinate part. Immermann and Elisa struggled along
against the tyranny of the affinity that drew them together. Immermann
wrote a number of dramas, highly romantic, in which the passion and
strife within him found varied expression. The play which made him known
beyond his immediate circle, was _Cardenio and Celinde_, the conflict of
which was suggested by his own.

Elisa was finally divorced from Luetzow. Immermann was appointed a judge
in Magdeburg, and later in Duesseldorf. He asked Elisa to marry him. She
refused, but offered to live with him in free companionship. They joined
their lives, pledging themselves not to enter other relations. They
remained together until 1839, less than a year before Immermann's death,
when he married a young girl of nineteen. Elisa left his house in sorrow
and bitterness. Immermann characterized his relation to her thus in a
letter to his fiancee, in 1839: "I loved the countess deeply and purely
when I was kindled by her flame. But she took such a strange position
toward me that I never could have a pure, genuine, enduring joy in this
love. There were delights, but no quiet gladness. I always felt as if a
splendid comet had appeared on the horizon, but never as if the dear
warm God's sun had risen."

His life with Elisa in Duesseldorf was rich in friends and works. The
sculptor Schadow, the founder of the art school there, the dramatists
von Uechtritz and Michael Beer, brother of Meyerbeer, were among his
friends. He had intimate relations with Mendelssohn during the years of
the latter's stay in Duesseldorf. He tried to assist Grabbe, the erratic
and unfortunate dramatist. During three years he was manager of the
Duesseldorf theatre, trying many valuable and idealistic experiments.
He died August 25, 1840.

The most important of his works are _Das Trauerspiel in Tirol_, 1826,
treating of the tragic story of Andreas Hofer; _Kaiser Friedrich II_.,
1827, a drama of the Hohenstaufen; the comic heroic epic,
_Tulifaentchen_, 1830, a satiric version of an heroic Tom Thumb;
_Alexis_, 1832, a trilogy setting forth the destruction of the reforms
begun by Peter the Great; _Merlin_, 1832; and his two novels, _Die
Epigonen_, 1836, and _Muenchhausen_, 1838-9.

In _Die Epigonen_, one of the long list of representatives of the
species of novels which began with Goethe's _Wilhelm Meister_, Immermann
tried to present the development of a young man and a picture of the
principal social forces of his period. But he was too imitative in
following his great model, and too much confused by subjective
preoccupations, to comprehend and to state clearly the substance of the

Only two of his works have enduring value, his mystical tragedy
_Merlin_, and the part of _Muenchhausen_ called "Der Oberhof" (The Upper
Farm), which deals with the lives and types of the small freehold
farmers. Immermann, following Baron von Stein, believed that the health
and future of society, endangered by the corrupt and dissipated
nobility, rested, on the sturdy, self-reliant, individualistic yet
severely moral and patriotic, small peasant. In the main character of
the story, the rugged, proud, inflexibly honorable old farmer, who has
inherited the sword of Charles the Great, he has drawn one of the most
living characters in early modern German fiction. The other figures,
too, are full of life and reality. The story has, aside from its
importance in the history of the German novel, an enduring value of its

Immermann, in spite of his unremitting endeavor, failed to attain
literary or moral greatness. He lacked the fundamental and organic unity
of great natures. He had more qualities of mind than most of his
important contemporaries, but in not one of these qualities did he
attain to the degree which assures distinction. In his _Merlin_ he
treated a conflict which was fundamentally similar to that of
Grillparzer's _Libussa_. Yet Grillparzer, much more one-sided than he,
possessed the true Romantic-mystic quality, whereas Immermann had to
elaborate his symbolism with the patchwork of careful, allegoric
analysis. He had a richer contact with social forces than Heine, yet his
realizations of them were awkward and meagre, his humor wooden, his
imagery derived. He had much greater intellectual force than Platen, yet
he lacked the incisive and controlled critical sense of the latter.
Having no one faculty to a distinguished degree, he constantly had to
substitute the strained labor of one faculty for the spontaneous
production of another. Predominantly rationalistic, he labored at the
symbolistic vision of Romanticism; preeminently a man of prose, he
endeavored all his life to be a great poet. He mistook the responsive
excitement produced by the ideas and visions of others for authentic
inspiration, the vivacity of a sociable and conversational gift for the
creative force of genius, and the immobility of obvious and established
conventional judgments for an extraordinary soundness and incisiveness
of fundamental analysis.

There was in him, as he himself once said, a certain "aftertaste of a
worthy philistinism." The dominant bent of his mind was toward the
immediate actualities, and this bent in the end, as in his antagonism
against the radical students in Halle, always overcame his endeavor to
grasp the more remote realities of a larger vision.

The purposes of his literary works, like the beginning and purpose of
his intimacy with Elisa, are always large, comprehensive, and
idealistic, but they always, even in his most important work, _Merlin_,
dwindle to petty details of actuality. His significance for the present
age does not so much rest on his objective achievement, as on some of
his qualities which prevented achievement. He was perhaps the most
considerable representative of the literary "Epigones" intervening
between the esthetic individualistic humanism of the eighteenth, and the
economic-cooeperative humanism of the nineteenth century. He, more fully
perhaps than any of his contemporaries, represented the peculiar
border-type of literary personality which is both compounded and torn
asunder by all the principal conflicting forces of a period of historic
transition. He was a victim of the manifold division of impulses, the
ill-related patchwork of impressions, and the disconcerting refractions
of vision, which characterized his contemporaries. It is in the fact
that he united in himself the principal factors which made up the
complexion of his age, to an extraordinary degree, that he has his
strongest claim upon the sympathetic and studious interest of the modern


The principal dramatic agencies in _Merlin_ are Satan, Klingsor,
Titurel, King Artus and his Round Table, Niniana, and Merlin. In them,
Immermann tried to embody the dominant moral and intellectual
tendencies, as he saw them in history and his own times. Satan, the
demiurgos, is to him no theological devil, but a princely character, the
"Lord of Necessity," the non-moral, irresistible, cosmic force of
physical creation. He demands, expressing the faith of Young-Germany:

"O! naked bodies, insolent art,
O! wrath of heroes, and heroic voice!"

The pride of life in him and in Lucifer, who personifies the creative
fire, is aroused against the narrow asceticism of orthodox Christianity,
embodied in the wan and feeble Titurel. Satan decides to imitate the
Lord of Christianity, by begetting upon a virgin, Candida, a son who is
to save the world from the sterility of asceticism. Candida is briefly
introduced, acknowledging the power of the mighty spirit and bewailing
her fate in one of the finest passages in the play. Merlin is born,
combining the supernatural creative powers of his father with the
tenderness and sympathy of his mother. His purpose is to reconcile the
true principles of primitive Christianity with the natural impulses of
life. Merlin thus is opposed to his father as well as to Titurel and his
dull and narrow "guild" who keep the true spirit of humanity captive. He
is both anti-Satan and anti-Christ.

He next comes into conflict with the third fundamental force, Klingsor.
The latter is really only a variant of Satan and, while interesting, is
somewhat less fundamental, being more a philosophic and literary, than
an active, antagonist. His symbol is the circled serpent, the embodiment
of permanence within the changing world of actuality. He represents the
nature-philosophy of Romanticism and especially of Schelling, a
philosophy so vast and unsubstantial that all values of conduct and all
incentives to action disappeared in its featureless abyss. Immermann
intensely disliked it. He was, as he said, a lover of men; the worship
of nature drained and exhausted the sympathies, the wills and the
spirits of men. The passages in which Klingsor himself, in his moments
of despair, and Merlin expose the emptiness of this philosophy, are
among the best philosophic statements of the play. They are, how ever,
too exhaustive. But they are good philosophy, if they are bad drama and
poetry. Klingsor says of the "nature book"

"It asserts: all is vain; nought but stale mediocrity--while we are
shaken from, shell to core by the breath of the times." He is worshipped
by the dwarfs because he has opened the mysteries of inanimate nature,
and he commands the spirits of classical life represented by Antinous,
and the pagan' gods and demi-gods, the personifications of the naive
impulses of nature. But he realizes that his wisdom, while it makes
dwarfs happy, is inadequate for human beings.

The teaching of Merlin is essentially the humanism of the moderate
liberalism of Baron von Stein and his followers. Klingsor, voicing the
sentiments of Romantic aristocratism, accuses him:

"You tell the mob: Be your own Savior; seek inspiration in your own
work. The people like to be told of their majesty. Keep on bravely
lying, sweetly flattering, and the prophet is complete."

Merlin retorts:

"You describe yourself, not me. Men have a deep sense of truth, and pay
in false coin only him that offers them false gifts." He then continues,
lashing the transcendent egotism of the Romantic conception of man in
the universe: "To you the earth, the ocean, the firmament, are nothing
but a ladder for your own elevation, and you must absolutely reject the
thing called humility. In order to maintain yourself strong and whole
you have to find men weak and only partial beings," etc. Later, in lines
_1637ff_., he proceeds, in what are probably the finest and richest
passages in the work, to state his own purpose of combining all that is
great, true, beautiful, human, and noble, into one comprehensive and
rational faith of humanity.

Merlin tries to teach his faith to King Artus and his circle, who embody
the frivolous, irresponsible, though refined, conduct of the nobility,
essentially the same nobility whom von Stein accused of injuring the
nation and Immermann satirized and exposed in _Muenchhausen_. They decide
to seek salvation in the primitive idealism of India, appointing Merlin
their guide. Merlin, however, succumbs to the silly Niniana, the
personification of wanton desire. She makes him tell her a fated word,
after promising not to repeat it. She thoughtlessly repeats it. He now
loses his superhuman power, i. e., the power of absolute spiritual
integrity, and becomes subject to the limitations of earth, like a
common man. He can no longer lead Artus and his court, who perish of
their own spiritual vacuity.

The end of the play is unsatisfactory. The hero's surrender to the lust
of the flesh, undoubtedly suggested by Goethe's _Faust_ and consistent
in Goethe's poem, is foreign to the conflict of this play, which, not
being human, as is that of _Faust_, but an abstract antagonism of
general historic principles, should have been solved without the
interference of the mere creature weaknesses of the hero and the mere
creature sympathies of the reader. Immermann planned to untie the knot
in a second part, which was to treat of the salvation of Merlin; but he
never carried his purpose beyond a few slight introductory passages.


BY ALLEN WILSON PORTERFIELD, PH.D. Instructor in German, Columbia

Immermann first thought of writing a new _Muenchhausen_ in 1821, the year
of his satirical comedy, _The Princes of Syracuse_, which contains the
embryonic idea of this "history in arabesques." Conscientious
performance of his duties as a judge and incessant activity as a writer
along other lines forced the idea into the background until 1830, the
year of his satirical epic, _Tulifaentchen_, in which the theme again
received attention. In 1835 he finished _Die Epigonen_, a novel
portraying the social and political conditions in Germany from 1815 to
1830, and in 1837 he began systematic work on _Muenchhausen_, continuing,
from a different point of view and in a different mood, his delineation
of the civic and intellectual status of Germany of his own time. The
last part of the entire work was published in 1839, having occupied,
intermittently, eighteen of his twenty years of literary productivity.
The first edition was exhausted one year after publication, a second
appeared in 1841, a third in 1854, and since 1857 there have been many
of all kinds, ranging from the popular "Reclam" to critical editions
with all the helps and devices known to modern scholarship.

In so far as the just appreciation of a literary production is dependent
upon a study of its genesis, the reading of _Die Epigonen_ is necessary
to a complete understanding of _Muenchhausen_, for through these two
works runs a strong thread of unbroken development. Hermann, the
immature hero of the former, and his associates, bequeath a number of
characteristics to the title-hero and his associates of the latter; but
where the earlier work is predominantly sarcastic, political, and
pessimistic, the later one is humorous, intellectual, and optimistic. It
would seem, therefore, that, in view of its bright outlook, mature view,
and sympathetic treatment, Immermann's greatest epic in prose was
destined to be read in its entirety, frequently, and with pleasure.

This is, however, not the case. Starting from a long line of models,
Sterne's _Tristram Shandy_ among others, _Muenchhausen_ resembles the
diffusive works of similar title by Raspe (1785) and Buerger (1787). It
takes its name from Hieronymus Karl Friedrich, Baron of Muenchhausen
(1720-1797), and satirizes many of the whimsicalities of Herman Ludwig
Heinrich, Prince of Pueckler-Muskau (1785-1871). And it flagellates again
and again such bizarre literary and intellectual phenomena of the time
as Raupach's Hohenstaufen dramas, Goerres' mysticism, Menzel's
calumniations, Eduard Gans' liberalism, Bettina's pretensions, Young
Germany's reaction, even the Indian studies of the Schlegels and
Alexander von Humboldt's substantial scholarship, so that, for the
general reader, the larger part of the work is a sealed book. Its
references are obscure, its satire abstruse, its humor vague. Even
Ferdinand Freiligrath, Immermann's contemporary and friend, declined, on
the ground of lack of familiarity with the allusions, to write a
commentary to it.

According to Immermann's own statement, he began _Muenchhausen_ without a
shimmer of an idea as to how he would finish it; but he finished it,
having in the meantime gone through a complete inner transformation, in
a way that surprised even himself and greatly pleased his readers. We
have here, consequently, a novel which, though written as a whole, falls
naturally into two parts, the one negative and satirical, the other
positive and human. And odd indeed is the situation in the negative

As in _Die Epigonen_, the scene is laid in Westphalia. The impoverished
Baron Schnuck-Puckelig-Erbsenscheucher, a faithful representative of the
narrow-minded and prejudiced nobility, lives with his prudish,
sentimental daughter, Emerentia, in the dilapidated castle, Schnick
Schnack-Schnurr. Their sole companion is the daft school-teacher,
Agesel, who, having lost, from too much study of phonetics, the major
part of his never gigantic mind, imagines that he is a direct descendant
of the Spartan King Agesilaus. With these occupants and no more, the
castle resembles a harmless home for the insane. But one day
Muenchhausen, the prince of liars and chief of swindlers, accompanied by
his servant, Karl Buttervogel, the Sancho Panza of the story, comes to
the castle. His presence enlivens; his interminable stories, through
which Immermann satirizes the tendencies of the time, delight at first,
then tire, then become intolerable. To maintain his influence, he
suggests to the old Baron the establishment of a stock company for the
selling of compressed air, assuring this gullible old soul that hereby
his fortunes can be retrieved and his appointment as Privy Councilor can
be realized. The Baron, though pleased, enters into the proposition with
caution. But Muenchhausen, unable to execute his scheme, finds himself in
an embarrassing dilemma from which he disentangles himself by mysteriously
disappearing and never again coming to light. Emerentia has
in the meantime fallen in love with Karl Buttervogel, whom she
erroneously looks upon as a Prince in disguise. At the prospect of so
humble a son-in-law, the Baron becomes frantic, violently removes
Buttervogel from the castle, which, as a result of the Baron's ravings,
falls to the ground with a crash and a roar--a catastrophe which reminds
one of Poe's _Fall of the House of Usher_--and the Baron and Agesel are
restored to their senses.

The chief trouble with this fantastic story is that it lacks artistic
measure and objective plausibility. Immermann, omnivorous reader that he
was, wrote this part of his book, not from life, but from other books.
And even granting that he carried out his plan with a reasonable degree
of cleverness, the average reader is not sufficiently acquainted with
Kerner and Platen and their long line of queer contemporaries to see the
point, so he skips over this part of the work and turns at once to _Der

It is needless to state that Immermann never wrote a work with such a
title. Editors and publishers have simply followed the lead of readers
and brought out separately the best parts of the complete novel under
the heading of the third chapter of the second book. There is not even
final agreement as to how much of the original work should be included
in order to make a well-rounded story. The editions, of which there are
many, vary in size from seventy-five to three hundred and seventy-five
octavo pages. The best arrangement is that which includes the second,
fifth, seventh and eighth books.

Here again we meet with three leading characters--the very honest and
reliable Hofschulze, the owner of the "Upper Farm," in whom are
personified and glorified the best traditions of Westphalia; Lisbeth,
the daughter of Muenchhausen and Emerentia, the connecting link between
romantic and realistic Germany; and Oswald, the Suabian Count disguised
as a hunter, a thoroughly good fellow. But this by no means exhausts the
list of pleasing personalities. The good Deacon, who had lost interest
in life and faith in men while tutoring a young Swedish Count, and who
was made over by his new work among the solid middle class of
Westphalia, is a character of real charm; his ideals are humanitarian in
the best sense, his wisdom is sound, his help generous. Jochem, Oswald's
servant, is the incarnation of fidelity; the old Captain, who finds
himself today in a French and tomorrow in a Prussian mood, is
instructive at least, for such dualistic patriotism was not unknown at
the time; the Collector follows his vocation with inspiring avidity, the
Sexton is droll without knowing it, and each of the Hofschulze's
servants has something about him that separates him from his
confederates even though he be nameless. There are no supernumeraries
among the characters.

By reason of her common sense and energy, Lisbeth had for some time kept
the old Baron's head above water. One of her duties was to collect
taxes, a business which frequently brought her to the "Upper Farm,"
where she was always sure of a kind reception. Oswald, too, came to the
Farm one day to settle an affair of honor with Muenchhausen. Instead of
finding him, however, he meets Lisbeth, and here the love story begins.

While waiting at the Farm for Jochem to find Muenchhausen, Oswald agrees
to recompense the Hofschulze for his hospitality by keeping the wild
deer away from the grain fields. His duties are nominal; he exchanges
views with the men of the Farm, corresponds with his friends in Suabia,
wanders over the fields and occasionally shoots at some game without
ever hitting. His room must have been occupied before his arrival by a
beautiful girl, for in it he finds a tidy hood and kerchief that betray
the charms of their wearer, and he dreams of her at night. And one day,
while wandering through the woods, he catches sight of a lovely girl
looking into the calyx of a wonderful forest flower. He is on the point
of going up to her when her very charm holds him back, and that night he
dreams again of his beautiful predecessor in the Hofschulze's corner

And then, while wandering again through the pathless woods, he shoots at
a roe but hits Lisbeth, the girl of his dreams. The wound is, however,
slight, and by the time it has healed their love has become perfect, so
that, immediately after the wedding of the Hofschulze's daughter, for
whom Lisbeth had been a bridesmaid, and before the same altar at which
the ceremony had just been performed, the good Deacon pronounces the
blessing upon the newly betrothed pair.

With the Deacon's official act over, imaginary troubles cease and real
ones begin. Oswald, grieved beyond expression to learn that Lisbeth is
the daughter of Muenchhausen and Emerentia, is on the point of leaving
the Farm immediately and Lisbeth forever; Lisbeth, having thought all
the time that her lover was a plain hunter, is in complete despair when
told that he is a real Count; the Hofschulze does not take kindly to the
idea of their marriage, for Oswald has not always revered Westphalian
traditions, the secret tribunal, for example, as he should have done;
Oswald's friends in Suabia object to his marrying a foundling, and
advise him to come home and straighten out a love affair he has there
before entering into a new and foreign one; the doctor is not even
certain that the wedding is hygienically wise. But love dispels all
fears and doubts, and the good Deacon makes Oswald and Lisbeth man and

Immermann's lifelong attempts at the studied poetizations of
traditional, aristocratic, high-flown themes brought him but scant
recognition even in his day, and they have since been well-nigh
forgotten. But when, one year before his death, he wrote an
unpretentious love story taken from the life of simple people whom he
met on his daily walks, he thereby assured himself of immortality. Few
works prove more convincingly than _Der Oberhof_ that great literature
is neither more nor less than an artistic visualization and faithful
reflection of life. The reading of this unassuming "village story," the
first of its kind in German literature, warms the heart and stirs the
springs of living fancy, simply because it relates in terse and direct
language a series of incidents in the lives of very possible and very
real human beings.

* * * * *





With the sleeves of his shirt rolled up the old Justice of the estate
was standing in the yard between the barns and the farm buildings and
gazing attentively into a fire which he had kindled on the ground
between stones and logs, and which was now crackling merrily. He
straightened around a small anvil which was standing beside it, laid
down a hammer and a pair of tongs so as to have them ready to grasp,
tested the points of some large wheel-nails which he drew forth from the
breast-pocket of a leather apron he had tied around him, put the nails
down in the bottom of the rack-wagon, the wheel of which he was about to
repair, carefully turned the rim around until the place where the tire
was broken was on top, and then made the wheel fast by putting stones
under it.

After he had again looked into the fire for a few moments, but not long
enough to cause his bright, sharp eyes to blink, he quickly thrust the
tongs into it, lifted out the red-hot piece of iron, laid it on the
anvil, pounded it with the hammer so that the sparks flew in all
directions, clapped the still glowing piece of iron down on the broken
place in the tire, hammered and welded it fast with two heavy blows, and
then drove the nails into their places, which was easily done, as the
iron was still soft and pliable.

A few very sharp and powerful blows gave the inserted piece its
finishing touch. The Justice kicked away the stones with which he had
made the wheel fast, seized the wagon by its tongue in order to test the
mended tire, and in spite of its weight hauled it without exertion
diagonally across the yard, so that the hens, geese and ducks, which had
been quietly sunning themselves, flew, with loud cries, before the
rattling vehicle, and a couple of pigs jumped up, grunting, from their

Two men, the one a horse-dealer, the other a tax-collector or receiver,
who were sitting at a table beneath the large linden in front of the
house and imbibing their drink, had been watching the work of the robust
old man.

"It must be true!" one of them, the horse-dealer, called out. "You would
have made an excellent blacksmith, Judge!"

The Justice washed his hands and face in a pail of water which was
standing beside the anvil, poured the water into the fire to extinguish
it, and said:

"He is a fool who gives to the blacksmith what he can earn himself!"

He picked up the anvil as if it were a feather, and carried it, along
with the hammer and tongs, under a little shed which stood between the
house and the barn, and in which there were standing, or hanging, a
work-bench, saws, chisels, and whatever other tools pertain to the
carpenter's or joiner's trade, as well as a quantity of wood and boards
of many kinds.

While the old man was still busying himself under the shed, the
horse-dealer said to the receiver:

"Would you believe it that he also repairs with his own hands all the
posts, doors, thresholds, boxes, and cases in the house, or if luck
favors him makes new ones himself? I believe that he could be an expert
joiner, if he wanted to, and put together a first-class cabinet."

"You are wrong there," said the Justice, who had overheard the latter
remark and who, having taken off his leather apron, now emerged from the
shed in a smock-frock of white linen and sat down at the table with the
two men.

[Illustration: The Master of the Oberhof]

A maid brought a glass to him also, and, after drinking the health of his
guests, he continued: "To make a post or a door or a threshold, all you
need is a pair of sound eyes and a steady hand, but a cabinet-maker has
to have more than that. I once allowed my conceit to deceive me into
thinking that I could put together, as you call it, a first-class
cabinet, because I had handled plane and chisel and T-square more or
less doing carpenter's work. I measured and marked and squared off the
wood and had everything fitted down to the inch. Yes, but now when it
came to the joining and gluing together, everything was all wrong; the
sides were warped and wouldn't come together, the lid in front was too
large, and the drawers too small for the openings. You can still see the
contraption; I let it stand on the sill to guard me from future
temptation. For it always does a man good to have a reminder of his
weakness constantly before his eyes."

At this moment a loud neigh was heard from the stable across the yard.
The horse-dealer cleared his throat, spat, struck a light for his pipe,
blew a dense cloud of smoke into the receiver's face, and looked first
longingly toward the stable, and then thoughtfully down at the ground.
Then he spat once more, removed the varnished hat from his head, wiped
his brow with his sleeve, and said: "Still this sultry weather!"
Thereupon he unbuckled his leather money-pouch from his body, threw it
down on the table with a bang, so that its contents rattled and jingled,
untied the strings, and counted out twenty bright gold pieces, the sight
of which caused the receiver's eyes to sparkle, while the old Justice
did not even look at them.

"Here is the money!" cried the horse-dealer, bringing his clenched fist
down on the table with a thump. "Do I get the brown mare for it? God
knows, she's not worth a penny more!"

"Then keep your money, so that you won't suffer any loss!" replied the
Justice cold-bloodedly. "Twenty-six is my price, as I have already said,
and not a farthing less! You've known me a good many years, Mr. Marx,
and you ought to realize by this time that dickering and beating down
don't work with me, because I never take back what I say. I ask for a
thing what it is worth to me, and never overcharge. So an angel with a
trumpet might come down from heaven, but he wouldn't get the bay mare
for less than twenty-six!"

"But," exclaimed the horse-dealer, provoked, "business consists of
demanding and offering, doesn't it? I'd overcharge my own brother! When
there is no more overcharging in the world, business will come to an

"On the contrary," replied the Justice, "business will then take much
less time, and for that very reason will be more profitable. And besides
that, both parties always derive much benefit from a transaction
involving no overcharge. It has always been my experience that, when an
overcharge is made, one's nature gets hot, and it results in nobody's
knowing exactly what he is doing or saying. The seller, in order to put
an end to the argument, often lets his wares go for a lower price than
that which he had quietly made up his mind to charge, and the buyer, on
the other hand, just as often, in the eagerness and ardor of bidding,
wastes his money. Where there is absolutely no talk of abatement, then
both parties remain beautifully calm and safe from loss."

"Inasmuch as you talk so sensibly, you have, I presume, thought better
of my proposal," broke in the receiver. "As I, have already said, the
government wants to convert into cash all the corn due from the farms in
this region. It alone suffers a loss from it, for corn is corn, whereas
money is worth so much today and so much tomorrow. Meanwhile, you see,
it is their wish to free themselves from the burden of storing up corn.
Kindly do me the favor, then, to sign this new cash-contract, which I
have brought with me for that purpose."

"By no means!" answered the Justice vehemently. "For many hundreds of
years corn, and only corn, has been paid over from the Oberhof to the
monastery, and the receiver's office will have to content itself with
that, just as the monastery has done. Does cash grow in my fields? No!
Corn grows in them! Where, then, are you going to get the cash?"

"You're not going to be cheated, you know!" cried the receiver.

"We must always stand by the old ways of doing things," said the Justice
solemnly. "Those were good times when the tablets with the lists of
imposts and taxes of the peasantry used to hang in the church. In those
days everything was fixed, and there were never any disagreements, as
there are nowadays all too often. Afterwards it was said that the
tablets with the hens and eggs and bushels and pecks of grain.
interfered with devotion, and they were done away with." With that he
went into the house.

"There is a stubborn fellow for you!" cried the horse-dealer, when he
could no longer see his business friend. He put his varnished hat back
on his head again with an air of vexation. "If he once makes up his mind
not to do something, the devil himself cannot bring him around. The
worst of it is that the fellow rears the best horses in this region, and
after all, if you get right down to it, lets them go cheap enough."

"An obstinate, headstrong sort of people it is that lives hereabouts,"
said the receiver. "I have just recently come from Saxony and I notice
the contrast. There they all live together, and for that reason they
have to be courteous and obliging and tractable toward one another. But
here, each one lives on his own property, and has his own wood, his own
field, his own pasture around him, as if there were nothing else in the
world. For that reason they cling so tenaciously to all their old
foolish ways and notions, which have everywhere else fallen into disuse.
What a lot of trouble I've had already with the other peasants on
account of this stupid change in the mode of taxation! But this fellow
here is the worst of all!" "The reason for that, Mr. Receiver, is that
he is so rich," remarked the horse-dealer. "It is a wonder to me that
you have put it through with the other peasants around here without him,
for he is their general, their attorney and everything; they all follow
his example in every matter and he bows to no one. A year ago a prince
passed through here; the way the old fellow took off his hat to him,
really, it looked as if he wanted to say: 'You are one, I am another.'
To expect to get twenty-six pistoles for the mare! But that is the
unfortunate part of it, when a peasant acquires too much property. When
you come out on the other side of that oak wood, you walk for half an
hour by the clock through his fields! And everything arranged in first
rate order all the way! The day before yesterday I drove my team through
the rye and wheat, and may God punish me if anything more than the
horses' heads showed up above the tops. I thought I should be drowned."

"Where did he get it all?" asked the receiver.

"Oh!" cried the horse-dealer, "there are a lot more estates like this
around here; they call them Oberhofs. And if they do not surpass many a
nobleman's, my name isn't Marx. The land has been held intact for
generations. And the good-for-nothing fellow has always been economical
and industrious, you'll have to say that much for him I You saw, didn't
you, how he worked away merely to save the expense of paying the
blacksmith a few farthings? Now his daughter is marrying another rich
fellow; she'll get a dowry, I tell you! I happened to pass the linen
closet; flax, yarn, tablecloths and napkins and sheets and shirts and
every possible kind of stuff are piled up to the ceiling in there. And
in addition to that the old codger will give her six thousand thalers in
cash! Just glance about you; don't you feel as if you were stopping with
a count?"

During the foregoing dialogue the vexed horse-dealer had quietly put his
hand into his money-bag and to the twenty gold pieces had added, with an
air of unconcern, six more. The Justice appeared again at the door, and
the other, without looking up, said, grumbling; "There are the
twenty-six, since there is no other way out of it."

The old peasant smiled ironically and said: "I knew right well that you
would buy the horse, Mr. Marx, for you are trying to find one for thirty
pistoles for the cavalry lieutenant in Unna, and my little roan fills
the bill as if she had been made to order. I went into the house only to
fetch the gold-scales, and could see in advance that you would have
bethought yourself in the meantime."

The old man, who one moment displayed something akin to hurry in his
movements and the next the greatest deliberation, depending upon the
business with which he happened to be occupied, sat down at the table,
slowly and carefully wiped off his spectacles, fastened them on his
nose, and began carefully to weigh the gold pieces. Two or three of them
he rejected as being too light. The horse-dealer raised a loud objection
to this, but the Justice, holding the scales in his hands, only listened
in cold-blooded silence, until the other replaced them with pieces
having full weight. Finally, the business was completed; the seller
deliberately wrapped the money in a piece of paper and went with the
horse-dealer to the stable, in order to deliver the horse over to him.

The receiver did not wait for them to return. "One can't accomplish
anything with a clod-hopper like that," he said. "I But in the end if
you don't come around and pay us up regularly, we will--" He felt for
the legal documents in his pocket, realized by their crackling that they
were still there, and left the yard.

Out of the stable came the horse-dealer, the Justice, and a farm-hand
who was leading behind him two horses, the horse-dealer's own and the
brown mare which he had just bought. The Justice, giving the latter a
farewell pat, said "It always grieves one to sell a creature which one
has raised, but who can do otherwise?--Now behave well, little brownie!"
he added, giving the animal a hearty slap on her round, glossy
haunches. In the meantime the horse-dealer had mounted. With his gaunt
figure, his short riding-jacket under the broad-brimmed, varnished hat,
his yellow breeches over his lean thighs, his high leather boots, his
large, heavy spurs, and his whip, he looked like a highwayman. He rode
away cursing and swearing, without saying good-by, leading the brown
mare by a halter. He never once glanced back at the farm-house, but the
mare several times bent her neck around and emitted a doleful neigh, as
if complaining because her good days were now over. The Justice remained
standing with the laborer, his arms set akimbo, until the two horses had
passed out of sight through the orchard. Then the man said: "The animal
is grieving."

"Why shouldn't she?" replied the Justice. "Aren't we grieving too? Come
up to the granary--we'll measure the oats."



As he turned around toward the house with the laborer, he saw that the
place under the linden had already been reoccupied by new guests. The
latter, however, had a very dissimilar appearance. For three or four
peasants, his nearest neighbors, were sitting there, and beside them sat
a young girl, as beautiful as a picture. This beautiful girl was the
blond Lisbeth, who had passed the night at the Oberhof.

I shall not venture to describe her beauty; it would only result in
telling of her red cheeks and blue eyes, and these things, fresh as they
may be in reality, have become somewhat stale when put down in black and

The Justice, without paying any attention to his long-haired neighbors
in blouses, approached his charming guest and said:

"Well, did you sleep all right, my little miss?" "Splendidly!" replied

"What's the matter with your finger?--you have it bandaged," inquired
the old man.

"Nothing," answered the young girl, blushing. She wanted to change the
subject, but the Justice would not allow himself to be diverted;
grasping her hand, the one with the bandaged finger, he said: "It's
nothing serious, is it?"

"Nothing worth talking about," answered Lisbeth. "Yesterday evening when
I was helping your daughter with her sewing, the needle pricked my
finger and it bled a little. That is all."

"Oho!" exclaimed the Justice, smirking. "And I notice that it is the
ring-finger too! That augurs something good. You doubtless know that
when an unmarried girl helps an engaged one to sew her bridal linen, and
in doing it pricks her ring-finger, it means that she herself is to
become engaged in the same year? Well, you have my best wishes for a
nice lover!"

The peasants laughed, but the blond Lisbeth did not allow herself to be
disconcerted; she cried out joyfully: "And do you know my motto? It runs:

As far as God on lily fair
And raven young bestows his care,
Thus far runs my land;
And, therefore, he who seeks my hand
Must have four horses to his carriage
Before I'll give myself in marriage.

"And," broke in the Justice--

And he must catch me like a mouse,
And hook me like a fish,
And shoot me like a roe.

The report of a gun rang out nearby. "See, my little miss, it's coming

"Now, Judge, make an end of your frivolous talk," said the young girl.
"I have called to get your advice, and so give it to me now without any
more foolish nonsense." The Justice settled himself in an attitude of
dignity, ready to talk and listen. Lisbeth drew forth a little
writing-tablet and read off the names of the peasants among whom she had
been going around during the past few days for the purpose of collecting
back-rent due her foster-father. Then she told the Justice how they had
refused to pay their debts and what their excuses had been. One claimed
to have paid up long ago, another said that he had only recently come
into the farm, a third knew nothing about the matter, a fourth had
pretended that he couldn't hear well, and so forth and so forth; so that
the poor girl, like a little bird flying about in the winter in search
of food and not finding a single grain of corn, had been turned away
empty-handed from one door after another. But any one who thinks that
these futile efforts had plunged her into grief is mistaken, for nothing
greatly disturbed her and she related the story of her irksome
wanderings with a cheerful smile.

The Justice wrote down on the table with chalk several of the names

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