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The Life and Works of Friedrich Schiller by Calvin Thomas

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'On the Dangers of Aesthetic Culture' and 'On the Moral Benefit of
Aesthetic Culture'. These, however, are only an amplification of ideas
contained in the 'Letters'.

There remain for consideration, to complete our survey of Schiller's
philosophical writings, his short essay on Matthison's poems and his
long disquisition upon 'Naive and Sentimental Poetry'. In the review he
discusses the subject of landscape poetry, thus touching upon a question
that had occupied Lessing in the 'Laokooen'. But instead of arguing like
Lessing that detailed description of objects is necessarily out of place
in poetry, Schiller defends it as capable in a high degree of giving
pleasure. The poetic effectiveness of a description he finds to consist,
first, in the truthfulness of the description; secondly, in its power,
analogous to that of music, to excite vague emotion; and finally, in its
power to awaken ideas by the law of association. He distinguishes
between 'true' nature and 'actual' nature. We arrive at true nature when
we take away from actual nature whatever is accidental, peculiar or
unnecessary. This process is precisely what is described in one of the
'Kallias' letters as 'idealization'.

To idealize an object is, then, in Schiller's vocabulary, not to
beautify it, or to make it in any way other than it is, but to portray
the 'idea' of it, that is, its essential truth, apart from all that is
accidental or individual. He lays down the general rule that poetry is
only concerned with true (or ideal) nature in this sense; never with
actual (or historical) nature. 'Every individual man', he declares, 'is
by just so much less a man as he is an individual; every mode of feeling
is by just so much less necessary and purely human as it is peculiar to
a particular person. The grand style consists in the rejection of all
that is accidental and the pure expression of the necessary.'

Of the essay upon 'Naive and Sentimental Poetry', contributed to the
_Horen_ in 1795, the first part is devoted to the 'Naive', which is
defined as nature in felt contrast with art. To be naive an action must
not only be natural but must put us to shame by suggesting a contrast
with our own sophisticated standards. From this it follows that our
pleasure in the naive, being connected with an idea of the reason, is
not purely aesthetic, but partly moral. The _naivete_ of children
appeals to us because they are what we were and what we should again
become. They represent an ideal, a theophany. Though we may look down
upon the childish, we can only look up to the childlike. A naive action
always implies a triumph of nature over art: if it is unintentional
(naive of surprise) we are amused; if deliberate (naive of character) we
are touched. Genius is always naive. Both in its works and in social
intercourse, it manifests the simplicity and directness of nature. It is
modest because nature is modest; but cares nothing for decency, for
decency is the offspring of corruption. It is sensible, but not shrewd.
It expresses its loftiest and deepest thoughts with naive grace: they
are divine oracles from the mouth of a child.

These thoughts duly expounded, the essay goes on to consider the modern
man's feeling for nature. This results, according to Schiller, from our
imputing _naivete_ to the non-rational world. We are conscious of having
wandered away from the state of innocence, happiness and perfection.
'Nature' represents this state to our imaginations; it is the voice of
the mother calling us back home, or whispering to us of boundless
happiness and perfection. Poetry which expresses this boundless longing
for the ideal is 'sentimental', while that which reflects nature
herself, in some definite part or phase, is 'naive'. The naive poet _is_
nature; the sentimental poet seeks a lost nature. The Greeks are
prevailingly naive, the moderns prevailingly sentimental, but neither in
any exclusive sense. The words are to be understood as expressing only a
mode of feeling. The same poet, the same poem, may be naive at one
moment and sentimental at another. All sentimental poetry, then, is
concerned with the disparity or contrast between reality and the ideal.
If the poet is mainly interested in the real, we have, in the broad
sense, satire, which may be pathetic or humorous. If he dwells more upon
the ideal, we have elegiac poetry--elegiac in the narrower sense, if the
ideal is conceived as a distant object of longing, idyllic if it is
portrayed as a present reality. The second part of the essay is devoted
to a review of the sentimental poets of modern Germany.

In the third part the naive and sentimental poets are contrasted. The
former, Schiller contends, is concerned with the definite, the latter
with the infinite. From the realist we turn easily and with pleasure to
actual life; the idealist puts us for the moment out of humor with it.
The one follows the laws of nature, the other those of reason. The one
asks what a thing is good for, the other whether it is good. Withal,
however, Schiller is careful to insist that even the naive poet, the
realist, is properly concerned only with true nature, and not with
actual nature. Everything that is,--for example, a violent outbreak of
passion,--is actual nature; but this is not true human nature, because
that implies free self-determination. True human nature can never be
anything but noble. 'What disgusting absurdities', exclaims
Schiller,--and the words might well be taken to heart by some of our
modern naturalists--'have resulted both in criticism and in practice
from this confusion of true with actual nature! What trivialities are
permitted, yea even praised, because unfortunately they are actual
nature!' It is a part of Schiller's theory that the true realist and the
sane idealist must finally come together on common ground.


[Footnote 92: Eckermanns "Gespraeche", under date of November 14, 1823.]

[Footnote 93: He also admitted that he himself had profited from the
study of Kant; cf. Eckermann, under date of April 11, 1827.]

[Footnote 94: Schiller's aesthetic writings, and especially his relation
to Kant, have been much discussed in recent years. For a list of the
more important works consult the Appendix.]

[Footnote 95: An oft-repeated assertion to the contrary, which goes back
to Karoline von Wolzogen, "Schillers Leben", Achter Abschnitt, is
contradicted by a letter of Schiller to Goethe, written May 5, 1797.]

[Footnote 96: They are reprinted in Saemmtliche Schriften. X, 41 ff.]

[Footnote 97: Carlyle's "Life of Schiller", page 137 (edition of 1845).]


The Great Duumvirate

Nun kann ich aber hoffen, dasz wir, so viel von dem Wege noch uebrig
sein mag, in Gemeinschaft durchwandeln werden, und mit um so
groeszerem Gewinn, da die letzten Gefaehrten auf einer langen Reise
sich immer am meisten zu sagen haben. _Letter of 1794_.

The coupled names of Goethe and Schiller denote a literary epoch as well
as a peculiarly inspiring personal friendship. What a vista opens before
the mind's eye when one thinks of all the influence that went out from
them into the wide world during the nineteenth century! The visitor to
Weimar who goes to look at Rietschel's famous statue in front of the
theater has a sensation like that of standing at the source of a mighty
river. Of course the men and their time have been greatly idealized;
like the sculptor, the imagination of posterity has lifted them above
the level of the earth, joined their hands and given them the pose of
far-seeing literary heroes. We think of each as increased by the whole
strength of the other. As Herman Grimm puts it algebraically, the
formula is not G + S, but G(+ S) + S(+ G).[98]

And all this hits an essential truth, albeit the student of the
documents--the letters and journals of the duumvirs, and of their
friends and enemies--has great difficulty at times to imagine himself in
an atmosphere of heroism. No nation, no public life of any account; a
complete lack of interest, apparently, in many matters that now bulk
very large in the minds of men; a small theater, equal to none but very
modest demands; a few engravings and plaster-casts and paintings--many
of them very poor--to serve as a basis for theories of art; a little
optical apparatus, a few minerals and plants and bones, to aid in the
advancement of science; everything material on a small scale,--this was
Weimar a hundred years ago. Truly a restricted outlook upon this
spacious world as it appears to us to-day!

And then the duumvirs had their struggle with the infinitely little,
and they fussed over this and that. This is especially true of Goethe.
His journals produce upon the reader now and then not so much an
impression of glorious many-sidedness as of precious time wasted in
futile puttering. But who shall dare to say that it was so in reality?
The genius of life tells every great man what he can do, and it is for
posterity to accept him and understand him as he was, without complaint
and without sophistication. What Goethe and Schiller did in the midst
of all their other doings, was to set their stamp upon the culture of
their time; to create a new ideal of letters and of life, and to enrich
their country's literature with a number of masterpieces which have
since furnished food and inspiration to countless myriads. This is
quite enough to justify a perennial curiosity concerning the details of
their alliance.

For six years the two men, though living as neighbors with many friends
and many interests in common, had steadily held each other aloof. That
they did so was Goethe's fault, at least in the beginning. We may be
very sure that a friendly advance from him would have melted Schiller's
animosity as the sun melts April snow. But he did not say the word. He
looked upon Schiller as the spokesman of a new and perverse generation
that knew not Joseph; and so he went his own way, serenely indifferent
to the personality of the man whose talent he had recognized by helping
him to a Jena professorship. He paid some attention, it is true, to
Schiller's philosophic writings, but what he read did not altogether
please him. When the essay upon 'Winsomeness and Dignity' came out, it
seemed to him that Schiller, in his enthusiasm for freedom and
self-determination, was inclined to lord it all too proudly over mother
Nature. Goethe was no less interested in 'ideas' than Schiller, but he
had not the same fondness for abstract reasoning from mental premises.
His starting-point was always the external fact, and he regarded ideas
as possessing a sort of objective reality. His homage was paid to nature
and the five senses; Schiller's to the deductive reason.

Nevertheless, the whole trend of Schiller's aesthetic speculations
brought him steadily nearer to Goethe's way of thinking. His intense
Hellenism; his insistence upon the immense importance of art as an
element of culture; his fervid championship of art for art's sake; his
practical identification of the ideal with the typical; his doctrine of
genius in its relation to abstract dogma, and above all his great
earnestness, as of one striving with all his powers towards the better
light,--this and much more could not fail to meet Goethe's approval. And
then came the great project of the _Horen_, which was to unite all the
best writers of Germany in a common effort for the advancement of
letters and the elevation of the public taste. This was an opportunity
not to be despised, for Goethe was at last beginning to be weary of his
isolation at Weimar. Although at heart very desirous of exerting a large
influence, he had well-nigh lost touch with the literary public. For
four years he had done nothing worthy of his great name. People took
little interest in his scientific studies, his 'Grosz-Cophta', and his
'Citizen-General'. He felt the need of rehabilitating himself. So when
he received Schiller's polite invitation anent the _Horen_, he accepted
with alacrity; declaring himself ready not only to contribute, but to
serve on the editorial committee. And a few days later,--it was on June
28, 1794, before he had seen Schiller or exchanged further letters with
him,--he wrote to Charlotte von Kalb that 'since the new epoch Schiller
too was becoming more friendly and trustful towards us Weimarians';
whereat he rejoiced, 'hoping for much good from intercourse with him'.
So we see that, as the matter then lay in Goethe's mind, it was Schiller
who was the distant and distrustful party.

Thus the way was all prepared for the 'Happy Event', as Goethe called it
in an oft-quoted bit of reminiscence published many years later. It
chanced that he and Schiller were both present at a meeting of
naturalists in Jena. As they left the room together Schiller let fall a
remark to the effect that such piecemeal treatment of nature as they had
been listening to was dull business for the layman. Goethe replied that
there were experts who could not approve it either. Then he proceeded to
explain his own views. They reached Schiller's house in earnest
conversation, and Goethe went in to continue his demonstration with the
aid of a drawing--probably of a typical plant. Schiller listened with
seeming comprehension and then shook his head, saying: 'But that is not
an experience; that is an idea.' Goethe was disappointed, perplexed. All
his labor had gone for naught, and the awful chasm was still yawning. He
replied that he was glad if he had ideas without knowing it and could
actually see them with his eyes, Schiller defended himself suavely as a
good Kantian, and the men separated, each in a docile mood with respect
to the other.

Herman Grimm will have it that Schiller now entered upon a crafty
campaign for the conquest of Goethe; and really the facts give some
color to such a view, albeit, as we have seen, the battle was more than
half won before a shot was fired. Schiller had his magazine very much at
heart, and besides that he had always been a very sincere and ungrudging
admirer of Goethe's poetic genius. Very likely he looked upon him as a
weakling in philosophy. To talk of seeing ideas with the bodily eye!
Evidently there was no profit in bombarding such a man with syllogisms.
But it might be useful to show that one understood him. So Schiller sat
him down and wrote out, in the form of a letter, a little essay upon
Goethe's individuality, attributing to him a wonderful intuition whereby
he saw in advance all that philosophy could prove:

Minds of your sort seldom know how far they have advanced, and how
little reason they have to borrow from philosophy, which can only
learn from them.... For a long time, though at a considerable
distance, I have been watching the course of your mind and noticing
with ever-renewed admiration the way that you have marked out for
yourself. You seek the necessary in nature, but by the very hardest
path,--a path which weaker minds would take good care not to
attempt. You take all nature together, in order to get light upon
the particular. In the totality of her manifestations you hope to
find the rationale of the individual.... Had you been born a Greek
or even an Italian, and thus surrounded from infancy with exquisite
scenery and idealizing art, your way would have been infinitely
shortened, perhaps rendered unnecessary.... As it was, having been
born a German, you had to refashion the old inferior nature that was
thrust upon your imagination, after the better pattern which your
imagination had created; and this could only be done by means of
leading principles. But this logical direction which the reflecting
mind is compelled to take does not tally well with the aesthetic
direction of the creating mind. So you had another task; just as you
passed previously from intuition to abstraction, you had now to
convert concepts back into intuitions, and thoughts into feelings;
for only through these can genius create.

For Goethe, whose nature really craved friendship hardly less than
Schiller's, there was something very grateful in this frank homage
combined with rare perspicacity. He saw that Schiller understood him or
was at least concerned to understand him. With all their differences
they were spiritual congeners, and much might be hoped for from this new
connection. So he sent a very cordial reply to the man who had thus
'with friendly hand struck the balance of his existence'; averring that
he too dated a new epoch from their meeting in Jena; expressing the hope
that they might soon find opportunity for a further interchange of views
and that, having mutually cleared up their past course of thinking, they
might proceed on their way together. A few weeks later Schiller spent
two weeks as Goethe's guest in Weimar, where long discussions, spun out
on one occasion from noon to midnight, begot a perfect understanding and
laid the foundation of a lifelong friendship. It was a friendship based
upon mutual respect and mutual need, full of high advantage on both
sides and cherished loyally to the end.

Between then and now many and many a writer has compared Goethe with
Schiller and undertaken to reckon up the balance of their respective
merit. The task is not easy, even though the world is now well agreed
that Goethe's was the rarer genius. No doubt he, much more than
Schiller, was destined to be a bringer of light to the coming century;
but the immense prestige of his name is due partly to the happy fate
that gave him a long life and invested his old age with the glamour of
literary kingship. If we compare the actual production of the two men
during the eleven years of their association, it is not at all clear
that the palm should be given to Goethe. The five plays of Schiller,
with the 'Song of the Bell', and the best of his shorter poems, will
bear comparison very well, in the aggregate, with 'Wilhelm Meister',
'Hermann and Dorothea', the 'Natural Daughter' and those portions of
'Faust' which were written at this time. Unquestionably Goethe at his
best was a far greater poet than Schiller; but he was less steadily at
his best, and his artistic conscience was more lax than Schiller's. He
envisaged life more largely and more truly, and he wrote with his eye
upon the object. His nature inclined to placid contemplation; he was no
orator, though something of a preacher. He did not care so much to stir
the depths of feeling as to inform and liberalize. In his imaginative
work he let himself go _mit holdem Irren_ and preferred to avoid
artificial surprises and stagy contrasts. Wherefore his work is the more
illuminative, the more suggestive,--he is the poet of the literary
class. Schiller, on the other hand, was an orator who never lost sight
of the effect he wished to produce. He worked more intensely, more
methodically, and was less dependent upon mood. He is thus the poet of
those who care less for delicacy of workmanship than for sonorous
diction, elevated sentiment and telling effects. There is room in the
world for both kinds of endowment.

It is quite probable that Goethe and Schiller would sooner or later have
come together in a friendly relation even if the _Horen_ had never been
thought of; and in that case their friendship would have lacked the
militant tinge that it presently took on. It was the magazine that
leagued them together as allies against the forces of Philistia and made
Thuringia the storm-center of a new literary movement. But for this it
would probably never have occurred to any one to dub them 'the

Prior to the appearance of the first number, in January, 1795, the new
journal had been well advertised. Cotta was prepared to spend money on
it freely; the contributors were to be handsomely paid, and twenty-five
of the best known writers in Germany had promised their cooperation.
There was every reason to hope for a dashing success; and to make
assurance doubly sure Schiller arranged for 'cooked' reviews of the
_Horen_ to be paid for by its publisher. But when the time came to
launch his enterprise the hopeful editor found himself left very much in
the lurch. 'Lord help me, or I perish' he wrote ruefully to Koerner, on
December 29; 'Goethe does not wish to print his 'Elegies' in the first
number, Herder also prefers to wait, Fichte is busy with his lectures,
Garve is sick, Engel lazy and the others do not answer.'

And so it came about that the first number of the _Horen_ was largely
made up of rather abstruse reading. Schiller did not fully realize that
the philosophy on which he had been feeding with satisfaction for three
years was not a palatable diet for the general literary public. He
regarded his own 'Letters on Aesthetic Education' as a model of lucid
popular exposition,--as indeed they are in comparison with Kant. But the
number was further freighted with a deep-diving article by Fichte, while
Goethe's poetic 'Epistle' in hexameters, and the beginning of his
'Conversations of German Emigres ', though in a lighter vein, were not
of thrilling interest to seekers after entertainment. The public, which
had expected something different, was disappointed; and when succeeding
numbers brought further brain-racking profundities, there was a large
ebullition of disgust. Cotta began to write of complaints and cancelled
subscriptions; and ere long it looked as if the _Horen_ would prove a
big fiasco.

Schiller, who should have been inured by this time to the consequences
of editorial misjudgment, was disgruntled, vexed. He began to feel that
the German public was an indolent, long-eared beast that needed the
education of the scourge rather than of aesthetic letters. He made some
effort, it is true, to enliven his columns with more entertaining
matter, but the abstruse, in prose and verse, continued to preponderate.
By autumn he was minded to give up the whole undertaking, but was
persuaded by Cotta to go on. Meanwhile he had begun to grow weary of
theorizing and to feel the homesickness of the poet. 'Wilhelm Meister',
as it began to issue from the press, excited his unbounded enthusiasm.
'I cannot tell you', he wrote to his new friend,

I cannot tell you how painful it is to me oftentimes to turn from a
work of this character to philosophy. There everything is so bright,
so living, so harmonious and humanly true; here everything is so
strict, so rigid, so very unnatural.... This much is certain: the
poet is the only true human being, and the best philosopher is only
a caricature beside him.

So, in the summer of 1795, he began once more to poetize,--'not
venturing out upon the high sea of invention', as he expressed it, 'but
keeping close to the shore of philosophy'. In other words he wrote a
number of philosophic poems, partly for the _Horen_ and partly for the
new poetic 'Almanac' that he had undertaken to edit, in addition to the
_Horen_. This return to poetry was a joy to him, notwithstanding the ill
health which confined him to the house and cut him off from the
exhilarations of the external world. It must never be forgotten that
those philosophic poems are the effusions of a lonely thinker who was
compelled to draw his inspiration from within, and was not entirely
unaware of the fetters he had forged for himself by his long addiction
to philosophy.

There was, however, one more subject, of literary as well as
philosophic interest, which he was minded to treat before turning his
back finally upon the arid wastes of theory;--the subject of realism
versus idealism, or, as he decided to phrase it, of naive and
sentimental poetry. This essay, published in 1796, was briefly analyzed
in the last chapter. It marks the end of Schiller's one-sided
glorification of the Greeks. In more than one passage he comes to the
rescue of the modern poet--the sentimentalist--as the poet of the
infinite, of the ideal. His contention is that while the realist may be
the more admirable in a limited sphere, the idealist has a larger
sphere, and his perfection is a higher thing. This attempt of
Schiller's to describe, in a scientific spirit, the different kinds of
artistic endowment, and to do full justice to all, grew naturally out
of his intercourse with Goethe. He admired Goethe more and more. The
fifth book of 'Meister' produced in him a 'veritable intoxication'; yet
its quality was strikingly unlike that of 'Werther' or 'Iphigenie', and
totally different from anything that he himself had done or could
possibly do. Perhaps he may have been further influenced by A.W.
Schlegel's sympathetic papers upon Dante, which had been published in
the _Horen_ and which revealed to him a new poetic genius of the
highest order, yet not at all Homeric. So he wrote his famous
disquisition,--next to Lessing's 'Laokooen' the most thoughtful and the
most influential piece of criticism produced anywhere in the eighteenth
century,--and endeavored to make it as readable as possible. Goethe,
who read the manuscript in November, 1795, wrote of it thus:

Since this theory treats me so well, nothing is more natural than
that I should approve its principles and that its conclusions should
seem to me correct. I should be more distrustful, however, if I had
not at first found myself in an attitude of opposition to your
views; for it is not unknown to you that, from an excessive
predilection for the ancient poets, I have often been unjust to the
modern. According to your doctrine I can now be at one with myself,
since I no longer need to contemn that which, under certain
conditions, an irresistible impulse compelled me to produce; and it
is a very pleasant feeling to be not altogether dissatisfied with
one's self and one's contemporaries.

Thus the two men were drawn closer together in mutual sympathy and
appreciation, and found in each other more and more a bulwark against
the whips and scorns of hostile criticism. Of such criticism there was
no lack. The _Horen_ was making enemies rapidly and had become, as
Schiller put it, a veritable _ecclesia militans_. One Jakob in Halle
made an assault upon Schiller's aesthetic writings. Dull old Nicolai in
Berlin complained of the ravages of Kantism in German literature. Pious
souls like Stolberg were scandalized by the lubricity of Goethe's
'Elegies' and 'Wilhelm Meister'. The famous philologist, Wolf, pounced
violently upon one of Herder's Homeric essays. Schiller had now fallen
out with his old friend Goeschen, who was a center of contemptuous
opposition at Leipzig. And Goethe, too, had his quarrel with the world:
he felt absurdly sore over the neglect by scientific men of his optical
theories in opposition to Newton. Friendly voices were scarcely heard
anywhere. There was little opportunity for indulging that pleasant
emotion of 'being satisfied with one's contemporaries'.

And so it came to pass that the two friends waxed wroth and determined
to strike back. At first they thought of a withering review in the
_Horen_, but this idea was given up in favor of another. Goethe had
taken a great fancy to the ancient elegiac meter and for some time past
it had been his favorite form of poetic expression. Schiller, originally
a hater of the hexameter, had caught the fever from Goethe, and used the
elegiac form in a number of poems. In December, 1795, Goethe suggested
that they amuse themselves by making epigrams, in the style of Martial's
'Xenia', upon the various journals against which they had a grudge,
devoting a distich to each. His plan was that each should make a large
number; then they would compare, select the best and publish them in the
second volume of the 'Almanac'. Schiller was captivated by the idea, and
'Xenia' now became the order of the day. It was soon decided not to
restrict them to the offensive journals, but to take a shot wherever
there was a mark. Both conspirators took great delight in the proposed
_Teufelei_,--it would be such sport to stir up the vermin and hear them
buzz. They gave the milder 'Xenia' pet names such as 'jovial brethren',
'little fellows', 'teasing youngsters', while the harsher ones were
likened to stinging insects, or to the foxes of Samson:

You with the blazing tails, away to Philistia, foxes!
Spoil the flourishing crops, crops of paper and ink.

As Goethe was still preoccupied with 'Wilhelm Meister', it happened at
first that Schiller was the more active in the production of these
'kitchen presents', especially such as had pepper in them. With the
lapse of time Goethe's share increased. The two were frequently
together, for days or weeks at a time, and the mass of Xenia grew
rapidly. They determined to swell the number to a thousand and to give
the collection a sort of artistic completeness; to make it, that is, a
sort of general confession of faith. They agreed furthermore that they
would publish the epigrams as a joint production and treat their
separate authorship as an inviolable secret. As a matter of fact, some
of them really were joint productions. One would suggest the idea or the
title, and the other write the verses; or one write the hexameter and
the other the pentameter.

During the first half of 1796 Schiller wrote little else than Xenia. By
the arrival of summer the joint output amounted to nearly a thousand,
but less than half that number found their way into the famous 'Xenia
Almanac' of 1797. Of these the targets were legion and the merit
various. Some few of them were very good, others little short of
atrocious, particularly in the matter of form. As for the general mass,
their piquancy is not so great as to superinduce in the reader of to-day
a dangerously violent cachinnation. Neither Goethe nor Schiller can be
credited with a large vein of sparkling wit. Some of the Xenia are
far-fetched and operose, while others sound rather vacuous. The form of
the monodistich was in itself a safeguard against diffuseness, but not
against the equal peril of inanity.

It would be impossible here to do more than glance at the personalities
involved in this rather inglorious squabble. Many of the Xenia were
personal pin-pricks. Thus several were directed against the musician
Reichardt, who, as editor of two journals, had shown strong sympathy
with the Revolution. Goethe, the courtier, and Schiller, who had no
democratic proclivities, came to the defense of the gentry thus;

Aristocratical dogs will growl at beggars, but mark you
How little democrat Spitz soaps at the stockings of silk.

And again:

Gentlemen, keep your seats! for the curs but covet your places,
Elegant places to hear all the other dogs bark.

A whole broadside was aimed at the garrulous Nicolai, who deserved a
better fate. As the champion of lucidity and reasonableness he stood in
reality for a very good cause,--no preachment more necessary in Germany
then or since. But in his old age he had fallen a prey to the _cacoethes
scribendi;_ he insisted upon having his say about everything, yet his
stock of ideas had long since run out. So he became the bogey of the
Weimar-Jena people. The Xenia assailed him with frank brutality, thus:

What is beyond your reach is bad, you think in your blindness,
Yet whatever you touch, that you cover with dirt.

Other objects of attack were the brothers Stolberg, for their narrow
religiosity; Friedrich Schlegel, for his bumptious self-conceit; and
various small fry for this and that peccadillo.[99]

A large part of the epigrams, however, were of the 'tame' variety, that
is, stingless outgivings of a jocund humor, or grave pronunciamentos
upon religion, philosophy, art and so forth. The authors did not wish to
appear before the world as mere executioners, but as men with a positive
creed, comprising things to be loved as well as things to be hated. They
pleaded for sanity, clearness and moderation, and frowned upon the
fanatics, hypocrites, vulgarians and cranks. The well-known distich
entitled 'My Creed' is representative of many which were directed
against the spirit of blind partisanship:

Which religion is mine? Not one of the many you mention.
'Why', do you venture to ask? Too much religion, I say.

Even virtue was to be cherished temperately,--without too much
talk about it:

Nothing so hateful as Vice, and all the more to be hated,
Since because of it, now, Virtue is really a need.

And so on in endless variety, on all sorts of subjects. Further
illustration shall be dispensed with, seeing that the ancient distich is
a poetic form for which the English language has, at the best, but
little sympathy. In German it goes much better; and for Schiller in
particular, with his natural love of antithesis, it proved a convenient
setting for his opinions.

The effect of the Xenia was to set literary Germany agog with curiosity.
Two editions of the 'Almanac' were quickly bought up and a third became
necessary. There was infinite guessing, speculating, interpreting, and
among those who had been hit there was wailing and gnashing of teeth, A
very few friends of Goethe and Schiller, such as Koerner, Humboldt and
Zelter, watched the commotion with solemn glee. Others were shocked or
grieved at such a mode of warfare. Wieland mildly regretted that he had
come off well in the Xenia, seeing that many other honest people had
fared so badly. Herder was much more outspoken and declared that he
hated the whole accursed species. The replies, protests and
counter-attacks were legion, some in brutal belligerent prose, others in
more or less clever Anti-xenia. Some of the latter were grossly abusive,
and even indecent; a few contained very pretty home-thrusts, as when in
allusion to a well-known poem of Schiller's he was advised to trouble
himself less about the 'Dignity of Women' and more about his own;[100]
or where his 'Realm of Shades' was declared to be so very shadowy that
one could not see the shades for the shadow.[101] But the best of all
perhaps was the oft-quoted gem:

In Weimar and in Jena they make hexameters like this,
But the pentameters are even more excellent.[102]

Historians of German literature are probably right in believing that the
Xenia fusillade produced on the whole a salutary effect, although many
of the objects of attack seem, at this date, to have been hardly worth
the ammunition. But the explosion cleared the muggy air like a
thunder-storm and denned many an issue that it was well to have defined.
Writers of every ilk were shaken out of their somnolence and compelled
to look in the direction of Weimar; and when it was a question of taking
sides, where was the force that could hope to make headway against the
combined strength of Goethe and Schiller? The odds were too great; there
was nothing to do but to grumble a little and then--acquiesce in the new
leadership. As for the Dioscuri, they had the wisdom to see that one
sharp campaign was enough; that for the rest they could further the good
cause much more effectively by admirable creation than by peppery
epigrams. Prod a man for his bad taste or his foolish opinions, and you
harden his heart and provoke him to retaliate; give him something to
admire, and you make him a friend in spite of himself.

In the autumn of 1796 Schiller addressed himself to 'Wallenstein', and
from that time on dramatic poetry continued to be his chief concern. He
led a quiet, laborious life, battling often with disease and depression,
but sustained by high resolution and finding joy enough in domestic
affection and the friendship of Goethe. The _Horen_ lasted three years
and then died an easy death by the mutual consent of editor and
publisher. Of the 'Almanac' five numbers appeared, beginning with 1796.
In these small annual volumes a large part of Schiller's best poems were
originally published. His work upon the 'Almanac' was usually done in
the summer, other activities being then temporarily laid aside. From,
the time of his connection with Cotta, who took over the 'Almanac' after
the first number had appeared, Schiller usually had money enough for his
needs. But his needs were very modest, the demands of social life in
Jena--or even in Weimar under the fiercer but still not very fierce
light of the court--being extremely simple. He had not to reckon with
the Persian apparatus that disturbed the soul of Horace.

The further relations of Goethe and Schiller, so far as they have any
important bearing upon the works of the latter, will be touched on in
subsequent chapters. Here let it be remarked in passing that their
friendship was not, as it has sometimes been represented, a mere
relation of master and disciple. It was rather a spiritual copartnership
of equals, each recognizing the other's strength, respecting the other's
individuality and eager to profit by discussion. In the beginning, it is
true, Schiller looked up to Goethe as to a great and wise teacher who
was to give everything and receive little or nothing in return. Every
one will recall his saying that he was a mere poetic scalawag in
comparison with Goethe. But it is worth remembering that this remark was
made after the reading of 'Wilhelm Meister',--a work which,
notwithstanding his admiration, he criticised very sharply. And the
justice of his criticism was admitted by Goethe; whereupon Schiller
drily observed in a letter to Koerner that Goethe was a man who could be
told a great deal of truth. As time passed, Schiller dropped the tone of
humble docility and became more and more independent. If he deferred to
the superior wisdom of Goethe in dealing with the plastic arts and
natural science, there were other matters,--philosophy, poetic theory
and the dramatic art,--upon which he felt that he could speak as one
having authority. And his authority was respected by Goethe, especially
after the completion of 'Wallenstein'. Goethe saw that Schiller, along
with his poetic gift, possessed a practical dramatic talent,--an eye for
effect and a power of appealing to the general heart,--such as he,
Goethe, could by no means claim for himself. And so the nominal director
of the Weimar theater leaned heavily upon his friend and looked to him
as the best hope of the German drama.


[Footnote 98: "Goethe", einundzwanzigste Vorlesung.]

[Footnote 99: All the extant Xenia, nine hundred and twenty-six in
number,--many of them previously unknown,--were published in 1893 by
Erich Schmidt and Bernhard Suphan, with copious introduction and notes,
as Volume 8 of the "Schriften der Goethe-Gesellschaft" in Weimar.]

[Footnote 100:

Lasz doch die Frauen in Ruhe mit ihrer Wuerde, und sorge
Fuer die deine, mein Freund. Ihre bewahren sie schon.]

[Footnote 101:

Nun, was denkt ihr vom Reiche der Schatten? Es schattet und schattet
Dasz man vor Schatten umher nichts von den Schatten erkennt.]

[Footnote 102:

In Weimar und in Jena macht man Hexameter wie der;
Aber die Pentameter sind doch noch excellenter.]


Later Poems

So fuehrt zu seiner Jugend Huetten,
Zu seiner Unschuld reinem Glueck,
Vom fernen Ausland fremder Sitten
Den Fluechtling der Gesang zurueck,
In der Natur getreuen Armen
Von kalten Regeln zu erwarmen.
_'The Power of Song'_.

The dominant note of Schiller's later poetry is intellectual
seriousness; wherefore, if there be those for whom intellectual
seriousness is not a quality of poetry at all, for them he has not
written. The element of reflection is nearly always prominent in his
verse, though there are a few of his poems, notably his best ballads,
in which it is conspicuously lacking. What we usually hear is the man
of culture commenting upon life, and everywhere he makes his appeal
to universal sentiments. The spontaneity, or seeming spontaneity, of
the great lyrists was no part of his gift. To catch a fleeting fancy,
or some eccentricity of private emotion, and fix it in musical verse
of a vague suggestiveness, was not in his line. If he had ever, like
Heine, imagined himself joining his sweetheart in the grave and
defying the resurrection in a rapturous embrace, he would probably
have thought it beneath his dignity to versify the whimsy. Of course
his verse is self-revelation, without which poetry cannot be; but it
is the revelation of a soul dwelling habitually in the upper
altitudes of thought and emotion, and always assuming that
fellow-mortals who care for poetry at all will be capable of a
serious joy in the things of the mind.

One may say that his art as a poet consists not so much in the direct
expression of feeling in sensuous and passionate language, as in the
transfiguration of thought by means of impassioned imagery. In his poems
as elsewhere he is a good deal of a rhetorician, but he is never
insincere. His verse came from the heart, only it was the expression of
character and convictions rather than of moods and fancies. It seems
intended to edify rather than to portray; to impress rather than to
delight. Some of it, too, is occupied with ideal sentiments so abstract
and sublimated as to possess but languid interest for normally
constituted lovers of poetry. For a while, at least, after his return to
poetry, he may fairly be said to have cared a little too much for the
white radiance of eternity, and not quite enough for the colored
reflection beneath the dome.[103]

This last observation has in view more particularly the poems he wrote
in the year 1795, while still 'hugging the shore of philosophy'. Take
for example 'The Veiled Image at Sais', which tells in rather prosaic
pentameters of an ardent young truth-seeker who is escorted by an
Egyptian hierophant to a veiled statue and told that whoso lifts the
veil shall see the Truth. At the same time he is warned that the veil
must not be lifted save by the consecrated hand of the priest himself.
Moved by a curiosity which can hardly seem anything but
laudable,--unless one is prepared to take the side of the sacerdotal
humbug,--the young man returns in the night and raises the veil. In the
morning he is found pale and unconscious at the foot of the statue. Soon
afterwards he dies; leaving to mankind the message:

Woe unto him who seeks the Truth through Guilt.

This has an unctuous sound, and one gets a vague impression that the old
story has been dressed up for the sake of some modern application. One
is piqued to reflect upon it; but the more one reflects the more clearly
one sees that there is no real instruction in it. But if there is no
instruction, there is nothing at all; since the mysticism is of a kind
that appeals solely to the intellect.

Far more interesting is the poem which was at first called 'The Realm of
Shades' and later 'The Ideal and Life',--a difficult production, which
resembles 'The Artists' in its suggestion of a voyage through the
imponderable ether. We begin with the blessed gods in Olympus and end
with the apotheosis of Hercules; and the intervening stretch is like the
vasty realm of the Mothers in 'Faust'. The poem is intellectual, in the
sense that its theme is a concept of the mind, and its structure logical
throughout; yet every strophe is surcharged with feeling, and the
diction presents a marvelous wealth of imagery. It must be conquered by
study before it can yield any great pleasure; but the conquest once
made, one finds a noble delight in the gorgeous coloring with which
Schiller invests his idealistic rainbow in the clouds. Good critics,
favorable to Schiller's genius, regard 'The Ideal and Life' as the
greatest of his philosophic poems and the most characteristic expression
of his nature. He himself felt a sort of reverence for it. 'When you
receive this letter', he wrote to Humboldt, 'put away everything that is
profane and read this poem in solemn quiet.' And Humboldt replied: 'How
shall I thank you for the indescribable pleasure that your poem has
given me? Since the day on which I received it, it has in the truest
sense possessed me; I have read nothing else, have scarcely thought of
anything else.'

The general drift of the wonderfully pregnant verses is that man attains
peace only by renouncing the things of sense and living in the realm of
shades, that is, among eternal ideals. Here he is free--like the gods.

The Weavers of the Web--the Fates--but sway
The matter and the things of clay;
Safe from each change that Time to Matter gives,
Nature's blest playmate, free at will to stray
With Gods a god, amidst the fields of Day,
The FORM, the ARCHETYPE, serenely lives.
Wouldst thou soar heavenward on its joyous wing?
Cast from thee Earth, the bitter and the real,
High from this cramped and dungeon being, spring
Into the Realm of the Ideal.[104]

Throughout the poem 'Beauty' is put for 'the Ideal'; and we get a reflex
of the philosophic doctrine that only the aesthetic faculty can resolve
the eternal conflict between the sensuous and the rational man. Life Is
and must be struggle, that being its very essence; but by taking refuge
in the Realm of the Ideal, man anticipates his apotheosis. There he
escapes from the tyranny of the flesh and the bondage of nature's law.
The misery of struggle and defeat no longer vexes him. The warring
forces are reconciled and he sees their conflict under the aspect of
eternal beauty. Thus, like the new-born god, Alcides, taking leave of
the terrestrial battle-ground, he mounts into heaven, while the
nightmare of the earthly life 'sinks and sinks and sinks'.

Behold him spring
Blithe in the pride of the unwonted wing,
And the dull matter that confined before
Sinks downward, downward, downward, as a dream!
Olympian hymns receive the escaping soul,
And smiling Hebe, from the ambrosial stream,
Fills for a God the bowl.[105]

All this may seem, at first blush, to attach excessive importance to the
attainment of inward peace and harmony,--as if one's private comfort
were the greatest thing in life. It _seems_ to recommend a quietistic,
contemplative life; for how else shall one escape from the actual into
the ideal? Nevertheless it would be a great mistake to read into the
poem anything like a recommendation of quietism. The ultimate goal is
described in terms which suggest now the mythology of Homer, now the
Platonic realm of ideals, and again the Christian heaven; but however
the blessed existence is imaged, it is always thought of as attainable
only through a strenuous grapple with the realities of this life. Thus
the essential spirit of the poem is the spirit of energetic, hopeful
endeavor. Its doctrine is, to quote the words of Kuno Francke, that
"only through work are we delivered from the slavery of the senses";
that "the very trials and sufferings of mankind bring out its divine
nature and insure its ultimate transition to an existence of ideal
harmony and beauty".[106]

The doctrine, in its essence, was dear to Goethe, as well as to
Schiller, and takes us into the holy-of-holies of their joint
philosophy. What else did Goethe mean by his oft-reiterated preachment
of renunciation, and by his well-known verses about 'weaning oneself
from the half and living resolutely in the whole, the good and the
beautiful'? In his excellent book upon Diderot Mr. John Morley speaks
somewhere of "that affectation of culture with which the great Goethe
infected part of the world". Let it not be forgotten, however, in our
latter-day contempt of culture, that the Weimar poets were great
workers, and also, in their way, great fighters. They did not turn their
attention--at least not directly--to the crushing of the Infamous, nor
to any battle against social or political wrong. They fought rather for
sanity, for good art, for philosophy; for those things which go to
enrich and broaden the life of the individual. It was a good fight,--the
best which, at their time, with their gifts, they could possibly have
engaged in.

Schiller's fervid verses, recommending an escape from the bondage of
sense to the free realm of the mind, correspond of course to nothing
that is humanly feasible. The shackles of the flesh are upon us and
there is no way to get rid of them. It is only an ideal, a poet's dream.
Nevertheless the subject has a practical aspect which is definable in
plain prose. It is found in the following passage from Goethe:

We put one passion in place of another; employments, dilettantisms,
amusements, hobbies,--we try them all through to the end only to cry
out at last that all is vanity. No one is horrified at this false,
this blasphemous saying; indeed it is thought to be wise and
irrefutable. But there are a few persons who, anticipating such
intolerable feelings, in order to avoid all partial resignations,
resign themselves universally once for all. Such persons convince
themselves with regard to the eternal, necessary, law-governed order
of things, and seek to acquire ideas which are indestructible and
are only confirmed by the contemplation of that which is

Other poems of the year 1795 were 'The Partition of the Earth', wherein
Zeus takes pity on the portionless poet by giving him a perpetual
_entree_ to the celestial court; the mildly humorous 'Deeds of the
Philosopher', a bit of persiflage on the art of proving what everybody
knows, and also several pieces in the elegiac form.

Of these last the weightiest is the one at first called simply 'Elegy',
and later 'The Walk'. Just as Goethe had used the elegiac meter for his
reminiscences of Rome, so Schiller employs it for his impressions of
such small travel as fate permitted him,--a summertime walk in field or
forest. The verses will bear comparison very well with the 'Roman
Elegies'. Instead of paintings, statues, marble palaces and the
troublesome Amor, we have the aspects of nature,--the music of bird and
bee, and the toil of the husbandman 'not yet awakened to freedom'. As
our sauntering poet comes in sight of a city,--the locus of the poem is
the neighborhood of Jena, with reminiscent and imaginative touches here
and there,--he is moved to reflections upon the more eager life of the
townspeople. This leads to a retrospective survey of the origins of
civilization,--of agriculture, the mechanical crafts, trade, letters,
art, science and the social sentiments. Then the darker side of the
picture is developed,--the evils, inhumanities, corruptions and vices of
civilized life. For some time the wanderer pursues his way completely
lost in these sad contemplations; then suddenly he returns to the
present and finds himself alone with nature, from whose 'pure altar' he
receives back again the joyousness of youth. Thus the poem ends, like
'The Ideal and Life', upon an idyllic note; the one pointing forward,
beyond the warfare of life, to an unimaginable Elysium, the other
pointing backward to a happy golden age of which Mother Nature is the
living reminder:

Ever the will of man is changing the rule and the purpose,
Ever the genius of life alters the form of his deed.
But in eternal youth, in ever varying beauty,
Thou, O Mother of Men, keepest the ancient law....
Under the selfsame blue, over the same old green,
Wander together the near, and wander the far-away races,
And old Homer's sun, lo! it shines on us now.

The inner form of 'The Walk'--loving contemplation of nature, giving
rise to general reflections upon life--is essentially Goethean; one may
safely regard it as a conscious experiment in Goethe's manner. As such
it is very good indeed, although its exotic meter has stood in the way
of its attaining the popularity of the ballads and the 'Song of the
Bell'. 'The Walk' and 'The Ideal and Life' are the noblest gifts of
Schiller's didactic muse.

Coming now to the poems of the year 1796, and regarding them first in a
general way as a group by themselves, we can observe that Schiller has
made progress in weaning himself from abstract modes of thought. The
stanzas entitled 'The Power of Song' tell of a fugitive in strange lands
lured back to warm himself in the embrace of nature from the chill of
'cold rules'. Another reminds the metaphysician, who boasts of the great
height to which he has climbed, that his altitude can do nothing for him
except give him a view of the valley below, 'Pegasus in Harness' is a
humorous apologue intended to enforce the truth that the winged horse is
of no use for drudgery and exhibits his proper mettle only when ridden
by a poet. Of much greater interest than any of these is 'The Ideals'.
Here the middle-aged poet recalls the fervid dreams of his youth and
thinks of them under the image of airy sprites attending his rushing
chariot, like the Hours in Guido's picture. Midway in his course he
finds that they have all dropped away, save Friendship and
Work,--Friendship that lovingly shares the burdens of life, and Work
that only brings grains of sand one by one to the Builder,

Yet from the debt-book of the ages
Erases minutes, days and years.

Most noteworthy in this group, however, is unquestionably that famous
tribute to womanhood which goes by the name of 'Dignity of Women'.
Looked at with the scientific eye it is sheer gyneolatry,--the
chivalrous sentiment inflated with poetic wind, like a bubble, to the
utmost possible degree of iridescent tenuity. Man is depicted as a wild
creature, ever tossing on the sea of passion, or chasing phantoms in the
empyrean. Reckless and vehement, he lives by the law of force, or, at
the best, by the law of reason and logic. Woman, on the other hand,
follows the better light of feeling and gently lures the daring wanderer
back to present realities. In her little sphere of intuition she is
richer and freer than he in his boundless kingdom of thought and
imagination. Her sovereignty is that of a child or an angel, making
always for peace, gentleness and goodness.--All of which is extremely
interesting as a classical expression of an old-fashioned sentiment that
good men used once to believe in. Schiller believed in it ardently, and
one loves him none the less for that. The most cogent objection to his
verses is their generality. For 'man' it is necessary to read 'Friedrich
Schiller', and for 'woman', his wife.

In its metrical form the poem attempts to express the lovableness of the
'eternal-womanly' by means of a lightly flowing dactylic measure, while
a heavier trochaic cadence is employed to denote the nature of man:

Ehret die Frauen! Sie flechten und weben
Himmlische Rosen ins irdische Leben,
Flechten der Liebe beglueckendes Band....
Ewig aus der Wahrheit Schranken
Schweift des Mannes wilde Kraft,
Und die irren Tritte wanken
Auf dem Meer der Leidenschaft.[108]

Such a scheme, in the hands of a Schiller, leads inevitably to a
crescendo of rhetorical contrasts, which in the end sound somewhat
flighty and forced. The poem was an object of ridicule to the
Romanticists, and the elder Schlegel wrote a saucy parody of the first
two strophes.[109]

The few poems that found a place in the 'Almanac' of 1797, along with
the luxuriant crop of Xenia, are relatively unimportant. The difference
between the sexes, a subject which Wilhelm von Humboldt had discussed
in the _Horen_, was expounded anew by Schiller in distichs. It is very
much the same story as the 'Dignity of Women', the distich form lending
itself beautifully to those antitheses which were Schiller's delight.
Then there was a poetic riddle, called 'The Maiden from Afar',--a
slight affair, but pretty in its way; a 'Lament of Ceres', in trochaic
tetrameters, and a 'Dithyramb', wherein a poet is visited by all the
Olympian gods and cheered with a draught of Hebe's joy-giving nectar.
These classicizing poems, which purport to express modern feeling in
the terms of Greek mythology, sound now a little hollow and
conventional. The vein had been worked to excess even in Schiller's
day, and it is no wonder that the Romanticists pined for something new.
The best of them all is 'The Eleusinian Festival', called originally
'Song of the Citizen', in which Schiller returns to his favorite
theme--the origin and progress of civilized society. The climactic
thought of the twenty-seven sonorous stanzas is contained in the
Kantian oracle of Ceres:

Freiheit liebt das Tier der Wueste,
Frei im Aether herrscht der Gott,
Ihrer Brust gewalt'ge Lueste
Zaehmet das Naturgebot;
Doch der Mensch, in ihrer Mitte,
Soll sich an den Menschen reihn,
Und allein durch seine Sitte
Kann er frei und maechtig sein.[110]

In the spring of the year 1797, as 'Hermann and Dorothea' was
approaching completion, Goethe and Schiller were led to an interchange
of views concerning the distinctive qualities of epic poetry. Their
discussion begot an interest in the kindred type of the ballad, which
may be regarded as a miniature epic in a lyrical form. The result was
that both poets began to make ballads for the next year's 'Almanac'.
Schiller contributed five: 'The Diver', 'The Ring of Polycrates', 'The
Cranes of Ibycus', 'The Errand at the Furnace' and 'The Knight of
Toggenburg'. In subsequent years he wrote three others: 'The Pledge',
'Hero and Leander' and 'The Count of Hapsburg'. To these may be added
'The Glove ', which was not called a ballad because not written in
uniform stanzas, and 'The Fight with the Dragon ', which was called a

These poems, taken as a whole, owe nothing whatever to the folk-song.
The popular ballad, which had once fascinated Goethe and Herder and
Buerger, and the Goettingen poets generally, seems never to have appealed
to Schiller in any notable degree. If we except 'The Count of Hapsburg',
his ballad themes are all exotic, that is, they do not deal with German
legend or history or superstition. The suggestions came generally from
out-of-the-way reading, and in one or two cases his exact source has not
been certainly identified. The tales have no odor of the soil, no local
color. They make no use of the supernatural, the gruesome or the
uncanny. They are not wild roses, but jaqueminots cultivated with an
aesthetic end in view. Their aroma is distinctly literary, and they are
all eminently serious. Not a smile is provided for in the whole list.
There is no element of mystery about them. The passions and sentiments
illustrated are of the universal kind. And just as vague, uncanny and
bizarre feelings play no part, so there is no resort to verbal tricks,
such as meaningless repetitions, or onomatopoetic jingles. The language
is dignified and classical. Their great merit is the vivid and strong
imaginative coloring with which situations and actions are portrayed.
While in no sense folk-songs, they have always been great favorites with
the German people.

In 'The Diver' the stress falls upon the portraiture of the raging deep
and its awful horrors. It is a rhetorical _Prachtstueck_, which has done
good service to many an elocutionist and declaiming schoolboy. Schiller
himself had never seen the sea, nor any body of water remotely
resembling the Charybdis of the poem. Observation, as he humbly
confessed, had given him nothing more awesome than a mill-dam,--the
rest was Homeric and imaginative; wherefore it no doubt gratified him
when Goethe reported from Schaffhausen, after a visit to the cataract,
that the line

Und es wallet, und siedet, und brauset, und zischt,

was scientifically correct. 'The Glove' merely versifies a simple
incident of a brave knight whose courage is put to an inhuman test by
his lady-love; he brings her glove from among the 'horrible cats', and
then contemptuously cuts her acquaintance. In these two, the earliest
of the ballads, description of the situation preponderates over the
epic element, and there is no 'idea' except to narrate an
extraordinarily brave action. In 'The Ring of Polycrates' one can
discern progress in the mastery of the ballad form, though the subject
was none of the best. Based upon a story in Herodotus, it is a poetic
setting of the ancient idea that excessive good fortune provokes the
anger of the gods and portends disaster. Strangely enough Schiller's
poem breaks off with the recovery of the ring from the fish's belly,
and the consequent warning and departure of the Egyptian guest. One
would expect an additional stanza or two, showing how the forebodings
of Amasis were presently realized.

Much better than any of the foregoing is 'The Cranes of Ibycus'. In the
composition of this ballad Goethe took a deep interest, giving several
suggestions which were adopted by Schiller to the great advantage of the
poem. The Greek legend does not explain, or explains variously, just why
the murderers in the theater call out the name of Ibycus when they see
the cranes flying over. Schiller supposes that the spectacle just then
going on was a solemn chorus of the Eumenides. Thus the unaccountable
exclamation of the murderers is connected with the mysterious power of
the avenging Furies. It is this use of the nemesis idea that makes the
merit of the ballad.

'The Knight of Toggenburg' is a sentimental tale of romantic love, while
'The Pledge'--a captivating and powerful version of the Damon and
Pythias story--is a heroic ballad of loyal friendship. 'The Errand at
the Furnace', wherein a spiteful tale-bearer meets the horrible fate he
has prepared for the innocent and devout Fridolin,--may be styled a
ballad of pious edification. Here, as a critic observes, Schiller
purposely essays a tone of childlike _naivete_ which was foreign to his
nature.[111] 'The Battle with the Dragon' has for its theme the moral
majesty of self-conquest. With 'The Cranes of Ibycus' and 'The Pledge',
it forms a triad which may be regarded as the choicest fruitage of
Schiller's interest in the ballad. The later ones, 'The Count of
Hapsburg' and 'Hero and Leander', are no less finished in the matter of
form, but have more of a lyric tinge.

We see that as a balladist Schiller got his inspiration mainly from two
sources: the traditions of Greek antiquity and the traditions of
chivalrous romance. He dwelt habitually in the idealisms of the past,
and his controlling purpose was to make these idealisms live again in
stirring poetic pictures. The present time, with its fierce national
conflicts, the larger meaning of which was not yet apparent, seemed to
him barbarous and depressing. In the prologue to 'Wallenstein', it is
true, he was able to survey the situation with a calm artistic eye and
to see in the 'solemn close of the century' a period in which 'reality
is becoming poetry'. But this is an isolated deliverance. His habitual
mood was one of aversion, from which he sought relief by an escape into
the kingdom of the mind. Thus, in some stanzas on the opening of the new
century, he laments that the English-French war has overspread sea and
land and left no place on earth for 'ten happy mortals'. Then he bids
the friend to whom the verses are addressed take refuge in the holy
temple of the heart, seeing that Freedom and Beauty dwell only in
dreamland. A similar sentiment finds expression in 'The Words of
Illusion', published in 1801, as a sort of pendant to the earlier 'Words
of Faith'. The words of faith are Freedom, Virtue and God. Men are
exhorted to cling steadfastly to these eternal verities, whereof only
the heart gives knowledge. The other poem is directed against the
superstition of believing in a golden age, or in any external
realization of the right, the good and the true. The final stanza runs:

And so, noble soul, forget not the law,
And to the true faith be leal;
What ear never heard and eye never saw,
The Beautiful, the True, they are real.
Look not without, as the fool may do;
It is in thee and ever created anew.

These last-named poems belong to a type which the Germans sometimes
call the 'lyric of thought',--a name which is fairly appropriate to a
goodly number of Schiller's shorter effusions. Other examples--to
mention a few of the best--are 'Light and Warmth', 'Breadth and Depth'
and 'Hope'. They might be called lyrics of culture, since they regard
the perfection of the individual,--the equipoise of heart and head,
steadfast seriousness as opposed to showy sciolism, the preservation of
hope and faith,--as a noble object of emotion. They are not
intellectual in the opprobrious sense of the word as applied to poetry;
they are suffused with warm feeling and their language is simple and
natural. On the other hand they _are_ argumentative: they state
propositions and draw conclusions the value of which must in the end be
gauged by the mind. For this reason one who has no sympathy with
Schiller's idealism,--one who either never felt it or has lost it in
the stress of life,--will not be touched by these poems, but will
regard them as hollow. Yet they are no more hollow than the lyrics of
Goethe or Heine or Shelley, though the illusion of sincerity is less
perfect than in the work of these great lyrists.

A pure lyric effusion, of the kind that seems to sing itself without
help or let from the brooding philosopher, was not often attempted by
Schiller. Perhaps his very best achievement in this sort is 'The
Maiden's Lament', of which the first two stanzas, translated as closely
as possible with reference to both substance and form, run as follows:

The oak-wood moans, the clouds float o'er,
The maiden sits by the green sea-shore.
The waves are breaking with might, with might,
And she breathes out a sigh in the gloom of the night,
And her eyes are dim with weeping.

'My heart is dead, the world is naught,
It brings nothing more to my longing thought,
I have lived and loved,--earth's fortune was mine,
Thou Holy One, take this child of thine,
Take her back into thine own keeping.'[112]

Such verses, and one might adduce further the admirable songs in
'William Tell', show that Schiller had in him, when he could find it and
let it have its way, a lyric gift of a high order. As a rule, however,
when he attempted to sing, the attempt resulted in a philosophic
evaluation of the feelings expressed. Thus in his well-known 'Punch
Song', he is mainly concerned with the ethical symbolism of the four
elements,--the lemon-juice, the sugar, the water and the spirits. In
other cases he suggests an allegorical symbolism, and leaves the reader
puzzling over an intellectual query that may or may not be worth
puzzling over. Examples are 'The Maiden from Afar', 'The Youth at the
Brook', 'The Mountain Song'. He even wrote a number of professed poetic
riddles,--which may be left without commentary to those who like that
sort of poetry.

The cultural poems of Schiller have always enjoyed a high degree of
popularity. A large number of his lines and couplets have become
familiar quotations that come readily to the tongue or pen of the
educated German. There is probably no modern poet who has taken a deeper
hold upon the intellectual life of his countrymen. This is partly
attributable to the fact that his idealistic sentiments appeal
especially to the youthful. No poet that ever lived is better adapted to
the needs of the school; none more infallibly safe and inspiring to the
young of both sexes. For the riper mind and the larger experience his
oracles are apt to lose somewhat of their impressiveness; for it is not
to be denied that his poetry at its best is seldom supremely good. The
divine spark that fuses rare thought and waiting expression in the white
heat of the imagination and gives one the sense of artistic perfection
is not often there. His verse is never cold, never trivial; but; it does
lack artistic distinction. Its highest claim is to give expression to
the maxims of a ripe culture in tuneful verses and pleasing imagery that
impress themselves readily upon the general heart. This is what he does
in the most famous of all his poems, 'The Song of the Bell'. It is not
great poetry, but it is a pleasing production which well deserves its

'The Song of the Bell' was first given to the world in the 'Almanac' of
1800, after several years of incubation. Its germ-idea is similar to
that of the 'Punch Song'; that is, we have a mechanical process,--in the
one case the mixing of a glass of punch, in the other the casting of a
bell,--accompanied at its various stages by reflections of an ethical
character. The bell-founder is an idealist with a feeling for the
dignity of man and of man's handiwork. As he orders his workmen to
perform the successive operations involved in the casting of a bell, he
delivers, from the depths of his larger experience, a little homily,
suggested, in each case, by the present stage of the labor. The master's
orders are given in a lively trochaic measure, while the homilies move
at a slower gait in iambic lines of varying length. The fiction is
handled with scrupulous attention to technical details, and is made to
yield at the same time a series of easy and natural starting-points for
a poetic review of life from the cradle to the grave.

The great charm of the 'Song' lies in its vivid pictures of the epochs,
pursuits and occurrences which constitute the joy and the woe of life
for an ordinary industrious burgher. Childhood and youth; the passion of
the lover, sobering into the steadfast love of the husband; the busy
toil of the married pair in field and household; the delight of
accumulation and possession; the calamity of fire that destroys the
labor of years; the blessedness of peaceful industry; the horrors of
revolutionary fanaticism; the benediction of civic concord,--these are
the themes that are brought before us in a series of stirring pictures
that are irresistibly fascinating. To have felt and expressed so
admirably the poetry of every-day life, and that at the very time when
the Romanticists were beginning to fill the air with noise about the
prosaic dullness of the present time as compared with the Middle Ages,
was a great achievement, and all the greater as Schiller himself had not
remained unaffected by the Romantic doctrine. He could Hellenize and
philosophize, and, on occasion, he could Romanticize; but 'The Song of
the Bell' shows how deeply, after all, his feeling was rooted in the
life of the German people.

The 'Almanac' for 1800 was the last volume that appeared, and after the
removal of this exigency Schiller's lyrical production diminished. His
best strength was devoted to his plays, which in themselves, however,
contain a large lyric element. The choral parts of 'The Bride of
Messina' show the final phase of his art in its perfection. Like these,
the few independent poems written by him during the last years of his
life are characterized by great beauty of diction and of rhythmic
cadence, but in their substance they hardly compare with the best of his
previous work. Most noteworthy are 'Cassandra', devoted to the pathos of
foreseeing calamity without being able to prevent it, and 'The Festival
of Victory', wherein the Greek heroes, assembled for departure after the
sack of Troy, discourse amiably and profoundly upon the finer issues of
life. In some of the shorter and more subjective poems there is
discernible a note of sadness, as of a drooping spirit unreconciled,
after all, to the stress of this earthly existence. This is heard, for
example, in 'Longing' and 'The Pilgrim'. But from such sporadic
utterances no large inference should be drawn respecting Schiller's
mental history. They proceeded from a sick man whose days were numbered.


[Footnote 103:

"The One remains, the many change and pass,
Heaven's light forever shines, earth's shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity."
--_Shelley's "Adonais"_.]

[Footnote 104: Bulwer's Translation.]

[Footnote 105: Bulwer's Translation.]

[Footnote 106: "Social Forces in German Literature", p. 376.]

[Footnote 107: "Dichtung und Wahrheit", sechzehntes Buch.]

[Footnote 108: Buiwer translates the lines, somewhat lamely, thus:

Honour to Woman! To her it is given
To garden the earth with the roses of Heaven!
All blessed, she linketh the Loves in their choir....
From the bounds of Truth careering,
Man's strong spirit wildly sweeps,
With each hasty impulse veering
Down to Passion's troubled deeps.]

[Footnote 109:

Ehret die Frauen! Sie stricken die Struempfe,
Wollig und warm, zu durchwaten die Suempfe,
Flicken zerriss'ne Pantalons aus....
Doch der Mann, der toelpelhafte,
Find't am Zarten nicht Geschmack;
Zum gegohrnen Gerstensafte
Raucht er immerfort Taback.]

[Footnote 110:

"In the waste the Beast is free,
And the God upon his throne!
Unto each the curb must be
But the nature each doth own.
Yet the Man--betwixt the two--
Must to man allied belong;
Only law and Custom thro'
Is the Mortal free and strong."
--_Bulwer's Translation._]

[Footnote 111: Otto Harnack, "Schiller", page 274.]

[Footnote 112:

Der Eichwald brauset, die Wolken ziehn,
Das Maegdlein sitzet an Ufers Gruen,
Es bricht sich die Welle mit Macht, mit Macht,
Und sie seufzt hinaus in die finstere Nacht,
Das Auge von Weinen getruebet.

"Das Herz ist gestorben, die Welt ist leer,
Und weiter giebt sie dem Wunsche nichts mehr.
Du Heilige, rufe dein Kind zurueck,
Ich habe genossen das irdische Glueck,
Ich habe gelebt und geliebet."]



So hab' ich
Mit eignem Netz verderblich mich umstrickt,
Und nur Gewaltthat kann es reiszend loesen.

The great play which signalizes the return of Schiller to dramatic
poetry must be accounted upon the whole his masterpiece. To be sure it
is less popular than 'Tell' and less immediately effective than 'Mary
Stuart'. It has not the romantic soulfulness of 'The Maid of Orleans',
nor the splendid diction of 'The Bride of Messina'. On the stage, too,
its effectiveness is somewhat impaired by its great length. But in the
imaginative power whereby history is made into drama; in the triumph of
artistic genius over a vast and refractory mass of material, and in the
skill with which the character of the hero is conceived and denoted,
'Wallenstein' is unrivaled. Well might Goethe pronounce it 'so great
that nothing could be compared with it'. Its chief figure is by far the
stateliest and most impressive of German tragic heroes.

Since the completion of 'Don Carlos' Schiller had written nothing of any
moment in the dramatic form. For nine years he had been occupied with
historical and philosophic studies which he himself regarded as
preparatory to some new and nobler flight of artistic creation. Of
course he had been aware all along, none better than he, that great
poetry cometh not by theorizing; that theory could have at the best only
a general regulative value. At the same time, with the example of
Lessing before him, he could not but feel that this regulative value
might be very great. And so he had gone resolutely on his way, even
after the dread truth had come home to him that he had not long to live
and might never be able to reap the fruit of what he was sowing.

He had studied certain epochs of history very carefully and had
acquired a deeper insight into that tangled interplay of inward motive
and outward circumstance which determines the course of events.
Philosophy had only deepened his early conviction that man's dignity,
his heroism, consists in his free self-determination; but who knew
better than he the infinite pathos of the battle between 'will' and
'must'? He had become familiar with the spirit and the technique of the
Greek drama and learned to admire its simple and stately architecture.
Latterly, however, he had been drawn toward the moderns and had found
in the expression of the modern spirit-with all its idealisms, its
heights and depths and mysteries of feeling--a higher artistic goal
than antiquity had ever imagined. Finally, his association with Goethe
had taught him the importance of looking fairly at life and portraying
it not indeed just as it is, but in its essential human spirit. This,
for him, was to idealize.

Two themes had been suggested by his historical studies, and both had
haunted his thoughts for years,--'The Knights of Malta' and
'Wallenstein'. The former, if his plan had been carried out, would have
yielded a play of the classical type, with few characters and a severely
simple structure. In the final balancing of the two subjects
'Wallenstein' prevailed, no doubt because it seemed in advance the
easier and the more promising. It pointed to a familiar field where
history itself had already shaped in the rough a stupendous and
fascinating tragedy. To reproduce the form and pressure of the Thirty
Years' War, at one of its most exciting moments, was an alluring problem
to a dramatist who had written a history of the struggle, and who had
always felt that his strength lay in the historical drama.

Serious musings upon 'Wallenstein' began, as we have seen, in the autumn
of 1796.[113] The first great problem was, of course, the general plan
of the piece,--how to select, dispose and concentrate. To quicken his
imagination Schiller commenced reading again upon the history of the
period and soon perceived that what he already knew would be quite
inadequate; that it would be necessary to go over the whole ground anew
and more thoroughly. He found the material dry, chaotic and abstract; in
short, lacking in nearly all the poetic elements which he would have
thought indispensable a few years before. He could not treat it in his
earlier manner. He had no love for any of his personages except Max and
Thekla, whom he had invented for the purpose of infusing a little warm
blood into an action which would otherwise have been dominated
altogether by the cold passions of ambition, vindictiveness and fear.
Wallenstein was not great or noble; at best he could only be made
terrible. The basis of his power was his army, and this--so it seemed to
Schiller at first--was too large and complex a thing to be effectively
portrayed. Then, too, his enterprise failed chiefly because of bad
management, and he himself rather than fate was to blame for his
catastrophe. This Schiller regarded as the weak point of the whole
subject; but he took some comfort from the example of 'Macbeth'.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, however, he worked at his task
with great eagerness, feeling that just such a subject as
'Wallenstein' would prove the crucial test of his powers. His old
theory that love is what makes the artist was now completely outgrown,
and he was gratified to observe that he had learned to keep himself
out of his work. So much for the influence of Goethe, to whom he
wrote, in November, 1796, as follows:

With the general spirit of my work you will probably be satisfied. I
might almost say that the subject does not interest me at all. I
have never combined such coolness toward my theme with such a warmth
of feeling for my work. My principal character, and the most of my
subordinate characters, I have treated up to this time with the pure
love of the artist.

After some hesitation between prose and verse he began in prose, being
led thereto partly by the advice of Wilhelm von Humboldt and partly by
his own desire to produce this time an acceptable stage-play. His
progress was at first very slow. There was endless reading to be done
and endless rumination over the plot. In the winter season, with its
close confinement and its lowered vitality, the invalid could accomplish
but little. He fixed his hopes longingly upon the return of spring and
decided to buy a house with a garden, so that he could muse and write in
the open air. In May, 1797, the purchase was made, but by this time work
on 'Wallenstein' had completely stagnated and other interests were at
the fore. He was back among the Greeks. Renewed study of Sophocles,
particularly of the 'Trachiniae' and the 'Philoctetes', had convinced
him that everything hinges upon the invention of a poetic fable. To
quote again from a letter to Goethe:

The modern poet wrestles laboriously and anxiously with accidental
and subordinate matters and, in his effort to be very realistic,
loads himself down with the vacuous and the trivial. Thus he runs a
risk of losing the deep-lying truth which constitutes the real
nature of the poetical. He would fain imitate an actual occurrence,
and does not consider that a poetic representation can never
coincide with actuality, because it is absolutely true.

A little later he took up the study of Aristotle's 'Poetics' and was
delighted to find that the dread Rhadamanthus was after all so very
liberal and sensible. He had now reached a firm footing and was not to
be dislodged even by Aristotle, whose whole body of doctrine, as he did
not fail to observe, was deduced empirically from concrete specimens of
a particular type of play. It could not be canonical for all the world,
but it was very instructive. Schiller was glad that he had finally
discovered Aristotle, but glad also that he had never read him before.

On returning to 'Wallenstein' in October, after the summer claims of the
'Almanac' had been satisfied, he noticed that what he had written was
characterized by a certain dryness. It was evident that, in his
strenuous effort to avoid his besetting sin of rhetoric, he was in
danger of becoming trivial. He had still a sustaining faith in the
goodness of his subject, but the great problem would be to make it
poetical. It was necessary to find the middle way between the rhetorical
and the prosaic. The practical result of these cogitations was a
decision to write 'Wallenstein' in verse. In versifying the completed
scenes he found himself, so he wrote to Goethe, before a different
tribunal. Much that had seemed very good in prose would not do at all;
for verse tended to invest everything with an imaginative nimbus which
rendered triviality and mere logic intolerable.

But the new form brought with it a new danger--that of prolixity. It was
necessary that the exposition account for Wallenstein's conduct by
exhibiting the sources of his power. This meant a dramatic picture of
his wild and irresponsible soldatesca. The theme was boundless and
Schiller was a facile verse-maker. Ere long he reported ruefully to
Goethe that his first act was already longer than three acts of
'Iphigenie'. He was in doubt whether his friend had not infected him
with a 'certain epic spirit' which tended to diffuseness. In his
embarrassment of riches he decided to give the preliminary picture the
form of a dramatic prologue having but a loose connection with the play
proper, which was still conceived as a five-act tragedy.

During the winter of 1797-8 he worked as he could, steadily upborne by
the friendly encouragement of Goethe. When summer arrived the last two
acts were still unfinished, and the first three had grown to portentous
dimensions. It was now that he decided to divide his unmanageable
tragedy into two parts, 'The Piccolomini' and 'Wallenstein's Death'; his
idea being that 'The Piccolomini', preceded by the dramatic prologue,
which was now christened 'Wallenstein's Camp', would fill up an evening
and prepare the way for the real tragedy of 'Wallenstein's Defection and
Death'. This plan, involving a reconstruction of the whole, was carried
out in the ensuing months. At the urgent request of Goethe, preparations
were made to reopen the newly-renovated Weimar theater with a
performance of the 'Camp' alone. As the piece was too short for this
purpose, Schiller hastily amplified it to a sufficient size and wrote
for it a noble prologue, which ranks among the best of his poems. When
played at Weimar, in October, 1798, the 'Camp' was well received as a
picturesque novelty, but that was all. It gave no clew to what was
coming, and there was nothing in it to stir the depths of human nature.

'The Piccolomini' was completed in December and put upon the Weimar
stage, under Schiller's personal direction, on January 30, 1799. As then
performed it included two acts of 'Wallenstein's Death'. The first
performance was a great success. The Weimarians, with Goethe at their
head, were enthusiastic; and Schiller, who had of late known but little
of popular favor, found himself suddenly invested with a new renown. He
was pleased, elated; from this time on he felt sure of his vocation as
dramatic poet. Returning to Jena he applied himself steadily to
'Wallenstein's Death', completing it finally in March. It was first
played on the 20th of April, preceded at short intervals by the 'Camp'
and 'The Piccolomini'. And great indeed was the poet's triumph, now that
his achievement could be judged as a whole. He had given his best after
years of preparation, and the world saw at once that it was very good.
The animosities aroused by the Xenia lingered for a while in a few small
minds, but it was of no use to fight genius with the missiles of petty
malice. The Germans had accepted Schiller as their great dramatist.

To form a right estimate of 'Wallenstein' one must first look at it in a
large way, remembering that structurally it forms a class all by itself.
The name 'trilogy', in the technical sense of the Greeks, does not apply
to it, seeing that the 'Camp' is not an integral part of the whole, but
a dramatic prelude in an entirely different key. In a loose sense, to be
sure, it forms a part of the exposition; but it can be omitted entirely,
if one chooses, since everything technically necessary to be known is
repeated in 'The Piccolomini'. Its characters are different and nothing
is said or done that is vitally related to the ensuing complication. Its
purpose is to show the nature of Wallenstein's soldiers and the grounds
of their attachment to their commander. Their loyalty is of course the
great factor in Wallenstein's position; it is because he relies upon
their fidelity that he dares to dally with the thought of treason. But
this fidelity of theirs, their sturdy _esprit du corps_, their
unwillingness to be separated, could have been indicated in a scene, or
in the report of a messenger; in fact it _is_ indicated in the memorial
which they place in the hands of Max Piccolomini.

The 'Camp', then, with its eleven-hundred verses, is to be regarded as a
military genre-picture, elaborated for its own sake into an independent
piece. As a prelude it transports us into the _milieu_ of the tragedy,
but without anywhere striking its key-note; for the tragedy is intensely
serious, while the note of the 'Camp',--notwithstanding an undertone of
seriousness without which it could not have been the work of
Schiller,--is that of jovial humor. And the poet's scheme required just
this effect in the prelude. One can hardly assent, therefore, to the
suggestion of Harnack[114] that it would have been well if the sentiment
of loyalty to the emperor had been made more prominent and given a more
worthy champion than the stolid Tiefenbachers, who have nothing to say.
Had this been attempted it must have led to an adumbration of the coming
tragic conflict,--which is what Schiller wished to avoid. He wished that
spectator and reader should accept the prelude as a thing of its own
kind, complete in itself. It was for this reason that he gave it a
distinctive meter, having convinced himself that meter of some kind was
essential if he would avoid banality. With a wise instinct he chose the
old free-and-easy tetrameter, which Goethe had used with excellent
effect in some of his early plays. In German this meter lends itself
beautifully to the bluff, off-hand discourse of soldiers. It gives an
illusion of realism while preserving the effect of poetry.

Particularly admirable is the art with which Schiller has contrived to
denote the motley variety of human types gathered under Wallenstein's
banner, while giving to each of his figures a fairly distinct
individuality. With a little study of costume a painter could paint
them all. There is the wretched Peasant, who has been reduced to
beggary and is willing to retrieve his fortunes by gambling with loaded
dice; the sagacious Sergeant, who always knows more than other people,
and prides himself upon 'the fine touch and the right tone' that can
only be acquired near the person of the commander; the depraved
Chasseur, who glories in fighting for its own sake, cares not for whom
or what, and objects to discipline; the philosophic Cuirasseur, who
argues for a higher ideal and pities the woes of the producing class,
but cannot help matters; and the fiery Capuchin, who pronounces his
wordy anathema against the whole godless crowd. What a picturesque
assembly they make and how admirably they bring out the lights and
shadows of the Wallenstein regime! One wonders how an invalid recluse,
a bookish philosopher like Schiller, should ever have been able to
write such scenes.

The total effect of the prelude is to put one in a very good humor with
the personages who figure there. One indeed feels sub-consciously that
they are detestable--not a whit better than the angry friar paints them.
One sympathizes intellectually with his fierce denunciation and pities
the land that is exposed to such a scourge. And yet--such is the poetic
glamour thrown over them--feelings of this kind never become dominant.
It is like the squalid slums of a great city, when seen through the
sun-lit morning mist. The reality is horrible, revolting. The soul of
the philanthropist is pained--but not so the eye of the artist. Schiller
contrives that we see his vagabonds with the artistic eye and are drawn
to them by their very picturesqueness. We quickly impute to them more
virtue than their ways betoken; and when in their lusty final song they
break out in a strain of lofty idealism:

Und setzet ihr nicht das Leben ein,
Nie wird euch das Leben gewonnen sein,

one is hardly conscious of the incongruity.

The dramatic fable devised by Schiller for the tragedy proper carries us
back to the winter of 1634. Events extending over several months are
concentrated by poetic fiat into the four days preceding the
assassination of Wallenstein, which took place on the 25th of February.
The prominent characters fall into two groups,--the abettors of
Wallenstein in his treason, and the imperialists who work his ruin. The
first group consists of historical personages, mainly officers, whom he
had bound to him by one or another tie of selfish interest. Foremost
among these are Illo, the Count and Countess Terzky, and General Butler,
who turns against his chief and becomes the agent of his taking-off. The
central figure of the other group is Octavio Piccolomini, whom Schiller
converts from a young officer of thirty into an elderly man with a
grown-up son. Octavio, in reality the trusted agent of the emperor, is
regarded by Wallenstein with a superstitious infatuation as his own most
faithful friend. Between these two groups stand the ingenuous lovers,
Max and Thekla, imaginary characters who can make their perfect peace
with neither side and are done to death in a pathetic struggle between
love and duty.

As we have already seen, Schiller found it no easy task to mould the
historical Wallenstein into a satisfactory tragic hero. The character
was lacking in nobility. To be sure it was not necessary to make him out
an infamous traitor; for his character, his motives, the measure of his
guilt, were subjects of debate among the historians, and the evidence
was, as it still is, inconclusive. It was therefore quite within the
license of a dramatic poet to take the part of Wallenstein, so far at
least as to throw into strong light all the palliating circumstances
that could be urged in his favor. Such were, for example, that he was a
prince of the empire and as such had a right to conduct negotiations and
to make peace; that he wished to give rest to a torn and bleeding
Germany; that he had been ignobly treated by the House of Austria, and
so forth. By laying stress upon these things and passing lightly over
others, it was easily possible to save Wallenstein from the detestation
that is wont to associate itself with the idea of a traitor.

But for an interesting tragic hero it is not enough to fall short of
infamy. He must have some sort of distinction. He must be a towering
personality. One does not go to the theater to be convinced in a moral
or political argument, but to be carried along with a rush of feeling,
for which the old term sympathy is perhaps as good a name as any other.
A magnificent criminal will serve the purpose very well, as Schiller had
discovered in his early years, but he must be magnificent. Now it was
precisely this element of greatness that was lacking in the character of
the historical Wallenstein. No lofty idealism of any kind could be
imputed to him. He was not a religious zealot, like Cromwell or Gustav
Adolf, nor was he a strenuous German patriot, like Frederick the Great.
He was not even a great soldier; for while, as the head of a great host
of marauding mercenaries, he made himself the scourge and the terror of
Germany, he never won a decisive battle against an equal enemy. The
history of his fighting is largely a history of futilities. And when he
formed the plan of a separate peace,--a plan which if promptly and
vigorously executed might possibly have succeeded and have caused him to
be numbered with the benefactors of Europe,--he dallied with the thought
until it was too late, fell into the pit which he had digged for
himself, and, in trying to flounder out, met his death at the hands of
an assassin who had a grudge against him. Thus even his death was
pitiful rather than tragic. It does not appear to be the work of that
high Nemesis which Schiller noticed as dominating the career of
Shakspere's Richard the Third.

To have succeeded as Schiller did succeed, in the face of such
difficulties, is a memorable triumph of the poetic art. By purely
aesthetic means, without any appeal to political or religious passion,
without requiring us to take sides in any debatable cause, but simply by
the skill and subtlety of his drawing, he has invested Wallenstein with
an impressiveness such, as belongs only to the great creations of the
great tragic poets. His overruling trait is ambition; and in the
denotation of this, as of his whole relation to the Countess Terzky, the
influence of 'Macbeth' is obvious. And yet he is very far from being a
copy of Shakspere's hero, or a mere embodiment of ambition. On the
contrary, he is the most complicate of all Schiller's creations, and the
most difficult to portray on the stage in a thoroughly satisfactory
manner. As a good critic observes, he is 'fascinating and repulsive,
admirable and contemptible, fantastic and cunning, cautious and
frivolous, a mighty organizer and a helpless child, false and true,
touching and terrible, a mixture of all possible qualities, and yet a
unity, a totality'.[115] The promise of the Prologue is admirably

But art shall show him in his human form
And bring him nearer to your eyes and hearts;
She sees the man in all the stress of life,
And for the greater portion of his guilt
She blames the working of malignant stars.

The last two lines, be it observed, involve much more than a mere
allusion to Wallenstein's superstitious belief in astrology. Schiller's
idea, schooled as he had been for years upon Sophocles and Shakspere,
was to blend the fate-tragedy of the ancients with the modern tragedy of
character. The two things were not incompatible, since in a broad view
of the matter a man's character is his fate. It is to be observed also
that the peculiar effect of Greek tragedy does not depend upon the way
in which the external [Greek: moira] was conceived, but upon the fact
that the hero seems to be battling, and was by the audience known to be
battling, against the inevitable. The situation is not what he supposes,
and the event will not be what he intends. He is the subject: of an
illusion, an infatuation; and this [Greek: ate] is the principal factor
in the tragic effect.[116]

Now Wallenstein's [Greek: ate] takes the form of a blind and overweening
self-conceit. He has the 'great-man-mania' hardly less than Karl Moor.
Accustomed to follow his own light, to command and to be obeyed, and to
look with contempt upon the interference of priests and courtiers in the
business of war, he thinks himself omnipotent. There is no power that he
fears save that of the stars; and even that he imagines he can bend to
his will by studious attention to astrologic portents. He has found it
possible to raise and maintain a great army by taking good care of his
officers and men; and appealing thus constantly to the lower motives of
human nature, he comes to think at last that there are no others. When
the Swede Wrangel suggests a suspicion of his Chancellor that it 'might
be an easier thing to create out of nothing an army of sixty thousand
men than to lead a sixtieth part of them into an act of treachery',
Wallenstein replies: 'Your Chancellor judges like a Swede and a
Protestant.' And when he finds that this sentiment of loyalty--_die
Treue_, one of the most ancient and powerful of motives--is still a real
force in human affairs, he can only account for it as a curious

'Tis not the embodiment of living strength
That makes the truly terrible. It is
The vulgar brood of all the yesterdays,
The eternally recurring commonplace,
That was and therefore is and hence will be.
For man is fashioned of the trivial
And customary use he names his nurse.[117]

It would seem as if such a blind and superstitious self-worshiper could
have but little chance of winning sympathy, and the less chance for the
reason that he really does nothing in the play to justify his grand
airs. His mighty deeds are a matter of hearsay. We are obliged to take
his greatness on trust, as something growing out of the past. And yet
Schiller contrives, with splendid artistic cunning, that we do take him
from first to last at his own estimate. His assumption of superiority
appears perfectly reasonable; and even in the ticklish astrological
scenes, about which Schiller himself was in doubt until reassured by
Goethe, he never becomes ridiculous. His belief in destiny and his
unctuous palaver about the occult connection of events do not detract
from his dignity. One understands that his oracles are fallacious, that
it is all a humbug; but so perfect is the illusion that instead of
smiling one mentally associates him with other men undoubtedly
great,--men like Caesar, Cromwell and Napoleon,--who were haunted by
more or less similar hallucinations.

This is effected, in part at least, by bringing Wallenstein into
contrast with vulgar and commmonplace natures. In the presence of a real
hero he would be a pigmy,--even under the searchlight of the ardent
young Max his effulgence pales somewhat,--but surrounded by the Illos,
the Terzkys, Isolanis and the rest of them, he is a moral and
intellectual giant. One does not wish to belong to _their_ company or to
believe in their arguments; and so when they urge him to act one is
quite prepared to credit the mysterious oracles which assure him that
the time is not yet ripe. Thus even his indecision,--most damning of
weaknesses in a great soldier,--does not seem to belittle him. One
enters into the spirit of his self-defense, is half inclined to believe
in his innocence and to sympathize with him, when the psychological
moment arrives and the capture of Sesina compels him to translate a
traitorous thought into a traitorous deed. And even after this, when he
stands forth as a declared traitor; while his trusted friends are
secretly turning against him, and his unsuspected enemies are quietly
plotting his doom; when, with a futile energy, he is making the plans
that are yet, as he believes, to leave him master of the situation; and
when, finally, in his bereavement and isolation, he is brought to face
his miserable fate,--everywhere he looms up as a grand figure. Schiller
has taken good care that one shall not think of his treason or of his
weakness, but rather of his imposing personality.

That Wallenstein produces such an impression is largely due to the
character of his chief antagonist. Octavio Piccolomini is certainly one
of Schiller's most notable minor studies. It is he who stands for the
cause of loyalty to which one naturally leans; but he is so portrayed
that one soon distrusts and in the end almost despises him. And yet he
is no villain of the extreme type so dear to Schiller in his early
years. Octavio's conduct and his sentiments are technically correct. He
is a faithful servant of the empire, a far-sighted and energetic
commander and an affectionate father. The groundwork of his character
seems much better entitled to sympathy than that of Wallenstein. In the
play, however, from the moment we hear of the secret order making him
temporary commander-in-chief, we begin to suspect that he too is playing
a game for profit. And when he lays his secret plans against
Wallenstein, while openly appearing as his friend; when he craftily
works upon the vanity of Butler, and instils into Butler's small soul
the poison of a murderous hate, one is not drawn to the cause which
needs such championship.

Rationally and before the bar of politics, Octavio's conduct is
unimpeachable. He does his duty in baffling a powerful traitor in the
most effective way. It is not his fault that Wallenstein is deceived in
him, and nothing requires that he go and undeceive him. He resorts to no
tricks, he feigns no sentiments that are not his. He but tells the truth
to Butler in regard to the ancient matter of the title. It is no part of
his plan that Butler shall murder his former chief. And when Wallenstein
falls, not so much because of his present treason as because of his
former duplicity, Octavio is technically guiltless of the deed. And yet
so skillfully is the portrait drawn, so subtly are the lights and
shadows managed, that when the curtain falls one is little disposed to
sympathize with him in his triumph. There is a world of ironical pathos
in those last words of the play: 'To Prince Piccolomini'.

A very important element in the impression produced by Octavio, as
also in that produced by Wallenstein himself, is the fact that we are
made to try them not at the bar of worldly ethics, but before the
tribunal of the heart as represented by the young idealist, Max. It is
a weak criticism of Wallenstein which objects to the love-story or
regards it as a mere concession to the sentimental demands of the
average play-goer. For the reason just stated it must rather be looked
upon as a vital element of the plot. No doubt the play can be imagined
without it and would in that case be more in accordance with history.
But what a relatively cold affair it would be! The tragedy of the
lovers is an important part of the Nemesis that follows Wallenstein
from the moment of his taking the fateful step. It is this which makes
in no small degree the real impressiveness of his final isolation.
Without it we should see in Wallenstein a masterful spirit, like
Macbeth, playing fast and loose with the higher law and meeting an
ignoble fate at the hands of enemies meaner than himself. In a sense
the moral law would be vindicated, but how much more effective is the
vindication when this masterful spirit first makes havoc of all that
should be dearest to him as a man!

It is quite true that the figure of Max, like that of Posa, is out of
harmony with the general _milieu_. Schiller was a lover of contrast, and
in his skillful use of it lies a large part of his effectiveness as a
playwright. To a certain extent his contrasts are made to order; that
is, they proceed from the vision of the artist calculating an effect,
rather than from the observation of life as it is. Partisans of realism
tell us that this propensity is a weakness, a fault; and such it is,
beyond question, whenever it leads to forced and stagy contrasts. But
surely no general indictment can lie against Schiller for taking
advantage of a principle which is perfectly legitimate in itself and has
been employed more or less freely by the dramatists of all ages,
including realists like Ibsen and Hauptmann. After all life does really
offer contrasts of character as glaring as any that poet ever imagined,
only they are not apt to be found in juxtaposition. The artist, however,
has a perfect right to juxtapose them if it suits his purpose; that is,
if it will really enhance the effect that he wishes to produce. If ever
he departs too far from the familiar verities of life, he pays the
penalty; for the judicious, instead of being thrilled by his pathos (or
whatever it may be), are annoyed by his artificiality. This is the whole
law of the matter, so far as its general aspect is concerned.

As for Max Piccolomini, he is a perfectly thinkable character--in the
time of the Thirty Years' War or at any other time. There is nothing
supernal about him; he is simply the type of a brave and honorable young
soldier who tries to walk by the higher law of conscience. There are
always such men in the world, and Schiller cannot be blamed for locating
one in the camp of Wallenstein, though history omitted to hand down his
name. It is perhaps a little surprising that such a youngster as Max
should be in command of the great Pappenheim's regiment; that, however,
is a part of the presupposition which one must mentally adjust as best
one can. Within the limits of the play everything follows naturally. As
a soldier he loves his commander and sides with him instinctively
against the courtiers and politicians. His enthusiasm increases the
'mighty suggestion' that goes out from Wallenstein; one feels that the
object of such idolatry from such a worshiper must indeed be great. In
the love-scenes Max is always a man,--no trace here of sentimental
weakness, or of any leaning to Quixotic folly. In his relation to
Wallenstein, to Octavio, and to Thekla, his character is firmly and
naturally drawn. And when his great disillusionment comes and he is
forced to choose between love and duty, he makes a man's choice and his
career ends as it must end--in a tragic drama.

The drawing of the female characters in 'Wallenstein' bears witness,
like all the rest of the play, to the ripening power of the years that
had intervened since the writing of 'Don Carlos'. That indefinable
something that infects the earlier heroines of Schiller and gives them
an air of sentimental futility, or else of schematic unnaturalness, has
disappeared. The Countess Terzky, in particular, is a strong portrait
which one can admire without reservation. As for Thekla, while her
essence is an all-absorbing love for Max, she has at the same time a
will and an energy of resolution which make her the worthy daughter of
her father. Upon the whole she is the most lovable of all the heroines
of Schiller. It is her tragedy of the heart which renders 'Wallenstein'
perennially interesting to the young. And this is much; for does not
Goethe's shrewd Merry-Andrew declare that the great object of dramatic
art is to please the young,--that _die Werdenden_ are the very ones to
be considered?[118]

It is true that critics, speaking more for _die Gewordenen_, have often
objected that the love-story in 'Wallenstein' is unduly expanded and
that the lines have here and there, for a historical tragedy, rather too
much of a sentimental, lyrical coloring. In the first of these
objections, at any rate, there is some force. It was Schiller's personal
fondness for his pair of lovers that led him to spin out his material
until it became necessary to divide it into two plays of five acts each.
This, from a dramatic point of view, was unfortunate, albeit the reader
who knows the entire work will hardly find it in his heart to wish that
any portion of it had remained unwritten. Properly speaking, the entire
'Piccolomini' should constitute the first two acts of a five-act
tragedy. It has no distinct unity of its own, but it takes an entire
evening with what is properly the exposition and the entanglement of a
play relating to Wallenstein's defection and death. The result of a
separate performance is that the climax of what should be the third
act--Wallenstein's momentous decision--comes right at the beginning of
the second evening, and is thus not adequately led up to, save as one
carries over the impressions of a preceding occasion. The effect is like
that of dividing any other play between the second and the third act.
One could wish, therefore, that Schiller had seen fit in his later years
to prepare a stage version which would have made it possible to present
the entire play in a single evening. It would have been a difficult
task,--hopeless for an ordinary theatrical man working by the process of
excision,--but for Schiller it would have been possible. And if he had
attempted it, we may be quite certain that the love-story would have
been very much abbreviated.

As regards the lyrical and softly-sentimental passages, the cogency of
the critical objection is not so clear. Any opinion grounded upon an
abstract theory of historical tragedy as such can have but little
weight. Schiller had no models for 'Wallenstein'; and if he had had,
there is always more merit in finding new paths than in following the
old. Historical tragedy without tender sentiment is possible, but it
presupposes a public politically awake and an author upborne and
inspired by a vigorous national life. Schiller could appeal to no such
public, and his instinct told him that a play based upon cold passions
must itself be cold. So he chose to sentimentalize history, at the
expense of detracting somewhat from its dignity, rather than to make
frigid plays which no one would care to see or to read. And if we grant
a _raison d'etre_ to the sentimentalized historical drama, no fault can
reasonably be found with lyrical passages like that at the end of the
third act of 'The Piccolomini'. Schiller found the soliloquy at hand as
an accepted convention of the stage and he converted it occasionally
into a lyric monologue, as Goethe had done before him in 'Iphigenie' and
'Faust'. This looked toward opera, toward Romanticism, toward a mixture
of types; but it was effective as a mode of portraying states of
feeling. The lyric monologue is of course out of tune with the modern
naturalistic dogma, but so is Hamlet's soliloquy. And then it must be
remembered that the naturalistic dogma was no part of Schiller's creed.

A noteworthy characteristic of 'Wallenstein', as of all the plays that
followed it, is its pervading seriousness. Humor plays no part. There
are no Dogberries or grave-diggers, no quips or quibbles. Schiller had
but little of the far-famed quality of 'irony'. It did not lie in his
nature to take a position aloof from the moving panorama of life and
depict it impassively as it runs, with its sharp contrasts of grave and
gay, of high and low. He is always a part of the world that he creates.
For the other and higher method, as exemplified by Shakspere and also by
Goethe in 'Wilhelm Meister', he showed a keen appreciation, and for a
little while he imagined that he himself was catching the trick. That he
did not altogether deceive himself is abundantly proved by
'Wallenstein's Camp'. After that, however, the ingrained seriousness of
his temperament reasserted itself with all-controlling power. The gift
of humor was not denied him, but the use of it in a grave drama was
repugnant to his sense of style. In this respect he was more a disciple
of the French and of the Greeks than of Shakspere.


[Footnote 113: Let it be said once for all (to avoid frequent
references), that the following account of the genesis of 'Wallenstein'
is based upon Schiller's letters--chiefly to Koerner and to
Goethe--beginning in November, 1796.]

[Footnote 114: "Schiller", p. 286.]

[Footnote 115: Bulthaupt, "Dramaturgie des Schauspiels", I, 288.]

[Footnote 116: Notwithstanding frequent references to occult powers and
overruling destiny, the Greek idea of fate is quite foreign to
"Wallenstein". It is essentially a modern character-drama. Cf. Fielitz,
"Studien zu Schillers Dramen ", page 9 ff.]

[Footnote 117:

Nicht was lebendig, kraftvoll sich verkuendigt,
Ist das gefaehrlich Furchtbare. Das ganz
Gemeine ist's, das ewig Gestrige,
Was immer war und immer wiederkehrt,
Und morgen gilt, weil's heute hat gegolten!
Denn aus Gemeinem ist der Mensch gemacht,
Und die Gewohnheit nennt er seine Amme. ]

[Footnote 118:

Dann sammelt sich der Jugend schoenste Bluete
Vor eurem Spiel und lauscht der Offenbarung,
Dann sauget jedes zaertliche Gemuete
Aus eurem Werk sich melanchol'sche Nahrung....
Wer fertig ist, dem ist nichts recht zu machen;
Ein Werdender wird immer dankbar sein.--'_Faust_'.]


Mary Stuart

Wohlthaetig heilend nahet mir der Tod,
Der ernste Freund! Mit seinen schwarzen Fluegeln
Bedeckt er meine Schmach--den Menschen adelt,
Den tiefstgesunkenen das letzte Schicksal--_'Mary Stuart'_.

After the completion of 'Wallenstein', in the spring of 1799, Schiller
was not long in selecting a new dramatic theme. The unwonted leisure was
irksome to him, so that he felt like one living in a vacuum. At first,
being weary of war and politics, he was minded to try his hand upon
something altogether imaginary, some unhistorical drama of passion. But
the aversion to history and the balancing of attractions did not last
long. On the 26th of April he wrote to Goethe as follows:

I have turned my attention to a political episode of Queen
Elizabeth's reign and have begun to study the trial of Mary Stuart.
One or two first-rate tragic motives suggested themselves
straightway, and these have given me great faith in the subject,
which incontestably has much to recommend it. It seems to be
especially adapted to the Euripidean method, which consists in the
completest possible development of a situation; for I see a
possibility of making a side issue out of the trial, and beginning
the tragedy directly with the condemnation,

This time the historical orientation proceeded very rapidly. By the 4th
of June he was ready to begin the first act, which formed his principal
occupation during the next two months. From a letter to Goethe, written
June 18, it is clear that he was then thinking especially of the danger
of sentimentalizing his heroine. She was to excite sympathy, of course,
but, so he averred, it was not to be of the tender, personal kind that
moves to tears. It was to be her fate to experience and to arouse
vehement passions, but only the nurse was to 'feel any tenderness for
her'. As we shall see, he did not remain entirely faithful to this
early conception of Mary's character. In August, the second act was
completed and the third begun. Then came a long interruption,
occasioned by the demands of the 'Almanac', the dangerous illness of
Frau Schiller,--a lingering puerperal fever following the birth of her
third child, Caroline, on the 11th of October,--and finally by the
distractions incident to a change of residence. For Schiller had now
decided to make his winter home in Weimar, so that he might be near the
theater. He was heart and soul in the business of play-making, and
looked forward to devoting the next six years of his life to that kind
of work. To Koerner he did not confide his new plan at first, though he
wrote of it often to Goethe.

The removal to Weimar took place early in December, having been made
possible by an increase of stipend amounting to two hundred thalers. In
granting this increase Karl August intimated that it might be of
advantage to Schiller as a dramatic poet if he were to take the
Weimarians into his confidence and discuss his plays with them. 'What is
to influence society', he sagely remarked, 'can be better fashioned in
society than in isolation'; and he added a very gracious expression of
his own personal friendliness. Schiller thus found himself once more
virtually a theater poet. The Weimar stage, with its little and large
problems, became the focus of his activity. As a good repertory was of
prime importance, much of his time went to the making of translations
and adaptations. Thus he began a version of Shakspere's 'Macbeth', and
had not finished it when he was again prostrated by a fresh and
dangerous attack of his malady. After the completion of 'Macbeth, in the
spring of 1800, he returned to 'Mary Stuart', but found his progress
impeded by manifold interruptions. To escape these he retired to the
quiet of Ettersburg, and there, early in June, he finished his tragedy
of the Scottish queen. A few days later, June 14, it was played at
Weimar, and from that time to this it has been one of the accepted
favorites of the stage. One who saw the second performance has left it
on record that the spectators unanimously declared it to be 'the most
beautiful tragedy ever represented on the German boards'. Madame de
Stael characterized it as the most moving and methodical of all German

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