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By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
CHAPTER I. THE HERO.
CHAPTER II. THE CHRIST OF ANDERNACH.
CHAPTER III. HOMUNCULUS.
CHAPTER IV. THE LANDLADY’S DAUGHTER.
CHAPTER V. JEAN PAUL, THE ONLY-ONE.
CHAPTER VI. HEIDELBERG AND THE BARON.
CHAPTER VII. LIVES OF SCHOLARS.
CHAPTER VIII. LITERARY FAME.
CHAPTER I. SPRING.
CHAPTER II. A COLLOQUY.
CHAPTER III. OWL-TOWERS.
CHAPTER IV. A BEER-SCANDAL.
CHAPTER V. THE WHITE LADY’S SLIPPER AND THE PASSION-FLOWER.
CHAPTER VI. GLIMPSES INTO CLOUD-LAND.
CHAPTER VII. MILL-WHEELS AND OTHER WHEELS.
CHAPTER VIII. OLD HUMBUG.
CHAPTER IX. THE DAYLIGHT OF THE DWARFS, AND THE FALLING STAR.
CHAPTER X. THE PARTING.
CHAPTER I. SUMMER-TIME.
CHAPTER II. FOOT-TRAVELLING.
CHAPTER III. INTERLACHEN.
CHAPTER IV. THE EVENING AND THE MORNING STAR.
CHAPTER V. A RAINY DAY.
CHAPTER VI. AFTER DINNER, AND AFTER THE MANNER OF THE BEST CRITICS.
CHAPTER VII. TAKE CARE!
CHAPTER VIII. THE FOUNTAIN OF OBLIVION.
CHAPTER IX. A TALK ON THE STAIRS.
CHAPTER I. A MISERERE.
CHAPTER II. CURFEW BELLS.
CHAPTER III. SHADOWS ON THE WALL.
CHAPTER IV. MUSICAL SUFFERINGS OF JOHN KREISLER.
CHAPTER V. SAINT GILGEN.
CHAPTER VI. SAINT WOLFGANG.
CHAPTER VII. THE STORY OF BROTHER BERNARDUS.
CHAPTER VIII. FOOT-PRINTS OF ANGELS.
CHAPTER IX. THE LAST PANG.
“Who ne’er his bread in sorrow ate,
Who ne’er the mournful, midnight hours
Weeping upon his bed has sate,
He knows you not, ye Heavenly Powers.”
CHAPTER I. THE HERO.
In John Lyly’s Endymion, Sir Topas is made to say; “Dost thou know what a Poet is? Why, fool, a Poet is as much as one should say,–a Poet!” And thou, reader, dost thou know what a hero is? Why, a hero is as much as one should say,–a hero! Some romance-writers, however, say much more than this. Nay, the old Lombard, Matteo Maria Bojardo, set all the church-bells in Scandiano ringing, merely because he had found a name for one of his heroes. Here, also, shall church-bells be rung, but more solemnly.
The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone. Shadows of evening fall around us, and the world seems but a dim reflection,–itself a broader shadow. We look forward into the coming, lonely night. The soul withdraws into itself. Then stars arise, and the night is holy.
Paul Flemming had experienced this, though still young. The friend of his youth was dead. The bough had broken “under the burden of the unripe fruit.” And when, after a season, he looked up again from the blindness of his sorrow, all things seemed unreal. Like the man, whose sight had been restored by miracle, he beheld men, as trees, walking. His household gods were broken. He had no home. His sympathies cried aloud from his desolate soul, and there came no answer from the busy, turbulent world around him. He did not willingly give way to grief. He struggled to be cheerful,–to be strong. But he could no longer look into the familiar faces of his friends. He could no longer live alone, where he had lived with her. He went abroad, that the sea might be between him and the grave. Alas! betweenhim and his sorrow there could be no sea, but that of time.
He had already passed many months in lonely wandering, and was now pursuing his way along the Rhine, to the south of Germany. He had journeyed the same way before, in brighter days and a brighter season of the year, in the May of life and in the month of May. He knew the beauteous river all by heart;–every rock and ruin, every echo, every legend. The ancient castles, grim and hoar, that had taken root as it were on the cliffs,–they were all his; for his thoughts dwelt in them, and the wind told him tales.
He had passed a sleepless night at Rolandseck, and had risen before daybreak. He opened the window of the balcony to hear the rushing of the Rhine. It was a damp December morning; and clouds were passing over the sky,–thin, vapory clouds, whose snow-white skirts were “often spotted with golden tears, which men call stars.” The day dawned slowly; and, in the mingling of daylightand starlight, the island and cloister of Nonnenwerth made together but one broad, dark shadow on the silver breast of the river. Beyond, rose the summits of the Siebengebirg. Solemn and dark, like a monk, stood the Drachenfels, in his hood of mist, and rearward extended the Curtain of Mountains, back to the Wolkenburg,–the Castle of the Clouds.
But Flemming thought not of the scene before him. Sorrow unspeakable was upon his spirit in that lonely hour; and, hiding his face in his hands, he exclaimed aloud;
“Spirit of the past! look not so mournfully at me with thy great, tearful eyes! Touch me not with thy cold hand! Breathe not upon me with the icy breath of the grave! Chant no more that dirge of sorrow, through the long and silent watches of the night!”
Mournful voices from afar seemed to answer, “Treuenfels!” and he remembered how others had suffered, and his heart grew still.
Slowly the landscape brightened. Down therushing stream came a boat, with its white wings spread, and darted like a swallow through the narrow pass of God’s-Help. The boatmen were singing, but not the song of Roland the Brave, which was heard of old by the weeping Hildegund, as she sat within the walls of that cloister, which now looked forth in the pale morning from amid the leafless linden trees. The dim traditions of those gray old times rose in the traveller’s memory; for the ruined tower of Rolandseck was still looking down upon the Kloster Nonnenwerth, as if the sound of the funeral bell had changed the faithful Paladin to stone, and he were watching still to see the form of his beloved one come forth, not from her cloister, but from her grave. Thus the brazen clasps of the book of legends were opened, and, on the page illuminated by the misty rays of the rising sun, he read again the tales of Liba, and the mournful bride of Argenfels, and Siegfried, the mighty slayer of the dragon. Meanwhile the mists had risen from the Rhine, and the whole air was filled with golden vapor, through which hebeheld the sun, hanging in heaven like a drop of blood. Even thus shone the sun within him, amid the wintry vapors, uprising from the valley of the shadow of death, through which flowed the stream of his life,–sighing, sighing!
CHAPTER II. THE CHRIST OF ANDERNACH.
Paul Flemming resumed his solitary journey. The morning was still misty, but not cold. Across the Rhine the sun came wading through the reddish vapors; and soft and silver-white outspread the broad river, without a ripple upon its surface, or visible motion of the ever-moving current. A little vessel, with one loose sail, was riding at anchor, keel to keel with another, that lay right under it, its own apparition,–and all was silent, and calm, and beautiful.
The road was for the most part solitary; for there are few travellers upon the Rhine in winter. Peasant women were at work in the vineyards; climbing up the slippery hill-sides, like beasts of burden, with large baskets of manureupon their backs. And once during the morning, a band of apprentices, with knapsacks, passed by, singing, “The Rhine! The Rhine! a blessing on the Rhine!”
O, the pride of the German heart in this noble river! And right it is; for, of all the rivers of this beautiful earth, there is none so beautiful as this. There is hardly a league of its whole course, from its cradle in the snowy Alps to its grave in the sands of Holland, which boasts not its peculiar charms. By heavens! If I were a German I would be proud of it too; and of the clustering grapes, that hang about its temples, as it reels onward through vineyards, in a triumphal march, like Bacchus, crowned and drunken.
But I will not attempt to describe the Rhine; it would make this chapter much too long. And to do it well, one should write like a god; and his style flow onward royally with breaks and dashes, like the waters of that royal river, and antique, quaint, and Gothic times, be reflected in it. Alas! this evening my style flows not at all. Flow, then, into this smoke-colored goblet, thou blood of the Rhine! out of thy prison-house,–out of thy long-necked, tapering flask, in shape not unlike a church-spire among thy native hills; and, from the crystal belfry, loud ring the merry tinkling bells, while I drink a health to my hero, in whose heart is sadness, and in whose ears the bells of Andernach are ringing noon.
He is threading his way alone through a narrow alley, and now up a flight of stone steps, and along the city wall, towards that old round tower, built by the Archbishop Frederick of Cologne in the twelfth century. It has a romantic interest in his eyes; for he has still in his mind and heart that beautiful sketch of Carové, in which is described a day on the tower of Andernach. He finds the old keeper and his wife still there; and the old keeper closes the door behind him slowly, as of old, lest he should jam too hard the poor souls in Purgatory, whose fate it is to suffer in the cracks of doors and hinges. But alas! alas! the daughter, the maiden with long, dark eyelashes! she is asleep in her little grave, under the linden trees of Feldkirche, with rosemary in her folded hands!
Flemming returned to the hotel disappointed. As he passed along the narrow streets, he was dreaming of many things; but mostly of the keeper’s daughter, asleep in the churchyard of Feldkirche. Suddenly, on turning the corner of an ancient, gloomy church, his attention was arrested by a little chapel in an angle of the wall. It was only a small thatched roof, like a bird’s nest; under which stood a rude wooden image of the Saviour on the Cross. A real crown of thorns was upon his head, which was bowed downward, as if in the death agony; and drops of blood were falling down his cheeks, and from his hands and feet and side. The face was haggard and ghastly beyond all expression; and wore a look of unutterable bodily anguish. The rude sculptor had given it this, but his art could go no farther. The sublimity of death in a dying Saviour, the expiring God-likeness of Jesus of Nazareth was not there. The artist had caught no heavenly inspiration from his theme. All was coarse, harsh, and revolting to a sensitive mind; and Flemming turned away with a shudder, as he saw this fearful image gazing at him, with its fixed and half-shut eyes.
He soon reached the hotel, but that face of agony still haunted him. He could not refrain from speaking of it to a very old woman, who sat knitting by the window of the dining-room, in a high-backed, old-fashioned arm-chair. I believe she was the innkeeper’s grandmother. At all events she was old enough to be so. She took off her owl-eyed spectacles, and, as she wiped the glasses with her handkerchief, said;
“Thou dear Heaven! Is it possible! Did you never hear of the Christ of Andernach?”
Flemming answered in the negative.
“Thou dear Heaven!” continued the old woman. “It is a very wonderful story; and a true one, as every good Christian in Andernach will tell you. And it all happened before the deathof my blessed man, four years ago, let me see,–yes, four years ago, come Christmas.”
Here the old woman stopped speaking, but went on with her knitting. Other thoughts seemed to occupy her mind. She was thinking, no doubt, of her blessed man, as German widows call their dead husbands. But Flemming having expressed an ardent wish to hear the wonderful story, she told it, in nearly the following words.
“There was once a poor old woman in Andernach whose name was Frau Martha, and she lived all alone in a house by herself, and loved all the Saints and the blessed Virgin, and was as good as an angel, and sold pies down by the Rheinkrahn. But her house was very old, and the roof-tiles were broken, and she was too poor to get new ones, and the rain kept coming in, and no Christian soul in Andernach would help her. But the Frau Martha was a good woman, and never did anybody any harm, but went to mass every morning, and sold pies by the Rheinkrahn. Now one dark, windy night, when all the good Christians in Andernachwere abed and asleep in the feathers, Frau Martha, who slept under the roof, heard a great noise over her head, and in her chamber, drip! drip! drip! as if the rain were dropping down through the broken tiles. Dear soul! and sure enough it was. And then there was a pounding and hammering overhead, as if somebody were at work on the roof; and she thought it was Pelz-Nickel tearing the tiles off, because she had not been to confession often enough. So she began to pray; and the faster she said her Pater-noster and her Ave-Maria, the faster Pelz-Nickel pounded and pulled; and drip! drip! drip! it went all round her in the dark chamber, till the poor woman was frightened out of her wits, and ran to the window to call for help. Then in a moment all was still,–death-still. But she saw a light streaming through the mist and rain, and a great shadow on the house opposite. And then somebody came down from the top of her house by a ladder, and had a lantern in his hand; and he took the ladder on his shoulder and went down thestreet. But she could not see clearly, because the window was streaked with rain. And in the morning the old broken tiles were found scattered about the street, and there were new ones on the roof, and the old house has never leaked to this blessed day.
“As soon as mass was over Frau Martha told the priest what had happened, and he said it was not Pelz-Nickel, but, without doubt, St. Castor or St. Florian. Then she went to the market and told Frau Bridget all about it; and Frau Bridget said, that, two nights before, Hans Claus, the cooper, had heard a great pounding in his shop, and in the morning found new hoops on all his old hogsheads; and that a man with a lantern and a ladder had been seen riding out of town at midnight on a donkey, and that the same night the old windmill, at Kloster St. Thomas, had been mended up, and the old gate of the churchyard at Feldkirche made as good as new, though nobody knew how the man got across the river. Then Frau Martha went down to the Rheinkrahn and told all thesestories over again; and the old ferryman of Fahr said he could tell something about it; for, the very night that the churchyard-gate was mended, he was lying awake in his bed, because he could not sleep, and he heard a loud knocking at the door, and somebody calling to him to get up and set him over the river. And when he got up, he saw a man down by the river with a lantern and a ladder; but as he was going down to him, the man blew out the light, and it was so dark he could not see who he was; and his boat was old and leaky, and he was afraid to set him over in the dark; but the man said he must be in Andernach that night; and so he set him over. And after they had crossed the river, he watched the man, till he came to an image of the Holy Virgin, and saw him put the ladder against the wall, and go up and light his lamp, and then walk along the street. And in the morning he found his old boat all caulked, and tight, and painted red, and he could not for his blessed life tell who did it, unless it werethe man with the lantern. Dear soul! how strange it was!
“And so it went on for some time; and, whenever the man with the lantern had been seen walking through the street at night, so sure as the morning came, some work had been done for the sake of some good soul; and everybody knew he did it; and yet nobody could find out who he was, nor where he lived;–for, whenever they came near him, he blew out his light, and turned down another street, and, if they followed him, he suddenly disappeared, nobody could tell how. And some said it was Rübezahl; and some, Pelz-Nickel; and some, St. Anthony-on-the-Health.
“Now one stormy night a poor, sinful creature was wandering about the streets, with her babe in her arms, and she was hungry, and cold, and no soul in Andernach would take her in. And when she came to the church, where the great crucifix stands, she saw no light in the little chapel at the corner; but she sat down on a stone at the foot of the cross and began to pray, and prayed, till she fell asleep, with her poor little babe on her bosom. But she did not sleep long; for a bright light shone full in her face; and, when she opened her eyes, she saw a pale man, with a lantern, standing right before her. He was almost naked; and there was blood upon his hands and body, and great tears in his beautiful eyes, and his face was like the face of the Saviour on the cross. Not a single word did he say to the poor woman; but looked at her compassionately, and gave her a loaf of bread, and took the little babe in his arms, and kissed it. Then the mother looked up to the great crucifix, but there was no image there; and she shrieked and fell down as if she were dead. And there she was found with her child; and a few days after they both died, and were buried together in one grave. And nobody would have believed her story, if a woman, who lived at the corner, had not gone to the window, when she heard the scream, and seen the figure hang the lantern up in its place, and then set the ladder against the wall, and go up and nailitself to the cross. Since that night it has never moved again. Ach! Herr Je!”
Such was the legend of the Christ of Andernach, as the old woman in spectacles told it to Flemming. It made a painful impression on his sick and morbid soul; and he felt now for the first time in full force, how great is the power of popular superstition.
The post-chaise was now at the door, and Flemming was soon on the road to Coblentz, a city which stands upon the Rhine, at the mouth of the Mosel, opposite Ehrenbreitstein. It is by no means a long drive from Andernach to Coblentz; and the only incident which occurred to enliven the way was the appearance of a fat, red-faced man on horseback, trotting slowly towards Andernach. As they met, the mad little postilion gave him a friendly cut with his whip, and broke out into an exclamation, which showed he was from Münster;
“Jesmariosp! my friend! How is the Man in the Custom-House?”
Now to any candid mind this would seem a fair question enough; but not so thought the red-faced man on horseback; for he waxed exceedingly angry, and replied, as the chaise whirled by;
“The devil take you, and your Westphalian ham, and pumpernickel!”
Flemming called to his servant, and the servant to the postilion, for an explanation of this short dialogue; and the explanation was, that on the belfry of the Kaufhaus in Coblentz, is a huge head, with a brazen helmet and a beard; and whenever the clock strikes, at each stroke of the hammer, this giant’s head opens its great jaws and smites its teeth together, as if, like the brazen head of Friar Bacon, it would say; “Time was; Time is; Time is past.” This figure is known through all the country round about, as “The Man in the Custom-House”; and, when a friend in the country meets a friend from Coblentz, instead of saying, “How are all the good people in Coblentz?”–he says, “How is the Man in the Custom-House?” Thus the giant has a great partto play in the town; and thus ended the first day of Flemming’s Rhine-journey; and the only good deed he had done was to give an alms to a poor beggar woman, who lifted up her trembling hands and exclaimed;
“Thou blessed babe!”
CHAPTER III. HOMUNCULUS.
After all, a journey up the Rhine, in the mists and solitude of December, is not so unpleasant as the reader may perhaps imagine. You have the whole road and river to yourself. Nobody is on the wing; hardly a single traveller. The ruins are the same; and the river, and the outlines of the hills; and there are few living figures in the landscape to wake you from your musings, distract your thoughts, and cover you with dust.
Thus, likewise, thought our traveller, as he continued his journey on the morrow. The day is overcast, and the clouds threaten rain or snow. Why does he stop at the little village of Capellen? Because, right above him on the high cliff, the glorious ruin of Stolzenfels is looking at him with itshollow eyes, and beckoning to him with its gigantic finger, as if to say; “Come up hither, and I will tell thee an old tale.” Therefore he alights, and goes up the narrow village lane, and up the stone steps, and up the steep pathway, and throws himself into the arms of that ancient ruin, and holds his breath, to hear the quick footsteps of the falling snow, like the footsteps of angels descending upon earth. And that ancient ruin speaks to him with its hollow voice, and says;
“Beware of dreams! Beware of the illusions of fancy! Beware of the solemn deceivings of thy vast desires! Beneath me flows the Rhine, and, like the stream of Time, it flows amid the ruins of the Past. I see myself therein, and I know that I am old. Thou, too, shalt be old. Be wise in season. Like the stream of thy life, runs the stream beneath us. Down from the distant Alps,–out into the wide world, it bursts away, like a youth from the house of his fathers. Broad-breasted and strong, and with earnest endeavours, like manhood, it makes itself a way through these difficultmountain passes. And at length, in its old age, its stops, and its steps are weary and slow, and it sinks into the sand, and, through its grave, passes into the great ocean, which is its eternity. Thus shall it be with thee.
“In ancient times there dwelt within these halls a follower of Jesus of Jerusalem,–an Archbishop in the church of Christ. He gave himself up to dreams; to the illusions of fancy; to the vast desires of the human soul. He sought after the impossible. He sought after the Elixir of Life,–the Philosopher’s Stone. The wealth, that should have fed the poor, was melted in his crucibles. Within these walls the Eagle of the clouds sucked the blood of the Red Lion, and received the spiritual Love of the Green Dragon, but alas! was childless. In solitude and utter silence did the disciple of the Hermetic Philosophy toil from day to day, from night to night. From the place where thou standest, he gazed at evening upon hills, and vales, and waters spread beneath him; and saw how the setting sun had changed them allto gold, by an alchymy more cunning than his own. He saw the world beneath his feet; and said in his heart, that he alone was wise. Alas! he read more willingly in the book of Paracelsus, than in the book of Nature; and, believing that `where reason hath experience, faith hath no mind,’ would fain have made unto himself a child, not as Nature teaches us, but as the Philosopher taught,–a poor homunculus, in a glass bottle. And he died poor and childless!”
Whether it were worth while to climb the Stolzenfels to hear such a homily as this, some persons may perhaps doubt. But Paul Flemming doubted not. He laid the lesson to heart; and it would have saved him many an hour of sorrow, if he had learned that lesson better, and remembered it longer.
In ancient times, there stood in the citadel of Athens three statues of Minerva. The first was of olive wood, and, according to popular tradition, had fallen from heaven. The second was of bronze, commemorating the victory of Marathon; and the third of gold and ivory,–a great miracle of art, in the age of Pericles. And thus in the citadel of Time stands Man himself. In childhood, shaped of soft and delicate wood, just fallen from heaven; in manhood, a statue of bronze, commemorating struggle and victory; and lastly, in the maturity of age, perfectly shaped in gold and ivory,–a miracle of art!
Flemming had already lived through the oliveage. He was passing into the age of bronze, into his early manhood; and in his hands the flowers of Paradise were changing to the sword and shield.
And this reminds me, that I have not yet described my hero. I will do it now, as he stands looking down on the glorious landscape;–but in few words. Both in person and character he resembled Harold, the Fair-Hair of Norway, who is described, in the old Icelandic Death-Song of Regner Hairy-Breeches, as “the young chief so proud of his flowing locks; he who spent his mornings among the young maidens; he who loved toconverse with the handsome widows.” This was an amiable weakness; and it sometimes led him into mischief. Imagination was the ruling power of his mind. His thoughts were twin-born; the thought itself, and its figurative semblance in the outer world. Thus, through the quiet, still waters of his soul each image floated double, “swan and shadow.”
These traits of character, a good heart and a poetic imagination, made his life joyous and the world beautiful; till at length Death cut down the sweet, blue flower, that bloomed beside him, and wounded him with that sharp sickle, so that he bowed his head, and would fain have been bound up in the same sheaf with the sweet, blue flower. Then the world seemed to him less beautiful, and life became earnest. It would have been well if he could have forgotten the past; that he might not so mournfully have lived in it, but might have enjoyed and improved the present. But this his heart refused to do; and ever, as he floated upon the great sea of life, he looked down through thetransparent waters, checkered with sunshine and shade, into the vast chambers of the mighty deep, in which his happier days had sunk, and wherein they were lying still visible, like golden sands, and precious stones, and pearls; and, half in despair, half in hope, he grasped downward after them again, and drew back his hand, filled only with seaweed, and dripping with briny tears!–And between him and those golden sands, a radiant image floated, like the spirit in Dante’s Paradise, singing “Ave-Maria!” and while it sang, down-sinking, and slowly vanishing away.
The truth is, that in all things he acted more from impulse than from fixed principle; as is the case with most young men. Indeed, his principles hardly had time to take root; for he pulled them all up, every now and then, as children do the flowers they have planted,–to see if they are growing. Yet there was much in him which was good; for underneath the flowers and green-sward of poetry, and the good principles which would have taken root, had he given them time, therelay a strong and healthy soil of common sense,–freshened by living springs of feeling, and enriched by many faded hopes, that had fallen upon it like dead leaves.
CHAPTER IV. THE LANDLADY’S DAUGHTER.
“Allez Fuchs! allez lustig!” cried the impatient postilion to his horses, in accents, which, like the wild echo of the Lurley Felsen, came first from one side of the river, and then from the other,–that is to say, in words alternately French and German. The truth is, he was tired of waiting; and when Flemming had at length resumed his seat in the post-chaise, the poor horses had to make up the time lost in dreams on the mountain. This is far oftener the case, than most people imagine. One half of the world has to sweat and groan, that the other half may dream. It would have been a difficult task for the traveller or his postilion to persuade the horses, that these dreams were all for their good.
The next stopping-place was the little tavern of the Star, an out-of-the-way corner in the town of Salzig. It stands on the banks of the Rhine; and, directly in front of it, sheer from the water’s edge, rise the mountains of Liebenstein and Sternenfels, each with its ruined castle. These are the Brothers of the old tradition, still gazing at each other face to face; and beneath them in the valley stands a cloister,–meek emblem of that orphan child, they both so passionately loved.
In a small, flat-bottomed boat did the landlady’s daughter row Flemming “over the Rhine-stream, rapid and roaring wide.” She was a beautiful girl of sixteen; with black hair, and dark, lovely eyes, and a face that had a story to tell. How different faces are in this particular! Some of them speak not. They are books in which not a line is written, save perhaps a date. Others are great family bibles, with all the Old and New Testament written in them. Others are Mother Goose and nursery tales;–others bad tragedies or pickle-herring farces; and others, like that of the landlady’s daughter at the Star, sweet love-anthologies, and songs of the affections. It was on that account, that Flemming said to her, as they glided out into the swift stream;
“My dear child! do you know the story of the Liebenstein?”
“The story of the Liebenstein,” she answered, “I got by heart, when I was a little child.”
And here her large, dark, passionate eyes looked into Flemming’s, and he doubted not, that she had learned the story far too soon, and far too well. That story he longed to hear, as if it were unknown to him; for he knew that the girl, who had got it by heart when a child, would tell it as it should be told. So he begged her to repeat the story, which she was but too glad to do; for she loved and believed it, as if it had all been written in the Bible. But before she began, she rested a moment on her oars, and taking the crucifix, which hung suspended from her neck, kissed it, and then let it sink down into her bosom, as if it were an anchor she was letting down into her heart. Meanwhile her moist, dark eyes were turned to heaven. Perhaps her soul was walking with the souls of Cunizza, and Rahab, and Mary Magdalen. Or perhaps she was thinking of that Nun, of whom St. Gregory says, in his Dialogues, that, having greedily eaten a lettuce in a garden, without making the sign of the cross, she found herself soon after possessed with a devil.
The probability, however, is, that she was looking up to the ruined castles only, and not to heaven, for she soon began her story, and told Flemming how, a great, great many years ago, an old man lived in the Liebenstein with his two sons; and how both the young men loved the Lady Geraldine, an orphan, under their father’s care; and how the elder brother went away in despair, and the younger was betrothed to the Lady Geraldine; and how they were as happy as Aschenputtel and the Prince. And then the holy Saint Bernard came and carried away all the young men to the war, just as Napoleon did afterwards; and the young lord went to the Holy Land, and the Lady Geraldine sat in her tower and wept, and waited for her lover’s return, while the old father built the Sternenfels for them to live in when they were married. And when it was finished, the old man died; and the elder brother came back and lived in the Liebenstein, and took care of the gentle Lady. Ere long there came news from the Holy Land, that the war was over; and the heart of the gentle Lady beat with joy, till she heard that her faithless lover was coming back with a Greek wife,–the wicked man! and then she went into a convent and became a holy nun. So the young lord of Sternenfels came home, and lived in his castle in great splendor with the Greek woman, who was a wicked woman, and did what she ought not to do. But the elder brother was angry for the wrong done the gentle Lady, and challenged the lord of Sternenfels to single combat. And, while they were fighting with their great swords in the valley of Bornhofen behind the castle, the convent bells began to ring, and the Lady Geraldine came forth with a train of nuns alldressed in white, and made the brothers friends again, and told them she was the bride of Heaven, and happier in her convent than she could have been in the Liebenstein or the Sternenfels. And when the brothers returned, they found that the false Greek wife had gone away with another knight. So they lived together in peace, and were never married. And when they died–“
“Lisbeth! Lisbeth!” cried a sharp voice from the shore, “Lisbeth! Where are you taking the gentleman?”
This recalled the poor girl to her senses; and she saw how fast they were floating down stream. For in telling the story she had forgotten every thing else, and the swift current had swept them down to the tall walnut trees of Kamp. They landed in front of the Capucin Monastery. Lisbeth led the way through the little village, and turning to the right pointed up the romantic, lonely valley which leads to the Liebenstein, and even offered to go up. But Flemming patted her cheek and shook his head. He went up the valley alone.
CHAPTER V. JEAN PAUL, THE ONLY-ONE.
The man in the play, who wished for `some forty pounds of lovely beef, placed in a Mediterranean sea of brewis,’ might have seen his ample desires almost realized at the table d’hôte of the Rheinischen Hof, in Mayence, where Flemming dined that day. At the head of the table sat a gentleman, with a smooth, broad forehead, and large, intelligent eyes. He was from Baireuth in Franconia; and talked about poetry and Jean Paul, to a pale, romantic-looking lady on his right. There was music all dinner-time, at the other end of the hall; a harp and a horn and a voice; so that a great part of the fat gentleman’s conversation with the pale lady was lost to Flemming, who sat opposite to her, and could look right into her large, melancholy eyes. But what heheard, so much interested him,–indeed, the very name of the beloved Jean Paul would have been enough for this,–that he ventured to join in the conversation, and asked the German if he had known the poet personally.
“Yes; I knew him well,” replied the stranger. “I am a native of Baireuth, where he passed the best years of his life. In my mind the man and the author are closely united. I never read a page of his writings without hearing his voice, and seeing his form before me. There he sits, with his majestic, mountainous forehead, his mild blue eyes, and finely cut nose and mouth; his massive frame clad loosely and carelessly in an old green frock, from the pockets of which the corners of books project, and perhaps the end of a loaf of bread, and the nose of a bottle;–a straw hat, lined with green, lying near him; a huge walking-stick in his hand, and at his feet a white poodle, with pink eyes and a string round his neck. You would sooner have taken him for a master-carpenter than for a poet. Is he a favorite author of yours?”
Flemming answered in the affirmative.
“But a foreigner must find it exceedingly difficult to understand him,” said the gentleman. “It is by no means an easy task for us Germans.”
“I have always observed,” replied Flemming, “that the true understanding and appreciation of a poet depend more upon individual, than upon national character. If there be a sympathy between the minds of writer and reader, the bounds and barriers of a foreign tongue are soon overleaped. If you once understand an author’s character, the comprehension of his writings becomes easy.”
“Very true,” replied the German, “and the character of Richter is too marked to be easily misunderstood. Its prominent traits are tenderness and manliness,–qualities, which are seldom found united in so high a degree as in him. Over all he sees, over all he writes, are spread the sunbeams of a cheerful spirit,–the light of inexhaustible human love. Every sound of human joy and of human sorrow finds a deep-resoundingecho in his bosom. In every man, he loves his humanity only, not his superiority. The avowed object of all his literary labors was to raise up again the down-sunken faith in God, virtue, and immortality; and, in an egotistical, revolutionary age, to warm again our human sympathies, which have now grown cold. And not less boundless is his love for nature,–for this outward, beautiful world. He embraces it all in his arms.”
“Yes,” answered Flemming, almost taking the words out of the stranger’s mouth, “for in his mind all things become idealized. He seems to describe himself when he describes the hero of his Titan, as a child, rocking in a high wind upon the branches of a full-blossomed apple-tree, and, as its summit, blown abroad by the wind, now sunk him in deep green, and now tossed him aloft in deep blue and glancing sunshine,–in his imagination stood that tree gigantic;–it grew alone in the universe, as if it were the tree of eternal life; its roots struck down into the abyss; the white and red clouds hung as blossoms upon it; the moon asfruit; the little stars sparkled like dew, and Albano reposed in its measureless summit; and a storm swayed the summit out of Day into Night, and out of Night into Day.”
“Yet the spirit of love,” interrupted the Franconian, “was not weakness, but strength. It was united in him with great manliness. The sword of his spirit had been forged and beaten by poverty. Its temper had been tried by a thirty years’ war. It was not broken, not even blunted; but rather strengthened and sharpened by the blows it gave and received. And, possessing this noble spirit of humanity, endurance, and self-denial, he made literature his profession; as if he had been divinely commissioned to write. He seems to have cared for nothing else, to have thought of nothing else, than living quietly and making books. He says, that he felt it his duty, not to enjoy, nor to acquire, but to write; and boasted, that he had made as many books as he had lived years.”
“And what do you Germans consider the prominent characteristics of his genius?”
“Most undoubtedly his wild imagination and his playfulness. He throws over all things a strange and magic coloring. You are startled at the boldness and beauty of his figures and illustrations, which are scattered everywhere with a reckless prodigality;–multitudinous, like the blossoms of early summer,–and as fragrant and beautiful. With a thousand extravagances are mingled ten thousand beauties of thought and expression, which kindle the reader’s imagination, and lead it onward in a bold flight, through the glow of sunrise and sunset, and the dewy coldness and starlight of summer nights. He is difficult to understand,–intricate,– strange,–drawing his illustrations from every by-corner of science, art, and nature,–a comet, among the bright stars of German literature. When you read his works, it is as if you were climbing a high mountain, in merry company, to see the sun rise. At times you are enveloped in mist,–the morning wind sweeps by you with a shout,–you hear the far-off muttering thunders. Wide beneath you spreads the landscape,–field, meadow, town, and winding river. The ringing of distant church-bells, or the sound of solemn village clock, reaches you;–then arises the sweet and manifold fragrance of flowers,–the birds begin to sing,–the vapors roll away,–up comes the glorious sun,–you revel like the lark in the sunshine and bright blue heaven, and all is a delirious dream of soul and sense,–when suddenly a friend at your elbow laughs aloud, and offers you a piece of Bologna sausage. As in real life, so in his writings,–the serious and the comic, the sublime and the grotesque, the pathetic and the ludicrous are mingled together. At times he is sententious, energetic, simple; then again, obscure and diffuse. His thoughts are like mummies embalmed in spices, and wrapped about with curious envelopements; but within these the thoughts themselves are kings. At times glad, beautiful images, airy forms, move by you, graceful, harmonious;–at times the glaring, wild-looking fancies, chained together by hyphens, brackets, and dashes, brave and base, high and low, all in their motley dresses, go sweeping down the dusty page, like the galley-slaves, that sweep the streets of Rome, where you may chance to see the nobleman and the peasant manacled together.”
Flemming smiled at the German’s warmth, to which the presence of the lady, and the Laubenheimer wine, seemed each to have contributed something, and then said;
“Better an outlaw, than not free!–These are his own words. And thus he changes at his will. Like the God Thor, of the old Northern mythology, he now holds forth the seven bright stars in the bright heaven above us, and now hides himself in clouds, and pounds away with his great hammer.”
“And yet this is not affectation in him,” rejoined the German. “It is his nature, it is Jean Paul. And the figures and ornaments of his style, wild, fantastic, and oft-times startling, like those in Gothic cathedrals, are not merely what they seem, but massive coignes and buttresses, which support the fabric. Remove them, and the roofand walls fall in. And through these gurgoyles, these wild faces, carved upon spouts and gutters, flow out, like gathered rain, the bright, abundant thoughts, that have fallen from heaven.
“And all he does, is done with a kind of serious playfulness. He is a sea-monster, disporting himself on the broad ocean; his very sport is earnest; there is something majestic and serious about it. In every thing there is strength, a rough good-nature, all sunshine overhead, and underneath the heavy moaning of the sea. Well may he be called `Jean Paul, the Only-One.'”
With such discourse the hour of dinner passed; and after dinner Flemming went to the Cathedral. They were singing vespers. A beadle, dressed in blue, with a cocked hat, and a crimson sash and collar, was strutting, like a turkey, along the aisles. This important gentleman conducted Flemming through the church, and showed him the choir, with its heavy-sculptured stalls of oak, and the beautiful figures in brown stone, over the bishops’ tombs. He then led him, by a side-door, into theold and ruined cloisters of St. Willigis. Through the low gothic arches the sunshine streamed upon the pavement of tombstones, whose images and inscriptions are mostly effaced by the footsteps of many generations. There stands the tomb of Frauenlob, the Minnesinger. His face is sculptured on an entablature in the wall; a fine, strongly-marked, and serious countenance. Below it is a bas-relief, representing the poet’s funeral. He is carried to his grave by ladies, whose praise he sang, and thereby won the name of Frauenlob.
“This then,” said Flemming, “is the grave, not of Praise-God Bare-bones, but of Praise-the-Ladies Meissen, who wrote songs `somewhat of lust, and somewhat of love.’ But where sleeps the dust of his rival and foe, sweet Master Bartholomew Rainbow?”
He meant this for an aside; but the turkey-cock picked it up and answered;
“I do not know. He did not belong to this parish.”
It was already night, when Flemming crossedthe Roman bridge over the Nahe, and entered the town of Bingen. He stopped at the White Horse; and, before going to bed, looked out into the dim starlight from his window towards the Rhine, and his heart leaped up to behold the bold outline of the neighbouring hills crested with Gothic ruins;–which in the morning proved to be only a high, slated roof with fantastic chimneys.
The morning was bright and frosty; and the river tinged with gay colors from the rising sun. A soft, thin vapor floated in the air. In the sunbeams flashed the hoar-frost, like silver stars; and through a long avenue of trees, whose dripping branches bent and scattered pearls before him, Paul Flemming journeyed on in triumph.
I will not prolong this journey, for I am weary and way-worn, and would fain be at Heidelberg with my readers, and my hero. It was already night when he reached the Manheim gate, and drove down the long Hauptstrasse so slowly, that it seemed to him endless. The shops werelighted on each side of the street, and he saw faces at the windows here and there, and figures passing in the lamp-light, visible for a moment and then swallowed up in the darkness. The thoughts that filled his mind were strange; as are always the thoughts of a traveller, who enters for the first time a strange city. This little world had been going on for centuries before he came; and would go on for centuries after he was gone. Of all the thousands who inhabited it he knew nothing; and what knew they, or thought, of the stranger, who, in that close post-chaise, weary with travel, and chilled by the evening wind, was slowly rumbling over the paved street! Truly, this world can go on without us, if we would but think so. If it had been a hearse instead of a post-chaise, it would have been all the same to the people of Heidelberg,–though by no means the same to Paul Flemming.
But at the farther end of the city, near the Castle and the Carls-Thor, one warm heart was waiting to receive him; and this was the German heart of his friend, the Baron of Hohenfels, with whom he was to pass the winter in Heidelberg. No sooner had the carriage stopped at the irongrated gate, and the postilion blown his horn, to announce the arrival of a traveller, than the Baron was seen among the servants at the door; and, a few moments afterwards, the two long-absent friends were in each other’s arms, and Flemming received a kiss upon each cheek, and another on the mouth, as the pledge and seal of the German’s friendship. They held each other long by the hand, and looked into each other’s faces, and saw themselves in each other’s eyes, both literally and figuratively; literally, inasmuch as the images were there; and figuratively, inasmuch as each was imagining what the other thought of him, after the lapse of some years. In friendly hopes and questionings and answers, the evening glided away at the supper-table, where many more things were discussed than the roasted hare, and the Johannisberger; and they sat late into the night, conversing of the thoughts and feelings and delights, which fill the hearts of young men, who have already enjoyed and suffered, and hoped and been disappointed.
CHAPTER VI. HEIDELBERG AND THE BARON.
High and hoar on the forehead of the Jettenbühl stands the Castle of Heidelberg. Behind it rise the oak-crested hills of the Geissberg and the Kaiserstuhl; and in front, from the broad terrace of masonry, you can almost throw a stone upon the roofs of the city, so close do they lie beneath. Above this terrace rises the broad front of the chapel of Saint Udalrich. On the left, stands the slender octagon tower of the horologe, and, on the right, a huge round tower, battered and shattered by the mace of war, shores up with its broad shoulders the beautiful palace and garden-terrace of Elisabeth, wife of the Pfalzgraf Frederick. In the rear are older palaces and towers, forming a vast, irregular quadrangle;–Rodolph’s ancientcastle, with its Gothic gloriette and fantastic gables; the Giant’s Tower, guarding the drawbridge over the moat; the Rent Tower, with the linden-trees growing on its summit, and the magnificent Rittersaal of Otho-Henry, Count Palatine of the Rhine and grand seneschal of the Holy Roman Empire. From the gardens behind the castle, you pass under the archway of the Giant’s Tower into the great court-yard. The diverse architecture of different ages strikes the eye; and curious sculptures. In niches on the wall of Saint Udalrich’s chapel stand rows of knights in armour, all broken and dismembered; and on the front of Otho’s Rittersaal, the heroes of Jewish history and classic fable. You enter the open and desolate chambers of the ruin; and on every side are medallions and family arms; the Globe of the Empire and the Golden Fleece, or the Eagle of the Cæsars, resting on the escutcheons of Bavaria and the Palatinate. Over the windows and door-ways and chimney-pieces, are sculptures and mouldings of exquisite workmanship; and the eyeis bewildered by the profusion of caryatides, and arabesques, and rosettes, and fan-like flutings, and garlands of fruits and flowers and acorns, and bullocks’-heads with draperies of foliage, and muzzles of lions, holding rings in their teeth. The cunning hand of Art was busy for six centuries, in raising and adorning these walls; the mailed hands of Time and War have defaced and overthrown them in less than two. Next to the Alhambra of Granada, the Castle of Heidelberg is the most magnificent ruin of the Middle Ages.
In the valley below flows the rushing stream of the Neckar. Close from its margin, on the opposite side, rises the Mountain of All Saints, crowned with the ruins of a convent; and up the valley stretches the mountain-curtain of the Odenwald. So close and many are the hills, which eastward shut the valley in, that the river seems a lake. But westward it opens, upon the broad plain of the Rhine, like the mouth of a trumpet; and like the blast of a trumpet is at times the wintry wind through this narrow mountain pass. The blue Alsatian hills rise beyond; and, on a platform or strip of level land, between the Neckar and the mountains, right under the castle, stands the city of Heidelberg; as the old song says, “a pleasant city, when it has done raining.”
Something of this did Paul Flemming behold, when he rose the next morning and looked from his window. It was a warm, vapory morning, and a struggle was going on between the mist and the rising sun. The sun had taken the hill-tops, but the mist still kept possession of the valley and the town. The steeple of the great church rose through a dense mass of snow-white clouds; and eastward, on the hills, the dim vapors were rolling across the windows of the ruined castle, like the fiery smoke of a great conflagration. It seemed to him an image of the rising of the sun of Truth on a benighted world; its light streamed through the ruins of centuries; and, down in the valley of Time, the cross on the Christian church caught its rays, though the priests were singing in mist and darkness below.
In the warm breakfast-parlour he found the Baron, waiting for him. He was lying upon a sofa, in morning gown and purple-velvet slippers, both with flowers upon them. He had a guitar in his hand, and a pipe in his mouth, at the same time smoking, playing, and humming his favorite song from Goethe;
“The water rushed, the water swelled,
A fisher sat thereby.”
Flemming could hardly refrain from laughing at the sight of his friend; and told him it reminded him of a street-musician he once saw in Aix-la-Chapelle, who was playing upon six instruments at once; having a helmet with bells on his head, a Pan’s-reed in his cravat, a fiddle in his hand, a triangle on his knee, cymbals on his heels, and on his back a bass-drum, which he played with his elbows. To tell the truth, the Baron of Hohenfels was rather a miscellaneous youth, rather a universal genius. He pursued all things with eagerness, but for a short time only; music, poetry, painting, pleasure, even the study of the Pandects. Hisfeelings were keenly alive to the enjoyment of life. His great defect was, that he was too much in love with human nature. But by the power of imagination, in him, the bearded goat was changed to a bright Capricornus:–no longer an animal on earth, but a constellation in heaven. An easy and indolent disposition made him gentle and childlike in his manners; and, in short, the beauty of his character, like that of the precious opal, was owing to a defect in its organization. His person was tall and slightly built; his hair light; and his eyes blue, and as beautiful as those of a girl. In the tones of his voice, there was something indescribably gentle and winning; and he spoke the German language, with the soft, musical accent of his native province of Curland. In his manners, if he had not `Antinous’ easy sway,’ he had at least an easy sway of his own. Such, in few words, was the bosom friend of Flemming.
“And what do you think of Heidelberg and the old castle up there?” said he, as they seated themselves at the breakfast-table.
“Last night the town seemed very long to me,” replied Flemming; “and as to the castle, I have as yet had but a glimpse of it through the mist. They tell me there is nothing finer in its way, excepting the Alhambra of Granada; and no doubt I shall find it so. Only I wish the stone were gray and not red. But, red or gray, I foresee that I shall waste many a long hour in its desolate halls. Pray, does anybody live up there now-a-days?”
“Nobody,” answered the Baron, “but the man, who shows the Heidelberg Ton, and Monsieur Charles de Grainberg, a Frenchman, who has been there sketching ever since the year eighteen-hundred and ten. He has, moreover, written a super-magnificent description of the ruin, in which he says, that during the day only birds of prey disturb it with their piercing cries, and at night, screech-owls, and other fallow deer. These are his own words. You must buy his book and his sketches.”
“Yes, the quotation and the tone of your voice will certainly persuade me so to do.”
“Take his or none, my friend, for you will find no others. And seriously, his sketches are very good. There is one on the wall there, which is beautiful, save and except that straddle-bug figure among the bushes in the corner.”
“But is there no ghost, no haunted chamber in the old castle?” asked Flemming, after casting a hasty glance at the picture.
“Oh, certainly,” replied the Baron; “there are two. There is the ghost of the Virgin Mary in Ruprecht’s Tower, and the Devil in the Dungeon.”
“Ha! that is grand!” exclaimed Flemming, with evident delight. “Tell me the whole story, quickly! I am as curious as a child.”
“It is a tale of the times of Louis the Debonnaire,” said the Baron, with a smile; “a mouldy tradition of a credulous age. His brother Frederick lived here in the castle with him, and had a flirtation with Leonore von Luzelstein, a lady of the court, whom he afterwards despised, and was consequently most cordially hated by her. Frompolitical motives he was equally hateful to certain petty German tyrants, who, in order to effect his ruin, accused him of heresy. But his brother Louis would not deliver him up to their fury, and they resolved to effect by stratagem, what they could not by intrigue. Accordingly, Leonore von Luzelstein, disguised as the Virgin Mary, and the father confessor of the Elector, in the costume of Satan, made their appearance in the Elector’s bed-chamber at midnight, and frightened him so horribly, that he consented to deliver up his brother into the hands of two Black Knights, who pretended to be ambassadors from the Vehm-Gericht. They proceeded together to Frederick’s chamber; where luckily old Gemmingen, a brave soldier, kept guard behind the arras. The monk went foremost in his Satanic garb; but, no sooner had he set foot in the prince’s bed-chamber, than the brave Gemmingen drew his sword, and said quaintly, `Die, wretch!’ and so he died. The rest took to their heels, and were heard of no more. And now the souls of Leonore and the monk haunt the scene of their midnight crime. You will find the story in Grainberg’s book, worked up with a kind of red-morocco and burnt-cork sublimity, and great melo-dramatic clanking of chains, and hooting of owls, and other fallow deer!”
“After breakfast,” said Flemming, “we will go up to the castle. I must get acquainted with this mirror of owls, this modern Till Eulenspiegel. See what a glorious morning we have! It is truly a wondrous winter! what summer sunshine; what soft Venetian fogs! How the wanton, treacherous air coquets with the old gray-beard trees! Such weather makes the grass and our beards grow apace! But we have an old saying in English, that winter never rots in the sky. So he will come down at last in his old-fashioned, mealy coat. We shall have snow in spring; and the blossoms will be all snow-flakes. And afterwards a summer, which will be no summer, but, as Jean Paul says, only a winter painted green. Is it not so?”
“Unless I am much deceived in the climate of Heidelberg,” replied the Baron, “we shall not have to wait long for snow. We have sudden changes here, and I should not marvel much if it snowed before night.”
“The greater reason for making good use of the morning sunshine, then. Let us hasten to the castle, after which my heart yearns.”
CHAPTER VII. LIVES OF SCHOLARS.
The forebodings of the Baron proved true. In the afternoon the weather changed. The western wind began to blow, and its breath drew a cloud-veil over the face of heaven, as a breath does over the human face in a mirror. Soon the snow began to fall. Athwart the distant landscape it swept like a white mist. The storm-wind came from the Alsatian hills, and struck the dense clouds aslant through the air. And ever faster fell the snow, a roaring torrent from those mountainous clouds. The setting sun glared wildly from the summit of the hills, and sank like a burning ship at sea, wrecked in the tempest. Thus the evening set in; and winter stood at the gate wagging his white and shaggy beard, like an old harper, chanting an old rhyme:–“How cold it is! how cold it is!”
“I like such a storm as this,” said Flemming, who stood at the window, looking out into the tempest and the gathering darkness. “The silent falling of snow is to me one of the most solemn things in nature. The fall of autumnal leaves does not so much affect me. But the driving storm is grand. It startles me; it awakens me. It is wild and woful, like my own soul. I cannot help thinking of the sea; how the waves run and toss their arms about,–and the wind plays on those great harps, made by the shrouds and masts of ships. Winter is here in earnest! Whew! How the old churl whistles and threshes the snow! Sleet and rain are falling too. Already the trees are bearded with icicles; and the two broad branches of yonder pine look like the white mustache of some old German Baron.”
“And to-morrow it will look more wintry still,” said his friend. “We shall wake up and find that the frost-spirit has been at work all night building Gothic Cathedrals on our windows, just as the devil built the Cathedral of Cologne. Sodraw the curtains, and come sit here by the warm fire.”
“And now,” said Flemming, having done as his friend desired, “tell me something of Heidelberg and its University. I suppose we shall lead about as solitary and studious a life here as we did of yore in little Göttingen, with nothing to amuse us, save our own day-dreams.”
“Pretty much so,” replied the Baron; “which cannot fail to please you, since you are in pursuit of tranquillity. As to the University, it is, as you know, one of the oldest in Germany. It was founded in the fourteenth century by the Count Palatine Ruprecht, and had in the first year more than five hundred students, all busily committing to memory, after the old scholastic wise, the rules of grammar versified by Alexander de Villa Dei, and the extracts made by Peter the Spaniard from Michel Psellus’s Synopsis of Aristotle’s Organon, and the Categories, with Porphory’s Commentaries. Truly, I do not much wonder, that Eregina Scotus should have been put to death byhis scholars with their penknives. They must have been pushed to the very verge of despair.”
“What a strange picture a University presents to the imagination. The lives of scholars in their cloistered stillness;–literary men of retired habits, and Professors who study sixteen hours a day, and never see the world but on a Sunday. Nature has, no doubt, for some wise purpose, placed in their hearts this love of literary labor and seclusion. Otherwise, who would feed the undying lamp of thought? But for such men as these, a blast of wind through the chinks and crannies of this old world, or the flapping of a conqueror’s banner, would blow it out forever. The light of the soul is easily extinguished. And whenever I reflect upon these things I become aware of the great importance, in a nation’s history, of the individual fame of scholars and literary men. I fear, that it is far greater than the world is willing to acknowledge; or, perhaps I should say, than the world has thought of acknowledging. Blot out from England’s history the names of Chaucer, Shakspere, Spenser, and Milton only, and how much of her glory would you blot out with them! Take from Italy such names as Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Michel Angelo, and Raphael, and how much would still be wanting to the completeness of her glory! How would the history of Spain look if the leaves were torn out, on which are written the names of Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Calderon! What would be the fame of Portugal, without her Camoens; of France, without her Racine, and Rabelais, and Voltaire; or Germany, without her Martin Luther, her Goethe, and Schiller!–Nay, what were the nations of old, without their philosophers, poets, and historians! Tell me, do not these men in all ages and in all places, emblazon with bright colors the armorial bearings of their country? Yes, and far more than this; for in all ages and all places they give humanity assurance of its greatness; and say; Call not this time or people wholly barbarous; for thus much, even then and there, could the human mind achieve! But the boisterous world has hardlythought of acknowledging all this. Therein it has shown itself somewhat ungrateful. Else, whence the great reproach, the general scorn, the loud derision, with which, to take a familiar example, the monks of the Middle Ages are regarded! That they slept their lives away is most untrue. For in an age when books were few,–so few, so precious, that they were often chained to their oaken shelves with iron chains, like galley-slaves to their benches, these men, with their laborious hands, copied upon parchment all the lore and wisdom of the past, and transmitted it to us. Perhaps it is not too much to say, that, but for these monks, not one line of the classics would have reached our day. Surely, then, we can pardon something to those superstitious ages, perhaps even the mysticism of the scholastic philosophy, since, after all, we can find no harm in it, only the mistaking of the possible for the real, and the high aspirings of the human mind after a long-sought and unknown somewhat. I think the name of Martin Luther, the monk of Wittemberg, alone sufficient to redeem all monkhoodfrom the reproach of laziness! If this will not, perhaps the vast folios of Thomas Aquinas will;–or the countless manuscripts, still treasured in old libraries, whose yellow and wrinkled pages remind one of the hands that wrote them, and the faces that once bent over them.”
“An eloquent homily,” said the Baron laughing, “a most touching appeal in behalf of suffering humanity! For my part, I am no friend of this entire seclusion from the world. It has a very injurious effect on the mind of a scholar. The Chinese proverb is true; a single conversation across the table with a wise man, is better than ten years’ mere study of books. I have known some of these literary men, who thus shut themselves up from the world. Their minds never come in contact with those of their fellow-men. They read little. They think much. They are mere dreamers. They know not what is new nor what is old. They often strike upon trains of thought, which stand written in good authors some century or so back, and are even current in the mouths of men aroundthem. But they know it not; and imagine they are bringing forward something very original, when they publish their thoughts.”
“It reminds me,” replied Flemming, “of what Dr. Johnson said of Goldsmith, when he proposed to travel abroad in order to bring home improvements;–`He will bring home a wheelbarrow, and call that an improvement.’ It is unfortunately the same with some of these scholars.”
“And the worst of it is,” said the Baron, “that, in solitude, some fixed idea will often take root in the mind, and grow till it overshadow all one’s thoughts. To this must all opinions come; no thought can enter there, which shall not be wedded to the fixed idea. There it remains, and grows. It is like the watchman’s wife, in the tower of Waiblingen, who grew to such a size, that she could not get down the narrow stair-case; and, when her husband died, his successor was forced to marry the fat widow in the tower.”
“I remember an old English comedy,” said Flemming laughing, “in which a scholar is described, as a creature, that can strike fire in the morning at his tinder-box,–put on a pair of lined slippers,–sit ruminating till dinner, and then go to his meat when the bell rings;–one that hath a peculiar gift in a cough, and a license to spit;–or, if you will have him defined by negatives, he is one that cannot make a good leg;–one that cannot eat a mess of broth cleanly. What think you of that?”
“That it is just as people are always represented in English comedy,” said the Baron. “The portrait is over-charged,–caricatured.”
“And yet,” continued Flemming, “no longer ago than yesterday, in the Preface of a work by Dr. Rosenkranz, Professor of Philosophy in the University of Halle, I read this passage.”
He opened a book and read.
“Here in Halle, where we have no public garden and no Tivoli, no London Exchange, no Paris Chamber of Deputies, no Berlin nor Vienna Theatres, no Strassburg Minster, nor Salzburg Alps,–no Grecian ruins nor fantastic Catholicism, in fine, nothing, which after one’s daily task is finished, can divert and refresh him, without his knowing or caring how,–I consider the sight of a proof-sheet quite as delightful as a walk in the Prater of Vienna. I fill my pipe very quietly, take out my ink-stand and pens, seat myself in the corner of my sofa, read, correct, and now for the first time really set about thinking what I have written. To see this origin of a book, this metamorphosis of manuscript into print, is a delight to which I give myself up entirely. Look you, this melancholy pleasure, which would have furnished the departed Voss with worthy matter for more than one blessed Idyl–(the more so, as on such occasions, I am generally arrayed in a morning gown, though I am sorry to say, not a calamanco one, with great flowers;) this melancholy pleasure was already grown here in Halle to a sweet, pedantic habit. Since I began my hermit’s life here, I have been printing; and so long as I remain here, I shall keep on printing. In all probability, I shall die with a proof-sheet in my hand.”
“This,” said Flemming, closing the book, “is no caricature by a writer of comedy, but a portrait by a man’s own hand. We can see by it how easily, under certain circumstances, one may glide into habits of seclusion, and in a kind of undress, slipshod hardihood, with a pipe and a proof-sheet, defy the world. Into this state scholars have too often fallen; thus giving some ground for the prevalent opinion, that scholarship and rusticity are inseparable. To me, I confess, it is painful to see the scholar and the world assume so often a hostile attitude, and set each other at defiance. Surely, it is a characteristic trait of a great and liberal mind, that it recognises humanity in all its forms and conditions. I am a student;–and always, when I sit alone at night, I recognise the divinity of the student, as she reveals herself to me in the smoke of the midnight lamp. But, because solitude and books are not unpleasant to me,–nay, wished-for,–sought after,–shall I say to my brother, Thou fool! Shall I take the world by the beard and say, Thou art old, and mad!–Shall I look society in the face and say, Thou art heartless!–Heartless! Beware of that word! Life, says very wisely the good Jean Paul, Life in every shape, should be precious to us, for the same reason that the Turks carefully collect every scrap of paper that comes in their way, because the name of God may be written upon it. Nothing is more true than this, yet nothing more neglected!”
“If it be painful to see this misunderstanding between scholars and the world,” said the Baron, “I think it is still more painful to see the private sufferings of authors by profession. How many have languished in poverty, how many died broken-hearted, how many gone mad with over-excitement and disappointed hopes! How instructive and painfully interesting are their lives! with so many weaknesses,–so much to pardon,–so much to pity,–so much to admire! I think he was not so far out of the way, who said, that, next to the Newgate Calendar, the Biography of Authors is the most sickening chapter in the history of man.”
“It is indeed enough to make one’s heart ache!” interrupted Flemming. “Only think of Johnson and Savage, rambling about the streets of London at midnight, without a place to sleep in; Otway starved to death; Cowley mad, and howling like a dog, through the aisles of Chichester Cathedral, at the sound of church music; and Goldsmith, strutting up Fleet Street in his peach-blossom coat, to knock a bookseller over the pate with one of his own volumes; and then, in his poverty, about to marry his landlady in Green Arbour Court.”
“A life of sorrow and privation, a hard life, indeed, do these poor devil authors have of it,” replied the Baron; “and then at last must get them to the work-house, or creep away into some hospital to die.”
“After all,” said Flemming with a sigh, “poverty is not a vice.”
“But something worse,” interrupted the Baron; “as Dufresny said, when he married his laundress, because he could not pay her bill. Hewas the author, as you know, of the opera of Lot; at whose representation the great pun was made;–I say the great pun, as we say the great ton of Heidelberg. As one of the performers was singing the line, `L’amour a vaincu Loth,’ (vingt culottes,) a voice from the pit cried out, `Qu’il en donne une à l’auteur!'”
Flemming laughed at the unseasonable jest; and then, after a short pause, continued;
“And yet, if you look closely at the causes of these calamities of authors, you will find, that many of them spring from false and exaggerated ideas of poetry and the poetic character; and from disdain of common sense, upon which all character, worth having, is founded. This comes from keeping aloof from the world, apart from our fellow-men; disdainful of society, as frivolous. By too much sitting still the body becomes unhealthy; and soon the mind. This is nature’s law. She will never see her children wronged. If the mind, which rules the body, ever forgets itself so far as to trample upon its slave, the slave is never generousenough to forgive the injury; but will rise and smite its oppressor. Thus has many a monarch mind been dethroned.”
“After all,” said the Baron, “we must pardon much to men of genius. A delicate organization renders them keenly susceptible to pain and pleasure. And then they idealize every thing; and, in the moonlight of fancy, even the deformity of vice seems beautiful.”
“And this you think should be forgiven?”
“At all events it is forgiven. The world loves a spice of wickedness. Talk as you will about principle, impulse is more attractive, even when it goes too far. The passions of youth, like unhooded hawks, fly high, with musical bells upon their jesses; and we forget the cruelty of the sport in the dauntless bearing of the gallant bird.”
“And thus doth the world and society corrupt the scholar!” exclaimed Flemming.
Here the Baron rang, and ordered a bottle of Prince Metternich. He then very slowly filled his pipe, and began to smoke. Flemming was lost in a day-dream.
CHAPTER VIII. LITERARY FAME.
Time has a Doomsday-Book, upon whose pages he is continually recording illustrious names. But, as often as a new name is written there, an old one disappears. Only a few stand in illuminated characters, never to be effaced. These are the high nobility of Nature,–Lords of the Public Domain of Thought. Posterity shall never question their titles. But those, whose fame lives only in the indiscreet opinion of unwise men, must soon be as well forgotten, as if they had never been. To this great oblivion must most men come. It is better, therefore, that they should soon make up their minds to this; well knowing, that, as their bodies must ere long be resolved into dust again, and their graves tell no tales of them; so musttheir names likewise be utterly forgotten, and their most cherished thoughts, purposes, and opinions have no longer an individual being among men; but be resolved and incorporated into the universe of thought. If, then, the imagination can trace the noble dust of heroes, till we find it stopping a beer-barrel, and know that
“Imperial Cæsar, dead and turned to clay,
May stop a hole to keep the wind away;”
not less can it trace the noble thoughts of great men, till it finds them mouldered into the common dust of conversation, and used to stop men’s mouths, and patch up theories, to keep out the flaws of opinion. Such, for example, are all popular adages and wise proverbs, which are now resolved into the common mass of thought; their authors forgotten, and having no more an individual being among men.
It is better, therefore, that men should soon make up their minds to be forgotten, and look about them, or within them, for some higher motive, in what they do, than the approbation of men, which is Fame; namely, their duty; that they should be constantly and quietly at work, each in his sphere, regardless of effects, and leaving their fame to take care of itself. Difficult must this indeed be, in our imperfection; impossible perhaps to achieve it wholly. Yet the resolute, the indomitable will of man can achieve much,–at times even this victory over himself; being persuaded, that fame comes only when deserved, and then is as inevitable as destiny, for it is destiny.
It has become a common saying, that men of genius are always in advance of their age; which is true. There is something equally true, yet not so common; namely, that, of these men of genius, the best and bravest are in advance not only of their own age, but of every age. As the German prose-poet says, every possible future is behind them. We cannot suppose, that a period of time will ever come, when the world, or any considerable portion of it shall have come up abreast with these great minds, so as fully to comprehend them.
And oh! how majestically they walk in history; some like the sun, with all his travelling glories round him; others wrapped in gloom, yet glorious as a night with stars. Through the else silent darkness of the past, the spirit hears their slow and solemn footsteps. Onward they pass, like those hoary elders seen in the sublime vision of an earthly Paradise, attendant angels bearing golden lights before them, and, above and behind, the whole air painted with seven listed colors, as from the trail of pencils!
And yet, on earth, these men were not happy,–not all happy, in the outward circumstance of their lives. They were in want, and in pain, and familiar with prison-bars, and the damp, weeping walls of dungeons! Oh, I have looked with wonder upon those, who, in sorrow and privation, and bodily discomfort, and sickness, which is the shadow of death, have worked right on to the accomplishment of their great purposes; toiling much, enduring much, fulfilling much;–and then, with shattered nerves, and sinews all unstrung, have laid themselves down in the grave, and slept the sleep of death,–and the world talks of them, while they sleep!
It would seem, indeed, as if all their sufferings had but sanctified them! As if the death-angel, in passing, had touched them with the hem of his garment, and made them holy! As if the hand of disease had been stretched out over them only to make the sign of the cross upon their souls! And as in the sun’s eclipse we can behold the great stars shining in the heavens, so in this life eclipse have these men beheld the lights of the great eternity, burning solemnly and forever!
This was Flemming’s reverie. It was broken by the voice of the Baron, suddenly exclaiming;
“An angel is flying over the house!–Here; in this goblet, fragrant as the honey of Hymettus, fragrant as the wild flowers in the Angel’s Meadow, I drink to the divinity of thy dreams.”
“This is all sunshine,” said Flemming, as he drank. “The wine of the Prince, and the Prince of wines. By the way, did you ever read that brilliant Italian dithyrambic, Redi’s Bacchus in Tuscany? an ode which seems to have been poured out of the author’s soul, as from a golden pitcher,
`Filled with the wine
Of the vine
That flames so red in Sansavine.’
He calls the Montepulciano the king of all wines.”
“Prince Metternich,” said the Baron, “is greater than any king in Italy; and I wonder, that this precious wine has never inspired a German poet to write a Bacchus on the Rhine. Many little songs we have on this theme, but none very extraordinary. The best are Max Schenkendorf’s Song of the Rhine, and the Song of Rhine Wine, by Claudius, a poet who never drank Rhenish without sugar. We will drink for him a blessing on the Rhine.”
And again the crystal lips of the goblets kissed each other, with a musical chime, as of evening bells at vintage-time from the villages on the Rhine. Of a truth, I do not much wonder, that the Germanpoet Schiller loved to write by candle-light with a bottle of Rhine-wine upon the table. Nor do I wonder at the worthy schoolmaster Roger Ascham, when he says, in one of his letters from Germany to Mr. John Raven, of John’s College; `Tell Mr. Maden I will drink with him now a carouse of wine; and would to God he had a vessel of Rhenish wine; and perchance, when I come to Cambridge, I will so provide here, that every year I will have a little piece of Rhenish wine.’ Nor, in fine, do I wonder at the German Emperor of whom he speaks in another letter to the same John Raven, and says, `The Emperor drank the best that I ever saw; he had his head in the glass five times as long as any of us, and never drank less than a good quart at once of Rhenish wine.’ These were scholars and gentlemen.
“But to resume our old theme of scholars and their whereabout,” said the Baron, with an unusual glow, caught no doubt from the golden sunshine, imprisoned, like the student Anselmus, in the glass bottle; “where should the scholar live? In solitudeor in society? In the green stillness of the country, where he can hear the heart of nature beat, or in the dark, gray city, where he can hear and feel the throbbing heart of man? I will make answer for him, and say, in the dark, gray city. Oh, they do greatly err, who think, that the stars are all the poetry which cities have; and therefore that the poet’s only dwelling should be in sylvan solitudes, under the green roof of trees. Beautiful, no doubt, are all the forms of Nature, when transfigured by the miraculous power of poetry; hamlets and harvest-fields, and nut-brown waters, flowing ever under the forest, vast and shadowy, with all the sights and sounds of rural life. But after all, what are these but the decorations and painted scenery in the great theatre of human life? What are they but the coarse materials of the poet’s song? Glorious indeed is the world of God around us, but more glorious the world of God within us. There lies the Land of Song; there lies the poet’s native land. The river of life, that flows through streets tumultuous, bearingalong so many gallant hearts, so many wrecks of humanity;–the many homes and households, each a little world in itself, revolving round its fireside, as a central sun; all forms of human joy and suffering, brought into that narrow compass;–and to be in this and be a part of this; acting, thinking, rejoicing, sorrowing, with his fellow-men;–such, such should be the poet’s life. If he would describe the world, he should live in the world. The mind of the scholar, also, if you would have it large and liberal, should come in contact with other minds. It is better that his armour should be somewhat bruised even by rude encounters, than hang forever rusting on the wall. Nor will his themes be few or trivial, because apparently shut in between the walls of houses, and having merely the decorations of street scenery. A ruined character is as picturesque as a ruined castle. There are dark abysses and yawning gulfs in the human heart, which can be rendered passable only by bridging them over with iron nerves and sinews, as Challey bridged the Savine in Switzerland, and Telford the sea between Anglesea and England, with chain bridges. These are the great themes of human thought; not green grass, and flowers, and moonshine. Besides, the mere external forms of Nature we make our own, and carry with us into the city, by the power of memory.”
“I fear, however,” interrupted Flemming, “that in cities the soul of man grows proud. He needs at times to be sent forth, like the Assyrian monarch, into green fields, `a wonderous wretch and weedless,’ to eat green herbs, and be wakened and chastised by the rain-shower and winter’s bitter weather. Moreover, in cities there is danger of the soul’s becoming wed to pleasure, and forgetful of its high vocation. There have been souls dedicated to heaven from childhood and guarded by good angels as sweet seclusions for holy thoughts, and prayers, and all good purposes; wherein pious wishes dwelt like nuns, and every image was a saint; and yet in life’s vicissitudes, by the treachery of occasion, by the thronging passionsof great cities, have become soiled and sinful. They resemble those convents on the river Rhine, which have been changed to taverns; from whose chambers the pious inmates have long departed, and in whose cloisters the footsteps of travellers have effaced the images of buried saints, and whose walls are written over with ribaldry and the names of strangers, and resound no more with holy hymns, but with revelry and loud voices.”
“Both town and country have their dangers,” said the Baron; “and therefore, wherever the scholar lives, he must never forget his high vocation. Other artists give themselves up wholly to the study of their art. It becomes with them almost religion. For the most part, and in their youth, at least, they dwell in lands, where the whole atmosphere of the soul is beauty; laden with it as the air may be with vapor, till their very nature is saturated with the genius of their art. Such, for example, is the artist’s life in Italy.”
“I agree with you,” exclaimed Flemming; “and such should be the Poet’s everywhere; forhe has his Rome, his Florence, his whole glowing Italy within the four walls of his library. He has in his books the ruins of an antique world,–and the glories of a modern one,–his Apollo and Transfiguration. He must neither forget nor undervalue his vocation; but thank God that he is a poet; and everywhere be true to himself, and to `the vision and the faculty divine’ he feels within him.”
“But, at any rate, a city life is most eventful,” continued the Baron. “The men who make, or take, the lives of poets and scholars, always complain that these lives are barren of incidents. Hardly a literary biography begins without some such apology, unwisely made. I confess, however, that it is not made without some show of truth; if, by incidents, we mean only those startling events, which suddenly turn aside the stream of Time, and change the world’s history in an hour. There is certainly a uniformity, pleasing or unpleasing, in literary life, which for the most part makes to-day seem twin-born with yesterday. But if, byincidents, you mean events in the history of the human mind, (and why not?) noiseless events, that do not scar the forehead of the world as battles do, yet change it not the less, then surely the lives of literary men are most eventful. The complaint and the apology are both foolish. I do not see why a successful book is not as great an event as a successful campaign; only different in kind, and not easily compared.”
“Indeed,” interrupted Flemming, “in no sense is the complaint strictly true, though at times apparently so. Events enough there are, were they all set down. A life, that is worth writing at all, is worth writing minutely. Besides, all literary men have not lived in silence and solitude;–not all in stillness, not all in shadow. For many have lived in troubled times, in the rude and adverse fortunes of the state and age, and could say with Wallenstein,
`Our life was but a battle and a march;
And, like the wind’s blast, never-resting, homeless,
We stormed across the war convulsed earth.’
Of such examples history has recorded many; Dante, Cervantes, Byron, and others; men of iron; men who have dared to breast the strong breath of public opinion, and, like spectre-ships, come sailing right against the wind. Others have been puffed out by the first adverse wind that blew; disgraced and sorrowful, because they could not please others. Truly `the tears live in an onion, that should water such a sorrow.’ Had they been men, they would have made these disappointments their best friends, and learned from them the needful lesson of self-reliance.”
“To confess the truth,” added the Baron, “the lives of literary men, with their hopes and disappointments, and quarrels and calamities, present a melancholy picture of man’s strength and weakness. On that very account the scholar can make them profitable for encouragement,–consolation,–warning.”
“And after all,” continued Flemming, “perhaps the greatest lesson, which the lives of literary men teach us, is told in a single word; Wait!–Every man must patiently bide his time. He must wait. More particularly in lands, like my native land, where the pulse of life beats with such feverish and impatient throbs, is the lesson needful. Our national character wants the dignity of repose. We seem to live in the midst of a battle,–there is such a din,–such a hurrying to and fro. In the streets of a crowded city it is difficult to walk slowly. You feel the rushing of the crowd, and rush with it onward. In the press of our life it is difficult to be calm. In this stress of wind and tide, all professions seem to drag their anchors, and are swept out into the main. The voices of the Present say, Come! But the voices of the Past say, Wait! With calm and solemn footsteps the rising tide bears against the rushing torrent up stream, and pushes back the hurrying waters. With no less calm and solemn footsteps, nor less certainly, does a great mind bear up against public opinion, and push back its hurrying stream. Therefore should every man wait;–should bide his time. Not in listless idleness,–not in uselesspastime,–not in querulous dejection; but in constant, steady, cheerful endeavours, always willing and fulfilling, and accomplishing his task, that, when the occasion comes, he may be equal to the occasion. And if it never comes, what matters it? What matters it to the world whether I, or you, or another man did such a deed, or wrote such a book, sobeit the deed and book were well done! It is the part of an indiscreet and troublesome ambition, to care too much about fame,–about what the world says of us. To be always looking into the faces of others for approval;–to be always anxious for the effect of what we do and say; to be always shouting to hear the echo of our own voices! If you look about you, you will see men, who are wearing life away in feverish anxiety of fame, and the last we shall ever hear of them will be the funeral bell, that tolls them to their early graves! Unhappy men, and unsuccessful! because their purpose is, not to accomplish well their task, but to clutch the `trick and fantasy of fame’; and they go to their graveswith purposes unaccomplished and wishes unfulfilled. Better for them, and for the world in their example, had they known how to wait! Believe me, the talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well; and doing well whatever you do,–without a thought of fame. If it come at all, it will come because it is deserved, not because it is sought after. And, moreover, there will be no misgivings,–no disappointment,–no hasty, feverish, exhausting excitement.”
Thus endeth the First Book of Hyperion. I make no record of the winter. Paul Flemming buried himself in books; in old, dusty books. He studied diligently the ancient poetic lore of Germany, from Frankish Legends of Saint George, and Saxon Rhyme-Chronicles, down through Nibelungen Lieds, and Helden-Buchs, and Songs of the Minnesingers and Mastersingers, and Ships of Fools, and Reinecke Foxes, and Death-Dancesand Lamentations of Damned Souls, into the bright, sunny land of harvests, where, amid the golden grain and the blue corn-flowers, walk the modern bards, and sing.
“Something the heart must have to cherish,
Must love, and joy, and sorrow learn;
Something with passion clasp, or perish,
And in itself to ashes burn.”
CHAPTER I. SPRING.
It was a sweet carol, which the Rhodian children sang of old in Spring, bearing in their hands, from door to door, a swallow, as herald of the season;
“The Swallow is come!
The Swallow is come!
O fair are the seasons, and light
Are the days that she brings,
With her dusky wings,
And her bosom snowy white.”
A pretty carol, too, is that, which the Hungarian boys, on the islands of the Danube, sing to the returning stork in Spring;
“Stork! Stork! poor Stork!
Why is thy foot so bloody?
A Turkish boy hath torn it;
Hungarian boy will heal it,
With fiddle, fife, and drum.”
But what child has a heart to sing in this capricious clime of ours, where Spring comes sailing in from the sea, with wet and heavy cloud-sails, and the misty pennon of the East-wind nailed to the mast! Yet even here, and in the stormy month of March even, there are bright, warm mornings, when we open our windows to inhale the balmy air. The pigeons fly to and fro, and we hear the whirring sound of wings. Old flies crawl out of the cracks, to sun themselves; and think it is summer. They die in their conceit; and so do our hearts within us, when the cold sea-breath comes from the eastern sea; and again,
“The driving hail
Upon the window beats with icy flail.”
The red-flowering maple is first in blossom, its beautiful purple flowers unfolding a fortnight before the leaves. The moose-wood follows, with rose-colored buds and leaves; and the dog-wood, robed in the white of its own pure blossoms. Thencomes the sudden rain-storm; and the birds fly to and fro, and shriek. Where do they hide themselves in such storms? at what firesides dry their feathery cloaks? At the fireside of the great, hospitable sun, to-morrow, not before;–they must sit in wet garments until then.
In all climates Spring is beautiful. In the South it is intoxicating, and sets a poet beside himself. The birds begin to sing;–they utter a few rapturous notes, and then wait for an answer in the silent woods. Those green-coated musicians, the frogs, make holiday in the neighbouring marshes. They, too, belong to the orchestra of Nature; whose vast theatre is again opened, though the doors have been so long bolted with icicles, and the scenery hung with snow and frost, like cobwebs. This is the prelude, which announces the rising of the broad green curtain. Already the grass shoots forth. The waters leap with thrilling pulse through the veins of the earth; the sap through the veins of the plants and trees; and the blood through the veins of man. What a thrill of delight in spring-time! What a joy in being and moving! Men are at work in gardens; and in the air there is an odor of the fresh earth. The leaf-buds begin to swell and blush. The white blossoms of the cherry hang upon the boughs like snow-flakes; and ere long our next-door neighbours will be completely hidden from us by the dense green foliage. The May-flowers open their soft blue eyes. Children are let loose in the fields and gardens. They hold butter-cups under each others’ chins, to see if they love butter. And the little girls adorn themselves with chains and curls of dandelions; pull out the yellow leaves to see if the schoolboy loves them, and blow the down from the leafless stalk, to find out if their mothers want them at home.
And at night so cloudless and so still! Not a voice of living thing,–not a whisper of leaf or waving bough,–not a breath of wind,–not a sound upon the earth nor in the air! And overhead bends the blue sky, dewy and soft, and radiant with innumerable stars, like the inverted bellof some blue flower, sprinkled with golden dust, and breathing fragrance. Or if the heavens are overcast, it is no wild storm of wind and rain; but clouds that melt and fall in showers. One does not wish to sleep; but lies awake to hear the pleasant sound of the dropping rain.
It was thus the Spring began in Heidelberg.
CHAPTER II. A COLLOQUY.
“And what think you of Tiedge’s Urania,” said the Baron smiling, as Paul Flemming closed the book, and laid it upon the table.
“I think,” said Flemming, “that it is very much like Jean Paul’s grandfather,–in the highest degree poor and pious.”
“Bravo!” exclaimed the Baron. “That is the best criticism I have heard upon the book. For my part, I dislike the thing as much as Goethe did. It was once very popular, and lay about in every parlour and bed-room. This annoyed the old gentleman exceedingly; and I do not wonder at it. He complains, that at one time nothing was sung or said but this Urania. He believed in Immortality; but wished to cherish his belief inquietness. He once told a friend of his, that he had, however, learned one thing from all this talk about Tiedge and his Urania; which was, that the saints, as well as the nobility, constitute an aristocracy. He said he found stupid women, who were proud because they believed in Immortality with Tiedge, and had to submit himself to not a few mysterious catechizings and tea-table lectures on this point; and that he cut them short by saying, that he had no objection whatever to enter into another state of existence hereafter, but prayed only that he might be spared the honor of meeting any of those there, who had believed in it here; for, if he did, the saints would flock around him on all sides, exclaiming, Were we not in the right? Did we not tell you so? Has it not all turned out just as we said? And, with such a conceited clatter in his ears, he thought that, before the end of six months, he might die of ennui in Heaven itself.”
“How shocked the good old ladies must have been,” said Flemming.
“No doubt, their nerves suffered a little; but the young ladies loved him all the better for being witty and wicked; and thought if they could only marry him, how they would reform him.”
“Bettina Brentano, for instance.”
“O no! That happened long afterwards. Goethe was then a silver-haired old man of sixty. She had never seen him, and knew him only by his writings; a romantic girl of seventeen.”
“And yet much in love with the Sexagenarian. And surely a more wild, fantastic, and, excuse me, German passion never sprang up in woman’s breast. She was a flower, that worshipped the sun.”
“She afterwards married Achim von Arnim, and is now a widow. And not the least singular part of the affair, is, that, having grown older, and I hope colder, she should herself publish the letters which passed between her and Goethe.”
“Particularly the letter in which she describes her first visit to Weimar, and her interview with the hitherto invisible divinity of her dreams. The old gentleman took her upon his knees, and she fell asleep with her head upon his shoulder. It reminds me of Titania and Nick Bottom, begging your pardon, always, for comparing your All-sided-One to Nick Bottom. Oberon must have touched her eyes with the juice of Love-in-idleness. However, this book of Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child is a very singular and valuable revelation of the feelings, which he excited in female hearts. You say she afterwards married Achim von Arnim?”
“Yes; and he and her brother, Clemens Brentano, published that wondrous book, the Boy’s Wonder-Horn.”
“The Boy’s Wonder-Horn!” said Flemming, after a short pause, for the name seemed to have thrown him into a reverie;–“I know the book almost by heart. Of all your German books it is the one which produces upon my imagination the most wild and magic influence. I have a passion for ballads!”
“And who has not?” said the Baron with asmile. “They are the gypsy-children of song, born under green hedgerows, in the leafy lanes and by-paths of literature,–in the genial summer-time.”
“Why do you say summer-time and not summer?” inquired Flemming. “The expression reminds me of your old Minnesingers;–of Heinrich von Ofterdingen, and Walter von der Vogelweide, and Count Kraft von Toggenburg, and your own ancestor, I dare say, Burkhart von Hohenfels. They were always singing of the gentle summer-time. They seem to have lived poetry, as well as sung it; like the birds who make their marriage beds in the voluptuous trees.”
“Is that from Shakspere?”
“No; from Lope de Vega.”
“You are deeply read in the lore of antiquity, and the Aubades and Watch-Songs of the old Minnesingers. What do you think of the shoe-maker poets that came after them,–with their guilds and singing-schools? It makes me laugh to think how the great German Helicon, shrunk toa rivulet, goes bubbling and gurgling over the pebbly names of Zwinger, Wurgendrussel, Buchenlin, Hellfire, Old Stoll, Young Stoll, Strong Bopp, Dang Brotscheim, Batt Spiegel, Peter Pfort, and Martin Gumpel. And then the Corporation of the Twelve Wise Masters, with their stumpfereime and klingende-reime, and their Hans Tindeisen’s rosemary-weise; and Joseph Schmierer’s flowery-paradise-weise, and Frauenlob’s yellow-weise, and blue-weise, and frog-weise, and looking-glass-weise!”
“O, I entreat you,” exclaimed Flemming, laughing, “do not call those men poets! You transport me to quaint old Nuremberg, and I see Hans Sachs making shoes, and Hans Folz shaving the burgomaster.”
“By the way,” interrupted the Baron, “did you ever read Hoffmann’s beautiful story of Master Martin, the Cooper of Nuremberg? I will read it to you this very night. It is the most delightful picture of that age, which you can conceive. But look! the sun has already set behindthe Alsatian hills. Let us go up to the castle and look for the ghost in Prince Ruprecht’s tower. O, what a glorious sunset!”
Flemming looked at the evening sky, and a shade of sadness stole over his countenance. He told not to his friend the sorrow, with which his heart was heavy; but kept it for himself alone. He knew that the time, which comes to all men,–the time to suffer and be silent,–had come to him likewise; and he spake no word. O well has it been said, that there is no grief like the grief which does not speak.
CHAPTER III. OWL-TOWERS.
“There sits the old Frau Himmelhahn, perched up in her owl-tower,” said the Baron to Flemming, as they passed along the Hauptstrasse. “She looks down through her round-eyed spectacles from her nest up there, and watches every one that goes by. I wonder what mischief she is hatching now? Do you know she has nearly ruined your character in town? She says you have a rakish look, because you carry a cane, and your hair curls. Your gloves, also, are a shade too light for a strictly virtuous man.”
“It is very kind in her to take such good care of my character, particularly as I am a stranger in town. She is doubtless learned in the Clothes-Philosophy.”
“And ignorant of every thing else. She asked a friend of mine the other day, whether Christ was a Catholic or a Protestant.”
“That is really too absurd!”
“Not too absurd to be true. And, ignorant as she is, she contrives to do a good deal of mischief in the course of the year. Why, the ladies already call you Wilhelm Meister.”