« السابقةمتابعة »
Novalis in his character of Poet, properly so | Light was snapped asunder. Vanishes the
These Hymns to the Night, it will be remem-common one; and there too not without ori bered, were written shortly after the death of ginality. By far the greater part of his First his mistress: in that period of deep sorrow, volume is occupied with a Romance, Heinrich or rather of holy deliverance from sorrow. von Ofterdingen, written, so far as it goes, much Novalis himself regarded them as his most in the every-day manner; we have adverted finished productions. They are of a strange the less to it, because we nowise reckon it veiled, almost enigmatical character; never- among his most remarkable compositions. theless, more deeply examined, they appear Like many of the others, it has been left as a Fragment; nay, from the account Tieck nowise without true poetic worth; there is a vastness, an immensity of idea; a still solem- gives of its ulterior plan, and how from the nity reigns in them, a solitude almost as of solid prose world of the first part, this "Apo. extinct worlds. Here and there, too, some theosis of Poetry" was to pass, in the Second, lightbeam visits us in the void deep; and we into a mythical, fairy, and quite fantastic world, cast a glance, clear and wondrous, into the critics have doubted, whether, strictly speakA full com- ing, it could have been completed. From this secrets of that mysterious soul. mentary on the Hymns to the Night would be an work, we select two passages, as specimens of exposition of Novalis's whole theological and Novalis's manner in the more common style of moral creed; for it lies recorded there, though composition; premising, which in this one insymbolically, and in lyric, not in didactic lan- stance we are entitled to do, that whatever exguage. We have translated the third, as the cellence they may have will be universally shortest and simplest; imitating its light, half-appreciable. The first is the introduction to measured style; above all, decyphering its the whole Narrative, as it were, the text of the vague deep-laid sense, as accurately as we whole; the "Blue Flower" there spoken of being could. By the word "Night," it will be seen, Poetry, the real object, passion and vocation Novalis means much more than the common of young Heinrich, which, through manifold opposite of Day. "Light" seems, in these adventures, exertions, and sufferings, he is to poems, to shadow forth our terrestrial life; seek and find. His history commences thus: Night the primeval and celestial life:
Once when I was shedding bitter tears, when dissolved in pain my Hope had melted away, and I stood solitary by the grave that in its dark narrow space concealed the Form of my life; solitary as no other had been; chased by unutterable anguish; powerless; one thought and that of misery;-here now as I looked round for help; forward could not go, nor backward, but clung to a transient extinguished Life with unutterable longing;-lo, from the azure distance, down from the heights of my old Blessedness, came a chill Breath of Dusk, and suddenly the band of Birth, the fetter of
"The old people were already asleep; the clock was beating its monotonous tick on the wall; the wind blustered over the rattling windows; by turns, the chamber was lighted by the sheen of the moon. The young man lay restless in his bed; and thought of the stranger and his stories. Not the treasures, is it' said he to himself, that have awakened in me so unspeakable a desire; far from me is all covetousness; but the Blue Flower is what I long to behold. It lies incessantly in my heart, and I can think and fancy of nothing else. Never did I feel so before: it is as if, till now, I had been dreaming, or as if sleep had carried me
into another world; for in the world I used undressed himself and stept into the basin. He to live in, who 'troubled himself about flowers? felt as if a sunset cloud were floating round him; a heavenly emotion streamed over his soul ; in deep pleasure innumerable thoughts strove to blend within him; new, unseen images arose, which also melted together, and became visible beings around him; and every wave of that lovely element pressed itself on him like a soft bosom. The flood seemed a Spirit of Beauty, which from moment to moment was taking form round the youth.
Such wild passion for a Flower was never heard of there. But whence could that stranger have come? None of us ever saw such a man; yet I know not how I alone was so caught with his discourse; the rest heard the very same, yet none seems to mind it. And then that I cannot even speak of my strange condition! I feel such rapturous contentment; and only then when I have not the Flower rightly before my eyes, does so deep heartfelt an eagerness come over me, these things no one will or can believe. I could fancy I were mad, if I did not see, did not think with such perfect clearness; since that day, all is far better known to me. I have heard tell of ancient times; how animals and trees and rocks used to speak with men. This is even my feeling; as if they were on the point of breaking out, and I could see in them, what they wished to say to me. There must be many a word which I know not: did I know more, I could better comprehend these matters. Once I liked dancing; now I had rather think to the music.'-The young man lost himself, by degrees, in sweet fancies, and fell asleep. He dreamed first of immeasurable distances, and wild unknown regions. He wandered over seas with incredible speed; strange animals he saw; he lived with many varieties of men, now in war, in wild tumult, now in peaceful huts. He was taken captive, and fell into the lowest wretchedness. All emotions rose to a height as yet unknown to him. He lived through an infinitely variegated life; died, and came back; loved to the highest passion, and then again was for ever parted from his loved one. At length towards morning, as the dawn broke up without, his spirit also grew stiller, the images grew clearer and more permanent. It seemed to him he was walking alone in a dark wood. Only here and there did day glimmer through the green net. Ere long he came to a rocky chasm, which mounted upwards. He had to climb over many crags, which some former stream had rolled down. The higher he came, the lighter grew the wood. At last he arrived at a little meadow, which lay on the declivity of the mountain. Beyond the meadow rose a high cliff, at the foot of which he observed an opening, that seemed to be the entrance of a passage hewn in the rock. The passage led him easily on, for some time, to a great subterranean expanse, out of which from afar a bright gleam was visible. On entering, he perceived a strong beam of light, which sprang as if from a fountain to the roof of the cave, and sprayed itself into innumerable sparks, which collected below in a great basin: the beam glanced like kindled gold: not the faintest noise was to be heard, a sacred silence encircled the glorious sight. He approached the basin, which waved and quivered with infinite hues. The walls of the cave were coated with this fluid, which was not hot but cool, and on the walls, threw out a faint bluish light. He dipt his hand in the basin, and wetted his lips. It was as if the breath of a spirit went through him; and he felt himself in his inmost heart strengthened and refreshed. An irresistible desire seized him to bathe; he
Intoxicated with rapture, and yet conscious of every impression, he floated softly down that glittering stream, which flowed out from the basin into the rocks. A sort of sweet slumber fell upon him, in which he dreamed indescribable adventures, and out of which a new light awoke him. He found himself on a soft sward at the margin of a spring, which welled out into the air, and seemed to dissipate itself there. Dark-blue rocks, with many-coloured veins, rose at some distance; the daylight which encircled him was clearer and milder than the common; the sky was black-blue, and altogether pure. But what attracted him infinitely most was a high, light-blue Flower, which stood close by the spring, touching it with its broad glittering leaves. Round it stood innumerable flowers of all colours, and the sweetest perfuine filled the air. He saw nothing but the Blue Flower; and gazed on it long with nameless tenderness. At last he was for approaching, when all at once it began to move and change; the leaves grew more resplendent, and clasped themselves round the waxing stem; the Flower bent itself towards him; and the petals showed like a blue spreading ruff, in which hovered a lovely face. His sweet astonishment at this transformation was increasing,-when suddenly his mother's voice awoke him, and he found himself in the house of his parents, which the morning sun was already gilding."
Our next and last extract is likewise of a dream. Young Heinrich with his mother travels a long journey to see his grandfather at Augsburg; converses, on the way, with merchants, miners, and red-cross warriors, (for it is in the time of the crusades ;) and soon after his arrival, falls immeasurably in love with Matilda, the Poet Klingsohr's daughter, in whose face was that fairest one he had seen in his old vision of the Blue Flower. Matilda, it would appear, is to be taken from him by death (as Sophie was from Novalis :) meanwhile, dreading no such event, Heinrich abandons himself with full heart to his new emotions:
'He went to the window. The choir of the Stars stood in the deep hea. en; and in the east, a white gleam announced the coming day.
"Full of rapture, Heinrich exclaimed: 'You, ye everlasting Stars, ye silent wanderers, I call you to witness my sacred oath. For Matilda will I live, and eternal faith shall unite my heart and hers. For me, too, the morn of an everlasting day is dawning. The night is byto the rising Sun, I kindle myself, as a sacrifice that will never be extinguished.'
"Heinrich was heated; and not till late. towards morning, did he fall asleep. In strange dreams the thoughts of his soul imbodied
themselves. A deep blue river gleamed from | selected and exhibited here in such manner as the plain. On its smooth surface floated a seemed the fittest for our object, and with a bark; Matilda was sitting there, and steering. true wish on our part, that what little judg She was adorned with garlands: was singing ment was in the meanwhile to be formed of a simple Song, and looking over to him with such a man, might be a fair and honest one fond sadness. His bosom was full of anxiety. Some of the passages we have translated will He knew not why. The sky was clear, the appear obscure; others, we hope, are not withstream calm. Her heavenly countenance was out symptoms of a wise and deep meaning; the mirrored in the waves. All at once the bark rest may excite wonder, which wonder agai began to whirl. He called earnestly to her. it will depend on each reader for himself She smiled, and laid down her helm in the whether he turn to right account or to wrong boat, which continued whirling. An unspeak- account, whether he entertain as the parent of able terror took hold of him. He dashed into Knowledge, or as the daughter of Ignorance. the stream; but he could not get forward; the For the great body of readers, we are aware, water carried him. She beckoned, she seemed there can be little profit in Novalis, who rather as if she wished to say something to him; the employs our time than helps us to kill it; for bark was filling with water; yet she smiled such any farther study of him would be unadwith unspeakable affection, and looked cheer- visable. To others again, who prize Truth as fully into the vertex. All at once it drew her the end of all reading, especially to that class in. A faint breath rippled over the stream, who cultivate moral science as the developwhich flowed on as calm and glittering as be- ment of purest and highest Truth, we can refore. His horrid agony robbed him of con- commend the perusal and re-perusal of Novasciousness. His heart ceased beating. On lis with almost perfect confidence. If they returning to himself, he was again on dry land. feel, with us, that the most profitable employ It seemed as if he had floated far. It was a ment any book can give them, is to study strange region. He knew not what had passed honestly some earnest, deep-minded, truthwith him. His heart was gone. Unthinking loving Man, to work their way into his manner he walked deeper into the country. He felt of thought, till they see the world with his inexpressibly weary. A little well gushed eyes, feel as he felt, and judge as he judged, from a hill; it sounded like perfect bells. neither believing nor denying, till they can in With his hands he lifted some drops, and some measure so feel and judge,—then we may wetted his parched lips. Like a sick dream, assert, that few books known to us are more lay the frightful event behind him. Farther worthy of their attention than this. They will and farther he walked; flowers and trees find it, if we mistake not, an unfathomed mine spoke to him. He felt so well, so at home of philosophical ideas, where the keenest intelin the scene. Then he heard that simple lect may have occupation enough; and in Song again. He ran after the sounds. Sud- such occupation, without looking farther, redenly some one held him by the clothes. 'Dear ward enough. All this, if the reader proceed Henry,' cried a well-known voice. He looked on candid principles; if not, it will be all round, and Maltilda clasped him in her arms otherwise. To no man, so much as to Novalis, 'Why didst thou run from me, dear heart?" is that famous motto applicable: said she, breathing deep: 'I could scarcely overtake thee.' Heinrich wept. He pressed her to him. Where is the river?' cried he in tears. Seest thou not its blue waves above us?' He looked up, and the blue river was flowing softly over their heads. Where are we, dear Matilda!' With our Fathers.' -Shall we stay together?'-For ever,' answered she, pressing her lips to his, and so clasping him that she could not again quit hold. She put a wondrous, secret Word in his mouth, and it pierced through all his being. He was about to repeat it, when his Grandfather called, and he awoke. He would have given his life to remember that Word."
This image of Death, and of the River being the Sky in that other and eternal country, seems to us a fine and touching one; there is in it a trace of that simple sublimity, that soft still pathos, which are characteristics of Novalis, and doubtless the highest of his specially poetic gifts.
But on these, and what other gifts and deficiencies pertain to him, we can no farther insist: for now, after such multifarious quotations, and more or less stinted commentaries, we must consider our little enterprise in respect of Novalis to have reached its limits, to be, if not completed, concluded. Our reader has heard him largely; on a great variety of topics,
Leser, wie gefall' ich Dir?
Reader, how likest thou me ?
For the rest, it were but a false proceeding did we attempt any formal character of Novalis in this place; did we pretend with such means as ours to reduce that extraordinary nature under common formularies; and in few words sum up the net total of his worth and worthlessness. We have repeatedly expressed our own imperfect knowledge of the matter, and our entire despair of bringing even an approximate picture of it before readers so foreign to him. The kind words, "amiable enthusiast," poetic dreamer;" or the unkind ones, "German mystic," "crackbrained rhapsodist," are easily spoken and written; but would avail little in this instance. If we are not altogether mistaken, Novalis cannot be ranged under any of these noted categories; but, belongs to a higher and much less known one, the significance of which is perhaps also worth studying, at all events, will not till after long study bccome clear to us.
Meanwhile, let the reader accept some vague impressions of ours on this subject, since we have no fixed judgment to offer him. We might say that the chief excellence, we have
remarked in Novalis, is his to us truly wonder- | opposite of inert; we hear expressly of his ful subtlety of intellect; his power of intense quickness and vehemence of movement. abstraction, of pursuing the deepest and most evanescent ideas, through their thousand complexities, as it were, with lynx vision, and to the very limits of human Thought. He was well skilled in mathematics, and, as we can easily believe, fond of that science; but his is a far finer species of endowment than any required in mathematics, where the mind, from the very beginning of Euclid to the end of Laplace, is assisted with visible symbols, with safe implements for thinking; nay, at least in what is called the higher mathematics, has often little more than a mechanical superintendence to exercise over these. This power of abstract meditation, when it is so sure and clear as we sometimes find it with Novalis, is a much higher and rarer one; its element is not mathematics, but that Mathesis, of which it has been said many a Great Calculist has not even a notion. In this power truly, so far as logical and not moral power is concerned, lies the summary of all Philosophic talent: which talent accordingly we imagine Novalis to have possessed in a very high degree; in a higher degree than almost any other modern writer we have met with.
In regard to the character of his genius, or rather perhaps of his literary significance, and the form under which he displayed his genius, Tieck thinks he may be likened to Dante. "For him," says he, "it had become the most natural disposition to regard the commonest and nearest as a wonder, and the strange, the supernatural as something common; men's everyday life itself lay round him like a wondrous fable, and those regions which the most dream of or doubt of as of a thing distant, incomprehensible, were for him a beloved home. Thus did he, uncorrupted by examples, find out for himself a new method of delineation; and in his multiplicity of meaning; in his view of Love, and his belief in Love, as at once his Instructor, his Wisdom, his Religion; in this too that a single grand incident of life, and one deep sorrow and bereavement grew to be the essence of his Poetry and Contemplation,—he alone among the moderns resembles the lofty Dante; and sings us, like him, an unfathomable, mystic song, far different from that of many imitators, who think to put on mysticism and put it off, like a piece of dress." Considering the tendency of his poetic endeavours, as well as the general spirit of his philosophy, this flattering comparison may turn out to be better founded than at first sight it seems to be. Nevertheless, were we required to illustrate Novalis in this way, which at all times must be a very loose one, we should incline rather to call him the German Pascal than the German Dante. Between Pascal and Novalis, a lover of such analogies might trace not a few points of resemblance. Both are of the purest, most affectionate moral nature; both of a high, fine, discursive intellect; both are mathemati cians and naturalists, yet occupy themselves chiefly with Religion: nay, the best writings of both are left in the shape of "Thoughts," materials of a grand scheme, which each of them, with the views peculiar to his age, had planned, we may say, for the furtherance of Religion, and which neither of them lived to execute. Nor in all this would it fail to be carefully remarked, that Novalis was not the French but the German Pascal; and from the intellectual habits of the one and the other, many national contrasts and conclusions might be drawn; which we leave to those that have a taste for such parallels.
His chief fault again figures itself to us as a certain undue softness, want of rapid energy; something which we might term passiveness exteuding both over his mind and his character. There is a tenderness in Novalis, a purity, a clearness, almost as of a woman; but he has not, at least not at all in that degree, the emphasis and resolute force of a man. Thus, in his poetical delineations, as we complained above, he is too diluted and diffuse; not verbose properly; not so much abounding in superfluous words, as in superfluous circumstances, which indeed is but a degree better. In his philosophical speculations, we feel as if, under a different form, the same fault were now and then manifested. Here again, he seems to us, in one sense, too languid, too passive. He sits, we might say, among the rich, fine, thousandfold combinations, which his mind almost of itself presents him; but, perhaps, he shows too little activity in the process, is too lax in separating the true from the doubtful, is not even at the trouble to express his truth with any laborious accuracy. With his stillness, with his deep love of Nature, his mild, lofty, spiritual tone of contemplation, he comes before us in a sort of Asiatic character, almost like our ideal of some antique Gymnosophist, and with the weakness as well as the strength of an Oriental. However, it should be remembered that his works both poetical and philosophical, as we now see them, appear under many dis advantages; altogether immature, and not as doctrines and delineations, but as the rude draught of such; in which, had they been completed, much was to have changed its shape, and this fault with many others might have disappeared. It may be, therefore, that this is only a superficial fault, or even only the appearance of a fault, and has its origin in these circumstances, and in our imperfect understanding of him. In personal and bodily habits, at least, Novalis appears to have been the
We have thus endeavoured to communicate some views, not of what is vulgarly called, but of what is German Mystic; to afford English readers a few glimpses into his actual household establishment, and show them by their own inspection how he lives and works. We have done it, moreover, not in the style of derision, which would have been so easy, but in that of serious inquiry, which seemed so much more profitable. For this we anticipate not censure, but thanks, from our readers. Mysticism, whatever it may be, should, like other actually existing things, be understood in wellinformed minds. We have observed, indeed, that the old-established laugh on this subject has been getting rather hollow of late; and seems as if, ere long, it would in a great mea
sure die away. It appears to us that, in England, there is a distinct spirit of tolerant and sober investigation abroad, in regard to this and other kindred matters; a persuasion, fast spreading wider and wider, that the plummet of French or Scotch Logic, excellent, nay, indispensable as it is for surveying all coasts and harbours, will absolutely not sound the deep-seas of human Inquiry; and that many a Voltaire and Hume, well-gifted and highly meritorious men, were far wrong in reckoning that when their six hundred fathoms were out, they had reached the bottom, which, as in the Atlantic, may lie unknown miles lower. Six hundred fathoms is the longest, and a most valuable nautical line: but many men sound with six and fewer fathoms, and arrive at precisely the same conclusion.
"The day will come," said Lichtenberg, in bitter irony, "when the belief in God will be
like that in nursery Spectres;" or, as Jean Paul
SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1829.]
or individuals, that they deal much in vaticination. Happy men are full of the present, for its bounty suffices them; and wise men also, for its duties engage them. Our grand business undoubtedly is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
Ir is no very good symptom either of nations | ture on such actions and imaginations, as large communities of sane men have, in such circumstances, entertained as sound wisdom. Witness long scenes of the French Revolution! a whole people drunk with blood and arrogance, and then with terror and cruelty, and with des. peration, and blood again! Levity is no pro tection against such visitations, nor the utmost earnestness of character. The New England Puritan burns witches, wrestles for months with the horrors of Satan's invisible world, and all ghastly phantasms, the daily and hourly precursors of the Last Day; then suddenly bethinks him that he is frantic, weeps bitterly, prays contritely, and the history of that gloomy season lies behind him like a frightful dream.
Know'st thou Yesterday, its aim and reason? Work'st thou well To-day, for worthy things? Then calmly wait the Morrow's hidden season, And fear not thou, what hap soe'er it brings! But man's" large discourse of reason" will look "before and after;" and, impatient of "the ignorant present time," will indulge in anticipation far more than profits him. Seldom can the unhappy be persuaded that the evil of the day is sufficient for it; and the ambitious will not be content with present splendour, but paints yet more glorious triumphs, on the cloud-curtain of the future.
The case, however, is still worse with nations. For here the prophets are not one, but many; and each incites and confirms the other; so that the fatidical fury spreads wider and wider, till at last even Saul must join in it. For there is still a real magic in the action, and reaction of minds on one another. The casual deliration of a few becomes, by this mysterious reverberation, the frenzy of many; men lose the use, not only of their understand ings, but of their bodily senses; while the most obdurate, unbelieving hearts melt, like the rest, in the furnace where all are cast as victims and as fuel. It is grievous to think, that this noble omnipotence of Sympathy has been so rarely the Aaron's-rod of Truth and Virtue, and so often the Enchanter's-rod of Wickedness and Folly! No solitary miscreant, scarcely any solitary maniac, would ven
And Old England has had her share of such frenzies and panics; though happily, like other old maladies, they have grown milder of late and since the days of Titus Oates, have mostly passed without loss of men's lives, or indeed without much other loss than that of reason, for the time, in the sufferers. In this mitigated form, however, the distemper is of pretty regular recurrence; and may be reckoned on at intervals, like other natural visitations; so that reasonable men deal with it, as the Londoners do with their fogs,—go cautiously out into the groping crowd, and patiently carry lanterns at noon; knowing, by a wellgrounded faith, that the sun is still in existence, and will one day reappear. How often have we heard, for the last fifty years, that the country was wrecked, and fast sinking; whereas, up to this date, the country is entire and afloat! The "State in Danger" is a condition of things, which we have witnessed a hundred times; and as for the church, it has seldom been out of "danger" since we can remember