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many partial, or considered as bad. In their criticisms of him we ourselves have long ago admitted, that no such clear judgment or hearty appreciation of his merits had ever been exhibited by any critic of our own.
own esteem and that of others, will be readily inferred. The character of a Poet does, ac. cordingly, stand higher with the Germans than with most nations. That he is a man of integrity as a man; of zeal and honest diligence in his art, and of true manly feeling towards all men, is of course presupposed. Of persons that are not so, but employ their gifts, in rhyme or otherwise, for brutish or malignant purposes, it is understood that such lie without the limits of Criticism, being subjects not for the judge of Art, but for the judge of Police. But even with regard to the fair tradesman, who offers his talent in open market, to do work of a harmless and acceptable sort for hire,with regard to this person also, their opinion is very low. The "Bread-artist," as they call him, can gain no reverence for himself from these men." Unhappy mortal!" says the mild but lofty-minded Schiller, “Unhappy mortal! that, with Science and Art, the noblest of all instruments, effectest and attemptest nothing more than the day-drudge with the meanest; that in the domain of perfect freedom, bearest about in thee the spirit of a Slave!" Nay, to the genuine Poet, they deny even the privilege of regarding what so many cherish, under the title of their "fame," as the best and highest of all. Hear Schiller again:
To attempt stating in separate aphorisms the doctrines of this new poetical system, would, in such space as is now allowed us, be to ensure them of misapprehension. The science of Criticism, as the Germans practise it, is no study of an hour; for it springs from the depths of thought, and remotely or immediately connects itself with the subtilest problems of all philosophy. One characteristic of it we may state, the obvious parent of many others. Poetic beauty, in its pure essence, is not, by this theory, as by all our theories, from Hume's to Alison's, derived from any thing external, or of merely intellectual origin; not from association, or any reflex or reminiscence of mere sensations; nor from natural love, either of imitation, of similarity in dissimilarity, of excitement by contrast, or of seeing difficulties overcome. On the contrary, it is assumed as underived; not borrowing its existence from such sources, but as lending to most of these their significance and principal charm for the mind. It dwells, and is born in the inmost Spirit of Man, united to all love of Virtue, to all true belief in God; or rather, it is one with this love and this belief, another phase of the same highest principle in the mysterious infinitude of the human Soul. To apprehend this beauty of poetry, in its full and purest brightness, is not easy, but difficult; thousands on thousands eagerly read poems, and attain not the smallest taste of it; yet to all uncorrupted hearts, some effulgences of this heavenly glory are here and there revealed; and to apprehend it clearly and wholly, to acquire and maintain a sense and heart that sees and worships it, is the last perfection of all humane culture. With mere readers for amusement, therefore, this Criticism has, and can have, nothing to do; these find their amusement, in less or greater measure, and the nature of Poetry remains for ever hidden from them in the deepest concealment. On all hands, there is no truce given to the hypothesis, that the ultimate object of the poet is to please. Sensation, even of the finest and most rapturous sort, is not the end but the means. Art is to be loved, not because of its effects, but because of itself; not because it is useful for spiritual pleasure, or even for moral culture, but because it is Art, and the highest in man, and the soul of all Beauty. To inquire after its utility, would be like inquiring after the utility of a God, or what to the Germans would sound stranger than it does to us, the utility of Virtue and Religion. On these particulars, the authenticity of which we might verify, not so much by citation of individual passages, as by reference to the scope and spirit of whole treatises, we must for the present leave our readers to their own reflections. Might we advise them, it would be to inquire farther, and, if pos-him look upwards to his dignity and the law, sible, to see the matter with their own eyes. not downwards to his happiness and his wants. Free alike from the vain activity inat longs to impress its traces on the fleeting instant, and from the querulous spirit of enthusiasm that
"But how is the Artist to guard himself from the corruptions of his time, which on every side assail him? By despising its decisions. Let
Meanwhile, that all this must tend, among the Germans, to raise the general standard of Art, and of what an Artist ought to be in his
"The Artist, it is true, is the son of his age; but pity for him if he is its pupil, or even its favourite! Let some beneficent divinity snatch him, when a suckling, from the breast of his mother, and nurse him with the milk of a better time, that he may ripen to his full stature beneath a distant Grecian sky. And having grown to manhood, let him return a foreign shape, into his century; not, however, to delight it by his presence, but dreadful, like the son of Agamemnon, to purify it. The matter of his works he will take from the present, but their form he will derive from a nobler time; nay, from beyond all time, from the absolu.e unchanging unity of his own nature. Here, from the pure æther of his spiritual essence, flows down the Fountain of Beauty, uncontami nated by the pollutions of ages and generations, which roll to and fro in their turbid vortex far beneath it. His matter, Caprice can dishonour, as she has ennobled it; but the chaste form is withdrawn from her mutations. The Roman of the first century had long bent the knee before his Cæsars, when the statues of Rome were still standing erect; the temples con tinued holy to the eye, when their gods had long been a laughing-stock; and the abominations of a Nero and a Commodus were silently rebuked by the style of the edifice, which lent them its concealment. Man has lost his dignity, but Art has saved it, and preserved it for him in expressive marbles. Truth still lives in fiction, and from the copy the original will be restored.
measures by the scale of perfection the meagre | a possession recallable at all times in the same product of reality, let him leave to mere Un- shape to his view, and a component part of derstanding, which is here at home, the province his personality: in that case he is a completed of the actual; while he strives, by uniting the and equipt Literary Man, a man who has possible with the necessary, to produce the studied. Or else, he is still struggling and ideal. This let him imprint and express in striving to make the Idea in general, or that fiction and truth; imprint it in the sport of his particular portion and point of it, from which imagination and the earnest of his actions; onwards he for his part means to penetrate the imprint it in all sensible and spiritual forms, whole,-entirely clear to himself; detached and cast it silently into everlasting time."* sparkles of light already spring forth on him Still higher are Fichte's notions on this sub- from all sides, and disclose a higher world beject; or rather expressed in higher terms, for fore him; but they do not yet unite themselves the central principle is the same both in the into an indivisible whole; they vanish from his philosopher and the poet. According to Fichte, view as capriciously as they came; he cannot there is a "Divine Idea" pervading the visible yet bring them under obedience to his freedom; Universe; which visible Universe is indeed in that case he is a progressing and self-unfoldbut its symbol and sensible manifestation, hav-ing literary man, a Student. That it be acing in itself no meaning, or even true existence tually the Idea, which is possessed or striven independent of it. To the mass of men this after, is common to both. Should the striving Divine Idea of the world lies hidden: yet to aim merely at the outward form, and the letter discern it, to seize it, and live wholly in it, is of learned culture, there is then produced, the condition of all genuine virtue, knowledge, when the circle is gone round, the completed, freedom; and the end, therefore, of all spiritual when it is not gone round, the progressing, effort in every age. Literary Men are the ap- Bungler (Stümper). The latter is more tolerapointed interpreters of this Divine Idea; able than the former; for there is still room to perpetual priesthood, we might say, standing hope that, in continuing his travel, he may at forth, generation after generation, as the dis- some future point be seized by the Idea; but pensers and living types of God's everlasting of the first all hope is over."* wisdom, to show it and imbody it in their writings and actions, in such particular form as their own particular times require it in. For each age, by the law of its nature, is different from every other age, and demands a different representation of this Divine Idea, the essence of which is the same in all; so that the literary man of one century is only by mediation and re-interpretation applicable to the wants of another. But in every century, every man who labours, be it in what province he may, to teach others, must first have possessed himself of this Divine Idea, or, at least, be with his whole heart and his whole soul striving after it. If, without possessing it or striving after it, he abide diligently by some material practical department of knowledge, he may indeed still be (says Fichte, in his usual rugged way,) a "useful hodman;" but should he attempt to deal with the Whole, and to become an architect, he is, in strictness of language, "Nothing ;"—" he is an ambiguous mongrel between the possessor of the Idea, and the man ho feels himself solidly supported and carried on by the common Reality of things; in his fruitless endeavour after the Idea, he has neglected to acquire the craft of taking part in this Reality; and so hovers between two worlds, without pertaining to either." Elsewhere he adds:
"There is still, from another point of view, another division in our notion of the Literary Man, and one to us of immediate application. Namely, either the Literary Man has already laid hold of the whole Divine Idea, in so far as it can be comprehended by man, or perhaps of a special portion of this its comprehensible part, which truly is not possible without at least a clear oversight of the whole, he has already laid hold of it, penetrated, and made it entirely clear to himself, so that it has become
* Ueber die Aesthetische Erziehung des Menschen. (On the Esthetic Education of Man.)
From this bold and lofty principle the duties of the Literary man are deduced with scientific precision; and stated, in all their sacredness and grandeur, with an austere brevity more impressive than any rhetoric. Fichte's metaphysical theory may be called in question, and readily enough misapprehended; but the sublime stoicism of his sentiments will find some response in many a heart. We must add the conclusion of his first Discourse, as a farther illustration of his manner:
"In disquisitions of the sort like ours of today, which all the rest, too, must resemble, the generality are wont to censure: First, their severity; very often on the good-natured supposition that the speaker is not aware how much his rigour must displease us; that we have but frankly to let him know this, and then doubtless he will reconsider himself, and soften his statements. Thus, we said above, that a man who, after literary culture, had not arrived at knowledge of the Divine Idea, or did not strive towards it, was in strict speech Nothing; and far ther down, we said that he was a Bungler. This is in a style of those unmerciful expressions by which philosophers give such offence.Now looking away from the present case, that we may front the maxim in its general shape, I remind you that this species of character, without decisive force to renounce all respect for Truth, seeks merely to bargain and cheapen something out of her, whereby itself on easier terms may attain to some consideration. But truth, which once for all is as she is, and cannot alter aught of her nature, goes on her way; and there remains for her, in regard to those who desire her not simply because she is true, nothing else but to leave them standing as if they had never addressed her.
"Then farther, discourses of this sort are wont
* Ueber das Wesen des Gelehrten; (On the Nature of the Literary Man ;) a Course of Lectures delivered at Jena, in 1805.
to be censured as unintelligible. Thus I figure to myself,-nowise you, Gentlemen, but some completed Literary Man of the second species, whose eye the disquisition here entered upon chanced to meet, as coming forward, doubting this way and that, and at last reflectively exclaiming: The Idea, the Divine Idea, that which lies at the bottom of Appearance: what pray may this mean?' Of such a questioner would inquire in turn: What pray may this question mean?'-Investigate it strictly, it means in most cases nothing more than this, Under what other names and in what other formulas, do I already know this same thing, which thou expressest by so strange and to me so unknown a symbol?' And to this again in most cases the only suitable reply were, Thou knowest this thing not at all, neither under this, nor under any other name; and wouldst thou arrive at the knowledge of it, thou must even now begin at the beginning to make study thereof; and then, most fitly, under that name by which it is first presented to thee!'"
"He succeeds in representing the cheerful repose of lake prospects, where houses in friendly approximation, imaging themselves in the clear wave, seem as if bathing in its depths; shores encircled with green hills, behind which rise forest mountains, and icy peaks of glaciers. The tone of colouring in such scenes is gay, mirthfully clear; the distances as if overflowed with softening vapour, which
from watered hollows and river valleys mounts up grayer and mistier, and indicates their windings. No less is the master's art to be praised in views from valleys lying nearer the high Alpine ranges, where declivities slope down, luxuriantly overgrown, and fresh streams roll hastily along by the foot of rocks.
"With exquisite skill, in the deep shady trees of the foreground, he gives the distinctive character of the several species, satisfying us in the form of the whole, as in the structure of the branches, and the details of the leaves; no less so in the fresh green with its manifold shadings, where soft airs appear as if fanning us with benignant breath, and the lights as if thereby put in motion.
"In the middle-ground, his lively green tone grows fainter by degrees; and at last, on the more distant mountain-tops, passing into weak violet, weds itself with the blue of the sky. But our artist is above all happy in his paintings of high Alpine regions; in seizing the simple greatness and stillness of their character; the wide pastures on the slopes, where dark solitary firs stand forth from the grassy carpet; and from high cliffs, foaming brooks rush down. Whether he relieves his pasturages with grazing cattle, or the narrow winding rocky path with mules and laden pack-horses, he paints all with equal truth and richness; still, introduced in the proper place, and not in too great copiousness, they decorate and enliven these scenes, without interrupting, without lessening their peaceful solitude. The execution testifies a master's hand; easy, with a few sure strokes, and yet complete. In his later pieces, he employed glittering English permanent-colours on paper: these pictures, accordingly, are of preeminently blooming tone; cheerful, yet, at the same time, strong and sated.
"His views of deep mountain chasms, where,
With such a notion of the Artist, it were a strange inconsistency did Criticism show itself unscientific or lax in estimating the products of his Art. For light on this point, we might refer to the writings of almost any individual among the German critics: take, for instance, the Charakteristiken of the two Schlegels, a work too of their younger years; and say whether in depth, clearness, minute and patient fidelity, these Characters have often been surpassed, or the import and poetic worth of so many poets and poems more vividly and accurately brought to view. As an instance of a much higher kind, we might refer to Goethe's criticism of Hamlet in his Wilhelm Meister. This truly is what may be called the poetry of criticism; for it is in some sort also a creative art; aiming, at least, to reproduce under a different shape the existing product of the poet; paint-round and round, nothing fronts us but dead ing to the intellect what already lay painted to rock, where, in the abyss, overspanned by its the heart and the imagination. Nor is it over bold arch, the wild stream rages, are, indeed, poetry alone that criticism watches with such of less attraction than the former: yet their loving strictness: the mimic, the pictorial, the truth excites us; we admire the great effect of musical arts, all modes of representing or ad- the whole, produced at so little cost, by a few dressing the highest nature of man, are ac- expressive strokes, and masses of local colours. knowledged as younger sisters of Poetry, and fostered with the like care. Winkelmann's History of Plastic Art is known by repute to all readers: and of those who know it by inspection, many may have wondered why such a work has not been added to our own literature, to instruct our own statuaries and painters. On this subject of the plastic arts, we cannot withhold the following little sketch of Goethe's, as a specimen of pictorial criticism in what we consider a superior style. It is of an imaginary landscape-painter, and his views of Swiss scenery; it will bear to be studied minutely, for there is no word without its meaning:
"With no less accuracy of character can he represent the regions of the topmost Alpine ranges, where neither tree nor shrub any more appears; but only amid the rocky teeth and snow summits, a few sunny spots clothe them selves with a soft sward. Beautiful, and balmy and inviting as he colours these spots, he has here wisely forborne to introduce grazing herds; for these regions give food only to the chamois, and a perilous employment to the wild-hay-men."
We have extracted this passage from Wilhelm Meister's Wanderjahre, Goethe's last Novel. The perusal of his whole Works would show, among many other more important facts, that Criticism also is a science of which he is master; that if ever any man had studied Art in all its branches and bearings, from its origin in
The poor wild-hay-man of the Rigiberg,
Whose trade is, on the brow of the abyss,
SCHILLER'S Wilhelm Teil.
finish on the canvas of the painter, on the lips of the poet, or under the finger of the musician, he was that man. A nation which appreciates such studies, nay, requires and rewards them, cannot, wherever its defects may lie, be defective in judgment of the arts.
the depths of the creative spirit, to its minutest | characters as men, something. of that sterling nobleness, that union of majesty with meekness, which we must ever venerate in those our spiritual fathers? And do their works, in the new form of this century, show forth that old nobleness, not consistent only, with the science, the precision, the skepticism of these days, bus But a weightier question still remains. wedded to them, incorporated with them, and What has been the fruit of this its high and shining through them like their life and soul? just judgment on these matters? What has Might it in truth almost seem to us, in reading criticism profited it, to the bringing forth of the prose of Goethe, as if we were reading that good works? How do its poems and its poets of Milton; and of Milton writing with the culcorrespond with so lofty a standard? We an- ture of this time; combining French clearness swer, that on this point also, Germany may with old English depth? And of his poetry rather court investigation than fear it. There may it indeed be said that it is poetry, and yet are poets in that country who belong to a no- the poetry of our own generation; an ideal bler class than most nations have to show in world, and yet the world we even now live in? these days; a class entirely unknown to some-These questions we must leave candid and nations; and, for the last two centuries, rare studious inquirers to answer for themselves; in all. We have no hesitation in stating, that premising only, that the secret is not to be we see in certain of the best German poets, found on the surface; that the first reply is and those too of our own time, something likely to be in the negative, but with inquirers which associates them, remotely or nearly we of this sort, by no means likely to be the say not, but which does associate them with final one. the Masters of Art, the Saints of Poetry, long since departed, and, as we thought, without successors, from the earth; but canonized in the hearts of all generations, and yet living to all by the memory of what they did and were. Glances we do seem to find of that ethereal glory, which looks on us in its full brightness from the Transfiguration of Rafaelle, from the Tempest of Shakspeare; and in broken, but purest and still heart-piercing beams, struggling through the gloom of long ages, from the tragedies of Sophocles and the weather-worn sculptures of the Parthenon. This is that heavenly spirit, which, best seen in the aerial embodiment of poetry, but spreading likewise over all the thoughts and actions of an age, has given us Surreys, Sydneys, Raleighs in court and camp, Cecils in policy, Hookers in divinity, Bacons in philosophy, and Shakspeares and Spensers in song. All hearts that know this, know it to be the highest; and that, in poetry or elsewhere, it alone is true and imperishable. In affirming that any vestige, however feeble, of this divine spirit, is discernible in German poetry, we are aware that we place it above the existing poetry of any other nation.
To ourselves, we confess, it has long so appeared. The poetry of Goethe, for instance, we reckon to be Poetry, sometimes in the very hignest sense of that word; yet it is no remi niscence, but something actually present and before us; no looking back into an antique Fairy-land, divided by impassable abysses from the real world as it lies about us and within us: but a looking round upon that real world itself, now rendered holier to our eyes, and once more become a solemn temple, where the spirit of Beauty still dwells, and, under new emblems, to be worshipped as of old. With Goethe, the mythologies of bygone days pass only for what they are; we have no witchcraft or magic in the common acceptation; and spirits no longer bring with them airs from heaven or blasts from hell; for Pandemonium and the steadfast Empyrean have faded away, since the opinions which they symbolized no longer are. Neither does he bring his heroes from remote Oriental climates, or periods of Chivalry, or any section either of Atlantis or the Age of Gold? feeling that the reflex of these things is cold and faint, and only hangs like a cloud-picture in the distance, beautiful but delusive, and which even the simplest know to be delusion. The end of Poetry is higher; she must dwell in Reality, and become manifest to men in the forms among which they live and move. And this is what we prize in Goethe, and more or less in Schiller and the rest; all of whom, each in his own way, are writers of a similar aim. The coldest skeptic, the most callous worldling, sees rot the actual aspects of life more sharply than they are here delineated: the nineteenth century stands before us, in all its contradiction and perplexity; barren, mean, and baleful, as we have all known it; yet here no longer mean or barren, but enamelled into beauty in the poet's spirit; for its secret significance is laid open, and thus, as it were, the life-giving fire that slumbers in it is called forth, and flowers and foliage, as of old, are springing on its bleakest wildernesses, and overmantling its sternest cliffs. For these men have not only
To prove this bold assertion, logical arguments were at all times unavailing; and, in the present circumstances of the case, more than usually so. Neither will any extract or specimen help us; for it is not in parts, but in whole poems, that the spirit of a true poet is to be seen. We can, therefore, only name such men as Tieck, Richter, Herder, Schiller, and, above all, Goethe; and ask any reader who has learned to admire wisely our own literature of Queen Elizabeth's age, to peruse these writers also; to study them till he feels that he has understood them, and justly estimated both their light and darkness; and then to pronounce whether it is not, in some degree, as we have said. Are there not tones here of that old melody? Are there not glimpses of that serene soul, that calm harmonious strength, hat smiling earnestness, that Love and Faith and Humanity of nature? Do these foreign contemporaries of ours still exhibit, in their
with what might be called the Scotch: Cramer was not unlike our Blair; Von Cronegk might be compared with Michael Bruce; and Rabener and Gellert with Beattie and Logan. To this mild and cultivated period, there succeeded, as with us, a partial abandonment of poetry, in favour of political and philosophical Illumination. Then was the time, when hot war was declared against Prejudice of all sorts; Utility was set up for the universal measure of mental as well as material value; poetry, except of an economical and preceptorial character, was found to be the product of a rude age; and religious enthusiasm was but derangement in the biliary organs. Then did the Prices and Condorcets of Germany indulge in day-dreams of perfectibility; a new social order was to bring back the Saturnian era to the world; and philosophers sat on their sunny Pisgah, looking back over dark savage deserts, and forward into a land flowing with milk and honey.
This period also passed away, with its good and its evil; of which chiefly the latter seems to be remembered; for we scarcely ever find the affair alluded to, except in terms of contempt, by the title Aufklärerey (Illuminationism); and its partisans, in subsequent satirical controversies, received the nickname of Philistern (Philistines), which the few scattered remnants of them still bear, both in writing and speech. Poetry arose again, and in a new and singular shape. The Sorrows of Werter, Goetz von Berlichingen, and The Robbers, may stand as patriarchs and representatives of three separate classes, which, commingled in various proportions, or separately coexisting, now with the preponderance of this, now of that, occupied the whole popular literature of Germany, till near the end of the last century. These were the Sentimentalists, the Chivalry. play-writers, and other gorgeous and outrageous persons; as a whole, now pleasantly de
The reader feels that if this our opinion be in any measure true, it is a truth of no ordinary moment. It concerns not this writer or that; but it opens to us new views on the fortune of spiritual culture with ourselves and all na-nominated the Kraftmänner, literally, Powertions. Have we not heard gifted men com- men. They dealt in skeptical lamentation, plaining that Poetry had passed away without mysterious enthusiasm, frenzy and suicide: return; that creative imagination consorted they recurred with fondness to the Feudal not with vigour of intellect, and that in the Ages, delineating many a battlemented keep, cold light of science there was no longer room and swart buff-belted man-at-arms; for in refor faith in things unseen? The old simplicity flection as in action, they studied to be strong, of heart was gone; earnest emotions must no vehement, rapidly effective; of battle-tumult, longer be expressed in earnest symbols; beauty love-madness, heroism, and despair, there was must recede into elegance, devoutness of cha- no end. This literary period is called the racter be replaced by clearness of thought, and Sturm-und-Drang-Zeit, the Storm-and-Stress Pegrave wisdom by shrewdness and persiflage. riod; for great indeed was the wo and fury Such things we have heard, but hesitated to of these Power-men. Beauty, to their mind, believe them. If the poetry of the Germans, seemed synonymous with Strength. All pasand this not by theory but by example, have sion was poetical, so it were but fierce enough. proved, or even begun to prove, the contrary, Their head moral virtue was Pride: their beau it will deserve far higher encomiums than any idéal of manhood was some transcript of Milwe have passed upon it. ton's Devil. Often they inverted Bolingbroke's plan, and instead of "patronizing Providence,"
In fact, the past and present aspect of German literature illustrates the literature of Eng-did directly the opposite; raging with extreme land in more than one way. Its history keeps animation against Fate in general, because it pace with that of ours; for so closely are all enthralled free virtue; and with clenched European communities connected, that the hands, or sounding shields, hurling defiance phases of mind in any one country, so far as towards the vault of heaven. these represent its general circumstances and intellectual position, are but modified repetitions of its phases in every other. We hinted above, that the Saxon School corresponded
These Power-men are gone too; and, with few exceptions, save the three originals above named, their works have already followed them. The application of all this to our own
the clear eye, but the loving heart. They have penetrated into the mystery of Nature; after long trial they have been initiated: and, to unwearied endeavour, Art has at last yielded her secret; and thus can the Spirit of our Age, imbodied in fair imaginations, look forth on us, earnest and full of meaning, from their works. As the first and indispensable condition of good poets, they are wise and good men: much they have seen and suffered, and they have conquered all this, and made it all their own; they have known life in its heights and depths, and mastered it in both, and can teach others what it is, and how to lead it rightly. Their minds are as a mirror to us, where the perplexed image of our own being is reflected back in soft and clear interpretation. Here mirth and gravity are blended together; wit rests on deep devout wisdom, as the greensward with its flowers must rest on the rock, whose foundations reach downward to the centre. In a word, they are believers; but their faith is no sallow plant of darkness; it is green and flowery, for it grows in the sunlight. And this faith is the doctrine they have to teach us, the sense which, under every noble and graceful form, it is their endeavour to set forth:
As all nature's thousand changes
Such indeed is the end of Poetry at all times; yet in no recent literature known to us, except the German, has it been so far attained; nay, perhaps, so much as consciously and steadfastly attempted.