« السابقةمتابعة »
hurrying nothing into chaos but themselves. | of it, or, which is the still surer course, altoWhile again, Schiller's Tragedy of the Robbers, gether to hold his peace. Hence freedom from which did not inflame either the young or the much babble that was wont to be oppressive: old nobility of Germany to rob in the forests of probably no watchhorn with such a note as Bohemia, or indeed to do any thing, except per- that of Mrs. More's can again be sounded, by haps yawn a little less, proved equally innocu- male or female Dogberry, in these Islands. ous in England, and might still be acted without Again, there is no one of our younger, more offence, could living individuals, idle enough vigorous Periodicals, but has its German for that end, be met with here. Nay, this same craftsman, gleaning what he can we have Schiller, not indeed by Robbers, yet by Wallen-seen Jean Paul quoted in English Newspapers. steins, by Maids of Orleans, and Wilhelm Tells, Nor, among the signs of improvement, at least has actually conquered for himself a fixed of extended curiosity, let us omit our British dominion among us, which is yearly widening; Foreign Reviews, a sort of merchantmen that round which other German kings, of less in- regularly visit the Continental, especially the trinsic prowess, and of greater, are likewise German ports, and bring back such ware as erecting thrones. And yet, as we perceive, luck yields them, with the hope of better. civilized society still stands in its place; and Last, not least among our evidences of Philothe public taste, as well as the public virtue, Germanism, here is a whole Historic Survey of live on, though languidly, as before. For, in German Poetry, in three sufficient octavos; and fine, it has become manifest that the old Cim- this not merely in the eulogistic and recommerian forest is now quite felled and tilled; mendatory vein, but proceeding in the way of that the true Children of Night, whom we have criticism, and indifferent, impartial narrative: to dread, dwell not on the banks of the Danube, a man of known character, of talent, experience, but nearer hand. penetration, judges that the English public is prepared for such a service, and likely to reward it.
These are appearances, which, as advocates for the friendly approximation of all men and all peoples, and the readiest possible interchange of whatever each produces of advantage to the others, we must witness gladly. Free Literary intercourse with other nations, what is it but an extended Freedom of the Press; a liberty to read (in spite of Ignorance, of Prejudice, which is the worst of Censors) what our foreign teachers also have printed for us?-ultimately, therefore, a liberty to speak and to hear, were it with men of all countries and of all times; to use, in utmost compass, those precious natural organs, by which not Knowledge only but mutual Affection is chiefly generated among mankind! It is a natural wish in man to know his fellow-passengers in this Strange Ship, or Planet, on this strange Life-voyage: neither need his curiosity restrict itself to the cabin where he himself chances to lodge; but may extend to all acces
Could we take our progress in knowledge of German Literature since that diatribe was written, as any measure of our progress in the science of Criticism, above all in the grand science of national Tolerance, there were some reason for satisfaction. With regard to Germany itself, whether we yet stand on the right footing, and know at last how we are to live in profitable neighbourhood and intercourse with that country; or whether the present is but one of those capricious tides, which also will have its reflux, may seem doubtful: meanwhile, clearly enough, a rapidly growing favour for German Literature comes to light; which favour too is the more hopeful, as it now grounds itself on better knowledge, on direct study and judgment. Our knowledge is better, if only because more general. Within the last ten years, independent readers of German have multiplied perhaps a hundred fold; so that now this acquirement is almost expected as a natural item in liberal education. Hence, in a great number of minds, some immediate personal insight into the deeper sig-sible departments of the vessel. In all he nificance of German Intellect and Art; will find mysterious beings, of Wants and everywhere, at least a feeling that it has some Endeavours like his own; in all he will find such significance. With independent readers, Men; with these let him comfort and manimoreover, the writer ceases to be independent, foldly instruct himself. As to German Literawhich of itself is a considerable step. Our ture, in particular, which professes to be not British Translators, for instance, have long only new, but original, and rich in curious inbeen unparalleled in modern literature, and, formation for us; which claims, moreover, like their country, "the envy of surrounding nothing that we have not granted to the French, nations:" but now there are symptoms that, Italian, Spanish, and in a less degree to far even in the remote German province, they meaner literatures, we are gratified to see that must no longer range quite at will; that the such claims can no longer be resisted. In the butchering of a Fust will henceforth be present fallow state of our English Literature, accounted literary homicide, and practitioners when no Poet cultivates his own poetic field, of that quality must operate on the dead sub- but all are harnessed into Editorial teams, and ject only. While there are Klingemanns and ploughing in concert, for Useful Knowledge, Claurens in such abundance, let no merely or Bibliopolic Profit, we regard this renewal ambitious, or merely hungry Interpreter, fasten of our intercourse with poetic Germany, after on Goethes and Schillers. Remark, too, with twenty years of languor or suspension, as satisfaction, how the old established British among the most remarkable and even promis. Critic now feels that it has become unsafe ing features of our recent intellectual history. to speak delirium on this subject; wherefore In the absence of better tendencies, iet this, he prudently restricts himself to one of two which is no idle, but, in some points of view, courses: either to acquire some understanding a deep and earnest one, be encouraged. For
ourselves, in the midst of so many louder and more exciting interests, we feel it a kind of duty to cast some glances now and then on this little stiller interest; since the matter is once for all to be inquired into, sound notions on it should be furthered, unsound ones cannot be too speedily corrected. It is on such grounds that we have taken up this Historic Survey.
expositors of German things; that his book is greatly the most important we yet have on this subject. Here are upwards of fourteen hundred solid pages of commentary, narrative, and translation, submitted to the English reader; numerous statements and personages, hitherto unheard of, or vaguely heard of, stand here in fixed shape; there is, if no map of intellectual Germany, some first attempt at such. Farther, Mr. Taylor is so considerable a person, that we are to state that our author is a zealous, no Book deliberately published by him, on any earnest man; no hollow dilettante hunting subject, can be without weight. On German after shadows, and prating he knows not what; Poetry, such is the actual state of public in- but a substantial, distinct, remarkably decisive formation and curiosity, his guidance will be man; has his own opinion on many subjects, sure to lead or mislead a numerous class of and can express it adequately. We should say, inquirers. We are therefore called on to ex-precision of idea was a striking quality of his: amine him with more than usual strictness no vague transcendentalism, or mysticism of and minuteness. The Press, in these times, any kind; nothing but what is measurable and has become so active; Literature-what is still tangible, and has a meaning which he that called Literature-has so dilated in volume, runs may read, is to be apprehended here. He and diminished in density, that the very Re- is a man of much classical and other reading; viewer feels at a nonplus, and has ceased to of much singular reflection; stands on his own review. Why thoughtfully examine what was basis, quiescent yet immovable: a certain written without thought; or note faults and rugged vigour of natural power, interesting merits, where there is neither fault nor merit? even in its distortions, is everywhere manifest. From a Nonentity, imbodied, with innocent Lastly, we venture to assign him the rare merit deception, into foolscap and printer's ink, and of honesty: he speaks out in plain English named Book; from the common wind of Talk, what is in him; seems heartily convinced of even when it is conserved by such mechanism, his own doctrines, and preaches them because for days, in the shape of Froth,-how shall they are his own; not for the sake of sale, but the hapless Reviewer filter aught in that once of truth; at worst, for the sake of making so profitable colander of his? He has ceased, proselytes. as we said, to attempt the impossible,-cannot On the strength of which properties, we review, but only discourse; he dismisses his reckon that this Historic Survey may, under too unproductive Author, generally with civil certain conditions, be useful and acceptable to words, not to quarrel needlessly with a fellow-two classes. First, to incipient students of creature; and must try, as he best may, to grind German Literature in the original; who in any from his own poor garner. Authors long History of their subject, even in a bare catalooked with an evil, envious eye on the Re-logue, will find help; though for that class, viewer, strove often to blow out his light, unfortunately, Mr. Taylor's help is much diwhich only burnt the clearer for such blasts; minished in value by several circumstances; but now, cunningly altering their tactics, they by this one, were there no other, that he nohave extinguished it by want of oil. Unless where cites any authority: the path he has for some unforeseen change of affairs, or some opened may be the true or the false one; for new-contrived machinery, of which there is farther researches and lateral surveys there is yet no trace, the trade of Reviewer is well nigh no direction or indication. But, secondly, we done. reckon that this Book may be welcome to many of the much larger miscellaneous class, who read less for any specific object than for the sake of reading; to whom any book, that will, either in the way of contradiction or of confirmation, by new wisdom, or new perversion of wisdom, stir up the stagnant inner man, is a windfall; the rather if it bring some historic tidings also, fit for remembering, and repeating; above all, if, as in this case, the style, with many singularities, have some striking merits, and so the book be a light exercise, even an entertainment.
The happier are we that Mr. Taylor's Book is of the old stamp, and has substance in it for our uses. If no honour, there will be no disgrace, in having carefully examined it; which service, indeed, is due to our readers, not without curiosity in this matter, as well as to the Author. In so far as he seems a safe guide, and brings true tidings from the promised land, let us proclaim that fact, and recommend him to all pilgrims: if, on the other hand, his tidings are false, let us hasten to make this also known; that the German Canaan suffer not, in the eyes of the fainthearted, by spurious samples of its produce and reports of bloodthirsty sons of Anak dwelling there, which this harbinger and spy brings out of it. In either case, we may hope, our Author, who loves the Germans in his way, and would have his countrymen rought into closer acquaintance with them, will feel that, in purpose at least, we are co"perating with him.
First, then, be it admitted without hesitation, hat Mr. Taylor, in respect of general talent and acquirement, takes his place above all our
To such praise and utility the work is justly entitled; but this is not all it pretends to; and more cannot without many limitations be conceded it. Unluckily the Historic Survey is not what it should be, but only what it would be. Our Author hastens to correct in his Preface any false hopes his Titlepage may have excited: "A complete History of German Poetry," it seems, "is hardly within reach of his local command of library: so comprehensive an undertaking would require another residence in a country from which he has now been
separated more than forty years ;" and which | them. In our language, we have yet no ex various considerations render it unadvisable ample of such a performance. Neither elseto revisit. Nevertheless, "having long been where, except perhaps in the well-meant, but in the practice of importing the productions altogether ineffectual, attempt of Denina, of its fine literature," and of working in that among the Italians, and in some detached, material, as critic, biographer, and translator, though far more successful, sketches by Gerfor more than one "periodic publication of this man writers, is there any that we know of country," he has now composed "introductory To expect an English History of German Li and connective sections," filled up deficiencies, terature in this style were especially unrea retrenched superfluities; and so, collecting and sonable; where not only the man to write remodelling those "successive contributions," it, but the people to read and enjoy it, are cements them together into the "new and entire wanting. Some Historic Survey, wherein such work" here offered to the public. "With frag- an ideal standard, if not attained, if not apments," he concludes, "long since hewn, as it proached, might be faithfully kept in view, and were, and sculptured, I attempt to construct an endeavoured after, would suffice us. Neither English Temple of Fame to the memory of need such a Survey, even as a British Surveythose German Poets." or might execute it, be deficient in striking obThere is no doubt out a Complete History jects, and views of a general interest. There of German Poetry exceeds any local or uni- is the spectacle of a great people, closely reversal command of books which a British lated to us in blood, language, character, adman can at this day enjoy; and, farther, pre- vancing through fifteen centuries of culture; sents obstacles of an infinitely more serious with the eras and changes that have distincharacter than this. A History of German, or guished the like career in other nations. Nay, of any national Poetry, would form, taken in perhaps, the intellectual history of the Gerits complete sense, one of the most arduous mans is not without peculiar attraction, on two enterprises any writer could engage in. Poetry, grounds: first, that they are a separate unmixwere it the rudest, so it be sincere, is the at- ed people; that in them one of the two grand tempt which man makes to render his exist- stem-tribes, from which all modern European ence harmonious, the utmost he can do for that countries derive their population and speech, end: it springs therefore from his whole feel- is seen growing up distinct, and in several ings, opinions, activity, and takes its character particulars following its own course; secondfrom these. It may be called the music of his ly, that by accident and by desert, the Gerwhole manner of being; and, historically con- mans have more than once been found playing sidered, is the test how far Music, or Freedom, the highest part in European culture; at more existed therein; how far the feeling of Love, than one era the grand Tendencies of Europe of Beauty, and Dignity, could be elicited from have first imbodied themselves into action in that peculiar situation of his, and from the Germany, the main battle between the New views he there had of Life and Nature, of the and the Old has been fought and gained there. Universe, internal and external. Hence, in We mention only the Swiss Revolt, and Luany measure to understand the Poetry, to esti- ther's Reformation. The Germans have not mate its worth, and historical meaning, we indeed so many classical works to exhibit as ask as a quite fundamental inquiry: What some other nations; a Shakspeare, a Dante, that situation was? Thus the History of a has not yet been recognised among them; nation's Poetry is the essence of its History, nevertheless, they too have had their Teachers political, economic, scientific, religious. With and inspired Singers; and in regard to popuall these the complete Historian of a national lar Mythology, traditionary possessions and Poetry will be familiar; the national physiog- spirit, what we may call the inarticulate Poetry nomy, in its finest traits, and through its suc- of a nation, and what is the element of its cessive stages of growth, will be clear to him: spoken or written Poetry, they will be found he will discern the grand spiritual Tendency.superior to any other modern people. of each period, what was the highest Aim and Enthusiasm of mankind in each, and how one epoch naturally evolved itself from the other. He has to record this highest Aim of a nation, in its successive directions and developments; for by this the Poetry of the nation modulates itself, this is the Poetry of the nation.
Such were the primary essence of a true History of Poetry; the living principle round which all detached facts and phenomena, all separate characters of Poems and Poets, would fashion themselves into a coherent whole, if they are by any means to cohere. To accomplish such a work for any Literature would require not only all outward aids, but an excellent inward faculty: all telescopes and observatories were of no avail, without the seeing eye and the understanding heart.
Doubtless, as matters stand, such models remain in great part ideal; the stinted result of actual practice must not be too rigidly tried by
The Historic Surveyor of German Poetry will observe a remarkable nation struggling out of Paganism; fragments of that stern Superstition, saved from the general wreck, and still, amid the new order of things, carrying back our view, in faint reflexes, into the dim primeval time. By slow degrees the chaos of the Northern Immigrations settles into a new and fairer world; arts advance; little by little, a fund of Knowledge, of Power over Nature, is accumulated for man; feeble glimmerings, even of a higher knowledge, of a poetic, break forth; till at length in the Swabian Era, as it is named, a blaze of true though simple Poetry bursts over Germany, more splendid, we might say, than the Troubadour Period of any other nation; for that famous Nibelungen Song, produced, at least ultimately fashioned in those times, and still so significant in these, is altogether without parallel elsewhere.
To this period, the essence of which was
young Wonder, and an enthusiasm for which | nently prosaic; its few Singers are feeble Chivalry was still the fit exponent, there suc- echoes of foreign models little better than ceeds, as was natural, a period of Inquiry, a themselves. No Shakspeare, no Milton apDidactic period; wherein, among the Germans, pears there; such, indeed, would have appeared as elsewhere, many a Hugo von Trimberg de- earlier, if at all, in the current of German hislivers wise saws, and moral apothegms, to the tory; but instead, they have only at best Opitgeneral edification: later, a Town-clerk of zes, Flemmings, Logans, as we had our Queen Strasburg sees his Ship of fools translated into Anne Wits; or, in their Lohensteines, Gryphs, all living languages, twice into Latin, and read Hoffmanns waldaus, though in inverse order, by Kings; the Apologue of Reynard the Fox an unintentional parody of our Drydens and gathering itself together, from sources remote Lees. and near, assumes its Low-German vesture; Nevertheless from every moral death there and becomes the darling of high and low, nay is a new birth; in this wondrous course of still lives with us, in rude genial vigour, as his, man may indeed linger but cannot retroone of the most remarkable indigenous pro- grade or stand still. In the middle of last ductions of the Middle Ages. Nor is acted century, from among the Parisian Erotics, poetry of this kind wanting; the Spirit of In- rickety Sentimentalism, Court aperies, and quiry translates itself into Deeds which are hollow Dulness, striving in all hopeless poetical, as well as into words: already at the courses, we behold the giant spirit of Geropening of the fourteenth century, Germany many awaken as from long slumber; shake witnesses the first assertion of political right, away these worthless fetters, and by its Lesthe first vindication of Man against Nobleman; sings and Klopstocks, announce, in true Gerin the early history of the German Swiss. man dialect, that the Germans also are men. And again, two centuries later, the first asser- Singular enough in its circumstances was tion of intellectual right, the first vindication this rescuscitation; the work as of a "spirit of Man against Clergyman; in the history of on the waters,"-a movement agitating the Luther's Reformation. Meanwhile the Press great popular mass; for it was favoured by has begun its incalculable task; the indige- no court or king: all sovereignties, even the nous Fiction of the Germans, what we have pettiest, had abandoned their native Literacalled their inarticulate Poetry, issues in in- ture, their native language, as if to irreclaimnumerable Volks-Eücher, (People's-Books.) the able barbarism. The greatest King produced progeny and kindred of which still live in in Germany since Barbarossa's time, Fredeall European countries: the People have their rick the Second, looked coldly on the native Tragedy and their Comedy; Tyll Eulenspiegel endeavour, and saw no hope but in aid from shakes every diaphragm with laughter; the France. However, the native endeavour pros rudest heart quails with awe at the wild my-pered without aid: Lessing's announcement thus of Faust. did not die away with him, but took clearer utterance, and more inspired modulation from his followers; in whose works it now speaks, not to Germany alone, but to the whole world. The results of this last Period of German Literature are of deep significance, the depth of which is perhaps but now becoming visible. Here, too, it may be, as in other cases, the Want of the Age has first taken voice and shape in Germany; that change from Negation to Affirmation, from Destruction to Reconstruction, for which all thinkers in every country are now prepared, is perhaps already in action there. In the nobler Literature of the Germans, say some, lie the rudiments of a new spiritual era, which it is for this, and for succeeding generations to work out and realize. The ancient creative Inspiration, it would seem, is still possible in these ages; at a time when Skepticism, Frivolity, Sensuality, had withered Life into a sand desert, and our gayest prospect was but the false mirage, and even our Byrons could utter but a death-song or despairing howl, the Moses'-wand has again smote from that Horeb refreshing streams, towards which the better spirits of all nations are hastening, if not to drink, yet wistfully and hopefully to examine. If the older Literary History of Germany has the common attractions, which in a greater or a less degree belong to the successive epochs of other such Histories; its newer Literature, and the historical delineation of this, has an interest such as belongs to no other.
It is somewhat in this way, as appears to
With Luther, however, the Didactic Tendency has reached its poetic acme; and now we must see it assume a prosaic character, and Poetry for a long while decline. The Spirit of Inquiry, of Criticism, is pushed beyond the limits, or two exclusively cultivated: what had done so much, is capable of doing all; Understanding is alone listened to, while Fancy and Imagination languish inactive, or are forcibly stifled; and all poetic culture gradually dies away. As if with the high resolute genius, and noble achievements, of its Luthers and Huttens, the genius of the country had exhausted itself, we behold generation after generation of mere Prosaists succeed these high Psalmists. Science indeed advances, practical manipulation in all kinds improves; Germany has its Copernics, Hevels, Guerickes, Keplers; later, a Leibnitz opens the path of true Logic, and teaches the mysteries of Figure and Number: but the finer Education of mankind seems at a stand. Instead of Poetic recognition and worship, we have stolid Theologic controversy, or still shallower Freethinking; pedantry, servility, mode-hunting, every species of Idolatry and Affectation holds sway. The World has lost its beauty, Life its infinite majesty, as if the Author of it were no longer dive: instead of admiration and creation of the True, there is at best criticism and denial of the False; to Luther there has succeeded Thomasius. In this era, so unpoetical for all Europe, Germany torn in pieces by a Thirty Year's War, and its consequences, is pre-emi
as, that the growth of German Poetry must be | us that it is by a nameless writer, and worth construed and represented by the historian: nothing. Not only Mr. Taylor's own Translathese are the general phenomena and vicissi- tions, which are generally good, but contributudes, which, if elucidated by proper indivi- tions from a whole body of labourers in that dual instances, by specimens fitly chosen, pre- department, are given: for example, near sented in natural sequence, and worked by sixty pages, very ill rendered by a Miss Plumphilosophy into union, would make a valuable tre, of a Life of Kotzebue, concerning whom, or book; on any and all of which the observa- whose life, death, or burial, there is now no tions and researches of so able an inquirer as curiosity extant among men. If in that "EngMr. Taylor would have been welcome. Sorry lish Temple of Fame," with its hewn and are we to declare that of all this, which con- sculptured stones, those Biographical-Dictionstitutes the essence of any thing calling itself ary fragments and fractions are so much dry Historic Survey, there is scarcely a vestige in rubble-work of whinstone, is not this quite desthe book before us. The question, What is picable Autobiography of Kotzebue a rood or the German mind; what is the culture of the two of mere turf, which, as ready-cut, our ar German mind; what course has Germany fol- chitect, to make up measure, has packed in lowed in that matter; what are its national among his marble ashlar, whereby the whole characteristics as manifested therein? appears wall will the sooner bulge? But indeed, ge not to have presented itself to the author's nerally speaking, symmetry is not one of his thought. No theorem of Germany and its in- architectural rules. Thus, in volume First, tellectual progress, not even a false one, has we have a long story translated from a Gerhe been at pains to construct for himself. We man Magazine, about certain antique Hyperbelieve, it is impossible for the most assidu- borean Baresarks, amusing enough, but with ous reader to gather from these three Volumes no more reference to Germany than to Engany portraiture of the national mind of Ger- land; while, in return, the Nibelungen Lied is many, not to say in its successive phases despatched in something less than one line, and the historical sequence of these, but in and comes no more to light. Tyil Eulenspie any one phase or condition. The work is gel, who was not an "anonymous Satire, entimade up of critical, biographical, bibliogra- tled the Mirror of Owls," but a real flesh-andphical dissertations, and notices concerning blood hero of that name, whose tombstone is this and the other individual poet; inter- standing to this day near Lubeck, has some spersed with large masses of translation: and four lines for his share; Reineke de Vos about except that all these are strung together in the as many, which also are inaccurate. Again, order of time, has no historical feature what- if Wieland have his half-volume, and poor ever. Many literary lives as we read, the na- Ernest Schulze, poor Zacharias Werner, and ture of literary life in Germany,-what sort numerous other poor men, each his chapter; of moral, economical, intellectual element it Luther also has his two sentences, and is in is that a German writer lives in and works these weighed against-Dr. Isaac Watts. Ul in, will nowhere manifest itself. Indeed, far rich Hutten does not occur here; Hans Sachs from depicting Germany, scarcely on more and his Master-singers escape notice, or even than one or two occasions does our author do worse; the poetry of the Reformation is even look at it, or so much as remind us that not alluded to. The name of Jean Paul it were capable of being depicted. On these Friedrich Richter appears not to be known to rare occasions, too, we were treated with such Mr. Taylor; or if want of Rhyme was to be philosophic insight as the following: "The the test of a Prosaist, how comes Salomon Germans are not an imitative, but they are a Gesner here? Stranger still, Ludwig Tieck listening people: they can do nothing without is not once mentioned; neither is Novalis ; directions, and any thing with them. As soon neither is Maler Müller. But why dwell on as Gottsched's rules for writing German cor- these omissions and commissions? is not all rectly had made their appearance, everybody included in this one well-nigh incredible fact, began to write German." Or we have theo- that one of the largest articles in the Book, a retic hints, resting on no basis, about some tenth part of the whole Historic Survey of Ger new tribunal of taste which at one time had man Poetry, treats of that delectable genius, formed itself" in the mess-rooms of the Prus- August von Kotzebue? sian officers!"
In a word, the "connecting sections," or indeed by what alchymy such a congeries could be connected into an Historic Survey, have not become plain to us. Considerable part of it consists of quite detached little Notices, mostly of altogether insignificant men; heaped together as separate fragments; fit, had they been unexceptionable in other respects, for a Biographical Dictionary, but nowise for an Historic Survey. Then we have dense masses of Translation, sometimes good, but seldom of the characteristic pieces; an entire Iphigenia, an entire Nathan the Wise: nay worse, a Sequel to Nathan, which when we have conscientiously struggled to pursue, the Author turns round, without any apparent smile and tells
The truth is, this Historic Survey has not any thing historical in it; but is a mere aggregate of Dissertations, Translations, Notices, and Notes, bound together indeed by the cir cumstance that they are all about German Poetry, "about it and about it;" also by the sequence of time, and still more strongly by the Bookbinder's packthread; but by no other sufficient tie whatever. The authentic title, were not some mercantile varnish allowable in such cases, might be: "General Jail-delivery of all Publications and Manuscripts, original or translated, composed or borrowed, on the subject of German Poetry; by," &c.
To such Jail-delivery, at least when it is from the prison of Mr. Taylor's Desk at Norwich, and relates to a subject in the actual