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Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 1.
Volume 1 of a five volume collection of Goethe’s works. This edition is sumptuously illustrated. Vol. 1 contains Goethe’s poems and a life of Goethe by Dr. Boyesen.
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IT is told of the philosopher Hegel that he once complained because so few understood his writings. “Of all living men,” he said, “there is but one who has understood me; and,” he added, after a moment’s reflection, “he misunderstood me.” The common judgment of a man who spoke thus would be that he was himself at fault, that his utterance was needlessly obscure if it failed to appeal to ordinary human intelligence. In Hegel’s case such a judgment would not have been far wrong. German philosophers, as a rule, cultivate involved obscurity of diction, and perhaps even pride themselves on their unintelligibility. But for all that it is not to be denied that there is a region of thought which lies beyond the range of the ordinary intellect, and which is none the less exalted and beautiful, because of its inaccessibility to the multitude. The fact that you or I do not see anything in works of this or that poet does not, of necessity, prove that there is nothing in them. That which you or I do not understand is not on that account unintelligible. If the second part of “Faust” fails to convey any meaning to the ordinary omniscient critic of the daily papers, it is generally supposed that the second part of “Faust” stands thereby condemned. That Goethe has opened a new realm of thought to which even a college degree is not necessarily a passport, that he has in “Faust” expounded a deep philosophy of life, for the comprehension of which a more than ordinary largeness of vision and grasp of intellect are required, is scarcely dreamed of by the herd of shallow, nimble-witted critics who pat him kindly on the shoulder and compare him blandly with Byron, Coleridge and Wordsworth.
Of English writers, only Carlyle seems to have had an adequate conception of Goethe’s greatness, although he, too, was certainly at variance with the fundamental principles which underlay his hero’s life and poetic activity. That he unconsciously distorted the meaning of “Faust” is very obvious to any student of Goethe who reads his essay on “Helena.” And yet he said to Bayard Taylor, when the latter asked him what he thought of Goethe: “That man, sir, was my salvation!”—an answer which struck Taylor as being in no wise paradoxical. If Carlyle had been an exact thinker, to whom a rational solution of the riddle of existence had been an urgent need, it would have been easier to comprehend in what sense he owed his “salvation” to Goethe. It was the direct purpose of Goethe to be the intellectual deliverer of his age, as he distinctly avowed to Eckermann when he said that the name which he would prefer to all others was “Befreier.” The tendency of his life and his writings, after his return from Italy, is all in the same direction. They all teach, even where no didactic purpose is apparent, that liberty is attainable, not by defiance of moral and physical law, but by obedience to it; that happiness is to be found only in a cheerful acquiescence in the rationality of existence. In this lesson there is deliverance to him who properly estimates and apprehends it. Thus barrenly stated it sounds commonplace enough to us of the nineteenth century; but it is largely due to Goethe’s influence that it has become so generally accepted. Before “Faust” was written there were few who would have been able to defend such a proposition, even though they might profess to accept it.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe was born in Frankfort-on-the-Main, August 28th, 1749. His family, a few generations back, had been plain artisans, and had by dint of talent and energy risen to prosperity and social importance. Goethe’s father had inherited a respectable fortune, enjoyed a good education, and had travelled considerably in his own country and in Italy. He was a stern and methodical man, rigidly upright, impatient of all irregularities and somewhat pedantic in his habits and opinions. His bearing was dignified, his disposition despotic. At the age of thirty-eight he married Katharine Elizabeth, daughter of the Magistrate Textor, and bought the title of imperial counsellor. There were no duties connected with this office, but it conferred a social rank which in those days was highly prized. The young wife whom the counsellor installed in his spacious house in the Hirschgraben was a contrast to him in almost everything. She was genial and full of wholesome mirth. Her culture was probably moderate enough, but she possessed a nature which readily compensated for all deficiencies of education. An exuberant fancy, inexhaustible good-humor, and an everready mother-wit made her the most delightful of companions; and no one valued more highly her many charming gifts than her son Johann Wolfgang. As he grew out of infancy she became his playmate and friend, and the confidant of all his boyish sorrows. She listened with delight to his improvisations, and secretly took his part in his occasional rebellion against the paternal authority.
Goethe was a precocious child, richly endowed physically and mentally. He absorbed knowledge spontaneously and without effort. His fancy, too, was active, and he took delight in relating the most marvelous tales, which he himself invented, to a company of admiring friends. The two fairy tales, “The New Paris” and “The New Melusine,” which he reprinted in a somewhat improved shape in his autobiography, belong to this period.
A charming anecdote is related of his fondness for Klopstock’s biblical epic, “The Messiah,” before he had yet emerged from the nursery. Frau Aja, his mother, had surreptitiously borrowed this book, and went about with it in her pocket, because her husband highly disapproved of Klopstock’s wild and rebellious rhapsodies. Goethe and his younger sister Cornelia, sharing their mother’s predilections, therefore committed the precious verses to memory, and amused themselves with personating the enraged Satan and his subordinate fiends. Standing on chairs in the nursery they would hurl the most delightfully polysyllabic maledictions at each other. One Saturday evening, while their father was receiving a professional visit from his barber, the two children (who were always hushed and subdued in his presence) were seated behind the stove whispering sonorous curses in each other’s ears. Cornelia, however, carried away by the impetus of her inspiration, forgot her father’s presence, and spoke with increasing violence:
The barber, frightened out of his wits by such extraordinary language, poured the soap-lather over the counsellor’s bosom. The culprits were summoned for trial, and Klopstock was placed upon the index expurgatorius.
In 1765 Goethe was sent to the University of Leipsic, where he was matriculated as a student of law. It was his father’s wish that he should fit himself for the legal profession, and in time inherit the paternal dignity as a counsellor and honored citizen of the free city of Frankfort. Agreeably to this plan Goethe attended lectures on logic and Roman law, but soon grew so heartily tired of these barren disciplines that he absented himself from lectures altogether. A brief and innocent love affair with Käthchen Schönkopf, the daughter of the lady with whom he took his dinners, may have tended to distract his attention. Loving your landladies’ daughters is as a rule antagonistic both to law and logic. A serious illness further interfered with his studies, and in 1768, after three years’ sojourn at the university, Goethe was called home to Frankfort, where he spent two years, regaining his health.
Goethe’s earliest sojourn in Leipsic brought him into contact with the French rococo culture, which then predominated in all the higher circles of Germany. The periwig period, with its elaborately artificial manners and “elegant” sentiments, had set its monuments in German literature as in that of France. Gottschedd, who was a servile imitator of the authors of the age of Louis XIV. and Louis XV., was a professor in Leipsic while Goethe was there, though his influence as the dictator of taste was greatly on the wane. Nevertheless the tone of Leipsic society remained French, and it was natural that an impressible young poet like Goethe should assume the tone of his surroundings. We therefore see that his first literary efforts, a volume of poems published as texts for musical compositions, bear the rococo stamp and are as frivolous and full of artificial conceits as if they had been addressed to one of the beauties of Versailles. A youthful drama, “The Accomplices” (“Die Mitschuldigen”), is in the same strain, only more ingenious and more radically alien to German morality.
In April, 1770, Goethe was sufficiently restored to health to resume his studies. He did not, however, return to Leipsic, but went to the University of Strassburg, where the faculty of law was then in a flourishing condition. The city of Strassburg was then, as it has ever since remained, essentially German, though there was an infusion of Gallic life from the French officials who governed the conquered province. It was here, where Gallic and Teutonic life ran in friendly parallelism, that Goethe first discovered the distinctive features of each. It was here he met Herder, whose oracular utterances on the subjects of poetry, religion and society powerfully affected him. Herder was a disciple of Rousseau, and had declared war, not against civilization in general, but against that phase of it which was represented by France. He detested the entire periwig spirit, and denounced in vigorous rhetoric the hollow frivolity which it had imparted to the literature of the day. He clamored for a return to nature, and selected from the literature of all nations certain books in which he detected the strong and uncorrupted voice of nature. Among these were the Bible, Homer, Shakespere, Ossian and the ballad literature of all nations. It is curious, indeed, to find Ossian in such a company, but it must be remembered that MacPherson’s fraud had not then been exposed.
Goethe drank in eagerly these new and refreshing doctrines. He began to read the writers Herder recommended, and in his enthusiasm for Shakespere soon went beyond his teacher. He condemned his own frivolous imitations of French models, and wrestled with gigantic plans for future productions which should infuse new vigor into the enervated literature of the Fatherland. It was during this period of Titanic enthusiasm that he conceived the idea of “Faust,” for the complete embodiment of which he labored, though with many interruptions, for sixty years, until a few months before his death. A lively interest in natural science also began to develop itself in him, while his disinclination for the law showed no signs of abating. At lectures he was not a frequent guest; but for all that his intellectual life was thoroughly aroused and he was by no means idle. With his great absorptive capacity he assimilated a large amount of the most varied knowledge, but insisted upon exercising his choice as to the kind of learning which his nature and faculties craved. The result was that when the time came for taking the doctor’s degree, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, unquestionably the most brilliant intellect Germany has produced, failed to pass his examinations. He was, however, not ignominiously “flunked,” but was permitted to depart with the more modest title of “Licentiate of the Law.” This was not what the old gentleman in Frankfort had looked forward to, and it is presumable that the reception he gave his son, when he returned in 1771 to the city of his fathers, was not over cordial. He was probably not wise enough to see that he himself was to blame for having compelled the boy to devote himself to a study for which he had neither taste nor inclination.
An incident of Goethe’s life in Strassburg, which greatly influenced his literary activity, was his meeting with Frederika Brion, the daughter of the parson at Sesenheim. The parsonage was about six hours’ journey from the city, and Goethe was in the habit of visiting there with his friend Weigand, who was a relative of the family. The parson was a plain, God-fearing man, who went about in dressing-gown and slippers and with a long pipe in his mouth. His daughters Salome and Frederika were what the daughters of country clergymen are apt to be,—nice, domestic girls, who would make charming wives for almost anybody who would have the good sense to propose to them. Frederika was pretty, and moreover she had an unfortified heart. She possessed a few artless accomplishments—such as playing and singing—but when she was to show these off before company, everything went wrong. Her portrait, as drawn by Goethe in his autobiography, is one of the loveliest things in literature. Her simple talk and strictly practical interests, far removed from all sentimentality, seemed to be in perfect accord with her little “tip-tilted nose” and her half-rustic Alsatian costume. It is obvious that she appealed to Goethe’s artistic nature; that he gloried in the romantic phases of his simple life at the parsonage. He had already then the keenest appreciation of what one might call the literary aspect of his experiences. He knew at once, and probably anticipated in spirit, how they would look in a book. But he was at the same time an inflammable youth, whose heart was readily touched through the medium of his fancy. By degrees, as he established himself in the favor of every member of the Brion family, his relation to Frederika became that of a lover. The father and the mother accepted him in this capacity, and Frederika herself was overflowing with deep and quiet happiness. By an unlucky chance, however, the two Brion sisters were invited to spend some time with friends in Strassburg. Goethe was charmed at the prospect. But, strange to say, torn out of the idyllic frame in which he had been wont to see her, Frederika seemed no longer so miraculous. She needed the rural parsonage and the yellow wheat-fields for a setting; amid the upholstered furniture and gilded conventionalities of the city she seemed only a simple-hearted country girl, perhaps, a little deficient in manners. From that time the charm was broken. Frederika returned to her home; Goethe, too, soon left Strassburg. Frederika waited for him month after month, but he did not come. He lacked courage to tell her of the changed state of his feelings, and left her to pine away between hope and cruel disappointment. A serious illness was the result, which came near costing her her life. Eight years later Goethe, then a world-renowned man, revisited Sesenheim and found her yet unmarried. She was as frank and friendly as ever, but her youthful gayety was gone; she was pale, hushed and subdued. She made no allusion to the relation which had once existed between them, but she conducted him silently to the arbor in the garden where they had spent so many rapturous hours together. There they sat down and talked of indifferent things; but many strange thoughts arose in the minds of both.
Frederika died of consumption in 1813.
After his return to Frankfort, in 1771, Goethe made an earnest effort to please his father by laying the foundation of a legal practice. The counsellor himself aided him in every possible way, looked up his authorities, and acted as a private referee in all doubtful questions. For all that, it was literature and not law which filled Goethe’s mind and fashioned his visions of the future. In the intervals of business he paid visits to the city of Darmstadt, where he made the acquaintance of Herder’s fiancée, Caroline Flachsland, and of Merck, who became his model for Mephistopheles. It was an interesting society which he here encountered, a society animated by an exalted veneration of poetic and intellectual achievements and devoted to a kind of emotional extravagance—an artificial heightening of every fine feeling and sentiment. Caroline Flachsland and her circle, recognizing Goethe’s extraordinary endowment, and feeling, perhaps, doubly inclined in his favor by his beautiful exterior, accepted him, as it were, on trust, and honored him for what he was going to do rather than for anything which he had actually accomplished. His love affair with Frederika, which was here sentimentally discussed, also added to the interest with which he was regarded. A man who is known to have broken many hearts is naturally invested with a tantalizing charm to women who have yet hearts to be broken. At all events the great expectations which were entertained of him in the Darmstadt circle, stimulated him to justify the reputation which had been thrust upon him. In 1772 he published the drama, “Götz von Berlichingen,” which at one stroke established his position as the foremost among German poets. It must be remembered, however, that Germany had at that time no really great creative poet. Lessing was, indeed, alive, and had written dramas which, in point of theatrical effectiveness and brilliancy, were superior to “Götz.” But Lessing disclaimed the title of poet, and his prominence as a critic and polemic defender of rationalism overshadowed, in the minds of his contemporaries, his earlier activity in the service of the muses. Moreover, it is not to be denied that “Götz,” with all its crudity of construction, is a warmer and more full-blooded production than any of the plays which Lessing had written for the purpose of demonstrating the soundness of his canons of dramatic criticism.
As a stage play “Götz” is unquestionably very bad. It violates, whether purposely or not, every law of dramatic construction. It is a touching and poetical story, told in successive acts and scenes, full of deep psychological insight and vigorous characterization. But it takes a nimble fancy to keep up with the perpetual changes of scene; and even the tendency and morale of the piece are open to criticism. Goethe enlists the reader’s sympathies in behalf of the law-breaker, whose sturdy manhood and stubborn independence bring him into conflict with the state. Götz, in spite of his personal merits, represents the wild and disorderly individualism of the Middle Ages, at war with the forces of order and social progress, represented by the Emperor and the free cities. Therefore it is scarcely proper to apostrophize him as the martyr of a noble cause.
After having practiced law in a leisurely fashion in Frankfort, Goethe removed, at his father’s recommendation, to Wetzlar, where he was admitted as a practitioner at the Imperial Chamber of Justice. This removal took place in May, 1774. Among the first acquaintances which he made in this city were a young jurist named Kestner and his fiancée, Charlotte Buff. Kestner and Goethe became good friends, in spite of differences of temperament and character, and their friendship soon came to include Lotte. Kestner, who was a plain, practical man and the soul of honor, could see no danger in the daily association of his betrothed with a handsome and brilliant young poet, who confided to her his hopes and ambitions, romped with her small brothers and sisters, and captivated the entire family by the reckless grace and charm of his manners. Kestner did not suspect that there were depths in Lotte’s nature which he had never sounded, regions of sentiment and fancy which he could never hope to explore. For Lotte, though she had a strong sense of duty, had by no means as well-regulated and business-like a heart as her practical lover. Thus the strange thing came to pass: Lotte fell in love with Goethe, and Goethe with Lotte. They made no confession of their secret even to each other, but they revelled in each other’s company, undisturbed by Kestner’s presence. At last, however, a crisis occurred. Goethe began to see that he was treading on dangerous ground. One evening as he was lounging at Lotte’s feet, playing with the flounces on her dress, and the talk had taken a serious turn, he remarked, referring to a brief journey which he was about to undertake, that he hoped they would meet “jenseits” (beyond), meaning beyond the mountains which he was going to cross. Lotte misunderstood the allusion, and, quite forgetting Kestner’s presence, answered, fervently, that she could well be reconciled to losing him in this world, if she could only be sure of being united to him in the hereafter. It was a sudden flash which revealed to Goethe the fact that Lotte loved him. He was Kestner’s friend, was trusted by him, and could not act dishonorably. So he took his leave, packed his trunks that very night, and wrote three despairing letters to Kestner and Lotte—in which he avowed his love for the latter, and gave this as the reason of his departure. He made it appear, probably in order to shield Lotte, that his love was hopeless and that her happiness was dearer to him than his own. That this is the true version of the Wetzlar affair is made plain, beyond dispute, by the documents published by Herman Grimm, in his “Lectures on Goethe.”
This episode with Charlotte Buff and Kestner furnished Goethe with the material for his celebrated romance, “The Sorrows of Werther,” which he published in September, 1774. As was usual with him, and indeed with every great poet, he did not copy the actual relation, but he borrowed from it what was typical and immortal and left out what was accidental and insignificant. Thus Lotte in “Werther” is not Charlotte Buff, though she sat for her model and furnished the main features of the beautiful type. In a still less degree is the pitiful Albert the author’s friend Kestner, though he is sufficiently like the latter to justify him in being offended. The character of Werther himself is more of a free creation, though his external fate was borrowed from that of a young secretary named Jerusalem, who shot himself for love of a married woman. In all other respects Werther is Goethe himself in his “Storm and Stress” period, while all the vital juices of his being were in ferment, while his youthful heart beat loudly in sympathy with the world’s woe; while the tumultuous currents of emotion swayed him hither and thither and would not be made to run in the safe conventional channels. And yet, even in those days there was a still small voice of reason in Goethe’s soul which restrained him from excesses—an undercurrent of sanity and sobriety which kept him always sound in his innermost core. If Werther had been like his prototype in this respect he would not have killed himself—in other words, he would not have been Werther.
The amazing popularity which “The Sorrows of Werther” attained, not only in Germany but throughout the civilized world, cannot be due to the story as such, which is as simple as any episode of daily life. It is only explainable on the supposition, that the book for the first time voiced a sentiment which was well-nigh universal in Europe, during the eighteenth century. The Germans call it Weltschmerz—i.e., world-woe. It takes in “Werther” the form of a tender melancholy, a sense of poetic sadness, which, after the unhappy love affair, deepens into a gentle despair and leads to self-destruction. Psychologically this is a very interesting phenomenon. The pent-up energy of the nation, which was denied its natural sphere of action in public and political life, takes a morbid turn and wastes itself in unwholesome introspection, coddling of artificial sentiment, and a vague discontent with the world in general.
During the year 1774 Goethe also published the tragedy “Clavigo,” which was a great disappointment to his friends. Its plot is borrowed from the Memoirs of Beaumarchais, and deals with the problem of faithlessness. In poetic intensity and fervor it is inferior to “Götz” and “Werther,” while, in point of dramatic construction, it marks a distinct advance. It is his own faithlessness to Frederika which Goethe obviously has in mind and which he is endeavoring psychologically to justify. But even from this point of view the tragedy can scarcely be called a success; for the reader closes the book with the conviction that Clavigo was, if not a villain, at all events a weak poltroon, though as such a perfectly comprehensible one.
After his departure from Wetzlar Goethe once more took up his residence in his native city, and, before long, was again involved in a tender relation. This time, it was a rich and beautiful lady of society who attracted him,—quite a contrast to the rural Frederika and the amiable and domestic Lotte. Anna Elizabeth Schönemann, generally known as Lilli, was about sixteen years old, when Goethe fell a victim to her charms. She was a spoiled child, wilful and coquettish, but high-bred and with a charm of manner, when she chose to be agreeable, which fully explains the poet’s devotion to her. Moreover, there was nothing meek and abjectly admiring about her. She teased her adorer, tormented him by her whims, and took delight in exercising her power over him. This was quite a new experience to a young man who had been accustomed to easy conquests and uncritical adoration. He was now drawn into general society, and, after his engagement with Lilli had been made public, was compelled to dance attendance upon her, early and late, at balls and dinner-parties. As an experience this might be valuable enough, but Goethe soon tired of it, and protested in prose and verse against his servitude. Lilli, however, though she was sincerely attached to him, could not be made to give up the youthful gayety which seemed so attractive to her. Quarrels ensued, alienations and reconciliations, and finally a complete rupture. In many poems from this period Goethe chronicles the various stages of his love for Lilli and laments her loss. There is no doubt she had the making of a noble woman in her; her later life, and particularly her utterances concerning her relation to Goethe, show that she was neither frivolous nor shallow-hearted. But she was young and beautiful, and had a sense of power which it was but natural she should exercise. The meek and submissive maiden is in undue favor with men, and Goethe’s biographers, being all men, have done their best to revile the memory of Lilli.
Among the friends who were warmly attached to Goethe at this time, Fritz Jacobi and Lavater demand a passing notice. Both presented a queer mixture of character, which accounts for their subsequent alienation from the poet. It is worthy of remark that scarcely any of the associates of Goethe’s youth maintained their intimate relations with him through life. He valued a friend only as long as he was in sympathy with him, and as he outgrew his youthful self, the friends who had been identified with this self lapsed into the distance. He did not value fidelity in the ordinary sense of the term, when it involved a perpetual strain upon the heart—when it had become a matter of duty rather than of affection. As regards Lavater, he was, with all his ostentatious spirituality, a good deal of a charlatan, even so much so as to justify Goethe’s epigram in the “Xenien:”
He reminds one of Carlyle’s friend Irving, who also started as an honest zealot and lapsed into emotional excesses, which leave one no choice but to question either his sanity or his honesty. The so-called science of physiognomy, which Lavater claimed to have discovered, at one time interested Goethe greatly; but later, when he became familiar with scientific methods of research, he could no longer accept Lavater as a guide.
Fritz Jacobi was an honest sentimentalist, who ardently revered Goethe for his great powers of mind and intellect. They travelled together, and revelled in the emotions of love and sympathy which welled forth from the souls of both. Everything that they saw filled them with ecstatic wonder, and furnished themes for extravagant discourses and poetic dreams. Jacobi, even though the years sobered him, never completely outgrew this state, and when he published his sentimental romance “Woldemar,” which Goethe could not admire, their friendship began to cool. They drifted slowly apart, though there was no rupture to signalize their estrangement.
In spite of all his efforts, Goethe could not obtain any lasting satisfaction from his occupation with the law, and he grew lax in his attention to professional duties. The counsellor was grievously disappointed, and the relation between father and son grew so strained that all the diplomacy of the mother was required to keep them from open disagreement. It was therefore a godsend to Goethe when, in 1775, the two princes of Saxe-Weimar arrived in Frankfort, and extended to him an invitation to visit their court. The eldest of the brothers, Karl August, took a great fancy to the author of “Werther,” and made every effort to keep him as a friend and companion. To this end he conferred upon Goethe the title of Privy Counsellor, with an annual salary of twelve hundred thalers and a vote in the ducal cabinet. Goethe had thus at last got firm ground under his feet, and could now, without fear of the future, give himself up to his favorite pursuits. His arrival in Weimar made a great sensation. His fame, his extraordinary beauty and his winning manners gave him at once a prestige, which he maintained undiminished to the end of his days. The duke, who was a blunt and honest fellow, fond of pleasure and yet zealous for the welfare of his subjects, found in Goethe a firm support for his noblest endeavors. As a boon-companion in pleasure he found the poet no less attractive; though it is now conceded that the tales which were circulated concerning the excesses of the two friends, at court festivals and rural excursions, were greatly exaggerated. It is true, a pause occurs in Goethe’s literary activity after his arrival in Weimar; but this was due not to preoccupation with pleasure but to the zeal with which he devoted himself to his official duties. It was important to Goethe as a poet to gain a deeper insight into practical reality, and he seized the present opportunity to familiarize himself with many phases of life which hitherto had lain beyond his horizon. Strange as it may seem to those who identify with the name of poet everything that is fantastic and irregular, he made a model official—punctual and exact in all his dealings, painstaking, upright and inflexible.
During his early youth, Goethe had been identified with the school in German literature known as the “Storm and Stress” (“Sturm und Drang”). The members of this school had clamored for a return to Nature—meaning by Nature absence of civilization. Civilization was held responsible for all the ills to which flesh is heir, and the remedy was held to be the abolishment of all the artificial refinements of life which interfered with the free expression of Nature. Goethe never went to the same length in these doctrines as some of his associates (Klinger, Lenz, Leisewitz), but he was for all that, like them, a disciple of Rousseau, and had, both in “Götz” and “Werther,” made war upon civilized society. It is therefore notable that, after his arrival in Weimar and his closer contact with the actualities of life, a profound change came over him, which amounted to a revolution in his convictions. The wild ferment of his youth had found its natural expression in the fervid, tumultuous diction of the “Storm and Stress,” but his maturer manhood demanded a clearer, soberer and more precise utterance. The change that took place in his style during the first ten years of his sojourn in Weimar was therefore a natural one, and ought to have caused no surprise to those who knew him.
A very exhaustive record of Goethe’s inner and outer life during this period is contained in his correspondence with Frau von Stein, the wife of Baron von Stein, a nobleman in the duke’s service. She was seven years older than the poet and the mother of seven children. Beautiful she was not, but she was a woman of exceptional culture and finely attuned mind, capable of comprehending subtle shades of thought and feeling. Her face, as the portraits show, was full of delicacy and refinement. Her marriage was unhappy, and, without any protest on the part of her husband, she sought in daily intercourse with Goethe a consolation for the miseries of her life. Whether the relation was anything more than a bond of sympathy and intellectual friendship it is difficult to determine. His letters, appointing interviews and overflowing with affectionate assurances, are those of a lover. Unfortunately Frau von Stein’s own letters have not been preserved; she took the precaution to demand them back and burn them, when their friendship came to an end.
In September, 1786, Goethe started from Karlsbad for Italy, and arrived in October in Rome. For many years it had been his dearest desire to see the Eternal City, and to study with his own eyes the masterpieces of ancient art. In his trunk he carried several unfinished manuscripts, and in his head a number of literary plans which he here hoped to mature, in the presence of the marble gods and heroes of the ancient world. He associated chiefly with the artists Tischbein, Meyer, Philip Hackert and Angelica Kaufmann, and revelled in art talk and criticism. He took up again the study of Homer, and began to meditate upon an Homeric drama, to be called “Nausicaa.” Italy, with its bright sky, its gently sloping mountains, clad with silvery olive trees, and its shores washed by the blue Mediterranean waves, became a revelation to him, and he apprehended keenly her deepest poetic meaning. A cheerful paganism henceforth animates his writings, a delight in sensuous beauty and a certain impatience with the Christian ideal of self-abnegation. The Hellenic ideal of harmonious culture—an even development of all the powers of body and soul—appealed powerfully to him. He flung away his Gothic inheritance, undervaluing, in his devotion to the Greeks, what was noble and beautiful in the sturdy self-denying manhood of the North. His drama “Iphigenia,” which he had first written in prose, he now rewrote in classical pentameters and sent it home to his friends in Weimar, who were completely mystified, and did not quite dare to say that they could make neither head nor tail of it. For all that, this drama is a very remarkable production, uniting, as it were, the Greek and the Germanic ideal, and being in spirit as close to the latter as it is in form to the former. Goethe dealt with this old classic tale as no Greek could ever have done it. He makes the gentle womanhood of Iphigenia soften the manners of the fierce Taurians, and by her noble character act as a civilizing influence in the midst of the barbarous race. The Greeks had not arrived at such an estimate of woman; nor would Euripides, who dealt with the same legend, have understood Goethe’s version of it any better than did Herder and his friends in Weimar.
In June, 1788, Goethe again turned his face northward, after an absence of nearly two years. One of the first effects of his Italian experience was that he took a mistress, named Christiane Vulpius, whom many years later he married. Christiane was a bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked girl, with an abundance of curly hair, in no wise intellectual, and belonging to a family in which drunkenness was hereditary. She was of redundant physical development, had always a bright smile, and was sufficiently intelligent to take a mild interest in her lover’s literary and scientific pursuits. But that his liaison with her was, for all that, a deplorable mistake can scarcely be questioned. In the first place she developed, as she grew older, her hereditary vice, and was frequently unpresentable on account of intoxication. The son whom she bore to Goethe inherited the same failing, and died suddenly in Rome, as has been surmised, from the effects of a carouse. The young man, who was handsome in person and well endowed, had been married some years before and was the father of two sons, both of whom died unmarried. Walter von Goethe, who lived until April, 1885, was a chamberlain at the Court of Weimar, and at one time cherished poetical aspirations. With his death the race of Goethe became extinct in the direct line. It is, indeed, true that the sins of the fathers avenge themselves upon the children.
Christiane’s removal to Goethe’s house, where he henceforth claimed for her the place and respect due to a wife, caused a grievous commotion in Weimar. Frau von Stein was the first to take offence, and a rupture of their former relation was the result. Herder also remonstrated, and soon ceased to count himself among Goethe’s friends.
In 1789 Goethe completed a drama which, like the “Iphigenia,” had existed in an earlier prose version. It was entitled “Tasso,” and dealt with the history of the Italian poet of that name. Its purpose seems to be to protest against the over-estimation of a poet’s calling, then in vogue, and to assert the rights of practical reason as against those of the imagination. Tasso is represented as an impulsive and warm-hearted man who is violently swayed by his emotions, while the cool-headed man of the world, Antonio, represents the opposite type. In the contest which arises between them Tasso is worsted; and it is Goethe’s purpose to convince the reader that he deserves his fate. In this, however, he is not entirely successful. Antonio, the adroit and sagacious diplomat, is an unattractive character as compared with the noble and generous Tasso, who errs from inability to restrain his passionate adoration of the Princess Leonora. The world is apt to sympathize more with generous folly than with far-seeing sagacity and nicely-adjusted calculation. And yet, when we have advanced another century, I am inclined to think that we shall agree that Goethe’s judgment was right.
As an acting play “Tasso” is even less effective than “Götz” and “Iphigenia,” being rather a poetic and admirably conceived story, told in dramatic form, than a drama in the ordinary acceptation of the term.
If further proof were needed that Goethe was not a dramatist, “Egmont” furnishes the most conclusive evidence. Here were again a series of delightful characterizations, subtle, and yet vigorous; and picturesquely effective scenes, strung together most entertainingly, but only with remote reference to the requirements of the stage. There is no perceptible acceleration of the action, as it progresses, no sharp accentuation of motives and effects, and no inexorable necessity, either internal or external, which hurries the hero on to his destruction. No poet, however great, can emancipate himself from these laws, if he wishes to produce a successful tragedy. As a mere literary production, “Egmont” is fully worthy of the author of “Götz” and “Werther,” and deserves the immortality which it has earned. The types of Clärchen and Egmont have a perennial beauty, of which no critic can deprive them. The great elemental passion, which is the mainspring of their speech and action, appeals to all hearts alike, and invests them with a charm which can never grow old.
The critic who first expressed substantially the above opinion of “Egmont” was a young man named Frederick Schiller, who was just then glorying in his first fame as the author of “The Robbers” and other sensational dramas. He had had a great desire to make the acquaintance of Goethe, whom he profoundly revered; though he was probably aware of the dislike which Goethe entertained of the violent and declamatory school which he represented. At a meeting which took place in September, 1788, Schiller was quite grieved at the coolness with which the elder poet received him; and at a subsequent interview he likewise failed to make any advance in the latter’s favor. It was not until six years later that a literary enterprise (“Die Horen”), which Schiller had started, brought them into closer contact; and Goethe learned to value the genius of the man whom he had politely repelled. From this time forth they saw much of each other, and remained in correspondence whenever chance separated them. A beautiful friendship, founded upon mutual respect and community of interests, sprung up between them, and deepened with every year, until death separated them. Literature has no more perfect relation to show between two great men than this between Goethe and Schiller. No jealousy, no passing disagreement, clouded the beautiful serenity of their intercourse. They met, as it were, only upon the altitudes of the soul, where no small and petty passions have the power to reach. Their correspondence, which has been published, is a noble monument to the worth of both. The earnestness with which they discuss the principles of their art, the profound conscientiousness and high-bred courtesy with which they criticize each other’s works, and their generous rivalry in the loftiest excellence have no parallel in the entire history of literature.
It was chiefly due to the influence of Schiller that Goethe determined to resume work upon the fragment of “Faust,” which he had kept for many years in his portfolio, and finally published incomplete in the edition of 1790. Schiller saw at once the magnificent possibilities of this theme, and the colossal dimensions of the thought which underlay the daring conception. Goethe, being preoccupied with the classical fancies which the Italian journey had revived, was at first unwilling to listen to his friend’s advice, and spoke disparagingly of the fragment as something too closely allied with his Gothic “Storm and Stress” period, which he had now outgrown. So long, however, did Schiller persevere, that Goethe’s interest was reawakened, the plan widened and matured, and for the rest of his life Goethe reserved his best and noblest thought for this work, fully conscious that upon it his claim to immortality would rest. Still, it was not until 1808 that the First Part finally appeared in its present form. In the meanwhile several works of minor consequence occupied Goethe’s mind besides the romance “Wilhelm Meister,” the fundamental thought of which is kindred to that of “Faust.” The satirical poem “Reynard the Fox,” founded upon an older popular model, was published in 1794 and made some passing stir, and a rather prolix and uninteresting romance, entitled “The Conversations of German Emigrants,” also engaged his attention. In 1795 the first two volumes of “Wilhelm Meister” were published, and were received with enthusiasm by some and with censure by many. The public at large, being unable to comprehend the philosophical purpose of the work, were puzzled. As a story the book was sufficiently entertaining, but it hinted everywhere at meanings which it did not fully reveal. It was obvious that it was this hidden significance which the author had at heart amid this bewildering panorama of shifting scenes and persons. The plot is altogether too complex to be unravelled here, but the philosophy of the book may be briefly stated.
“Wilhelm Meister” aims at nothing less than to portray the disintegration of feudal society, then visibly commencing—the transition from a feudal to an industrial civilization. The nobleman’s prerogatives cannot endure unless they are founded upon qualities of mind and character which make him indispensable to the state. In other words, it is a man’s utility which in the end must establish his place in society. All other distinctions are artificial and evanescent. That society had not yet reached this state Goethe was well aware, but he merely wished to indicate the direction which the development of the future must inevitably take. The quest for the ideal which drives Wilhelm from the routine of the paternal counting-house into a life of wild adventure, is merely the individual manifestation of the restless discontent which animates society at large, and is slowly revolutionizing it, in accordance with the changed conditions of modern life. The world’s ideal, like that of Wilhelm Meister, is perpetually changing, and each achievement in social reform is but a stepping-stone to still nobler achievements. Wilhelm when young seeks his ideal in a free and unrestrained life among actors and strolling vagabonds; then the freedom from care and the commanding position of a nobleman seem to offer the highest felicity, and at last, after having had this illusion dispelled, he finds happiness in self-forgetful devotion to duty. Not in freedom from labor but in devotion to labor; not in unrestrained pursuit of pleasure, but in a well-defined sphere of daily utility, can man alone find happiness. This is the lesson of “Wilhelm Meister,” and a most noble lesson it is. The Second Part of the book, which was not completed until 1821, only emphasizes this same moral, though the moral is concealed under a mass of more or less obscure symbols, which often seem needlessly perplexing.
The first fruit of Goethe’s union with Schiller was a series of satirical epigrams, called “Die Xenien,” (1797). These were intended in part to punish the enemies and detractors of the literary firm of Goethe and Schiller, but, though they do not spare persons who are exponents of false and dangerous tendencies, they seem chiefly intended to attack pretence, charlatanism and unsound canons of criticism. They do not only tear down, they also build up. They praise what is noble and chastise what is ignoble. Witty in the French sense are but few of them; but all of them have a weighty meaning.
Immediately in the wake of the “Xenien” followed the rural idyl “Hermann and Dorothea” (1797), which suddenly revived Goethe’s popularity with the mass of readers, who since his Italian journey had gradually drifted away from him. It was as if Goethe had meant to show them that he could be as simple and popular as anybody, if he chose. Here was a story of German rural life in which no one had seen any poetry before, except Voss, who in his “Luise” had delivered a turgid homily in hexameters on the rural virtues. Goethe well knew this poem, but he was not afraid of incurring the charge of having imitated Voss, because he knew that a literary subject belongs, not to him who deals with it first, but to him who deals with it best. There is a delightful Homeric flavor in his hexameters; they roll and march along with splendid resonance. In the characterization of the Landlord of the Golden Lion and his wife and neighbors, the same easy mastery is visible which gave the vivid form and color to the features of Egmont, Götz and Werther.
Far less successful, both in point of popularity and literary excellence, was the tragedy, “The Natural Daughter,” which owed its origin to Goethe’s excessive admiration of Sophocles and Æschylus. The types are here quite colorless—not because Goethe could not individualize them, but from conscientious motives—because the Greek poets deal merely with general types and avoid a too vivid individualization. Far more worthy specimens of Græco-Germanic art are the beautiful classical elegies “Alexis and Dora,” “Euphrosyne” and “Amyntor.” Also a host of fine, spirited ballads, vigorous in tone and exquisite in color, date from this period. Goethe had long ago discovered the charm of the German folk-song, and had estimated the poetic force of this simple national strain.
In 1805 Schiller died, and Goethe was once more alone; for among his neighbors and townsmen he found no more congenial companions. Scientific pursuits began more and more to occupy him, and the opinion became prevalent that he had now ceased to be a poet, and that his absurd ambition to be a scientist had disqualified him for further literary production. Goethe was not in the least disturbed by these rumors, but pursued his investigations in botany, geology and optics with undiminished zeal. All the while he worked quietly on “Faust” and his “Doctrine of Color,” and made experiments with the sun spectrum—in which he believed he had discovered phenomena which were at variance with the Newtonian theory of color. That he was here on a wrong track we may now freely admit, but Professor Tyndale asserts that his very mistakes afford evidences of his genius. The fact is, he was in advance of his age in the value he attached to scientific education; and having had no opportunities for such education in his youth, he made up for what he had missed by an increased zeal during his mature years. He saw Nature in her grand unity, and his penetrating vision saw the great causal chain which unites her most varied phenomena. In this, and in this alone, consisted his greatness as a scientist. He was the Faust who by a daring synthesis brought order into the chaos of dispersed facts, which a hundred pedantic and pains-taking Wagners had accumulated. The Wagners therefore did not love him, and their hostile opinions made enough noise in their day to have even reached as a faint echo down to the present. Nevertheless the scientists of to-day have recognized the value of Goethe’s theory of the typical plant, and of the leaf as the typical organ of plant life, which he has fully developed in his book on “The Metamorphoses of Plants.” A kindred thought, applied to the animal kingdom, led to the discovery of the intermaxillary bone, which finally established the identity of the human skeleton with that of other mammals; and in geology to his championing the so-called Neptunic theory of the development of the earth against Humboldt’s Vulcanism, which attributed to volcanic agencies the principal influence in fashioning the globe’s surface. In all these controversies he emphasized the essential identity of Nature in all her phenomena; the unity and organic coherence of all her varied life; and he did not, in the end, hesitate to draw the logical conclusion from these premises, and declare himself a believer in the theory of evolution, half a century before Darwin had advanced the same doctrine.
All these heterogeneous studies became tributary to Goethe’s greatest work, “Faust” (1790 and 1808), in which the highest results of his colossal knowledge are deposited. It is his philosophy of life which he has here expounded, under a wealth of symbols and images which dazzle the eye, and to the superficial reader often obscure the profounder meaning. To the majority of English and American critics “Faust” is but a touching and beautiful love-story, and the opinion is unblushingly expressed by hoary wiseacres that the Second Part is a mistake of Goethe’s old age, and in no wise worthy of the First. If nothing is worth saying except that which appeals to the ordinary intellect, trained in the common schools, then this criticism is not to be cavilled with; but Goethe had during the latter part of his life entered a realm of thought, where he was hidden from the multitude; where but a few congenial minds could follow him. To these I would endeavor to demonstrate what “Faust” means if the space permitted. All I can do here is briefly to indicate the fundamental thought.
Goethe borrowed from Spinoza the daring proposition that God is responsible for evil. He undertook to demonstrate that evil was not an afterthought on the part of God, which stole into his system of the universe by an unforeseen chance, but an essential part of that system from the beginning. In other words, as it is expressed in the “Prologue in Heaven,” God gave Mephistopheles as a companion to Faust. Selfishness, which is merely another form of the instinct of self-preservation, is the lever of the world’s history, and if a man were born who was entirely free from it he would be unable to maintain his place in the world as it is now constituted. He would be trampled down, and would perish. The unrestrained egoism of barbaric times has gradually been limited, as civilization has advanced, by laws, which in each age expresses the average moral sense, and are intended to secure the preservation of society. But egoism, though variously disguised and turned into useful channels, is yet the leading motive in men’s actions—Mephistopheles, though a most civilized gentleman, still is at Faust’s elbow, and stimulates him to daring enterprise of which, without this unlovely companion, he would never have dreamed.
Faust, then, is meant to symbolize mankind, and Mephistopheles the devil, the principle of selfishness or of evil, in whatever way disguised. In the symbolic fable, Mephistopheles makes a wager with the Lord, that if the Lord will give him the right to accompany Faust, Faust will in the end be the devil’s. This wager is accepted, and Mephistopheles proceeds to introduce Faust to all phases of sensual pleasure, in the hope of corrupting him. Faust, however, though he sins, is in no wise corrupted. The love affair and the subsequent tragedy with Margaret are merely episodes in Faust’s development, from the author’s point of view, cruel as it may seem. Faust, in his typical capacity, rises above the error which came near crippling him, to higher phases of being. His ideal changes; he goes in search of culture and intellectual achievement. Mephistopheles’s attempts to lead him astray are turned directly to useful purposes. The devil, who in the sensual stage of his development had had a certain predominance over him, becomes now more and more subservient to him. Faust’s intellectual powers are especially employed in statesmanship and political activity for the welfare of the state. Then comes the pursuit of the beautiful, regarded as an educational agency, symbolized in the quest of Helen of Troy and the pilgrimage to Greece. Particularly in the classical Walpurgis Night are the spiritual value and the ennobling influence of Greek art emphasized. The last and concluding phase of man’s development, which is logically derived from the preceding ones, is altruism—a noble devotion to humanity, and self-forgetful labor for the common weal. In this activity Faust finds happiness, and exclaims to the flying moment, “Stay, thou art so fair.”
It is scarcely necessary to add that Faust remained a sealed book to the majority of Goethe’s contemporaries. Some few saw the scope and purpose of the work and valued it accordingly; others pretended to understand more than they did; and a whole literature of commentaries was supplied by the learned ingenuity and zeal of the Fatherland. Goethe sat at home and smiled at his critics, but never undertook either to confirm or to refute their theories.
In 1809 he again published a book which was a puzzle both to his admirers and his enemies. This was a novel entitled “Elective Affinities.” He had at that time made the acquaintance of a young girl named Minna Herzlieb, an adopted daughter of the bookseller Frommann in Jena. He became greatly interested in her, addressed sonnets to her, and quite turned her head. To be loved by Goethe, even though he was no longer young, was a distinction which no girl could contemplate with indifference. Moreover he was, apart from his celebrity, a man of majestic presence and a kind of serene Olympian beauty. Minna Herzlieb’s parents fearing that she might lose her heart, as she already had her head, made haste to send her beyond the reach of Goethe’s influence. Out of this relation, or rather out of its possibilities, grew “Elective Affinities.” Goethe was married to Christiane, whose unfortunate propensity for drink had then already developed. Minna was young and fair, and attracted him strongly. Here were the elements for a tragedy. In the book the situation is essentially the same, though Charlotte, Edward’s wife, is afflicted by no vice. It might be described as a four-cornered attachment, in which everybody loves the one he cannot have. These attachments are described by analogy, with chemical laws, as entirely irresponsible natural forces which assert themselves in the individual without any guilty agency of his own. The conclusion is, however, not that marriage, which interferes with the consummation of these elective affinities, is wrong, and ought to be abolished. If there is any moral at all (which is not perfectly obvious), it is that every man and woman should be aware of encouraging such relations, as they are sure to lead to unhappiness and disaster.
Christiane, Goethe’s wife, died in 1816, and he mourned her sincerely. Habit had bred a certain attachment, of which, with all her failings, she was not entirely undeserving. In her early youth, before she had yet assumed the name of wife, she had inspired the immortal Roman “Elegies,” in which her lover, with pagan unrestraint, had sung the delight of the senses. She had been his associate, too, in his botanical studies, and had assisted him in his search for the typical plant. But a wife in the noblest sense—a friend and a companion of her husband’s higher life—she had not been and could not have been.
In the last decades of his life, Goethe was largely absorbed in scientific researches and in arranging and editing the labors of his early life. Of particular importance is his autobiography, “Fact and Fiction” (“Aus Meinem Leben, Dichtung und Wahrheit”), which relates with extraordinary vividness that portion of his life which preceded his removal to Weimar. The book is an historical document of the highest importance. It gives the intellectual and moral complexion of the eighteenth century in Germany, as no other work has ever done. Also his letters from Italy to Herder and Frau von Stein he carefully edited and collected under the title “Italian Journey.” Then, as if by a miracle, came a poetic Indian summer, a fresh flow of lyrical verse, full of youthful spontaneity and fervor. This collection, which was published in 1819 under the title “The West-Eastern Divan,” was a free imitation of Oriental models, translated into German by Hammer Purgstall (1813). The first half of the book is chiefly didactic, while the latter half contains love lyrics, which in freshness of fancy and sweetness of melody rival the productions of Goethe’s best years. A few of these poems were written by Marianne Willemer, the wife of a merchant in Frankfort, and with her consent included in the collection. She cherished an ardent admiration for the old poet, and he highly valued her friendship. She is supposed to be “the beloved one” whom he celebrates in the book of “Zuleika.” The book of “Timur” is a free poetic moralization, concerning the rise and fall of Napoleon, disguised in Oriental forms. What is particularly remarkable in these melodious meditations is the novelty of their metres. Goethe discards, for the time, the classical measures in which his genius had moved with such sovereign ease, and adopts the strangely involved verse of an entirely alien civilization. It is the metrical forms which Platen, Heine, Rückert and Bodenstedt have made so familiar to German readers, and which German poets even to-day are assiduously cultivating. Although Goethe did not go into any such minute study of Oriental prosody as for instance Rückert, yet he was in this field, as in many other departments of literary labor, the path-breaking pioneer.
Another work which, though seemingly unassuming, gained, in the course of time, much importance for the intellectual life of Germany was the “Italian Journey,” which was given to the public in 1817. Altogether this collection of letters, containing only the simplest and most direct descriptions of what the writer saw, differs widely from every other description of Italy which has ever been published. It has no fine writing, and makes no pretentious display of knowledge. But for all that it is a model of good style. The words are absolutely transparent, and serve no purpose but to convey an accurate idea of the objects described. The marvelously many-sided knowledge of the author, and, above all, his wholesome and universal curiosity, are highly impressive. A fact, whether it belong to the realm of art or of nature, or of political history, commands his immediate interest. He has at all times and in all places a strong, healthful appetite for facts. On the Lido, near Venice, he sits and contemplates with a fascinated gaze the phenomena of marine life; with exactly the same devotion he listens to the responsive song of the fishermen across the lagoons, or studies the architecture of Palladio and the paintings of Rafael and Titian. The Adriatic, with its blue isles reflected in the sun-bathed waves, furnishes him with a setting for the Homeric epics, and Homeric life becomes clear to him, by analogy, from the study of the physical conditions of the old Magna Græcia. In every direction his comment is pregnant with new meaning. He throws out with heedless prodigality seed-corns of thought, and they fall into good soil and bear fruit a hundred and a thousand fold in the distant future.
Of Goethe’s other autobiographical works “Fiction and Fact” is the most important. The title is significant, because it implies that the author does not mean to tie himself down to the narration of the mere barren details of his life, but reserves for himself the right of artistic arrangement and poetical interpretation. It has, indeed, been proved that he has now and again reversed the sequence of events, where a more poetic effect could be attained at the expense of the true chronology. It was his purpose to emphasize the organic coherence of his life; its continuous and unbroken development, according to certain laws which presided over his destiny. His father and mother (upon whom he bestows the minutest description) being what they were, and the environment of his early life (which he likewise depicts with the most pains-taking exactness) being what it was, it was natural and necessary that he should become what he was. This seems to be the sum and moral of the whole. Law and organic evolution were the watchwords of his life. All that was accidental and appeared miraculous interested him only as an incentive to find in it the hidden law. So in every science which he approached his touch seemed creative—it brought order out of chaos. The slow and beautiful processes of the earth’s cooling and preparation for the habitation of living creatures, the gradual growth and decay of the mountains, and the uses of all these agencies in the grand cosmic economy—these were things which in the latter half of his career most profoundly absorbed him. He loved to gather about him scientific specialists, and to hear from them the latest results of their investigations. As his isolation in Weimar grew more complete, he came to depend almost entirely upon such company as he could find in travelling artists and scientists. As an instance of his interest in scientific questions, an anecdote related by his friend Soret is highly characteristic. In the first days of August, 1830, Weimar was agitated by the intelligence which had just arrived from Paris of the breaking out of the July Revolution. Soret hurried to Goethe to discuss the political situation with him. The moment Goethe saw him he exclaimed, “Well, what do you think of this great event? The volcano has at last come to eruption; everything is in flames, and there is no longer any question of debate behind closed doors.”
“It is a terrible story,” answered Soret, “but what was to be expected under such conditions and with such a ministry, except that it would have to end with the expulsion of the royal family.”
Goethe stared in the utmost astonishment. “We seem to misunderstand each other, my dear,” he said after a moment’s pause; “I am not talking of those people. What interests me is quite a different affair. I am referring to the quarrel which has just broken out in the Academy between Cuvier and Geoffroy St. Hillaire, which is of the utmost significance to science. The matter is of the highest importance,” he continued after another pause, “and you can have no idea of the feelings which the session of July 19th has aroused in me. We have now in St. Hillaire a mighty ally for a long time to come. . . . The best of all, however, is that the synthetic treatment of nature, introduced by him in France, can now no more be overthrown.”
It is to me a most sublime trait, this lofty scientific absorption. Wars and revolutions and expulsions of kings are of small consequence compared to the great eternal laws which hold the planets in their spheres, and guide the progressive march of God’s vast creation. Cuvier held that a series of violent catastrophes had taken place in the earth’s history, sharply separating each geologic age from the subsequent and the preceding one. St. Hillaire, on the other hand, defended Goethe’s proposition that the development of the earth and its life had been an uninterrupted sequence of progressive stages. How deeply Goethe felt upon this subject is further evident from his remark to Chancellor von Müller: “About aesthetic matters everyone may think and feel as he likes, but in natural science the false and the absurd are absolutely unendurable.” “This friend,” he remarked on the same occasion, referring to Alexander von Humboldt, who, as he thought, had given undue weight to volcanic agencies, “has, in fact, never had any higher method; only much common sense, zeal and persistence.”
Goethe’s attitude toward politics, and particularly toward the efforts of his countrymen to throw off the Napoleonic yoke, has been the subject of much heated controversy. The fact is, he was a German only in name; because the German nationality was in his day not yet resuscitated. In the free city of Frankfort, where Goethe spent his childhood and early youth, there existed no such feeling as national pride and patriotism. A kind of local town-feeling was quite pronounced, and Goethe had his share of it. But the miserable separatistic policy of the petty German princes had begun to bear fruit long ago, and had extinguished all sense of responsibility to the empire at large and all devotion for the common nationality. Where there is no national life there can be no patriotism. It is responsibility which engenders devotion. When, finally, Napoleon’s tyranny awakened this sentiment in the hearts of the scattered and dismembered nation, Goethe was too old to be affected by it. “Shake your fetters,” he exclaimed to his struggling countrymen, “you cannot break them. The man is too strong for you.”
That such language was resented by a bleeding people, fighting for its existence, is not to be wondered at. At the same time the apparent indifference of Goethe was not as serious a reflection upon his character as his friends then assumed. He was essentially a child of the eighteenth century, and had imbibed its individualism. All he demanded of the state was the right to pursue his own avocations in peace; and anything that broke in upon his literary and scientific meditation (even though it were a war of liberation) he was apt to resent as an intrusion. In 1813, when, after the battle of Jena, the French plundered Weimar and the grenadiers even stormed into his bed-room, he had a taste of the tribulations of war, and a deep horror of its terrific waste of life and barbarizing influence took possession of him. He stood no longer then, as he did in the campaign in France in 1792, watching the bursting shells with a purely scientific interest, taking down his observations in his note-book. The fiery rain was no longer a mere experiment in optics.
Goethe has somewhere remarked, that all his writings are one continued confession—his life entered into his work; every experience became transfused into the very life-blood of his thought, and gained in time its poetic expression. Only war remained so repugnant to him that he nowhere felt called upon to interpret the emotion which it aroused.
“How could I take up arms,” he said to Soret, “without hatred; and how could I hate without youth? If such an emergency had befallen me when I was twenty years old, I should certainly not have been the last. . . . To write military songs and sit in my room! That, for sooth, was my duty! To have written them in the bivouac, while the outposts of the enemy’s horses are heard neighing in the night, would have been well enough! . . . But I am no warlike nature, and have no warlike sense; war-songs would have been a mask which would have fitted my face badly. I have never affected anything in poetry. I have never uttered anything which I have not experienced and which has not urged me to production. I have composed love-songs when I loved! How could I write songs of hate without hating? And, between ourselves, I did not hate the French; althought I thanked God when we were rid of them. How could I, to whom culture and barbarism alone are of importance, hate a nation which is among the most cultivated of the earth, and to which I owe so much of my own culture. Altogether, national hatred is a peculiar thing, and you will always find it strongest at the lowest stage of culture.”
I have already alluded to the fact that Goethe in his old age found himself isolated from the society of friends and neighbors. Altogether, his relations with his great contemporaries need a word of comment. His friendship with Schiller, as we have seen, remained uninterrupted to the end; and with Wieland, who was a cheerful, easy-going epicurean, he also remained on amicable terms. But Wieland had never been very near to him; and a friendly acquaintance will take care of itself much more easily than a closer intimacy. With Herder, on the other hand, who in natural endowment was a worthier rival to Goethe than the prolific author of “Oberon,” he had many misunderstandings which, finally, after the Vulpius affair, led to a lasting alienation. Herder was, with all his great qualities, testy and irritable, and could not conquer a certain envy of Goethe. He had largely influenced Goethe’s intellectual life and therefore resented his pupil’s tendency to grow above his head. That he protested against Goethe’s liaison is certainly to his honor; and Goethe would have saved himself and his posterity much unhappiness had he heeded Herder’s advice. On the whole, it is obvious that Goethe, as he grew to his full intellectual stature, no longer desired relations of personal intimacy. He valued this friend for his proficiency in this branch of knowledge, and that friend for his proficiency in another; but he took pains, as it were, to confine each man to his own department in which he was likely to be useful and interesting. Even men with blots upon their reputations he invited to his house, if he had respect for their acquirements. But let them beware, if they desired to continue on an amicable footing, not to stray beyond their respective departments. Even in his relation to the duke, Karl August, Goethe maintained in later years a reserve, which so old and tried a friend might have felt justified in resenting. But the duke understood Goethe, and thought his attitude natural. He found him a useful and highly ornamental figure in his small duchy; and did everything in his power to further the objects for which he lived. Perhaps he even liked the stately reserve of the old poet. “As genuine grands seigneurs,” says Grimm, “they walked side by side, and the distance which separated them was exactly to their tastes. . . . From having been friends, Goethe and the duke became allies.”
During the last years of his life it was chiefly the Second Part of “Faust” and his periodical “For Art and Antiquity” which occupied Goethe. Like the aged Faust, he marched serenely toward the Valley of the Shadow of Death, cheerfully awaiting whatever fate there might be in store for him:
His activity was as many-sided and unwearied as in his most vigorous manhood. Not only the scientific, but also the literary currents of thought in all civilized lands he watched with the liveliest interest. So great was the elasticity of his mind, that he was in his old age capable of appreciating what was good in the Romantic school, in spite of his former dislike and his diametrically opposed intellectual tendency. The reactionary spirit of the Romanticists, and their wild enthusiasm for the Middle Ages, remained as repugnant to Goethe as ever; and their morbid mysticism and predilection for Catholicism did not commend them to one to whom the cheerful sensuousness and innate saneness of the Greek civilization had always strongly appealed. But the efforts of the Romantic authors to revive the feeling for native art seemed to him praiseworthy; and Sulpiz Boisserée, who was laboring earnestly for the restoration of the Cologne Cathedral, actually succeeded in convincing him of the national importance of his undertaking. The drawings and paintings of Albrecht Dürer also began to impress him, and his entire attitude toward the Middle Ages underwent a gradual change.
As the years progressed, the effects of Goethe’s activity began to be felt also in foreign lands, and he watched with interest and gratification his growing influence in every domain of human knowledge. Particularly in France, a school of rising authors, which also assumed the title of Romantic, strove through its organ, The Globe, to establish his authority beyond the Rhine. Although undoubtedly with the ulterior object of gaining a mighty ally against their enemies at home—the Academicians—these men, among whom Quinet, Ampère and Prosper Mérimée were the most prominent, paid their enthusiastic homage to the German poet, and, in spite of their defective comprehension of the spirit of his teachings, contributed not a little toward bringing his writings to the notice of the French public. In England also his writings were published, and commented upon with more or less intelligence in newspapers and reviews. Carlyle translated “Wilhelm Meister,” Walter Scott “Götz von Berlichingen” (1799), and Byron borrowed his ideas with his usual nonchalance. In Italy, too, he gained many admirers, and entertained a desultory correspondence with Manzoni. The ready recognition which he thus found on all hands gradually developed in him the idea of a world literature, which, independently of race and country, should appeal to the highest sense of excellence which the most cultured in all countries have in common. He had himself gathered the chief intellectual currents of his age, and made them pulsate through his own being. National differences and conflicting interests, which drew the peoples apart, seemed to him of small consequence compared to the great and abiding interests which all mankind has in common. Truth has no nationality, and a great thought is great in whatever language it is uttered. In the upper regions of the intellect men meet merely as men—as poets, thinkers, scientists—and all accidental distinctions of party, rank and nationality vanish. The ancient Greeks, who were the only people whose culture had been founded upon this universally human basis, would always remain authorities in matters of art. They were not to be imitated, however, but the spirit of their work, if properly comprehended, would stimulate the modern poet and artist to noble and independent creation.
Thus, in brief, was Goethe’s poetic creed. His prophecy of the world-literature is, however; yet far from fulfilment.
During the last years of Goethe’s life death reaped a rich harvest among those who were dearest to him. In June, 1828, died his oldest friend, Duke Karl August. Frau von Stein had died a few years before (1825). But the hardest blow of all was the loss of his only son, August von Goethe, who died in Rome in 1830. His daughter-in-law Ottilia remained his faithful companion and did the honors of his household. She read aloud to him from Plutarch—who was one of his favorite authors. To Eckermann he said as he sealed the package containing the completed MS. of “Faust,” “Henceforth I look upon my life purely as a gift; it is now really of little consequence what I do.”
A few months later (March 22d, 1832), as he was seated in his cosychair, suffering from a slight cold, he expired quietly and without a struggle. His last words were: “Light! more light!”
“The morning after Goethe’s death,” says Eckermann, “a deep desire seized me to look upon his earthly remains. His faithful servant Frederick opened for me the chamber where he was lying. Stretched upon his back, he reposed as if asleep; profound peace and firmness reigned in the features of his sublime, noble countenance. The mighty brow seemed yet to harbor thoughts. . . . The body lay naked, only wrapped in a winding-sheet. . . . The servant drew aside the sheet, and I marveled at the divine magnificence of those limbs. The breast was extraordinarily powerful, broad and arched; the arms and thighs were full and softly muscular; the feet shapely and of the purest form; nowhere on the whole body was there any trace of fat, or leanness, or decay. A perfect man lay in great beauty before me; and the rapture occasioned by this sight made me forget for a moment that the immortal spirit had left such an abode. I placed my hand on his heart; there was a deep stillness, and I turned away to give free vent to my suppressed tears.”
It is difficult to overestimate the value of Goethe’s work to humanity. The bequest which he left to the world in his writings, and in the whole intellectual result of his life, is not as yet appreciated at its full worth; because, intellectually, the world has not yet caught up with him. His influence to-day asserts itself in a hundred minute ways—even where no one suspects it. The century has received the stamp and impress of his mighty personality. The intellectual currents of the age, swelled and amplified by later tributaries, flow to-day in the directions which Goethe indicated.
THE morn arriv’d; his footstep quickly scar’d
The gentle sleep that round my senses clung,
And I, awak’ning, from my cottage far’d,
And up the mountain’s side with light heart sprung;
At ev’ry step I felt my gaze ensnar’d
By new-born flow’rs that full of dewdrops hung;
The youthful day awoke with ecstasy,
And all things quicken’d were, to quicken me.
And as I mounted, from the valley rose
A streaky mist, that upward slowly spread,
Then bent, as though my form it would enclose,
Then, as on pinions, soar’d above my head:
My gaze could now on no fair view repose,
In mournful veil conceal’d, the world seem’d dead;
The clouds soon clos’d around me, as a tomb,
And I was left alone in twilight gloom.
At once the sun his lustre seem’d to pour,
And through the mist was seen a radiant light;
Here sank it gently to the ground once more,
There parted it, and climb’d o’er wood and height.
How did I yearn to greet him as of yore,
After the darkness waxing doubly bright!
The airy conflict ofttimes was renew’d,
Then blinded by a dazzling glow I stood.
Ere long an inward impulse prompted me
A hasty glance with boldness round to throw;
At first mine eyes had scarcely strength to see,
For all around appear’d to burn and glow.
Then saw I, on the clouds borne gracefully,
A godlike woman hov’ring to and fro.
In life I ne’er had seen a form so fair—
She gaz’d at me, and still she hover’d there.
“Dost thou not know me?” were the words she said
In tones where love and faith were sweetly bound;
“Knowest thou not Her who oftentimes hath shed
The purest balsam in each earthly wound?
Thou know’st me well; thy panting heart I led
To join me in a bond with rapture crown’d.
Did I not see thee, when a stripling, yearning
To welcome me with tears heartfelt and burning?”
“Yes!” I exclaim’d, whilst, overcome with joy,
I sank to earth: “I long have worshipp’d thee;
Thou gav’st me rest, when passions rack’d the boy.
Pervading ev’ry limb unceasingly;
Thy heav’nly pinions thou didst then employ
The scorching sunbeams to ward off from me.
From thee alone Earth’s fairest gifts I gain’d,
Through thee alone true bliss can be obtain’d.
“Thy name I know not; yet I hear thee nam’d
By many a one who boasts thee as his own;
Each eye believes that tow’rd thy form ’tis aim’d,
Yet to most eyes thy rays are anguish-sown.
Ah! whilst I err’d, full many a friend I claim’d,
Now that I know thee, I am left alone;
With but myself can I my rapture share,
I needs must veil and hide thy radiance fair.”
She smil’d, and answering said: “Thou seest how wise.
How prudent ’twas but little to unveil!
Scarce from the clumsiest cheat are clear’d thine eyes,
Scarce hast thou strength thy childish bars to scale,
When thou dost rank thee ’mongst the deities,
And so man’s duties to perform would’st fail!
How dost thou differ from all other men?
Live with the world in peace, and know thee then!”
“Oh, pardon me!” I cried, “I meant it well;
Not vainly didst thou bless mine eyes with light;
For in my blood glad aspirations swell,
The value of thy gifts I know aright!
Those treasures in my breast for others dwell,
The buried pound no more I’ll hide from sight.
Why did I seek the road so anxiously,
If hidden from my brethren ’twere to be?”
And as I answer’d, tow’rd me turn’d her face,
With kindly sympathy, that godlike one;
Within her eye full plainly could I trace
What I had fail’d in, and what rightly done.
She smil’d, and cur’d me with that smile’s sweet grace,
To new-born joys my spirit soar’d anon;
With inward confidence I now could dare
To draw yet closer, and observe her there.
Through the light cloud she then stretch’d forth her hand,
As if to bid the streaky vapor fly:
At once it seem’d to yield to her command,
Contracted, and no mist then met mine eye.
My glance once more survey’d the smiling land,
Unclouded and serene appear’d the sky.
Nought but a veil of purest white she held,
And round her in a thousand folds it swell’d.
“I know thee, and I know thy wav’ring will,
I know the good that lives and glows in thee!”—
Thus spake she, and methinks I hear her still—
“The prize long destin’d, now receive from me;
That bless’d one will be safe from ev’ry ill,
Who takes this gift with soul of purity,—
The veil of Minstrelsy from Truth’s own hand,
Of sunlight and of morn’s sweet fragrance plann’d.
And when thou and thy friends at fierce noonday
Are parch’d with heat, straight cast it in the air!
Then Zephyr’s cooling breath will round you play,
Distilling balm and flowers’ sweet incense there;
The tones of earthly woe will die away,
The grave become a bed of clouds so fair,
To sing to rest life’s billows will be seen,
The day be lovely, and the night serene.”—
Come, then, my friends! and whensoe’er ye find
Upon your way increase life’s heavy load;
If by fresh-waken’d blessings flowers are twin’d
Around your path, and golden fruits bestow’d,
We’ll seek the coming day with joyous mind!
Thus bless’d, we’ll live, thus wander on our road,
And when our grandsons sorrow o’er our tomb,
Our love, to glad their bosoms, still shall bloom.
Late resounds the early strain;
Weal and woe in song remain.
What we sing in company
Soon from heart to heart will fly.
(Gracefully ad infinitum.)
Poets’ art is ever able
To endow with truth mere fable.
Lovely children large and small
All the Four our hearts enthrall.
Lovingly I’ll sing of love;
Ever comes she from above.
In the wares before you spread,
Types of all things may be read.
Dornburg, August 25th, 1828.
Artist, fashion! talk not long!
Be a breath thine only song!
Joy from that in type we borrow.
Which in life gives only sorrow.
In these numbers be express’d
Meaning deep, ’neath merry jest.
Who the song would understand.
Needs must seek the song’s own land.
Who the minstrel understand,
Needs must seek the minstrel’s land.
Spirit let us bridegroom call,
And the word the bride;
Known this wedding is to all
Who have Hafis tried.
Once, methought, in the night hours cold,
That I saw the moon in my sleep;
But as soon as I waken’d, behold
Unawares rose the sun from the deep.
“NE’ER have I seen the market and streets so thoroughly empty!
Still as the grave is the town, clear’d out! I verily fancy
Fifty at most of all our inhabitants still may be found there.
People are so inquisitive! All are running and racing
Merely to see the sad train of poor fellows driven to exile.
Down to the causeway now building, the distance nearly a league is,
And they thitherward rush, in the heat and the dust of the noonday.
As for me, I had rather not stir from my place just to stare at
Worthy and sorrowful fugitives, who, with what goods they can carry,
Leaving their own fair land on the further side of the Rhine-stream,
Over to us are crossing, and wander through the delightful
Nooks of this fruitful vale, with all its twistings and windings.
Wife, you did right well to bid our son go and meet them,
Taking with him old linen, and something to eat and to drink too,
Just to give to the poor; the rich are bound to befriend them.
How he is driving along! How well he holds in the horses!
Then the new little carriage looks very handsome; inside it
Four can easily sit, besides the one on the coachbox.
This time he is alone; how easily turns it the corner!”
Thus to his wife the host of the Golden Lion discoursed,
Sitting at ease in the porch of his house adjoining the market.
Then replied as follows the shrewd and sensible hostess:—
“Father, I don’t like giving old linen away, for I find it
Useful in so many ways, ’tis not to be purchas’d for money
Just when it’s wanted. And yet to-day I gladly have given
Many excellent articles, shirts and covers and suchlike;
For I have heard of old people and children walking half-naked.
Will you forgive me, too, for having ransacked your presses?
That grand dressing-gown, cover’d with Indian flowers all over,
Made of the finest calico, lin’d with excellent flannel,
I have despatch’d with the rest; ’tis thin, old, quite out of fashion.”
But the worthy landlord only smiled, and then answer’d:—
“I shall dreadfully miss that ancient calico garment,
Genuine Indian stuff! They’re not to be had any longer.
Well! I shall wear it no more. And your poor husband henceforward
Always must wear a surtout, I suppose, or commonplace jacket,
Always must put on his boots; good-by to cap and to slippers!”
“See,” continu’d his wife, “a few are already returning
Who have seen the procession, which long ago must have pass’d by.
See how dusty their shoes are, and how their faces are glowing!
Each one carries a handkerchief, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
I, for one, wouldn’t hurry and worry myself in such weather
Merely to see such a sight! I’m certain to hear all about it.”
And the worthy father, speaking with emphasis, added:—
“Such fine weather seldom lasts through the whole of the harvest;
And we’re bringing the fruit home, just as the hay we brought lately,
Perfectly dry; the sky is clear, no clouds in the heavens,
And the whole day long delicious breezes are blowing.
Splendid weather I call it! The corn already too ripe is,
And to-morrow begin we to gather the plentiful harvest.”
Whilst he was thus discoursing, the number of men and of women
Crossing the market and going towards home kept ever increasing;
And there return’d amongst others, bringing with him his daughters,
On the other side of the market, their prosperous neighbor,
Going full speed to his newbuilt house, the principal merchant,
Riding inside an open carriage (in Landau constructed).
All the streets were alive; for the town, though small, was well peopled,
Many a factory throve there, and many a business also.
Long sat the excellent couple under the doorway, exchanging
Many a passing remark on the people who happen’d to pass them.
Presently thus to her husband exclaim’d the good-natured hostess:—
“See! Yon comes the minister; with him is walking the druggist:
They’ll be able to give an account of all that has happen’d,
What they witness’d, and many a sight I fear which was painful.”
Both of them came in a friendly manner, and greeted the couple,
Taking their seats on the wooden benches under the doorway,
Shaking the dust from their feet, their handkerchiefs using to fan them.
Presently, after exchanging reciprocal greetings, the druggist
Open’d his mouth, and almost peevishly vented his feelings:—
“What strange creatures men are! They all resemble each other,
All take pleasure in staring, when troubles fall on their neighbors.
Ev’ry one runs to see the flames destroying a dwelling,
Or a poor criminal led in terror and shame to the scaffold.
All the town has been out to gaze at the sorrowing exiles,
None of them bearing in mind that a like misfortune hereafter,
Possibly almost directly, may happen to be their own portion.
I can’t pardon such levity; yet ’tis the nature of all men.”
Thereupon rejoin’d the noble and excellent pastor,
He, the charm of the town, in age scarce more than a stripling:—
(He was acquainted with life, and knew the wants of his hearers,
Fully convinc’d of the worth of the Holy Scriptures, whose mission
Is to reveal man’s fate, his inclinations to fathom;
He was also well read in the best of secular writings.)
“I don’t like to find fault with any innocent impulse
Which in the mind of man Dame Nature has ever implanted;
For what reason and intellect ne’er could accomplish, is often
Done by some fortunate, quite irresistible instinct within him.
If mankind were never by curiosity driven,
Say, could they e’er have found out for themselves the wonderful manner
Things in the world range in order? For first they Novelty look for,
Then with untiring industry seek to discover the Useful,
Lastly they yearn for the Good, which makes them noble and worthy.
All through their youth frivolity serves as their joyous companion,
Hiding the presence of danger, and swiftly effacing the traces
Caus’d by misfortune and grief, as soon as their onslaught is over.
Truly the man’s to be prais’d who, as years roll onward, develops
Out of such glad disposition an intellect settled and steady,—
Who, in good fortune as well as misfortune, strives zealously, nobly;
For what is good he brings forth, replacing whatever is injur’d.”
Then in a friendly voice impatiently spoke thus the hostess:—
“Tell us what you have seen; I am eagerly longing to hear it.”
Then with emphasis answer’d the druggist:—“The terrible stories
Told me to-day will serve for a long time to make me unhappy.
Words would fail to describe the manifold pictures of mis’ry.
Far in the distance saw we the dust, before we descended
Down to the meadows; the rising hillocks hid the procession
Long from our eyes, and little could we distinguish about it.
When, however, we reach’d the road that winds through the valley,
Great was the crowd and the noise of the emigrants mix’d with the wagons.
We unhappily saw poor fellows passing in numbers,
Some of them showing how bitter the sense of their sorrowful flight was,
Some with a feeling of joy at saving their lives in a hurry.
Sad was the sight of the manifold goods and chattels pertaining
Unto a well-manag’d house, which the careful owner’s accustom’d
Each in its proper position to place, and in regular order,
Always ready for use, for all are wanted and useful.—
Sad was the sight of them now, on many a wagon and barrow
Heap’d in thorough confusion, and hurriedly huddled together.
Over a cupboard was plac’d a sieve and a coverlet woollen;
Beds in the kneading troughs lay, and linen over the glasses.
Ah! and the danger appear’d to rob the men of their senses,
Just as in our great fire of twenty years ago happen’d,
When what was worthless they sav’d, and left all the best things behind them.
So on the present occasion with heedless caution they carried
Many valueless chattels, o’erlading the cattle and horses,—
Common old boards and barrels, a birdcage next to a goose-pen.
Women and children were gasping beneath the weight of their bundles,
Baskets and tubs full of utterly useless articles bearing.
(Man is always unwilling the least of his goods to abandon.)
Thus on its dusty way advanced the crowded procession,
All in hopeless confusion. First one, whose cattle were weaker,
Fain would slowly advance, while others would eagerly hasten.
Then there arose a scream of half-crush’d women and children,
And a lowing of cattle, with yelping of dogs intermingled,
And a wailing of aged and sick, all sitting and shaking,
Rang’d in their beds on the top of the wagon too-heavily laden.
Next some lumbering wheel, push’d out of the track by the pressure,
Went to the edge of the roadway; the vehicle fell in the ditch then,
Rolling right over, and throwing, in falling, the men who were in it
Far in the field, screaming loudly, their persons however uninjur’d.
Then the boxes roll’d off and tumbled close to the wagon.
Those who saw them falling full surely expected to see them
Smash’d to pieces beneath the weight of the chests and the presses.
So the wagon lay broken, and those that it carried were helpless,
For the rest of the train went on, and hurriedly pass’d them,
Thinking only of self, and carried away by the current.
So we sped to the spot, and found the sick and the aged
Who, when at home and in bed could scarcely endure their sad ailments,
Lying there on the ground, all sighing and groaning in anguish,
Stifled by clouds of dust, and scorch’d by the fierce sun of summer.”
Then replied in tones of compassion the sensitive landlord:—
“Hermann I trust will find them and give them refreshment and clothing.
I should unwillingly see them; I grieve at the sight of such sorrow.
Touch’d by the earliest news of the sad extent of the suff’ring,
Hastily sent we a trifle from out of our superabundance,
Just to comfort a few, and then our minds were more easy.
Now let us cease to discourse on such a sorrowful subject,
For men’s hearts are easily overshadow’d by terror,
And by care, more odious far to me than misfortune.
Now let us go to a cooler place, the little backparlor;
There the sun never shines, and the walls are so thick that the hot air
Never can enter; and mother shall forthwith bring us a glass each
Full of fine Eighty-three, well fitted to drive away trouble.
This is a bad place for drinking; the flies will hum round the glasses.”
So they all went inside, enjoying themselves in the coolness.
Then in a well-cut flask the mother carefully brought them
Some of that clear, good wine, upon a bright metal waiter
With those greenish rummers, the fittingest goblets for Rhine wine.
So the three sat together, around the glistening polish’d
Circular large brown table,—on massive feet it was planted.
Merrily clink’d together the glasses of host and of pastor,
But the other one thoughtfully held his glass without moving,
And in friendly fashion the host thus ask’d him to join them:—
“Drink, good neighbor, I pray! A merciful God has protected
Us in the past from misfortune, and will protect us in future.
All must confess that since He thought fit to severely chastise us,
When that terrible fire occurr’d, He has constantly bless’d us,
And watch’d over us constantly, just as man is accustom’d
His eye’s precious apple to guard, that dearest of members.
Shall He not for the future preserve us, and be our Protector?
For ’tis in danger we learn to appreciate duly His Goodness.
This so flourishing town, which He built again from its ashes
By the industrious hands of its burghers, and bless’d it so richly,
Will He again destroy it, and render their toil unavailing?”
Cheerfully answer’d the excellent pastor, in accents of mildness:—
“Steadfastly cling to this faith, and cherish such worthy opinions;
In good fortune they’ll make you prudent, and then in misfortune
Well-grounded hopes they’ll supply, and furnish you true consolation.”
Then continued the host, with thoughts full of manhood and wisdom:—
“Oft have I greeted with wonder the rolling flood of the Rhine stream,
When, on my business trav’lling, I’ve once more come to its borders.
Grand has it ever appear’d, exalting my feelings and senses;
But I could never imagine that soon its beautiful margin
Into a wall would be turn’d, to keep the French from our country,
And its wide-spreading bed a ditch to hinder and check them.
So by Nature we’re guarded, we’re guarded by valorous Germans,
And by the Lord we’re guarded; who then would foolishly tremble?
Weary the combatants are, and all things indicate peace soon;
And when at length the long-expected festival’s holden
Here in our church, and the bells chime in with the organ in chorus,
And the trumpets are blowing, the noble Te Deum upraising,
Then on that selfsame day I fain would see, my good pastor,
Our dear Hermann kneel with his bride at the altar before you,
And the glad festival held through the length and breadth of the country
Will henceforward to me be a glad anniversary also!
But I am griev’d to observe that the youth, who is always so active
When he is here at home, abroad is so slow and so timid.
Little at any time cares he to mix with the rest of the people;
Yes, he even avoids young maidens’ society ever,
And the frolicsome dance, that great delight of young people.”
Thus he spake, and then listen’d. The sound of the stamping of horses
Drawing nearer was heard; and then the roll of the carriage,
Which, with impetuous speed, now thunder’d under the gateway.
THEN when into the room the well-built son made his entry,
Straightway with piercing glances the minister eyed him intently,
And with carefulness watch’d his looks and the whole of his bearing,
With an inquiring eye which easily faces deciphers;
Then he smil’d, and with cordial words address’d him as follows:—
“How you are chang’d in appearance, my friend! I never have seen you
Half so lively before; your looks are thoroughly cheerful.
You have return’d quite joyous and merry. You’ve doubtless divided
All of the presents amongst the poor, their blessings receiving.”
Then in calm accents replied the son, with gravity speaking:—
“Whether I’ve laudably acted, I know not; I follow’d the impulse
Of my own heart, as now I’ll proceed to describe with exactness.
Mother, you rummag’d so long, in looking over old pieces,
And in making your choice, that ’twas late when the bundle was ready,
And the wine and the beer were slowly and carefully pack’d up.
When I at length emerg’d at the gate, and came on the highway,
Streams of citizens met I returning, with women and children,
For the train of the exiles had long disappear’d in the distance.
So I quicken’d my pace, and hastily drove to the village
Where I had heard that to-night to rest and to sleep they intended.
Well, as I went on my way, the newly-made causeway ascending,
Suddenly saw I a wagon, of excellent timber constructed,
Drawn by a couple of oxen, the best and the strongest of foreign.
Close beside it there walk’d, with sturdy footsteps, a maiden,
Guiding the two strong beasts with a long kind of staff, which with skill she
Knew how to use, now driving, and now restraining their progress.
When the maiden observ’d me, she quietly came near the horses,
And address’d me as follows:—‘Our usual condition, believe me,
Is not so sad as perchance you might judge from our present appearance.
I am not yet accustom’d to ask for alms from a stranger,
Who so often but gives, to rid himself of a beggar.
But I’m compell’d to speak by necessity. Here on the straw now
Lies the lately-confin’d poor wife of a wealthy landowner,
Whom with much trouble I manag’d to save with oxen and wagon.
We were late in arriving, and scarcely with life she escaped.
Now the newly-born child in her arms is lying, all naked,
And our friends will be able to give them but little assistance,
E’en if in the next village, to which to-night we are going,
We should still find them, although I fear they have left it already.
If you belong to the neighborhood, any available linen
These poor people will deem a most acceptable present.’
“Thus she spake, and wearily rais’d herself the pale patient
Up from the straw and gaz’d upon me, while thus I made answer:—
‘Oft doth a heavenly spirit whisper to kindhearted people,
So that they feel the distress o’er their poorer brethren impending;
For my mother, your troubles foreboding, gave me a bundle
Ready prepar’d for relieving the wants of those who were naked.’
Then I loosen’d the knots of the cord, and the dressing-gown gave her
Which belong’d to my father, and gave her some shirts and some linen,
And she thank’d me with joy and said:—‘The fortunate know not
How ’tis that miracles happen; we only discover in sorrow
God’s protecting finger and hand, extended to beckon
Good men to good. May your kindness to us by Him be requited.’
And I saw the poor patient joyfully handling the linen,
Valuing most of all the soft flannel, the dressing-gown lining.
Then the maid thus address’d her:—‘Now let us haste to the village
Where our friends are resting, to-night intending to sleep there;
There I will straightway attend to whate’er for the infant is needed.’
Then she saluted me too, her thanks most heartily giving,
Drove the oxen, the wagon went on. I linger’d behind them,
Holding my horses rein’d back, divided between two opinions,
Whether to hasten ahead, reach the village, the viands distribute
’Mongst the rest of the people, or give them forthwith to the maiden,
So that she might herself divide them amongst them with prudence.
Soon I made up my mind, and follow’d after her softly,
Overtook her without delay, and said to her quickly:—
‘Maiden, it was not linen alone that my mother provided
And in the carriage plac’d, as clothing to give to the naked,
But she added meat, and many an excellent drink, too;
And I have got quite a stock stow’d away in the boot of the carriage.
Well, I have taken a fancy the rest of the gifts to deposit
In your hands, and thus fulfil to the best my commission;
You will divide them with prudence, whilst I my fate am obeying.’
Then the maiden replied:—‘With faithfulness I will distribute
All your gifts, and the needy shall surely rejoice at your bounty.’
Thus she spake, and I hastily open’d the boot of the carriage,
Took out the hams (full heavy they were) and took out the bread-stuffs,
Flasks of wine and beer, and handed the whole of them over.
Gladly would I have given her more, but empty the boot was.
Straightway she pack’d them away at the feet of the patient, and forthwith
Started again, whilst I hasten’d back to the town with my horses.”
Then when Hermann had ended his story, the garrulous neighbor
Open’d his mouth and exclaim’d:—“I only deem the man happy
Who lives alone in his house in these days of flight and confusion,
Who has neither wife nor children cringing beside him!
I feel happy at present; I hate the title of father;
Care of children and wife in these days would be a sad drawback.
Often have I bethought me of flight, and have gather’d together
All that I deem most precious, the antique gold and the jewels
Worn by my late dear mother, not one of which has been sold yet.
Much indeed is left out, that is not so easily carried.
Even the herbs and the roots, collected with plenty of trouble,
I should be sorry to lose, though little in value they may be.
If the dispenser remains, I shall leave my house in good spirits;
If my ready money is sav’d, and my body, why truly
All is sav’d, for a bachelor easily flies when ’tis needed.”
“Neighbor,” rejoin’d forthwith young Hermann, with emphasis speaking:—
“Altogether I differ, and greatly blame your opinions.
Can that man be deem’d worthy, who both in good and ill fortune
Thinks alone of himself, and knows not the secret of sharing
Sorrows and joys with others, and feels no longing to do so?
I could more easily now than before determine to marry;
Many an excellent maiden needs a husband’s protection,
Many a man a cheerful wife, when sorrow’s before him.”
Smilingly said then the father:—“I’m pleas’d to hear what you’re saying,
Words of such wisdom have seldom been utter’d by you in my presence.”
Then his good mother broke in, in her turn, with vivacity speaking:—
“Son, you are certainly right. We parents set the example.
’Twas not in time of pleasure that we made choice of each other,
And ’twas the saddest of hours that knitted us closely together.
Monday morning,—how well I remember! the very day after
That most terrible fire occurr’d which burn’d down the borough,
Twenty years ago now; the day, like to-day, was a Sunday,
Hot and dry was the weather, and little available water.
All the inhabitants, cloth’d in their festival garments, were walking,
Scatter’d about in the inns and the mills of the neighboring hamlets.
At one end of the town the fire broke out, and the flames ran
Hastily all through the streets, impell’d by the draught they created.
And the barns were consum’d, where all the rich harvest was gather’d.
And all the streets as far as the market; the dwelling-house also
Of my father hard by was destroy’d, as likewise was this one.
Little indeed could we save; I sat the sorrowful night through
On the green of the town, protecting the beds and the boxes.
Finally sleep overtook me, and when by the cool breeze of morning
Which dies away when the sun arises I was awaken’d,
Saw I the smoke and the glow, and the half-consum’d walls and the chimneys.
Then my heart was sorely afflicted; but soon in his glory
Rose the sun more brilliant than ever, my spirits reviving.
Then in haste I arose, impell’d the site to revisit
Where our dwelling had stood, to see if the chickens were living
Which I especially lov’d; for childlike I still was by nature.
But when over the ruins of courtyard and house I was climbing,
Which still smok’d, and saw my dwelling destory’d and deserted,
You came up on the other side, the ruins exploring.
You had a horse shut up in his stall; the still-glowing rafters
Over it lay, and rubbish, and naught could be seen of the creature.
Over against each other we stood, in doubt and in sorrow,
For the wall had fallen which used to sever our courtyards;
And you grasp’d my hand, addressing me softly as follows:—
‘Lizzy, what here are you doing? Away! Your soles you are burning,
For the rubbish is hot, and is scorching my boots which are thicker.’
Then you lifted me up, and carried me off through your courtyard.
There still stood the gateway before the house, with its arch’d roof,
Just as it now is standing, the only thing left remaining.
And you set me down and kiss’d me, and I tried to stop you,
But you presently said, with kindly words full of meaning:—
‘See, my house is destroy’d! Stop here and help me to build it,
I in return will help to rebuild the house of your father.’
I understood you not, till you sent to my father your mother,
And ere long our marriage fulfill’d the troth we soon plighted.
Still to this day I remember with pleasure the half-consum’d rafters,
Still do I see the sun in all his majesty rising,
For on that day I gain’d my husband; the son of my youth too
Gain’d I during that earliest time of the wild desolation.
Therefore commend I you, Hermann, for having with confidence guileless
Turn’d towards marriage your thoughts in such a period of mourning,
And for daring to woo in war and over the ruins.”
Then the father straightway replied, with eagerness speaking:—
“Sensible is your opinion, and true is also the story
Which you have told us, good mother, for so did ev’rything happen.
But what is better is better. ’Tis not the fortune of all men
All their life and existence to find decided beforehand;
All are not doom’d to such troubles as we and others have suffer’d.
Oh, how happy is he whose careful father and mother
Have a house ready to give him, which he can successfully manage!
All beginnings are hard, and most so the landlord’s profession.
Numberless things a man must have, and ev’rything daily
Dearer becomes, so he needs to scrape together more money.
So I am hoping that you, dear Hermann, will shortly be bringing
Home to us a bride possessing an excellent dowry,
For a worthy husband deserves a girl who is wealthy,
And ’tis a capital thing for the wish’d-for wife to bring with her
Plenty of suitable articles stow’d in her baskets and boxes.
Not in vain for years does the mother prepare for her daughter
Stocks of all kinds of linen, both finest and strongest in texture;
Not in vain do god-parents give them presents of silver,
Or the father lay by in his desk a few pieces of money.
For she hereafter will gladden, with all her goods and possessions,
That happy youth who is destined from out of all others to choose her.
Yes! I know how pleasant it makes a house for a young wife,
When she finds her own property plac’d in the rooms and the kitchen,
And when she herself has cover’d the bed and the table.
Only well-to-do brides should be seen in a house, I consider,
For a poor one is sure at last to be scorn’d by her husband,
And he’ll deem her a jade who as jade first appear’d with her bundle.
Men are always unjust, but moments of love are but transient.
Yes, my Hermann, you greatly would cheer the old age of your father
If you soon would bring home a daughter-in-law to console me,
Out of the neighborhood too,—yes, out of yon dwelling,—the green one!
Rich is the man, in truth: his trade and his manufactures
Make him daily richer, for when does a merchant not prosper?
He has only three daughters; the whole of his wealth they’ll inherit.
True the eldest’s already engag’d; but then there’s the second,
And the third, who still (not for long) may be had for the asking.
Had I been in your place, I should not till this time have waited;
Bring home one of the girls, as I brought your mother before you.”
Then, with modesty, answer’d the son his impetuous father:—
“Truly my wish was, like yours, to marry one of the daughters
Of our neighbor. We all, in fact, were brought up together,
Sported in youthful days near the fountain adjoining the market,
And from the rudeness of boys I often manag’d to save them.
But those days have long pass’d; the maidens grew up, and with reason
Stop now at home and avoid the rougher pastimes of childhood.
Well brought up with a vengeance they are! To please you, I sometimes
Went to visit them, just for the sake of olden acquaintance;
But I was never much pleas’d at holding intercourse with them,
For they were always finding fault, and I had to bear it:
First my coat was too long, the cloth too coarse, and the color
Far too common, my hair was cut and curl’d very badly.
I at last was thinking of dressing myself like the shop-boys,
Who are accustom’d on Sundays to show off their persons up yonder,
And round whose coats in summer half-silken tatters are hanging.
But ere long I discover’d they only intended to fool me;
This was very annoying, my pride was offended, but more still
Felt I deeply wounded that they so mistook the good feelings
Which I cherish’d towards them, especially Minnie, the youngest.
Well, I went last Easter, politely to pay them a visit,
And I wore the new coat now hanging up in the closet,
And was frizzl’d and curl’d, like all the rest of the youngsters.
When I enter’d, they titter’d; but that didn’t very much matter.
Minnie sat at the piano, the father was present amongst them,
Pleas’d with his daughter’s singing, and quite in a jocular humor.
Little could I understand of the words in the songs she was singing,
But I constantly heard of Pamina, and then of Tamino,
And I fain would express my opinion; so when she had ended,
I ask’d questions respecting the text, and who were the persons.
All were silent and smil’d; but presently answer’d the father:—
‘Did you e’er happen, my friend, to hear of Eve or of Adam?’
Then no longer restrain’d they themselves, the girls burst out laughing,
All the boys laugh’d loudly, the old man’s sides appear’d splitting.
In my confusion I let my hat fall down, and the titt’ring
Lasted all the time the singing and playing continu’d.
Then I hasten’d home, asham’d and full of vexation,
Hung up my coat in the closet, and put my hair in disorder
With my fingers, and swore ne’er again to cross o’er their threshold.
And I’m sure I was right; for they are all vain and unloving.
And I hear they’re so rude as to give me the nickname Tamino.”
Then the mother rejoin’d:—“You’re wrong, dear Hermann, to harbor
Angry feelings against the children, for they are but children.
Minnie’s an excellent girl, and has a tenderness for you;
Lately she ask’d how you were. Indeed, I wish you would choose her!”
Then the son thoughtfully answer’d:—“I know not why, but the fact is
My annoyance has graven itself in my mind, and hereafter
I could not bear at the piano to see her, or list to her singing.”
But the father sprang up, and said, in words full of anger:—
“Little comfort you give me, in truth! I always have said it,
When you took pleasure in horses, and cared for nothing but fieldwork;
That which the servants of prosperous people perform as their duty,
You yourself do; meanwhile the father his son must dispense with,
Who in his honor was wont to court the rest of the townsfolk.
Thus with empty hopes your mother early deceiv’d me,
When your reading, and writing, and learning at school ne’er succeeded
Like the rest of the boys, and so you were always the lowest.
This all comes from a youth not possessing a due sense of honor,
And not having the spirit to try to raise his position.
Had my father but cared for me, as I have for you, sir,
Sent me to school betimes, and given me proper instructors,
I should not merely have been the host of the fam’d Golden Lion.”
But the son arose, and approach’d the doorway in silence,
Slowly, and making no noise; but then the father in dudgeon
After him shouted:—“Be off! I know you’re an obstinate fellow!
Go and look after the business; else I shall scold you severely;
But don’t fancy I’ll ever allow you to bring home in triumph
As my daughter-in-law any boorish impudent hussy.
Long have I liv’d in the world, and know how to manage most people,
Know how to entertain ladies and gentlemen, so that they leave me
In good humor, and know how to flatter a stranger discreetly.
But my daughter-in-law must have useful qualities also,
And be able to soften my manifold cares and vexations.
She must also play on the piano, that all the best people
Here in the town may take pleasure in often coming to see us,
As in the house of our neighbor the merchant happens each Sunday.”
Softly the son at these words rais’d the latch, and left the apartment.
THUS did the prudent son escape from the hot conversation,
But the father continu’d precisely as he had begun it:—
“What is not in a man can never come out of him, surely!
Never, I fear, shall I see fulfill’d my dearest of wishes,
That my son should be unlike his father, but better.
What would be the fate of a house or a town, if its inmates
Did not all take pride in preserving, renewing, improving,
As we are taught by the age, and by the wisdom of strangers?
Man is not born to spring out of the ground, just like a mere mushroom,
And to rot away soon in the very place that produc’d him!
Leaving behind him no trace of what he has done in his lifetime.
One can judge by the look of a house of the taste of its master,
As on ent’ring a town, one can judge the authorities’ fitness.
For where the towers and walls are falling, where in the ditches
Dirt is collected, and dirt in every street is seen lying,
Where the stones come out of their groove, and are not replac’d there,
Where the beams are rotting, and vainly the houses are waiting
New supports; that town is sure to be wretchedly manag’d.
For where order and cleanliness reign not supreme in high places,
Then to dirt and delay the citizens soon get accustom’d,
Just as the beggar’s accustom’d to wear his clothes full of tatters.
Therefore I often have wish’d that Hermann would start on his travels
Ere he’s much older, and visit at any rate Strasburg and Frankfort,
And that pleasant town, Mannheim, so evenly built and so cheerful.
He who has seen such large and cleanly cities rests never
Till his own native town, however small, he sees better’d.
Do not all strangers who visit us praise our well-mended gateways,
And the well-whited tower, the church so neatly repair’d too?
Do not all praise our pavements? Our well-arrang’d cover’d-in conduits,
Always well furnish’d with water, utility blending with safety,
So that a fire, whenever it happens, is straightway extinguish’d,—
Is not this the result of that conflagration so dreadful?
Six times in Council I superintended the town’s works, receiving
Hearty thanks and assistance from every well-dispos’d burgher.
How I design’d, follow’d up and insur’d the completion of measures
Worthy men had projected, and afterwards left all unfinish’d!
Finally, every man in the Council took pleasure in working.
All put forth their exertions, and now they have finally settled
That new highway to make, which will join our town with the mainroad.
But I am greatly afraid that the young generation won’t act thus;
Some on the one hand think only of pleasure and trumpery dresses,
Others won’t stir out of doors, and pass all their time by the fireside,
And our Hermann, I fear, will always be one of this last sort.”
Forthwith to him replied the excellent sensible mother:—
“Father, you’re always unjust whenever you speak of your son, and
That is the least likely way to obtain your wishes’ fulfilment;
For we cannot fashion our children after our fancy.
We must have them and love them, as God has given them to us,
Bring them up for the best, and let each do as he listeth.
One has one kind of gift, another possesses another,
Each one employs them, and each in turn in his separate fashion
Good and happy becomes. My Hermann shall not be upbraided,
For I know that he well deserves the wealth he’ll inherit;
He’ll be an excellent landlord, a pattern to burghers and peasants,
And, as I clearly foresee, by no means the last in the Council.
But with your blame and reproaches, you daily dishearten him sadly,
As you have done just now, and make the poor fellow unhappy.”
Then she left the apartment, and after her son hasten’d quickly,
Hoping somewhere to find him, and with her words of affection
Gladden his heart, for he, the excellent son, well deserv’d it.
Smilingly, when she had clos’d the door, continu’d the father:—
“What a wonderful race of people are women and children!
All of them fain would do whatever pleases their fancy,
And we’re only allow’d to praise them and flatter them freely.
Once for all there’s truth in the ancient proverb which tells us:
He who moves not forward, goes backward! a capital saying!”
Speaking with much circumspection, the druggist made answer as follows:—
“What you say, good neighbor, is certainly true, and my plan is
Always to think of improvement, provided though new, ’tis not costly.
But what avails it in truth, unless one has plenty of money,
Active and fussy to be, improving both inside and outside?
Sadly confin’d are the means of a burgher; e’en when he knows it,
Little that’s good he is able to do, his purse is too narrow,
And the sum wanted too great; and so he is always prevented.
I have had plenty of schemes! but then I was terribly frighten’d
At the expense, especially during a time of such danger.
Long had my house smil’d upon me, deck’d out in modish exterior;
Long had my windows with large panes of glass resplendently glitter’d.
Who can compete with a merchant, however, who, rolling in riches,
Also knows the manner in which what is best can be purchas’d?
Only look at the house up yonder, the new one! how handsome
Looks the stucco of those white scrolls on the green-color’d panels!
Large are the plates of the windows; how shining and brilliant the panes are,
Quite eclipsing the rest of the houses that stand in the market!
Yet at the time of the fire, our two were by far the most handsome,
Mine at the sign of the Angel, and yours at the old Golden Lion.
Then my garden was famous throughout the whole country, and strangers
Used to stop as they pass’d and peep through my red-color’d palings
At my beggars of stone, and at my dwarfs, which were painted.
He to whom I gave coffee inside my beautiful grotto,
Which, alas! is now cover’d with dust and tumbling to pieces,
Used to rejoice in the color’d glimmering light of the mussels,
Rang’d in natural order around it, and connoisseurs even
Used with dazzl’d eyes to gaze at the spars and the coral.
Then, in the drawing-room, people look’d with delight on the painting,
Where the prim ladies and gentlemen walk’d in the garden demurely,
And with pointed fingers presented the flowers, and held them.
Ah, if only such things were now to be seen! Little care I
Now to go out; for everything needs to be alter’d and tasteful,
As it is call’d; and white are the benches of wood and the palings;
All things are simple and plain; and neither carving nor gilding
Now are employ’d, and foreign timber is now all the fashion.
I should be only too pleas’d to possess some novelty also,
So as to march with the times, and my household furniture alter.
But we all are afraid to make the least alteration,
For who is able to pay the present charges of workmen?
Lately a fancy possess’d me, the angel Michael, whose figure
Hangs up over my shop, to treat to a new coat of gilding,
And the terrible Dragon, who round his feet is entwining;
But I have left him all brown; as he is; for the cost quite alarm’d me.”
THUS the men discoursed together; and meanwhile the mother
Went in search of her son,—at first in front of the dwelling
On the bench of stone, for he was accustom’d to sit there.
When she found him not there, she went to look in the stable,
Thinking perchance he was feeding his splendid horses, the stallions,
Which he had bought when foals, and which he entrusted to no one.
But the servant inform’d her that he had gone to the garden.
Then she nimbly strode across the long double courtyard,
Left the stables behind, and the barns all made of good timber,
Enter’d the garden which stretch’d far away to the walls of the borough,
Walk’d across it, rejoicing to see how all things were growing,
Carefully straighten’d the props, on which the apple tree’s branches,
Heavily-loaded, repos’d, and the weighty boughs of the pear tree,
Took a few caterpillars from off the strong-sprouting cabbage;
For a bustling woman is never idle one moment.
In this manner she came to the end of the long-reaching garden,
Where was the arbor all cover’d with woodbine: she found not her son there,
Nor was he to be seen in any part of the garden,
But she found on the latch the door which out of the arbor
Through the wall of the town had been made by special permission
During their ancestor’s time, the worthy old burgomaster.
So she easily stepp’d across the dry ditch at the spot where
On the highway abutted their well-enclos’d excellent vineyard,
Rising steeply upwards, its face tow’rd the sun turn’d directly.
Up the hill she proceeded, rejoicing, as farther she mounted,
At the size of the grapes, which scarcely were hid by the foliage.
Shady and well-cover’d in, the middle walk at the top was,
Which was ascended by steps of rough flat pieces constructed.
And within it were hanging fine chasselas and muscatels also,
And a reddish-blue grape, of quite an exceptional bigness,
All with carefulness planted, to give to their guests after dinner.
But with separate stems the rest of the vineyard was planted,
Smaller grapes producing, from which the finest wine made is.
So she constantly mounted, enjoying in prospect the autumn,
And the festal day, when the neighborhood met with rejoicing,
Picking and treading the grapes, and putting the must in the wine-vats.
Every corner and nook resounding at night with the fireworks,
Blazing and cracking away, due honor to pay to the harvest.
But she uneasy became, when she in vain had been calling
Twice and three times her son, and when the sole answer that reach’d her
Came from the garrulous echo which out of the town towers issu’d.
Strange it appear’d to have to seek him; he never went far off,
(As he before had told her) in order to ward off all sorrow
From his dear mother, and her forebodings of coming disaster.
But she still was expecting upon the highway to find him,
For the doors at the bottom, like those at the top, of the vineyard
Stood wide open; and so at length she enter’d the broad field
Which, with its spreading expanse, o’er the whole of the hill’s back extended.
On their own property still she proceeded, greatly rejoicing
At their own crops, and at the corn which nodded so bravely,
Over the whole of the field in golden majesty waving.
Then on the border between the fields, she follow’d the footpath,
Keeping her eye on the pear tree fix’d, the big one, which standing
Perch’d by itself on the top of the hill, their property bounded.
Who had planted it, no one knew; throughout the whole country
Far and wide was it visible; noted also its fruit was.
Under its shadow the reaper ate his dinner at noonday,
And the herdsman was wont to lie, when tending his cattle.
Benches made of rough stones and of turf were plac’d all about it.
And she was not mistaken; there sat her Hermann and rested;
On his arm he was leaning, and seem’d to be looking ’cross country
Tow’rds the mountains beyond; his back was turn’d to his mother.
Softly creeping up, she lightly tapp’d on his shoulder;
And he hastily turn’d; she saw that his eyes full of tears were.
“Mother,” he said in confusion:—“You greatly surprise me!” and quickly
Wip’d he away his tears, the noble and sensitive youngster.
“What! You are weeping, my son?” the startled mother continu’d:—
“That is indeed unlike you! I never before saw you crying!
Say, what has sadden’d your heart? What drives you to sit here all lonely
Under the shade of the pear tree? What is it that makes you unhappy?”
Then the excellent youth collected himself, and made answer:—
“Truly that man can have no heart, but a bosom of iron,
Who no sympathy feels for the wants of unfortunate exiles;
He has no sense in his head who, in times of such deep tribulation,
Has no concern for himself or for his country’s well-being.
What I to-day have seen and heard has stirr’d up my feelings;
Well, I have come up here, and seen the beautiful, spreading
Landscape, which in fruitful hills to our sight is presented,—
Seen the golden fruit of the sheaves all nodding together,
And a plentiful crop of fruit, full garners foreboding.
But, alas, how near is the foe! By the Rhine’s flowing waters
We are protected indeed; but what are rivers and mountains
To such a terrible nation, which hurries along like a tempest!
For they summon together the young and the old from all quarters,
Rushing wildly along, while the multitude little is caring
Even for death; when one falls, his place is straight fill’d by another.
Ah! and can Germans dare to remain at home in their dwellings,
Thinking perchance to escape from the widely-threat’ning disaster?
Dearest mother, I tell you that I to-day am quite sorry
That I was lately excus’d, when they selected the fighters
Out of the townsfolk. ’Tis true I’m an only son, and moreover
Large is our inn, and our business also is very important;
Were it not better however for me to fight in the vanguard
On the frontier, than here to await disaster and bondage?
Yes, my spirit has told me, and in my innermost bosom
Feel I courage and longing to live and die for my country,
And to others to set an example worthy to follow.
Oh, of a truth, if the strength of the German youths was collected
On the frontier, all bound by a vow not to yield to the stranger,
He on our noble soil should never set foot, or be able
Under our eyes to consume the fruits of the land, or to issue
Orders unto our men, or despoil our women and maidens!
See, good mother, within my inmost heart I’ve determin’d
Soon and straightway to do what seems to me right and becoming;
For the man who thinks long, not always chooses what best is.
See, I will not return to the house, but will go from here straightway
Into the town, and there will place at the fighters’ disposal
This stout arm and this heart, to serve, as I best can, my country.
Then let my father say whether feelings of honor are stirring
In my bosom or not, and whether I yearn to mount upwards.”
Then with significance answer’d his good and sensible mother,
Shedding tears in silence, which easily rose in her eyelids:—
“Son, what has wrought so strange a change in your temper and feelings,
That you freely and openly speak to your mother no longer,
As you till yesterday did, nor tell her truly your wishes?
If another had heard you speaking, he doubtless would praise you
Highly, and deem your new resolution as worthy of honor,
Being deceiv’d by your words, and by your manner of speaking.
I however can only blame you. I know you much better.
You are concealing your heart, and very diff’rent your thoughts are;
For I am sure you care not at all for drum and for trumpet,
Nor, to please the maidens, care you to wear regimentals.
For, though brave you may be, and gallant, your proper vocation
Is to remain at home, the property quietly watching.
Therefore tell me truly: What means this sudden decision?”
Earnestly answer’d the son:—“You are wrong, dear mother, one day is
Unlike another. The youth soon ripens into his manhood.
Ofttimes he ripens better to action in silence, than living
That tumultuous noisy life which ruins so many.
And though silent I have been, and am, a heart has been fashion’d
Inside my bosom, which hates whatever unfair and unjust is,
And I am able right well to discriminate secular matters.
Work moreover my arms and my feet has mightily strengthen’d.
All that I tell you is true; I boldly venture to say so.
And yet, mother, you blame me with reason; you’ve caught me employing
Words that are only half true, and that serve to conceal my true feelings.
For I must need confess, it is not the advent of danger
Calls me away from my father’s house, nor a resolute purpose
Useful to be to my country, and dreaded to be by the foeman.
Words alone it was that I utter’d,—words only intended
Those deep feelings to hide, which within my breast are contending.
And now leave me, my mother! For as in my bosom I cherish
Wishes that are but vain, my life will be to no purpose.
For I know that the Unit who makes a self-sacrifice, only
Injures himself, unless all endeavor the Whole to accomplish.”
“Now continue,” replied forthwith his sensible mother:—
“Tell me all that has happen’d, the least as well as the greatest;
Men are always hasty, and only remember the last thing,
And the hasty are easily forc’d from the road by obstructions.
But a woman is skilful, and full of resources, and scorns not
By-roads to traverse when needed, well-skill’d to accomplish her purpose.
Tell me then all, and why you are stirr’d by such violent feelings
More than I ever have seen, while the blood is boiling within you,
And from your eyes the tears against your will fain would fall now.”
Then the youth gave way to his sorrow, and burst into weeping,
Weeping aloud on the breast of his mother, and softly replying:—
“Truly, my father’s words to-day have wounded me sadly,
Never have I deserv’d at his hands such treatment,—no, never!
For to honor my parents was always my wish from my childhood,
No one ever appear’d so prudent and wise as my parents,
Who in the darker days of childhood carefully watch’d me.
Much indeed it has been my lot to endure from my playmates,
When with their knavish pranks they used to embitter my temper.
Often I little suspected the tricks they were playing upon me:
But if they happen’d to ridicule father, whenever on Sundays
Out of church he came with his slow deliberate footsteps,
If they laugh’d at the strings of his cap, and his dressing-gown’s flowers,
Which he in stately wise wore, and to-day at length has discarded,
Then in a fury I clench’d my fist, and, storming and raging,
Fell upon them and hit and struck with terrible onslaught,
Heedless where my blows fell. With bleeding noses they halloo’d,
And could scarcely escape from the force of my blows and my kicking.
Then, as in years I advanc’d, I had much to endure from my father,
Who, in default of others to blame, would often abuse me,
When at the Council’s last sitting his anger perchance was excited,
And I the penalty paid of the squabbles and strife of his colleagues.
You yourself have oft pitied me; I endur’d it with patience,
Always rememb’ring the much-to-be-honor’d kindness of parents,
Whose only thought is to swell for our sakes their goods and possessions,
And who deprive themselves of much, to save for their children.
But, alas, not saving alone, for enjoyment hereafter,
Constitutes happiness; no, not heaps of gold or of silver,
Neither field upon field, however compact the estate be.
For the father grows old, and his son at the same time grows older,
Feeling no joy in To-day, and full of care for To-morrow.
Now look down from this height, and see how beauteous before us
Lies the fair rich expanse, with vineyard and gardens at bottom;
There are the stables and barns, and the rest of the property likewise;
There I also descry the back of our house, in the gables
Of the roof may be seen the window of my small apartment.
When I remember the time when I used to look out for the moon there
Half through the night, or perchance at morning awaited the sunrise,
When with but few hours of healthy sleep I was fully contented,
Ah, how lonely do all things appear! My chamber, the court and
Garden, the beautiful field which spreads itself over the hillside;
All appear but a desert to me: I still am unmarried!”
Then his good mother answer’d his speech in a sensible manner:—
“Son, your wish to be able to lead your bride to her chamber,
Turning the night to the dearest and happiest half of your lifetime,
Making your work by day more truly free and unfetter’d,
Cannot be greater than that of your father and mother. We always
Urg’d you,—commanded, I even might say,—to choose some fair maiden.
But I know full well, and my heart has told me already:—
If the right hour arrives not, or if the right maiden appears not
Instantly when they are sought for, man’s choice is thrown in confusion,
And he is driven by fear to seize what is counterfeit only.
If I may tell you, my son, your choice already is taken,
For your heart is smitten, and sensitive more than is usual.
Answer me plainly, then, for my spirit already has told me:
She whom now you have chosen is that poor emigrant maiden!”
“Yes, dear mother, you’re right!” the son with vivacity answer’d:—
“Yes, it is she! And unless this very day I conduct her
Home as my bride, she will go on her way and escape me forever,
In the confusion of war, and in moving backwards and forwards.
Mother, then before my eyes will in vain be unfolded
All our rich estate, and each year henceforward be fruitful.
Yes, the familiar house and the garden will be my aversion.
Ah, and the love of my mother no comfort will give to my sorrow,
For I feel that by Love each former bond must be loosen’d,
When her own bonds she knits; ’tis not the maiden alone who
Leaves her father and mother behind, when she follows her husband.
So it is with the youth; no more he knows mother and father,
When he beholds the maiden, the only belov’d one, approaching.
Therefore let me go hence, to where desperation may lead me,
For my father already has spoken in words of decision,
And his house no longer is mine, if he shuts out the maiden
Whom alone I would fain take home as my bride from henceforward.”
Then the excellent sensible mother answer’d with quickness:—
“Men are precisely like rocks when they stand oppos’d to each other!
Proud and unyielding, the one will never draw near to the other.
Neither will suffer his tongue to utter the first friendly accent.
Therefore I tell you, my son, a hope still exists in my bosom,
If she is worthy and good, he will give his consent to your marriage,
Poor though she be, and although with disdain he refus’d you the poor thing.
For in his hot-headed fashion he utters many expressions
Which he never intends; and so will accept the refus’d one.
But he requires kind words, and has a right to require them,
For your father he is; his anger is all after dinner,
When he more eagerly speaks, and questions the reasons of others,
Meaning but little thereby; the wine then excites all the vigor
Of his impetuous will, and prevents him from giving due weight to
Other people’s opinions; he hears and he feels his own only.
But when evening arrives, the tone of the many discourses
Which his friends and himself hold together is very much alter’d.
Milder becomes he as soon as his liquor’s effects have pass’d over,
And he feels the injustice his eagerness did unto others.
Come, we will venture at once! Success the reward is of boldness,
And we have need of the friends who now have assembled around him.
Most of all we shall want the help of our excellent pastor.”
Thus she eagerly spoke, and leaving the stone that she sat on,
Also lifted her son from his seat. He willingly follow’d,
And they descended in silence, revolving the weighty proposal.
BUT the Three, as before, were still sitting and talking together,
With the landlord, the worthy divine, and also the druggist,
And their conversation still concern’d the same subject,
Which in every form they had long been discussing together.
Full of noble thoughts, the excellent pastor continu’d:—
“I can’t contradict you. I know ’tis the duty of mortals
Ever to strive for improvement; and, as we may see, they strive also
Ever for that which is higher, at least what is new they seek after,
But don’t hurry too fast! For combin’d with these feelings, kind Nature
Also has given us pleasure in dwelling on that which is ancient,
And in clinging to that to which we have long been accustom’d.
Each situation is good that’s accordant to nature and reason.
Many things man desires, and yet he has need of but little;
For but short are the days, and confin’d is the lot of a mortal.
I can never blame the man who, active and restless,
Hurries along, and explores each corner of earth and the ocean
Boldly and carefully, while he rejoices at seeing the profits
Which round him and his family gather themselves in abundance.
But I also duly esteem the peaceable burgher,
Who with silent steps his paternal inheritance paces,
And watches over the earth, the seasons carefully noting.
’Tis not every year that he finds his property alter’d;
Newly-planted trees cannot stretch out their arms tow’rds the heavens
All in a moment, adorn’d with beautiful buds in abundance.
No, a man has need of patience, he also has need of
Pure unruffl’d tranquil thoughts, and an intellect honest.
For to the nourishing earth few seeds at a time he entrusteth,
Few are the creatures he keeps at a time, with a view to their breeding,
For what is useful alone remains the first thought of his lifetime.
Happy the man to whom Nature a mind thus attun’d may have given!
’Tis by him that we all are fed. And happy the townsman
Of the small town who unites the vocations of town and of country.
He is exempt from the pressure by which the poor farmer is worried,
Is not perplex’d by the citizens’ cares and soaring ambition,
Who, with limited means,—especially women and maidens,—
Think of nothing but aping the ways of the great and the wealthy.
You should therefore bless your son’s disposition so peaceful,
And the like-minded wife whom we soon may expect him to marry.”
Thus he spoke. At that moment the mother and son stood before them.
By the hand she led him and plac’d him in front of her husband:—
“Father,” she said, “how often have we, when talking together,
Thought of that joyful day in the future, when Hermann, selecting
After long waiting his bride, at length would make us both happy!
All kinds of projects we form’d; designing first one, then another
Girl as his wife, as we talk’d in the manner that parents delight in.
Now the day has arriv’d; and now has his bride been conducted
Hither and shown him by Heaven; his heart at length has decided.
Were we not always saying that he should choose for himself, and
Were you not lately wishing that he might feel for a maiden
Warm and heartfelt emotions? And now has arriv’d the right moment!
Yes, he has felt and has chosen, and like a man has decided.
That fair maiden it is, the stranger whom he encounter’d.
Give her him; else he’ll remain—he has sworn it—unmarried forever.”
And the son added himself:—“My father, Oh, give her! My heart has
Chosen purely and truly; she’ll make you an excellent daughter.”
But the father was silent. Then suddenly rose the good pastor,
And address’d him as follows:—“One single moment’s decisive
Both of the life of a man, and of the whole of his future.
After lengthen’d reflection, each resolution made by him
Is but the work of a moment; the prudent alone seize the right one.
Nothing more dangerous is, in making a choice, than revolving
First this point and then that, and so confusing the feelings.
Pure is Hermann’s mind; from his youth I have known him; he never,
Even in boyhood, was wont to extend his hand hither and thither.
What he desir’d was suitable to him; he held to it firmly.
Be not astonish’d and scared because there appears on a sudden
What you so long have desir’d. ’Tis true the appearance at present
Bears not the shape of the wish as you in your mind had conceiv’d it.
For our wishes conceal the thing that we wish for; our gifts too
Come from above upon us, each clad in its own proper figure.
Do not now mistake the maiden who has succeeded
First in touching the heart of your good wise son, whom you love so.
Happy is he who is able to clasp the hand of his first love,
And whose dearest wish is not doom’d to pine in his bosom!
Yes, I can see by his face, already his fate is decided;
True affection converts the youth to a man in a moment.
He little changeable is; I fear me, if this you deny him,
All the fairest years of his life will be chang’d into sorrow.
Then in prudent fashion the druggist, who long had been wanting
His opinion to give, rejoin’d in the following manner:—
“This is just a case when the middle course is the wisest!
‘Hasten slowly,’ you know, was the motto of Cæsar Augustus.
I am always ready to be of use to my neighbors,
And to turn to their profit what little wits I can boast of.
Youth especially needs the guidance of those who are older.
Let me then depart; I fain would prove her, that maiden,
And will examine the people ’mongst whom she lives, and who know her.
I am not soon deceiv’d; I know how to rate their opinions.”
Then forthwith replied the son, with eagerness speaking:—
“Do so, neighbor, and go, and make your inquiries. However,
I should greatly prefer that our friend, the pastor, went with you;
Two such excellent men are witnesses none can find fault with.
O my father! the maiden no vagabond is, I assure you,
No mere adventurer, wand’ring about all over the country,
And deceiving the inexperienc’d youths with her cunning;
No! the harsh destiny link’d with this war, so destructive of all things,
Which is destroying the world, and already has wholly uprooted
Many a time-honor’d fabric, has driven the poor thing to exile.
Are not brave men of noble birth now wand’ring in mis’ry?
Princes are fleeing disguis’d, and monarchs in banishment living.
Ah, and she also herself, the best of her sisters, is driven
Out of her native land; but her own misfortunes forgetting,
Others she seeks to console, and, though helpless, is also most helpful.
Great are the woes and distress which over the earth’s face are brooding,
But may happiness not be evok’d from out of this sorrow?
May not I, in the arms of my bride, the wife I have chosen,
Even rejoice at the war, as you at the great conflagration?”
Then replied the father, and open’d his mouth with importance:—
“Strangely indeed, my son, has your tongue been suddenly loosen’d,
Which for years has stuck in your mouth, and mov’d there but rarely!
I to-day must experience that which threatens each father:
How the ardent will of a son a too gentle mother
Willingly favors, whilst each neighbor is ready to back him,
Only provided it be at the cost of a father or husband!
But what use would it be to resist so many together?
For I see that defiance and tears will otherwise greet me.
Go and prove her, and in God’s name then hasten to bring her
Home as my daughter; if not, he must think no more of the maiden.”
Thus spake the father. The son exclaim’d with jubilant gesture:—
“Ere the ev’ning arrives, you shall have the dearest of daughters,
Such as the man desires whose bosom is govern’d by prudence;
And I venture to think the good creature is fortunate also.
Yes, she will ever be grateful that I her father and mother
Have restor’d her in you, as sensible children would wish it.
But I will loiter no longer; I’ll straightway harness the horses,
And conduct our friends on the traces of her whom I love so,
Leave the men to themselves and their own intuitive wisdom,
And be guided alone by their decision,—I swear it,—
And not see the maiden again, until she my own is.”
Then he left the house; meanwhile the others were eagerly
Settling many a point, and the weighty matter debating.
Hermann sped to the stable forthwith, where the spirited stallions
Tranquilly stood and with eagerness swallow’d the pure oats before them,
And the well-dried hay, which was cut from the best of their meadows.
Then in eager haste in their mouths the shining bits plac’d he,
Quickly drew the harness through the well-plated buckles,
And then fasten’d the long broad reins in proper position,
Led the horses out in the yard, where already the carriage,
Easily mov’d along by its pole, had been push’d by the servant.
Then they restrain’d the impetuous strength of the fast-moving horses,
Fastening both with neat-looking ropes to the bar of the carriage.
Hermann seiz’d his whip, took his seat, and drove to the gateway.
When in the roomy carriage his friends had taken their places,
Swiftly he drove away, and left the pavement behind them,
Left behind the walls of the town and the clean-looking towers.
Thus sped Hermann along, till he reach’d the familiar highway,
Not delaying a moment, and galloping uphill and downhill.
When however at length the village steeple descried he,
And not far away lay the houses surrounded by gardens,
He began to think it was time to hold in the horses.
By the time-honor’d gloom of noble lime trees o’ershadow’d,
Which for many a century past on the spot had been rooted,
Stood there a green and spreading grass-plot in front of the village,
Cover’d with turf, for the peasants and neighboring townsmen a playground.
Scoop’d out under the trees, to no great depth, stood a fountain.
On descending the steps, some benches of stone might be seen there,
Rang’d all around the spring, which ceaselessly well’d forth its waters,
Cleanly, enclos’d by a low wall all round, and convenient to draw from.
Hermann then determin’d beneath the shadow his horses
With the carriage to stop. He did so, and spoke then as follows:—
“Now, my friends, get down, and go by yourselves to discover
Whether the maiden is worthy to have the hand which I offer.
I am convinc’d that she is; and you’ll bring me no new or strange story:
Had I to manage alone, I would straightway go off to the village,
And in few words should my fate by the charming creature be settled.
Her you will easily recognize ’mongst all the rest of the people,
For her appearance is altogether unlike that of others.
But I will now describe the modest dress she is wearing:—
First a bodice red her well-arch’d bosom upraises,
Prettily tied, while black are the stays fitting closely around her.
Then the seams of the ruff she has carefully plaited and folded,
Which, with modest grace, her chin so round is encircling.
Free and joyously rises her head with its elegant oval,
Strongly round bodkins of silver her back-hair is many times twisted;
Her blue well-plaited gown begins from under her bodice,
And as she walks envelops her well-turn’d ankles completely.
But I have one thing to say, and this must expressly entreat you:
Do not speak to the maiden, and let not your scheme be discover’d.
But inquire of others, and hearken to all that they tell you.
When you have learn’d enough to satisfy father and mother,
Then return to me straight, and we’ll settle future proceedings.
This is the plan which I have matur’d, while driving you hither.”
Thus he spoke, and the friends forthwith went on to the village,
Where, in gardens and barns and houses, the multitude crowded;
All along the broad road the numberless carts were collected,
Men were feeding the lowing cattle and feeding the horses.
Women on every hedge the linen were carefully drying,
Whilst the children in glee were splashing about in the streamlet.
Forcing their way through the wagons, and past the men and the cattle,
Walk’d the ambassador spies, looking well to the righthand and lefthand,
Hoping somewhere to see the form of the well-describ’d maiden;
But wherever they look’d, no trace of the girl they discover’d.
Presently denser became the crowd. Round some of the wagons
Men in a passion were quarreling, women also were screaming.
Then of a sudden approach’d an aged man with firm footstep
Marching straight up to the fighters; and forthwith was hush’d the contention
When he bade them be still, and with fatherly earnestness threaten’d.
“Are we not yet,” he exclaim’d, “by misfortune so knitted together
As to have learn’d at length the art of reciprocal patience
And toleration, though each cannot measure the actions of others?
Prosperous men indeed may quarrel! Will sorrow not teach you
How no longer as formerly you should quarrel with brethren?
Each should give way to each other, when treading the soil of the stranger,
And, as you hope for mercy yourselves, you should share your possessions.”
Thus the man address’d them, and all were silent. In peaceful
Humor the reconcil’d men look’d after their cattle and wagons.
When the pastor heard the man discourse in this fashion,
And the foreign magistrate’s peaceful nature discover’d,
He approach’d him in turn, and used this significant language:—
“Truly, father, when nations are living in days of good fortune,
Drawing their food from the earth, which gladly opens its treasures,
And its wish’d-for gifts each year and each month is renewing,
Then all matters go smoothly; each thinks himself far the wisest
And the best, and so they exist by the side of each other,
And the most sensible man no better than others is reckon’d;
For the world moves on, as if by itself and in silence.
But when distress unsettles our usual manner of living,
Pulls down each time-honor’d fabric, and roots up the seed in our gardens,
Drives the man and his wife far away from the home they delight in,
Hurries them off in confusion through days and nights full of anguish,
Ah! then look we around in search of the man who is wisest,
And no longer in vain he utters his words full of wisdom.
Tell me whether you be these fugitives’ magistrate, father,
Over whose minds you appear to possess such an influence soothing?
Aye, to-day I could deem you one of the leaders of old time,
Who through wastes and through deserts conducted the wandering people;
I could imagine ’twas Joshua I am addressing, or Moses.”
Then with solemn looks the magistrate answer’d as follows:—
“Truly the present times resemble the strangest of old times,
Which are preserv’d in the pages of history, sacred or common.
He in these days who has liv’d to-day and yesterday only,
Many a year has liv’d, events so crowd on each other.
When I reflect back a little, a gray old age I could fancy
On my head to be lying, and yet my strength is still active.
Yes, we people in truth may liken ourselves to those others
Unto whom in a fiery bush appear’d, in a solemn
Moment, the Lord our God; in fire and clouds we behold him.”
When the pastor would fain continue to speak on this subject,
And was anxious to learn the fate of the man and his party,
Quickly into his ear his companion secretly whisper’d:—
“Speak for a time with the magistrate, turning your talk on the maiden,
Whilst I wander about, endeavoring to find her. Directly
I am successful, I’ll join you again.” Then nodded the pastor,
And the spy went to seek her, in barns and through hedges and gardens.
WHEN the pastor ask’d the foreign magistrate questions,
What the people had suffer’d, how long from their homes they had wander’d,
Then the man replied:—“By no means short are our sorrows,
For we have drunk the bitters of many a long year together,
All the more dreadful, because our fairest hopes have been blighted.
Who can deny that his heart beat wildly and high in his bosom,
And that with purer pulses his breast more freely was throbbing,
When the newborn sun first rose in the whole of its glory,
When we heard of the right of man to have all things in common,
Heard of noble equality, and of inspiriting freedom!
Each man then hop’d to attain new life for himself, and the fetters
Which had encircled many a land appear’d to be broken,
Fetters held by the hands of sloth and selfish indulgence.
Did not all nations turn their gaze, in those days of emotion,
Tow’rds the world’s capital, which so many a long year had been so,
And then more than ever deserv’d a name so distinguish’d?
Were not the men, who first proclaim’d so noble a message,
Names that are worthy to rank with the highest the sun ever shone on?
Did not each give to mankind his courage and genius and language?
“And we also, as neighbors, at first were warmly excited.
Presently after began the war, and the train of arm’d Frenchmen
Nearer approach’d; at first they appear’d to bring with them friendship,
And they brought it in fact; for all their souls were exalted.
And the gay trees of liberty ev’rywhere gladly they planted,
Promising unto each his own, and the government long’d for.
Greatly at this was youth, and greatly old age was delighted,
And the joyous dance began round the newly-rais’d standards.
In this manner the overpow’ring Frenchmen soon conquer’d
First the minds of the men, with their fiery lively proceedings,
Then the hearts of the women, with irresistible graces.
Even the strain of the war, with its many demands, seem’d but trifling,
For before our eyes the distance by hope was illumin’d,
Luring our gaze far ahead into paths now first open’d before us.
“Oh, how joyful the time, when with his bride the glad bridegroom
Whirls in the dance, awaiting the day that will join them forever!
But more glorious far was the time when the Highest of all things
Which man’s mind can conceive, close by and attainable seemed.
Then were the tongues of all loosen’d, and words of wisdom and feeling
Not by graybeards alone, but by men and by striplings were utter’d.
“But the heavens soon clouded became. For the sake of the mast’ry
Strove a contemptible crew, unfit to accomplish good actions.
Then they murder’d each other, and took to oppressing their new-found
Neighbors and brothers, and sent on missions whole herds of self-seekers;
And the superiors took to carousing and robbing by wholesale,
And the inferiors down to the lowest carous’d and robb’d also.
Nobody thought of aught else than having enough for to-morrow.
Terrible was the distress, and daily increas’d the oppression.
None the cry understood, that they of the day were the masters.
Then even temperate minds were attack’d by sorrow and fury;
Each one reflected, and swore to avenge all the injuries suffer’d,
And to atone for the bitter loss of hopes twice defrauded.
Presently Fortune declar’d herself on the side of the Germans,
And the French were compell’d to retreat by forc’d marches before them.
Ah! the sad fate of the war we then for the first time experienc’d.
For the victor is kind and humane, at least he appears so,
And he spares the man he has vanquish’d, as if he his own were,
When he employs him daily, and with his property helps him.
But the fugitive knows no law; he wards off death only,
And both quickly and recklessly all that he meets with, consumes he.
Then his mind becomes heated apace; and soon desperation
Fills his heart, and impels him to all kinds of criminal actions.
Nothing then holds he respected, he steals it. With furious longing
On the woman he rushes; his lust becomes awful to think of.
Death all around him he sees, his last minutes in cruelty spends he,
Wildly exulting in blood, and exulting in howls and in anguish.
“Then in the minds of our men arose a terrible yearning
That which was lost to avenge, and that which remain’d to defend still.
All of them seiz’d upon arms, lur’d on by the fugitives’ hurry,
By their pale faces, and by their shy, uncertain demeanor.
There was heard the sound of alarm-bells unceasingly ringing,
And the approach of danger restrain’d not their violent fury.
Soon into weapons were turn’d the implements peaceful of tillage,
And with dripping blood the scythe and the pitchfork were cover’d.
Every foeman without distinction was ruthlessly slaughter’d,
Fury was ev’rywhere raging, and artful, cowardly weakness.
May I never again see men in such wretched confusion!
Even the raging wild beast is a better object to gaze on.
Ne’er let them speak of freedom, as if themselves they could govern!
All the evil which Law has driven far back in the corner
Seems to escape as soon as the fetters which bound it are loosen’d.”
“Excellent man,” replied the pastor, with emphasis speaking:—
“If you’re mistaken in man, ’tis not for me to reprove you.
Evil enough have you suffer’d indeed from his cruel proceedings!
Would you but look back, however, on days so laden with sorrow,
You would yourself confess how much that is good you have witness’d,
Much that is excellent, which remains conceal’d in the bosom
Till by danger ’tis stirr’d, and till necessity makes man
Show himself as an angel, a tutelar God unto others.”
Then with a smile replied the worthy old magistrate, saying:—
“Your reminder is wise, like that which they give to the suff’rer
Who has had his dwelling burn’d down, that under the ruins
Gold and silver are lying, though melted and cover’d with ashes.
Little, indeed, it may be, and yet that little is precious,
And the poor man digs it up, and rejoices at finding the treasure.
Gladly, therefore, I turn my thoughts to those few worthy actions
Which my memory still is able to dwell on with pleasure.
Yes, I will not deny it, I saw late foemen uniting
So as to save the town from harm; I saw with devotion
Parents, children and friends impossible actions attempting,
Saw how the youth of a sudden became a man, how the graybeard
Once more was young, how the child as a stripling appear’d in a moment.
Aye, and the weaker sex, as people commonly call it,
Show’d itself brave and daring, with presence of mind all-unwonted.
Let me now, in the first place, describe a deed of rare merit
By a high-spirited girl accomplish’d, an excellent maiden,
Who in the great farmhouse remain’d behind with the servants,
When the whole of the men had departed, to fight with the strangers.
Well, there fell on the court a troop of vagabond scoundrels,
Plund’ring and forcing their way inside the rooms of the women.
Soon they cast their eyes on the forms of the grown-up fair maiden,
And of the other dear girls, in age little more than mere children.
Hurried away by raging desire, unfeelingly rush’d they
On the trembling band, and on the highspirited maiden.
But she instantly seiz’d the sword from the side of a ruffian,
Hew’d him down to the ground; at her feet straight fell he, all bleeding.
Then with doughty strokes the maidens she bravely deliver’d,
Wounded four more of the robbers; with life, however, escap’d they.
Then she lock’d up the court, and, arm’d still, waited for succor.”
When the pastor heard the praise of the maiden thus utter’d,
Feelings of hope for his friend forthwith arose in his bosom,
And he prepar’d to ask what had been the fate of the damsel,
Whether she, in the sorrowful flight, form’d one of the people?
At this moment, however, the druggist nimbly approach’d them,
Pull’d the sleeve of the pastor, and whisper’d to him as follows:—
“I have at last pick’d out the maiden from many a hundred
By her description! Pray come and judge for yourself with your own eyes;
Bring the magistrate with you, that we may learn the whole story.”
So they turn’d themselves round; but the magistrate found himself summon’d
By his own followers, who had need of his presence and counsel.
But the pastor forthwith the druggist accompanied, till they
Came to a gap in the hedge, when the latter pointed with slyness.
“See you,” exclaim’d he, “the maiden? The child’s clothes she has been changing.
And I recognize well the old calico—also the cushion-
Cover of blue, which Hermann took in the bundle and gave her.
Quickly and well, of a truth, she has used the presents left with her.
These are evident proofs; and all the rest coincide too;
For a bodice red her well-arch’d bosom upraises,
Prettily tied, while black are the stays fitting close around her.
Then the seams of the ruff she has carefully plaited and folded,
Which, with modest grace, her chin so round is encircling;
Free and joyously rises her head, with its elegant oval,
Strongly round bodkins of silver her back hair is many times twisted.
When she is sitting, we plainly see her noble proportions,
And the blue well-plaited gown which begins from close to her bosom,
And in rich folds descending, her well-turn’d ankles envelops.
’Tis she, beyond all doubt. So come, that we may examine
Whether she be both a good and a frugal and virtuous maiden.”
Then the pastor rejoin’d, the sitting damsel inspecting:—
“That she enchanted the youth, I confess is no matter of wonder,
For she stands the test of the gaze of a man of experience.
Happy the person to whom Mother Nature the right face has given!
She recommends him at all times, he never appears as a stranger,
Each one gladly approaches, and each one beside him would linger,
If with his face is combin’d a pleasant and courteous demeanor.
Yes, I assure you the youth has indeed discover’d a maiden
Who the whole of the days of his life will enliven with gladness,
And with her womanly strength assist him at all times and truly.
Thus a perfect body preserves the soul also in pureness,
And a vigorous youth of a happy old age gives assurance.”
After reflecting a little, the druggist made answer as follows:—
“Yet appearances oft are deceitful. I trust not the outside.
Often, indeed, have I found the truth of the proverb which tells us:
Ere you share a bushel of salt with a newfound acquaintance,
Do not trust him too readily; time will make you more certain
How you and he will get on, and whether your friendship is lasting.
Let us then, in the first place, inquire amongst the good people
Unto whom the maiden is known, who can tell us about her.”
“Well, of a truth I commend your prudence,” the pastor continu’d:—
“Not for ourselves are we wooing! To woo for others is serious.”
So they started to meet the worthy magistrate, seeing
How in the course of his business he was ascending the main street.
And the wise pastor straightway address’d him with foresight as follows:—
“We, by-the-by, have just seen a girl in the neighboring garden
Under an apple tree sitting, and clothes for the children preparing,
Made of worn calico which for the purpose was doubtless presented.
We were pleas’d by her face; she appears to be one of the right sort.
Tell us, what know you about her? We ask from a laudable motive.”
When the magistrate came to the garden and peep’d in, exclaim’d he:—
“Well do I know her, in truth; for when I told you the story
Of that noble deed which was done by the maiden I spoke of,
How she seiz’d on the sword, and defended herself and the servants,—
She the heroine was! You can see how active her nature.
But she’s as good as she’s strong; for her aged kinsman she tended
Until the time of his death, for he died overwhelm’d by affliction
At the distress of his town, and the danger his goods were expos’d to.
Also with mute resignation she bore the grievous affliction
Of her betroth’d’s sad death, a noble young man who, incited
By the first fire of noble thoughts, to struggle for freedom,
Went himself to Paris, and soon found a terrible death there.
For, as at home, so there, he fought ’gainst intrigue and oppression.”
Thus the magistrate spoke. The others departed and thank’d him,
And the pastor produc’d a gold piece (the silver his purse held
He some hours before had with genuine kindness expended
When he saw the fugitives passing in sorrowful masses).
And the magistrate handed it, saying:—“Divide it, I pray you,
’Mongst those who need it the most. May God give it prosperous increase.”
But the man refus’d to accept it, and said:—“I assure you,
Many a dollar we’ve sav’d, and plenty of clothing and such things,
And I trust we may reach our homes before they are finish’d.”
Then continu’d the pastor, the gold in his hand once more placing:—
“None should delay to give in days like the present, and no one
Ought to refuse to receive what is offer’d with liberal kindness.
No one can tell how long he will keep what in peace he possesses,
No one, how long he is doom’d in foreign countries to wander,
While he’s depriv’d of the field and the garden by which he is nurtur’d.”
“Bravo!” added in turn the druggist, with eagerness speaking:—
“Had I but money to spare in my pocket, you surely should have it—
Silver and gold alike; for your followers certainly need it.
Yet I’ll not leave you without a present, if only to show you
My good will, and I hope you will take the will for the action.”
Thus he spoke and pull’d out by the strings the leather embroider’d
Pouch, in which he was wont his stock of tobacco to carry,
Daintily open’d and shar’d its contents—some two or three pipes’ full.
“Small in truth is the gift,” he added. The magistrate answer’d:—
“Good tobacco is always a welcome present to trav’llers.”
Then the druggist began his canister to praise very highly.
But the pastor drew him away, and the magistrate left them.
“Come, let us hasten!” exclaim’d the sensible man, “for our young friend
Anxiously waits; without further delay let him hear the good tidings.”
So they hasten’d and came, and found that the youngster was leaning
’Gainst his carriage under the lime trees. The horses were pawing
Wildly the turf; he held them in check and stood there all pensive,
Silently gazing in front, and saw not his friends coming near him,
Till, as they came, they call’d him and gave him signals of triumph.
Some way off the druggist already began to address him,
But they approach’d the youth still nearer, and then the good pastor
Seiz’d his hand and spoke and took the word from his comrade:—
“Friend, I wish you joy! Your eye so true and your true heart
Rightly have chosen! May you and the wife of your young days be happy!
She is full worthy of you; so come and turn round the carriage,
That we may reach without delay the end of the village,
So as to woo her, and shortly escort the dear creature home with us.”
But the youth stood still, and without any token of pleasure
Heard the words of the envoy, though sounding consoling and heav’nly,
Deeply sigh’d and said:—“We came full speed in the carriage,
And shall probably go back home asham’d and but slowly;
For, since I have been waiting care has fallen upon me,
Doubt and suspicion and all that a heart full of love is expos’d to.
Do you suppose we have only to come, for the maiden to follow,
Just because we are rich, and she poor and wandering in exile?
Poverty, when undeserv’d, itself makes proud. The fair maiden
Seems to be active and frugal; the world she may claim as her portion.
Do you suppose that a woman of such great beauty and manners
Can have grown up without exciting love in man’s bosom?
Do you suppose that her heart until now has to love been fast closed?
Do not drive thither in haste, for perchance to our shame and confusion
We shall have slowly to turn towards home the heads of our horses.
Yes, some youth, I fear me, possesses her heart, and already
She has doubtless promis’d her hand and her solemn troth plighted,
And I shall stand all asham’d before her when making my offer.”
Then the pastor proceeded to cheer him with words of good comfort,
But his companion broke in, in his usual talkative manner:—
“As things used to be, this embarrassment would not have happen’d,
When each matter was brought to a close in an orthodox fashion.
Then for their son themselves the bride the parents selected,
And a friend of the house was secretly call’d in the first place.
He was then quietly sent as a suitor to visit the parents
Of the selected bride; and, dress’d in his gayest apparel,
Went after dinner some Sunday to visit the excellent burgher,
And began by exchanging polite remarks on all subjects,
Cleverly turning and bending the talk in the proper direction.
After long beating about the bush, he flatter’d the daughter,
And spoke well of the man and the house that gave his commission.
Sensible people soon saw his drift, and the sensible envoy
Watch’d how the notion was taken, and then could explain himself farther.
If they declin’d the proposal, why then the refusal cost nothing,
But if all prosper’d, why then the suitor forever thereafter
Play’d the first fiddle at every family feast and rejoicing.
For the married couple remember’d the whole of their lifetime
Whose was the skilful hand by which the marriage knot tied was.
All this now is chang’d, and with many an excellent custom
Has gone quite out of fashion. Each person woos for himself now.
Everyone now must bear the weight of a maiden’s refusal
On his own shoulders, and stand all asham’d before her, if needs be.”
“Let that be as it may,” then answer’d the young man who scarcely
Heard what was said, and his mind had made up already in silence:—
“I will go myself, and out of the mouth of the maiden
Learn my own fate, for towards her I cherish the most trustful feelings
That any man ever cherish’d towards any woman whatever.
That which she says will be good and sensible,—this I am sure of.
If I am never to see her again, I must once more behold her,
And the ingenuous gaze of her black eyes must meet for the last time.
If to my heart I may clasp her never, her bosom and shoulders
I would once more see, which my arm so longs to encircle;
Once more the mouth I would see, from which one kiss and a Yes will
Make me happy forever, a No forever undo me.
But now leave me alone! Wait here no longer. Return you
Straight to my father and mother, in order to tell them in person
That their son was right, and that the maiden is worthy.
And so leave me alone! I myself shall return by the footpath
Over the hill by the pear tree and then descend through the vineyard,
Which is the shortest way back. Oh, may I soon with rejoicing
Take the belov’d one home! But perchance all alone I must slink back
By that path to our house and tread it no more with a light heart.”
Thus he spoke, and then plac’d the reins in the hands of the pastor,
Who, in a knowing way both the foaming horses restraining,
Nimbly mounted the carriage, and took the seat of the driver.
But you still delay’d, good cautious neighbor, and spoke thus:—
“Friend, I will gladly intrust to you soul, and spirit, and mind too,
But my body and bones are not preserv’d in the best way
When the hand of a parson such worldly matters as reins grasps!”
But you smil’d in return, you sensible pastor, replying:—
“Pray jump in, nor fear with both body and spirit to trust me,
For this hand to hold the reins has long been accustom’d,
And these eyes are train’d to turn the corner with prudence.
For we were wont to drive the carriage, when living at Strasburg,
At the time when with the young baron I went there, for daily,
Driven by me, through the echoing gateway thunder’d the carriage
By the dusty roads to distant meadows and lindens,
Through the crowds of the people who spend their lifetime in walking.”
Partially comforted, then his neighbor mounted the carriage,
Sitting like one prepar’d to make a wise jump, if needs be,
And the stallions, eager to reach their stables, cours’d homewards,
While beneath their powerful hoofs the dust rose in thick clouds.
Long there stood the youth, and saw the dust rise before him,
Saw the dust disperse; but still he stood there, unthinking.
AS the man on a journey, who, just at the moment of sunset,
Fixes his gaze once more on the rapidly vanishing planet,
Then on the side of the rocks and in the dark thicket still sees he
Hov’ring its image; wherever he turns his looks, on in front still
Runs it, and glitters and wavers before him in colors all splendid,
So before Hermann’s eyes did the beautiful form of the maiden
Softly move, and appear’d to follow the path through the cornfields.
But he rous’d himself up from his startling dream, and then slowly
Turn’d tow’rd the village his steps, and once more started,—for once more
Saw he the noble maiden’s stately figure approaching.
Fixedly gaz’d he; it was no phantom in truth; she herself ’twas.
In her hands by the handle she carried two pitchers,—one larger,
One of a smaller size, and nimbly walk’d to the fountain.
And he joyfully went to meet her; the sight of her gave him
Courage and strength, and so he address’d the surpris’d one as follows:—
“Do I find you again, brave maiden, engag’d in assisting
Others so soon, and in giving refreshment to those who may need it?
Tell me why you have come all alone to the spring so far distant,
Whilst the rest are content with the water that’s found in the village?
This one, indeed, special virtue possesses, and pleasant to drink is.
Is’t for the sake of that sick one you come, whom you sav’d with such courage?”
Then the good maiden the youth in friendly fashion saluted,
Saying:—“Already my walk to the fountain is fully rewarded,
Since I have found the kind person who gave us so many good presents;
For the sight of a giver, like that of a gift, is refreshing.
Come and see for yourself the persons who tasted your kindness,
And receive the tranquil thanks of all you have aided.
But that you may know the reason why I have come here,
Water to draw at a spot where the spring is both pure and unceasing,
I must inform you that thoughtless men have disturb’d all the water
Found in the village, by carelessly letting the horses and oxen
Wade about in the spring which gives the inhabitants water.
In the same manner, with all their washing and cleaning, they’ve dirtied
All the troughs of the village, and all the fountains have sullied.
For each one of them only thinks how quickly and soon he
May supply his own wants, and cares not for those who come after.”
Thus she spoke, and soon she arriv’d at the foot of the broad steps
With her companion, and both of them sat themselves down on the low wall
Round the spring. She bent herself over, to draw out the water,
He the other pitcher took up, and bent himself over,
And in the blue of the heavens they saw their figures reflected,
Waving, and nodding, and in the mirror their greetings exchanging.
“Now let me drink,” exclaim’d the youth in accents of gladness,
And she gave him the pitcher. They then, like old friends, sat together,
Leaning against the vessels, when she address’d him as follows:—
“Say, why find I you here without your carriage and horses,
Far from the place where first I saw you? Pray how came you hither?”
Hermann thoughtfully gaz’d on the ground, but presently lifted
Calmly towards her his glances, and gaz’d on her face in kind fashion,
Feeling quite calm and compos’d. And yet with love to address her
Found he quite out of the question; for love from her eyes was not beaming,
But an intellect clear, which bade him use sensible language.
Soon he collected his thoughts, and quietly said to the maiden:—
“Let me speak, my child, and let me answer your questions.
’Tis for your sake alone I have come,—why seek to conceal it?
For I happily live with two affectionate parents,
Whom I faithfully help to look after our house and possessions,
Being an only son, while numerous are our employments.
I look after the field-work; the house is carefully manag’d
By my father; my mother the hostelry cheers and enlivens.
But you also have doubtless found out how greatly the servants,
Sometimes by fraud, and sometimes by levity, worry their mistress,
Constantly making her change them, and barter one fault for another.
Long has my mother, therefore, been wanting a girl in the household,
Who, not only with hand, but also with heart might assist her,
In the place of the daughter she lost, alas, prematurely.
Now when I saw you to-day near the carriage, so active and sprightly,
Saw the strength of your arm and the perfect health of your members,
When I heard your sensible words, I was struck with amazement,
And I hasten’d back home, deservedly praising the stranger
Both to my parents and friends. And now I come to inform you
What they desire, as I do. Forgive my stammering language!”
“Do not hesitate,” said she, “to tell me the rest of your story;
I have with gratitude felt that you have not sought to insult me.
Speak on boldly, I pray; your words shall never alarm me;
You would fain hire me now as maid to your father and mother,
To look after the house, which now is in excellent order.
And you think that in me you have found a qualified maiden,
One that is able to work, and not of a quarrelsome nature.
Your proposal was short, and short shall my answer be also:—
Yes! with you I will go, and the voice of my destiny follow.
I have fulfill’d my duty, and brought the lyingin woman
Back to her friends again, who all rejoice at her rescue.
Most of them now are together, the rest will presently join them.
All expect that they, in a few short days, will be able
Homewards to go; ’tis thus that exiles themselves love to flatter.
But I cannot deceive myself with hopes so delusive
In these sad days which promise still sadder days in the future;
For all the bonds of the world are loosen’d, and naught can rejoin them,
Save that supreme necessity over our future impending.
If in the house of so worthy a man I can earn my own living,
Serving under the eye of his excellent wife, I will do so;
For a wandering girl bears not the best reputation.
Yes! with you I will go, as soon as I’ve taken the pitcher
Back to my friends, and receiv’d the blessing of those worthy people.
Come! you needs must see them, and from their hands shall receive me.”
Joyfully heard the youth the willing maiden’s decision,
Doubting whether he now had not better tell her the whole truth;
But it appear’d to him best to let her remain in her error,
First to take her home, and then for her love to entreat her.
Ah! but now he espied a golden ring on her finger,
And so let her speak, while he attentively listen’d:—
“Let us now return,” she continu’d; “the custom is always
To admonish the maidens who tarry too long at the fountain,
Yet how delightful it is by the fast-flowing water to chatter!”
Then they both arose, and once more directed their glances
Into the fountain, and then a blissful longing came o’er them.
So from the ground by the handles she silently lifted the pitchers,
Mounted the steps of the well, and Hermann follow’d the lov’d one.
One of the pitchers he ask’d her to give him, thus sharing the burden.
“Leave it,” she said; “the weight feels less when thus they are balanc’d;
And the master I’ve soon to obey should not be my servant.
Gaze not so earnestly at me, as if my fate were still doubtful!
Women should learn betimes to serve, according to station,
For by serving alone she attains at last to the mastery,
To the due influence which she ought to possess in the household.
Early the sister must learn to serve her brothers and parents,
And her life is ever a ceaseless going and coming,
Or a lifting and carrying, working and doing for others.
Well for her if she finds no manner of life too offensive,
And if to her the hours of night and of day all the same are,
So that her work never seems too mean, her needle too pointed,
So that herself she forgets, and liveth only for others!
For as a mother in truth she needs the whole of the virtues,
When the suckling awakens the sick one, and nourishment calls for
From the exhausted parent, heaping cares upon suff’ring.
Twenty men together could not endure such a burden,
And they ought not,—and yet they gratefully ought to behold it.”
Thus she spoke, and with her silent companion advanc’d she
Through the garden, until the floor of the granary reach’d they,
Where the sick woman lay, whom she left by her daughters attended,
Those dear rescu’d maidens, the types of innocent beauty.
Both of them enter’d the room, and from the other direction,
Holding a child in each hand, her friend, the magistrate, enter’d.
These had lately been lost for some time by the sorrowing mother,
But the old man had now found them out in the crowd of the people.
And they sprang in with joy, to greet their dearly-lov’d mother,
To rejoice in a brother, the playmate now seen for the first time!
Then on Dorothea they sprang, and greeted her warmly,
Asking for bread and fruit, but asking for drink before all things.
And they handed the water all round. The children first drank some,
Then the sick woman drank, with her daughters, the magistrate also.
All were refresh’d, and sounded the praise of the excellent water;
Mineral was it, and very reviving, and wholesome for drinking.
Then with a serious look continu’d the maiden, and spoke thus:—
“Friends, to your mouths for the last time in truth I have lifted the pitcher,
And for the last time, alas, have moisten’d your lips with pure water.
But whenever in scorching heat your drink may refresh you,
And in the shade you enjoy repose and a fountain unsullied,
Then remember me, and all my friendly assistance,
Which I from love, and not from relationship merely, have render’d.
All your kindness to me, as long as life lasts, I’ll remember.
I unwillingly leave you; but each one is now to each other
Rather a burden than comfort. We all must shortly be scatter’d
Over a foreign land, unless to return we are able.
See, here stands the youth to whom for those gifts we’re indebted,
All those clothes for the child, and all those acceptable viands.
Well, he has come, and is anxious that I to his house should go with him,
There as a servant to act to his rich and excellent parents,
And I have not refus’d him, for serving appears my vocation,
And to be serv’d by others at home would seem like a burden.
So I’ll go willingly with him; the youth appears to be prudent;
Thus will his parents be properly car’d for, as rich people should be.
Therefore, now, farewell, my much-lov’d friend, and be joyful
In your living infant, who looks so healthily at you.
When you press him against your bosom, wrapp’d up in those color’d
Swaddling-clothes, then remember the youth who so kindly bestow’d them,
And who in future will feed and clothe me also, your lov’d friend.
You too, excellent man,” to the magistrate turning, she added:—
“Warmly I thank for so often acting the part of a father.”
Then she knelt herself down before the lying-in patient,
Kiss’d the weeping woman, her whisper’d blessing receiving.
Meanwhile the worthy magistrate spoke to Hermann as follows:—
“You deserve, my friend, to be counted amongst the good landlords
Who are anxious to manage their house through qualified people.
For I have often observ’d how cautiously men are accustom’d
Sheep and cattle and horses to watch, when buying or bart’ring;
But a man, who’s so useful, provided he’s good and efficient,
And who does so much harm and mischief by treacherous dealings,
Him will people admit to their houses by chance and haphazard,
And too late find reason to rue an o’erhasty decision.
This you appear to understand, for a girl you have chosen
As your servant, and that of your parents, who thoroughly good is.
Treat her well, and as long as she finds the business suits her,
You will not miss your sister, your parents will miss not their daughter.”
Other persons now enter’d, the patient’s nearest relations,
Mahy articles bringing, and better lodgings announcing.
All were inform’d of the maiden’s decision, and warmly bless’d Hermann,
Both with significant looks, and also with grateful expressions,
And one secretly whisper’d into the ear of another:—
“If the master should turn to a bridegroom, her home is provided.”
Hermann then presently took her hand, and address’d her as follows:—
“Let us be going; the day is declining, and far off the village.”
Then the women, with lively expressions, embrac’d Dorothea;
Hermann drew her away; they still continu’d to greet her.
Next the children, with screams and terrible crying, attack’d her,
Pulling her clothes, their second mother refusing to part from.
But first one of the women, and then another rebuk’d them:—
“Children, hush! to the town she is going, intending to bring you
Plenty of gingerbread back, which your brother already had order’d,
From the confectioner, when the stork was passing there lately,
And she’ll soon return, with the papers prettily gilded.”
So at length the children releas’d her; but scarcely could Hermann
Tear her from their embraces and distant-signaling kerchiefs.
SO tow’rd the sun, now fast sinking to rest, the two walk’d together,
Whilst he veil’d himself deep in clouds which thunder portended;
Out of his veil now here, now there, with fiery glances
Beaming over the plain with rays foreboding and lurid.
“May this threatening weather,” said Hermann, “not bring to us shortly
Hail and violent rain, for well does the harvest now promise.”
And they both rejoic’d in the corn so lofty and waving,
Well nigh reaching the heads of the two tall figures that walk’d there.
Then the maiden spoke to her friendly leader as follows:—
“Generous youth, to whom I shall owe a kind destiny shortly,
Shelter and home, when so many poor exiles must weather the tempest,
In the first place tell me all about your good parents,
Whom I intend to serve with all my soul from henceforward;
Knowing one’s master, ’tis easier far to give satisfaction,
By rememb’ring the things which he deems of the highest importance,
And on which he has set his heart with the greatest decision.
Tell me, then, how best I can win your father and mother.”
Then the good and sensible youth made answer as follows:—
“You are indeed quite right, my kind and excellent maiden,
To begin by asking about the tastes of my parents!
For I have hitherto striven in vain to satisfy father,
When I look’d after the inn, as well as my regular duty,
Working early and late in the field, and tending the vineyard.
Mother indeed was contented; she knew how to value my efforts;
And she will certainly hold you to be an excellent maiden,
If you take care of the house, as though the dwelling your own were.
But my father’s unlike her; he’s fond of outward appearance.
Gentle maiden, deem me not cold and void of all feeling,
If I disclose my father’s nature to you, who’re a stranger.
Yes, such words have never before escap’d, I assure you,
Out of my mouth, which is little accustom’d to babble and chatter;
But you have manag’d to worm all my secrets from out of my bosom.
Well, my worthy father the graces of life holds in honor,
Wishes for outward signs of love, as well as of rev’rence,
And would doubtless be satisfied with an inferior servant
Who understood this fancy, and hate a better, who did not.”
Cheerfully she replied, with gentle movement increasing
Through the darkening path the speed at which she was walking:—
“I in truth shall hope to satisfy both of your parents,
For your mother’s character my own nature resembles,
And to external graces have I from my youth been accustom’d.
Our old neighbors, the French, in their earlier days laid much stress on
Courteous demeanor; ’twas common alike to nobles and burghers,
And to peasants, and each enjoin’d it on all his acquaintance.
In the same way, on the side of the Germans, the children were train’d up
Every morning, with plenty of kissing of hands and of curtsies,
To salute their parents, and always to act with politeness.
All that I have learn’d, and all I have practis’d since childhood,
All that comes from my heart,—I will practise it all with the old man.
But on what terms shall I—I scarcely dare ask such a question,—
Be with yourself, the only son, and hereafter my master?”
Thus she spoke, and at that moment they came to the pear tree.
Down from the skies the moon at her full was shining in glory;
Night had arriv’d, and the last pale gleam of the sunset had vanish’d.
So before them were lying, in masses all heap’d up together,
Lights as clear as the day, and shadows of night and of darkness.
And the friendly question was heard by Hermann with pleasure,
Under the shade of the noble tree at the spot which he lov’d so,
Which that day had witness’d his tears at the fate of the exile.
And whilst they sat themselves down, to take a little repose there,
Thus the loving youth spoke, whilst he seiz’d the hand of the maiden:—
“Let your heart give the answer, and always obey what it tells you!”
But he ventur’d to say no more, however propitious
Was the moment; he fear’d that a No would be her sole answer,
Ah! and he felt the ring on her finger, that sorrowful token.
So by the side of each other they quietly sat and in silence,
But the maiden began to speak, and said, “How delightful
Is the light of the moon! The clearness of day it resembles.
Yonder I see in the town the houses and courtyards quite plainly,
In the gable a window; methinks all the panes I can reckon.”
“That which you see,” replied the youth, who spoke with an effort,
“That is our house down to which I now am about to conduct you,
And that window yonder belongs to my room in the attic,
Which will probably soon be yours, as we’re making great changes.
All these fields are ours, and ripe for the harvest to-morrow;
Here in the shade we are wont to rest, enjoying our meal-time.
But let us now descend across the vineyard and garden,
For observe how the threatening storm is hitherward rolling,
Lightening first, and then eclipsing the beautiful full moon.”
So the pair arose, and wander’d down by the corn-field,
Through the powerful corn, in the nightly clearness rejoicing;
And they reach’d the vineyard, and through its dark shadows proceeded.
So he guided her down the numerous tiers of the flat stones
Which, in an unhewn state, serv’d as steps to the walk through the foliage.
Slowly she descended, and plac’d her hands on his shoulders;
And, with a quivering light, the moon through the foliage o’erlook’d them,
Till by storm-clouds envelop’d, she left the couple in darkness.
Then the strong youth supported the maiden, who on him was leaning;
She, however, not knowing the path, or observing the rough steps,
Slipp’d as she walk’d, her foot gave way, and she well nigh was falling.
Hastily held out his arm the youth with nimbleness thoughtful,
And held up his belov’d one; she gently sank on his shoulder,
Breast was press’d against breast, and cheek against cheek, and so stood he
Fix’d like a marble statue, restrain’d by a firm resolution;
He embrac’d her no closer, though all her weight he supported;
So he felt his noble burden, the warmth of her bosom,
And her balmy breath, against his warm lips exhaling,
Bearing with manly feelings the woman’s heroical greatness.
But she conceal’d the pain which she felt, and jestingly spoke thus:—
“It betokens misfortune,—so scrupulous people inform us,—
For the foot to give way on entering a house, near the threshold.
I should have wish’d, in truth, for a sign of some happier omen!
Let us tarry a little, for fear your parents should blame you,
For their limping servant, and you should be thought a bad landlord.”
O YE MUSES, who gladly favor a love that is heartfelt,
Who on his way the excellent youth have hitherto guided,
Who have press’d the maid to his bosom before their betrothal,
Help still further to perfect the bonds of a couple so loving,
Drive away the clouds which over their happiness hover!
But begin by saying what now in the house has been passing.
For the third time the mother impatiently enter’d the chamber
Where the men were sitting, which she had anxiously quitted,
Speaking of the approaching storm, and the loss of the moon’s light,
Then of her son’s long absence, and all the perils that night brings.
Strongly she censur’d their friends for having so soon left the youngster,
For not even addressing the maiden, or seeking to woo her.
“Make not the worst of the mischief,” the father peevishly answer’d;
“For you see we are waiting ourselves, expecting the issue.”
But the neighbor sat still, and calmly address’d them as follows:—
“In uneasy moments like these I always feel grateful
To my late father, who, when I was young, all seeds of impatience
In my mind uprooted, and left no fragment remaining,
And I learn’d how to wait, as well as the best of the wise men.”
“Tell us what legerdemain he employ’d,” the pastor made answer.
“I will gladly inform you, and each one may gain by the lesson,”
Answer’d the neighbor. “When I was a boy, I was standing one Sunday
In a state of impatience, eagerly waiting the carriage
Which was to carry us out to the fountain under the lime trees;
But it came not; I ran like a weasel, now hither, now thither,
Up and down the stairs, and from the door to the window;
Both my hands were prickling, I scratch’d away at the tables,
Stamping and trotting about, and scarcely refrain’d I from crying.
All this the calm man composedly saw; but finally when I
Carried my folly too far, by the arm he quietly took me,
Led me up to the window, and used this significant language:—
‘See you up yonder the joiner’s workshop, now clos’d for the Sunday?
’Twill be reopen’d to-morrow, and plane and saw will be working.
Thus will the busy hours be pass’d from morning till evening.
But remember this: the morning will soon be arriving
When the master, together with all his men, will be busy
In preparing and finishing quickly and deftly your coffin,
And they will carefully bring over here that house made of boards, which
Will at length receive the patient as well as impatient,
And which is destin’d to carry a roof that’s unpleasantly heavy.’
All that he mention’d I forthwith saw taking place in my mind’s eye,
Saw the boards join’d together, and saw the black cover made ready,—
Patiently then I sat, and meekly awaited the carriage.
And I always think of the coffin whenever I see men
Running about in a state of doubtful and wild expectation.”
Smilingly answer’d the pastor:—“Death’s stirring image is neither
Unto the wise a cause of alarm,—or an end to the pious.
Back into life it urges the former, and teaches him action,
And for the weal of the latter, it strengthens his hope in affliction.
Death is a giver of life unto both. Your father did wrongly
When to the sensitive boy he pointed out death in its own form.
Unto the youth should be shown the worth of a noble and ripen’d
Age, and unto the old man, youth, that both may rejoice in
The eternal circle, and life may in life be made perfect!”
Here the door was open’d. The handsome couple appear’d there,
And the friends were amaz’d, the loving parents astonish’d
At the form of the bride, the form of the bridegroom resembling.
Yes! the door appear’d too small to admit the tall figures
Which now cross’d the threshold, in company walking together.
To his parents Hermann presented her, hastily saying:—
“Here is a maiden just of the sort you are wishing to have here.
Welcome her kindly, dear father! she fully deserves it, and you too,
Mother dear, ask her questions as to her housekeeping knowledge,
That you may see how well she deserves to form one of our party.”
Then he hastily took on one side the excellent pastor,
Saying:—“Kind sir, I entreat you to help me out of this trouble
Quickly, and loosen the knot, whose unravelling I am so dreading;
For I have not ventur’d to woo as my bride the fair maiden,
But she believes she’s to be a maid in the house, and I fear me
She will in anger depart, as soon as we talk about marriage.
But it must be decided at once! no longer in error
Shall she remain, and I no longer this doubt can put up with.
Hasten and once more exhibit that wisdom we all hold in honor.”
So the pastor forthwith turn’d round to the rest of the party,
But the maiden’s soul was, unhappily, troubled already
By the talk of the father, who just had address’d her as follows,
Speaking good-humoredly, and in accents pleasant and lively:—
“Yes, I’m well satisfied, child! I joyfully see that my son has
Just as good taste as his father, who in his younger days show’d it,
Always leading the fairest one out in the dance, and then lastly
Taking the fairest one home as his wife—’twas your dear little mother!
For by the bride whom a man selects, we may easily gather
What kind of spirit his is, and whether he knows his own value.
But you will surely need but a short time to form your decision,
For I verily think he will find it full easy to follow.”
Hermann but partially heard the words; the whole of his members
Inwardly quiver’d, and all the circle were suddenly silent.
But the excellent maiden, by words of such irony wounded,
(As she esteem’d them to be) and deeply distress’d in her spirit,
Stood, while a passing flush from her cheeks as far as her neck was
Spreading, but she restrain’d herself, and collected her thoughts soon;
Then to the old man she said, not fully concealing her sorrow:—
“Truly I was not prepar’d by your son for such a reception,
When he describ’d his father’s nature,—that excellent burgher,
And I know I am standing before you, a person of culture,
Who behaves himself wisely to all, in a suitable manner.
But it would seem that you feel not pity enough for the poor thing
Who has just cross’d your threshold, prepar’d to enter your service;
Else you would not seek to point out, with ridicule bitter,
How far remov’d my lot from your son’s and that of yourself is.
True, with a little bundle, and poor, I have enter’d your dwelling,
Which it is the owner’s delight to furnish with all things.
But I know myself well, and feel the whole situation.
Is it generous thus to greet me with language so jeering,
Which has well nigh expell’d me the house, when just on the threshold?”
Hermann uneasily mov’d about, and sign’d to the pastor
To interpose without delay, and clear up the error.
Quickly the wise man advanc’d to the spot, and witness’d the maiden’s
Silent vexation and tearful eyes and scarce-restrain’d sorrow.
Then his spirit advis’d him to solve not at once the confusion,
But, on the contrary, prove the excited mind of the maiden.
So, in words fram’d to try her, the pastor address’d her as follows:—
“Surely, my foreign maiden, you did not fully consider,
When you made up your mind to serve a stranger so quickly,
What it really is to enter the house of a master;
For a shake of the hand decides your fate for a twelvemonth,
And a single word Yes to much endurance will bind you.
But the worst part of the service is not the wearisome habits,
Nor the bitter toil of the work, which seems never-ending;
For the active freeman works hard as well as the servant.
But to suffer the whims of the master, who blames you unjustly,
Or who calls for this and for that, not knowing his own mind,
And the mistress’s violence, always so easily kindled,
With the children’s rough and supercilious bad manners,—
This is indeed hard to bear, whilst still fulfilling your duties
Promptly and actively, never becoming morose or ill-natured;
Yet for such work you appear little fit, for already the father’s
Jokes have offended you deeply; yet nothing more commonly happens
Than to tease a maiden about her liking a youngster.”
Thus he spoke, and the maiden felt the weight of his language,
And no more restrain’d herself; mightily all her emotions
Show’d themselves, her bosom heav’d, and a deep sigh escap’d her,
And whilst shedding burning tears, she answer’d as follows:—
“Ne’er does the clever man, who seeks to advise us in sorrow,
Think how little his chilling words our hearts can deliver
From the pangs which an unseen destiny fastens upon us.
You are happy and merry. How then should a jest ever wound you?
But the slightest touch gives torture to those who are suff’ring.
Even dissimulation would nothing avail me at present.
Let me at once disclose what later would deepen my sorrow,
And consign me perchance to agony mute and consuming.
Let me depart forthwith! No more in this house dare I linger;
I must hence and away, and look once more for my poor friends
Whom I left in distress, when seeking to better my fortunes.
This is my firm resolve; and now I may properly tell you
That which had else been buried for many a year in my bosom.
Yes, the father’s jest has wounded me deeply, I own it,
Not that I’m proud and touchy, as ill becometh a servant,
But because in truth in my heart a feeling has risen
For the youth, who to-day has fill’d the part of my saviour.
For when first in the road he left me, his image remain’d still
Firmly fix’d in my mind; and I thought of the fortunate maiden
Whom, as his betroth’d one, he cherish’d perchance in his bosom.
And when I found him again at the well, the sight of him charm’d me
Just as if I had seen an angel descending from heaven.
And I follow’d him willingly, when as a servant he sought me,
But by my heart in truth I was flatter’d (I need must confess it),
As I hitherward came, that I might possibly win him,
If I became in the house an indispensable pillar.
But, alas, I now see the dangers I well nigh fell into,
When I bethought me of living so near a silently-lov’d one.
Now for the first time I feel how far remov’d a poor maiden
Is from a richer youth, however clever she may be.
I have told you all this, that you my heart may mistake not,
Which an event that in thought I foreshadow has wounded already.
For I must have expected, my secret wishes concealing,
That, ere much time had elaps’d, I should see him bringing his bride home.
And how then could I have endur’d my hidden affliction!
Happily I am warn’d in time, and out of my bosom
Has my secret escap’d, whilst curable still is the evil.
But no more of the subject! I now must tarry no longer
In this house, where I now am standing in pain and confusion,
All my foolish hopes and my feelings freely confessing.
Not the night which, with sinking clouds, is spreading around us,
Not the rolling thunder (I hear it already) shall stop me,
Not the falling rain, which outside is descending in torrents,
Not the blustering storm. All this I had to encounter
In that sorrowful flight, while the enemy follow’d behind us.
And once more I go on my way, as I long have been wont to,
Seiz’d by the whirlpool of time, and parted from all that I care for.
So farewell! I’ll tarry no longer. My fate is accomplish’d!”
Thus she spoke, and towards the door she hastily turn’d her,
Holding under her arm the bundle she brought when arriving,
But the mother seiz’d by both of her arms the fair maiden,
Clasping her round the body, and cried with surprise and amazement:—
“Say, what signifies this? These fruitless tears, what denote they?
No, I’ll not leave you alone! You’re surely my dear son’s betrothed!”
But the father stood still, and show’d a great deal of reluctance,
Stared at the weeping girl, and peevishly spoke then as follows:—
“This, then, is all the indulgence my friends are willing to give me,
That at the close of the day the most unpleasant thing happens!
For there is nothing I hate so much as the tears of a woman,
And their passionate cries, set up with such heat and excitement,
Which a little plain sense would show to be utterly needless.
Truly, I find the sight of these whimsical doings a nuisance.
Matters must shift for themselves; as for me, I think it is bed-time.”
So he quickly turn’d round, and hasten’d to go to the chamber
Where the marriage-bed stood, in which he slept for the most part.
But his son held him back, and spoke in words of entreaty:—
“Father, don’t go in a hurry, and be not annoy’d with the maiden!
I alone have to bear the blame of all this confusion,
Which our friend has increas’d by his unexpected dissembling.
Speak then, honor’d sir! for to you the affair I confided;
Heap not up pain and annoyance, but rather complete the whole matter;
For I surely in future should not respect you so highly,
If you play practical jokes, instead of displaying true wisdom.”
Thereupon the worthy pastor smilingly answer’d:—
“What kind of wisdom could have extracted the charming confession
Of this good maiden, and so have reveal’d all her character to us?
Is not your care converted at once to pleasure and rapture?
Speak out, then, for yourself! Why need explanations from others?”
Hermann then stepp’d forward, and gently address’d her as follows:—
“Do not repent of your tears, nor yet of your passing affliction;
For they perfect my happiness; yours too, I fain would consider.
I came not to the fountain, to hire so noble a maiden
As a servant, I came to seek to win your affections.
But, alas! my timid gaze had not strength to discover
Your heart’s leanings; it saw in your eye but a friendly expression,
When you greeted it out of the tranquil fountain’s bright mirror.
Merely to bring you home, made half of my happiness certain;
But you now make it complete! May every blessing be yours, then!”
Then the maiden look’d on the youth with heartfelt emotion,
And avoided not kiss or embrace, the summit of rapture,
When they also are to the loving, the long wish’d-for pledges
Of approaching bliss in a life which now seems to them endless.
Then the pastor told the others the whole of the story;
But the maiden came, and gracefully bent o’er the father,
Kissing the while his hand, which he to draw back attempted.
And she said:—“I am sure that you will forgive the surpris’d one,
First for her tears of sorrow, and then for her tears of true rapture.
Oh, forgive the emotions by which they both have been prompted,
And let me fully enjoy the bliss that has now been vouchsaf’d me!
Let the first vexation, which my confusion gave rise to,
Also be the last! The loving service which lately
Was by the servant promis’d, shall now by the daughter be render’d.”
And the father, his tears concealing, straightway embrac’d her;
Lovingly came the mother in turn, and heartily kiss’d her,
Warmly shaking her hand; and silently wept they together.
Then in a hasty manner, the good and sensible pastor
Seiz’d the hand of the father, his wedding-ring off from his finger
Drawing (not easily though; so plump was the member that held it);
Then he took the mother’s ring, and betroth’d the two children,
Saying:—“Once more may it be these golden hoops’ destination
Firmly to fasten a bond altogether resembling the old one!
For this youth is deeply imbu’d with love for the maiden,
And the maiden confesses that she for the youth has a liking.
Therefore, I now betroth you, and wish you all blessings hereafter,
With the parents’ consent, and with our friend here as a witness.”
And the neighbor bent forward, and added his own benediction;
But when the clergyman plac’d the gold ring on the hand of the maiden,
He with astonishment saw the one which already was on it,
And which Hermann before at the fountain had anxiously notic’d.
Whereupon he spoke in words at once friendly and jesting:—
“What! You are twice engaging yourself? I hope that the first one
May not appear at the altar, unkindly forbidding the banns there!”
But she said in reply:—“Oh, let me devote but one moment
To this mournful rememb’rance! For well did the good youth deserve it,
Who, when departing, presented the ring, but never return’d home.
All was by him foreseen, when freedom’s love of a sudden,
And a desire to play his part in the new-found existence,
Drove him to go to Paris, where prison and death were his portion.
‘Farewell,’ said he, ‘I go; for all things on earth are in motion
At this moment, and all things appear in a state of disunion.
Fundamental laws in the steadiest countries are loosen’d,
And possessions are parted from those who used to possess them,
Friends are parted from friends, and love is parted from love too.
I now leave you here, and whether I ever shall see you
Here again,—who can tell? Perchance these words will our last be.
Man is a stranger here upon earth, the proverb informs us;
Every person has now become more a stranger than ever.
Ours the soil is no longer; our treasures are fast flying from us;
All the sacred old vessels of gold and silver are melted,
All is moving, as though the old-fashion’d world would roll backwards
Into chaos and night, in order anew to be fashion’d.
You of my heart have possession, and if we shall ever hereafter
Meet again over the wreck of the world, it will be as new creatures,
All remodell’d and free and independent of fortune;
For what fetters can bind down those who survive such a period!
But if we are destin’d not to escape from these dangers,
If we are never again to embrace each other with rapture,
Oh, then fondly keep in your thoughts my hovering image,
That you may be prepar’d with like courage for good and ill fortune!
If a new home or a new alliance should chance to allure you,
Then enjoy with thanks whatever your destiny offers,
Purely loving the loving, and grateful to him who thus loves you.
But remember always to tread with a circumspect footstep,
For the fresh pangs of a second loss will behind you be lurking.
Deem each day as sacred; but value not life any higher
Than any other possession, for all possessions are fleeting.’
Thus he spoke; and the noble youth and I parted forever:
Meanwhile I ev’rything lost, and a thousand times thought of his warning;
Once more I think of his words, now that love is sweetly preparing
Happiness for me anew, and the brightest of hopes is unfolding.
Pardon me, dearest friend, for trembling e’en at the moment
When I am clasping your arm! For thus, on first landing, the sailor
Fancies that even the solid ground is shaking beneath him.”
Thus she spoke, and she plac’d the rings by the side of each other.
But the bridegroom answer’d, with noble and manly emotion:—
“All the firmer, amidst the universal disruption,
Be, Dorothea, our union! We’ll show ourselves bold and enduring,
Firmly hold our own, and firmly retain our possessions.
For the man who in wav’ring times is inclin’d to be wav’ring
Only increases the evil, and spreads it wider and wider;
But the man of firm decision the universe fashions.
’Tis not becoming the Germans to further this fearful commotion,
And in addition to waver uncertainly hither and thither.
‘This is our own!’ we ought to say, and so to maintain it!
For the world will ever applaud those resolute nations
Who for God and the Law, their wives, and parents, and children
Struggle, and fall when contending against the foeman together.
You are mine; and now what is mine, is mine more than ever.
Not with anxiety will I preserve it, or timidly use it,
But with courage and strength. And if the enemy threaten,
Now or hereafter, I’ll hold myself ready, and reach down my weapons.
If I know that the house and my parents by you are protected,
I shall expose my breast to the enemy, void of all terror;
And if all others thought thus, then might against might should be measur’d,
And in the early prospect of peace we should all be rejoicing.”