« PreviousContinue »
Goethe may be found in the sentiment expressed by Cicero, in his beautiful tract De Senectute, "In hoc sumus sapientes, quod naturam optimam ducem, tamquam deum, sequimur, eique paremus." Of a delicate organization, the communion of nature was more agreeable to Goethe, than the society of men. He guarded his individuality of character from the too near approaches even of friendship and love; but nestled confidingly as a child in the kindly bosom of mother earth, and received the breath of his life from the inspiration of this great mother. In this great genius, as in the material world, the most mighty and discordant forces were blended together in peaceful harmony; and the expression which characterizes both his life and works is kind and calm, like that which rests upon the face of nature. The perfect man, he taught, is one whose faculties, of what kind soever, are all fully and naturally developed, the lower being in willing subjection to the higher. Pantheistic in his religious belief, he held to no self-determining principle in the individual soul, and considered the freedom of the mind. to consist in nothing more than the harmony of its faculties. His motto was, Vivere memento.
Goethe was an artist, nothing more, nor less. Schiller wrote history and dabbled in metaphysics, though he had no talent for pure speculation, and his history is but little better than fiction; but Goethe never left the mountain of the Muses. He was a naturalist, it is true, yet his observations of nature were all made on the Parnassian heights, and along the banks of the Castalian waters. He viewed life poetically only, and converted all things to artistic uses. in Italy, he set a higher value even on the shadows of ancient art, than upon the human beings who were wont to repose under them; and could conceive of no two things more undesirable, than to rebuild the picturesque desolations of the Eternal City, and to cultivate again the sublime wastes of the surrounding campagna. So exclusively was his life consecrated to the service of Apollo, that he turned away from the study of the facts of history, avoided all philosophical investigations, and abjured the habits of reflection and self-examination, in order the better to preserve unimpaired his power of poetical creation. His whole experience was written out in poetry, or in fiction. Whatever there is gay or sad in his writings was first in his life; and it is to the VOL. LVIII. No. 122.
short but severe struggles of the world within and without him, that we owe all the early, and some of the most importan, productions of his muse.
The author of "Faust" was lavishly endowed by nature with those transcendent gifts which are requisite to make the epic poet. But much to his regret, he was not born in an epic age. Accordingly, in the absence of heroic deeds worthy of the lyre, he was obliged to seek in the great ideas of his times for the themes of song. These, however, he was not obliged to search for without the limits of his own capacious intellect; for in that was matured the highest wisdom of the age. Many of the profound truths laboriously excogitated by Hegel and the ablest contemporary metaphysicians of Germany sprang up spontaneously in the mind of Goethe, and have received from his pen their fit poetical expression. And besides uttering in verse all the wisdom of his own times, he has, also, in some of his works, reproduced the chivalry of the Middle Ages, and in others the unconscious beauty of the ancient Greeks. He has written every species of poetry; and, especially, has touched the lyre with all the lightness and grace of the old lyrical mas
If Goethe was created an epic poet, Schiller was born a dramatist. More fortunate in his natal star than the former, the latter lived in an age that furnished a most appropriate theatre for the exercise of his art and the display of his gifts. The nature of Schiller was in harmony with the tendencies of the times. He was patriotic, and struggled for freedom. He knew men, sympathized with the people, stood shoulder to shoulder with his fellows in the great revolutionary conflicts, and was thought worthy by the French republicans to be honored with a diploma of citizenship from "the great nation." But Goethe knew only man; led, never growing old, a high ideal life; and on arriving, advanced in years, at the summit of his career, he found no broad table-land whereon to wrestle for the prizes of life with his peers, but at once descended on the other side, unattended, into the valley of shadows. Schiller was a poet in spite of hinderances, and may almost be said to have taken the seat of the Muses by storm. Goethe sang from instinctive impulse, and appeared in the society of Apollo and the Gods like one in his native home. The
tragic poet quickened the pulse of his life by artificial stimulants, overstrained his powers, and was possessed by his genius. The epic poet, pouring forth in song the thoughts that oppressed his breast, arose, relieved from his labors, like a strong man refreshed with sport. True, Schiller directed his impulses towards his chosen aims; but it was like guiding a bark borne down by the rapids; while Goethe, following the instinctive promptings of nature, floated along upon a peaceful current at its " own sweet will." The poetry of Schiller is subjective; that of Goethe objective. Schiller adores freedom; Goethe worships nature. The former acknowledges the moral law of conscience, and exalts the true, the beautiful, and the good. The latter inculcates the harmony of all laws, unfolds the wisdom and beauty of things as they are, and makes common life poetical. The one stimulates us to the pursuit of unattainable ends; the other teaches us wisely to improve our actual possessions, and cheerfully to strive after possible perfections. Schiller was a priest of the ideal, Goethe an interpreter of the real world. The same contrast exists between these two minds, which, running through all literary history, is to be seen between Plato and Aristotle, Epicurus and Zeno, Rousseau and Voltaire, Tasso and Ariosto, Lope and Calderon, Klopstock and Wieland, Herder and Lessing.
"Chronologically," says Gervinus, "the oppositions of the real and the ideal lay in nearly an inverted relation in these two poets. Goethe proceeded more from a real towards an ideal tendency; Schiller, after his acquaintance with Goethe and the ancients, endeavoured to approach the real from the opposite. point of the ideal. The latter went back from speculation to poetical intuition; the former from poetical intuition advanced, if not to speculation, at least to contemplation; and while, in the traces of Goethe, there followed Oriental spiritualism, in those of Schiller, there came stanch patriotism, both in life and in poetry. The most obvious characteristics of their works were, therefore, altogether different from what would have been expected from their natural endowments. The poet most inclined to the practical and the material became the more exalted in his style of composition. The one who lived in the ideal world of art is, for many persons, too natural. Each hindered the other from falling into extremes; and accordingly, the lofty and often profound Schiller has been more generally admired, while the plainer and essentially more popular Goethe has been appropriated
by the aristocratic class of society. He who in his aims had the most reference to men, has remained the favorite of women and youth; but he who abode in perennial youth has satisfied best the wants of man. The one who was all form and spirit pleased the people; but the one who both sought and gave more of matter delighted the cultivated few, who are better able to appreciate form. The genius apparently the most richly endowed has been confined within a narrower circle of influence; and the one apparently less gifted has found a more extensive one; as Goethe himself said, if Schiller was generally esteemed less rich and productive, it was because his spirit streamed forth into all life, furnishing nutriment to, and supplying the deficiencies of, all men. Accordingly, the lines of the capacious nature of both cross each other in directions so various, that it is only when thus bound together, that they present us with one entire whole, in which we ought, without division, to delight and edify ourselves, as was, indeed, the intention of the men themselves."
Here we are compelled to pause; and, however reluctant, to pass by, unnoticed, many of the brilliant authors whose names emblazon the page of recent German literature; the mystical Novalis (Frederic von Hardenberg), who aimed at nothing less than to breathe the spirit of poetry into all literature, science, and life,; the noble, though passive, and somewhat feminine, genius of the Schlegels, who laid the foundations of the new science of literary history; Tieck, the humorous and romantic reproducer of the fable of the Middle Ages; Fouqué, to whom we are indebted for the popular romance of "Undine," the delight of youth; Körner, him of the lyre and sword, who in the cause of his country's freedom both sang and bled; Uhland, whose mediæval ballads have produced the happiest effects upon recent German poetry, and whose songs of liberty and patriotism stand like a phalanx, firm amid the changes of literature; and, finally, Frederick Rückert, who may be cited as the representative of the new Minnesong, whose power of rhythm is incomparable, whose imagery glows with all the gorgeousness of the Orient, and whose sweet, musical lyrics are even inferior to his profound, though light and airy, epigrams.
Gervinus closes his history with the death of Goethe. Since that event, German poetry has degenerated, and become technical in form, and subjective in spirit. The foun
tains of poetic inspiration are sealed up; and nothing short of some great national convulsion, that shall break up the foundations of the present spiritual dynasty, will suffice to reopen them. There must be a new development of German life.; the practical, as well as the ideal, side of the national character must be built up; there must arise some political Luther to introduce into the trades the freedom which is so largely enjoyed in religion, and so to modify the civil polity of the land, as to give to the German in future as ample liberty to act, as for the last half century he has had to think. Then first will our eyes be greeted with the dawn of another golden age of German poesy, of a poetic future which may be more spiritual, without presenting less of material beauty, than the past; in which the reflection of years may be added to the passion of youth; and wherein, we may believe, will be harmoniously blended the various elements of all preceding literary epochs, the valor of the ancient bards with the love of the sweet singers of chivalry, the religion of Klopstock with the gayety of Wieland, the nationality of Lessing with the universality of Herder, and the soul of Schiller's verse with the form of Goethe's.
ART. V. 1. State Stocks and Revenues, comprising Statistical Tables of the Stocks, Debts, Expenditures, and Revenues of each of the United States. New York. 1841. pp. 8.
2. Report of the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Michigan, on the Subject of the Five Million Loan Bonds. February, 1843. 3. Message of Governor McNutt to the Legislature of the State of Mississippi. January, 1841.
4. Message of Governor Porter to the Legislature of the State of Pennsylvania. January, 1843.
THESE documents are connected with a subject of great public importance. Disgrace has fallen upon the people of this country in the eyes of the civilized world, and it becomes us to inquire how far we deserve it, how far it is unmerited, by what means we can justly relieve ourselves from it, and