The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Kuno Francke, Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D.
In Twenty Volumes Illustrated
ALBANY, N.Y. J.B. LYON COMPANY PUBLISHERS
CONTENTS OF VOLUME I
General Introduction. By Richard M. Meyer
The Life of Goethe. By Calvin Thomas
Greeting and Departure. Translated by Charles Wharton Stork
The Heathrose. Adapted from the translation by E.A. Bowring
Mahomet's Song. Translated by E.A. Bowring
Prometheus. Translated by E.A. Bowring
The Wanderer's Night-Song. Adapted from the translation by E.A. Bowring
The Sea-Voyage. Translated by E.A. Bowring
To the Moon. Translated by E.A. Bowring
The Fisherman. Translated by E.A. Bowring
The Wanderer's Night-Song. Translated by E.A. Bowring
The Erl-King. Translated by E.A. Bowring
The Godlike. Translated by E.A. Bowring
Mignon. Translated by E.A. Bowring
Proximity of the Beloved One. Translated by E.A. Bowring
The Shepherd's Lament. Translated by W.E. Aytoun and Theodore Martin.
Nature and Art Translated by A.I. du P. Coleman.
Comfort in Tears. Translated by W.E. Aytoun and Theodore Martin
Epilog to Schiller's "Song of the Bell." Translated by W.E. Aytoun and Theodore Martin
Ergo Bibamus. Translated by E.A. Bowring
The Walking Bell. Translated by E.A. Bowring
Found. Translated by E.A. Bowring
Hatem. Translated by A.I. du P. Coleman
Reunion. Translated by A.I. du P. Coleman
Procemion. Translated by E.A. Bowring
The One and The All. Translated by A.I. du P. Coleman
Lines on Seeing Schiller's Skull. Translated by E.A. Bowring
A Legacy. Translated by A.I. du P. Coleman
* * * * *
Introduction to Hermann and Dorothea. By Arthur H. Palmer
Harmann and Dorothea. Translated by Ellen Frothingham
Introduction to Iphigenia in Tauris. By Arthur H. Palmer
Iphigenia in Tauris. Translated by Anna Swanwick
* * * * *
The Faust Legend from Marlowe to Goethe. By Kuno Francke
Introduction to Faust. Calvin Thomas
Faust (Part I). Translated by Anna Swanwick
Faust (Part II). Translated by Anna Swanwick
On the Way Toward the Grail. By Hans Thoma Frontispiece
Goethe. By J. Jaeger
Goethe. By J. Stieler
Goethe's Houses in Weimar
Goethe in the Campagua. By J.H.W. Tischbein
Monument to Goethe in Berlin. By Fritz Schaper
Monument to Goethe in Rome. By Eberlein
The Death of Goethe. By Fritz Fleischer
The Heathrose. By K. Kogler
Prometheus. By Titian
The Fisherman and the Mermaid. By Georg Papperitz
Hermann's Parents in the Doorway of the Tavern. By Ludwig Richter
Hermann hands to Dorothea the Linen for the Emigrants. By Ludwig Richter
The Mother defending Hermann. By Ludwig Richter
Mother and Son. By Ludwig Richter
The Emigrants in the Village. By Ludwig Richter
The Parson and the Apothecary watch Dorothea. By Ludwig Richter
Hermann and Dorothea meet at the Fountain. By Ludwig Richter
Hermann and Dorothea under the Pear tree. By Ludwig Richter
The Betrothal. By Ludwig Richter
Iphigenia. By Ansehn Feuerbach
The Meeting of Orestes, Iphigenia, and Pylades. By Angelica, Kauffmann
Iphigenia. By Max Nonnenbruch
Faust and Mephistopheles. By Liezen-Mayer
Margaret. By Wilhelm von Kaulbach
Faust and Margaret. By Carl Becker
Faust and Margaret in the Garden. By Liezen-Mayer
The Death of Valentine. By Franz Simm
Margaret's Downfall. By Wilhelm von Kaulbach
It is surprising how little the English-speaking world knows of German literature of the nineteenth century. Goethe and Schiller found their herald in Carlyle; Fichte's idealistic philosophy helped to mold Emerson's view of life; Amadeus Hoffmann influenced Poe; Uhland and Heine reverberate in Longfellow; Sudermann and Hauptmann appear in the repertory of London and New York theatres—these brief statements include nearly all the names which to the cultivated Englishman and American of to-day stand for German literature.
THE GERMAN CLASSICS OF THE NINETEENTH AND TWENTIETH CENTURIES has been planned to correct this narrow and inadequate view. Here for the first time English readers will find a panorama of the whole of German literature from Goethe to the present day; here for the first time they will find the most representative writers of each period brought together and exhibited by their most representative works; here for the first time an opportunity will be offered to form a just conception of the truly remarkable literary achievements of Germany during the last hundred years.
For it is a grave mistake to assume, as has been assumed only too often, that, after the great epoch of Classicism and Romanticism in the early decades of the nineteenth century, Germany produced but little of universal significance, or that, after Goethe and Heine, there were but few Germans worthy to be mentioned side by side with the great writers of other European countries. True, there is no German Tolstoy, no German Ibsen, no German Zola—but then, is there a Russian Nietzsche, or a Norwegian Wagner, or a French Bismarck? Men like these, men of revolutionary genius, men who start new movements and mark new epochs, are necessarily rare and stand isolated in any people and at all times. The three names mentioned indicate that Germany, during the last fifty years, has contributed a goodly share even of such men. Quite apart, however, from such men of overshadowing genius and all-controlling power, can it be truly said that Germany, since Goethe's time, has been lacking in writers of high aim and notable attainment?
It can be stated without reservation that, taken as a whole, the German drama of the nineteenth century has maintained a level of excellence superior to that reached by the drama of almost any other nation during the same period. Schiller's Wallenstein and Tell, Goethe's Iphigenie and Faust, Kleist's Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Grillparzer's Medea, Hebbel's Maria Magdalene and Die Nibelungen, Otto Ludwig's Der Erbfoerster, Freytag's Die Journalisten, Anzengruber's Der Meineidbauer, Wilbrandt's Der Meister von Palmyra, Wildenbruch's Konig Heinrich, Sudermann's Heimat, Hauptmann's Die Weber and Der arme Heinrich, Hofmannsthal's Elektra, and, in addition to all these, the great musical dramas of Richard Wagner—this is a century's record of dramatic achievement of which any nation might be proud. I doubt whether either the French or the Russian or the Scandinavian stage of the nineteenth century, as a whole, comes up to this standard. Certainly, the English stage has nothing which could in any way be compared with it.
That German lyric verse of the last hundred years should have been distinguished by beauty of structure, depth of feeling, and wealth of melody, is not to be wondered at if we remember that this was the century of the revival of folk-song, and that it produced such song-composers as Schubert and Schumann and Robert Franz and Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss. But it seems strange that, apart from Heine, even the greatest of German lyric poets, such as Platen, Lenau, Moerike, Annette von Droste, Geibel, Liliencron, Dehmel, Muenchhausen, Rilke, should be so little known beyond the borders of the Fatherland.
The German novel of the past century was, for a long time, unquestionably inferior to both the English and the French novel of the same epoch. But in the midst of much that is tiresome and involved and artificial, there stand out, even in the middle of the century, such masterpieces of characterization as Otto Ludwig's Zwischen Himmel und Erde or Wilhelm Raabe's Der Hungerpastor, such delightful revelations of genuine humor as Fritz Reuter's Ut mine Stromtid, such penetrating studies of social conditions as Gustav Freytag's Soll und Haben. And during the last third of the century there has clearly developed a new, forcible, original style of German novel writing. Seldom has the short story been handled more skilfully and felicitously than by such men as Paul Heyse, Gottfried Keller, C. F. Meyer, Theodor Storm. Seldom has the novel of tragic import and passion been treated with greater refinement and delicacy than in such works as Fontane's Effi Briest, Ricarda Huch's Ludolf Ursleu, Wilhelm von Polenz's Der Buettnerbauer, or Ludwig Thoma's Andreas Voest. And it may be doubted whether, at the present moment, there is any country where the novel is represented by so many gifted writers or exhibits such exuberant vitality, such sturdy truthfulness, such seriousness of purpose, or such a wide range of imagination as in contemporary Germany.
All these dramatists, lyric poets, and novelists, and with them not a few essayists, philosophers, orators, and publicists, of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries will speak in the following volumes to America and other countries of the English language. They have been arranged, in the main, chronologically. The first three volumes have been given to the mature work of Goethe and Schiller—time-tested and securely niched. Volumes IV and V contain the principal Romanticists, including Fichte and Schelling; Volume VI brings Heine, Grillparzer, and Beethoven to view;
Volume VII, Hegel and Young Germany; Volume VIII, Auerbach, Gotthelf, and Fritz Reuter; Volume IX, Hebbel and Ludwig; Volume X, Bismarck, Moltke, Lassalle. Of the second half of the collection there might be singled out: Volume XIV (Gottfried Keller and C.F. Meyer); Volume XV (Schopenhauer, Wagner, Nietzsche, Emperor William II.); Volume XVIII (Gerhart Hauptmann, Detlev von Liliencron, Richard Dehmel). The last two volumes will be devoted to the most recent of contemporary authors.
The editors have been fortunate in associating with themselves a notable number of distinguished contributors from many universities and colleges in this country and abroad. A general introduction to the whole series has been written by Professor Richard M. Meyer of the University of Berlin. The last two volumes will be in charge of Professor Julius Petersen of the University of Basel. The introductions to Goethe and Schiller have been prepared by Professor Calvin Thomas, of Columbia University; that to the Romantic Philosophers by Professor Frank Thilly, of Cornell University; that to Richard Wagner by Professor W. R. Spalding, of Harvard University. And, similarly, every important author in this collection will be introduced by some authoritative and well known specialist.
The crux of the whole undertaking lies in the correctness and adequacy of the translations. How difficult, if not impossible, a really satisfactory translation is, especially in lyric poetry, no one realizes more clearly than the editors. Their only comfort is that they have succeeded in obtaining the assistance of many well trained and thoroughly equipped scholars, among them such names of poets as Hermann Hagedorn, Percy MacKaye, George Sylvester Viereck, and Martin Schuetze.
The German Classics is the first work issued by The German Publication Society in pursuance of a comprehensive plan to open to the English-speaking people of the world the treasures of German thought and achievement in Literature, Art and Science.
In the production of this monumental work the thanks and appreciation of the Publishers are especially due to Hugo Reisinger, Esq., whose loyal support and constant encouragement have made possible its publication.
By Richard M. Meyer, Ph.D. Professor of German Literature, University of Berlin.
Men formerly pictured the origin and development of a literature as an order less play of incalculable forces; out of a seething chaos forms more or less definite arose, and then, one day, behold! the literary earth was there, with sun and moon, water and mountains, animals and men. This conception was intimately connected with that of the origin of individual literary compositions. These likewise—since the new "theory of genius," spreading from England, had gained recognition throughout the whole of Europe, especially in those countries speaking the Germanic languages—were imagined to be a mere succession of inspirations and even of improvisations. This view of the subject can no longer be held either wholly or in part, though in the origin and growth of literature, as in every other origin and development, much manifestly remains that is still incomprehensible and incalculable. But even as regards the individual literary work, writers themselves—as latterly Richard Dehmel—have laid almost too strong an emphasis on the element of conscious deliberation. And concerning the whole literary product of an individual, which seems to offer the most instructive analogies to the literary achievement of a people, we received a short time ago a remarkable opinion from Carl Spitteler. He asserts that he is guided in his choice of definite styles and definite forms by an absolutely clear purpose; that he has, for example, essayed every kind of metre which could possibly be suited to his "cosmic" epic, or that he has written a novelette solely in order to have once written a novelette. Although in these confessions, as well as in Edgar Allen Poe's celebrated Poet's Art, self-delusion and pleasure in the paradoxical may very likely be mingled, it still remains true that such dicta as these point to certain peculiarities in the development of literatures. Experiments with all kinds of forms, imitation of certain literary genres without intrinsic necessity, and deliberate selection of new species, play a larger part in the history of modern German literature than people for a long time wished to admit. It is true, however, that all this experimenting, imitating, and speculating, in the end serves a higher necessity, as well in the poet of genius as in a great literature.
Three kinds of forces virtually determine the general trend of all artistic development as, indeed, of all other forms of evolution—forces which constitute the sum total of those that we comprehend under the joint name of tradition, a sum total of progressive tendencies which we will designate as esthetic ideals, and, mediating between the two, the typical development of the individuals themselves—above all, naturally, individuals of genius who really create literature.
These powers are present everywhere, but in very different proportion. Characteristic of Romance literatures and also of the English, is the great predominance of the conservative elements. Thus not only is the literature of the constitutional mother-country democratic, but also the literature of France, otherwise so decidedly aristocratic: a majority dictates its laws to the distinguished individual and is inclined to ostracize him, if too headstrong, and exile him from the "Republic of Letters." This, for instance, is what happened to Lord Byron among the British. On the other hand, German literature, like Germanic literatures in general, is disposed to concede, at least at times, a dictatorial leadership to the individual, even at the cost of tradition—as, for example, to a Klopstock, a Goethe, or a Richard Wagner. But, in exchange, the leader is often forced to uphold his power, no matter how much it may have been due to his achievements, by coercive measures—as, again for example, by means of a praetorian guard of partisans, such as Klopstock first created for himself in the Goettinger "Hain," but which was most effectively organized by Wagner, and such as Victor Hugo, imitating the German model, possessed in the Young Guard which applauded Hernani. Another method of enforcing his mastery is the organization of a systematic reign of terror, consisting of bitter satires, such as Schiller and Goethe (after the model of Pope) founded in the Xenien, and the Romanticists established in many different forms—satires much more personal and much better aimed than was the general sort of mockery which the Romance or Romanized imitators of Horace flung at Bavius and Maevius. In saying all this, however, we have at the same time made it clear that the power and influence of the individual of genius receives much more positive expression in German literature than in those which produced men like Corneille, Calderon, yes, even Dante and Shakespeare. German literary history is, more than any other, occupied with the Individual.
If we now try rapidly to comprehend to what extent each one of the already enumerated literary forces has participated in the development of modern German literature, we must, first of all, emphasize the fact that here the question is, intrinsically, one of construction—of a really new creation.
German literature since 1700 is not simply the continuation of former literature with the addition of radical innovations, as is the case with the literature of the same period in England, but was systematically constructed on new theories—if it may be said that nature and history systematically "construct." A destruction, a suspension of tradition, had taken place, such as no other civilized nation has ever experienced in a like degree—in which connection the lately much-disputed question as to whether the complete decay dates from the time of the Thirty Years' War or the latter merely marks the climax of a long period of decadence may be left to take care of itself. In any event, about the year 1700 the literature of Germany stood lower than that of any other nation, once in possession of a great civilization and literature, has ever stood in recent times. Everything, literally everything, had to be created de novo; and it is natural that a nation which had to struggle for its very existence, for which life itself had become a daily questioning of fate, could at first think of renovation only through its conservative forces. Any violent commotion in the religious or political, in the economic or social, sphere, as well as in the esthetic, might prove fatal, or at least appear to be so.
The strongest conservative factor of a literature is the language. Upon its relative immutability depends, in general, the possibility of literary compositions becoming the common possession of many generations—depends absolutely all transmission. Especially is poetic language wont to bear the stamp of constancy; convenient formulas, obvious rhymes, established epithets, favorite metaphors, do not, in periods of exhaustion, afford much choice in the matter of phraseology. On the other hand, however, a new tenor of thought, often enough a new tenor of feeling, is continually pressing forward to demand a medium of expression. This battle between the established linguistic form and the new content gives rise to charming, but at the same time alarming, conflicts. In the seventeenth century it was felt strongly how much the store of linguistic expression had diminished, partly on account of a violent and careless "working of the mine," which made prodigal use of the existing medium, as was the case in the prose of Luther and, above all, of Johann Fischart and his contemporaries; partly on account of a narrow confinement to a small number of ideas and words, as in the church hymns.
This impoverishment of the language the century of the great war tried to remedy in two opposite ways. For the majority the easiest solution was to borrow from their richer neighbors, and thus originated that affectation of all things foreign, which, in speaking, led to the most variegated use and misuse of foreign words. Patriotically-minded men, on the contrary, endeavored to cultivate the purity of their mother tongue the while they enriched it; this, above all, was the ambition of the various "Linguistic Societies." Their activity, though soon deprived of a wide usefulness by pedantry and a clannish spirit, prepared the way for great feats of linguistic reorganization. Through Christian Wolff a philosophic terminology was systematically created; from Pietism were received new mediums of expression for intimate conditions of the soul; neither must we quite overlook the fact that to some extent a new system of German titles and official designations was associated with the new institutions of the modern state. More important, however, than these details—which might have been accomplished by men like Johann Gottfried Herder, Immanuel Kant and Goethe; like the statesman, Heinrich Freiherr von Stein; and the warrior, General von Scharnhorst—was this fact that, in general, an esthetic interest had been again awakened in the language, which too long had served as a mere tool. Also the slowly developing study of language was of some help; even the falsest etymology taught people to look upon words as organisms; even the most superficial grammar, to observe broad relationships and parallel formations. So, then, the eighteenth century could, in the treatment of the mother tongue, enter upon a goodly heritage, of which for a long time Johann Christoph Gottsched might not unjustly be counted the guardian. It was a thoroughly conservative linguistic stewardship, which received gigantic expression in Adelung's Dictionary—with all its deficiencies, the most important German dictionary that had been compiled up to that time. Clearness, intelligibleness, exactitude were insisted upon. It was demanded that there should be a distinct difference between the language of the writer and that in everyday use, and again a difference between poetic language and prose; on the other hand, great care had to be taken that the difference should never become too great, so that common intelligibility should not suffer. Thus the new poetic language of Klopstock, precisely on account of its power and richness, was obliged to submit to the bitterest mockery and the most injudicious abuse from the partisans of Gottsched. As the common ideal of the pedagogues of language, who were by no means merely narrow-minded pedants, one may specify that which had long ago been accomplished for France—namely, a uniform choice of a stock of words best suited to the needs of a clear and luminous literature for the cultivated class, and the stylistic application of the same. Two things, above all, were neglected: they failed to realize (as did France also) the continual development of a healthy language, though the ancients had glimpses of this; and they failed (this in contrast to France) to comprehend the radical differences between the various forms of literary composition. Therefore the pre-classical period still left enough to be done by the classical.
It was Klopstock who accomplished the most; he created a new, a lofty poetic language, which was to be recognized, not by the use of conventional metaphors and swelling hyperboles, but by the direct expression of a highly exalted mood. However, the danger of a forced overstraining of the language was combatted by Christoph Martin Wieland, who formed a new and elegant narrative prose on Greek, French, and English models, and also introduced the same style into poetic narrative, herein abetted by Friedrich von Hagedorn as his predecessor and co-worker. Right on the threshold, then, of the great new German literature another mixture of styles sprang up, and we see, for example, Klopstock strangely transplanting his pathos into the field of theoretical researches on grammar and metrics, and Wieland not always keeping his irony aloof from the most solemn subjects. But beside them stood Gotthold Ephraim Lessing who proved himself to be the most thoughtful of the reformers of poetry, in that he emphasized the divisions—especially necessary for the stylistic development of German poetry—of literary categories and the arts. The most far-reaching influence, however, was exercised by Herder, when he preached that the actual foundation of all poetic treatment of language was the individual style, and exemplified the real nature of original style, i. e., inwardly-appropriate modes of expression, by referring, on the one hand, to the poetry of the people and, on the other, to Shakespeare or the Bible, the latter considered as a higher type of popular poetry.
So the weapons lay ready to the hand of the dramatist Lessing, the lyric poet Goethe, and the preacher Herder, who had helped to forge them for their own use; for drama, lyrics, and oratory separate themselves quite naturally from ordinary language, and yet in their subject matter, in the anticipation of an expectant audience, in the unavoidable connection with popular forms of speech, in singing, and the very nature of public assemblies, they have a basis that prevents them from becoming conventional. But not quite so favorable was the condition of the different varieties of narrative composition. Here a peculiarly specific style, such as the French novel especially possesses, never reached complete perfection. The style of Wieland would necessarily appear too light as soon as the subject matter of the novel became more intimate and personal; that of the imitators of Homer necessarily too heavy. Perhaps here also Lessing's sense of style might have furnished a model of permanent worth, in the same way that he furnished one for the comedy and the didactic drama, for the polemic treatise and the work of scientific research. For is not the tale of the three rings, which forms the kernel of Nathan the Wise, numbered among the great standard pieces of German elocution, in spite of all the contradictions and obscurities which have of late been pointed out in it, but which only the eye of the microscopist can perceive? In general it is the "popular philosophers" who have, more than any one else, produced a fixed prose style; as a reader of good but not exclusively classical education once acknowledged to me that the German of J.J. Engel was more comprehensible to him and seemed more "modern" than that of Goethe. As a matter of fact, the narrator Goethe, in the enchanting youthful composition of Werther, did venture very close to the lyrical, but in his later novels his style at times dangerously approached a dry statement of facts, or a rhetorically inflated declamation; and even in The Elective Affinities, which stands stylistically higher than any of his other novels, he has not always avoided a certain stiltedness that forms a painful contrast to the warmth of his sympathy for the characters. On the other hand, in scientific compositions he succeeded in accomplishing what had hitherto been unattainable—just because, in this case, the new language had first to be created by him.
Seldom are even the great writers of the following period quite free from the danger of a lack-lustre style in their treatment of the language, above all in narrative composition. It is only in the present day that Thomas Mann, Jacob Wassermann, and Ricarda Huch are trying along different lines, but with equal zeal, to form a fixed individual style for the German prose-epic. The great exceptions of the middle period, the writers of prose-epics Jeremias Gotthelf and Gottfried Keller, the novelists Paul Heyse and Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, the narrator of anecdotes Ludwig Anzengruber, with his greater predecessor Johann Peter Hebel, and his lesser contemporary Peter Rosegger, the portrayer of still-life Adalbert Stifter and a few others, have, more by a happy instinct than anything else, hit upon the style proper to their form of composition, lack of which prevents us from enjoying an endless number of prose works of the nineteenth century, which, as far as their subject matter goes, are not unimportant. In this connection I will only mention Karl Gutzkow's novels describing his own period, or, from an earlier time, Clemens Brentano's fairy tales, Friedrich Hebbel's humoresques, or even the rhetorically emotional historical compositions of Heinrich von Treitschke, found in certain parts of his work. But this lack of a fixed specific style spread likewise to other forms of composition; Schiller's drama became too rhetorical; Friedrich Rueckert's lyric poetry too prosaically didactic; that of Annette von Droste-Huelshoff often too obscure and sketchy.
If, therefore, the struggle with the language was fought out successfully by modern German literature only on the battleground of the lyric (and even there, as we have seen, not without exceptions), on the other hand a second conservative force was placed at the service of the literary development with more uniform success, namely Metrics. To be sure, here again this applies only to verse, for the corresponding art of prose rhythm has been as good as lost to the Germans, in contrast to the French, and almost more so to the English. In prose also a conscious and systematic attempt to make an artistic division into paragraphs, chapters, and books, has only been made in recent times, above all in and since the writings of Nietzsche. For as far as the treatment of language in itself is concerned, German literature has hardly yet fully developed an artistic form; writers still continue to treat it far too much as a mere tool. But verse is felt to be an object for artistic molding, although here too the naturalistic dogmas of the Storm and Stress writers, of the Romanticists, Young Germans and Ultra-Moderns, have often shaken the theories upon which the artistic perfection of our poetry is based.
In this regard, likewise, there was, in the seventeenth century, a great difficulty to be overcome. Changes in language, the effect of French and Italian style, the influence of music, had weakened the foundations of the German art of verse, which were already partly broken down by mechanical wear and tear. The comparatively simple regulation contrived by an ordinary, though clever, poet, Martin Opitz, proved capable of enduring for centuries; a connection was established between the accent of verse and natural accent, which at the same time, by means of more stringent rules, created barriers against variable accent. It was merely a question of arranging the words in such fashion that, without forming too great a contradiction to the common-place order of words, the way in which the accents were placed upon them should result in a regularly alternating rise and fall. On the whole, this principle was found to be sufficient until the enthusiasm of the new poetic generation demanded a closer connection between the poetic form and the variable conditions of the soul; they found a way out of the difficulty by carrying a rhythmical mood through a variety of metrical divisions, and thus came upon the "free rhythms." From whatever source these were derived, either from the misunderstood poems of Pindar, from the language of the Bible or of the enthusiastic mystics, or from the poetic half-prose of the pastoral poet Salomon Gessner, they were, in any case, something new and peculiar, and their nature has not been grasped in the least degree by the French in their "vers libres," or at any rate only since the half-Germanic Fleming Verhaeren. They received an interesting development through Goethe and Heinrich Heine, while most of the other poets who made use of them, even the greatest one, Novalis, often deteriorated either into a regular, if rhymeless, versification, or into a pathetic, formless prose.
Another method of procuring new metrical mediums of expression for the new wealth of emotions was to borrow. Klopstock naturalized antique metres, or rather made them familiar to the school and to cultivated poets, while on the other hand Heine's derision of August von Platen's set form of verse was welcomed in many circles, and even the elevated poems of Friedrich Hoelderlin, which approached the antique form, remained foreign to the people, like the experiments of Leconte de Lisle in France; in Italy it fared otherwise with Carducci's Odi barbare. Only one antique metre became German, in the same sense that Shakespeare had become a German poet; this was the hexameter, alone or in connection with the pentameter; for the ratio of its parts to one another, on which everything depends in higher metrics, corresponded, to some extent, to that of the German couplets. For the same reason the sonnet—not, however, without a long and really bitter fight—was able to win a secure place in German reflective lyric poetry; indeed it had already been once temporarily in our possession during the seventeenth century. Thus two important metres had been added to German poetry's treasure house of forms: first, the hexameter for a continuous narrative of a somewhat epic character, even though without high solemnity—which Goethe alone once aspired to in his Achilleis—and also for shorter epigrammatic or didactic observations in the finished manner of the distich; second, the sonnet for short mood-pictures and meditations. The era of the German hexameter seems, however, to be over at present, while, on the contrary, the sonnet, brought to still higher perfection by Platen, Moritz von Strachwitz and Paul Heyse, still exercises its old power of attraction, especially over poets with a tendency toward Romance art. However, both hexameter or distich and sonnet have become, in Germany, pure literary forms of composition. While in Italy the sonnet is still sung, we are filled with astonishment that Brahms should have set to music a distich—Anacreon. Numerous other forms, taken up principally by the Romantic school and the closely related "Exotic School," have remained mere literary playthings. For a certain length of time the ghasel seemed likely to be adopted as a shell to contain scattered thoughts, wittily arranged, or (almost exclusively by Platen) also for mood-pictures; but without doubt the undeservedly great success of Friedrich von Bodenstedt's Mirza Schaffy has cast permanent discredit on this form. The favorite stanza of Schiller is only one of the numerous strophe forms of our narrative or reflective lyric; it has never attained an "ethos" peculiar to itself. Incidentally, the French alexandrines were the fashion for a short time after Victor Hugo's revival of them was revivified by Ferdinand Freiligrath, and were recently used with variations by Carl Spitteler (which, however, he denies) as a foundation for his epic poems. So, too, the "Old German rhymed verse" after the manner of Hans Sachs, enjoyed a short popularity; and one saw virtuosos playing with the canzone or the makame. On the whole, however, German lyric poetry is rather made up of simple formations in the style of the folk-song, especially since the important rhythmic transformation of this material by Heine created new possibilities for accommodating the inner form to new subject matter without conspicuously changing the outer form. For two great simplifying factors have, since Goethe, been predominant in protecting our lyric poetry from unfruitful artificiality; the influence of the folk-song and the connection with music have kept it more full of vital energy than the too literary lyric poetry of the French, and richer in variety than the too cultivated lyric of the English. Whoever shut the door on the influences spoken of, as did Franz Grillparzer or Hebbel, and, in a different way, Annette von Droste-Huelshoff or Heinrich Leuthold, at the same time nullified a good part of his efficiency.
The drama almost exclusively assumed a foreign, though kindred, form as a garb for the more elevated styles of composition: namely, the blank verse of the English stage, which Lessing's Nathan the Wise had popularized and A.W. Schlegel's Shakespeare had rendered omnipotent, and which Schiller forced upon his successors. The Romanticists, by playing unsuccessfully with different forms, as in Ludwig Tieck's Octavianus, or Immerman's Alexis, or by adopting pure antique or Spanish metres, attempted in vain to free themselves from the restraint of form, the great danger of which consisted in its similarity to common-place sentence construction, so that the verse ran the risk either of becoming prosaic, or else, in trying forcibly to avoid this, of growing bombastic. An escape was provided by inserting, in moments of emotion, a metre of a more lyrical quality into the uniform structure of the usual vehicle of dramatic dialogue, particularly when partaking of the nature of a monologue; as Goethe did, for example, in the "Song of the Fates" in Iphigenia, that most metrically perfect of all German dramatic poems, and as Schiller continued to do with increased boldness in the songs introduced into Mary Stuart. Perhaps the greatest perfection in such use of the principle of the "free rhythm" as applied to the drama, was reached by Franz Grillparzer in the Golden Fleece, on the model of certain fragments by Goethe, such as the Prometheus. On the other hand, the interesting experiments in the Bride of Messina are of more importance for the development of the opera into a work of art complete in itself, than for that of the drama. In general, however, it is to be remarked as a peculiarity of modern German drama, that it seeks to escape from monotony, which the French classical theatre hardly ever succeeded in avoiding, by calling in the aid of the other arts. Plastic art is often employed for scenic arrangement, and music to produce effects on and behind the stage. Both were made use of by Schiller; and it was under his influence that they were tried by Goethe in his later period—though we find a remarkable sporadic appearance of them even as early as Goetz and Klavigo. The mastery which Grillparzer also attained in this respect has been striven after by his fellow countrymen with some degree of success: as, for example, by Ferdinand Raimund, by Ludwig Anzengruber, and also by Friedrich Halm and Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
Besides blank verse, the only other garb in vogue for the serious drama was prose: this was not only used for realistic pictures of conditions of a decidedly cheerful type (since Lessing had introduced the bourgeois dramas of Diderot into Germany), but also for pathetic tragedies, the vital power of which the lack of stylistic disguising of language was supposed to increase. This was the form employed in the Storm and Stress drama, and therefore in the prison scene of Faust, as also in Schiller's youthful dramas, and again we find it adopted by Hebbel and the Young Germans, and by the naturalistic school under the leadership of Ibsen. The Old German rhymed verse found only a temporary place between these two forms. It was glorified and made almost sacrosanct by having been used for the greatest of our dramas, Goethe's Faust; Wildenbruch in particular tried to gain new effects with it. Other attempts also went hand in hand with deeper-reaching efforts to reconstruct the inner form of the drama; thus the tendency to a veiled polyphony of language in the folk-scenes of Christian Dietrich Grabbe and in all the plays of Heinrich von Kleist; this in Hofmannsthal's Oedipus led to regular choruses, of quite a different type, however, from those of the Bride of Messina. Gerhart Hauptmann's Weavers and Florian Geyer may be considered the culminating points of this movement, in spite of their apparently entirely prosaic form.
Modern German drama, which in its peculiar style is still largely unappreciated because it has always been measured by its real or supposed models, is, together with the free-rhythm lyric, the greatest gift bestowed upon the treasure of forms of the world-literature by the literature of Germany which has so often played the part of recipient.
On the other hand, when speaking of the development of narrative prose, we should remember what we have already accomplished in that line. The "Novelle" alone has attained a fixed form, as a not too voluminous account of a remarkable occurrence. It is formally regulated in advance by the absolute domination of a decisive incident—as, for example, the outbreak of a concealed love in Heyse, or the moment of farewell in Theodor Storm. All previous incidents are required to assist in working up to this climax; all later ones are introduced merely to allow its echo to die away. In this austerity of concentration the German "Novelle," the one rigidly artistic form of German prose, is related to the "Short Story" which has been so eagerly heralded in recent times, especially by America. The "Novelle" differs, however, from this form of literary composition, which Maupassant cultivated with the most masterly and unrivaled success, by its subordination to a climax; whereas the Short Story, in reality, is usually a condensed novel, that is to say, the history of a development concentrated in a few incidents. Our literature also possesses such short "sketches," but the love of psychological detail in the development of the plot nearly always results in the greater diffuseness of the novel. The real "Novelle" is, however, at least as typical of the Germans as the Short Story is of the Americans, and in no other form of literary composition has Germany produced so many masters as in this—and in the lyric. For the latter is closely related to the German "Novelle" because it loves to invest the way to and from the culminating point with the charm produced by a certain mood, as the half-German Bret Harte loves to do in similar artistic studies, but the Russian Tschechow never indulges himself in, and the Frenchman Maupassant but seldom. On this account our best writers of "Novellen" have also been, almost without exception, eminent lyric poets; such were Goethe, Tieck, Eichendorff, Moerike, Keller, Heyse, Theodor Storm and C.F. Meyer; whereas, in the case of Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, who otherwise would form an exception, even what appears to be a "Novelle" is in reality a "small novel."
The novel, on the contrary, still enjoys in Germany the dangerous privilege of formlessness. In its language it varies from the vague lyric of romantic composition to the bureaucratic sobriety of mechanically-compiled studies of real life. In its outline, in the rhythm of its construction, in the division of its parts and the way in which they are brought into relief, it has, in spite of masterly individual performances, never attained a specific literary form, such as has long been possessed by the English and the French novels. Likewise the inclination, sanctioned by Goethe and the Romantic school, to interpolate specimens of the least formed half-literary genres—namely, letters and diaries—worked against the adoption of a fixed form, notwithstanding that this expedient augmented the great—often indeed too great—inner richness of the German novel. Thus the German novel, as well as the so justly favorite form of letters and diaries, is of infinitely more importance as a human or contemporary "document" than as a direct work of art. We have, however, already drawn attention to the fact that the never-failing efforts to clothe the novel in a more esthetically pure form have, in our own day, happily increased.
The traditional material of literary compositions is, however, also a conservative power, just as are language and form. The stock of dominating motives naturally undergoes just as many transformations as language or metrics; but, in both cases, what already exists has a determining influence on everything new, often going so far as to suppress the latter entirely. Customary themes preferably claim the interest of the reader; as, for example, in the age of religious pictures it would have been exceedingly hard to procure an order for a purely worldly painting. The artists themselves unconsciously glide into the usual path, and what was intended to be a world-poem flows off into the convenient worn channel of the love-story. But the vivifying and deepening power of the Germanic spirit has here, more than in any other domain, destroyed the opposing force of inertia.
The oldest poetry is confined to such subjects as are of universal interest—one could also say of universal importance. War and the harvest, the festivals of the gods and the destinies of the tribe, are the subjects of song. These things retain their traditional interest even where a healthy communal life no longer exists. Epochs which are absolutely wanting in political understanding still cultivate the glory of Brutus in an epic or dramatic form; or those ages which can scarcely lay claim to a living religious interest still join in choruses in honor of Apollo or in honor of the Christian religion. Every literature carries with it a large and respectable ballast of sensations that are no longer felt, of objects that are no longer seen, culminating in the spring-songs of poets confined to their room, and the wine-songs of the water-drinkers. A stagnating literature, as that of the seventeenth century was essentially, always has an especially large amount of such rubbish. Poems composed for certain occasions, in the worst sense—that is to say, poems of congratulation and condolence written for money, trivial reflections and mechanical devotion, occupy an alarmingly large space in the lyric of this period. Drama is entirely confined, and the novel for the greater part, to the dressing up in adopted forms of didactic subject matter of the most general type. Men of individuality are, however, not altogether lacking: such were lyric poets like Andreas Gryphius and Paul Fleming, gnomologists like Johann Scheffler, and narrators like J.J. Christoffel von Grimmelshausen; but even with them the personal note does not dare to sound openly. The first to give free expression again to intimate sensations is Christian Guenther, and he arouses thereby contradiction, together with admiration. The court poets about the year 1700 work more in a negative way, i. e., by that which they did not express in their verses. The great merit of the pre-classical writers is to have created space, on the one hand, for personal sensations, and, on the other, for the great new thoughts of the age. Hagedorn, with the elegant frivolity of the man of the world, continued the necessary sifting of antiquated material; Albrecht von Haller, with the deep seriousness of the great student of nature, once more squarely faced the eternal problems. But the entire wealth of inner experience, in its most exclusively individual sense, was first revealed, not only to the literature of Germany but to modern literature in general, by Klopstock. Along this path Goethe pressed forward gloriously, his whole poetic work presenting, according to his own testimony, a single great confession. From Haller, on the contrary, proceeds the effort to develop a poetical style that would enable individuals to share in the great thoughts of the age. Lessing strides onward from Minna von Barnhelm—the first drama of contemporary history since the Persians of AEschylus—to Nathan the Wise, herein following the lead of the "literature with a distinct purpose" (Tendenz-Dichtung) of France, and especially of Voltaire, otherwise antipathetic to Lessing. Lessing's great dramatic heir is Schiller, whose tradition is in turn carried on by Kleist, the latter allowing his personality to penetrate the subject matter far more even than either of his predecessors.
But the utmost was done by Goethe, when in Werther and Goetz, in Prometheus or Satyros, but above all eventually in Faust, he lived through in advance—or, as he himself said, he "anticipated" (vorfuehlte)—the peculiar experience of the age with such intensity that, in the work which resulted, the individual experience became the direct experience of the whole generation.
Out of the "reverence for nature" (Naturfroemmigkeit) with which he contemplated all created things—from "the Cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop which grows on the wall," from the mighty movement of the stream in Mahomet to the bit of cheese that is weighed by the old woman in Die Geschwister—out of all comes a widening of the poetic horizon, the like of which had never before been seen in any age. The Romanticists in reality only made a watchword out of this practice of Goethe's when they demanded "progressive universal poetry," by which they meant that the poet should live through the whole experience of creation in his own person. In demanding this, they—as the aging Goethe had himself done—formed too narrow a conception of the personal, and rejected too absolutely the problems of politics and of science, so that once more a narrowing process ensued. But even in their own ranks this tendency was offset by the exigency of the times; after the wars of liberation, political and in general, poetry written with a purpose was actually in the ascendency. The poetry of the mood, like that of a Moerike, remained for a long time almost unknown on account of its strictly intimate character. In the success of Ernst von Wildenbruch we see provisionally the last victory of this sort of literature—which directly proclaims what is worth striving for—at least in its loftier form. For the contemporary novel constantly takes for its subject the emancipation of woman, or the fight for culture, the protection of the Ostmark, or the fight against alcohol.
On the other hand the Romantic school has also broadened the realm of poetic material in a very important manner, by adding to it the provinces of the phantastic, the visionary, the fairy-like, and by giving to the symbolical an undreamed-of expansion.
On the whole, modern German literature has probably a richer field from which to choose her material than any other literature can boast of. In fact it is perhaps too variegated, and thus, because of the richness and originality of its subject matter, allows too much latitude to genius. One field only in poetry, considered from the viewpoint of real art, is almost uncultivated. All the efforts and all the attempts on the part of both Catholics and Protestants have not succeeded in producing religious poems of any degree of importance since Annette von Droste-Huelshoff ceased to sing; whereas, on the other hand, poetry that is hostile to the church has brought to maturity some great productions, not only in Anzengruber or Karl Schoenherr, in Friedrich Theodor Vischer, in Storm, and Keller, but, above all, in Nietzsche. A turn in the tide that seems just now to be taking place is exemplified in the important epic poems of Enrica von Handel-Mazzetti.
Finally, as the last and, in a certain sense, the strongest, pillar of permanency we will name the public. It is just as much a product as a contributing factor of literature; in both respects, however, preeminently important as a conservative force. The predominant and enduring tendencies, forms, and subjects are naturally chiefly conducive to the formation of a circle of "fixed subscribers" among the crowd of possible patrons. These subscribers, on their part, of course insist upon the preservation of those tendencies, forms, and subjects by which they are attracted. In the same way that, in general, a large "reading world," or a regular public for a theatre, or a solid community of devotees for each of the different species of song (as for example, the religious song, the folk-song, the student's song) is organized, so do important personalities call into being a special following of admirers, such as the partisans of Hebbel, the Wagnerians, and the adherents of Stefan George. But these narrow circles are often much more intolerant of every effort on the part of the master to depart from the program he has sworn to, than are outsiders. The history of the German public, unlike that of the English or French, is less a church-history than a sect-history. Schiller alone succeeded in becoming the national poet of his people—and he had his merits as well as his weaknesses to thank for it. Lessing is the one who comes next to him, whereas Goethe really reached the masses in only a few of his compositions. On the other hand, he made a stronger impression upon, and gave more happiness to, the intellectual classes than any of our poets since Klopstock. After him, only poets of a decidedly esoteric character, such as Stefan George or Friedrich Nietzsche, have had such a profound effect or one so capable of stirring the remoter depths of the soul. Even with Jean Paul the impression produced was more superficial. Latterly, however, periodicals, lecture-courses and clubs have replaced the "caucus"—which was formerly held by the most influential readers and hearers of the literary fraternities. This change has gone so far that the intimacy of the relations between a poet and his admirers, which was still possible in the early days of Hauptmann, Hofmannsthal, George, and Dehmel, now actually exists only for those poets who have not attained any special renown, such as Alfred Mombert, or, perhaps, we might also include Spitteler. An amalgamation of the different groups, which in Germany are wont to prove their love for their patron by combatting his supposed or real opponents rather than by actively fostering his artistic tendencies, might have produced a strong and effective reading public. But sooner can a stenographer of the Stolze school agree with one of the Gabelsberger system than can a votary of Dehmel dare to recognize the greatness in George, an admirer of Schnitzler see the importance of Herbert Eulenberg, or a friend of Gustav Frenssen acknowledge the power of Ricarda Huch. Our public, by its separatist taste and the unduly emphasized obstinacy of its antipathies, will continue for a long time still to hinder that unity, which, rising above even a just recognition of differences, is the only element which makes a great literature possible. Of course the critics are to be reckoned among the public, whether we consider criticism by professional reviewers or the more discriminating criticism of theatre directors, composers, etc.
In all the foregoing discussion of the prevailingly conservative forces in the development of literature we have seen that none of these forces has a completely restraining effect. Language always undergoes a certain change, even in the most benumbed periods, since it is obliged to suit itself to the new demands of trade, of society, even of literature itself. We also saw that form and material were not an inert mass, but were in continual, though often slow, movement. Finally, though the public itself always demands essentially the same thing, it has, nevertheless, new variations which are forced upon it by its avidity for new subjects; it also demands, when it has enjoyed a higher artistic education (as in the days of the Classical and Romantic writers), perfection of technique and increase in specifically artistic values. Between the abiding and the progressive, between the conservative and revolutionary tendencies, the typical development of the individual himself takes its place as a natural intermediary factor. No literary "generation" is composed of men actually of the same age. Beside the quite young who are merely panting to express themselves, stand the mature who exercise an esthetic discernment, even as regards their own peculiar experience; finally, there are also the older men who have already said their say. In the same way every public is made up of people of all ages. These make different demands of their poets; youth wishes to conquer, manhood to fortify, old age merely not to lose. It is self-evident that points of conformity are to be found between the most widely differing fields: as, for example, conservative tendencies are present in the camp of the destroyers, revolutionary tendencies in that of the conservatives. In other words, in every community of men, no matter of what description, who are united by any kind of higher interest, new ideals grow up out of this very community of interest. Men who happen to be thrown together mutually cause one another's demands to increase; those who work in common try to outdo one another. Out of their midst personalities arise, who, brought up with the loftiest ideals, or often spurred on by the supineness of the public, with passionate earnestness make what merely filled up the leisure hours of others the sole purpose of their lives. Thus, in Germany above all, the new ideal has been born again and again, constituting the strongest motive power which exists, besides the personality of genius itself.
Of the greatest importance, to begin with, is the ideal of a national literature itself. Gottsched was the first in Germany, if not to apprehend it, at least to ponder it and to advocate it with persistent zeal. The literature of antiquity and the literature of France offered types of fixed national units. The affinity between the two as national units had been pointed out in France and England by means of the celebrated "Combat of the ancients and moderns," which also first gave living writers sufficient courage to think of comparing modern art with ancient.
Gottsched presented a program which he systematically strove to carry out, and in which one of the most important places is given to the building up of an artistic theatre, after the model of the great civilized nations. He surely had as much right to show some intolerance toward the harlequin and the popular stage as Lessing (who supplanted him while continuing his work) had to indulge in a like prejudice against the classical theatre of the French. Lessing, however, as we have already seen, goes at the same time more deeply into the matter by proposing not only a systematic but also an organic construction of the separate genres, and Herder took the last step when he demanded an autochthonous growth—that is to say, a development of art out of the inner necessity of personalities on the one hand, and of nationalities on the other. To be sure, the great poets who now appeared were not included in the program, and Gottsched did not appreciate Haller, nor did Lessing form a correct estimate of Goethe, or Herder of Schiller. There is, however, a mysterious connection between the aspirations of the nation and the appearance of genius.
Klopstock probably felt most directly what was wanting in the literature of his people, as he was also the most burning patriot of all our classical writers; and at the same time, as is proved by the Republic of Letters, his strange treatise on the art of poetry, he was the one among them who bore the most resemblance to the literary pedant of the old days. He is, therefore, continually occupied with the comparison between German and foreign art, language, and literature, which endeavor was continued later on and with other methods by A.W. Schlegel. But Herder also, in his comparison of the native art of Germany with the art of antiquity, of the Orient and of England, produced effective results; no less did Lessing, although the latter seeks to learn from the faults of his neighbors rather than from their excellencies. Goethe's criticism is dominated to such a degree by his absorption in the antique, and also in French and English general literature, that he has no understanding of national peculiarities when they do not conform to typical literary phenomena, as Uhland's lyric and Kleist's drama—two literary phenomena which we, nowadays, consider eminently national. The Romantic school was the first to try to place the conception of national literature as a whole on an autochthonous basis, and the scientific speculation to which Romanticism gave rise, has, since the Brothers Grimm, also resulted in serviceable rules gained from the increasingly thorough knowledge of language, of national development, and of social conditions. This new point of view reaches its climax in the attempts of Karl Muellenhoff and Wilhelm Scherer to trace the native literary development directly back to the nature and destiny of the German nation. But even as that proved scientifically unsuccessful, so likewise it was not feasible practically to establish a poetry confined to native materials, forms, and opinions. In vain did Tieck try to play off the youthful Goethe, as the only national one, against the Goethe of the Weimar period, which attempt many after him have repeated; or again, it was proposed to strike Heine out of the history of our literature as un-German—the last two literary events of European significance in Germany, according to Nietzsche. On the contrary, a comparison of German literature with those of foreign nations was not only necessary but also fruitful, as a certain exhaustion had set in, which lent an aftermath character to the leaders of the German "intellectual poetry" (Bildungs-Poesie) of that time. It was necessary once again to compare our technique, our relationship between the poet and the people, our participation in all the various literary genres and problems, with the corresponding phenomena in the countries of Zola, Bjoernson, Tolstoy, Ibsen, and Strindberg.
This, now, leads up to another question, to that concerning poetic ideals, and not only poetry in itself; the poet also becomes the object of interest and expectation. Every age embodies a different ideal, by which in all instances the already existing type and the loftier hopes of youth are welded into one—if we maybe allowed so to express it. Antiquity asked that the poet should fill the heart with gladness; the Middle Ages desired edification with a spiritual or a worldly coloring; the first centuries of modern times applied to him for instruction. This last ideal was still in vogue at the beginning of modern German literature. But gradually the conception of "instruction" altered. The poet of the Germanic nations had now to be one who could interpret the heart. He should no longer be the medium for conveying those matters which the didactic novel and the edifying lyric had treated—things valuable where knowledge of the world and human nature, intercourse and felicity are concerned—but he must become a seer again, an announcer of mysterious wisdom. "Whatever, unknown or unminded by others, wanders by night through the labyrinth of the heart"—that he must transmit to the hearer; he must allow the listener to share with him the gift of "being able to give expression to his suffering." Thus the chief task of the modern poet became "the reproduction of the objective world through the subjective," consequently "experience." Real events, objects, manifestations must pass through a human soul in order to gain poetic significance, and upon the significance of the receiving soul, not upon the "poetic" or "unpoetic" nature of the subject itself, depends the poetic significance.
With this new conception, however, new dangers are connected. Near at hand lies the fear of a too open declaration of the most intimate feelings. In many old-style poets of modern times, in Hoelderlin, in Kleist, Grillparzer, and Annette von Droste-Huelshoff this fear assumes the character of ethical aversion to baring their feelings in public. But near, too, lies the hunt after interesting experiences—the need to "experience something" at any price—which marred the life of a romantic poet of Brentano's talents, and also affected the conduct of the realist Grabbe. A new responsibility was placed upon the shoulders of the German poet, which rested heavily on men like Otto Ludwig, and on account of which writers like Hebbel or Richard Wagner thought themselves justified in claiming the royal privileges of the favorites of the gods.
An entirely new method of poetic study began, which perhaps originated with Heinrich von Kleist: a passionate endeavor to place the whole of life at the service of observation or to spend it in the study of technique. The consequence was not seldom a nervous derangement of the whole apparatus of the soul, just at the moment when it should have been ready for its greatest performances, as in the case of Nikolaus Lenau; however, it also frequently resulted in an endlessly increased receptivity for every experience, as in the case of Bettina von Arnim, Heine, or Annette von Droste, and the most recent writers.
The infinitely difficult task of the modern poet is made still harder by the fact that, in spite of all his efforts, he, happily, seldom succeeds in transforming himself into, one would like to say, an artistically working apparatus, such as Ibsen very nearly became; not, however, without deploring the fact at the close of his life. The German poet in particular has too strong a lyrical inheritance not to reecho the impressions directly received by his heart. The struggle between the demands of a purely artistic presentation of reality, i. e., one governed exclusively by esthetic rules, and its sympathetic rendering, constitutes the poetic tragedy of most of our "naturalistic writers," and especially of the most important one among them, Gerhart Hauptmann. But from this general ideal of the poet, who only through his own experience will give to reality a true existence and the possibility of permanence, there follows a straining after technical requirements such as was formerly almost unknown. This results in an effort in Germany all the more strenuous in proportion to the former slackness regarding questions of artistic form. The peculiarities of the different literary genres are heeded with a severity such as has been practised before only in antiquity or perhaps by the French. Poets like Detlev von Liliencron, who formerly had appeared as advocates of poetical frivolity, now chafed over banal aids for rhyming, as once Alfred de Musset had done. Friedrich Spielhagen, the brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and Jacob Wassermann are seen to busy themselves with the technical questions pertaining to the prose-epic, no longer in a merely esthetical and easy-going fashion, but as though they were working out questions vital to existence; and truly it is bitter earnest with them where their art is concerned. Often, as in painting, technique becomes the principal object, and the young naturalism of Arno Holz and Johannes Schlaf has in all seriousness raised technique to a dogma, without, however, in the long run being able to get the upper hand of the German need of establishing intimate relations with the subject of the art.
We must, however, at this point again remind ourselves that the question is not one of abstract "poets" but one of a large number of living men who, happily, differ widely from one another. Above all, when considering them we must think of the typical development of the generations. Those for whom patriotic interests, at least in a direct sense, seemed to have little meaning, were always followed by generations patriotically inspired. The Germany of to-day hides, under the self-deluding appearance of a confinement to purely esthetic problems, a predominating and lively joy in the growth of the Fatherland, and naturally also in its mental broadening. To have given the strongest expression to this joy constitutes the historical significance of Gustav Frenssen, just as solicitude for its future inspired the muse of Wilhelm von Polenz.
The preference shown to individual literary genres changes in an almost regular order of sequence—the Swiss Bovet has even tried recently to lay down a regular law of alternation. Especially is the theatre from time to time abused for being a destructive negation of art, in just as lively a fashion as it is declared at other times to be the sole realization of the artistic ideal. As to prevailing temperaments, a preferably pathetic tone—as, for example, in the epoch of Freytag, Geibel, Treitschke—alternates with a sceptically satiric one—as in Fontane who (like so many writers, in Germany especially) did not belong to his own generation nor even to the immediately succeeding one, but to the next after that! With these are associated preferences for verse or prose; for idealism or realism and naturalism; a falling away from philosophy or an inclination to introduce it into poetry; and numerous other disguises for those antagonistic principles, to which Kuno Francke in a general survey of our literature has sought to trace back its different phases.
We have now said about all that, in our opinion, seems necessary for a general introduction to modern German literature. For the rest, it is of course quite obvious that it is German—and that it is a literature. That it is German, is precisely why it is not exclusively German: for in every epoch has it not been proclaimed in accents of praise or of blame, until we are almost tired of hearing it, that the inclination to take up and appropriate foreign possessions is peculiar to the German nation—and to the Germanic spirit in general? Thus we possess special presentations of German literature considered from the standpoint of its antique elements, and also from that of its Christian elements, and we could in the same way present theses which would show its development from the standpoint of the Romance or of the English influence. And yet latterly an exactly contrary attempt has been made—in a spirited, if somewhat arbitrary book by Nadler, which consists in trying to build up the history of German literature entirely upon the peculiarities of the different tribes and provinces. For the essence of the German, nay, even of the Swabian, or Bavarian, or North German, or Austrian individuality, is in the long run nourished rather than extinguished by all foreign influences. In spite of this, it is of course important in the consideration of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to observe how the French pattern that is at first followed almost with the unquestioned obedience accorded to a fixed ethical model, is confronted by the English, which brings about the celebrated—and probably overrated—struggle between Gottsched and the Swiss School. We should also notice precisely how the tendency of British literature toward originality—in which the insular peculiarities were strongly emphasized—served to increase the self-reliance of German literature; how a new movement in the style of the antique was cultivated by the classical writers; and how the Romantic School favored medieval-Christian tendencies—much to Goethe's annoyance. It is of importance likewise to note the way in which Young Germany learned how to gain political-literary effects from the new French models; and finally, how the Northern realism of presentation, amalgamated with Tolstoy's, Bjoernson's, Strindberg's and also Ibsen's ethical subjectivity, educated the naturalism of the Germans. It is precisely those poets that are especially characterized by German peculiarities who have also trained themselves in the use of foreign subjects and forms: thus did Uhland, Moerike, Hebbel, and all the Romanticists. We have already had occasion many times to call attention in detail to the educational effect of foreign countries.
German literature is, in short, one that possesses the typical moments of development which mark all literatures, and which Wilhelm Scherer was the first to call to our notice: that is to say, it is a complicated organism in which the most varied tendencies cross one another, the most dissimilar generations of writers meet together, and the most remarkable events occur in the most unforeseen manner.
If we should now try to get a closer view of the last and by far the most important factor of literature, namely, the individual writers themselves, this difficulty in obtaining a general view of the whole, this working of the different parts against one another, this pulling away from one another, presents itself more clearly to us here than anywhere else. The attempt to classify the development of our literature into distinct groups according to the personalities which compose them has been frequently made, since I, in spite of all the difficulties and dangers of such a hazardous enterprise, first undertook, in my German Literature of the Nineteenth Century, to give an historical and complete presentation of a literature which had as yet scarcely become historic. I can here merely refer in passing to my own efforts and to those of Bartels, Biese, Riemann, and Soergel—to name only these; for in compliance with the purpose of this introduction we must confine ourselves to giving a general comprehensive outline—although it would be easy to improve upon it if one went more into detail.
It seems to me under these conditions that the groundlines of the development of our literature from 1700-1900 would be best impressed upon us by comparing the order of its evolution with that of the most "normal" poetic genius who ever lived—namely, with that of Goethe; and thereby we should prove its development to be an essentially normal one.
Like all "natural geniuses" Goethe begins as an imitator, dependent upon others; for the poet also must first learn to speak and to walk. The earliest literary effort of his which we possess is the poem On Christ's Descent into Hell, which naturally seemed strange enough to Goethe when this long forgotten first printed specimen of his literary productiveness was laid before him again after he had grown old. In this poem traditional phrases are repeated without the addition of anything new and original; conventional feelings are expressed, usual methods are employed; all this, however, not without a certain moderation of expression constituting a first sign of the otherwise still completely concealed poetic individuality.
Such is the character that the world of virtuosos also bears about the year 1700. The poems of Rudolf von Canitz and Johann von Besser are, though in entirely different spheres, just the same kind of first attempts of an imperfect art anxiously following foreign models as Goethe's first Christian poem—though truly with the tremendous difference that they represented the utmost that Frenchified courtly art could ever attain to; while Goethe's poem, on the contrary, was the immature sprig cut away before its time from the stem of a tree soon to stand in the full glory of its bloom.
When now in the Leipzig period the young student discovers the poet within him, he first does so in the customary way: he recognizes the ability on his part to handle the language of the contemporary poets, and also perhaps to imbue it with his own personal feelings. His poems inserted in letters, which make a show of the elegant pretence of improvisation, but in reality already display a great dexterity in rhyming and in the use of imagery, may be compared to Hagedorn's poetry; but at the same time Goethe is trying to attain the serious tone of the "Pindarian" odes, just as Haller's stilted scholarly poetry conquered a place beside Hagedorn's Epicurean philosophy of life. The Book of Annette (1767) as a whole, however, presents the first attempt on the part of Goethe to reach a certain completeness in his treatment of the poetic theme. In all his subsequent collections of poems the same attempt is made, it is true with increasingly rigid interpretation of the idea of "completeness," and in so far one is reminded in this connection of the theoretic intentions and performances of Gottsched.
The "New Songs" (Neue Lieder) of 1770 give a lop-sided exhibition of the style which Leipzig and the times acts. Two great acts follow: in 1773 comes Goetz; in 1774, Werther. And with Goetz the great "subjects of humanity" seize possession of Goethe's poetry, as they had taken possession of the poetry of Germany with Lessing—as shown by his whole work up to Nathan: for Lessing, the strongest adversary of mere "estheticism," really accomplished what those Anacreontic poets had merely wished to do—or seemed to wish—and brought literature into close touch with life. The Sorrows of Werther lays hold of the subjective problems of the age just as the drama of liberty lays hold of the objective; in them a typical character of the times is analyzed not without zealously making use of models—both innovations of Wieland! But now indeed comes the most important of all, that which in its greatness represents something completely new, although in detail Goethe had here all his teachers to teach him—Lessing who had written Faust-scenes, and Wieland who was so fond of placing the two souls of man side by side, and Herder who had an absolutely Faust-like nature; so that people have tried, with the exaggeration of the theorist, to hold up before us the whole Faust as a kind of dramatized portrayal of Herder! And with Faust Goethe in German literature has reached his own time—"For his century bears his name!"
But in the period which followed the predominating position of the classical writers we once more find the same parallelism of development. Again with Goethe's dilettante beginnings we compare a school of weak imitators, which unhappily was protected by Goethe himself (and also by Schiller in his literary organs); again with the Strassburg period and its Storm and Stress we compare Romanticism, which is characterized by its German nationalism and its antique tendencies, which is sentimental and philosophical, critical and programmatical like the time of Goetz, which latter surely must have had a strong effect on men like Tieck and Arnim. And out of the sentiment for his country, which, in Goethe's whole literary career, is peculiar only to the poetry of the Strassburg period, tendencies develop like those which manifest themselves in the literature of the Wars of Liberation, of the Swabian School, in the older poetry of political conflict—in short, like all those tendencies which we connect with Ludwig Uhland's name.
Goethe's literary satires and poems for special occasions are a prelude to the purely literary existence and the belligerent spirit of men like Platen and Immermann, who both, as it were by accident, found their way into the open of national poesy. The self-absorption in Werther, the delving after new poetical experiences and mediums of expression; the method of expression hovering between form and illusory improvisation—all this we find again in the strongest individualists, in Heine, in Annette von Droste, in Lenau. The Weimar period, however, when the poet by means of a great and severe self-discipline trains himself to the point of rigidity in order to become the instrument of his art—that period is, with Tasso, paving the way for the school of Grillparzer, while that infinite deepening of the poetic calling is a preparation for Otto Ludwig, Richard Wagner, and Friedrich Hebbel. The contemporary novel in the style of Wilhelm Meister is revived by the Young Germans, above all by Gutzkow, in the same way that tendencies found in Nathan and in Goetz are brought out again in Gutzkow's and in Heinrich Laube's dramas, so rich in allusions. The national spirit of which Egmont is full also fills the novels of Willibald Alexis and Berthold Auerbach. Finally those works, besides Tasso, which we are wont to consider the crowning achievements of the Weimar period, above all, Iphigenia, have permanently served as models of the new, and in their way classical, "antiques"—for the Munich School, for the Geibels and the Heyses. But we must also remember Moerike and Stifter, and their absorption in the fullness of the inner life, which none of them could attain to without somewhat stunting the growth of life's realities—Hebbel perceived this clearly enough not only in Stifter but in Goethe himself. Above all, however, this whole epoch of the "intellectual poets" may, in a certain sense, be called the Italian Journey of German literature. Like Goethe in the years 1787-1788, the German muse in this period only feels entirely at home in Italy, or at least in the South; in her own country she feels misnamed.
Now let us consider Goethe after he had settled down in Weimar for the second time. Scientific work seems for a while to have entirely replaced poetic activity, as for a moment the scientific prose of Ranke and Helmholtz came near to being of more consequence for the German language than most of what was produced at the same time by so-called poetry. Then the Campaign in Champagne (1792), and the new employment of his time with political problems, constitutes for Goethe a temporary phase that may be compared with that recapturing of history by political-historical writers like Freytag and Treitschke, in the same way that Hermann and Dorothea (1796), in which an old historical anecdote of the time of the expulsion of the Protestants from Salzburg is transplanted to the time of the French Revolution, may be compared with the historical "Novellen" of Riehl, Scheffel, and C.F. Meyer. Goethe's ballads (1797-1798) maintain the tradition that was to be given new life by Fontane, Strachwitz, and C.F. Meyer. Goethe's later novels with their didactic tendencies, and the inclination to interpolate "Novellen" and diaries, lead up to Gottfried Keller, Wilhelm Raabe and again to Fontane. The table-songs and other convivial poetry of Goethe's old age are taken up again by Scheffel; Goethe's "Novellen" themselves were continued by all those eminent writers whom we have already named. The Divan, with its bent toward immutable relations, prepares the way for the new lyric, until finally, with the second part of Faust, mythical world-poetry and symbolism complete the circle, just as the cycle of German literature finishes with Nietzsche, Stefan George, Spitteler and Hofmannsthal. At the same time new forces are starting to form the new cycle, or, to speak like Goethe, the newest spiral: Hauptmann, Frenssen, Ricarda Huch, Enrica von Handel, to name only these. And how many others have we not previously left unnamed!
But all this has not been merely to exercise our ingenuity. By drawing this parallel, which is naturally only to be taken approximately, we have intended to make clear the comforting probability that, in spite of all the exaggerating, narrowing down, and forcing to which it has been obliged to submit, our modern and most recent German literature is essentially a healthy literature. That, in spite of all deviation caused by influential theorists—of the Storm and Stress, of the Romantic School, of the period of Goethe's old age, of the epigonean or naturalistic criticism, or by the dazzling phenomena of foreign countries,—nevertheless in the essentials it obeys its own inner laws. That in spite of all which in the present stage of our literature may create a painful or confusing impression, we have no cause to doubt that a new and powerful upward development will take place, and no cause either to underrate the literature of our own day! It is richer in great, and what is perhaps more important, in serious talents than any other contemporary literature. No other can show such wealth of material, no other such abundance of interesting and, in part, entirely new productions. We do not say this in order to disparage others who in some ways were, only a short time ago, so far superior to us—as were the French in surety of form, the Scandinavians in greatness of talents, the Russians in originality, the English in cultivation of the general public; but we are inspired to utter it by the hopeful joy which every one must feel who, in the contemplation of our modern lyric poetry, our novels, dramas, epic and didactic poetry, does not allow himself to be blinded by prejudice or offended vanity. A great literature such as we possessed about 1800 we of a certainty do not have to-day. A more hopeful chaos or one more rich in fertile seeds we have not possessed since the days of Romanticism. It is surely worth while to study this literature, and in all its twists and turns to admire the heliotropism of the German ideal and the importance which our German literature has won as a mediator, an experimenter, and a model for that world-literature, the outline of which the prophetic eye of the greatest German poet was the first to discern, and his hand, equally expert in scientific and poetic creation, the first to describe.
THE LIFE OF GOETHE
BY CALVIN THOMAS, LL.D.
Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Columbia University
Goethe, the illustrious poet-sage whom Matthew Arnold called the "clearest, largest, and most helpful thinker of modern times," was born August 28, 1749, at Frankfurt on the Main. He was christened Johann Wolfgang. In his early years his familiar name was Wolfgang, or simply Wolf, never Johann. His family was of the middle class, the aristocratic von which sometimes appears in his name, in accordance with German custom, having come to him with a patent of nobility which he received in the year 1782.
Johann Caspar Goethe, the poet's father, was the son of a prosperous tailor, who was also a tailor's son. Having abundant means and being of an ambitious turn, Johann Caspar prepared himself for the profession of law, spent some time in Italy, and then settled in Frankfurt in the hope of rising to distinction in the public service. Disappointed in this hope, he procured the imperial title of Councilor, which gave him a dignified social status but nothing in particular to do. He thus became virtually a gentleman of leisure, since his law practise was quite insignificant. In 1748 he married Katharina Elisabeth Textor, whose father, Johann Wolfgang Textor, was the town's chief magistrate and most eminent citizen. She was eighteen years old at the time of her marriage—twenty years younger than her husband—and well fitted to become a poet's mother. The gift on which she especially prided herself was her story-telling. Wolfgang was the first child of these parents.