« PreviousContinue »
being the growth of two different ages, given new form and development to the stood side by side, working together, cre- life of his country. ating consciously, and of set purpose, that Of the two Goethe was so much the literature which they enriched so nobly, more remarkable that he can be considone of them, at least, with probably little ered and treated of alone; but of Schiller thought enough of the vast thing he was we can scarcely speak without bringing doing! We are all fond of comparing in the name of his greater, more splendid, and contrasting these two Princes of and less lovable coadjutor. Their friendEnglish song, notwithstanding the differ- ship was creditable and profitable to both, ence of their time and character ; but though we confess we are a little weary what endless opportunities should we not of hearing it pointed out as an exception have found for this contrast had they ex- | to the ordinary relations between men of isted in one sphere. The difference is so letters, which, the world persists in begreat however, that we cannot make any lieving, are constantly interrupted by just parallel. Milton could no more have jealousies and emulations. This persistbeen produced in all his intensity and ent theory maintains itself bravely, as learned austere splendour in the broader most theories do, in the very face of fact and richer Shakespearian age, than — by which it might have been proved a Shakespeare, all-embracing, all-tolerant, thousand times that whatsoever may be all-comprehending, could have preserved the jealousies of art, writers and paintthat godlike breadth and fulness in the ers invariably find their closest companstern struggles of the Commonwealth. ions in their own craft, and are nowhere The comparison between them cannot be so happy or so much at home, all friendly complete. But Goethe and Schiller were tiffs notwithstanding, as among their born and lived under the same influences, brethren of the brush or the pen, who were moulded by the same events, drew alone fully realize their difficulties and breath in the same atmosphere. And understand their efforts. Where is the they were what it is possible our Shake- writer, living or dead, who has not been speare was not, though of late ages we consoled and stimulated by the generous have been taught to believe it essential appreciation of rivals, even when less to poetry — they were conscious poets, successful than himself, even when someworshipping in themselves the divine fac- what soured by personal disappointment! ulty which they recognized, and feeling The great, except in the most singular its importance with a distinctness which cases, are always ready to applaud an was beyond all shadow of a doubt. The honest effort ; but even among the small association of two such men gives an ad- there is a wonderful amount of generosditional interest and attraction to each. ity and appreciation of excellence, a genIt is a union which has been commented erosity for which they seldom get much upon at unmeasured length and by many credit, but of which all real brethren of critics, moved by that curious and over- the arts are fully aware. Patrons are weening enthusiasm for German literature good (perhaps) when they are to be had – which has affected with a kind of literary and the personal friends who love us befrenzy so many original and thoughtful cause we are ourselves, famous or untaminds. We do not pretend to approach mous, are best of all earthly blessings ; the subject with the adoring reverence but for companions, for the understandwhich has been so common, and from ing which alone makes one man's symwhich it is so difficult to escape when any pathy living and potent to another, for attempt is made to consider the two great comprehension of what we have arrived poets of modern Germany; but we do not at, wh er successfully or not, commend claim any exception from the special spell us to our fellows, those others of our of their remarkable position, a position trade with whom according to the prova as notable in the world as that of any re- erb we never agree. Possibly not, at all former, statesman, or patriot who has | times and in all circumstances; but even
when there is not agreement there is un- | an intellectual eminence should, it might derstanding, which is next best.
be said, see better and more clearly than The association, however, of these two the observer on the common level. But great German minds, does some injus- yet it is not so; for the very gain in tice to the lesser greatness. We in- point of perspective has a confusing stinctively begin our estimate of Schiller effect upon the landscape. The lines by the confession that he has produced are altered by the apparently impartial no Faust - - a confession which is per- distance from which he views them. fectly true, but highly unnecessary in There is something wanting to the hurespect to any other poet. Neither has man aspect of the work — a something Goethe, we might add, produced a Wal- which is made up by the keener sense of lenstein: but Faust so far transcends all local colour, the sharper perception of all embodiments of human sentiment which differences in atmosphere, the currents are less than sovereign and supreme, that of air, the clouds and shadows, which the poet's fame has become one with that give special character to the scene. of his creation, and we do not ask what Thus the fantastic wildness of the Gerelse he has done beside this crowning man imagination — the aspect, half piceffort. That wild, mystic impersonation turesque, half grotesque, of its special of natural genius, speculation, supersti- temper and tendencies — works into the tion, and all that is great and little in the picture with double force from the German soul, stands alone in the world. Goethe altitude, thus making the more The supreme imagination which thus abstract poet at the same time the more welded a mass of incongruous and fan- national. We feel the apparent fallacy tastic popular fancies into one being, has involved in these words: they are a paraundeniably something in it beyond the dox ; yet they are true as far as our perrange of the noble and gentle thinkerception goes. who attempts no such mystical flight. But Schiller stands upon no smiling Schiller has nothing in him of the demi- grand elevation of superiority: he stands god; he stands firm upon mortal soil, among the men and women whom he where the motives, and wishes, and as- pictures, sympathizing with them, somepirations of common humanity have times wondering at them, sometimes their full power. Even the visionary regarding them with that beautiful enthupart of him is all human, Christian, natu- siasm of the maker for the thing created, ral; and when he touches upon the bor- by which the poet abdicates his own ders of the supernatural, as in those sovereignty, and represents himself to miraculous circumstances which sur-himself as the mere portrait-painter of round his Maid of Orleans, it is still something God — not he — has made. pure humanity and no fantastic arch-de-How faithfully, how nobly, without one moniac inspiration which moves him. thought of self-reflection, he follows the He is infinitely more of a man, and - lines of his hero's noble but faulty figparadoxical as the words may appear ure, not sparing Wallenstein - putting infinitely less of a German, than his his strength as well as his weakness on
The standing-point from the canvass, yet showing ever the heroic which Goethe contemplates the world is magnitude of both! With what a swell that of a separate being, able, upon his of high and generous emotion he holds detached point of vision, to see as it his Shepherd maiden spotless through were all round the human figure which the stormy scenes of her brief drama ! he contemplates, to behold it in relief, His own individuality has nothing to do with a full sense of the perpetual com- with these noble pictures. He puts himplication of meaner with higher impulses, self aside altogether from the stage, and the confused mixture of petty exter- from the canvass, and throws his whole nal circumstances with the wild and vio- magnanimous force into the being whom lent movements of unrestrained will and it is his business to present to the world. passion. The man who sees thus from | Wallenstein is no more equal to Hamlet
than it is to Faust ; but in this particular (Shakespeare, showing the same power of at least, the art of Schiller is more self-obliteration, if not the wonderful Shakespearian than that of Goethe. calm and impartiality with which that There is much in it of the high uncon- boundless intelligence represents all manscious humility, the simple putting aside kind. This moral difference is more of all personality, which distinguished subtle and delicate than almost any inour greatest poet. Instinctively we find tellectual distinction. It is a difference in Werter, in Meister, even in Faust, the which critics may miss, but which the poet himself, who lurks within the fig- common mind recognizes without knowures he has made ; but we no more looking why, and demonstrates by a warmer for Schiller in his Wallenstein, in Max, tenderness, a deeper personal feeling, or Carlos, or Tell, than we look for towards the less selfish genius. The Shakespeare under the robes of Pros- heart never hesitates in its conclusion, pero or in Hamlet's inky suit. Schiller and we believe its judgment to be infaliipaints humankind without reference to ble. We admire with perhaps a certain himself, as Shakespeare did, throwing shudder the great and gloomy spirit in himself into characters different from his fallen grandeur, the great 'Satan, the his own, in which he can imagine a fash- mysterious Faust. But the humbler ion of being perhaps greater than his and sweeter nature which forgets itself, own; whereas Goethe paints always a whether conjoined as in Shakespeare's certain reflection of himself pre-eminent, case with the higher genius, or as in and humankind only in relation to and Schiller's with the less, touches us becontrast with that self, somewhat dis- yond intellectual admiration, and makes credited and insignificant in the compari- its possessor the poet of our hearts. son. Such a difference is one of kind Johann Friedrich Schiller was born in and not of degree, and may be traced November 1759, on the banks of the through many lesser grades of power pleasant Neckar, in the little town of one of those great distinctions between Marbach; his mother being the daughter genius and genius which we must call of a respectable tradesman, and his father moral rather than intellectual. We of like parentage. His father, however, might say that the same distinction was a surgeon in the Würtemberg army, could be drawn between Milton and and went to the wars with his regimentShakespeare, were it not that this double sometimes, it would seem, acting as a contrast would land us in confusion inex- regimental officer; and the earliest years tricable. To place Schiller in the position of the poet's life were passed in the sole of Milton, and Goethe in that of Shake care of a gentle poetical young mother, speare, is, we are aware, a common judg- in the still German village, where she ment of critics; and it is impossible to lived with her homely parents, and where refuse to perceive how the breadth and the doctor-captain visited them from time impartiality, the ease and grandeur, of to time, bringing whiffs of gunpowder the greater German, correspond with the with him, and of the larger atmosphere of qualities of our supreme poet; or how the world, just then so noisy, resounding the narrower and intenser feeling of with wars and rumours of wars. When Schiller, his earnest morality, and ideal peace permitted the father's return, the elevation of the good and the true, reflect family went to Ludwigsburg, where little themselves in Milton. Yet notwithstand- Friedrich first made acquaintance with the ing this broad general resemblance, we delights of the theatre ; then to Lorch, feel that there is an interior and profound where the beautiful country and the ruins difference between the two, in each case, of an old convent and castle filled him which suggests another classification. with dreamy childish pleasure. In an Milton is one of the egoist-poets, con- appendix to the people's edition of his scious, first of all, in the universe, of his Life of Schiller, just published, Mr. Carown supreme existence, the standard of lyle has given us many new and delightall things, throwing the rest of humanity ful details of this primitive, homely, into the shade. He is his own Satan, as poetic German country life — so sparing, Goethe is his own Faust. The highest so thrifty, so tenderly sentimental and conception of intellect and immortal spirit full of family affection, of which already which either can grasp is himself. Thus, many pleasant chapters have been opened though in one phase of character Schiller to the world. The family finally settled resembles most the austere, learned, im- at Solitüde, near Stuttgard, where Schilpassioned, and virtuous Milton, by an- ler's father had the superintendence of other he takes his place on the side of the forest, and of a model-nursery and
plantations destined for the instruction | during the six years of his training, with of all Würtemberg, a kind of art in which most exasperating effect. The artificial Captain Schiller was famed. Here, with repression of the system wrought him his somewhat stern father's reminis- gradually into the wildest theories of recences of the outside world, with his bellion. Forced to study subjects in kind mother's poetry and stories, with which his mind took no interest, and to the society of his young sisters, much adopt a profession — that of regimental fresh air, and the simple enjoyments of surgeon which he hated, he avenged childhood, the boy developed and grew. himself upon Würtemberg, upon tyrants He decided very early upon becoming a generally, upon all the tyrannies of circlergyman, and had been sent to "the cumstance, and the inequalities and inLatin school, at Ludwigsburg," with this justices of life, in a violent outburst of idea. But the son of a servant of the poetry which took the world by storm. Duke of Würtemberg was not expected It would be too much to say that the to entertain independent ideas. This tyranny of the Karls-schule made Schilpotentate was a paternal ruler and a theo- ler a poet ; but there can be but little rist, and he had just established a great doubt that it determined the manner of academy - a military training school - his beginning, and that but for its rigid called by his own name, and one of his rule, and attempted annihilation of all indarling enterprises, which was intended dividual thought, such a wild drama as for the benest, above all others, of offi- “ The Robbers” would never have come cers' sons. All at once, while the Schil. into being. lers pleased themselves with the notion, This drama, the first production of the common to all homely, aspiring people, young poet, was begun and completed in of seeing their son wag his pow in a the Karls-schule. * He had finished the pu’pit,” there suddenly came an offer of original sketch of it in 1778,” Mr. Carimperious kindness from the Duke to lyle tells us, having then attained the age take the clever boy, who was of a kind to of 19; and almost the first act of his mando the new establishment credit, into the hood, on getting free from the military Karls-schule. Both the child and the academy, two years later, was to publish parents objected strenuously, but the ob- this wild plea of nature and youth against jections of the father had to be made the bondage of the world. He had just humbly and had to be overruled, -- for been appointed surgeon of a regiment in was not he himself and all his family de- the Würtemberg army when he took pendent on the caprice of his royal pa- this daring step. The Robbers” is too tron? The kindness of a superior is often well known to require any lengthened deas tyrannical as cruelty ; but yet we can- scription. It is the story of two brothnot but feel that Duke Karl Eugen hasers, one of whom, by the most primitive had hard measure, and that, barring the and unmitigated villany, drives the other embarrassing and unthought-of fact, that from the refuge of his father's heart and his old soldier's son happened to be a house, which might have saved him from born poet-an untoward accident which the crime to which he was driven by desneither fathers nor princes can guard peration. Karl von Moor, the injured against — the Duke was really doing his and maligned hero, becomes the chief of best to provide for and establish in the a band of desperadoes, and sets himself world, the boy who had, it might be sup-to the work of doing wild justice in the posed, no better inheritance than his fa- oppressed country, robbing the rich to vour.
give to the poor, with the innocent and Thus, at the age of fourteen, the young primitive magnanimity of a Robin Hood, Friedrich was carried off from home, and though with all the wild storms of sentifrom all his own cherished hopes and ment, passion, remorse, and misery which wishes, to be trained after the most miii- belong to an age more advanced in the tary fashion for the public service. Cap- representation of emotions. Every one tain Schiller, after the momentary pang who has read it must remember the sunof giving up all hope of clerical honours set scene in which this young, hiero and the peaceful life of a pastor for his laments the innocence he has forfeited, child, seems to have been well enough and compares the feelings of his childsatisfied on the whole ; but the younger hood with those which a career of crime Schiller's hatred of the pipe-clay, the and violence has left in his mind. This rigid rule, the absence of all independ- scene expresses the prevailing sentiment ent action, never abated, and seems to of the whole drama. A burning sense have worked upon his mind in secret, of wrong, and fierce disappointment with
life, have driven the young man into wild | very wicked. The young poet dashes action, visible rebellion against not only across his stage, thundering out bis tyranny but law. Yet, through all, he words, mouthing the biggest blasphemies holds fast by an imaginary intention he can invent; but the very effort is the which is noble, not criminal, and suffers best proof of his purity and innocence. agonies of remorseful misery when his all the ill he knows he heaps into his followers break, as they do constantly, first tragic production, but that is so his own fanciful rules of mingled mercy transparent, so straightforward, so frankand retribution. He is driven from crimely monstrous ! It is wickedness as conto crime by that sequence of events ceived by an innocent heart. which no human hand can stop, yet can- And what fire and vehemence are in not consent to be criminal, or clear his the wild drama — what unbounded youthmind from an inextinguishable longing ful energy and force! At what a pace it for purity and peace.
goes, blazing upon its way, holding the This noble and melancholy criminal, reader breathless with the rush of incident, however, is surrounded by very primi- the fierce heat of emotion! We indeed tive and elementary figures - types of may smell only gunpowder in all those conventional classes of mankind, rather thunderings and lightnings, and feel the than men. The immense force of emo- display to be pyrotechnic; but to the tion in the drama, its fury and fervour, author the bolts he wielded came hot out defraud us of the smile which rightfully of the hand of Jove, and the sympathetic attends such wild youthful demonstra- audience whose interest he carried with tions of life's impossibility ; it is so dead- him, accepted his certainty that the fire ly serious, so impressed with its own was divine, and felt it blaze and crackle reality, that the reader is carried along as with a universal thrill of emotion. Selupon a boiling and foaming torrent; but dom has genius taken such hot and sudon a calmer inspection, the boyish sim- den vengeance on the authority which ple-minded blackness of shadow and held it in; and even now, at this calm clearness of light become very apparent. distance, the reader understands and The preposterous transparent guilt of the sympathizes with the excitement of both villanous Franz, so perfectly frank and un-author and audience, and feels the sweep disguised to himself, and so quickly fath- of the fiery current which carries him omed and seen through by others; the along breathless to the end of the drama. weak old man so easily and perfectly de- Like a very firebrand, exciting all, frightceived ; and the angelic type of women, ening and scandalizing many, it drooped faithful to the last - are like the rude for- into that iron-bound century, fetiered by cible figures drawn by a child, in which the a hundred petty tyrannies. It ran through rough outlines of the human form is put Germany like wildfire ; students and down typically, on the simplest principles other lawless lads were said to have of construction. But notwithstanding taken to the woods and hills in emulation this primitive treatment and the extreme of Karl von Moor's dare-devils ; and the youth of the composition — notwithstand generous Robber, who took from the rich ing its effervescence of lawlessness, and to give to the poor, became for a time the protest against repression -- there is all idol of all those revolutionaries who were the simplicity of innocence in Schiller's native to the age, but who, happily for first drama. "In all its heat of passion, in themselves, in Germany, at least, expendall its flow of speculation, and apparented their revolutionary fire in “ Robbers” thoughtfulness, its pretence at something and other literary mediums. Schiller like philosophy – it is as innocent as our gave, had his petty tyrant but known it, Robin Hood ballads. Youth is rampant the most useful safety-valve by this in it, but youth that has known no evil. means for the rising vapours of speculaWe are told that it put wicked thoughts tion. He relieved his own bosom at the into the heads of the German youth, and same time of perilous stuff which might tempted them to rebellion. And no doubt have wrought him greater harm in after the author thought himself gloriously life. wicked as he poured forth those thunders “The Robbers," however, cost Schiland lightnings of fancy, making the wel- ler a long and painful pause in his career. kin ring again with his shouts of defiance It cut short the reputable and secure life to all constituted authority, all decorum, which his anxious father and his patron discipline, and law. But, notwithstand- duke had in their intentions provided for ing, we repeat, “ The Robbers” is the him. What the former thought of his most innocent of all youthful efforts to be 'son's wild production, we are not in