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“Ah, my friend, Goethe is an artist; and looks upon all things as objects of art merely. Why should he not be allowed to copy in words what painters and sculptors copy in colors and in marble?”
“The artist shows his character in the choice of his subject. Goethe never sculptured an Apollo, nor painted a Madonna. He gives us only sinful Magdalens and rampant Fauns. He does not so much idealize, as realize."
“ He only copies nature.”
“So did the artists who made the bronze lamps of Pompeii. Would you hang one of those in
that a man is an artist and copies nature is not enough. There are two great schools of art; the imitative and the imaginative. The latter is the most noble, and the most enduring; and Goethe belonged rather to the former. Have you read Menzel's attack upon him?”
“It is truly ferocious. The Silesian hews into him lustily. I hope you do not take sides with him."
By no means. He goes too far. He blames the poet for not being a politician. He might as well blame him for not being a missionary to the Sandwich Islands.”
“ And what do you think of Eckermann ? ”
“I think he is a kind of German Boswell. Goethe knew he was drawing his portrait, and sat for it accordingly. He works very hard to make a Saint Peter out of an old Jupiter, as the Catholics did at Rome."
“ Well, call him Old Humbug, or Old Heathen, or what you please ; I maintain, that, with all his errors and shortcomings, he was a glorious specimen of a man."
“ He certainly was. Did it ever occur to you that he was in some points like Ben Franklin, - a kind of rhymed Ben Franklin ? The practical tendency of his mind was the same; his love of science was the same; his benignant, philosophic spirit was the same ; and a vast number of his little poetic maxims and soothsayings seem nothing more than the worldly wisdom of Poor Richard, versified.”
“ What most offends me is, that now every German jackass must have a kick at the dead lion.”
“ And every one who passes through Wei
mar must throw a book upon his grave, as travellers did of old a stone
of Manfredi, at Benevento. But, of all that has been said or sung, what most pleases me is Heine's Apologetic, if I may so call it ; in which he says, that the minor poets, who flourished under the imperial reign of Goethe, resemble a young forest, where the trees first show their own magnitude after the oak of a hundred years, whose branches had towered above and overshadowed them, has fallen. There was not wanting an opposition that strove against Goethe, this majestic tree. Men of the most warring opinions united themselves for the contest. The adherents of the old faith, the orthodox, were vexed that in the trunk of the vast tree no niche with its holy image was to be found; nay, that even the naked Dryads of paganism were permitted to play their witchery there ; and gladly, with consecrated axe, would they have imitated the holy Boniface, and levelled the enchanted oak to the ground. The followers of the new faith, the apostles of Liberalism, were vexed, on the other hand, that the tree could not serve as a Liberty Tree, or, at any rate, as a barricade.
In fact the tree was too high; no one could plant the red cap upon its summit, or dance the Carmagnole beneath its branches. The multitude, however, venerated this tree for the very reason that it reared itself with such independent grandeur, and so graciously filled the world with its odor, while its branches streaming magnificently toward heaven made it appear as if the stars were only the golden fruit of its wondrous limbs. Do you not think that beautiful ?”
“Yes, very beautiful. And I am glad to see that you can find something to admire in my favorite author, notwithstanding his frailties; or, to use an old German saying, that you can drive the hens out of the garden without trampling down the beds."
" Here is the old gentleman himself !” exclaimed Flemming.
" Where?” cried the Baron, as if for the moment he expected to see the living figure of the poet walking before them.
“Here at the window, - that full-length cast. Excellent, — is it not? He is dressed, as usual, in his long yellow nankeen surtout,
with a white cravat crossed in front. What a magnificent head! and what a posture! He stands like a tower of strength. And, by Heavens ! he was nearly eighty years old when that was made."
“ How do you know?”
“You are right. And yet how erect he stands, with his square shoulders braced back, and his hands behind him! He looks as if he were standing before the fire. I feel tempted to put a live coal into his hand, it lies so invitingly half-open. Gleim's description of him, soon after he went to Weimar, is very different from this. Do you recollect it?”
“ No, I do not.”
“ It is a story which good old father Gleim used to tell with great delight. He was one evening reading the Göttingen Musen-Almanach in a select society at Weimar, when a young man came in, dressed in a short green shooting-jacket, booted and spurred, and having a pair of brilliant, black, Italian eyes. He, in turn, offered to read ; but finding, probably, the poetry of the Musen-Almanach of that year rather too insipid for him, he soon began to improvise the wildest and most fantastic poems imaginable, and in all possible forms and measures, pretending all the while to read
from the book. That is either Goethe or the Devil,' said good old father Gleim to Wieland, who sat near him. To which the Great I of Osmannstadt replied, — It is both, for he has the Devil in him to-night; and at such times he is like a wanton colt, that flings out before and behind, and you will do well not to go too near him!'"
" Very good!
“And now that noble figure is but mould. Only a few months ago, those majestic eyes looked for the last time on the light of a pleasant spring morning. Calm, like a god, the old man sat; and with a smile seemed to bid farewell to the light of day, on which he had gazed for more than eighty years. Books were near him, and the pen which had just dropped, as it were, from his dying fingers. Open the shutters, and let in more light ! were the last words that came from those lips. Slowly stretching forth his hand, he seemed to write in the air; and, as it sank down again and was motionless, the spirit of the old man departed.”
“ And yet the world goes on. It is strange how soon, when a great man dies, his place is filled ; and so completely, that he seems no longer wanted. But let us step in here. I wish to buy that cast.”
THE DAYLIGHT OF THE DWARFS AND THE FALLING STAR.
AFTER lingering a day or two in Frankfort, the two friends struck across through Hochheim to the Rhine, and up among the hills of the Rheingau to Schlangenbad, where they tarried only to bathe and to dine, and then pursued their way to Langenschwalbach. The town lies in a valley, with gently sloping hills around it, and long avenues of poplars leading forth into the fields. One interminable street cuts the town in twain, and there are old houses with curious faces carved upon their fronts, and dates of the olden time.
Our travellers soon sallied forth from their hotel, impatient to drink the strength-giving waters of the fountains. They continued their walk far up the valley under the poplars. The new grain was waving in the fields; the birds singing in the trees and in the air; and everything seemed glad, save a poor old man who came tottering out of the woods, with heavy bundle of sticks on his shoulders.
Returning upon their steps, they passed down the valley and through the long street to the tumble-down old Lutheran church. A flight of stone steps leads from the street to the green terrace or platform on which the church stands, and which in ancient times was the church-yard, or, as the Germans more devoutly say, God's-acre ; where generations are scattered like seeds, and that which is sown in corruption shall be raised hereafter in incorruption. On the steps stood an old man, a very old man, holding a little girl by the hand. He took off his greasy cap as they passed, and wished them good day. His teeth were gone ; he could hardly articulate a syllable. The Baron asked him how old the church
gave no answer; but when the question was repeated,' came close up to them, and, taking off his cap again, turned his ear attentively, and said:
“I am hard of hearing."
"Poor old man," said Flemming ; "he is as much a ruin as the church we are entering.
It will not be long before he, too, shall be sown as seed in this God's-acre ! ”
The little girl ran into a house close at hand, and brought out the great key. The church-door swung open, and, descending a few steps, they passed through a low - roofed passage into the church. All was in ruin. The gravestones in the pavement were started from their places; the vaults beneath yawned; the roof above was falling piecemeal ; there were rents in the old tower; and mysterious passages, and side doors with crazy flights of wooden steps, leading down into the churchyard. Amid all this ruin one thing only stood erect; it was a statue of a knight in armor, standing in a niche under the pulpit.
“Who is this?” said Flemming to the old sexton; "who is this, that stands here so solemnly in marble, and seems to be keeping guard over the dead men below ? ”
“I do not know,” replied the old man; “but I have heard my grandfather say it was the statue of a great warrior !”
“ There is history for you ! ”exclaimed the Baron. 6. There is fame! To have a statue of marble, and yet have your name forgotten by the sexton of your parish, who can remember only that he once heard his grandfather say that
you were a great warrior ! " Flemming made no reply, for he was thinking of the days, when, from that old pulpit, some bold reformer thundered down the first tidings of a new doctrine, and the roof echoed with the grand old hymn of Martin Luther.
When he communicated his thoughts to the Baron, the only answer he received was:
• After all, what is the use of so much preaching? Do you think the fishes, that heard the sermon of St. Anthony, were any better than those who did not? I commend to your favorable notice the fish-sermon of this saint, as recorded by Abraham à Sancta Clara. You will find it in your favorite WonderHorn."
enough to be her father, not to say her grandfather, hoping, doubtless, that he would soon die; for, if ever woman wished to be a widow, she is that woman. But the old fellow is tough and won't die. Moreover, he is deaf, and crabbed, and penurious, and half the time bedridden. The wife is a model of virtue, notwithstanding her weakness. She nurses the old gentleman as if he were a child. And, to crown all, he hates society, and will not hear of his wife's receiving or going into company."
· How, then, can she give æsthetic teas?” asked Flemming
“I was just going to tell you,” continued the Baron. “ The gay lady has no taste for long evenings with the old gentleman in the back chamber, — for being thus chained like a criminal under Mezentius, face to face with a dead body. So she puts him to bed first,
Thus passed the day at Langenschwalbach; and the evening at the Allée-Saal was quite solitary; for as yet no company had arrived to fill its chambers, or sit under the trees before the door. The next morning even Flemming and the Baron were gone; for the German's heart was beating with strong desire to embrace his sister; and the heart of his friend cared little whither he went, sobeit he were not too much alone.
After a few hours' drive, they were looking down from the summit of a hill directly upon the house-tops of Ems. There it lay, deep sunk in the hollow beneath them, as if some inhabitant of Sirius, like him spoken of in Voltaire's tale of Micromegas, held it in the hollow of his hand. High and peaked rise the hills that throw their shadows into this romantic valley, and at their base winds the river Lahn. Our travellers drove through the one long street composed entirely of hotels and lodging-houses. Sick people looked out of the windows as they passed. Others were walking leisurely up and down, beneath the few decapitated trees which represent a public promenade ; and a boy, with a blue frock and crimson cap, was driving three donkeys down the street. In short, they were in a fashionable watering-place; as yet sprinkled only by a few pattering drops of the summer rain of strangers, which generally follows the first hot days.
On alighting at the London Hotel, the Baron found — not his sister, but only a letter from her, saying she had changed her mind and gone to the Baths of Franconia. This was a disappointment, which the Baron pocketed with the letter, and said not a word more about either. It was his way, — his philosophy in small things and great. In the evening, they went to an æsthetic tea, at the house of the Frau Kranich, the wife of a rich banker of Frankfort.
“I must tell you about this Frau Kranich,” said the Baron to Flemming on the way. “She is a woman of talent and beauty, and just in the prime of life; but, unfortunately,
Her mania is to make a figure in the fashionable world ; and to this end she married a rich banker of Frankfort, old
“Gives him opium."
“ Yes, I dare say; and then gives herself a tea-party, without his knowing anything about it. This course of deception is truly hateful in itself, and must be particularly so to her, for she is not a low or an immoral woman; but one of those who, not having strength enough to complete the sacrifice they have had strength enough to commence, are betrayed into a life of duplicity and falsehood.”
They had now reached the house, and were ushered into a room gayly lighted and filled with guests.
The hostess came forward to receive them, dressed in white and sailing down the room like a swan. When the customary salutations had passed and Flemming had been duly presented, the Baron said, not without a certain degree of malice :
“ And, my dear Frau Kranich, how is your good husband to-night?"
This question was about as discreet as a cannon-ball. But the lady replied, in the simplicity of her heart, and not in the least disconcerted :
“ The same as ever, my dear Baron. It is astonishing how he holds out. But let us not talk of these things now. I must introduce your friend to his countryman, the Grand Duke of Mississippi ; alike remarkable for his
wealth, his modesty, and the extreme simplicity of his manners. He drives only six horses. Besides, he is known as a man of learning and piety, — has his private chapel, and private clergyman, who always preaches against the vanity of worldly riches. He has also a private secretary, whose sole duty is to smoke to him, that he may enjoy the aroma of Spanish cigars, without the trouble of smoking."
Decidedly a man of genius!” Here Flemming was introduced to his illustrious countryman; a person who seemed to consist chiefly of linen, such a display did he make of collar, bosom, and wristbands.
“Pray, Mr. Flemming, what do you think of that Rembrandt ?” said he, pointing to a picture on the wall. “ Exquisite picture ! The grandeur of sentiment and splendor of chiaroscuro are of the first order. Just observe the liquidity of the water, and the silveriness of the clouds! Great power! There is a bravura of handling in that picture, sir, which it requires the eye of the connoisseur to appreciate."
“ Yes, a most undoubted — copy T!”
And here their conversation ended; for at that moment the little Moldavian Prince Jerkin made his way through the crowd, with his snuff-box as usual in his hand, and hurried up to Flemming, whom he had known in Heidelberg. He was eager to let every one know that he spoke English, and in his haste began by making a mistake.
Good-bye! Good-bye! Mr. Flemming !” said he, instead of good evening. “I am ravished to see you in Ems. Nice place ; — all that there is of most nice. I drink
water and am good! Do you not think the Frau Kranich has a very beautiful leather ?”
He meant skin. Flemming laughed outright; but it was not perceived by the Prince, because at that moment he was pushed aside, in the rush of a gallopade, and Flemming beheld his face no more. At the same moment the Baron introduced a friend of his, who also spoke English and said:
“ You will sup with me to-night. I have some Rhine-wine, which will be a seduction to
sioned, romantic lady leaning on his arm, examining a copy of Raphael's Fornarina.
"Ach! I wish I had been the Fornarina," sighed the impassioned, romantic lady.
“Then, my dear madam,” replied the Baron, “I wish I had been Raphael."
And so likewise said to himself a very tall man with fiery red hair and fancy whiskers, who was waltzing round and round in one spot, and in a most extraordinary waistcoat; thus representing a fiery floating-light, to warn men of the hidden rocks on which the breath of vanity drives them shipwreck. At length his partner, tired of spinning, sank upon a sofa like a child's top, when it reels and falls.
“You do not like the waltz?” said an elderly French gentleman, remarking the expression of Flemming's countenance. “Oh, yes; among the figurantes of the opera.
. But I confess it sometimes makes me shudder to see a young rake clasp his arms round the waist of a pure and innocent girl. What would you say, were you to see him sitting on a sofa with his arms around
your wife?” “ Mere prejudice of education,” replied the French gentleman. “I know that situation. I have read all about it in the ‘Bibliothèque de Romans Choisis ’!”
And merrily went the dance; and bright eyes and flushed cheeks were not wanting among the dancers;
“And they waxed red, and waxed warm,
And rested, panting, arm in arm;" and the Strass-waltzes sounded pleasantly in the ears of Flemming, who, though he never danced, yet, like Henry of Ofterdingen, in the romance of Novalis, thought to music. The wheeling waltz set the wheels of his fancy going. And thus the moments glided on, and the footsteps of Time were not heard amid the sound of music and voices.
But suddenly this scene of gayety was interrupted. The door opened wide; and the short figure of a gray-haired old man presented itself, with a flushed countenance and wild eyes. He was but half dressed, and in his hand held a silver candlestick without a light. A sheet was wound round his head, like a turban; and he tottered forward with a vacant, bewildered look, exclaiming :