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Seventh Book

About the condition of German literature of those times so much has been
written, and so exhaustively, that every one who takes any interest in
it can be completely informed; in regard to it critics agree now pretty
well; and what at present I intend to say piecemeal and disconnectedly
concerning it, relates not so much to the way in which it was
constituted in itself, as to its relation to me. I will therefore first
speak of those things by which the public is particularly excited; of
those two hereditary foes of all comfortable life, and of all cheerful,
self-sufficient, living poetry,--I mean, satire and criticism.

In quiet times every one wants to live after his own fashion: the
citizen will carry on his trade or his business, and enjoy the fruits of
it afterwards; thus will the author, too, willingly compose something,
publish his labors, and, since he thinks he has done something good and
useful, hope for praise, if not reward. In this tranquillity the citizen
is disturbed by the satirist, the author by the critic; and peaceful
society is thus put into a disagreeable agitation.

The literary epoch in which I was born was developed out of the
preceding one by opposition. Germany, so long inundated by foreigners,
interpenetrated by other nations, directed to foreign languages in
learned and diplomatic transactions, could not possibly cultivate her
own. Together with so many new ideas, innumerable foreign words were
obtruded necessarily and unnecessarily upon her; and, even for objects
already known, people were induced to make use of foreign expressions
and turns of speech. The German, having run wild for nearly two hundred
years in an unhappy tumultuary state, went to school with the French to
learn manners, and with the Romans in order to express his thoughts with
propriety. But this was to be done in the mother-tongue, when the
literal application of those idioms, and their half-Germanization, made
both the social and business style ridiculous. Besides this, they
adopted without moderation the similes of the southern languages, and
employed them most extravagantly. In the same way they transferred the
stately deportment of the prince-like citizens of Rome to the learned
German small-town officers, and were at home nowhere, least of all with

But as in this epoch works of genius had already appeared, the German
sense of freedom and joy also began to stir itself. This, accompanied by
a genuine earnestness, insisted that men should write purely and
naturally, without the intermixture of foreign words, and as common
intelligible sense dictated. By these praiseworthy endeavors, however,
the doors and gates were thrown open to an extended national insipidity,
nay,--the dike was dug through by which the great deluge was shortly to
rush in. Meanwhile, a stiff pedantry long stood its ground in all the
four faculties, until at last, much later, it fled for refuge from one
of them to another.

Men of parts, children of nature looking freely about them, had
therefore two objects on which they could exercise themselves, against
which they could labor, and, as the matter was of no great importance,
give a vent to their petulance: these were,--a language disfigured by
foreign words, forms, and turns of speech on the one hand, and the
worthlessness of such writings as had been careful to keep themselves
free from those faults on the other; though it occurred to nobody, that,
while they were battling against one evil, the other was called on for

Liskow, a daring young man, first ventured to attack by name a shallow,
silly writer, whose awkward demeanor soon gave him an opportunity to
proceed still more severely. He then went farther, and constantly aimed
his scorn at particular persons and objects, whom he despised and sought
to render despicable,--nay, even persecuted them with passionate hatred.
But his career was short; for he soon died, and was gradually forgotten
as a restless, irregular youth. The talent and character shown in what
he did, although he had accomplished little, may have seemed valuable to
his countrymen; for the Germans have always shown a peculiar pious
kindliness to talents of good promise, when prematurely cut off. Suffice
it to say, that Liskow was very soon praised and recommended to us as an
excellent satirist, who could have attained a rank even above the
universally beloved Rabener. Here, indeed, we saw ourselves no better
off than before; for we could discover nothing in his writings, except
that he had found the silly, silly, which seemed to us quite a matter of

Rabener, well educated, grown up under good scholastic instruction, of a
cheerful, and by no means passionate or malicious, disposition, took up
general satire. His censure of the so-called vices and follies springs
from the clear views of a quiet common sense, and from a fixed moral
conception of what the world ought to be. His denunciation of faults and
failings is harmless and cheerful; and, in order to excuse even the
slight boldness of his writings, it is supposed that the improving of
fools by ridicule is no fruitless undertaking.

Rabener's personal character will not easily appear again. As an able,
punctual man of business, he does his duty, and thus gains the good
opinion of his fellow-townsmen and the confidence of his superiors;
along with which, he gives himself up to the enjoyment of a pleasant
contempt for all that immediately surrounds him. Pedantic
/literati/, vain youngsters, every sort of narrowness and conceit,
he banters rather than satirizes; and even his banter expresses no
contempt. Just in the same way does he jest about his own condition, his
misfortune, his life, and his death.

There is little of the aesthetic in the manner in which this writer
treats his subjects. In external forms he is indeed varied enough, but
throughout he makes too much use of direct irony; namely, in praising
the blameworthy and blaming the praiseworthy, whereas this figure of
speech should be used but extremely seldom; for, in the long run, it
becomes annoying to clear-sighted men, perplexes the weak, while indeed
it pleases the great middle class, who, without any special expense of
mind, can fancy themselves more knowing than others. But whatever he
brings before us, and however he does it, alike bears witness to his
rectitude, cheerfulness, and equanimity; so that we always feel
prepossessed in his favor. The unbounded applause of his own times was a
consequence of such moral excellencies.

That people looked for originals to his general descriptions and found
them, was natural; that individuals complained of him, followed from the
above; his lengthy apologies that his satire is not personal, prove the
spite it provoked. Some of his letters crown him at once as a man and an
author. The confidential epistle in which he describes the siege of
Dresden, and how he loses his house, his effects, his writings, and his
wigs, without having his equanimity in the least shaken or his
cheerfulness clouded, is highly valuable; although his contemporaries
and fellow-citizens could not forgive him his happy turn of mind. The
letter where he speaks of the decay of his strength and of his
approaching death is in the highest degree worthy of respect; and
Rabener deserves to be honored as a saint by all cheerful, intelligent
men, who cheerfully resign themselves to earthly events.

I tear myself away from him reluctantly, yet I would make this remark:
his satire refers throughout to the middle class; he lets us see here
and there that he is also well acquainted with the higher ranks, but
does not hold it advisable to come in contact with them. It may be said,
that he has had no successor, that no one has been found who could
consider himself equal or even similar to him.

Now for criticism! and first of all for the theoretic attempts. It is
not going too far when we say that the ideal had, at that time, escaped
out of the world into religion; it scarcely even made its appearance in
moral philosophy; of a highest principle of art no one had a notion.
They put Gottsched's "Critical Art of Poetry" into our hands; it was
useful and instructive enough, for it gave us a historical information
of all the kinds of poetry, as well as of rhythm and its different
movements: the poetic genius was presupposed! But, besides that, the
poet was to have acquirements and even learning: he should possess
taste, and every thing else of that kind. They directed us at last to
Horace's "Art of Poetry:" we gazed at single golden maxims of this
invaluable work, but did not know in the least what to do with it as a
whole, or how we should use it.

The Swiss stepped forth as Gottsched's antagonists: they must take it
into their heads to do something different, to accomplish something
better; accordingly we heard that they were, in fact, superior.
Breitinger's "Critical Art of Poetry" was taken in hand. Here we reached
a wider field, but, properly speaking, only a greater labyrinth, which
was so much the more tiresome, as an able man, in whom we had
confidence, was driving us about in it. Let a brief review justify these

For poetry in itself they had been able to find no fundamental axiom: it
was too spiritual and too volatile. Painting, an art which one could
hold fast with one's eyes, and follow step by step with the external
senses, seemed more favorable for such an end: the English and French
had already theorized about plastic art; and, by a comparison drawn from
this, it was thought that poetry might be grounded. The former presented
images to the eye, the latter to the imagination: poetical images,
therefore, were the first thing which was taken into consideration.
People began with comparisons, descriptions followed, and only that was
expressed which had always been apparent to the external senses.

Images, then! But where should these images be got except from nature?
The painter professedly imitated nature: why not the poet also? But
nature, as she lies before us, cannot be imitated: she contains so much
that is insignificant and worthless, that one must make a selection; but
what determines the choice? one must select that which is important: but
what is important?

To answer this question, the Swiss may have taken a long time to
consider; for they came to a notion, which is indeed singular, but
clever, and even comical, inasmuch as they say, the new is always the
most important: and after they have considered this for a while, they
discover that the marvellous is always newer than every thing else.

They had now pretty well collected their poetical requisitions; but they
had still to consider that the marvellous might also be empty, and
without relation to man. But this relation, demanded as necessary, must
be a moral one, from which the improvement of mankind should manifestly
follow; and thus a poem had reached its utmost aim when, with every
thing else accomplished, it was useful besides. They now wished to test
the different kinds of poetry according to all these requisites: those
which imitated nature, besides being marvellous, and at the same time of
a moral aim and use, were to rank as the first and highest. And, after
much deliberation, this great pre-eminence was at last ascribed, with
the highest degree of conviction, to Aesop's fables!

Strange as such a deduction may now appear, it had the most decided
influence on the best minds. That Gellert and subsequently Lichtwer
devoted themselves to this department, that even Lessing attempted to
labor in it, that so many others turned their talents towards it, speaks
for the confidence which this species of poetry had gained. Theory and
practice always act upon each other: one can see from their works what
is the men's opinion, and, from their opinions, predict what they will

Yet we must not dismiss our Swiss theory without doing it justice.
Bodmer, with all the pains he took, remained theoretically and
practically a child all his life. Breitinger was an able, learned,
sagacious man, whom, when he looked rightly about him, the essentials of
a poem did not all escape,--nay, it can be shown that he may have dimly
felt the deficiencies of his system. Remarkable, for instance, is his
query, "Whether a certain descriptive poem by König, on the 'Review-camp
of Augustus the Second,' is properly a poem?" and the answer to it
displays good sense. But it may serve for his complete justification
that he, starting from a false point, on a circle almost run out
already, still struck upon the main principle, and at the end of his
book finds himself compelled to recommend as additions, so to speak, the
representation of manners, character, passions,--in short, the whole
inner man; to which, indeed, poetry pre-eminently belongs.

It may well be imagined into what perplexity young minds felt themselves
thrown by such dislocated maxims, half-understood laws, and shivered-up
dogmas. We adhere to examples, and there, too, were no better off;
foreigners as well as the ancients stood too far from us; and from the
best native poets always peeped out a decided individuality, to the good
points of which we could not lay claim, and into the faults of which we
could not but be afraid of falling. For him who felt any thing
productive in himself it was a desperate condition.

When one considers closely what was wanting in the German poetry, it was
a material, and that, too, a national one: there was never a lack of
talent. Here we make mention only of Günther, who may be called a poet
in the full sense of the word. A decided talent, endowed with
sensuousness, imagination, memory, the gifts of conception and
representation, productive in the highest degree, ready at rhythm,
ingenious, witty, and of varied information besides,--he possessed, in
short, all the requisites for creating, by means of poetry, a second
life within life, even within common real life. We admire the great
facility with which, in his occasional poems, he elevates all
circumstances by the feelings, and embellishes them with suitable
sentiments, images, and historical and fabulous traditions. Their
roughness and wildness belong to his time, his mode of life, and
especially to his character, or, if one would have it so, his want of
fixed character. He did not know how to curb himself; and so his life,
like his poetry, melted away from him.

By his vacillating conduct, Günther had trifled away the good fortune of
being appointed at the court of Augustus the Second, where, in addition
to every other species of ostentation, they were also looking about for
a court-poet, who could give elevation and grace to their festivities,
and immortalize a transitory pomp. Von König was more mannerly and more
fortunate: he filled this post with dignity and applause.

In all sovereign states the material for poetry comes downwards from
above; and "The Review-camp at Mühlberg" ("Das Lustlager bei Mühlberg")
was, perhaps, the first worthy object, provincial, if not national,
which presented itself to a poet. Two kings saluting one another in the
presence of a great host, their whole courts and military state around
them, well-appointed troops, a mock-fight, /fêtes/ of all kinds,--
this is business enough for the outward sense, and overflowing material
for delineating and descriptive poetry.

This subject had, indeed, the internal defect, that it was only pomp and
show, from which no real action could result. None except the very first
distinguished themselves; and, even if they had done so, the poet could
not render any one conspicuous lest he should offend the others. He had
to consult the "Court and State Calendar;" and the delineation of the
persons therefore went off pretty dryly,--nay, even his contemporaries
very strongly reproached him with having described the horses better
than the men. But should not this redound to his credit, that he showed
his art just where an object for it presented itself? The main
difficulty, too, seems soon to have manifested itself to him,--since the
poem never advanced beyond the first canto.

Amidst such studies and reflections, an unexpected event surprised me,
and frustrated my laudable design of becoming acquainted with our new
literature from the beginning. My countryman, John George Schlosser,
after spending his academical years with industry and exertion, had
repaired to Frankfort-on-the-Main, in the customary profession of an
advocate; but his mind, aspiring and seeking after the universal, could
not reconcile itself to this situation for many reasons. He accepted,
without hesitation, an office as private secretary to the Duke Ludwig of
Wurtemberg, who resided in Treptow; for the prince was named among those
great men who, in a noble and independent manner, purposed to enlighten
themselves, their families, and the world, and to unite for higher aims.
It was this Prince Ludwig who, to ask advice about the education of his
children, had written to Rousseau, whose well-known answer began with
the suspicious-looking phrase, "/Si j'avais le malheur d'être né

Not only in the affairs of the prince, but also in the education of his
children, Schlosser was now willingly to assist in word and deed, if not
to superintend them. This noble young man, who harbored the best
intentions and strove to attain a perfect purity of morals, would have
easily kept men from him by a certain dry austerity, if his fine and
rare literary cultivation, his knowledge of languages, and his facility
at expressing himself by writing, both in verse and prose, had not
attracted every one, and made living with him more agreeable. It had
been announced to me that he would pass through Leipzig, and I expected
him with longing. He came and put up at a little inn or wine-house that
stood in the /Brühl/ (Marsh), and the host of which was named
Schönkopf. This man had a Frankfort woman for his wife; and although he
entertained few persons during the rest of the year, and could lodge no
guests in his little house, yet at fair-time he was visited by many
Frankforters, who used to eat, and, in case of need, even take quarters,
there also. Thither I hastened to find Schlosser, when he had sent to
inform me of his arrival. I scarcely remembered having seen him before,
and found a young, well-formed man, with a round, compressed face,
without the features losing their sharpness on that account. The form of
his rounded forehead, between black eyebrows and locks, indicated
earnestness, sternness, and perhaps obstinacy. He was, in a certain
measure, the opposite of myself; and this very thing doubtless laid the
foundation of our lasting friendship. I had the greatest respect for his
talents, the more so as I very well saw, that, in the certainty with
which he acted and produced, he was completely my superior. The respect
and the confidence which I showed him confirmed his affection, and
increased the indulgence he was compelled to have for my lively,
impetuous, and ever-excitable disposition, in such contrast with his
own. He studied the English writers diligently: Pope, if not his model,
was his aim; and, in opposition to that author's "Essay on Man," he had
written a poem in like form and measure, which was to give the Christian
religion the triumph over the deism of the other work. From the great
store of papers which he carried with him, he showed me poetical and
prose compositions in all languages, which, as they challenged me to
imitation, once more gave me infinite disquietude. Yet I contrived to
get over it immediately by activity. I wrote German, French, English,
and Italian poems, addressed to him, the subject-matter of which I took
from our conversations, which were always important and instructive.

Schlosser did not wish to leave Leipzig without having seen face to face
the men who had a name. I willingly took him to those I knew: with those
whom I had not yet visited, I in this way became honorably acquainted;
since he was received with distinction as a well-informed man of
education, of already established character, and well knew how to pay
for the outlay of conversation. I cannot pass over our visit we paid to
Gottsched, as it exemplifies the character and manners of that man. He
lived very respectably in the first story of the Golden Bear, where the
elder Breitkopf, on account of the great advantage which Gottsched's
writings, translations, and other aids had brought to the trade, had
promised him a lodging for life.

We were announced. The servant led us into a large chamber, saying his
master would come immediately. Now, whether we misunderstood a gesture
which he made, I cannot say: it is enough, we thought he directed us
into an adjoining room. We entered, to witness a singular scene: for, on
the instant, Gottsched, that tall, broad, gigantic man, came in at the
opposite door in a morning-gown of green damask lined with red taffeta;
but his monstrous head was bald and uncovered. This, however, was to be
immediately provided for: the servant rushed in at a side-door with a
great full-bottomed wig in his hand (the curls came down to the elbows),
and handed the head-ornament to his master with gestures of terror.
Gottsched, without manifesting the least vexation, raised the wig from
the servant's arm with his left hand, and, while he very dexterously
swung it up on his head, gave the poor fellow such a box on the ear with
his right paw, that the latter, as often happens in a comedy, went
spinning out at the door; whereupon the respectable old grandfather
invited us quite gravely to be seated, and kept up a pretty long
discourse with good grace.

As long as Schlosser remained in Leipzig, I dined daily with him, and
became acquainted with a very pleasant set of boarders. Some Livonians,
and the son of Hermann (chief court-preacher in Dresden), afterwards
burgomaster in Leipzig, and their tutor, Hofrath Pfeil, author of the
"Count von P.," a continuation of Gellert's "Swedish Countess;"
Zachariä, a brother of the poet; and Krebel, editor of geographical and
genealogical manuals,--all these were polite, cheerful, and friendly
men. Zachariä was the most quiet; Pfeil, an elegant man, who had
something almost diplomatic about him, yet without affectation, and with
great good humor; Krebel, a genuine Falstaff, tall, corpulent, fair,
with prominent, merry eyes, as bright as the sky, always happy and in
good spirits. These persons all treated me in the most handsome manner,
partly on Schlosser's account--partly, too, on account of my own frank
good humor and obliging disposition; and it needed no great persuasion
to make me partake of their table in future. In fact, I remained with
them after Schlosser's departure, deserted Ludwig's table, and found
myself so much the better off in this society, which was limited to a
certain number, as I was very well pleased with the daughter of the
family, a very neat, pretty girl, and had opportunities to exchange
friendly glances with her,--a comfort which I had neither sought nor
found by accident since the mischance with Gretchen. I spent the dinner-
hours with my friends cheerfully and profitably. Krebel, indeed, loved
me, and continued to tease me and stimulate me in moderation: Pfeil, on
the contrary, showed his earnest affection for me by trying to guide and
settle my judgment upon many points.

During this intercourse, I perceived through conversation, through
examples, and through my own reflections, that the first step in
delivering ourselves from the wishy-washy, long-winded, empty epoch,
could be taken only by definiteness, precision, and brevity. In the
style which had hitherto prevailed, one could not distinguish the
commonplace from what was better; since all were brought down to a level
with each other. Authors had already tried to escape from this wide-
spread disease, with more or less success. Haller and Ramler were
inclined to compression by nature: Lessing and Wieland were led to it by
reflection. The former became by degrees quite epigrammatical in his
poems, terse in "Minna," laconic in "Emilia Galotti,"--it was not till
afterwards that he returned to that serene /naiveté/ which becomes
him so well in "Nathan." "Wieland, who had been occasionally prolix in
"Agathon," "Don Sylvio," and the "Comic Tales," becomes condensed and
precise to a wonderful degree, as well as exceedingly graceful in
"Musarion" and "Idris." Klopstock, in the first cantos of "The Messiah,"
is not without diffuseness: in his "Odes" and other minor poems he
appears compressed, as also in his tragedies. By his emulation of the
ancients, especially Tacitus, he sees himself constantly forced into
narrower limits, by which he at last becomes obscure and unpalatable.
Gerstenberg, a fine but eccentric talent, also distinguishes himself:
his merit is appreciated, but on the whole he gives little pleasure.
Gleim, diffuse and easy by nature, is scarcely once concise in his war-
songs. Ramler is properly more a critic than a poet. He begins to
collect what the Germans have accomplished in lyric poetry. He now
finds, that scarcely one poem fully satisfies him: he must leave out,
arrange, and alter, that the things may have some shape or other. By
this means he makes himself almost as many enemies as there are poets
and amateurs; since every one, properly speaking, recognizes himself
only in his defects: and the public interests itself sooner for a faulty
individuality than for that which is produced or amended according to a
universal law of taste. Rhythm lay yet in the cradle, and no one knew of
a method to shorten its childhood. Poetical prose came into the
ascendant. Gessner and Klopstock excited many imitators: others, again,
still demanded an intelligible metre, and translated this prose into
rhythm. But even these gave nobody satisfaction, for they were obliged
to omit and add; and the prose original always passed for the better of
the two. But the more, with all this, conciseness is aimed at, the more
does a judgment become possible; since that which is important, being
more closely compressed, allows a certain comparison at last. It
happened, also, at the same time, that many kinds of truly poetical
forms arose; for, as they tried to represent only what was necessary in
the objects they wished to imitate, they were forced to do justice to
every one of these: and in this manner, though no one did it
consciously, the modes of representation multiplied themselves, among
which, indeed, were some which were really caricatures, while many an
attempt proved unsuccessful.

Without question, Wieland possessed the finest natural gifts of all. He
had early cultivated himself thoroughly in those ideal regions where
youth so readily lingers; but when, by what is called experience, by the
events of the world, and women, these were rendered distasteful to him,
he threw himself on the side of the actual, and pleased himself and
others with the contest of the two worlds, where, in light skirmishing
between jest and earnest, his talent displayed itself most beautifully.
How many of his brilliant productions fall into the time of my academic
years! "Musarion" had the most effect upon me; and I can yet remember
the place and the very spot where I got sight of the first proof-sheet,
which Oeser gave me. Here it was that I believed I saw antiquity again
living and fresh. Every thing that is plastic in Wieland's genius here
showed itself in its highest perfection; and when that Phanias-Timon,
condemned to an unhappy insipidity, finally reconciles himself to his
mistress and to the world, one can well, with him, live through the
misanthropical epoch. For the rest, we readily conceded to these works a
cheerful aversion from those exalted sentiments, which, by reason of
their easy misapplication to life, are often open to the suspicion of
dreaminess. We pardoned the author for prosecuting with ridicule what we
held as true and reverend, the more readily as he thereby gave us to
understand that it caused him continual trouble.

How miserably criticism then received such labors may be seen from the
first volumes of "The Universal German Library." Of "The Comic Tales"
there is honorable mention, but there is no trace of any insight into
the character of the kind of poetry. The reviewer, like every one at
that time, had formed his taste by examples. He never takes it into
consideration, that, in a judgment of such parodistical works, one must
first of all have before one's eyes the original noble, beautiful
object, in order to see whether the parodist has really gotten from it a
weak and comical side, whether he has borrowed any thing from it, or,
under the appearance of such an imitation, has perhaps given us an
excellent invention of his own. Of all this there is not a notion, but
the poems are praised and blamed by passages. The reviewer, as he
himself confesses, has marked so much that pleased him, that he cannot
quote it all in print. When they even meet the highly meritorious
translation of Shakespeare with the exclamation, "By rights, a man like
Shakespeare should not have been translated at all!" it will be
understood, without further remark, how infinitely "The Universal German
Library" was behind-hand in matters of taste, and that young people,
animated by true feeling, had to look about them for other guiding

The material which, in this manner, more or less determined the form,
the Germans sought everywhere. They had handled few national subjects,
or none at all. Schlegel's "Hermann" only showed the way. The idyllic
tendency extended itself without end. The want of distinctive character
with Gessner, with all his great gracefulness and child-like heartiness,
made every one think that he could do something of the same kind. Just
in the same manner, out of the more generally human, some snatch those
poems which should have portrayed a foreign nationality, as, for
instance, the Jewish pastoral poems, those on the patriarchs altogether,
and whatever else related to the Old Testament. Bodmer's "Noachide" was
a perfect symbol of the watery deluge that swelled high around the
German Parnassus, and which abated but slowly. The leading-strings of
Anacreon likewise allowed innumerable mediocre geniuses to reel about at
large. The precision of Horace compelled the Germans, though but slowly,
to conform to him. Comic heroic poems, mostly after the model of Pope's
"Rape of the Lock," did not serve to bring in a better time.

I must here mention a delusion, which operated as seriously as it must
be ridiculous when one examines it more closely. The Germans had now
sufficient historical knowledge of all the kinds of poetry in which the
different nations had distinguished themselves. This pigeon-hole work,
which, properly speaking, totally destroys the inner conception of
poetry, had been already pretty completely hammered together by
Gottsched in his "Critical Art of Poetry;" and it had been shown at the
same time that German poets, too, had already known how to fill up all
the rubrics with excellent works. And thus it ever went on. Each year
the collection was more considerable, but every year one work pushed
another out of the place in which it had hitherto shone. We now
possessed, if not Homers, yet Virgils and Miltons; if not a Pindar, yet
a Horace; of Theocrituses there was no lack: and thus they weighed
themselves by comparisons from without; whilst the mass of poetical
works always increased, so that at last there could be a comparison from

Now though matters of taste stood on a very uncertain footing, there
could be no dispute but that, within the Protestant part of Germany and
of Switzerland, what is generally called common sense began to stir
briskly at that epoch. The scholastic philosophy--which always has the
merit of propounding according to received axioms, in a favorite order,
and under fixed rubrics, every thing about which man can at all inquire-
-had, by the frequent darkness and apparent uselessness of its subject-
matter, by its unseasonable application of a method in itself
respectable, and by its too great extension over so many subjects, made
itself foreign to the mass, unpalatable, and at last superfluous. Many a
one became convinced that nature had endowed him with as great a portion
of good and straightforward sense as, perchance, he required to form
such a clear notion of objects that he could manage them and turn them
to his own profit, and that of others, without laboriously troubling
himself about the most universal problems, and inquiring how the most
remote things which do not particularly affect us may hang together. Men
made the trial, opened their eyes, looked straight before them,
observant, industrious, active, and believed, that, when one judges and
acts correctly in one's own circle, one may well presume to speak of
other things also, which lie at a greater distance.

In accordance with such a notion, every one was now entitled, not only
to philosophize, but also by degrees to consider himself a philosopher.
Philosophy, therefore, was more or less sound, and practised common
sense, which ventured to enter upon the universal, and to decide upon
inner and outer experiences. A clear-sighted acuteness and an especial

moderation, while the middle path and fairness to all opinions was held
to be right, procured respect and confidence for writings and oral
statements of the sort; and thus at last philosophers were found in all
the faculties,--nay, in all classes and trades.

In this way the theologians could not help inclining to what is called
natural religion; and, when the discussion was how far the light of
nature may suffice to advance us in the knowledge of God and the
improving and ennobling of ourselves, they commonly ventured to decide
in its favor without much scruple. According to the same principle of
moderation, they then granted equal rights to all positive religions, by
which they all became alike indifferent and uncertain. For the rest,
they let every thing stand; and since the Bible is so full of matter,
that, more than any other book, it offers material for reflection and
opportunity for meditation on human affairs, it could still, as before,
be always laid as the foundation of all sermons and other religious

But over this work, as well as over the whole body of profane writers,
was impending a singular fate, which, in the lapse of time, was not to
be averted. Hitherto it had been received as a matter of implicit faith,
that this book of books was composed in one spirit; that it was even
inspired, and, as it were, dictated by the Divine Spirit. Yet for a long
time already the discrepancies of the different parts of it had been now
cavilled at, now apologized for, by believers and unbelievers. English,
French, and Germans had attacked the Bible with more or less violence,
acuteness, audacity, and wantonness; and just as often had it been taken
under the protection of earnest, sound-thinking men of each nation. As
for myself, I loved and valued it; for almost to it alone did I owe my
moral culture: and the events, the doctrines, the symbols, the similes,
had all impressed themselves deeply upon me, and had influenced me in
one way or another. These unjust, scoffing, and perverting attacks,
therefore, disgusted me; but people had already gone so far as very
willingly to admit, partly as a main ground for the defense of many
passages, that God had accommodated himself to the modes of thought and
power of comprehension in men; that even those moved by the Spirit had
not on that account been able to renounce their character, their
individuality, and that Amos, a cow-herd, did not use the language of
Isaiah, who is said to have been a prince.

Out of such views and convictions, especially with a constantly
increasing knowledge of languages, was very naturally developed that
kind of study by which it was attempted to examine more accurately the
Oriental localities, nationalities, natural products, and phenomena, and
in this manner to make present to one's self that ancient time.
Michaelis employed the whole strength of his talents and his knowledge
on this side. Descriptions of travels became a powerful help in
explaining the Holy Scriptures; and later travellers, furnished with
numerous questions, were made, by the answers to them, to bear witness
for the prophets and apostles.

But whilst they were on all sides busied to bring the Holy Scriptures to
a natural intuition, and to render peculiar modes of thought and
representation in them more universally comprehensible, that by this
historico-critical aspect many an objection might be removed, many
offensive things effaced, and many a shallow scoffing be made
ineffective, there appeared in some men just the opposite disposition,
since these chose the darkest, most mysterious, writings as the subject
of their meditations, and wished, if not to elucidate them, yet to
confirm them through internal evidence, by means of conjectures,
calculations, and other ingenious and strange combinations, and, so far
as they contained prophecies, to prove them by the results, and thus to
justify a faith in what was next to be expected.

The venerable Bengel had procured a decided reception for his labors on
the Revelation of St. John, from the fact that he was known as an
intelligent, upright, God-fearing, blameless man. Deep minds are
compelled to live in the past as well as in the future. The ordinary
movements of the world can be of no importance to them, if they do not,
in the course of ages up to the present, revere prophecies which have
been revealed, and in the immediate, as well as in the most remote
futurity, predictions still veiled. Hence arises a connection that is
wanting in history, which seems to give us only an accidental wavering
backwards and forwards in a necessarily limited circle. Doctor Crusius
was one of those whom the prophetic part of Scripture suited more than
any other, since it brings into action the two most opposite qualities
of human nature, the affections, and the acuteness of the intellect.
Many young men had devoted themselves to this doctrine, and already
formed a respectable body, which attracted the more attention, as
Ernesti with his friends threatened, not to illuminate, but completely
to disperse, the obscurity in which these delighted. Hence arose
controversies, hatred, persecution, and much that was unpleasant. I
attached myself to the lucid party, and sought to appropriate to myself
their principles and advantages; although I ventured to forebode, that
by this extremely praiseworthy, intelligent method of interpretation,
the poetic contents of the writings must at last be lost along with the

But those who devoted themselves to German literature and the /belles-
lettres/ were more nearly concerned with the efforts of such men,
who, as Jerusalem, Zollikofer, and Spalding, tried, by means of a good
and pure style in their sermons and treatises, to gain, even among
persons of a certain degree of sense and taste, applause and attachment
for religion, and for the moral philosophy which is so closely related
to it. A pleasing manner of writing began to be necessary everywhere;
and since such a manner must, above all, be comprehensible, so did
writers arise, on many sides, who undertook to write about their studies
and their professions clearly, perspicuously, and impressively, and as
well for the adepts as for the multitude.

After the example of Tissot, a foreigner, the physicians also now began
to labor zealously for the general cultivation. Haller, Unzer,
Zimmerman, had a very great influence; and whatever may be said against
them in detail, especially the last, they produced a very great effect
in their time. And mention should be made of this in history, but
particularly in biography; for a man remains of consequence, not so far
as he leaves something behind him, but so far as he acts and enjoys, and
rouses others to action and enjoyment.

The jurists, accustomed from their youth upward to an abstruse style,
which, in all legal papers, from the petty court of the Immediate Knight
up to the Imperial Diet at Ratisbon, was still maintained in all its
quaintness, could not easily elevate themselves to a certain freedom,
the less so as the subjects of which they had to treat were most
intimately connected with the external form, and consequently also with
the style. But the younger Von Moser had already shown himself an
independent and original writer; and Putter, by the clearness of his
delivery, had also brought clearness into his subject, and the style in
which he was to treat it. All that proceeded from his school was
distinguished by this. And even the philosophers, in order to be
popular, now found themselves compelled to write clearly and
intelligibly. Mendelssohn and Garve appeared, and excited universal
interest and admiration.

With the cultivation of the German language and style in every
department, the capacity for forming a judgment also increased, and we
admire the reviews then published of works upon religious and moral, as
well as medical, subjects; while, on the contrary, we remark that the
judgments of poems, and of whatever else may relate to the /belles-
lettres/, will be found, if not pitiful, at least very feeble. This
holds good of the "Literary Epistles" ("Literaturbriefen"), and of "The
Universal German Library," as well as of "The Library of the Belles-
Lettres," notable instances of which could easily be produced.

No matter in how motley a manner all this might be confused, still, for
every one who contemplated producing any thing from himself,--who would
not merely take the words and phrases out of the mouths of his
predecessors,--there was nothing further left but, early and late, to
look about him for some subject-matter which he might determine to use.
Here, too, we were much led astray. People were constantly repeating a
saying of Kleist, which we had to hear often enough. He had sportively,
ingeniously, and truly replied to those who took him to task on account
of his frequent, lonely walks, "that he was not idle at such times,--he
was going to the image-hunt." This simile was very suitable for a
nobleman and soldier, who by it placed himself in contrast with the men
of his rank, who did not neglect going out, with their guns on their
shoulders, hare-hunting and partridge-shooting, as often as an
opportunity presented itself. Hence we find in Kleist's poems many such
individual images, happily seized, although not always happily
elaborated, which, in a kindly manner, remind us of nature. But now they
also recommended us, quite seriously, to go out on the image-hunt, which
did not at last leave us wholly without fruit; although Apel's garden,
the kitchen-gardens, the Rosenthal, Golis, Raschwitz, and Konnewitz,
would be the oddest ground to beat up poetical game in. And yet I was
often induced by that motive to contrive that my walk should be
solitary; and because many objects neither beautiful nor sublime met the
eye of the beholder, and, in the truly splendid Rosenthal, the gnats, in
the best season of the year, allowed no tender thoughts to arise, so did
I, by unwearied, persevering endeavor, become extremely attentive to the
small life of nature (I would use this word after the analogy of "still
life"); and, since the pretty events which one perceives within this
circle represent but little in themselves, so I accustomed myself to see
in them a significance, which inclined now towards the symbolical, now
towards the allegorical, side, accordingly as intuition, feeling, or
reflection had the preponderance. I will relate one incident in place of

I was, after the fashion of humanity, in love with my name, and, as
young, uneducated people commonly do, wrote it down everywhere. Once I
had carved it very handsomely and accurately on the smooth bark of a
linden-tree of moderate age. The following autumn, when my affection for
Annette was in its fullest bloom, I took the trouble to cut hers above
it. Towards the end of the winter, in the mean time, like a capricious
lover, I had wantonly sought many opportunities to tease her and cause
her vexation: in the spring I chanced to visit the spot; and the sap,
which was rising strongly in the trees, had welled out through the
incisions which formed her name, and which were not yet crusted over,
and moistened with innocent vegetable tears the already hardened traces
of my own. Thus to see her here weeping over me,--me, who had so often
called up her tears by my ill conduct, filled me with confusion. At the
remembrance of my injustice and of her love, even the tears came into my
eyes; I hastened to implore pardon of her, doubly and trebly: and I
turned this incident into an idyl, [Footnote: Die Laune des Verliebten,
translated as The Lover's Caprice, see p. 241.] which I never could read
to myself without affection, or to others without emotion.

While I now, like a shepherd on the Pleisse, was absorbed childishly
enough in such tender subjects, and always chose only such as I could
easily recall into my bosom, provision from a greater and more important
side had long been made for German poets.

The first true and really vital material of the higher order came into
German poetry through Frederick the Great and the deeds of the Seven
Years' War. All national poetry must be shallow or become shallow which
does not rest on that which is most universally human,--upon the events
of nations and their shepherds, when both stand for one man. Kings are
to be represented in war and danger, where, by that very means, they
appear as the first, because they determine and share the fate of the
very least, and thus become much more interesting than the gods
themselves, who, when they have once determined the fates, withdraw from
all participation in them. In this view of the subject, every nation, if
it would be worth any thing at all, must possess an epopee, to which the
precise form of the epic poem is not necessary.

The war-songs started by Gleim maintain so high a rank among German
poems, because they arose with and in the achievements which are their
subject; and because, moreover, their felicitous form, just as if a
fellow-combatant had produced them in the loftiest moments, makes us
feel the most complete effectiveness.

Ramler sings the deeds of his king in a different and most noble manner.
All his poems are full of matter, and occupy us with great, heart-
elevating objects, and thus already maintain an indestructible value.

For the internal matter of the subject treated is the beginning and end
of art. It will not, indeed, be denied that genius, that thoroughly
cultivated artistical talent, can make every thing out of every thing by
its method of treatment, and can subdue the most refractory material.
But, when closely examined, the result is rather a trick of art than a
work of art, which should rest upon a worthy object, that the treatment
of it, by skill, pains, and industry, may present to us the dignity of
the subject-matter only the more happily and splendidly.

The Prussians, and with them Protestant Germany, acquired thus for their
literature a treasure which the opposite party lacked, and the want of
which they have been able to supply by no subsequent endeavors. Upon the
great idea which the Prussian writers might well entertain of their
king, they first established themselves, and the more zealously as he,
in whose name they did it all, wished once for all to know nothing about
them. Already before this, through the French colony, afterwards through
the king's predilection for the literature of that nation and for their
financial institutions, had a mass of French civilization come into
Prussia, which was highly advantageous to the Germans, since by it they
were challenged to contradiction and resistance; thus the very aversion
of Frederick from German was a fortunate thing for the formation of its
literary character. They did every thing to attract the king's
attention, not indeed to be honored, but only noticed, by him; yet they
did it in German fashion, from an internal conviction; they did what
they held to be right, and desired and wished that the king should
recognize and prize this German uprightness. That did not and could not
happen; for how can it be required of a king, who wishes to live and
enjoy himself intellectually, that he shall lose his years in order to
see what he thinks barbarous developed and rendered palatable too late?
In matters of trade and manufacture, he might indeed force upon himself,
but especially upon his people, very moderate substitutes instead of
excellent foreign wares; but here every thing comes to perfection more
rapidly, and it needs not a man's life-time to bring such things to

But I must here, first of all, make honorable mention of one work, the
most genuine production of the Seven Years' War, and of perfect North-
German nationality: it is the first theatrical production caught from
the important events of life, one of specific, temporary value, and one
which therefore produced an incalculable effect,--"Minna von Barnhelm."
Lessing, who, in opposition to Klopstock and Gleim, was fond of casting
off his personal dignity, because he was confident that he could at any
moment grasp and take it up again, delighted in a dissipated life in
taverns and the world, as he always needed a strong counterpoise to his
powerfully laboring interior; and for this reason, also, he had joined
the suite of Gen. Tauentzien. One easily discovers how the above-
mentioned piece was generated betwixt war and peace, hatred and
affection. It was this production which happily opened the view into a
higher, more significant, world, from the literary and citizen world in
which poetic art had hitherto moved.

The intense hatred in which the Prussians and Saxons stood towards each
other during this war could not be removed by its termination. The Saxon
now first felt, with true bitterness, the wounds which the upstart
Prussian had inflicted upon him. Political peace could not immediately
re-establish a peace between their dispositions. But this was to be
brought about symbolically by the above-mentioned drama. The grace and
amiability of the Saxon ladies conquer the worth, the dignity, and the
stubbornness of the Prussians; and, in the principal as well as in the
subordinate characters, a happy union of bizarre and contradictory
elements is artistically represented.

If I have put my reader in some perplexity by these cursory and
desultory remarks on German literature, I have succeeded in giving them
a conception of that chaotic condition in which my poor brain found
itself, when, in the conflict of two epochs so important for the
literary fatherland, so much that was new crowded in upon me before I
could come to terms with the old, so much that was old yet made me feel
its right over me, when I believed I had already cause to venture on
renouncing it altogether. I will at present try to impart, as well as
possible, the way I entered on to extricate myself from this difficulty,
if only step by step.

The period of prolixity into which my youth had fallen, I had labored
through with genuine industry, in company with so many worthy men. The
numerous quarto volumes of manuscript which I left behind with my father
might serve for sufficient witnesses of this; and what a mass of essays,
rough draughts, and half-executed designs, had, more from despondency
than conviction, gone up in smoke! Now, through conversation, through
instruction in general, through so many conflicting opinions, but
especially through my fellow-boarder Hofrath Pfeil, I learned to value
more and more the importance of the subject-matter and the conciseness
of the treatment; without, however, being able to make it clear to
myself where the former was to be sought, or how the latter was to be
attained. For, what with the great narrowness of my situation; what with
the indifference of my companions, the reserve of the professors, the
exclusiveness of the educated inhabitants; and what with the perfect
insignificance of the natural objects,--I was compelled to seek for
every thing within myself. Whenever I desired a true basis in feeling or
reflection for my poems, I was forced to grasp into my own bosom;
whenever I required for my poetic representation an immediate intuition
of an object or an event, I could not step outside the circle which was
fitted to teach me, and inspire me with an interest. In this view I
wrote at first certain little poems, in the form of songs or in a freer
measure: they are founded on reflection, treat of the past, and for the
most part take an epigrammatic turn.

And thus began that tendency from which I could not deviate my whole
life through; namely, the tendency to turn into an image, into a poem,
every thing that delighted or troubled me, or otherwise occupied me, and
to come to some certain understanding with myself upon it, that I might
both rectify my conceptions of external things, and set my mind at rest
about them. The faculty of doing this was necessary to no one more than
to me, for my natural disposition whirled me constantly from one extreme
to the other. All, therefore, that has been confessed by me, consists of
fragments of a great confession; and this little book is an attempt
which I have ventured on to render it complete.

My early affection for Gretchen I had now transferred to one Annette
(/Aennchen/), of whom I can say nothing more than that she was
young, handsome, sprightly, loving, and so agreeable that she well
deserved to be set up for a time in the shrine of the heart as a little
saint, that she might receive all that reverence which it often causes
more pleasure to bestow than to receive. I saw her daily without
hinderance; she helped to prepare the meals I enjoyed; she brought, in
the evening at least, the wine I drank; and indeed our select club of
noon-day boarders was a warranty that the little house, which was
visited by few guests except during the fair, well merited its good
reputation. Opportunity and inclination were found for various kinds of
amusement. But, as she neither could nor dared go much out of the house,
the pastime was somewhat limited. We sang the songs of Zachariä; played
the "Duke Michael" of Krüger, in which a knotted handkerchief had to
take the place of the nightingale; and so, for a while, it went on quite
tolerably. But since such connections, the more innocent they are,
afford the less variety in the long run, I was seized with that wicked
distemper which seduces us to derive amusement from the torment of a
beloved one, and to domineer over a girl's devotedness with wanton and
tyrannical caprice. My ill humor at the failure of my poetical attempts,
at the apparent impossibility of coming to a clear understanding about
them, and at every thing else that might pinch me here and there, I
thought I might vent on her, because she truly loved me with all her
heart, and did whatever she could to please me. By unfounded and absurd
fits of jealousy, I destroyed our most delightful days, both for myself
and her. She endured it for a time with incredible patience, which I was
cruel enough to try to the uttermost. But, to my shame and despair, I
was at last forced to remark that her heart was alienated from me, and
that I might now have good ground for the madness in which I had
indulged without necessity and without cause. There were also terrible
scenes between us, in which I gained nothing; and I then first felt that
I had truly loved her, and could not bear to lose her. My passion grew,
and assumed all the forms of which it is capable under such
circumstances; nay, at last I even took up the /rôle/ which the
girl had hitherto played. I sought every thing possible in order to be
agreeable to her, even to procure her pleasure by means of others; for I
could not renounce the hope of winning her again. But it was too late! I
had lost her really; and the frenzy with which I revenged my fault upon
myself, by assaulting in various frantic ways my physical nature, in
order to inflict some hurt on my moral nature, contributed very much to
the bodily maladies under which I lost some of the best years of my
life: indeed, I should perchance have been completely ruined by this
loss, had not my poetic talent here shown itself particularly helpful
with its healing power.

Already, at many intervals before, I had clearly enough perceived my ill
conduct. I really pitied the poor child, when I saw her so thoroughly
wounded by me, without necessity. I pictured to myself so often and so
circumstantially her condition and my own, and, as a contrast, the
contented state of another couple in our company, that at last I could
not forbear treating this situation dramatically, as a painful and
instructive penance. Hence arose the oldest of my extant dramatic
labors, the little piece entitled, "Die Laune des Verliebten" ("The
Lover's Caprice"), in the simple nature of which one may at the same
time perceive the impetus of a boiling passion.

But, before this, a deep, significant, impulsive world had already
interested me. Through my adventure with Gretchen and its consequences,
I had early looked into the strange labyrinths by which civil society is
undermined. Religion, morals, law, rank, connections, custom, all rule
only the surface of city existence. The streets, bordered by splendid
houses, are kept neat; and every one behaves himself there properly
enough: but, indoors, it often seems only so much the more disordered;
and a smooth exterior, like a thin coat of mortar, plasters over many a
rotten wall that tumbles together overnight, and produces an effect the
more frightful, as it comes into the midst of a condition of repose. A
great many families, far and near, I had seen already, either
overwhelmed in ruin or kept miserably hanging on the brink of it, by
means of bankruptcies, divorces, seduced daughters, murders, house-
robberies, poisonings; and, young as I was, I had often, in such cases,
lent a hand for help and preservation. For as my frankness awakened
confidence; as my secrecy was proved; as my activity feared no
sacrifice, and loved best to exert itself in the most dangerous
affairs,--I had often enough found opportunity to mediate, to hush up,
to divert the lightning-flash, with every other assistance of the kind;
in the course of which, as well in my own person as through others, I
could not fail to come to the knowledge of many afflicting and
humiliating facts. To relieve myself I designed several plays, and wrote
the arguments [Footnote: "/Exposition/," in a dramatic sense,
properly means a statement of the events which take place before the
action of the play commences.--TRANS.] of most of them. But since the
intrigues were always obliged to be painful, and almost all these pieces
threatened a tragical conclusion, I let them drop one after another.
"Die Mitschuldigen" ("The Accomplices") is the only one that was
finished, the cheerful and burlesque tone of which upon the gloomy
family-ground appears as if accompanied by something causing anxiety; so
that, on the whole, it is painful in representation, although it pleases
in detached passages. The illegal deeds, harshly expressed, wound the
aesthetic and moral feeling, and the piece could therefore find no favor
on the German stage; although the imitations of it, which steered clear
of those rocks, were received with applause.

Both the above-mentioned pieces were, however, written from a more
elevated point of view, without my having been aware of it. They direct
us to a considerate forbearance in casting moral imputations, and in
somewhat harsh and coarse touches sportively express that most Christian
maxim, /Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone/.

Through this earnestness, which cast a gloom over my first pieces, I
committed the mistake of neglecting very favorable materials which lay
quite decidedly in my natural disposition. In the midst of these
serious, and, for a young man, fearful, experiences, was developed in me
a reckless humor, which feels itself superior to the moment, and not
only fears no danger, but rather wantonly courts it. The reason of this
lay in the exuberance of spirits in which the vigorous time of life so
much delights, and which, if it manifests itself in a frolicsome way,
causes much pleasure, both at the moment and in remembrance. These
things are so usual, that, in the vocabulary of our young university
friends, they are called /Suites/; and, on account of the close
similarity of signification, to say "play /suites/," means just the
same as to "play pranks." [Footnote: The real meaning of the passage is,
that the idiom "Possen reissen" is used also with the university word
"Suite," so that one can say "Suiten reissen."--TRANS.]

Such humorous acts of daring, brought on the theatre with wit and sense,
are of the greatest effect. They are distinguished from intrigue,
inasmuch as they are momentary, and that their aim, whenever they are to
have one, must not be remote. Beaumarchais has seized their full value,
and the effects of his "Figaro" spring pre-eminently from this. Whereas
such good-humored roguish and half-knavish pranks are practised with
personal risk for noble ends, the situations which arise from them are
aesthetically and morally considered of the greatest value for the
theatre; as, for instance, the opera of "The Water-Carrier" treats
perhaps the happiest subject which we have ever yet seen upon the stage.

To enliven the extreme tedium of daily life, I played off numberless
tricks of the sort, partly without any aim at all, partly in the service
of my friends, whom I liked to please. For myself, I could not say that
I had once acted in this designedly, nor did I ever happen to consider a
feat of the kind as a subject for art. Had I, however, seized upon and
elaborated such materials, which were so close at hand, my earliest
labors would have been more cheerful and available. Some incidents of
this kind occur indeed later, but isolated and without design. For since
the heart always lies nearer to us than the head, and gives us trouble,
whereas the latter knows how to set matters to rights, the affairs of
the heart had always appeared to me as the most important. I was never
weary of reflecting upon the transient nature of attachments, the
mutability of human character, moral sensuality, and all the heights and
depths, the combination of which in our nature may be considered as the
riddle of human life. Here, too, I sought to get rid of that which
troubled me, in a song, an epigram, in some kind of rhyme; which, since
they referred to the most private feelings and the most peculiar
circumstances, could scarcely interest any one but myself.

In the mean time, my external position had very much changed after the
lapse of a short time. Madame Böhme, after a long and melancholy
illness, had at last died: she had latterly ceased to admit me to her
presence. Her husband could not be very much satisfied with me: I seemed
to him not sufficiently industrious, and too frivolous. He especially
took it very ill of me, when it was told him, that at the lectures on
German Public Law, instead of taking proper notes, I had been drawing on
the margin of my note-book the personages presented to our notice in
them, such as the President of the Chamber, the Moderators and
Assessors, in strange wigs; and by this drollery had disturbed my
attentive neighbors and set them laughing. After the loss of his wife he
lived still more retired than before, and at last I shunned him in order
to avoid his reproaches. But it was peculiarly unfortunate that Gellert
would not use the power which he might have exercised over us. Indeed,
he had not time to play the father-confessor, and to inquire after the
character and faults of everybody: he therefore took the matter very
much in the lump, and thought to curb us by means of the church forms.
For this reason he commonly, when he admitted us to his presence, used
to lower his little head, and, in his weeping, winning voice, to ask us
whether we went regularly to church, who was our confessor, and whether
we took the holy communion? If we came off badly at this examination, we
were dismissed with lamentations: we were more vexed than edified, yet
could not help loving the man heartily.

On this occasion I cannot forbear recalling somewhat of my earlier
youth, in order to make it obvious that the great affairs of the
ecclesiastical religion must be carried on with order and coherence, if
they are to prove as fruitful as is expected. The Protestant service has
too little fulness and consistency to be able to hold the congregation
together; hence it easily happens that members secede from it, and
either form little congregations of their own, or, without
ecclesiastical connection, quietly carry on their citizen-life side by
side. Thus for a considerable time complaints were made that church-
goers were diminishing from year to year, and, just in the same ratio,
the persons who partook of the Lord's Supper. With respect to both, but
especially the latter, the cause lies close at hand; but who dares to
speak it out? We will make the attempt.

In moral and religious, as well as in physical and civil, matters, man
does not like to do any thing on the spur of the moment; he needs a
sequence from which results habit; what he is to love and to perform, he
cannot represent to himself as single or isolated; and, if he is to
repeat any thing willingly, it must not have become strange to him. If
the Protestant worship lacks fulness in general, so let it be
investigated in detail, and it will be found that the Protestant has too
few sacraments,--nay, indeed, he has only one in which he is himself an
actor,--the Lord's Supper; for baptism he sees only when it is performed
on others, and is not greatly edified by it. The sacraments are the
highest part of religion, the symbols to our senses of an extraordinary
divine favor and grace. In the Lord's Supper earthly lips are to receive
a divine Being embodied, and partake of a heavenly under the form of an
earthly nourishment. This import is the same in all kinds of Christian
churches: whether the sacrament is taken with more or less submission to
the mystery, with more or less accommodation as to that which is
intelligible, it always remains a great, holy thing, which in reality
takes the place of the possible or the impossible, the place of that
which man can neither attain nor do without. But such a sacrament should
not stand alone: no Christian can partake of it with the true joy for
which it is given, if the symbolical or sacramental sense is not
fostered within him. He must be accustomed to regard the inner religion
of the heart and that of the external church as perfectly one, as the
great universal sacrament, which again divides itself into so many
others, and communicates to these parts its holiness,
indestructibleness, and eternity.

Here a youthful pair join hands, not for a passing salutation or for the
dance: the priest pronounces his blessing upon them, and the bond is
indissoluble. It is not long before this wedded pair bring a likeness to
the threshold of the altar: it is purified with holy water, and so
incorporated into the church, that it cannot forfeit this benefit but
through the most monstrous apostasy. The child in the course of life
goes on progressing in earthly things of his own accord, in heavenly
things he must be instructed. Does it prove on examination that this has
been fully done, he is now received into the bosom of the church as an
actual citizen, as a true and voluntary professor, not without outward
tokens of the weightiness of this act. Now, only, he is decidedly a
Christian, now for the first time he knows his advantages and also his
duties. But, in the mean time, a great deal that is strange has happened
to him as a man: through instruction and affliction he has come to know
how critical appears the state of his inner self, and there will
constantly be a question of doctrines and of transgressions; but
punishment shall no longer take place. For here, in the infinite
confusion in which he must entangle himself, amid the conflict of
natural and religious claims, an admirable expedient is given him, in
confiding his deeds and misdeeds, his infirmities and doubts, to a
worthy man, appointed expressly for that purpose, who knows how to calm,
to warn, to strengthen him, to chasten him likewise by symbolical
punishments, and at last, by a complete washing away of his guilt, to
render him happy, and to give him back, pure and cleansed, the tablet of
his manhood. Thus prepared, and purely set at rest by several
sacramental acts, which on closer examination branch forth again into
minuter sacramental traits, he kneels down to receive the host; and,
that the mystery of this high act may be still enhanced, he sees the
chalice only in the distance: it is no common eating and drinking that
satisfies, it is a heavenly feast, which makes him thirst after heavenly

Yet let not the youth believe that this is all he has to do; let not
even the man believe it. In earthly relations we are at last accustomed
to depend on ourselves; and, even there, knowledge, understanding, and
character will not always suffice: in heavenly things, on the contrary,
we have never finished learning. The higher feeling within us, which
often finds itself not even truly at home, is, besides, oppressed by so
much from without, that our own power hardly administers all that is
necessary for counsel, consolation, and help. But, to this end, that
remedy is instituted for our whole life; and an intelligent, pious man
is continually waiting to show the right way to the wanderers, and to
relieve the distressed.

And what has been so well tried through the whole life, is now to show
forth all its healing power with tenfold activity at the gate of Death.
According to a trustful custom, inculcated from youth upwards, the dying
man receives with fervor those symbolical, significant assurances; and
there, where every earthly warranty fails, he is assured, by a heavenly
one, of a blessed existence for all eternity. He feels perfectly
convinced that neither a hostile element nor a malignant spirit can
hinder him from clothing himself with a glorified body, so that, in
immediate relation with the Godhead, he may partake of the boundless
happiness which flows forth from him.

Then, in conclusion, that the whole may be made holy, the feet also are
anointed and blessed. They are to feel, even in the event of possible
recovery, a repugnance to touching this earthly, hard, impenetrable
soil. A wonderful elasticity is to be imparted to them, by which they
spurn from under them the clod of earth which hitherto attracted them.
And so, through a brilliant cycle of equally holy acts, the beauty of
which we have only briefly hinted at, the cradle and the grave, however
far asunder they may chance to be, are joined in one continuous circle.

But all these spiritual wonders spring not, like other fruits, from the
natural soil, where they can neither be sown nor planted nor cherished.
We must supplicate for them from another region,--a thing which cannot
be done by all persons nor at all times. Here we meet the highest of
these symbols, derived from pious tradition. We are told that one man
may be more favored, blessed, and sanctified from above than another.
But, that this may not appear as a natural gift, this great boon, bound
up with a heavy duty, must be communicated to others by one authorized
person to another; and the greatest good that a man can attain, without
his having to obtain it by his own wrestling or grasping, must be
preserved and perpetuated on earth by spiritual inheritance. In the very
ordination of the priest is comprehended all that is necessary for the
effectual solemnizing of those holy acts by which the multitude receive
grace, without any other activity being needful on their part than that
of faith and implicit confidence. And thus the priest joins the line of
his predecessors and successors, in the circle of those anointed with
him, representing the highest source of blessings, so much the more
gloriously, as it is not he, the priest, whom we reverence, but his
office: it is not his nod to which we bow the knee, but the blessing
which he imparts, and which seems the more holy, and to come the more
immediately from heaven, because the earthly instrument cannot at all
weaken or invalidate it by its own sinful, nay, wicked, nature.

How is this truly spiritual connection shattered to pieces in
Protestantism, by part of the above-mentioned symbols being declared
apocryphal, and only a few canonical!--and how, by their indifference to
one of these, will they prepare us for the high dignity of the others?

In my time I had been confided to the religious instruction of a good
old infirm clergyman, who had been confessor of the family for many
years. The "Catechism," a "Paraphrase" of it, and the "Scheme of
Salvation," I had at my finger's ends: I lacked not one of the strongly
proving biblical texts, but from all this I reaped no fruit; for, as
they assured me that the honest old man arranged his chief examimation
according to an old set form, I lost all pleasure and inclination for
the business, spent the last week in all sorts of diversions, laid in my
hat the loose leaves borrowed from an older friend, who had gotten them
from the clergyman, and unfeelingly and senselessly read aloud all that
I should have known how to utter with feeling and conviction.

But I found my good intention and my aspirations in this important
matter still more paralyzed by a dry, spiritless routine, when I was now
to approach the confessional. I was indeed conscious of having many
failings, but no great faults; and that very consciousness diminished
them, since it directed me to the moral strength which lay within me,
and which, with resolution and perseverance, was at last to become
master over the old Adam. We were taught that we were much better than
the Catholics for the very reason, that we were not obliged to confess
any thing in particular in the confessional,--nay, that this would not
be at all proper, even if we wished to do it. I did not like this at
all; for I had the strangest religious doubts, which I would readily
have had cleared up on such an occasion. Now, as this was not to be
done, I composed a confession for myself, which, while it well expressed
my state of mind, was to confess to an intelligent man, in general
terms, that which I was forbidden to tell him in detail. But when I
entered the old choir of the Barefoot Friars, when I approached the
strange latticed closets in which the reverend gentlemen used to be
found for that purpose, when the sexton opened the door for me, when I
now saw myself shut up in the narrow place face to face with my
spiritual grandsire, and he bade me welcome with his weak, nasal voice,
all the light of my mind and heart was extinguished at once, the well-
conned confession-speech would not cross my lips: in my embarrassment I
opened the book I had in my hand, and read from it the first short form
I saw, which was so general, that anybody might have spoken it with
quite a safe conscience. I received absolution, and withdrew neither
warm nor cold; went the next day with my parents to the Table of the
Lord, and, for a few days, behaved myself as was becoming after so holy
an act.

In the sequel, however, there came over me that evil, which, from the
fact of our religion being complicated by various dogmas, and founded on
texts of scripture which admit of several interpretations, attacks
scrupulous men in such a manner, that it brings on a hypochondriacal
condition, and raises this to its highest point, to fixed ideas. I have
known several men, who, though their manner of thinking and living was
perfectly rational, could not free themselves from thinking about the
sin against the Holy Ghost, and from the fear that they had committed
it. A similar trouble threatened me on the subject of the communion; for
the text, that one who unworthily partakes of the sacrament /eateth
and drinketh damnation to himself/, had, very early, already made a
monstrous impression upon me. Every fearful thing that I had read in the
histories of the Middle Ages, of the judgments of God, of those most
strange ordeals, by red-hot iron, flaming fire, swelling water, and even
what the Bible tells us of the draught which agrees well with the
innocent, but puffs up and bursts the guilty,--all this pictured itself
to my imagination, and formed itself into the most frightful
combinations; since false vows, hypocrisy, perjury, blasphemy, all
seemed to weigh down the unworthy person at this most holy act, which
was so much the more horrible, as no one could dare to pronounce himself
worthy: and the forgiveness of sins, by which every thing was to be at
last; done away, was found limited by so many conditions, that one could
not with certainty dare appropriate it to one's self.

This gloomy scruple troubled me to such a degree, and the expedient
which they would represent to me as sufficient seemed so bald and
feeble, that it gave the bugbear only a more fearful aspect; and, as
soon as I had reached Leipzig, I tried to free myself altogether from my
connection with the church. How oppressive, then, must have been to me
the exhortations of Gellert, whom, considering the generally laconic
style with which he was obliged to repel our obtrusiveness, I was
unwilling to trouble with such singular questions, and the less so as in
my more cheerful hours I way myself ashamed of them, and at last left
completely behind me this strange anguish of conscience, together with
church and altar.

Gellert, in accordance with his pious feelings, had composed for himself
a course of ethics, which from time to time he publicly read, and thus
in an honorable manner acquitted himself of his duty to the public.
Gellert's writings had already, for a long time, been the foundation of
German moral culture, and every one anxiously wished to see that work
printed; but, as this was not to be done till after the good man's
death, people thought themselves very fortunate to hear him deliver it
himself in his lifetime. The philosophical auditorium [Footnote: The
lecture-room. The word is also used in university language to denote a
professor's audience.] was at such times crowded: and the beautiful
soul, the pure will, and the interest of the noble man in our welfare,
his exhortations, warnings, and entreaties, uttered in a somewhat hollow
and sorrowful tone, made indeed an impression for the moment; but this
did not last long, the less so as there were many scoffers, who
contrived to make us suspicious of this tender, and, as they thought,
enervating, manner. I remember a Frenchman travelling through the town,
who asked what were the maxims and opinions of the man who attracted
such an immense concourse. "When we had given him the necessary
information, he shook his head, and said, smiling, "/Laissez le faire,
il nous forme des dupes./"

And thus also did good society, which cannot easily endure any thing
worthy near it, know how to spoil, on occasion, the moral influence
which Gellert might have had upon us. Now it was taken ill of him that
he instructed the Danes of distinction and wealth, who were particularly
recommended to him, better than the other students, and had a marked
solicitude for them; now he was charged with selfishness and nepotism
for causing a /table d'hôte/ to be established for these young men
at his brother's house. This brother, a tall, good-looking, blunt,
unceremonious, and somewhat coarse, man, had, it was said, been a
fencing-master; and, notwithstanding the too great lenity of his
brother, the noble boarders were often treated harshly and roughly:
hence the people thought they must again take the part of these young
folks, and pulled about the good reputation of the excellent Gellert to
such a degree, that, in order not to be mistaken about him, we became
indifferent towards him, and visited him no more; yet we always saluted
him in our best manner when he came riding along on his tame gray horse.
This horse the elector had sent him, to oblige him to take an exercise
so necessary for his health,--a distinction for which he was not easily
to be forgiven.

And thus, by degrees, the epoch approached when all authority was to
vanish from before me, and I was to become suspicious--nay, to despair,
even--of the greatest and best individuals whom I had known or imagined.

Frederick the Second still stood at the head of all the distinguished
men of the century in my thoughts; and it must therefore have appeared
very surprising to me, that I could praise him as little before the
inhabitants of Leipzig as formerly in my grandfather's house. They had
felt the hand of war heavily, it is true; and therefore they were not to
blame for not thinking the best of him who had begun and continued it.
They, therefore, were willing to let him pass as a distinguished, but by
no means as a great, man. "There was no art," they said, "in performing
something with great means; and, if one spares neither lands nor money
nor blood, one may well accomplish one's purpose at last. Frederick had
shown himself great in none of his plans, and in nothing that he had,
properly speaking, undertaken. So long as it depended on himself, he had
only gone on making blunders, and what was extraordinary in him had only
come to light when he was compelled to make these blunders good again.
It was purely from this that he had obtained his great reputation; since
every man wishes for himself that same talent of making good, in a
clever way, the blunders which he frequently commits. If one goes
through the Seven Years' War, step by step, it will be found that the
king quite uselessly sacrificed his fine army, and that it was his own
fault that this ruinous feud had been protracted to so great a length. A
truly great man and general would have got the better of his enemies
much sooner." In support of these opinions they could cite infinite
details, which I did not know how to deny; and I felt the unbounded
reverence which I had devoted to this remarkable prince, from my youth
upwards, gradually cooling away.

As the inhabitants of Leipzig had now destroyed for me the pleasant
feeling of revering a great man; so did a new friend, whom I gained at
the time, very much diminish the respect which I entertained for my
present fellow-citizens. This friend was one of the strangest fellows in
the world. He was named Behrisch, and was tutor to the young Count
Lindenau. Even his exterior was singular enough. Lean and well-built,
far advanced in the thirties, a very large nose, and altogether marked
features: he wore from morning till night a scratch which might well
have been called a peruke, but dressed himself very neatly, and never
went out but with his sword by his side, and his hat under his arm. He
was one of those men who have quite a peculiar gift of killing time, or,
rather, who know how to make something out of nothing, in order to pass
time away. Every thing he did had to be done with slowness, and with a
certain deportment which might have been called affected if Behrisch had
not even by nature had something affected in his manner. He resembled an
old Frenchman, and also spoke and wrote French very well and easily. His
greatest delight was to busy himself seriously about drolleries, and to
follow up without end any silly notion. Thus he was constantly dressed
in gray; and as the different parts of his attire were of different
material, and also of different shades, he could reflect for whole days
as to how he should procure one gray more for his body, and was happy
when he had succeeded in this, and could put to shame us who had doubted
it, or had pronounced it impossible. He then gave us long, severe
lectures about our lack of inventive power, and our want of faith in his

For the rest, he had studied well, was particularly versed in the modern
languages and their literature, and wrote an excellent hand. He was very
well disposed towards me; and I, having been always accustomed and
inclined to the society of older persons, soon attached myself to him.
My intercourse served him, too, for a special amusement; since he took
pleasure in taming my restlessness and impatience, with which, on the
other hand, I gave him enough to do. In the art of poetry he had what is
called taste,--a certain general opinion about the good and bad, the
mediocre and tolerable: but his judgment was rather censorious; and he
destroyed even the little faith in contemporary writers which I
cherished within me, by unfeeling remarks, which he knew how to advance
with wit and humor, about the writings and poems of this man and that.
He received my productions with indulgence, and let me have my own way,
but only on the condition that I should have nothing printed. He
promised me, on the other hand, that he himself would copy those pieces
which he thought good, and would present me with them in a handsome
volume. This undertaking now afforded an opportunity for the greatest
possible waste of time. For before he could find the right paper, before
he could make up his mind as to the size, before he had settled the
breadth of the margin and the form of handwriting, before the crow-
quills were provided and cut into pens, and Indian ink was rubbed, whole
weeks passed, without the least bit having been done. With just as much
ado he always set about his writing, and really, by degrees, put
together a most charming manuscript. The title of the poems was in
German text; the verses themselves in a perpendicular Saxon hand; and at
the end of every poem was an analogous vignette, which he had either
selected somewhere or other, or had invented himself, and in which he
contrived to imitate very neatly the hatching of the wood-cuts and tail-
pieces which are used for such purposes. To show me these things as he
went on, to celebrate beforehand in a comico-pathetical manner my good
fortune in seeing myself immortalized in such exquisite handwriting, and
that in a style which no printing-press could attain, gave another
occasion for passing the most agreeable hours. In the mean time, his
intercourse was always secretly instructive, by reason of his liberal
acquirements, and, as he knew how to subdue my restless, impetuous
disposition, was also quite wholesome for me in a moral sense. He had,
too, quite a peculiar abhorrence of roughness; and his jests were always
quaint without ever falling into the coarse or the trivial. He indulged
himself in a distorted aversion from his countrymen, and described with
ludicrous touches even what they were able to undertake. He was
particularly inexhaustible in a comical representation of individual
persons, as he found something to find fault with in the exterior of
every one. Thus, when we lay together at the window, he could occupy
himself for hours criticising the passers-by, and, when he had censured
them long enough, in showing exactly and circumstantially how they ought
to have dressed themselves, ought to have walked, and ought to have
behaved, to look like orderly people. Such attempts, for the most part,
ended in something improper and absurd; so that we did not so much laugh
at how the man looked, but at how, perchance, he might have looked had
he been mad enough to caricature himself. In all such matters. Behrisch
went quite unmercifully to work, without being in the slightest degree
malicious On the other hand, we knew how to tease him, on our side, by
assuring him, that, to judge from his exterior, he must be taken, if not
for a French dancing-master, at least for the academical teacher of the
language. This reproval was usually the signal for dissertations an hour
long, in which he used to set forth the difference, wide as the heavens,
which there was between him and an old Frenchman. At the same time he
commonly imputed to us all sorts of awkward attempts, that we might
possibly have made for the alteration and modification of his wardrobe.

My poetical compositions, which I only carried on the more zealously as
the transcript went on becoming more beautiful and more careful, now
inclined altogether to the natural and the true: and if the subjects
could not always be important, I nevertheless always endeavored to
express them clearly and pointedly, the more so as my friend often gave
me to understand what a great thing it was to write down a verse on
Dutch paper, with the crow-quill and Indian ink; what time, talent, and
exertion it required, which ought not to be squandered on any thing
empty and superfluous. He would, at the same time, open a finished
parcel, and circumstantially to explain what ought not to stand in this
or that place, or congratulate us that it actually did not stand there.
He then spoke with great contempt of the art of printing, mimicked the
compositor, ridiculed his gestures and his hurried picking out of
letters here and there, and derived from this manoeuvre all the
calamities of literature. On the other hand, he extolled the grace and
noble posture of a writer, and immediately sat down himself to exhibit
it to us; while he rated us at the same time for not demeaning ourselves
at the writing-table precisely after his example and model. He now
reverted to the contrast with the compositor, turned a begun letter
upside down, and showed how unseemly it would be to write any thing from
the bottom to the top, or from the right to the left, with other things
of like kind with which whole volumes might have been filled.

With such harmless fooleries we squandered our precious time; while it
could have occurred to none of us, that any thing would chance to
proceed out of our circle which would awaken a general sensation and
bring us into not the best repute.

Gellert may have taken little pleasure in his "Practicum;" and if,
perhaps, he took pleasure in giving some directions as to prose and
poetical style, he did it most privately only to a few, among whom we
could not number ourselves. Professor Clodius thought to fill the gap
which thus arose in the public instruction. He had gained some renown in
literature, criticism, and poetry, and, as a young, lively, obliging
man, found many friends, both in the university and in the city. Gellert
himself referred us to the lectures now commenced by him; and, as far as
the principal matter was concerned, we remarked little difference. He,
too, only criticised details, corrected likewise with red ink; and one
found one's self in company with mere blunders, without a prospect as to
where the right was to be sought. I had brought to him some of my little
labors, which he did not treat harshly. But just at this time they wrote
to me from home, that I must without fail furnish a poem for my uncle's
wedding. I felt far removed from that light and frivolous period in
which a similar thing would have given me pleasure; and, since I could
get nothing out of the actual circumstance itself, I determined to trick
out my work in the best manner with extraneous ornament. I therefore
convened all Olympus to consult about the marriage of a Frankfort
lawyer, and seriously enough, to be sure, as well became the festival of
such an honorable man. Venus and Themis had quarrelled for his sake; but
a roguish prank, which Amor played the latter, gained the suit for the
former: and the gods decided in favor of the marriage.

My work by no means displeased me. I received from home a handsome
letter in its praise, took the trouble to have another fair copy, and
hoped to extort some applause from my professor also. But here I had
missed my aim. He took the matter severely; and as he did not notice the
tone of parody, which nevertheless lay in the notion, he declared the
great expenditure of divine means for such an insignificant human end in
the highest degree reprehensible; inveighed against the use and abuse of
such mythological figures, as a false habit originating in pedantic
times; found the expression now too high, now too low; and, in divers
particulars, had indeed not spared the red ink, though he asserted that
he had yet done too little.

Such pieces were read out and criticised anonymously, it is true; but we
used to watch each other, and it remained no secret that this
unfortunate assembly of the gods was my work: yet since his critique,
when I took his point of view, seemed to be perfectly just, and those
divinities more nearly inspected were in fact only hollow shadow-forms,
I cursed all Olympus, flung the whole mythic Pantheon away; and from
that time Amor and Luna have been the only divinities which at all
appear in my little poems.

Among the persons whom Behrisch had chosen as the butts of his wit,
Clodius stood just at the head; nor was it hard to find a comical side
in him. Being of small stature, rather stout and thick-set, he was
violent in his motions, somewhat impetuous in his utterances, and
restless in his demeanor. In all this he differed from his fellow-
citizens, who, nevertheless, willingly put up with him on account of his
good qualities, and the fine promise which he gave.

He was usually commissioned with the poems which had become necessary on
festive occasions. In the so-called "Ode," he followed the manner
employed by Ramler, whom, however, it alone suited. But Clodius, as an
imitator, had especially marked the foreign words by means of which the
poems of Ramler come forth with a majestic pomp, which, because it is
conformable to the greatness of his subject and the rest of his poetic
treatment, produces a very good effect on the ear, feelings, and
imagination. In Clodius, on the contrary, these expressions had a
heterogeneous air; since his poetry was in other respects not calculated
to elevate the mind in any manner.

Now, we had often been obliged to see such poems printed and highly
lauded in our presence; and we found it highly offensive, that he who
had sequestered the heathen gods from us, now wished to hammer together
another ladder to Parnassus out of Greek and Roman word-rungs. These
oft-recurring expressions stamped themselves firmly on our memory; and
in a merry hour, when we were eating some most excellent cakes in the
kitchen-gardens (/Kohlgärten/), it all at once struck me to put
together these words of might and power, in a poem on the cake-baker
Hendel. No sooner thought than done! And let it stand here too, as it
was written on the wall of the house with a lead-pencil.

"O Hendel, dessen Ruhm vom /Süd/ zum /Norden/ reicht,
Vernimm den /Päan/ der zu deinen Ohren steigt.
Du bäckst was /Gallien/ und /Britten/ emsig suchen,
Mit /schöpfrischen Genie, originelle/ Kuchen.
Des Kaffee's /Ocean/, der sich vor dir ergiesst,
Ist süssev als der Saft der vom /Hymettus/ fliesst.
Dein Haus ein /Monument/, wie wir den Künsten lohnen
Umhangen mit /Trophän/, erzählt den /Nationen/:
Auch ohne /Diadem/ fand Hendel hier sein Glück
Und raubte dem /Cothurn/ gar manch Achtgroschenstück.
Glänzt deine /Urn/ dereinst in majestäts'chen /Pompe/,
Dann weint der /Patriot/ an deinem /Katacombe/.
Doch leb! dein /Torus/ sey von edler Brut ein /Nest/,
Steh' hoch wie der /Olymp/, wie der /Parnassus/ fest!
Kein /Phalanx/ Griechenland mit römischen /Ballisten/
Vermög /Germanien/ und Hendel zu verwüsten.
Dein /Wohl/ is unser /Stolz/, dein /Leiden/, unser
/Und/ Hendel's /Tempel ist der Musensöhne Herz/."

[Footnote: The humor of the above consists, not in the thoughts, but in
the particular words employed. These have no remarkable effect in
English, as to us the words of Latin origin are often as familiar as
those which have Teutonic roots; and these form the chief peculiarity of
the style. We have therefore given the poem in the original language,
with the peculiar words (as indicated by Goethe) in Italics, and subjoin
a literal translation. It will be observed that we have said that the
peculiarity consists /chiefly/, not /solely/, in the use of
the foreign words; for there are two or three instances of
unquestionably German words, which are Italicized on account of their
high-sounding pomp.

"O Hendel, whose fame extends from /south/ to /north/, hear
the /paean/i> which ascends to thine ears! Thou bakest that which
/Gauls/ and /Britons/ industriously seek, (thou bakest) with
/creative genius original/ cakes. The /ocean/ of coffee which
pours itself out before thee is sweeter than the juice which flows from
/Hymettus/. Thy house, a /monument/, how we reward the arts,
hung round with /trophies/, tells the nations: 'Even without a
/diadem/, Hendel formed his fortune here, and robbed the
/Cothurnus/ of many an eight-groschen-piece.' When thy /urn/
shines hereafter in majestic /pomp/, then will the
/patriot/ weep at thy /catacomb/. But live! let /thy/ bed
(/torus/) be the /nest/ of a noble brood, stand high as
/Olympus/, and firm as /Parnassus/. May no /phalanx/ of
Greece with Roman /ballistoe/ be able to destroy /Germania/
and Hendel. Thy /weal/ is our /pride/, thy /woe/ our
/pain/, and Hendel's /temple/ is the /heart/ of the
/sons of the Muses/."-TRANS.]

This poem had its place for a long time among many others which
disfigured the walls of that room, without being noticed; and we, who
had sufficiently amused ourselves with it, forgot it altogether amongst
other things. A long time afterwards, Clodius came out with his "Medon,"
whose wisdom, magnanimity, and virtue we found infinitely ridiculous,
much as the first representation of the piece was applauded. That
evening, when we met together in the wine-house, I made a prologue in
doggerel verse, in which Harlequin steps out with two great sacks,
places them on each side of the /proscenium/, and, after various
preliminary jokes, tells the spectators in confidence, that in the two
sacks moral aesthetic dust is to be found, which the actors will very
frequently throw into their eyes. One, to wit, was filled with good
deeds, that cost nothing; and the other with splendidly expressed
opinions, that had no meaning behind them. He reluctantly withdrew, and
sometimes came back, earnestly exhorted the spectators to attend to his
warning and shut their eyes, reminded them that he had always been their
friend, and meant well with them, with many more things of the kind.
This prologue was acted in the room, on the spot, by friend Horn: but
the jest remained quite among ourselves, not even a copy had been taken;
and the paper was soon lost. However, Horn, who had performed the
Harlequin very prettily, took it into his head to enlarge my poem to
Hendel by several verses, and then to make it refer to "Medon." He read
it to us; but we could not take any pleasure in it, for we did not find
the additions even ingenious: while the first poem, being written for
quite a different purpose, seemed to us disfigured. Our friend,
displeased with our indifference, or rather censure, may have shown it
to others, who found it new and amusing. Copies were now made of it, to
which the reputation of Clodius's "Medon" gave at once a rapid
publicity. Universal disapproval was the consequence, and the
originators (it was soon found out that the poem had proceeded from our
clique) were severely censured; for nothing of the sort had been seen
since Cronegk's and Rost's attacks upon Gottsched. We had besides
already secluded ourselves, and now found ourselves quite in the case of
the owl with respect to the other birds. In Dresden, too, they did not
like the affair; and it had for us serious, if not unpleasant,
consequences. For some time, already, Count Lindenau had not been quite
satisfied with his son's tutor. For although the young man was by no
means neglected, and Behrisch kept himself either in the chamber of the
young count, or at least close to it, when the instructors gave their
daily lessons, regularly frequented the lectures with him, never went
out in the daytime without him, and accompanied him in all his walks,
yet the rest of us were always to be found in Apel's house, and joined
them whenever they went on a pleasure ramble: this already excited some
attention. Behrisch, too, accustomed himself to our society, and at
last, towards nine o'clock in the evenings, generally transferred his
pupil into the hands of the /valet de chambre/, and went in quest
of us to the wine-house, whither, however, he never used to come but in
shoes and stockings, with his sword by his side, and commonly his hat
under his arm. The jokes and fooleries, which he generally started, went
on /ad infinitum/. Thus, for instance, one of our friends had a
habit of going away precisely at ten, because he had a connection with a
pretty girl, with whom he could converse only at that hour. We did not
like to lose him; and one evening, when we sat very happily together,
Behrisch secretly determined that he would not let him off this time. At
the stroke of ten, the other arose and took leave. Behrisch called after
him, and begged him to wait a moment, as he was just going with him. He
now began, in the most amusing manner, first to look after his sword,
which stood just before his eyes, and in buckling it on behaved
awkwardly, so that he could never accomplish it. He did this, too, so
naturally, that no one took offence at it. But when, to vary the theme,
he at last went farther, so that the sword came now on the right side,
now between his legs, an universal laughter arose, in which the man in a
hurry, who was like-wise a merry fellow, chimed in, and let Behrisch
have his own way till the happy hour was past, when, for the first time,
there followed general pleasure and agreeable conversation till deep
into the night.

Unfortunately Behrisch, and we through him, had a certain other
propensity for some girls who were better than their reputation,--by
which our own reputation could not be improved. We had often been seen
in their garden; and we directed our walks thither, even when the young
count was with us. All this may have been treasured up, and at last
communicated to his father: enough, he sought, in a gentlemanly manner,
to get rid of the tutor, to whom the event proved fortunate. His good
exterior, his knowledge and talents, his integrity, which no one could
call in question, had won him the affection and esteem of distinguished
persons, on whose recommendation he was appointed tutor to the
hereditary prince of Dessau, and at the court of a prince, excellent in
every respect, found a solid happiness.

The loss of a friend like Behrisch was of the greatest consequence to
me. He had spoiled while he cultivated me; and his presence was
necessary, if the pains he had thought good to spend upon me were in any
degree to bring forth fruit for society. He knew how to engage me in all
kinds of pretty and agreeable things, in whatever was just appropriate,
and to bring out my social talents. But as I had gained no self-
dependence in such things, so when I was alone again I immediately
relapsed into my confused and crabbed disposition, which always
increased, the more discontented I was with those about me, since I
fancied that they were not contented with me. With the most arbitrary
caprice, I took offence at what I might have considered an advantage;
thus alienated many with whom I had hitherto been on a tolerable
footing; and on account of the many disagreeable consequences which I
had drawn on myself and others, whether by doing or leaving undone, by
doing too much or too little, was obliged to hear the remark from my
well-wishers, that I lacked experience. The same thing was told me by
every person of sound sense who saw my productions, especially when
these referred to the external world. I observed this as well as I
could, but found in it little that was edifying, and was still forced to
add enough of my own to make it only tolerable. I had often pressed my
friend Behrisch, too, that he would make plain to me what was meant by
experience? But, because he was full of nonsense, he put me off with
fair words from one day to another, and at last, after great
preparations, disclosed to me, that true experience was properly when
one experiences how an experienced nvan must experience in experiencing
his experience. Now, when we scolded him outrageously, and called him to
account for this, he assured us that a great mystery lay hidden behind
these words, which we could not comprehend until we had experienced
...and so on without end,--for it cost him nothing to talk on in that
way by the quarter of an hour,--since the experience would always become
more experienced and at last come to true experience. When we were about
to despair at such fooleries, he protested that he had learned this way
of making himself intelligible and impressive from the latest and
greatest authors, who had made us observe how one can rest a restful
rest, and how silence, in being silent, can constantly become more

By chance an officer, who came among us on furlough, was praised in good
company as a remarkable, sound-minded, and experienced man, who had
fought through the Seven Years' War, and had gained universal
confidence. It was not difficult for me to approach him, and we often
went walking with each other. The idea of experience had almost become
fixed in my brain, and the craving to make it clear to me passionate.
Being of a frank disposition, I disclosed to him the uneasiness in which
I found myself. He smiled, and was kind enough to tell me, as an answer
to my question, something of his own life, and generally of the world
immediately about us; from which, indeed, little better was to be
gathered than that experience convinces us that our best thoughts,
wishes, and designs are unattainable, and that he who fosters such
vagaries, and advances them with eagerness, is especially held to be an
inexperienced man.

Yet, as he was a gallant, good fellow, he assured me that he had himself
not quite given up these vagaries, and felt himself tolerably well off
with the little faith, love, and hope which remained. He then felt
obliged to tell me a great deal about war, about the sort of life in the
field, about skirmishes and battles, especially so far as he had taken
part in them; when these vast events, by being considered in relation to
a single individual, gained a very marvellous aspect. I then led him on
to an open narration of the late situation of the court, which seemed to
me quite like a tale. I heard of the bodily strength of Augustus the
Second, of his many children and his vast expenses, then of his
successor's love of art and of making collections; of Count Brühl and
his boundless love of magnificence, which in detail appeared almost
absurd, of his numerous banquets and gorgeous amusements, which were all
cut off by Frederick's invasion of Saxony. The royal castles now lay in
ruins, Brühl's splendors were annihilated, and, of the whole, a glorious
land, much injured, alone remained.

When he saw me astonished at that mad enjoyment of fortune, and then
grieved by the calamity that followed, and informed me that one expects
from an experienced man exactly this, that he shall be astonished at
neither the one nor the other, nor take too lively an interest in them,
I felt a great desire still to remain a while in the same inexperience
as hitherto; in which desire he strengthened me, and very urgently
entreated me, for the present at least, always to cling to agreeable
experiences, and to try to avoid those that were disagreeable as much as
possible, if they should intrude themselves upon me. But once, when the
discussion was again about experience in general, and I related to him
those ludicrous phrases of my friend Behrisch, he shook his head,
smiling, and said, "There, one sees how it is with words which are only
once uttered! These sound so comical, nay, so silly, that it would seem
almost impossible to put a rational meaning into them; and yet, perhaps,
the attempt might be made."

And, when I pressed him, he replied in his intelligent, cheerful manner,
"If you will allow me, while commenting on and completing your friend's
observations, to go on after his fashion, I think he meant to say, that
experience is nothing else than that one experiences what one does not
wish to experience; which is what it amounts to for the most part, at
least in this world."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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