Excerpt, “Translations from the German Poets of the 18th and 19th Centuries.” By Alice Lucas. London: 1876.
By Johann Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853), from Liebesgeschichte der schönen Magelone und des Grafen Peter von Provence.
Set by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), “Ruhe, Süßliebchen, im Schatten”, op. 33 no. 9, from Romanzen aus L. Tieck’s Magelone, no. 9. Translation © Emily Ezust, Lied & Art Song Texts Page.
Ruhe, Süßliebchen, im Schatten
Rest, my love, in the shade
Of green, darkening night;
The grass rustles on the meadow,
The shadows fan and cool thee
And true love is awake.
Sleep, go to sleep!
Gently rustles the grove,
Eternally am I thine.
Hush, you hidden songs,
And disturb not her sweetest repose!
The flock of birds listens,
Stilled are their noisy songs.
Close thine eyes, my darling,
Sleep, go to sleep;
In the twilight
I will watch over thee.
Murmur on, you melodies,
Rush on, you quiet stream.
Lovely fantasies of love
do these melodies evoke:
Tender dreams swim after them.
Through the whispering grove
Swarm tiny golden bees
which hum thee to sleep.
“Tales from the German of Tieck.” London: Edward Moxon, 64, New Bond Street. 1831.
He saw nothing like her whom he was seeking for; and he could not possibly give utterance to the notion that her beloved face might perhaps be lurking behind some odious mask.
He had already ranged up and down the room three times over, and had in vain run his eyes along all the ladies that were sitting and unmaskt, when the Spaniard joined him and said: “I am glad you are come after all; are you looking for your friend?”
Emilius had quite forgotten him; he said however somewhat embarrast: “In truth I wonder I have not met him here, for his mask is not to be mistaken.”
“Can you guess what the harum-scarum fellow is about?” answered the young officer. “He never danced at all, and hardly staid ten minutes in the ballroom: for he soon fell in with his friend Anderson, who is just come up from the country: their conversation turned upon books; and as Anderson has never seen the new poem, Roderick would not rest till he had made them open one of the back rooms for him; and there he is now sitting beside a solitary taper, holding his companion fast, and declaiming the whole poem to him, not omitting even the invocation to the muse.”
“It’s just like him,” said Emilius; “he is always the child of the moment. I have done all in my power, and even run the risk of some amicable quarrels, to cure him of this habit of for ever living extempore, and playing out his whole life in impromptus, card after card, as it chances to turn up, without once looking over his hand. But these follies have struck such deep root in his heart, he would sooner part with his best friend than with them.
That very same poem, which he is so fond of that he always carries it about in his pocket, he wanted to read to me a few days ago, and I had earnestly begged him to do so: but he had scarcely got beyond the first description of the moon, when, just as I had resigned myself to the enjoyment of its beauties, he suddenly jumpt up, ran out of the room, came back with the cook’s apron round his waist, tore down the bell-rope in ringing to have the fire lighted, and insisted on broiling me some beefsteaks, for which I had not the least appetite, and which he fancies nobody in Europe dresses so well, though, if he is in luck, he does not spoil them above nine times in ten.”
The Spaniard laught, and askt: “Has he never been in love?”
“After his fashion,” replied Emilius very gravely; “as if he were making game of love and of himself, with a dozen women at a time, and, if you would believe his words, raving after every one of them: but ere a week passes over his head, they are all spunged out of it, and not even a blot is left behind.”
They parted in the crowd, and Emilius walkt toward the remote apartment, from which, long before he reacht it, he caught his friend’s loud recitative.
“Ah, so you are here too!” exclaimed Roderick, as he entered: “you have just hit the right moment; I am at the very passage where we were interrupted the other day: sit down, and you may hear the remainder.”
“I am not in a humour for it now,” said Emilius: “besides the time and place do not seem to me exactly suited to such an employment.”
“And why not?” answered Roderick. “Time and place are made for us, not we for time and place. Is not good poetry just as good at one hour as at another? Is not it right to read it? and can that which is right ever become wrong? Or would you rather dance? There is a lack of men; and you need only jump about for a few hours, at the mere risk of tiring your legs, to lay strong siege to the hearts of as many grateful beauties as you choose.”
“Good night!” cried the other with his hand on the door; “I am going home.”
Roderick called out to him: “Only one word! I shall set off tomorrow at daybreak with my friend here, to spend a few days in the country, but will look in upon you to say goodbye before we start. Should you be asleep, as is most likely, you need not take the trouble of waking; for, before a week is out, I shall be back again.—The strangest being upon earth!” he continued, turning to his neighbour.
“So moping and fretful, such a splitter of thoughts, that he turns all his pleasures sour; or rather there is no such thing as pleasure for him. Instead of walking about with his fellow creatures in broad daylight and enjoying himself, he gets down to the bottom of the well of his fancies, in the hope of now and then catching a glimpse of a star.
Everything must be in the superlative for him: everything must be pure, and majestic, and ethereal, and celestial: his heart must be always throbbing and heaving, even when he is standing before a puppet show. He never laughs or cries, but can only smile and weep; and forsooth there is mighty little difference between his weeping and his smiling.
When anything, be it what it may, falls short of his anticipations and preconceptions, which are always flying up out of reach and sight, he puts on a tragical face, and complains that it is a base and soulless world. At this very moment, I make no doubt, he is requiring that under the masks of a Pantaloon or a Punch there should be a soul glowing with unearthly desires and ideal aspirations, and that Harlequin should outmoralize Hamlet on the nothingness of sublunary things: and if these expectations are disappointed, as they can never fail to be, the dew is sure to rise into his eyes, and he will turn his back on the whole motley scene in desponding contempt.”
“He must be atrabilious then?” askt his hearer.
“Not that exactly,” answered Roderick: “he has only been spoilt by the indulgence of his overfond parents and by his own. He has accustomed himself to let his heart ebb and flow as regularly as the sea; and if this motion is ever at a stop, he cries out _a miracle!_ and would offer a prize to the philosopher who should give a satisfactory explanation of so marvellous a phenomenon. He is the best fellow under the sun; but all my painstaking to break him of this perverseness has been utterly vain and thrown away; and if I would not earn scurvy thanks for my goodwill, I must even let him follow his own devices.”
“Might not a physician do him good?” remarkt Anderson.
“It is one of his whims,” replied Roderick, “to entertain a supreme contempt for the whole medical art. He will have it that every disease is something different and distinct in every particular patient, that there is no arranging it under any class, and that it is absurd to think of healing it by attending to ancient practice, and still more so by what is called theory: he would much rather apply to an old woman, and make use of sympathetic cures.
In like manner he despises all foresight in other matters, and everything like regularity, moderation, and common sense: the last above all he holds in special abhorrence, as the antipode and arch-enemy to all enthusiasm. While yet a child he framed for himself an ideal of a noble character; and his constant aim is to make himself what he considers such, that is to say, a being who shews his superiority to all earthly things by his scorn for riches.
Merely to avoid being suspected of stinginess, or of giving unwillingly, or of caring about money, he flings it right and left by handfuls; with all his large fortune he is for ever poor and distrest, and is the bubble of all such as are not gifted with precisely the same sort of magnanimity which for himself he is determined to attain to. To be his friend is the task of all tasks: for he is so touchy, you need only cough, or eat with your knife, or not sip your drink as delicately as a cow, or even pick your teeth, to offend him mortally.”
“Was he never in love?” askt his country friend.
“Whom should he love? whom could he love?” answered Roderick. “He despises all the daughters of earth; and if he had a favorite, and were ever to suspect that she had not an angelical contempt for dress, or liked dancing at times as well as star-gazing, it would break his heart: still more tremendous would it be, if she were ever so unlucky as to sneeze.”
Meanwhile Emilius was again standing among the crowd: but on a sudden he was seized by that heart-burning, that shivering, which had already so often come over him in the midst of a multitude in a like state of excitement. It drove him out of the ballroom, out of the house, and along the desolate streets; nor did he recover and regain the quiet possession of his senses, till he reacht his lonely chamber. The night light was already burning; he sent his servant to bed: everything over the way was silent and dark, and he sat down to pour forth the feelings which the ball had aroused, in verse.
Within the heart ’tis still;
Sleep each wild thought encages:
Now stirs a wicked will,
Would see how madness rages,
And cries: Wild spirit awake!
Loud cymbals catch the cry,
And back its echoes shake;
And, shouting peals of laughter,
The trumpet rushes after,
And cries: Wild spirit awake!
Amid them flute-tones fly,
Like arrows, keen and numberless;
And with bloodhound yell
Pipes the onset swell;
And violins and violoncellos,
And horns whence thunder bellows;
To leave the victim slumberless,
And drag forth prisoned madness,
And cruelly murder all quiet and innocent gladness.
What will be the end of this commotion?
Where the shore to this turmoiling ocean?
What seeks the tossing throng,
As it wheels and whirls along?
On! on! the lustres
Like hellstars bicker:
Let us twine in closer clusters,
On! on! ever closer and quicker!
How the silly things throb, throb amain!
Hence all quiet!
Peal more proudly,
Squeal more loudly,
Ye cymbals, ye trumpets! bedull all pain,
Till it laugh again.
Thou beckonest to me, beauty’s daughter;
Smiles ripple o’er thy lips,
And o’er thine eye’s blue water;
O let me breathe on thee,
Ere parted hence we flee,
Ere aught that light eclipse!
I know that beauty’s flowers soon wither:
Those lips, within whose rosy cells
Thy spirit warbles its sweet spells,
Death’s clammy kiss ere long will press together.
I know, that face so fair and full
Is but a masquerading skull:
But hail to thee skull so fair and so fresh!
Why should I weep and whine and wail,
That what blooms now must soon grow pale,
And that worms must batten on that sweet flesh?
Let me laugh but today and tomorrow,
And what care I for sorrow,
While thus on the waves of the dance by
each other we sail?
Now thou art mine,
And I am thine:
And what though pain and trouble wait
To seize thee at the gate,
And sob, and tear, and groan, and sigh,
Stand ranged in state
On thee to fly,
Blithely let us look and cheerily
On death that grins so drearily!
What would grief with us, or anguish?
They are foes that we know how to vanquish.
I press thine answering fingers,
Thy look upon me lingers,
Or the fringe of thy garment will waft me
Thou rollest on in light;
I fall back into night;
Even despair is bliss.
From this delight,
From this wild revel’s surge
Perchance there may emerge
Foul jealousy, and scorn, and envious spite.
But this is our glory and pride;
When thee I despise,
I turn but my eyes,
And the fair one beside thee will welcome
And she is my bride!
O happy, happy maze!
Or shall it be her neighbour?
Whose eyes, like a sabre,
Flash and pierce,
Their glance is so fierce.
Thus jumping and prancing,
All together go dancing
Adown life’s giddy cave;
Nor living, nor loving,
But dizzily roving
Through dreams to a grave.
There below ’tis yet worse:
Earth’s flowers and its clay
Roof a gloomier day,
Hide a still deeper curse.
Ring then, ye cymbals, enliven this dream!
Ye horns shout a fiercer, more vulture-like scream!
And frisk caper skip prance dance yourselves
out of breath!
For your life is all art,
Love has given you no heart:
So hurrah till you plunge into bottomless
He had ended, and was standing by the window. Then she came into the opposite chamber, lovely, as he had never yet seen her: her brown hair floated freely, and played in wanton ringlets about the whitest of necks; she was but lightly clad, and seemed as if she meant to finish some little household matters at this late hour of the night before she went to bed: for she placed two candles in two corners of the room, set the green cloth on the table to rights, and withdrew again.
Emilius was still sunk in his sweet dreams, and gazing on the image which his beloved had left in his mind, when to his horrour the frightful, the scarlet old woman walkt through the chamber: the gold on her head and breast glared ghastlily as it threw back the light.
She had vanisht again. Was he to believe his eyes? Was it not some delusive phantom of the night that his own feverish imagination had conjured up before him?
But no! she returned, still more hideous than before, with a long grey and black mane flying wildly and haggardly about her breast and back. The beauteous maiden followed her, pale, stiff; her lovely bosom was all bared, but her whole form was like a marble statue.
Then the old woman growled. Here something crawled forth from behind that they seemed not to perceive, or it must have struck them with the same thrilling terrour as Emilius. A serpent curled its loathsome neck, scale after something red blood, and a green sparkling eye shot over into the eye, and brain, and heart of Emilius, who instantly dropt on the ground.
He was senseless when found by Roderick some hours after.
A party of friends were sitting on the brightest summer morning in a green arbour, assembled at an excellent breakfast. Laughter and jests passed round; and many a time did the glasses kiss with a merry health to the young couple, and a wish that they might be the happiest of the happy. The bride and bridegroom were not present; she being still engaged in dressing, while the young husband was sauntering by himself down an avenue some way off, musing upon his happiness.
“What a pity it is,” said Anderson, “that we are to have no music! All our ladies are beclouded at the thought, and never in their whole lives longed for a dance so much as today, when it is quite out of the question: it is far too painful to his feelings.”
“I can tell you a secret though,” exclaimed a young officer, “that we are to have a dance after all; and a rare riotous and madcap one it will be. Everything is already arranged; the musicians are come secretly and quartered out of sight. Roderick has managed the whole business; for he says one ought not to let him always have his own way, or to humour his strange caprices overmuch, especially on such a day as this.”
“Besides,” observed another young man, “he is already become much more tractable and sociable than he used to be; so that I think he himself will not be sorry at the alteration. Indeed the whole wedding has been brought about all on the sudden, and has taken everybody by surprise.”
“His whole history,” resumed Anderson, “is just as extraordinary as his character. You must all remember how, being on his travels last autumn, he arrived in our city, and spent the winter there, living like a melancholy man almost entirely in his own room, and never visiting our theatre or taking part in any other amusement. He all but quarrelled with Roderick, his most intimate friend, for trying to divert him, and refusing to pamper all his moping fantasies.
In fact this overstrained irritability and moroseness must have been a disease that was gathering in his body: for you know he was attackt four months ago by such a violent nervous fever, that his life was for a long time despaired of. After his frenzy had raved itself out, and he returned to his senses, he had almost entirely lost his memory: nothing but his childhood and early youth kept its hold on his mind; and he was totally unable to recollect anything that had happened during his journey, or immediately before his illness.
He had to begin his acquaintance afresh with all his friends, even with Roderick; and it is only by little and little that his thoughts have grown lighter, and that the past with all that had befallen him has come back, though still in dim colours, into his memory. He had been removed into his uncle’s house, that better care might be taken of him; and he was just like a child, letting them do whatever they chose with him.
The first time he went out to enjoy the warmth of the spring in the park, he saw a girl sitting pensively by the roadside. She lookt up; her eye met his; and seized with an inexplicable yearning he stopt the carriage, got out, sat down by her, took hold of her hands, and burst into a flood of tears. His friends were again alarmed for his intellects: but he grew calm, cheerful, and conversable, got introduced to the girl’s parents, and at his very first visit askt for her hand, which, with her parents consent, she granted him.
Since that time he has been happy, and a new life has sprung up within him: day after day he has become healthier and more contented. A week ago he paid me a visit at this country house, and was above measure delighted with it; indeed so much so that he would not rest till he had made me sell it to him.
I might easily have turned his passionate desire to my own advantage, and his loss; for when he once sets his heart on a thing, he will have it, and that too forthwith. He immediately let it be got ready, sent furniture that he may spend the summer months here; and thus it has come to pass that we are all met for his wedding in my old garden.”
The house was large, and in a very lovely country. One side of it lookt on a river and some woody hills beyond; shrubs and trees of various kinds were scattered about the lawn; and immediately before the windows lay a flower garden sweetening the air. The orange and lemon trees were ranged in a large open hall, from which small doors led to the store rooms, cellars, and pantries.
On the other side a meadow spread out its green floor, opening immediately into the park. The two long wings of the house formed a spacious court; and broad open galleries, borne by three rows of pillars standing one above the other, ran round it, connecting all the rooms in the house, and giving it a singular and interesting character: for figures were perpetually moving along these arcades, some engaged in one employment, some in another.
New forms kept stepping forth between the pillars and out of the various rooms, which anon vanisht and then reappeared above or below, to be lost behind one of the doors: parties too would often assemble there for tea or for some game; and thus from below the whole had the look of a theatre, before which everybody was glad to stop awhile, with a foreboding that something strange or pleasing was sure to meet his eyes ere long.
The party of young people were just rising, when the bride came in her full dress through the garden walking toward them. She was clad in violet-coloured velvet: a sparkling necklace lay cradled on her glittering neck; the costly lace just allowed her white swelling bosom to glimmer through; and her wreath of myrtle and white roses gave her brown hair a still more beautiful tint.
She greeted them all graciously, and the young men were astonisht at her surpassing beauty. She had been gathering flowers in the garden, and was going back into the house to see after the arrangements for dinner.
The tables had been set out in the lower open gallery, and shone dazzlingly with their white coverings and their load of sparkling crystal: rich clusters of many-coloured flowers rose from the graceful necks of alabaster vases; green garlands, starred with white blossoms, twined round the columns: and it was a lovely sight to behold the bride gliding along with gentle motion between the tables and the pillars, amid the light of the flowers, overlooking the whole with a searching glance, and then vanishing; and reappearing a moment after above, to pass into her chamber.
“She is the loveliest, most enchanting creature I ever saw!” cried Anderson: “our friend is indeed a happy man.”
To be continued …
“Tales from the German of Tieck.” London: Edward Moxon, 64, New Bond Street. 1831.
Emilius was sitting in deep thought at his table, awaiting his friend Roderick. A light was burning before him; the winter-evening was cold; and today he wisht for the presence of his fellow traveller, though at other times wont to avoid his society; for on this evening he purpost to disclose a secret to him and ask his advice.
The timid, shy Emilius found so many difficulties, such insurmountable hindrances, in every affair he was engaged in, and in every event that befell him, that it almost seemed as if his destiny had been in an ironical mood when it threw him and Roderick together, Roderick being in all things the reverse of his friend.
Fickle, flighty, always determined and fixt by the first impression, he attempted everything, had a plan for every emergency; no undertaking was too arduous for him, no obstacles could deter him. But in the midst of the pursuit he wearied and broke down just as suddenly as at first he had kindled and sprung forward: whatever then opposed him did not act as a spur to urge him more eagerly onward, but only made him abandon and despise what he had so hotly rusht into; and thus Roderick was evermore thoughtlessly beginning something new, and with no better reason relinquishing and carelessly forgetting what he had begun just before.
Hence no day ever passed but the friends got into a quarrel, which threatened to be a death blow to their friendship: and yet what to all appearance thus divided them, was perhaps the very thing that bound them most closely together: each loved the other heartily; but each found passing satisfaction in being able to discharge the most justly deserved reproaches upon his friend.
Emilius, a rich young man of a sensitive and melancholy temperament, had become master of his fortune on his father’s death, and had set out on his travels for the sake of cultivating his mind: he had already been spending several months however in a large town, to enjoy the pleasures of the carnival, about which he never gave himself the slightest trouble, and to make certain important arrangements concerning his fortune with some relations, whom he had scarcely yet visited.
On his journey he had fallen in with the restless, ever-shifting and veering Roderick, who was living at variance with his guardians, and who, to get rid altogether of them and their troublesome admonitions, had caught eagerly at his new friend’s offer to take him with him on his travels.
On their road they had already been often on the point of separating; but after every dispute both had only felt the more forcibly that neither could live without the other. Scarcely had they got out of their carriage in any town, when Roderick had already seen everything remarkable in it, to forget it all again on the morrow: while Emilius took a week to study thoroughly whatever was said in books about it, that he might not leave anything unnoticed; and after all out of indolence thought there was hardly anything worth going to look at.
Roderick had immediately made a thousand acquaintances, and been to every public place of entertainment; and he would often bring his new-made friends to Emilius in his solitary chamber, where, as soon as he began to be tired of them, he left him alone with them.
At other times he would confound the modest Emilius by heaping extravagant praises on his talents and acquirements in the presence of learned and intelligent men, and by telling them how much information they might derive from his friend with regard to languages, antiquities, or the fine arts, though he himself could never find leisure to listen to him on these subjects when the conversation happened to turn on them.
But if Emilius ever chanced to be in a more active mood, he might almost make sure that his truant friend would have caught cold the night before at some ball or sledge-party, and be forced to keep his bed; so that, with the liveliest, most restless, and most communicative of men for his companion, Emilius lived in the greatest solitude.
On this day he confidently expected him, having made Roderick give him a solemn promise to spend the evening with him, in order to hear what it was that for several weeks had been depressing and agitating his pensive friend. Meanwhile Emilius wrote down the following lines:
‘Tis sweet when spring its choir assembles,
And every nightingale is steeping
The trees in his melodious weeping,
Till leaf and bloom with rapture trembles.
Fair is the net that moonlight weaves;
Fair are the breezes gambolings
As with lime-odours on their wings
They chase each other through the leaves.
Bright is the glory of the rose,
When Love’s rich magic decks the earth,
From countless roses Love peeps forth,
Those stars wherewith Love’s heaven glows.
But sweeter, fairer, brighter far
To me that little lamp’s pale gleaming,
When, through the narrow casement streaming
It bids me hail my evening star;
As from their braids she flings her tresses,
Then twines them in a flowery band,
While at each motion of her hand
The light robe to her fair form presses;
Or when she wakes her lute’s deep slumbers,
And, as at morning’s touch updarting,
The notes beneath her fingers starting,
Trip o’er the strings in playful numbers.
To stop their flight her voice she pours
Full after them; they laugh, and fly,
And to my heart for refuge hie:
Her voice pursues them through its doors.
Leave me, ye mischiefs! hence remove!
They bar themselves within, and say:
Till this be broken here we stay,
That thou mayst know what ’tis to love.
Emilius stood up fretfully. It grew darker, but no Roderick came; and he was wishing to tell him of his love for an unknown fair one, who dwelt in the opposite house, and who kept him at home all day long, and waking through many a night.
At length footsteps sounded on the stairs; the door opened without anybody knocking at it: and in came two gay masks with ugly visages, one of them a Turk, drest in red and blue silk, the other a Spaniard, in pale yellow and pink, with a plume of feathers waving on his hat. When Emilius was losing patience, Roderick took off his mask, shewed his well-known laughing countenance, and cried: “Heyday, my good friend, what a drowned puppy of a face! Is this the way to look in the carnival?
“I am come with my dear young officer here to carry you off: there is a grand ball tonight at the masquerade-rooms; and, as I know you have forsworn ever putting on any other suit than that which you always wear of the devil’s own colour, come with us black as you are; for it is getting somewhat late.”
Emilius felt angry, and said: “It seems that according to custom you have totally forgotten your engagement. I am extremely sorry,” (he added, turning to the stranger) “that I cannot possibly be of your party: my friend has been overhasty in promising for me; indeed I cannot go out at all, having some matters of importance to talk over with him.”
The stranger, who was well-bred and saw Emiliuses meaning, withdrew: but Roderick with the utmost indifference put on his mask again, took his stand before the glass, and exclaimed: “Verily, I am a most hideous figure, am I not? After all my pains it is a tasteless, disgusting device.”
“That there can be no question about!” answered Emilius in vehement displeasure. “Making a caricature of yourself, and stupefying your senses, are among the pleasures you are the fondest of driving at.”
“Because you don’t like dancing,” said the other, “and look upon it as a pernicious invention, not a soul in the world is to be merry. How tiresome it is when a man is made up of nothing but whims!”
“Doubtless!” replied his irritated friend; “and you afford me ample opportunity for finding that it is so. I fancied that after our agreement you would have given me this one evening; but—”
“But it is the carnival, you know,” interposed the other; “and all my acquaintances, and divers fair ladies are expecting me at the grand ball tonight. Rely upon it, my dear friend, it is mere disease in you that makes you so unreasonably averse to all such amusements.”
“Which of us has the fairest claim to be called diseased,” said Emilius, “I will not examine. But I cannot think that your incomprehensible frivolousness, your hunger and thirst for dissipation, your restless chase after pleasures that leave the heart empty, are altogether the healthiest state of human nature. On certain points at all events you might make a little allowance for my weakness, if you are determined to call it so; and you know there is nothing in the world that so sets my whole soul on edge as a ball with its frightful music.
Somebody has said, that to a deaf person who cannot hear the music a party of dancers must look like so many patients for a madhouse: but to my mind this detestable music itself, this twirling and whirling and pirouetting of half a dozen notes, each treading on its own heels, in those odious tunes, which ram themselves into our memory, nay, I might say, mix themselves up with our very blood, so that one cannot get rid of the taint for many a woeful day after,—this to me is the very trance of madness: and if I could ever bring myself to think dancing endurable, it would be dancing to the tune of silence.”
“Bravo, signor paradox-monger!” exclaimed the mask: “You are so far gone, that you choose to think the most natural, the most innocent, and the merriest thing in the world unnatural, ay, and shocking.”
“I cannot change my feelings,” said his grave friend. “From my very childhood these tunes have made me unhappy, and have often all but driven me out of my senses. They are to me the ghosts and spectres and furies in the world of sound, and they come and buzz round my head, and grin at me with horrid laughter.”
“Sheer nervousness!” returned the other; “just like your extravagant abhorrence of spiders and divers other harmless insects.”
“Harmless you call them!” cried Emilius indignantly, “because you have no repugnance to such things. To him however that feels the same disgust and loathing, the same unutterable shuddering, as I feel, start up within him and shoot through his whole frame at the sight of them, these miscreant deformities, such as toads, beetles, or that most nauseous of all Nature’s abortions, the bat, are not indifferent or insignificant: their very existence is a state of direct enmity and warfare against his.
In good truth one might smile at the unbelievers whose imagination is too barren for ghosts and fearful goblins, and such births of night as we see in sickness, to grow up in it, or who stare and marvel at Dante’s descriptions; when the commonest everyday life is perpetually paralysing our eyesight with some of these portentous distorted masterpieces among the works of horrour. Yet how can we have a real feeling and love for beauty, without detesting and recoiling from such monstrosities?”
“Why recoil from them?” askt Roderick: “why should we see nothing in the vast realm of water, in lakes, rivers, and seas, but those dismal objects which you have taught yourself to find there? why not rather look on such creatures as queer, amusing, and ludicrous mummers? so that the deep might be called a kind of large maskt ballroom.
“But your caprices go still further; for while you love roses with a sort of idolatry, there are other flowers for which you have a no less passionate hatred: yet what harm has the dear bright tulip ever done you? or all the other gay children of summer that you persecute?
Thus again you have an antipathy to sundry colours, to sundry scents, and to a number of thoughts; and you never take any pains to strengthen yourself against these moods, but give way to them and sink down into them as into a luxurious feather bed; so that I often fear I shall lose you altogether some day, and find nothing but a patchwork of whims and prejudices sitting at that table instead of my Emilius.”
Emilius was wroth to the bottom of his heart, and answered not a word. He had now given up all thought of making his intended confession; nor did the thoughtless Roderick shew the least wish to hear the secret which his melancholy companion had announced to him with such an air of solemnity. He was sitting carelessly in the armchair, playing with his mask, when on a sudden he cried: “Be so kind, Emilius, as to lend me your large cloak.”
“What for?” askt the other.
“I hear music in the church over the way,” answered Roderick; “and some how or other I have mist this hour every evening since we have been here. Today it comes just in the nick: I can cover my dress with your cloak, hiding my mask and turban under it; and so, when the music is over, I may go straight to the ball.”
Emilius muttered between his teeth as he went for the cloak to his wardrobe, and then, forcing himself to put on an ironical smile, he gave it to Roderick who was already on his legs.
“There, I’ll leave you my Turkish dagger that I bought yesterday,” said the mask, as he wrapt himself up: “Take care of it for me; it is a bad habit, this carrying about toys of cold steel: one can never tell what ill use may not be made of them, should a quarrel arise, or any other knot that it is easier to cut than untie. We shall meet again tomorrow; good bye; a pleasant evening to you.” He did not wait for an answer, but ran down stairs.
When Emilius was alone, he tried to forget his anger, and to look only at the laughable side of his friend’s behaviour. His eyes rested on the shining, finely wrought dagger, and he said: “What must be the feelings of a man who could thrust this sharp iron into the breast of an enemy! but oh, what must be his who should hurt a beloved object with it!”
He lockt it up, then gently folded back the window shutters, and lookt across the narrow street. But no light was stirring; the opposite house was quite dark; the dear form that dwelt in it, and that was wont to appear there about this time engaged in divers household affairs, seemed to be absent. ‘Perhaps she may be at the ball,’ thought Emilius, little as it sorted with her retired way of life.
Ere long however a light came in: the little girl whom his beloved unknown had about her, and with whom she used to pass a great part of the day and of the evening, carried a candle through the room and closed the shutters. A chink still let the light through, wide enough for Emilius, where he stood, to overlook a part of the little room: and there the happy youth would often stay till after midnight as if charmed to the spot, watching every motion of her hand, every look of her beloved face.
It was a joy to see her teaching the child to read, or giving her lessons in sewing and knitting. On inquiry he had learnt that the little girl was a poor orphan, whom his fair maiden had charitably taken into the house, to educate her.
Emilius’s friends could not conceive why he lived in this narrow street, in this comfortless lodging, why he was so little to be seen in society, or how he employed himself. Without employment, in solitude, he was happy: only he felt out of humour with himself at his own bashfulness, which withheld him from trying to become nearer acquainted with this beauteous being, notwithstanding the friendliness with which she had several times greeted and thankt him.
He knew not that she would often gaze over at him with eyes no less lovesick than his own: he guessed not what wishes were forming in her heart, of what an effort, what a sacrifice she felt herself capable, so she might but attain the possession of his love.
After walking a few times up and down the room, the light having gone away again with the child, he suddenly made up his mind, in spite of all his feelings and inclinations, to go to the ball; for it struck him that his unknown might have made an exception for once to her usual secluded habits, for the sake of enjoying the world and its gaieties.
The streets were brilliantly lighted up; the snow crackled under his feet; carriages rolled by him; and masks in every variety of dress whistled and twittered as they passed him. Many of the houses resounded with the dancing music which he so much abhorred; and he could not bring himself to take the nearest way to the ballroom, to which people from all quarters were streaming and flocking.
He walkt round the old church, gazed at its high tower rising majestically into the dark sky, and enjoyed the stillness and solitude of this deserted place. Within the recess of a large doorway, the varied sculptures of which he had often contemplated with pleasure, while calling up visions of the olden times and the arts that adorned them, he now again took his stand, to give himself up for a few moments to his musings.
He had not been there long, when his attention was attracted by a figure that was pacing restlessly to and fro, and seemed to be waiting for somebody. By the light of a lamp burning before an image of the Virgin, he distinctly made out the face, as well as the strange dress. It was an old woman of the uttermost hideousness, which struck the eye the more from her being grotesquely clad in a scarlet bodice embroidered with gold.
Emilius fancied at first it must be some extravagant mask that had lost its way: but the bright light soon convinced him that the old brown wrinkled face was one of Nature’s ploughing, and no mimic exaggeration.
In a few minutes two men made their appearance, wrapt up in cloaks, who seemed to approach the spot with cautious steps, often turning their heads aside to see whether anybody was following. The old woman went up to them.
“Have you got the candles?” she askt hastily and with a gruff voice.
“Here they are,” said one of the men: “you know the price; let us settle the matter and have done with it.”
The old woman seemed to be giving him some money, which he counted over beneath his cloak. “I rely upon you,” she again began, “that they are made exactly according to rule, at the right time and place, so that they cannot fail of their effect.”
“You need not be uneasy on that score,” returned the man, and hurried away.
His companion, who staid behind, was a youth: he took the old woman by the hand, and said: “Can it be true, Alexia, that certain rites and spells, as those old wild stories, in which I could never put faith, tell us, can fetter the free will of man, and make love and hatred grow up in the heart?”
“Ay forsooth!” answered the scarlet woman; “but one and one must make two, and many a one must be added thereto, before such mighty things come to pass. It is not these candles alone, moulded beneath the midnight darkness of the new moon, and drencht with human blood, it is not the mere uttering magical words and incantations, that can give you the mastery over the soul of another: there is much more belonging to such works, as the initiated well know.”
“I may depend upon you then!” cried the stranger.
“Tomorrow after midnight I am at your service,” replied the old woman. “You shall not be the first person that ever was dissatisfied with my skill. Tonight, as you have heard, I have some one else in hand, one whose senses and soul our art shall twist about whichever way we choose, just as easily as I twist this hair out of my head.”
These last words she uttered with a half grin; and they separated, walking off in different directions.
Emilius came forth from the dark niche shuddering, and lifted his looks to the image of the Virgin with the Child. “Before thine eyes, thou mild and blessed one,” he said half aloud, “are these miscreants audaciously holding their market and trafficking in their infernal drugs. But as thou embracest thy child with thy love, so doth heavenly Love encircle us all with its protecting arms; we feel their touch; and our poor hearts beat joyously and tremulously toward a greater heart that will never forsake us.”
Clouds were rolling along over the pinnacles of the tower and the high roof of the church; the everlasting stars lookt down through the midst of them gleaming with mild serenity; and Emilius drew his thoughts resolutely away from these nightly abominations, and mused on the beauty of his unknown. He again entered the peopled streets, and bent his steps toward the brightly illuminated ballroom, from which voices, and the rattling of carriages, and now and then, when there was a pause, the clamorous music, came sounding to his ears.
In the ballroom he was instantly lost amid the streaming throng: dancers ran round him; masks darted by him to and fro; kettledrums and trumpets stunned his ears; and it seemed to him as if human life had melted away into a dream. He walkt along one row after another, and his eye alone was wakeful, seeking after those beloved eyes and that fair head with its brown locks, for the sight of which he yearned this evening more intensely than ever, at the same time that he inwardly reproacht their adored possessor, for allowing herself to plunge and be lost in this stormy sea of confusion and folly.
‘No!’ he said to himself; ‘no heart that loves can willingly expose itself to this dreary hubbub of noise, in which every longing and every tear is scoft and mockt at by the wild laughter of pealing trumpets. The whispering of trees, the murmuring of brooks, the soft notes of the harp, and the song that gushes forth in all its richness and sweetness from an overflowing bosom, are the sounds in which love dwells. But this is the very thundering and shouting of hell in the frenzy of its despair….’
To be continued …
By Johann Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853) from Liebesgeschichte der schönen Magelone und des Grafen Peter von Provence.
Set by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), “Sind es Schmerzen, sind es Freuden”, op. 33 no. 3 (1861-9), from Romanzen aus L. Tieck’s Magelone, no. 3. Translation © Emily Ezust, Lied & Art Song Texts Page.
Sind es Schmerzen, sind es Freuden
Are they sorrows or are they joys
Which tug at my breast?
All the old desires leave;
A thousand new flowers bloom.
Through the dusk of tears
I see suns standing in the distance, -
What languishing, what longing!
Do I dare? Shall I move closer?
Ah, and when my tears are falling,
It is dark around me;
Yet if my desires do not return,
The future is empty of hope.
So beat then, my ambitious heart,
So flow down then, my tears,
Ah, joy is only a deeper pain,
Life is a dark grave, -
Should I then suffer?
How is it that in my dreams
All my thoughts
Tremble up and down?
I scarcely know myself any more.
O, hear me, kindly stars,
O hear me, green meadow,
And you, my love, hear my holy oath:
If I remain far from her,
I will die gladly.
Ah, only in the light of her gaze
Dwell life and hope and happiness!
Excerpt, translated from the German by G. Greville Moore, 1883.
Edward sat till late in the night in his lonely room, occupied with many thoughts. Around him lay unpaid bills, and he heaped up the sums of money near them to pay them the following morning. He had succeeded in receiving a capital, under honourable conditions, on his house, and poor as he appeared, he was content with the feeling that gave him a firm resolve for the future to live in another manner. He was already active in thought; he made plans, how he should ascend from a small employment and would prepare himself in this for a more important one.
“Habit,” said he, “becomes second nature in good as well as evil, and as idleness was up till now necessary for me to be well, so for the future it shall be work. But when, when will the wished-for golden age, with a noble conscience, really and truly exist for me, that I with comfort and delight shall be able to see before me myself and certain objects at the same time. Now it is only intentions and delightful hopes, which bloom and entice me; and Oh! shall I not be weary half-way, perhaps even at the beginning of my journey?”
He looked at the rose tenderly, which seemed to smile at him radiantly from a glass of water. He took it, and with a gentle touch imprinted a soft kiss on its leaves, and breathed a sigh in the chalice; then he placed it back in the nourishing element. He had lately found it in his bosom quite withered. Since the time that it had in its flight touched his face, he had become quite a different man, without his wishing to admit it himself.
One is never so superstitious nor does one observe so eagerly presentiments, then when the heart is very much touched, and out of the storm of feelings a new life tries to produce itself. Edward did not observe himself how the small flower brought Sophy into his presence, and as he had nearly lost everything, and himself too, therefore the withered flower should be his oracle, whether it should freshen and announce to him a new happiness, and after some hours it did not unfold its leaves in the water.
Then he aided it and the prophesying power in the usual means by cutting the stalk, and holding the flower for some moments in the flame of the candle, and afterwards placing it in the cold element. Almost visibly it freshened after this powerful assistance, and bloomed so quickly and with such vigour, that Edward had to fear it would scatter all its leaves after a while although after this he was consoled and found many remembrances of his childhood, as of the life of his parent. He had unpacked all the interior of a cupboard before him, which contained accounts, references, records of a lawsuit, and much of a similar kind.
In the meanwhile, a paper unrolled itself which contained a list of the former gallery, a history of the pictures, their prices, and what had been worthy of note to the possessor in each painting. Edward, who came back from a journey when his father lay on his deathbed, had searched after the funeral a good deal after these pictures, and had ordered many a vain search. He could expect with some right that a word might be found in another bundle, hidden between papers, a leaf which named accurately these paintings, the names of the masters, as also the former owners. The writing was apparently in the last days of his father, and underneath were the words, “And these paintings are now…”
The hand had not written more, and even these words were crossed out. Now Edward searched with all the more zeal, but without a trace. The light was burnt down, his blood was hot; he threw the sheets of paper quickly about the room, but nothing shewed itself. While he unfolded an old yellow paper, he saw to his surprise a bill, which was drawn many years ago, in which his father acknowledged himself to be the debtor of Walter for a considerable sum. It was not paid, although it was not in the hands of a creditor. How was this circumstance to be explained? He put it in his pocket and calculated that if this paper was valid, he would have scarcely anything over from his house.
He looked at a purse, which he had placed in a corner, in which was arranged once again to give considerable aid to the families which he had supported up until now. For as he was frivolous in squandering away, he was likewise generous in charity; one might also have called it throwing away his money if one wanted to be severe.
“If I can only keep from touching this sum, so that the poor may once more be happy, then afterwards it is all right, to begin quite from the beginning, and only to trust in my strength.” This was his last thought before going to sleep.
This day was for him one of greatest importance, for the hour had arrived in which he should present himself to the Prince, who in the meanwhile, as they had told him, had arrived. The clothes which he put on he had not worn for quite a long while. With such attention he had never before looked in the glass. He glanced at his figure, and could not help seeing that he was well made, that his eye was fiery, his face pleasant, and his forehead noble.
“The first look at me,” said he to himself, “will anyhow not displease him. All men, even those who cannot bear me, praise my quick and noble bearing; I am talented and well-informed, and what fails me I can easily repair, in my youth, with an excellent memory. He will learn to like me and, soon, I shall be indispensable to him. Intercourse with a higher world will by degrees wear away all that I have been clinging to me from bad society. If I travel with him, and must I, perhaps for a year or even longer be absent from this neighborhood, then this will serve in foreign countries only to place me more firmly in his esteem.
We then come back; my education and my claims by means of his protection obtained the most important positions at home or even abroad. I shall not then have certainly forgotten that it really was Sophy who first of all awakened my better half out of its sleep.”
He was now dressed, and took the full-bloomed monthly rose out of the glass and pressed it to his lips, to strengthen him in his course; but immediately all its leaves fell at his feet. “A bad omen!” he sighed, and went out of the house to step into the carriage. When he arrived at the palace, he gave the servant the letter which should recommend him to the Prince. While he walked past the walls, covered with mirrors, young Dietrich came, to his surprise, out of a side room, in haste and in excitement, and did not observe at first his friend.
“How was it you come here?” asked Edward, hastily. “Do you know the Prince?”
“Yes-no,” stammered Dietrich, “it is a strange affair, which, indeed, I will relate to you; but of course here there is no time for that.”
This was indeed the case, for a smartly dressed lady, glittering in jewels, entered with a noble bearing, and drove away the young painter, who withdrew, bowing awkwardly. Edward stool still, while the bright apparition came nearer to him. He wanted to bow, but his surprise paralyzed his movements, when he suddenly recognized in her, to the disadvantage of his reputation, the one who had lived so long in his house, and had diminished his fortunes more than all his errors.
“What!” he exclaimed. “Thou – you here in these rooms?”
“And why not?” said she, laughing; “here one lives well. Thou dost perceive, my friend, that I, who was formerly thy friend am now the friend of the Prince; and if thou dost seek for anything from him, I can, perhaps, be of assistance to thee, faithless one, for he has more heart than thou, and I can rely more on his favor lasting than I could rely on thee with thy inconstancy.”
Edward did not wish to remind the amiable beauty now that she was the first to leave him when she saw that his money was squandered away. He disclosed to her his position and his hopes, and she promised to intercede for him to the best of her ability.
“Only remain quiet towards me, my friend,” thus she concluded her assurances; “it cannot, and shall not, fail thee, and then we shall see if thou has preserved a spark of love for me in thy cold heart. Thou must only be careful, and in his presence act as a stranger towards me, so that he may never learn that or observe that we formerly knew each other.”
With a hasty kiss, in which the painted cheek caused him a quick aversion, she left him; and Edward paced with the greatest discomfort up and down the room, because everything had turned out so differently from what he had pictured himself. This creature, whom he could not help hating, to find her among his new associates did away with all hopes, and he resolved firmly to escape her snares and enticements, even if his virtue should cause him the greatest disadvantage. In the meanwhile, the door was opened, and the stranger whom he disliked so much entered, with his haughty gait and proud bearing.
Edward advanced towards him and said, “Perhaps you belong to the suite of his serene highness, and can tell me whether I can now have the honor to wait upon him.”
The stranger stood still, looking at him and, after a pause, answered in a cold way. “That I can tell you, of course; no one better than I.”
Edward was terrified, for he observed the letter of recommendation in his hand.
“Will the Prince not speak with me?” he asked, perplexed.
“He speaks with you now,” answered he, with such a scornful and lowering accent that the young man lost all countenance. “I have been staying for some time in this town,” continued the distinguished stranger, “and have found occasion to be acquainted, through my incognito, with men and circumstances. We came together in a somewhat peculiar way; and if I can forgive that step, of which you are well aware that it was not quite a guiltless one, though it has very naturally inspired me with distrust against your character, so that I cannot possibly yield you a place which would draw us together in a confidential proximity.
I return you, therefore, this letter, which, notwithstanding its warm recommendation, and though it comes from most esteemed hands, I cannot consider it. In as much as you have offended me personally, you are forgiven, as you did not know me; and your present confusion and perplexity is more than punishment enough for you. A young man has just left me, from whom I just bought a rather well-painted picture, and to whom I have also given some admonitions and good lessons for his future. — I see that our meeting has agitated you a little too much, and as you had probably counted on that position with too great certainty, and perhaps are in urgent momentary embarrassment, please accept this ring in remembrance of me, and as a sign that I leave you without any rancour.”
Edward, who in the meantime had time to gather his thoughts again, stepped back a pace in modesty, in saying, “Do not consider it, your serene highness, pride and arrogance if I now refuse this present, which under circumstances would have been very honourable to me. I cannot disapprove of your behavior, and you will certainly allow me also to act up to my feelings.”
“Young man,” said the Prince, “I will not injure you; and as you create in me esteem, I must also tell you that we should have remained together, notwithstanding the peculiar way we made our acquaintance, if a person whom I both esteem and believe, and whom you met a little while ago in this drawing room, had not told me so much that was prejudicial to you, and had not begged me imploringly to pay no attention to this letter.”
“I will not,” said Edward, “follow the example of this lady, and accuse her in turn, nor complain about her, for she has only spoken according to her conviction. But if your serene highness will grant me the favour to show me the picture of young Dietrich, as well as a few of your other pictures, then I will leave you with great thankfulness.”
“I shall be glad,” answered the Prince, “if you take an interest in art, though I have only a few subjects here; but a picture that I was fortunate enough, a few days ago, to obtain, outweighs in excellence an ordinary collection.”
They entered into a richly and well-ornamented cabinet, where on the walls and on some easels both old and new pictures were seen. “Here is the attempt of the young man,” said the Prince, which indeed promises something; and though I cannot gain any taste for the subject, notwithstanding this, the treatment of it is praiseworthy. The coloring is good, though somewhat glaring, the drawing is sure and the expression touching…”
The Prince drew a curtain and placed Edward in the right light, and said, “But look at this successful, delightful work of my favorite, Julio Romano. Be astonished and enraptured!”
With a loud exclamation, and with a very joyous and even smiling face, Edward had indeed to greet this picture, for it was the well-known work of his old friend, at which he had worked for well over a year. It was Psyche and Cupid reposing.
The Prince placed himself near Edward and exclaimed, “My having made this discovery pays alone my journey here! And at that simple old man’s I found this treasure — a man who as an artist plays no insignificant part, but is not so nearly esteemed as he ought to be. He possessed the picture for a long while and knew it was by Julio. In the meanwhile as he had not seen all his pictures, he had always still some doubt remaining, and he was rejoiced to learn so many circumstances and details of this master and his works from me. For, of course, he has judgment, the old man, and knows how to esteem such a treasure; but he has not penetrated into all the beauties of the painter.
I should have been ashamed to take advantage of his ignorance, for he demanded for this glorious work, which he became in possession of in a remarkable way, a far too moderate sum; I raised it in order to pay the ornament of my gallery in a worthy manner.”
“He is lucky, the ill-judged old man, to have gained such a connoisseur and noble protector as a friend. Perhaps he is in a position to increase the gallery of your serene highness with a few other rarities, for he possesses in his dark abode a good deal that he does not know or esteem, and is capricious enough to prefer often his own works to all older ones.”
Edward bid farewell, but did not go directly home, but hastened, though so lightly dressed as he was, to the park, ran cheerfully through the side-walks, covered with snow, laughed aloud and exclaimed, “Oh the world, the world! nothing but deceit and foolishness. Oh, folly, thou variegated and strange child, how nicely thou leadest thy favorites by thy glittering leading strings! Long live the great Eulenbock, he who is more excellent than Julio Romano or Raphael! I too have at last become acquainted with a true connoisseur.”
Julio Romano: The Wedding Feast of Cupid and Psyche, fresco in Palazzo del Te, Mantua. (1525-1535)
Excerpt, translated from the German by G. Greville Moore, 1883.
Edward went home in an indescribable anger. He entered furiously, slammed all the doors behind him, and hastened through the large apartments to a small back apartment, where in the twilight old Eulenbock was waiting for him, with a glass of wine.
“Here!” exclaimed Edward, “thou old sharp-nosed, wine-blotched scoundrel, is they daub back again. Sell it to the soap-boiler over there, who can make candles of it if the painting does not please him.”
“It were a pity for the good picture,” said the old painter, while he poured out a fresh glass of wine with the greatest sang froid. “Thou hast over-excited thyself, my friend. And the old man would not hear of the purchase.”
“Ruffian!” screamed Edward, in throwing down the picture violently, “for thy sake I have become a rogue! Insulted and mortified! Oh! and how ashamed of myself; my head and neck glowing that I should have allowed myself to tell such lies out of affection for thee.”
“They are no lies, my dear young man,” said the painter, while he unwrapt the picture; “it is as true a Salvatore Rosa as I have ever painted one yet. Thou hast not seen me work at it, and canst not know, therefore, from whom the picture originates. Thou hast no skill, my young friend; I ought not to have trusted thee with the affair.”
“I will be honourable,” said Edward, and knocked his fist on the table. “I will be a decent man, so that I may respect myself again, and others may also! Quite different will I be; a new course of life will I begin.”
“Why so angry?” said the old man, and then drank. “I will not prevent thee; it will please me, if I survive it. I have always warned thee and preached to thee; I have tried to accustom thee to occupations; I wished to teach thee to restore pictures, to prepare varnish, to mix colors — in fact, I did not let thee be deficient in anything.”
“Dog of a fellow!” exclaimed Edward, “should I become thy boy, thy mixer of colors? but naturally today I have fallen lower, for I have allowed myself to be employed as a thief by a thief.”
“How the child makes use of injurious expressions,” said the painter, and smiled into his glass. “If I took such a thing to heart, then we should have fighting or bitter enmity on the spot. He means it well, however, in his zeal; the young man has nothing noble in his nature, but as a picture dealer he is of no use.”
Edward laid his head over the table, and the painter wiped away quickly a wine spot so that the young man should not put his sleeve into it.
“The dear, good Salvatore,” said he, then thoughtfully, “is said, too, not to have led the best of lives; they accuse him of being a bandit. When Rembrandt pretended to be dead while living to raise the price of his works, he was not quite true to verity, although he really died some years later, and therefore he had only miscalculated the years of his life.
Thus, when I paint such a picture in the greatest love and humility, I fancy myself one of the old masters, with all their dear peculiarities, very modestly and thoroughly, so that it is always as if the dead man’s mind conducted my hand and brush; and the thing is then finished, and it nods to me its thanks with great heartiness, that I have also finished something of the old virtuoso, who has not been able to accomplish everything, nor yet live forever; and now I fully claim a glass of wine, while I look at it with a more severe examination, and convince myself firmly that it originates really from the old gentleman; and I deliver it thus to another amateur admirer of the dead man, and only request a trifle for the pains that I have let my hand be led.
My own genius has in the meanwhile been suppressed, having worked for the abasement of my own name among artists. Is it, then, such a fearful sin, my friend, when I sacrifice myself in such a child-like manner?”
He lifted up the head of the man lying down, but changed his grinning amiability into a ridiculous seriousness, when he saw the cheeks of the young man covered with tears, which fell uninterruptedly in a warm stream from his eyes.
“Oh, my lost youth!” sobbed Edward. “O ye golden days, ye weeks and years, how sinfully ye have been wasted, as if there lay not in your hours the germ of virtue, of honour, and of fortune; as of this most precious treasure of time was ever to be won again. Like a glass of wasted water have I exhausted my life and the interior of my heart. Oh! what an existence might have opened itself to me, what a fortune to me and to others, if an evil spirit had not dazzled my eyes. Fruitful trees grew around and above, and shaded me entirely, in which the friend, the wife, and the oppressed ones found help, consolation, peace and a country; and I aimed an ax in giddy arrogance at this wood, and must now suffer frost, storms and heat. “
Eulenboch did not know what face to make, still less what he should say, for in this humour, and with such sentiments, he had never seen his young friend before. He was at last only happy and contented that Edward did not observe him, so that in pleasant secrecy he finished his wine.
“So thou wilt be virtuous, my son?” he began at last. “Likewise good, in truth! Few men are so inclined to virtue than I myself, for it requires a quick eye at that, if only to know what virtue is. To be stingy, to extort from people, to lie to oneself and to our Lord is certainly no virtue. But who has the real talent for virtue will find it also. If I procure for a sensible man a good Salvator or Julio Romano, painted by me, and he is pleased with it, then have I always better acted than if I sell a real Raphael to a simpleton, which the simpleton does not know how to value, so that at the bottom of my heart a dressed-up Van der Werft would cause him more joy. My great Julio Romano I must indeed sell personally, for thou hast neither talent nor good luck for such affairs.”
“Those miserable sophisms,” said Edward, “cannot act upon me any longer; the time is over, and thou mayest only take care that they do not catch thee; for with novices it may succeed, but not with connoisseurs like old Walter.”
“Never mind, my child,” said the old painter, “connoisseurs are precisely the best to deceive; and with an inexperienced man I should not like even to try. Oh, this good, old, dear Walter, the sly man! Hast thou not seen the beautiful Hoellenbreughel, which hangs on the third pillar between the sketch of Rubens and the portrait of Van Dyck? It is by me. I came to the little man with the picture: “Will you not buy something pretty?” “What!” exclaimed he, “such caricatures; madness! That is not my affair! show it to me, though.
Well, moreover, I do not take up such nonsense, but as there is a little more gracefulness and drawing in this picture than one otherwise finds in such fantasies, thus I will make an exception of it for once.” In short, he has kept it and shows it to the people, to attest his various taste.”
Edward said, “But wilt thou not yet be a more honest man? It is, however, high time.”
“My young converter,” exclaimed the old man, “I am that long ago. Thou dost not understand the thing, and thou art not at an end with thy dangerous course. Art thou at the limit, and has luckily passed all the cliffs, pillories, lighthouses, then beckon to me boldly, and I will steer, perhaps, after thee. Till then leave me unmolested.”
“Thus, therefore, our course separates,” said Edward, in looking at him in a friendly way. “I have neglected much, but not yet all. I still have some of my property, my house. Here I will settle down simply, and will look for a place as a secretary or a librarian with the Prince, who shortly will arrive here. Perhaps I will travel with him, perhaps that elsewhere fortune — and if not that, I will limit myself here, and seek work and occupation in my native town.”
“And when shall this life of virtue begin?” asked the old man with a grinning laugh.
“Immediately,” said the young man; “tomorrow, today, from this very hour!”
“Foolery,” said the painter, and shook his grey head. “For all good things, one must allow oneself time to prepare, to take a run to finish the old period with a ceremony, and equally so to begin the new one. That was grand custom, that in many quarters our ancestors carried on the carnival to the grave with a truly genuine extravagance, that they at last once more madly halload out and rejoiced in their pleasure, afterwards to be able to be pious, undisturbed, and quite free from any scruples of conscience.
Let us follow the honorable custom. Brother, see, I am so good to thee; give us and thy good humour once more such a regular select banquet, such a lofty farewell and departure feast, so that we, especially I, may think of thee. Let us rejoice with the best wine till late in the night, then thou goest to the right of virtue and moderation, and we others remain to the left where we are.”
“Drunkard!” said Edward, smiling. “If thou only finds a pretext to drink, then all appears right to thee. Let it therefore be on the holy feast of the Twelfth Night.”
“There are four days to that,” sighed the old man, in draining the last remains from his glass, and then he withdrew in silence.
To be continued…
Julio Romano, The Battle of Milvian Bridge
Excerpt, translated from the German by G. Greville Moore, 1883.
PREFACE: This story was my first attempt at this kind of novel, and the tale arose quite by chance, through the zealous exhortations of a friend. I never was induced to contribute to almanacs or to pocket books, however much Jean Paul, Friedrich Schlegal and other friends have desired me to do so.
Ludwig Tieck, Berlin, 1846
“Only step in the meanwhile into the picture gallery,” said the servant , while he let in young Edward; “the old gentleman will come to you immediately.”
With a heavy heart, the young man entered the doorway. “With what other feelings,” thought he, “did I walk through these rooms with my respected father! This is the first time that I come here for such motives, and it shall also be the last. Truly it shall be! and it is time that I think differently of myself and the world.” He walked further in the saloon, while he placed a wrapt-up picture against the wall. “How one can remain thus among lifeless pictures, and exist only with them and for them!” Thus he continued his mute studies. “Is it not as if these enthusiasts perish in a bewitched country? For them, art is only a window through which they look at Nature and the world; they can recognize both only in comparing them with imitations of the same. And thus my father also dreamed away his life; what had not reference to his collection was of no more importance to him that if it had happened beneath the North Pole. Strange how every kind of enthusiasm so easily leads us to limit our existence and all our feelings. “
While he lifted his eyes, he was almost dazzled or frightened at a picture, which hung in the upper region of the high gallery, without the ornament of a frame. A fair girl’s head, with neatly entangled locks and cheerful smile, looked down in a light night-dress, one shoulder somewhat bare, which appeared perfect in form and exquisitely white; in her long, elegant fingers she held a rose, which had just bloomed, and which she approached to her glowing red lips.
“Well, really!” said Edward aloud, “if this picture is by Rubens, as it must be, then the glorious man has excelled all other masters in such subjects! It lives, it breathes! How the fresh rose blooms towards the still fresher lips! how soft and tender the red of both mingles one with the other, though they are so surely divided. And this splendour of the fine shoulders on which the flaxen hair is scattered in disorder! How can old Walter hang his best picture up so high, and without a frame, when all the other trash glitters in the most costly frames. ” He lifted again his head, and began to perceive what a powerful art that of painting is, for the picture became almost more life-like. “No, these eyes!” said he again to himself, quite lost in looking at them; “how could brush and colour produce the like? Does not one see the bosom heave? Do not the fingers and the round arm move?”
And so it was indeed; for in this very moment the charming picture raised itself, and threw with an expression of roguish petulancy the rose downwards, which flew in the young man’s face, then stepped backwards and shut with a clash the small window. Frightened, and ashamed, Edward picked up the rose from the ground. He remembered distinctly the small passage which led above near the gallery to the highest room in the house; the other small windows were covered with pictures, only this one was left as it was, to give light; and the master of the house was accustomed to take a glance at his guests often from there, who wished to visit his picture gallery.
“Is it possible?” said Edward, after he had remembered all of these circumstances, “that little Sophy, within a space of four years, could have grown into such a beauty? “
He pressed unconsciously, and with singular distraction, the rose to his mouth, placed himself against the wall, looking vacantly on the ground, and did not observe that old Walter had been standing near him for some seconds, till Walter, with a friendly tap on the shoulder . woke him out of his reverie.
“Where were you, young man?” said he, jokingly; “you are like one who has seen an apparition.”
“So it seems to me,” said young Edward. “Forgive me for troubling you with my visit.”
“We should not be so strange to one another, young friend,” said the old man heartily. “It is now more than four years that you have not entered my house. Is it right of you so entirely to forget the friend of your father, your former guardian, who was always well disposed toward you, although we had some differences of opinion with one another?”
Edward blushed, and did not know quite what he should answer. “I did not think you would miss me,” he stammered out at last. “Much might have been quite different, but the errors of youth…”
“Let us leave that alone,” said the old man in good humour. What prevents us from renewing our former acquaintanceship and friendship? What brings you now to me? “
Edward looked downward, then cast a very quick and sudden look at his old friend; he lingered still, and then went with a tarrying step to the pillar where the picture stood, which he took out of its covering.
“Look here what I found, unexpectedly, among the legacy of my late father, a picture which was preserved in an old bookcase, which I had not opened in years. Connoisseurs will have it that it is an excellent Salvator Rosa.”
“So it is!” exclaimed old Walter, with an animated look. “Well, that is a glorious discovery!” What good luck that you discovered it so unexpectedly. Yes, my beloved dead friend had treasures in his house, and he did not even know all that he possessed.”
Walter placed the picture in the correct light, examined it with sharp eyes, approached and withdrew again from the picture, followed from a distance the lines of the figures with a connoisseur’s finger, and then said, “Will you let me have it? Name a price and the picture is mine, if it is not too dear.”
In the meanwhile, a stranger had approached, who in another direction of the room copied a Julio Romano.
“A Salvator?” asked he, in a somewhat abrupt tone of voice, “you have really found an old possession in a legacy?”
“To be sure,” said Edward, eyeing the stranger with a proud look, whose smooth great coat and simple bearing led him to suppose he was a traveling artist.
“Then you are yourself deceived,” replied the stranger, in a proud, rough voice, “if you do not wish to deceive others; for this picture is apparently rather a modern one, perhaps quite a new one — at least not more than ten years old — an imitation of the manner of the master good enough to deceive for an instant, but after a nearer examination shows its defects to the connoisseur .”
“I am greatly surprised at this presumption,” exclaimed Edward, quite beside himself, “in the legacy of my father there was nothing but good pictures, and originals, for Mr. Walter and he were always reckoned the best connoisseurs in the town. And what do you want more? At our celebrated dealer’s, Erich, hangs the pendant to this Salvator, for which a few days ago a traveler had offered a very large sum. If you put both together you will see that they are both by the same master and belong together.”
“Indeed?” said the stranger, in a long drawling tone. “You know all about that Salvator also? Naturally it is painted by the same hand like this one here; that there can be no doubt. In this town, the originals of this master are rare, and Walter and Mr. Erich possessed none of him; but I am well acquainted with the brush of this great master, and give you my word that he never touched these pictures, but that they proceed from a later man, an amateur who wishes to deceive with them.”
“Your word!” exclaimed Edward, blushing deeply; “Your word! I should think my word here is as good, and perhaps, better than yours.”
“Certainly not,” said the stranger; “and besides I must regret that you allow yourself to be overcome and betrayed by your hot temper. You know, then, about the fabrication of this work, and know the clever copier?”
“No!” exclaimed Edward, more violently; “you shall prove to me this insult, sir. These assertions and untruths that you so boldly utter announce more than a hateful disposition.”
The magistrate, Walter, was in greatest embarrassment that this scene should take place in his house. He stood searchingly before the picture, and had already convinced himself that it was a modern one, but an excellent imitation of the celebrated master’s, which could also deceive an experienced eye. It pained him inwardly that young Edward was involved in this bad affair. The two disputants were so furiously enraged that all mediation was impossible.”
“What you say now, sir!” exclaimed the stranger, also in a raised tone of voice, “you are really beneath my anger, and I am rejoiced that a mere chance has led me into this gallery, which has prevented a worthy picture-collector from being deceived.”
Edward foamed with rage.
“Thus it was not intended,” said the old man, kindly.
“That this was the intention assuredly,” continued the stranger. “It is an old, oft-repeated game, and with a person to whom one has not even found worth the while to apply a new scheme. I saw at the picture-dealer’s that so-called Salvator Rosa; the possessor took it for a real one, and was the more confirmed therein because a traveler, who, judging by his clothes, might have been a gentleman, offered a high price for it. On his return, he said he would have the picture, and asked the dealer not to part with it for at least four weeks. And who was this gentleman? The discharged servant of Count Alten of Vienna. Thus it is clear that this game , from whom it may proceed, was plotted against you, Mr. Walter, and your friend, Erich.”
Edward had in the meanwhile again wrapt up with trembling hands his picture. He gnashed his teeth, stamped his feet, and exclaimed: “The devil shall pay me this trick!” He rushed out the door and did not observe that the girl looked again from above down on the gallery. She was attracted by the noise of the men quarreling.
“My worthy sir,” said the old man, turning toward the stranger; “you have done me harm. You have dealt too harshly with the young man. He is frivolous and extravagant in his manners, but I have not as yet heard of any wicked action done by him.”
“There must always be a commencement,” said the stranger, with great bitterness. “Today, he has at least paid his apprentice fee, and either turns back or learns so much that they may begin his business again more knowingly, and in respect lose self-possession.”
“He is for certain deceived himself,” said old Walter, “or he has found the picture as he says; and his father, who was a great connoisseur, has put it aside on that account, because it was not a real one.”
“You wish to turn it the best way you can, sir,” said the stranger, “but in this case, the young man would not have been so unnecessarily hasty. Who is he then, really?”
“His father,” related the old man, “was a rich man, who left great possessions behind him; and had so great a passion for his art as certainly very few men are capable of having. On this, he spent a great deal of his means, and his collection was incomparable. On account of this, he neglected a little too much the education of his only son; so when, therefore, the old man died, the young man only thought of spending money and associated with spongers and bad people, and keeping women and horses. When he became of age, there were enormous debts to be paid to usurers and in bills of exchange, but he placed all his vanity in squandering more; the works of art were sold, for he had no taste for them; I took them for a small sum. Now he has, perhaps with the exception of the beautiful house, run through almost everything, and this too must be mortgaged. He has scarcely acquired any knowledge, an occupation is insupportable to him, and so one must see with pity how he goes to his ruin.”
“The daily history of so many,” remarked the stranger, “and the usual way of unworthy vanity which conducts men joyfully into the arms of contempt.”
“How have you acquired your keen eye of judgment?” asked the magistrate. “I am also astonished at the manner in which you copy the Julio, for you are not a professional artist, you say.”
“But I have studied the art for a long time, I visited the most important galleries in Europe repeatedly, and not without profit. My eye is naturally sharp and true, and improved also by practice and made sure, so that I can flatter myself not so easily to be led astray, least of all with my favorites.” The stranger then bid good-bye, after he had been made to promise to the picture collector that he would dine with him at mid-day on the following day, for the old man had acquired great respect for the traveler on account of his knowledge.
To be continued…
Salvatore Rosa: Astraias parting from the Hirten (mid-17th Century)
Oh, the sighs and lamentations one
May hear on every side,
Throughout the whole of Nature,
If one but only give them ear.
“But now a strange change takes place in Tieck, which is shown in his third manner. Having been silent for a long time after the fall of the Schlegals, he again appeared in public and that in a manner which was little expected of him. The former enthusiast, who had once thrown himself on the breast of the Roman Catholic Church, who had fought Enlightenment and Protestantism with such power, who breathed nothing but feudality and the Middle Age, and who only loved art in naive outpourings of the heart, now appeared as the foe of what was visionary, as a depictor of modern middle-class life, as an artist who required in art the clearest self-consciousness – in short, as a reasonable man.
Thus, has he shown himself in a series of recent novels, some of which are known in France. A deep study of Goethe is visible in them, and it is specially this Goetheism which characterizes his third style. There is the same artistic clearness, cheerfulness, repose and irony. As the school of the Schlegals did not succeed in drawing Goethe into it, now we see how it, represented by Tieck, went over to him.
Tieck was born in Berlin, the 31st of May 1773. For many years, he has lived in Dresden, where he is chiefly busied with the theatre, and he who in his earlier writings always ridiculed the court-councilor as a type of the ridiculous, has himself been made such a Royal Saxon dignitary. God is sometimes a greater satirist that Tieck.
And now a strange misunderstanding has come between the reason and the imagination of this author. The former, or the reason of Tieck, is an honest, sober, plain citizen, who worships practical economy and abhors the visionary. The other, that is, the Tieck imagination, is still, as of yore, the chevelresque lady with the flowing feather on her cap, the falcon on her fist. The pair lead a curious wedded life, and it is often sad to see how the poor dame of high nobility must help the sober citizen spouse in his household or in his cheese-shop. But often in the night, when the good man, with his cotton night cap on, snores peacefully, the noble lady rises from the matrimonial bed of durance vile, and mounts her white horse, and hunts away as merrily as of yore in the enchanted forest of romance.
But I cannot refrain from remarking that of late the Tieckian reason in romance has become sterner than before, and that at the same time his imagination pays penance more and more for her romance nature, so that when the nights are cold she lies comfortably yawning in the marriage bed, and hugs up to her meager husband almost lovingly.
And yet Tieck is always a good poet, for he can create living forms, and words burst from his heart which move our own. But a faint-heartedness, something undecided and uncertain, or a certain feeble-mindedness is, or ever was, to be observed in him. The want of decision is only too perceptible in all that he did or wrote. Certainly, there is no independent character in his works. His first manner shows him as a mere nothing, his second as a true and trusty squire of the Schlegals, and his third as an imitator of Goethe. His theatrical criticisms, which he published under the title of “Dramaturgic Pages,” constitute his most original work; but they are theatrical criticisms.
In order to represent Hamlet as an altogether weak-minded man, Shakespeare makes him, in his conversation with the comedians, appear as an admirable theatrical critic.
Tieck never troubled himself with serious studies; his work of this kind was limited to modern languages and the older documents of German poetry. As a true Romanticist, he was always a stranger to classic studies; nor did he ever busy himself with philosophy, which seems to have been altogether repugnant to him. From the fields of philosophy, Tieck gathered only flowers and switches – the first for the noses of his friends, and the latter for the backs of his foes. With serious culture or scientific writings, he had naught to do. His writings are bouquets and bundles of rods, but never a sheath with an ear of corn.
Next to Goethe, Tieck often imitated Cervantes. The humoristic irony, or, as I may say, the ironic humour, of these two modern poets spreads its perfume in the novels written in Tieck’s third style. Irony and humour are therein so blended as to seem but one. There is much said now among us as to this humorous irony; the men of the Goethean school of art praise it as a special glory of their master, and it plays a great part in German literature. But it is only a sign of political servitude, and as Cervantes in the days of the Inquisition took refuge in humorous irony to set forth his thoughts without giving a chance to catch hold to the familiars of the Holy Office, so Goethe expressed with it that which he, as Minister of State and a courtier, could not directly utter. Goethe never suppressed truth, but where he could not show her naked, he clad her lightly in humour and irony.
The honest Germans, who pine under censorship and spiritual oppression of every kind, and yet never can suppress what the heart inspires, have specially taken to the ironic and humorous form. It was the only means of exit which was left to their nobler feelings, and in this form German honourableness is most touchingly shown.
This again reminds me of the marvelous prince of Denmark. Hamlet is the most honourable fellow who ever wore a skin. His dissimulation only serves as an offset to what oppresses from without; he is peculiar and odd because such conduct is less offensive to court etiquette than open breach of it. But in all his humourous ironical jests he lets it be distinctly perceived that he is acting; in all he does and say his real meaning is visible for all who can see, even to the king, to whom he cannot speak the plain truth (for that he is too weak), and yet from whom he will by no means hide it. Hamlet is through and through honourable; only the most honourable man could say, “We are arrant knaves all;” and while he plays the lunatic he will not deceive us, and in his heart conscious that he is really mad.
I have still to praise two works by Tieck, for which he specially deserved commendation of the German public. One of these is a translation of a series of English dramatists anterior to Shakespeare, and his version of “Don Quixote.” Among the former are several which bear the same names and treat of the same subjects as the Shakespeare plays. We find in them the same intrigues and scenic development; in a word, all of the Shakespearean tragedy except the poetry.
Some commentators have expressed it as their opinion that these are the first sketches of the great poet, as it were the dramatic cartoons, and if I err not, Tieck himself has declared that “King John,” one of these old plays, is a work by Shakespeare, or, so to speak, a prelude to the great masterpiece known to us by this name. But this is an error. These tragedies are nothing more than old plays on hand, which Shakespeare, as we know, worked over again, partly or wholly, as they were required by the managers, who paid him for such work twelve to sixteen shillings each. And so a poor hack of an adapter of other men’s plays outweighs the proudest literary kings of our time.
The other great poet, Miguel de Cervantes, played as modest a part in the real world. These two men, the composer of “Hamlet” and the composer of “Don Quixote,” are the greatest poets of modern times.
The translation of “Don Quixote” is a special success. No one has so exquisitely hit off the insane dignity of the ingenious hidalgo of La Manche, and set it forth so accurately, as our admirable Tieck. The books reads almost like a German original, and forms next after “Hamlet” and “Faust,” the favourite reading of Germans. The cause of this is, that in these two astonishing and profound works we have found, as in “Don Quixote,” the tragedy of our own nothingness.
German youth love “Hamlet” because they feel with him “time is out of joint.” They sigh in the same way to think that they are called upon to set it right, feel also their incredible weakness and declaim. “To be or not to be.”
Men of mature age, however, prefer “Faust.” Their mental condition attracts them to the bold investigator who makes a compact with the invisible world and who fears not the devil.
But those who have seen that all is vain, and that all human efforts are useless, prefer the romance of Cervantes, for they see all inspiration satirised in it, and all of our knights of the present who fight and suffer for ideas appear to them as so many Don Quixotes.
Did Miguel de Cervantes suspect what application a later age would make of his work? Did he really parody idealist inspiration in his tall lean knight, and common sense in his fat squire? Anyhow, the latter is always the most ridiculous, for plain common sense, with all its trite and every day proverbs, must all the same trot along after Inspiration on its easy-paced donkey; in despite of his clearer insight, he and his ass must suffer all discomfort, such as befalls the Knight himself — yea, the ideal inspiration is of such powerfully attractive nature, that common sense with the donkey must follow whether he will or not.
Or did this man of deep and subtle wit mean to mock mankind still more shrewdly? Did he allogorise the soul in the form of Don Quixote and the body in the form of Sancho Panza? And is the whole poem a great mystery, in which the question of spirit and matter is discussed with terrible truthfulness? This much I see in the book, that the poor material Sancho must suffer much for the spiritual Don Quixote, and that he gets for the noble views of his master the most ignoble stripes, and that he is always more sensible than his high-trotting master, for he knows that lashes and cuffs have evil taste, but the little sausage in the olla padrida is a very good one. Indeed, the body often seems to have more insight than the soul, and man thinks frequently far better with his back and belly than with his head.
But if old Cervantes only meant to depict in “Don Quixote” the fools who wished to restore medieval chivalry and call again to life a perished past, it is a merry irony of chance that it was just the Romantic School itself which gave us the best translation of a book in which its own folly is most delightfully satirised.”
Their words have been honored by such Lieder composers as Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms. For more information on the music inspired by Heine and Tieck, as well as other fine German poets, I invite you to visit Emily Ezust’s Lied & Art Song Texts Page. To better appreciate the challenges of their time and circumstance, please see previous post, “Young Germany and Heinrich Heine.”
“You could scarcely fail,” replied the stranger.
“Whoever knows how to seek,
Whoever feels his heart drawn toward it with a
Right inward longing
Will find friends of former ages there,
And glorious things, and all that he wishes most.”
“After the Schlegals, Ludwig Tieck was the most effective author of THE ROMANTIC SCHOOL. For it, he fought, thought and sang. He was a poet, a name which neither of the Schlegals deserved; for he was a true son of Phoebus Apollo, and, like his ever-youthful father, he bore not only the lyre but the bow, with a quiver full of rattling, ringing arrows. He was, like the Delphian god, intoxicated with lyrical fire and critical cruelty. And when, like him to, when he had pitilessly flayed alive some literary Marsyas he merrily grasped with bloody fingers the golden chords of his lyre and sang a sweet song of love.
The poetical polemic which Tieck waged in dramatic form against the adversaries of the school belongs to the most remarkable curiosities of our literature. They are satirical plays, which are generally compared with the comedies of Aristophanes. Yet they differ from the latter almost as much as a tragedy by Sophocles differs from Shakespeare. If the ancient comedies had the same cut and style, the strictly drilled step, and the exquisitely metrical language of ancient tragedies, so that they might pass for parodies, so are the dramatic satires of Tieck cut in as original and strange a manner; just as Anglicanly irregular and as metrically capricious as the tragedies of Shakespeare.
Was this form invented by Tieck? No; for it existed already among the people of Italy. He who understands Italian might get a tolerably correct idea of the dramas of Tieck if he will dream himself into the chequered-bizarre, Venetian-fantastic fairy tale comedies of Gozzi, mixed with a little German moonshine. In fact, Tieck took many of his masks from this merry child of the Lagunes. Following his example, many German poets have mastered the same form; hence, we have had comedies whose comic effects were not produced by a single fanciful character or a gay intrigue, but where we are transported at once into a wild and merry world, where animals talk and act like men, and where chance and caprice take its place in the natural order of things.
This we also find in Aristophanes. But the latter chose this form to reveal to us his profoundest views of the world, as , for instance, in the “Birds” where the maddest efforts of mankind, their desire to build the grandest castles in the air, their defiance of the eternal gods, and the vain joy of their triumphs, are set forth in the most ludicrous caricatures.
And it was that which made Aristophanes so great, because his views of the world were so great, because they were grander and more tragic than the tragedian himself; because his comedies were really jesting tragedies. Take, for example, his Paisteteros, who is not shown up in his ridiculous worthlessness at the end of the play, as a modern poet would have planned it. On the contrary, he woos and wins the beautiful, marvellously mighty Basilea; he sores with this heavenly bride to his city in the air; the gods are compelled to obey him, folly celebrates its marriage with power, and the play ends with joyous marriage-hymns.
Can there be, for any reasonable man, anything more cruelly tragic than this victory and triumph of folly? Our German Aristophanes do not rise so high; they refrain from such lofty views of life; they manifest the utmost modesty as regards discussing those very important relations of man, politics and religion; they only venture on the theme which Aristophanes himself has treated in the “Frogs” as a subject of satire – the stage itself – and they have mocked with more or less cleverness its failings.
Still we must consider the politically enslaved condition of Germany. Our wits, restrained from ridiculing real princes, made up for it by attacking kings of the theatre and queens of the coulisses. We, who were almost destitute of political journals which discussed public affairs, were all the more blessed with countless aesthetic journals, containing nothing but idle tales and theatrical criticisms, so that anyone who saw our newspapers might well suppose that the whole German race consisted of chattering nursery maids and theatrical critics.
And yet it would have been unjust.
How little content we were with such miserable scribbling appeared immediately after the Revolution of July, when it seemed as if free and bold words might be uttered in our own dear native land. There sprung up all at once newspapers which criticized the good and bad acting of real kings, and many of them who had forgotten their parts were hissed in their own capitals.
Our literary Scheherazades, who had hitherto put the public, that plump Sultan, to sleep with their little tales, were now silent; the actors saw with amazement the pit empty, however divinely they played, and even the reserved seats of the terrible town-critics were often vacant. Once the good heroes of boards always complained that they were continually subjects of public conversation, and that even their domestic affairs were discussed in the journals. But what was their horror when the awful truth flashed upon them that nobody now cared what they did!
In fact, when the Revolution broke out in Germany, there was an end to theatres and and dramatic criticism, and the terrified feuilletonists, actors and critics apprehended – and justly – that “Art was going to the dogs.” But this great calamity was fortunately averted from our native land by the wisdom and power of the Frankfort Diet.
There will be, let us hope, no revolution in Germany. We are protected from the guillotine and all the terrors of freedom of the press . Even the Chamber of Deputies, whose competition so greatly injured the regularly licensed theatres, is done away with; and art is saved! Just now they are doing all they can for art, especially in Prussia. The museums gleam with all the splendours of color, the orchestras sound, the ballet-girls leap their loveliest and liveliest entrechats, and a thousand and one novels enrapture the public, and theatrical criticism blooms again.
Justinus relates in his “Histories” that when Cyrus had quieted the revolt of the Lydians , he succeeded in taming stubborn, liberty-loving spirit by inducing in them an interest in the fine arts and other pleasant things. So there was nothing more heard of Lydian liberty or rebellion, but all the more famously did the Lydian restaurant-keepers, panders and artists flourish.
Now there is in Germany rest and repose. Theatrical criticism and novels are to the fore, and as Tieck exceeds in both, all friends of art pay him the tribute due. He is, in fact, the best novelist in Germany. Yet all his works are not of equal worth or of the same kind. We can distinguish in him, as in painters, many manners.
His first was altogether that of the old school. Then he wrote to order, and by command of a bookseller, who was no other than the Nicolai himself,the most self-willed of champions of enlightenment and humanity, the greatest enemy of superstition, mysticism and romance. Nicolai was an indifferent writer, a prosaic old wig, who often made himself ridiculous by scenting Jesuitism. But we, the later born, must admit that old Nicolai was a throughly honest man, who meant well for the German race, and who in the holy cause of liberty did not dread that cruelest of all martyrdoms, ridicule. I was told in Berlin that Tieck once lived in Nicolai’s house, one story above the latter, and so the modern time walked over the head of the old.
The works which Tieck wrote in his first style, mostly tales and long novels, among which “William Lovell” is the best, are very insignificant and without poetry. It would seem as if the rich poetic nature of this man was frugal and stinted in his youth, and that he saved up all his spiritual wealth for a later time. Or was Tieck himself ignorant of the treasure which was in him, and were the Schlegals needed to discover it with their divining rod? For as soon as he came in touch with them, all the riches of his imagination, his deep feeling and his wit. at once showed themselves. Diamonds gleamed, the purest pearls rolled out in streams, and over all flashed the ruby, the fabulous carbuncle gem of which romantic poets have often said and sung. This rich breast was the real treasury whence the Schlegals drew the funds for their literary campaigns. Tieck had to write for the school the satirical which I have mentioned, and prepare according to the new aesthetic recipes many poems of every kind. This is his second style.
His best productions in it are “The Emperor Octavian,” “The Holy Genofeva,” and “Fortunatus,” three dramas which take their names from chapbooks. The poet has given to these old tales, which have ever been dear to the German world, new and costly clothing. Honestly speaking, I prefer them in their old naive, true-hearted form. Beautiful as Tieck’s “Genofeva” may be, I love far better the old Volkbuch, very badly printed at Cologne on the Rhine, with its rude woodcuts, in which it is touching to see the poor naked Countess Palatine, with only her long hair for chaste clothing, while her little Schmerzenreich is nursed at the teats of a pitying doe.
Far more precious than these novels are the novels which Tieck wrote in this, his second manner. These too are mostly taken from the old popular legends. The best are “The Blond Eckbert” and “The Runenberg.” In these compositions, we feel a mysterious depth of meaning, a marvelous union with Nature, especially with the realm of plants and stones. The reader seems to be in an enchanted forest; he sees subterranean springs and streams rustling melodiously, and his own name whispered by the trees. Broad-leaved clinging plants wind vexingly about his feet, wild and strange wonder- flowers look at him with varicoloured longing eyes, invisible lips kiss his cheeks with mocking tenderness, tall mushrooms like golden bells grow singing about the root, great silent birds cradle themselves on the boughs, and nod adown with their cunning long bills.
All breathes – lurks – is thrilling with expectation, when suddenly the soft tune of a hunter’s horn is heard, and a beautiful lady with waving plumes on her cap, a falcon on her wrist, rides past on a white palfrey. And this fair dame is as bright and blond and violet-eyed, as smiling and yet serene, as true and yet as ironic, as chaste and yet as passionate, as the imagination of our glorious Ludwig Tieck. Yes! his fantasy is a wondrous winsome damoiselle of high degree, who in an enchanted forest hunts fabulous creatures – perhaps the rare unicorn which can be caught only by a pure maid.”
To be continued tomorrow in Part II.
Johann Ludwig Tieck