Jean Paul’s “Titan” Pt. 3
Excerpt, “Titan: A Romance” from the German of Jean Paul Friedrich Richter. Translated by Charles T. Brooks in two volumes, Vol. II. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862.
“O Dio!” cried the Spanish maiden; startled, she became a lily, a rose, a flame, and sought to collect herself. “How singular! A friend of yours, the Princess Julienne, is also here.”
The conversation now flowed more smoothly. She spoke of his father, and expressed her gratitude as his ward. “That is a mighty nature of his, which guards itself against everything common,” said she, at once against the fashion of the quality, speaking even partially of persons. The son was made happy by this praise of a father; he enhanced it, and asked in pleased expectation how she took his coldness.
“Coldness?” said she, with liveliness. “I hate the word cordially. If ever a rare man has a whole will and not half of one, and rests upon his power, and does not, like a crustaceous animal, cleave to every other, he is called cold. Is not the sun, when he approaches us, cold, too?”
“Death is cold!” cried Albano, very much moved, because he often imagined that he himself had more force than love; “but there may well be a sublime coldness, a sublime pain, which with eagle’s talon snatches the heart away on high, but tears it in pieces in mid-heaven and before the sun.”
She looked upon him with a look of greatness. “Truly, you speak like a woman,” said she; “they alone have nothing to will or to do without the might of love; but it was prettily said.” Dian, good for nothing at general observations, and apt only at individual ones, interrupted her with questions about particular works of art in Naples; she very frankly communicated her characteristic views, although with tolerable decision. Albano thought of his artistic friend, the draughtsman Schoppe, and asked about him. “At my departure,” said she, “he was still in Pestitz, though I cannot comprehend what such an extraordinary being would fain do there. That is a powerful man, but quite jumbled up and not clear. “
“How does,” asked Dian, half joking, “my old patron, the Lector Agusti?”
She answered concisely, and almost with a certain sensitivity at the familiarity of the question. “It goes well with him at court. Few natures,” she continued, turning to Albano on the subject of Augusti; “are doomed to meet so much injustice of judgment as such simple, cool, consistent ones as his.”
Albano could not entirely say yes, but he recognized with satisfaction her respect for the strangest individuality of character the pupil of his father, who prized a plant, not according to the smoothness or roughness of its skin, but according to its bloom. Never does a man portray his own character more vividly than in his manner of portraying another’s. But Linda’s lofty candor on the subject, which is as often wanting in finely cultivated females as refinement and reserve are in powerful men, took the strangest hold of the youth; and he thought he should be sinning if he did not exercise his great natural frankness with her.
She called her maidens to accompany her. Dian went off. “These are more necessary,” said she, “than they seem.” She had something of an ocular abnormality, being infinitely short-sighed in the night. He begged to be permitted to accompany her; and she agreed.
During the walk she often stood still, to look at the beautiful flame of Vesuvius. “He stands there,” said Alban, “in this pastoral poem of Nature, and exalts everything, as a war does the Age.”
“Do you believe that of war?” asked she.
“A man must have,” he replied, “either great men or great objects before him, otherwise his powers degenerate, as the magnet does when it has lain for a long time without being turned toward the right corners of the world.”
“How true,” said she; “what say you to a Gallic war?” He owned his wish that it might break out, and his own disposition to take part in it. He could not help, even at the expense of his future liberty, being open-hearted with her. “Blessed are you men,” said she; “you dig your way down through the snow of life, and find at last the green harvest underneath. That can no woman do. A woman is surely a stupid thing in nature. I respect one and another head of the Revolution, particularly that political monster of energy, Mirabeau; although I cannot like him. “
During these discoursings they came upon the ascent of Epomeo. As he now went along side this noble lady, and occasionally looked into her face, which was made still more beautiful by mental energy, and became at once flower, blossom and fruit (whereas generally the converse holds, and the head gains by the face). Silently, they went on in the rare night and region.
All at once she stopped on an eminence, around which the dowry of Nature was heaped up on all sides in mountains. They looked round in the splendor; the Swan of Heaven, the moon, floated high over Vesuvius in the ether. The giant serpent of the world , the sea, lay fast asleep in his bed that stretches from pole to pole. The coasts and promontories glimmered only, like midnight dreams.
Clefts full of tree blossoms overflowed with ethereal dew made of light, and in the vales below stood dark smoke-columns upon hot-fountains, and overhead they floated away in splendor. All around lay, high up, illuminated chapels, and low around the shore, dark cities. The winds stool still, the rose-perfumes and the myrtle-perfumes stole forth alone. Soft and bland floated the blue night around the ravished earth. From around the warm moon, the ether retired, and she sank down love-intoxicated out of mid-heaven larger and larger into the sweet earth-spring. Vesuvius now stood, without flame or thunder, white with sand or snow, in the east. In the darkening blue, the gold grains of the fiery stars were sowed far abroad.
It was the rare time when life has its transit through a superterrestrial sun. Albano and Linda accompanied each other with holy eyes, and their looks softly disengaged themselves from each other again. They gazed into the world, and into the heart, and expressed nothing. Linda turned softly around and walked silently onward.
All at once, one of the prattling maidens called out, “There is really an earthquake coming! Good night!”
“God grant one,” said Albano.
“Oh why?” said Linda, eagerly, but in a low tone.
“All that the infinite mother wills and sends is to me, today, childishly dear, even death. Are we not, too, part and parcel of her immortality?” said he. “Yes, man may feel and believe this in joy; only in sorrow let him not speak of immortality. In such impotency of soul, he is not worthy of it.”
Albano’s spirit here rose up from its princely seat to greet its lofty kinswoman, and said, “Immortal one! and though no one else was so!” She silently smiled and went on. His heart was an asbestos-leaf written over and cast into the fire, burning, not consuming; his whole former life went out, the leaf shone … fiery and pure.
When they reached the final eminence below which the lady’s dwelling lay, and they stood near each other on the point of separation, then the maiden suddenly cried out below. “Earthquake!” Out of hell, a thunder-car rolled on in the subterranean ways. A broad lightning flapped its wings up and down in the pure heaven under the stars. The earth and the stars trembled, and afrighted eagles flew through the lofty night. Albano had grasped the hands of the tottering Linda. Her face had faded before the moon to a pale, godlike statue of marble. By this time, it was all over; only some stars of the earth still shot down out of the steadfast heavens into the sea, and wondrous clouds went up round about from below.
“Am I very timid?” said she, faintly. Albano gazed into her face livingly and serenely as a sun-god in morning redness, and pressed her hands. She would have drawn them away violently.
“Give them to me forever!” said he, earnestly.
“Bold man,” she said in confusion. “Does thou know me? If thou art as I, then swear and say whether thou hast always been true!”
Albano looked toward Heaven, his life was balanced; God was near him. He answered softly and firmly. “Linda, always!”
“So have I,” said she, and inclined modestly her beautiful head upon his breast, but, her large eyes moist, immediately raised it again. “Go now! Early tomorrow come, Albano! Adio! Adio!”
The maidens came up. Albano went down, his bosom filled with living warmth, with living radiance. Nature breathed with fresher perfumes out of the gardens. The sea murmured again below. And out on Vesuvius burned a Love’s-torch, a festal fire of joy. Through the night-skies, some eagles were still sailing towards the moon, as toward a sun. And against the arch of heaven the Jacob’s ladder stood leaning with golden rounds of stars.
As Albano was walking along so solitary in his bliss, dissolved in the rapture of love, the fragrance of the vales, the radiance of the heights, dreaming, hovering. he saw birds of passage flying across the sea, in the direction of the Appennines, on their way to Germany; where Liana had lived. “Holy One above!” cried his heart, “thou desiredst this joy; appear and bless it!” Unexpectedly, he stood before a chapel niche wherein the Holy Virgin stood. The moon transfigured the pale statue. The Virgin took life beneath the radiance, and became more like Liana. Kneeling, ardent, he offered God his gratitude. To Leana, his tears.
When he rose, turtle-doves were cooing in dreams, and a nightingale warbled; the hot fountain smoked, glimmering; and the happy singing of far-off people came up to his ears.