The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. III
Kuno Francke (Editor-in-Chief)
Part 1 out of 13
Produced by Stan Goodman, Jayam Subramanian and PG Distributed
* * * * *
FRIEDRICH VON SCHILLER
THE GERMAN CLASSICS
Masterpieces of German Literature
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
IN TWENTY VOLUMES
THE GERMAN PUBLICATION SOCIETY
CONTENTS OF VOLUME III
Life of Schiller. By Calvin Thomas
To the Ideal
The Veiled Image at Sais
The Ideal and The Actual Life
Votive Tablets (Selections)
The Maiden from Afar
The Cranes of Ibycus
Thee Words of Belief
The Words of Error
The Lay of the Bell
The German Art
Commencement of the New Century
Rudolph of Hapsburg
Introduction to Wallenstein's Death. By William H. Carruth
The Death of Wallenstein. Translated by S. T. Coleridge
Introduction to William Tell. By William H. Carruth
William Tell. Translated by Sir Theodore Martin, K.C.B.
Homage of the Arts. Translated by A. I. du P. Coleman
HISTORY AND LITERATURE
The Thirty Years' War--Last Campaigns of Gustavus Adolphus. Translated
by Rev. A. J. W. Morrison
On the Use of the Chorus in Tragedy. Translated by A. Lodge
Schiller's Correspondence with Goethe. Translated by L. Dora Schmitz
Milton and His Daughters. By Michael von Munkacsy
Schiller. By C. Jaeger
Schiller's Father and Mother
Schiller's House in Weimar and Birthplace in Marbach
Monument to Schiller in Berlin. By Reinhold Begas
Military Academy in Stuttgart and the Theatre in Mannheim, 1782
Church in which Schiller was married
Schiller at the Court of Weimar
The Knight scorns Cunigonde. By Eugen Klimsch
The Diver. By Carl Gehrts
The Lay of the Bell. By Julius Benezur
Cassandra. By Ferdinand Keller
The Count gives up his Horse to the Priest. By Alexander Wagner
Wallenstein and Seni
Wallenstein and Terzky
Wallenstein hears of Octavio's Treason
Wallenstein warned by his Friends
The Death of Wallenstein. By Karl von Piloty
Stauffacher and his Wife Gertrude
The Oath on the Ruetli
Tell takes Leave of his Family
Tell and Gessler
The Death of Attinghausen. By Wilhelm von Kaulbach
The Homage of the Arts. By Hermann Wislicenus
Wallenstein. By Van Dyck
Monument to Goethe and Schiller in Weimar. By Ernst Rietschel
Goethe on Schiller. From the _Ford Collection_, New York Public Library
Schiller on Goethe. From the _Ford Collection_, New York Public Library
Schiller Reciting from his Works to his Weimar Friends. By Theobald
The Goethe and Schiller Archives in Weimar
Facsimile of Leaf from the Album of Schiller's Letters to Charlotte
THE LIFE OF SCHILLER
BY CALVIN THOMAS, LL.D.
Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Columbia University
He kept the faith. The ardent poet-soul,
Once thrilled to madness by the fiery gleam
Of Freedom glimpsed afar in youthful dream,
Henceforth was true as needle to the pole.
The vision he had caught remained the goal
Of manhood's aspiration and the theme
Of those high luminous musings that redeem
Our souls from bondage to the general dole
Of trivial existence. Calm and free
He faced the Sphinx, nor ever knew dismay,
Nor bowed to externalities the knee,
Nor took a guerdon from the fleeting day;
But dwelt on earth in that eternity
Where Truth and Beauty shine with blended ray.
Friedrich Schiller, the greatest of German dramatic poets, was born
November 10, 1759, at Marbach in Swabia. His father was an officer in
the army which the Duke of Wuerttemberg sent out to fight the Prussians
in the Seven Years' War. Of his mother, whose maiden name was Dorothea
Kodweis, not much is known. She was a devout woman who lived in the
cares and duties of a household that sometimes felt the pinch of
poverty. After the war the family lived a while at the village of
Lorch, where Captain Schiller was employed as recruiting officer. From
there they moved, in 1766, to Ludwigsburg, where the extravagant duke
Karl Eugen had taken up his residence and was bent on creating a sort
of Swabian Versailles. Here little Fritz went to school and was
sometimes taken to the gorgeous ducal opera, where he got his first
notions of scenic illusion. The hope of his boyhood was to become a
preacher, but this pious aspiration was brought to naught by the offer
of free tuition in an academy which the duke had started at his Castle
Solitude near Stuttgart.
This academy was Schiller's world from his fourteenth to his
twenty-first year. It was an educational experiment conceived in a
rather liberal spirit as a training-school for public service. At
first the duke had the boys taught under his own eye at Castle
Solitude, where they were subjected to a strict military discipline.
There being no provision for the study of divinity, Schiller was put
into law, with the result that he floundered badly for two years. In
1775 the institution was augmented by a faculty of medicine and
transferred to Stuttgart, where it was destined to a short-lived
career under the name of the Karlschule. Schiller gladly availed
himself of the permission to change from law to medicine, which he
thought would be more in harmony with his temperament and literary
ambitions. And so it proved. As a student of medicine he made himself
at home in the doctrines and practices of the day, and for several
years after he left school he thought now and then of returning to the
profession of medicine.
For posterity the salient fact of his long connection with the
Karlschule is that he was there converted into a fiery radical and a
banner-bearer of the literary revolution. Just how it came about is
hard to explain in detail. The school was designed to produce docile
and contented members of the social order; in him it bred up a savage
and relentless critic of that order. The result may be ascribed
partly, no doubt, to the natural reaction of an ardent, liberty-loving
temperament against a system of rigid discipline and petty espionage.
The _eleves_--French was the official language of the school--were not
supposed to read dangerous books, and their rooms were often searched
for contraband literature. But they easily found ways to evade the
rule and enjoy the savor of forbidden fruit.
[Illustration: FRIEDRICH VON SCHILLER]
So it was with Schiller: he read Rousseau more or less, the early
works of Goethe, Lessing's _Emilia Galotti_, and plays by Klinger,
Leisewitz, Lenz and Wagner--all more or less revolutionary in spirit.
He also made the acquaintance of Shakespeare and steeped himself in
the spirit of antique heroism as he found it in Plutarch.
Perhaps this reading would have made a radical of him even if he had
just then been enjoying the normal freedom of a German university
student. Be that as it may, the time came--it was about 1777--when the
young Schiller, faithfully pursuing his medical course and doing loyal
birthday orations in praise of the duke or the duke's mistress, was
not exactly what he seemed to be. Underneath the calm exterior there
was a soul on fire with revolutionary passion.
It was mainly in 1780--his last year in the Karlschule--that Schiller
wrote _The Robbers_, altogether the loudest explosion of the Storm and
Stress. The hero, Karl Moor, was conceived as a "sublime criminal."
Deceived by the machinations of his villainous brother Franz, he
becomes the captain of a band of outlaws and attempts by murder, arson
and robbery to right the wrongs of the social order. For a while he
believes that he is doing a noble work. When he learns how he has been
deluded he gives himself up to the law. The effect of the play is that
of tremendous power unchecked by any of the restraints of art. The
plot is incredible, the language tense with turbulent passion, and the
characters are extravagantly overdrawn. But the genius of the born
dramatist is there. It is all vividly seen and powerfully bodied
forth. What is more important, the play marks the birth of a new
type--the tragedy of fanaticism. We are left at the end with a
heightened feeling for the mysterious tangle of human destiny which
makes it possible for a really noble nature such as Karl Moor to go
thus disastrously wrong.
Toward the end of 1780 Schiller left the academy and was made doctor
to a regiment of soldiers consisting largely of invalids. He dosed
them with drastic medicines according to his light, but the service
was disagreeable and the pay very small. To make a stir in the world
he borrowed money and published _The Robbers_ as a book for the
reader, with a preface in which he spoke rather slightingly of the
theatre. The book came out in the spring of 1781--with a rampant lion
and the motto _in Tirannos_ on the title-page. Ere long it came to the
attention of Dalberg, director of the theatre at Mannheim, who saw
its dramatic qualities and requested its author to revise it for the
stage. This Schiller readily consented to do. To please Dalberg he set
the action back from the eighteenth to the sixteenth century and made
many minor changes. The revised play was performed at Mannheim on
January 12, 1782, with ever-memorable success. The audience, assembled
from far and near, went wild with enthusiasm. No such triumph had been
achieved before on a German stage. The author himself saw the
performance, having come over from Stuttgart without leave of absence.
For this breach of discipline, or rather for a repetition of the
offense in May, he was sent to the guardhouse for a fortnight and
forbidden to write any more plays. The consequence was a clandestine
flight from a situation that had become intolerable. In September,
1782, he escaped from Stuttgart with his loyal friend Streicher and
took his way northward toward the Palatinate. He had set his hopes on
finding employment in Mannheim.
[Illustration: SCHILLER'S FATHER AND MOTHER]
Before leaving his native Swabia he had virtually completed a second
play dealing with the conspiracy of Count Fiesco at Genoa in the year
1547. He had also won his spurs as a poet and a critic. His _Anthology
for 1782_ contains a large number of short poems, some of them
evincing a rare talent for dramatic story-telling, others
foreshadowing the imaginative sweep and the warmth of feeling which
characterize the best poetic work of the later Schiller. Such,
notably, are the poems to Laura, in which the lover's raptures are
linked with the law of gravitation and the preestablished harmony of
the world. He also contributed several papers to the Wuerttemberg
_Repertorium_, especially a review of _The Robbers_ in which,
dissecting his own child with remorseless impartiality, he anticipated
nearly everything that critics were destined to urge against the play
during the next hundred years. Having left his post of duty and
being a military officer, Schiller was technically a deserter and had
reason to fear pursuit and arrest. At Mannheim his affairs went badly.
The politic Dalberg was not eager to befriend a youth who had offended
the powerful Duke of Wuerttemberg; so _Fiesco_ was rejected and its
author came into dire straits. Toward the close of the year he found a
welcome refuge at Bauerbach, where a house was put at his disposal by
his friend Frau von Wolzogen. Here he remained several months,
occupied mainly with a new play which came to be known as _Cabal and
Love_. He also sketched a historical tragedy, _Don Carlos_, being led
to the subject by his reading of St. Real's historical novel _Don
Carlos_. During the first part of his stay at Bauerbach Schiller went
by the name of Dr. Ritter and wrote purposely misleading letters as to
his intended movements. By the summer of 1783, however, it had become
apparent that the Duke of Wuerttemberg was not going to make trouble.
Relieved of anxiety on this score, and not having had very good
success of late with his theatre, Dalberg reopened negotiations with
Schiller, who was easily persuaded to emerge from his hiding-place and
become theatre-poet at Mannheim under contract for one year.
During this year at Mannheim _Fiesco_ and _Cabal and Love_ were put on
the stage and published. The former is a quasi-historical tragedy of
intriguing ambition, ending--in the original version--with the death
of Fiesco at the hands of the fanatical republican Verrina. While
there is much to admire in its abounding vigor and its picturesque
details, _Fiesco_ lacks artistic finality and is the least interesting
of Schiller's early plays. Much more important is _Cabal and Love_, a
domestic tragedy that has held the stage to this day and is generally
regarded as the best of its kind in the eighteenth-century German
drama. Class conflict is the tragic element. A maid of low degree and
her high-minded, aristocratic lover are done to death by a miserable
court intrigue. Far more than in _The Robbers_ Schiller was here
writing with his eye on the facts. Much Wuerttemberg history is thinly
disguised in this drastic comment on the crimes, follies and
banalities of German court life under the Old Regime.
Notwithstanding his success as a playwright and his receipt of the
honorable title of Councilor from the Duke of Weimar, Schiller was
unhappy at Mannheim. Sickness, debt and loneliness oppressed him,
making creative work well-nigh impossible. In June, 1784, when the sky
was looking very black, he received a heartening letter from a quartet
of unknown admirers in Leipzig, one of whom was Gottfried Koerner.
Schiller was deeply touched. In his hunger for sympathy and friendship
he resolved to leave Mannheim and seek out these good people who had
shown such a kindly interest in him. Fortunately Koerner was a man of
some means and was able to help not only with words but with cash. So
it came about that in the spring of 1785 Schiller forsook Mannheim,
which had become as a prison to him, and went to Leipzig. Thence,
after a short sojourn, he followed Koerner to Dresden. The relation
between the two men developed into a warm and mutually inspiring
friendship. A feeling of jubilant happiness took possession of
Schiller and soon found expression in the _Song to Joy_, wherein a
kiss of love and sympathy is offered to all mankind.
[Illustration: 1. SCHILLER'S HOUSE IN WEIMAR]
[Illustration: 2. SCHILLER'S BIRTHPLACE IN MARBACH]
During his two years' sojourn in Dresden Schiller was mainly occupied
with the editing of a magazine, the _Thalia_, and with the completion
of _Don Carlos_, the first of his plays in blank verse. Hitherto he
had written with his eye on the stage, and in the savage spirit of the
Storm and Stress. Now, however, the higher ambition of the dramatic
poet began to assert itself. His views of life were changing, and his
nature craved a freer and nobler self-expression than was possible in
the "three hours' traffic of the stage." He had begun _Don Carlos_ at
Bauerbach, intending to make it a love-tragedy in a royal household
and incidentally to scourge the Spanish inquisition. Little by little,
however, the centre of his interest shifted from the lovesick Carlos
to the quixotic dreamer Posa, and the result was that the love-tragedy
gradually grew into a tragedy of political idealism with Posa for its
hero. As finally completed in the summer of 1787, _Don Carlos_ had
twice the length of an ordinary stage-play and, withal, a certain lack
of artistic unity. But its sonorous verse, its fine phrasing of large
ideas, and its noble dignity of style settled forever the question of
Schiller's power as a dramatic poet. The third act especially is
instinct with the best idealism of the eighteenth century.
After _Don Carlos_ Schiller wrote no more plays for some nine years,
being occupied in the interval chiefly with history and philosophy.
His dramatic work had interested him more especially in the sixteenth
century. At Dresden he began to read history with great avidity and
found it very appetizing. What he most cared for, evidently, was not
the annals of warfare or the growth of institutions, but the
psychology of the great man. He was an ardent lover of freedom, both
political and intellectual, and took keen delight in tracing its
progress. On the other hand, play-writing had its disadvantages. Thus
far it had brought him more of notoriety than of solid fame, and his
income was so small that he was dependent on Koerner's generosity. To
escape from this irksome position he decided to try his fortune in
Thuringia. Going over to Weimar, in the summer of 1787, he was well
received by Herder and Wieland--Goethe was just then in Italy--and
presently he settled down to write a history of the Dutch Rebellion.
His plan looked forward to six volumes, but only one was ever written.
It was published in 1788 under the title of _The Defection of the
Netherlands_ and led to its author's appointment as unsalaried
professor of history at the University of Jena. He began to lecture in
the spring of 1789.
Meanwhile he had taken up the study of the Greek poets and found them
very edifying and sanative--just the influence that he needed to
clarify his judgment and correct his earlier vagaries of taste. He was
fascinated by the _Odyssey_ and in a mood of fleeting enthusiasm he
resolved to read nothing but the ancients for the next two years.
He translated the _Iphigenia in Aulis_ of Euripides and a part of _The
Phenician Women_. Out of this newborn ardor grew two important poems,
_The Gods of Greece_ and _The Artists_; the former an elegy on the
decay of Greek polytheism conceived as a loss of beauty to the world,
the latter a philosophic retrospect of human history wherein the
evolutionary function of art is glorified. At the same time he revived
the dormant _Thalia_ and used its columns for the continued
publication of _The Ghost-seer_, a pot-boiling novel which he had
begun at Dresden. It is Schiller's one serious attempt at prose
fiction. His initial purpose was to describe an elaborate and
fine-spun intrigue, devised by mysterious agents of the Church of
Rome, for the winning over of a Protestant German prince. The story
begins in a promising way, and the later portions contain fine
passages of narrative and character-drawing. But its author presently
began to feel that it was unworthy of him and left it unfinished.
[Illustration: MONUMENT TO SCHILLER (Berlin) _Sculptor, Reinhold
On the 22d of February, 1790, Schiller was married to Lotte von
Lengefeld, with whom he lived most happily the rest of his days. His
letters of this period tell of a quiet joy such as he had not known
before. And then, suddenly, his fair prospects were clouded by the
disastrous breakdown of his health. An attack of pneumonia in the
winter of 1790-1791 came near to a fatal ending, and hardly had he
recovered from that before he was prostrated by a second illness worse
than the first. He bade farewell to his friends, and the report went
abroad that he was dead. After a while he rallied, but never again to
be strong and well. From this time forth he must be thought of as a
semi-invalid, doomed to a very cautious mode of living and expectant
of an early death. It was to be a fourteen years' battle between a
heroic soul and an ailing body.
For a while, owing to the forced cessation of the literary work on
which his small income depended, he was in great distress for lack of
money. His wife, while of noble family, had brought nothing but
herself to the marriage partnership. And then, just as in the dark
days at Mannheim in 1784, help seemed to come from the clouds. Two
Danish noblemen, ardent admirers quite unknown to him personally,
heard of his painful situation and offered him a pension of a thousand
thalers a year for three years. No conditions whatever were attached
to the gift; he was simply to follow his inclination, free from all
anxiety about a livelihood. Without hesitation he accepted the gift
and thus found himself, for the first time in his life, really free to
do as he chose. What he chose was to use his freedom for a grapple
with Kant's philosophy. Today this seems a strange choice for a sick
poet, but let Schiller himself explain what lay in his mind. He wrote
"It is precisely for the sake of artistic creation that I wish to
philosophize. Criticism must repair the damage it has done me. And it
has done me great damage indeed; for I miss in myself these many years
that boldness, that living fire, that was mine before I knew a rule.
Now I see myself in the act of creating and fashioning; I observe the
play of inspiration, and my imagination works less freely, since it is
conscious of being watched. But if I once reach the point where
artistic procedure becomes natural, like education for the
well-nurtured man, then my fancy will get back its old freedom and
know no bounds but those of its own making."
From these words we understand the nature of Schiller's enterprise--he
wished to fathom the laws of beauty. It seemed to him that beauty
could not be altogether a matter of changing taste, opinion, and
fashion; that somehow or other it must be grounded in eternal laws
either of the external world or of human nature. He felt, too, that a
knowledge of these laws, could it once become second nature, would be
very helpful to him as a dramatic poet. Whether he was right in so
thinking is a question too large to be discussed here, nor can we
follow him in the details of his esthetic speculation. The subject is
too abstruse to be dispatched in a few words. Suffice it to say that a
number of minor papers, the most important being _On Winsomeness and
Dignity (Ueber Anmut and Wuerde)_ and _On the Sublime_, prepared the way
for a more popular exposition of his views in the _Letters on Esthetic
Education_ and in the memorable essay _On Naive and Sentimental
Poetry_, which deserves to be called, next to Lessing's _Laocoon_, the
weightiest critical essay of the eighteenth century. The Letters
contain a ripe and pleasing statement of Schiller's philosophy in its
relation to the culture-problems of his epoch.
Along with these philosophic studies Schiller found time for much work
more closely related to his professorship of history. To say nothing
of his minor historical writings, he completed, in 1793, his _History
of the Thirty Years' War_. It appeared in successive numbers of
Goeschen's _Ladies' Calendar_, a fact which in itself indicates that it
was not conceived and should not be judged as a monument of research.
The aim was to tell the story of the great war in a readable style.
And in this Schiller succeeded, especially in the parts relating to
his hero, the Swedish king Gustav Adolf. Over Schiller's merit as a
historian there has been much debate, and good critics have caviled at
his sharp contrasts and his lack of care in matters of detail. But the
great fact remains that the _Defection of the Netherlands_ and the
_Thirty Years' War_ are the earliest historical classics in the German
language. Schiller was the first German to make literature out of
The year 1794 brought about a closer relation between Schiller and
Goethe, an event of prime moment in the lives of both. On Goethe's
return from Italy, in the summer of 1788, Schiller was introduced to
him, but the meeting had no immediate consequences. In fact, Schiller
had quietly made up his mind not to like the man whom, for a whole
year, he had heard constantly lauded by the Weimar circle. He thought
of Goethe as a proud, self-centred son of fortune, with whom
friendship would be impossible. Goethe, on the other hand, was not
drawn to the author of _The Robbers_. He looked on the popularity of
the detestable play as a shocking evidence of depraved public taste
and was not aware how its author had changed since writing it. So it
came about that, for some six years, the two men lived as neighbors in
space but strangers in the spirit. At last, however, an accidental
meeting in Jena led to an interchange of views and prepared the way
for the most memorable of literary friendships.
By this time Schiller had undertaken the editorship of a new literary
magazine to be called _Die Horen_, which was to be financed by the
enterprising publisher Cotta in Stuttgart. The plan was that it should
eclipse all previous undertakings of its kind. But it was to eschew
politics. Germany was just then agitated by the fierce passions of the
revolutionary epoch, and this excitement was regarded by Schiller as
ominous for the nation. There was need of esthetic education. So he
proposed to keep the _Horen_ clear of politics and try to divert the
minds of men into the serener regions of letters and art. To Goethe,
who also hated the Revolution, this was a highly acceptable program.
So he readily undertook to write for the _Horen_, and thus he and
Schiller soon became linked together in the public mind as allied
champions of a cause. It is for this reason that the Germans are wont
to call them the Dioscuri.
By way of signalizing their community of interest the Dioscuri
presently began to write satirical distichs at the expense of men and
tendencies that they did not like. For example:
Gentlemen, keep your seats! for the curs but covet your places,
Elegant places to hear all the other dogs bark.
The making of these more or less caustic epigrams amused them.
Sometimes one would suggest the topic and the other write the distich;
again, one would do the hexameter, the other the pentameter. They
agreed that neither should ever claim separate property in the
_Xenia_, as they were called. The number grew apace, until it reached
nearly a thousand. About half the number on hand were published in
1797 in Schiller's _Musenalmanach_ and had the effect of setting all
Germany agog with curiosity, rage or solemn glee. Some of those hit
replied in kind or in vicious attacks, and for a little while there
was great excitement. But having discharged their broadside Goethe and
Schiller did not further pursue the ignoble warfare. They wisely came
to the conclusion that the best way to elevate the public taste was
not to assail the bad in mordant personal epigrams, but to exemplify
the good in creative work.
After his nine years of fruitful wandering in other fields Schiller
returned at last, in 1796, to dramatic poetry. Once more it came in
his way to write for the stage, since Goethe was now director of the
Weimar theatre. After some hesitation between _Wallenstein_ and _The
Knights of Malta_, both of which had long haunted his thoughts, he
decided in favor of the former. It occupied him for three years and
finally left his hands as a long affair in three parts. Yet it is not
a trilogy in the proper sense, but a play in ten acts, preceded by a
dramatic prelude. At first Schiller found the material refractory. The
actual Wallenstein had never exhibited truly heroic qualities of any
kind, and his history involved only the cold passions of ambition,
envy, and vindictiveness. Whether he was really guilty of treason was
a moot question which admitted of no partisan treatment. But
Schiller's genius triumphed splendidly over the difficulties inherent
in the subject. In the _Camp_ we get a picturesque view of the motley
soldatesca which was the basis of Wallenstein's power and prestige. In
_The Piccolomini_ we see the nature of the dangerous game he is
playing, and in _Wallenstein's Death_ the unheroic hero becomes very
impressive in his final discomfiture and his pitiable taking-off. The
love-tragedy of Max and Thekla casts a mellow light of romance over
the otherwise austere political action.
[Illustration: 1. THE MILITARY ACADEMY IN STUTTGART WHERE SCHILLER WAS
[Illustration: 2. THE THEATRE IN MANNHEIM IN 1782 WHERE SCHILLER'S
"THE ROBBERS," "FIESCO," AND "LOVE AND INTRIGUE" WERE FIRST PLAYED]
During the years 1795-1800 Schiller wrote a large number of short
poems in which he gave expression to his matured philosophy of life.
His best ballads also belong to this period. Pure song he did not
often attempt, his philosophic bent predisposing him to what the
Germans call the lyric of thought. Perhaps his invalidism had
something to do with it; at any rate the total number of his singable
lyrics, such as _The Maiden's Lament_, is but small. As a poet of
reflection he is at his best in _The Ideal and Life, The Walk, The
Eleusinian Festival_, and the more popular _Song of the Bell_. The
first-named of these four, at first called _The Realm of Shades_, is a
masterpiece of high thinking, charged with warm emotion and bodied
forth in gorgeous imagery. Its doctrine is that only by taking refuge
in the realm of the Ideal can we escape from the tyranny of the flesh,
the bondage of Nature's law, the misery of struggle and defeat. Yet it
is not a doctrine of quietism that is here preached, as if inner peace
were the supreme thing in life, but rather one of hopeful endeavor.
_The Walk_, one of the finest elegies in the German language, is a
pensive retrospect of the origins of civilization, loving
contemplation of Nature giving rise to reflections on man and his
estate. _The Song of the Bell_, probably the best known of all
Schiller's poems, gives expression to his feeling for the dignity of
labor and for the poetry of man's social life. Perhaps we may say that
the heart of his message is found in this stanza of _The Words of
And so, noble soul, forget not the law,
And to the true faith be leal;
What ear never heard and eye never saw,
The Beautiful, the True, they are real.
Look not without, as the fool may do;
It is in thee and ever created anew.
In 1797--_Hermann and Dorothea_ was just then under way--Goethe and
Schiller interchanged views by letter on the subject of epic poetry in
general and the ballad in particular. As they had both written ballads
in their youth, it was but natural that they should be led to fresh
experiments with the species. So they both began to make ballads for
next year's _Musenalmanach_. Schiller contributed five, among them the
famous _Diver_ and _The Cranes of Ibycus_. In after years he wrote
several more, of which the best, perhaps, are _The Pledge_, a stirring
version of the Damon and Pythias story, and _The Battle with the
Dragon_, which, however, was called a romanza instead of a ballad. The
interest of all these poems turns mainly, of course, on the story, but
also, in no small degree, on the splendid art which the poet displays.
They are quite unlike any earlier German ballads, owing nothing to the
folk-song and making no use of the uncanny, the gruesome, or the
supernatural. There is no mystery in them, no resort to verbal tricks
such as Buerger had employed in _Lenore_. The subjects are not derived
from German folk-lore, but from Greek legend or medieval romance.
Their great merit is the strong and vivid, yet always noble, style
with which the details are set forth.
[Illustration: THE CHURCH IN WHICH SCHILLER WAS MARRIED]
We come back now to the province of art in which Schiller himself felt
that his strength lay, and to which he devoted nearly all his strength
during his remaining years. The very successful performance of the
complete _Wallenstein_ in the spring of 1799 added greatly to his
prestige, for discerning judges could see that something extraordinary
had been achieved. Weimar had by this time become the acknowledged
centre of German letters, and its modest little theatre now took on
fresh glory. Schiller had made himself very useful as a translator and
adapter, and Goethe was disposed to lean heavily on his friend's
superior knowledge of stage-craft. In order to be nearer to the
theatre and its director, Schiller moved over to Weimar in December,
1799, and took up his abode in what is now called the Schillerstrasse.
He was already working at _Mary Stuart_, which was finished the
following spring and first played on June 14, 1800.
In _Mary Stuart_, as in _Wallenstein_, Schiller focused his light on a
famous personage who was the subject of passionate controversy. But of
course he did not wish to make a Catholic play, or a Protestant play,
or to have its effect dependent in any way on the spectator's
pre-assumed attitude toward the purely political questions involved.
So he decided to omit Mary's trial and to let the curtain rise on her
as a prisoner waiting for the verdict of her judges. This meant,
however, according to his conception of the tragic art, a pathetic
rather than a tragic situation; for the queen's fate would be a
foregone conclusion, and she could do nothing to avert it. To give her
the semblance of a tragic guilt he resorted to three unhistorical
inventions: First, an attempt to escape, with resulting complicity in
the act of the murderous Catholic fanatic Mortimer; second, a putative
love on the part of Mary for Leicester, who would use his great
influence to bring about a personal interview between her and
Elizabeth; and, finally, the meeting of the two queens, in which
Mary's long pent-up passion would get the better of her discretion and
betray her into a mortal insult of her rival. In reality, however, the
meeting of the two queens, while theatrically very effective, is not
the true climax of the play. That comes when Mary conquers her
rebellious spirit and accepts her ignominious fate as a divinely
appointed expiation for long-past sins. The play thus becomes a
tragedy of moral self-conquest in the presence of an undeserved death.
Next in order came _The Maid of Orleans_, expressly called by its
author a romantic tragedy. It is a "rescue" of the Maid's character.
Shakespeare had depicted her as a witch, Voltaire as a vulgar fraud.
Schiller conceives her as a genuine ambassadress of God, or rather of
the Holy Virgin. Not only does he accept at its face value the
tradition of her "voices," her miraculous clairvoyance, her magic
influence on the French troops; but he makes her fight in the ranks
with men and gives to her a terrible avenging sword, before which no
Englishman can stand. But she, too, had to have her tragic guilt. So
Schiller makes her supernatural power depend--by the Virgin's express
command--on her renunciation of the love of man. A fleeting passion
for the English general Lionel, conceived on the battle-field in the
fury of combat, fills her with remorse and the sense of treason to her
high mission. For a while she is deprived of her self-confidence, and
with it of her supernatural power. There follow scenes of bitter
humiliation, until her expiation is complete. At last, purified by
suffering, she recovers her divine strength, breaks her fetters,
brings victory once more to the disheartened French soldiers, and dies
in glory on the field of battle. One sees that it is not at all the
real Jeanne d'Arc that Schiller depicts, but a glorified heroine
invested with divine power and called to be the savior of her country.
Here, for the first time in German drama, the passion of patriotism
plays an important part.
After the completion of _The Maid of Orleans_ Schiller was minded to
try his hand on a tragedy "in the strictest Greek form." He had been
deeply impressed by the art of Sophocles and wished to create
something which should produce on the modern mind the effect of a
Greek tragedy, with its simple structure, its few characters, and
above all its chorus. But the choice of a subject was not easy, and
for several months he occupied himself with other matters. He made a
German version of Gozzi's _Turandot_ and took notes for a tragedy
about Perkin Warbeck. In the summer of 1802 he decided definitely to
carry out his plan of vying with the Greeks. _The Bride of Messina_
was finished in February, 1803. While he was working at it there
arrived one day--it was in November, 1802--a patent of nobility from
the chancelry of the Holy Roman Empire. It may be noted in passing
that several years before he had been made an honorary citizen of the
French Republic, his name having been presented at the same time with
those of Washington, Wilberforce, and Kosciusko.
Among the later plays of Schiller _The Bride of Messina_ is the one
which shows his stately poetic diction at its best, but has proved
least acceptable on the stage. As we have seen, it was an artistic
experiment. A medieval prince of Messina has an ominous dream which is
interpreted by an Arab astrologer to mean that a daughter to be born
will cause the death of his two sons, thus making an end of his
dynasty. When the child is born he orders it put to death. But
meanwhile his queen has had a dream of contrary import, and thereby
saves the life of her new-born daughter, but has her brought up remote
from the court. In time the two quarrelsome brothers, ignorant that
they have a sister, fall in love with the girl. One slays the other in
a frenzy of jealous rage, the other commits suicide in remorse. This
invention can hardly be called plausible. Indeed, so far as the mere
fable is concerned, it is a house of cards which would collapse any
moment at the breath of common sense. One must remember in reading the
play that common sense was not one of the nine muses. The dreams take
the place of the Delphic oracle, and the Greek chorus is represented
by two semi-choruses, the retainers of the quarreling brothers, who
speak their parts by the mouth of a leader, at one moment taking part
in the action, at another delivering the detached comment of the ideal
spectator. There is much splendid poetry in these pseudo-choruses, but
it was impossible that such a scheme should produce the effect of
the Greek choral dance.
Did Schiller feel that in _The Bride of Messina_ he had wandered a
little too far away from the vital concerns of modern life? Probably,
for he next set to work on a play which should be popular in the best
sense of the word--_William Tell_. It is his one play with a happy
ending and has always been a prime favorite on the stage. The hero is
the Swiss people, and the action idealizes the legendary uprising of
the Forest Cantons against their Austrian governors. There are really
three separate actions: the conspiracy, the love-affair of Bertha and
Rudenz, the exploits of William Tell. All, however, contribute to the
common end, which is the triumph of the Swiss people over their
oppressors. The exposition is superb, there is rapidity of movement,
variety, picturesqueness, the glamor of romance; and the feelings
evoked are such as warm and keep warm the cockles of the heart. When
the famous actor Iffland received the manuscript of the first act, in
February, 1804, he wrote:
"I have read, devoured, bent my knee; and my heart, my tears, my
rushing blood, have paid ecstatic homage to your spirit, to your
heart. Oh, more! Soon, soon more! Pages, scraps--whatever you can
send. I tender heart and hand to your genius. What a work! What
wealth, power, poetic beauty, and irresistible force! God keep you!
With _Tell_ off his hands Schiller next threw his tireless energy on a
Russian subject--the story of Dmitri, reputed son of Ivan the
Terrible. The reading, note-taking and planning proved a long
laborious task, and there were many interruptions. In November, 1804,
the hereditary Prince of Weimar brought home a Russian bride, Maria
Paulovna, and for her reception he wrote _The Homage of the Arts_--a
slight affair which served its purpose well. The reaction from these
Russophil festivities left him in a weakened condition, and, feeling
unequal to creative effort, he translated Racine's _Phedre_ into
German verse, finishing it in February, 1805. Then he returned with
great zest to his Russian play _Demetrius_, of which enough was
written to indicate that it might have become his masterpiece. But the
flame had burnt itself out. Toward the end of April he took a cold
which led to a violent fever with delirium. The end came on May 9,
[Illustration: SCHILLER AT THE COURT OF WEIMAR]
No attempt can here be made at a general estimate of Schiller's
dramatic genius. The serious poetic drama, such as he wrote in his
later years, is no longer in favor anywhere. In Germany, as in our own
land, the temper of the time is on the whole hostile to that form of
art. We demand, very properly, a drama attuned to the life of the
present; one occupied, as we say, with living issues. Yet Schiller is
very popular on the German stage. After the lapse of a century, and
notwithstanding the fact that he _seems_ to speak to us from the
clouds, he holds his own. Why is this? It is partly because of a
quality of his art that has been called his "monumental
fresco-painting"; that is, his strong and luminous portraiture of the
great historic forces that have shaped the destiny of nations. These
forces are matters of the spirit, of the inner life; and they persist
from age to age, but little affected by the changing fashion of the
theatre. The reader of Schiller soon comes to feel that he deals with
issues that are alive because they are immortal.
Another important factor in his classicity is the suggestion that goes
out from his idealized personality. German sentiment has set him on a
high pedestal and made a hero of him, so that his word is not exactly
as another man's word. Something of this was felt by those about him
even in his lifetime. Says Karoline von Wolzogen: "High seriousness
and the winsome grace of a pure and noble soul were always present in
Schiller's conversation; in listening to him one walked as among the
changeless stars of heaven and the flowers of earth." This is the
tribute of a partial friend, but it describes very well the impression
produced by Schiller's writings. His love of freedom and beauty, his
confidence in reason, his devotion to the idea of humanity, seem to
exhale from his work and to invest it with a peculiar distinction. His
plays and poems are a priceless memento to the spirit of a great and
memorable epoch. Hundreds of writers have said their say about him,
but no better word has been spoken than the noble tribute of Goethe:
For he was ours. So let the note of pride
Hush into silence all the mourner's ruth;
In our safe harbor he was fain to bide
And build for aye, after the storm of youth.
We saw his mighty spirit onward stride
To eternal realms of Beauty and of Truth;
While far behind him lay fantasmally
The vulgar things that fetter you and me.
* * * * *
[Footnote 1: Translated by Edward, Lord Lytton.]
[Footnote 2: This Sonnet, by the author of this sketch of Schiller's
life, was written for the Chicago Schiller Celebration of 1905, but
has not been printed before. EDITOR.]
* * * * *
[All poems in this section are translations by Edward, Lord Lytton,
and appear by permission of George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., London.]
* * * * *
TO THE IDEAL (1795)
Then wilt thou, with thy fancies holy--
Wilt thou, faithless, fly from me?
With thy joy, thy melancholy,
Wilt thou thus relentless flee?
O Golden Time, O Human May,
Can nothing, Fleet One, thee restraint?
Must thy sweet river glide away
Into the eternal Ocean Main?
The suns serene are lost and vanish'd
That wont the path of youth to gild,
And all the fair Ideals banish'd
From that wild heart they whilome fill'd.
Gone the divine and sweet believing
In dreams which Heaven itself unfurl'd!
What godlike shapes have years bereaving
Swept from this real work-day world!
As once, with tearful passion fired,
The Cyprian Sculptor clasp'd the stone,
Till the cold cheeks, delight-inspired,
Blush'd--to sweet life the marble grown:
So youth's desire for Nature!--round
The Statue so my arms I wreathed,
Till warmth and life in mine it found,
And breath that poets breathe--it breathed;
With my own burning thoughts it burn'd;--
Its silence stirr'd to speech divine;--
Its lips my glowing kiss return'd--
Its heart in beating answer'd mine!
How fair was then the flower--the tree!--
How silver-sweet the fountain's fall!
The soulless had a soul to me!
My life its own life lent to all!
The Universe of things seem'd swelling
The panting heart to burst its bound,
And wandering Fancy found a dwelling
In every shape, thought, deed, and sound.
Germ'd in the mystic buds, reposing,
A whole creation slumbered mute,
Alas, when from the buds unclosing,
How scant and blighted sprung the fruit!
How happy in his dreaming error,
His own gay valor for his wing,
Of not one care as yet in terror
Did Youth upon his journey spring;
Till floods of balm, through air's dominion,
Bore upward to the faintest star--
For never aught to that bright pinion
Could dwell too high, or spread too far.
Though laden with delight, how lightly
The wanderer heavenward still could soar,
And aye the ways of life how brightly
The airy Pageant danced before!
Love, showering gifts (life's sweetest) down,
Fortune, with golden garlands gay,
And Fame, with starbeams for a crown,
And Truth, whose dwelling is the Day.
Ah! midway soon lost evermore,
Afar the blithe companions stray;
In vain their faithless steps explore,
As one by one, they glide away.
Fleet Fortune was the first escaper--
The thirst for wisdom linger'd yet;
But doubts with many a gloomy vapor
The sun-shape of the Truth beset!
The holy crown which Fame was wreathing,
Behold! the mean man's temples wore,
And, but for one short spring-day breathing,
Bloom'd Love--the Beautiful--no more!
And ever stiller yet, and ever
The barren path more lonely lay,
Till scarce from waning Hope could quiver
A glance along the gloomy way.
Who, loving, lingered yet to guide me,
When all her boon companions fled,
Who stands consoling yet beside me,
And follows to the House of Dread?
Thine FRIENDSHIP--thine the hand so tender,
Thine the balm dropping on the wound,
Thy task the load more lightly to render--
O! earliest sought and soonest found!
And Thou, so pleased, with her uniting,
To charm the soul-storm into peace,
Sweet TOIL, in toil itself delighting,
That more it labored, less could cease;
Tho' but by grains thou aid'st the pile
The vast Eternity uprears,
At least thou strik'st from Time the while
Life's debt--the minutes, days and years.
* * * * *
THE VEILED IMAGE AT SAIS (1795)
A youth, whom wisdom's warm desire had lured
To learn the secret lore of Egypt's priests,
To Sais came. And soon, from step to step
Of upward mystery, swept his rapid soul!
Still ever sped the glorious Hope along,
Nor could the parch'd Impatience halt, appeased
By the calm answer of the Hierophant--
"What have I, if I have not all," he sigh'd;
"And giv'st thou but the little and the more?
Does thy truth dwindle to the gauge of gold,
A sum that man may smaller or less small
Possess and count--subtract or add to--still?
Is not TRUTH _one_ and indivisible?
Take from the Harmony a single tone
A single tint take from the Iris bow--
And lo! what once was all, is nothing--while
Fails to the lovely whole one tint or tone!"
They stood within the temple's silent dome,
And, as the young man paused abrupt, his gaze
Upon a veil'd and giant IMAGE fell:
Amazed he turn'd unto his guide--"And what
Towers, yonder, vast beneath the veil?"
Answered the Priest.
"And have I for the truth
Panted and struggled with a lonely soul,
And yon the thin and ceremonial robe
That wraps her from mine eyes?"
Replied the Priest,
"There shrouds herself the still Divinity.
Hear, and revere her best: 'Till I this veil
Lift--may no mortal-born presume to raise;
And who with guilty and unhallow'd hand
Too soon profanes the Holy and Forbidden--
He,' says the goddess."--
"'SHALL SEE THE TRUTH!'"
"And wond'rous oracle; and hast _thou_ never
Lifted the veil?"
"No! nor desired to raise!"
"What! nor desired? O strange, incurious heart,
Here the thin barrier--there reveal'd the truth!"
Mildly return'd the priestly master: "Son,
More mighty than thou dream'st of, Holy Law
Spreads interwoven in yon slender web,
Air-light to touch--lead-heavy to the soul!"
The young man, thoughtful, turn'd him to his home,
And the sharp fever of the Wish to Know
Robb'd night of sleep. Around his couch he roll'd,
Till midnight hatch'd resolve--
"Unto the shrine!"
Stealthily on, the involuntary tread
Bears him--he gains the boundary, scales the wall,
And midway in the inmost, holiest dome,
Strides with adventurous step the daring man.
Now halts he where the lifeless Silence sleeps
In the embrace of mournful Solitude;--
Silence unstirr'd--save where the guilty tread
Call'd the dull echo from mysterious vaults!
High from the opening of the dome above,
Came with wan smile the silver-shining moon.
And, awful as some pale presiding god,
Dim-gleaming through the hush of that large gloom,
In its wan veil the Giant Image stood.
With an unsteady step he onward past,
Already touch'd the violating hand
The Holy--and recoil'd! a shudder thrill'd
His limbs, fire-hot and icy-cold in turns,
As if invisible arms would pluck the soul
Back from the deed.
"O miserable man!
What would'st thou?" (Thus within the inmost heart
Murmur'd the warning whisper.) "Wilt thou dare
The All-hallow'd to profane? 'No mortal-born'
(So spake the oracular word)--'may lift the veil
Till I myself shall raise!' Yet said it not--
The same oracular word--'who lifts the veil
Shall see the truth?' Behind, be what there may,
I dare the hazard--I will lift the veil--"
Loud rang his shouting voice--"and I will see!"
A lengthen'd echo, mocking, shrill'd again!
He spoke and rais'd the veil! And ask'st thou what
Unto the sacrilegious gaze lay bare?
I know not--pale and senseless, stretch'd before
The statue of the great Egyptian queen,
The priests beheld him at the dawn of day;
But what he saw, or what did there befall,
His lips reveal'd not. Ever from his heart
Was fled the sweet serenity of life,
And the deep anguish dug the early grave
"Woe--woe to him"--such were his warning words,
Answering some curious and impetuous brain,
"Woe--for her face shall charm him never more!
Woe--woe to him who treads through Guilt to TRUTH!"
* * * * *
THE IDEAL AND THE ACTUAL LIFE (1795)
Forever fair, forever calm and bright,
Life flies on plumage, zephyr-light,
For those who on the Olympian hill rejoice--
Moons wane, and races wither to the tomb,
And 'mid the universal ruin, bloom
The rosy days of Gods--
With Man, the choice,
Timid and anxious, hesitates between
The sense's pleasure and the soul's content;
While on celestial brows, aloft and sheen,
The beams of both are blent.
Seek'st thou on earth the life of Gods to share,
Safe in the Realm of Death?--beware
To pluck the fruits that glitter to thine eye;
Content thyself with gazing on their glow--
Short are the joys Possession can bestow,
And in Possession sweet Desire will die.
'Twas not the ninefold chain of waves that bound
Thy daughter, Ceres, to the Stygian river--
She pluck'd the fruit of the unholy ground,
And so--was Hell's forever!
The Weavers of the Web--the Fates--but sway
The matter and the things of clay;
Safe from each change that Time to Matter gives,
Nature's blest playmate, free at will to stray
With Gods a god, amidst the fields of Day,
The FORM, the ARCHETYPE, serenely lives.
Would'st thou soar heavenward on its joyous wing?
Cast from thee, Earth, the bitter and the real,
High from this cramp'd and dungeon being, spring
Into the Realm of the Ideal!
Here, bathed, Perfection, in thy purest ray,
Free from the clogs and taints of clay,
Hovers divine the Archetypal Man!
Dim as those phantom ghosts of life that gleam
And wander voiceless by the Stygian stream,--
Fair as it stands in fields Elysian,
Ere down to Flesh the Immortal doth descend:--
If doubtful ever in the Actual life
Each contest--_here_ a victory crowns the end
Of every nobler strife.
Not from the strife itself to set thee free,
But more to nerve--doth Victory
Wave her rich garland from the Ideal clime.
Whate'er thy wish, the Earth has no repose--
Life still must drag thee onward as it flows,
Whirling thee down the dancing surge of Time.
But when the courage sinks beneath the dull
Sense of its narrow limits--on the soul,
Bright from the hill-tops of the Beautiful,
Bursts the attained goal!
If worth thy while the glory and the strife
Which fire the lists of Actual Life--
The ardent rush to fortune or to fame,
In the hot field where Strength and Valor are,
And rolls the whirling thunder of the car,
And the world, breathless, eyes the glorious game--
Then dare and strive--the prize can but belong
To him whose valor o'er his tribe prevails;
In life the victory only crowns the strong--
He who is feeble fails.
But Life, whose source, by crags around it pil'd,
Chafed while confin'd, foams fierce and wild,
Glides soft and smooth when once its streams expand,
When its waves, glassing in their silver play,
Aurora blent with Hesper's milder ray,
Gain the Still BEAUTIFUL--that Shadow-Land!
Here, contest grows but interchange of Love;
All curb is but the bondage of the Grace;
Gone is each foe,--Peace folds her wings above
Her native dwelling-place.
When, through dead stone to breathe a soul of light,
With the dull matter to unite
The kindling genius, some great sculptor glows;
Behold him straining every nerve intent--
Behold how, o'er the subject element,
The stately THOUGHT its march laborious goes!
For never, save to Toil untiring, spoke
The unwilling Truth from her mysterious well--
The statue only to the chisel's stroke
Wakes from its marble cell.
But onward to the Sphere of Beauty--go
Onward, O Child of Art! and, lo,
Out of the matter which thy pains control
The Statue springs!--not as with labor wrung
From the hard block, but as from Nothing sprung--
Airy and light--the offspring of the soul!
The pangs, the cares, the weary toils it cost
Leave not a trace when once the work is done--
The Artist's human frailty merged and lost
In Art's great victory won!
If human Sin confronts the rigid law
Of perfect Truth and Virtue, awe
Seizes and saddens thee to see how far
Beyond thy reach, Perfection;--if we test
By the Ideal of the Good, the best,
How mean our efforts and our actions are!
This space between the Ideal of man's soul
And man's achievement, who hath ever past?
An ocean spreads between us and that goal
Where anchor ne'er was cast!
But fly the boundary of the Senses--live
The Ideal life free Thought can give;
And, lo, the gulf shall vanish, and the chill
Of the soul's impotent despair be gone!
And with divinity thou sharest the throne,
Let but divinity become thy will!
Scorn not the Law--permit its iron band
The sense (it cannot chain the soul) to thrall.
Let man no more the will of Jove withstand,
And Jove the bolt lets fall!
If, in the woes of Actual Human Life--
If thou could'st see the serpent strife
Which the Greek Art has made divine in stone--
Could'st see the writhing limbs, the livid cheek,
Note every pang, and hearken every shriek
Of some despairing lost Laocoon,
The human nature would thyself subdue
To share the human woe before thine eye--
Thy cheek would pale, and all thy soul be true
To Man's great Sympathy.
But in the Ideal Realm, aloof and far,
Where the calm Art's pure dwellers are,
Lo, the Laocoon writhes, but does not groan.
Here, no sharp grief the high emotion knows--
Here, suffering's self is made divine, and shows
The brave resolve of the firm soul alone:
Here, lovely as the rainbow on the dew
Of the spent thunder-cloud, to Art is given,
Gleaming through Grief's dark veil, the peaceful blue
Of the sweet Moral Heaven.
So, in the glorious parable, behold
How, bow'd to mortal bonds, of old
Life's dreary path divine Alcides trod:
The hydra and the lion were his prey,
And to restore the friend he loved today,
He went undaunted to the black-brow'd God;
And all the torments and the labors sore
Wroth Juno sent--the meek majestic One,
With patient spirit and unquailing, bore,
Until the course was run--
Until the God cast down his garb of clay,
And rent in hallowing flame away
The mortal part from the divine--to soar
To the empyreal air! Behold him spring
Blithe in the pride of the unwonted wing,
And the dull matter that confined before
Sinks downward, downward, downward as a dream!
Olympian hymns receive the escaping soul,
And smiling Hebe, from the ambrosial stream,
Fills for a God the bowl!
* * * * *
Do I believe, thou ask'st, the Master's word,
The Schoolman's shibboleth that binds the herd?
To the soul's haven is there but one chart?
Its peace a problem to be learned by art?
On system rest the happy and the good?
To base the temple must the props be wood?
Must I distrust the gentle law, imprest,
To guide and warn, by Nature on the breast,
Till, squared to rule the instinct of the soul,--
Till the School's signet stamp the eternal scroll,
Till in one mold some dogma hath confined
The ebb and flow--the light waves--of the mind?
Say thou, familiar to these depths of gloom,
Thou, safe ascended from the dusty tomb,
Thou, who hast trod these weird Egyptian cells--
Say--if Life's comfort with yon mummies dwells!--
Say--and I grope--with saddened steps indeed--
But on, thro' darkness, if to Truth it lead!
Nay, Friend, thou know'st the golden time--the age
Whose legends live in many a poet's page?
When heavenlier shapes with Man walked side by side,
And the chaste Feeling was itself a guide;
Then the great law, alike divine amid
Suns bright in Heaven, or germs in darkness hid--
That silent law--(call'd whether by the name
Of Nature or Necessity, the same),
To that deep sea, the heart, its movement gave--
Sway'd the full tide, and freshened the free wave.
Then sense unerring--because unreproved--
True as the finger on the dial moved,
Half-guide, half-playmate, of Earth's age of youth,
The sportive instinct of Eternal Truth.
Then, nor Initiate nor Profane were known;
Where the Heart felt--there Reason found a throne:
Not from the dust below, but life around
Warm Genius shaped what quick Emotion found.
One rule, like light, for every bosom glowed,
Yet hid from all the fountain whence it flowed.
But, gone that blessed Age!--our wilful pride
Has lost, with Nature, the old peaceful Guide.
Feeling, no more to raise us and rejoice,
Is heard and honored as a Godhead's voice;
And, disenhallowed in its eldest cell
The Human Heart--lies mute the Oracle,
Save where the low and mystic whispers thrill
Some listening spirit more divinely still.
There, in the chambers of the inmost heart,
There, must the Sage explore the Magian's art;
There, seek the long-lost Nature's steps to track,
Till, found once more, she gives him Wisdom back!
Hast thou--(O Blest, if so, whate'er betide!)--
Still kept the Guardian Angel by thy side?
Can thy Heart's guileless childhood yet rejoice
In the sweet instinct with its warning voice?
Does Truth yet limn upon untroubled eyes,
Pure and serene, her world of Iris-dies?
Rings clear the echo which her accent calls
Back from the breast, on which the music falls?
In the calm mind is doubt yet hush'd--and will
That doubt tomorrow, as today, be still?
Will all these fine sensations in their play,
No censor need to regulate and sway?
Fear'st thou not in the insidious Heart to find
The source of Trouble to the limpid mind?
No!--then thine Innocence thy Mentor be!
Science can teach thee naught--she learns from thee!
Each law that lends lame succor to the Weak--
The cripple's crutch--the vigorous need not seek!
From thine own self thy rule of action draw;
That which thou dost--what charms thee--is thy Law,
And founds to every race a code sublime--
What pleases Genius gives a Law to Time!
The Word--the Deed--all Ages shall command,
Pure if thy lip and holy if thy hand!
Thou, thou alone mark'st not within thy heart
The inspiring God whose Minister thou art,
Know'st not the magic of the mighty ring
Which bows the realm of Spirits to their King:
But meek, nor conscious of diviner birth,
Glide thy still footsteps thro' the conquered Earth!
* * * * *
[Under this title Schiller arranged that more dignified and
philosophical portion of the small Poems published as Epigrams in the
_Musen Almanach_; which rather sought to point a general thought, than
a personal satire.--Many of these, however, are either wholly without
interest for the English reader, or express in almost untranslatable
laconism what, in far more poetical shapes, Schiller has elsewhere
repeated and developed. We, therefore, content ourselves with such a
selection as appears to us best suited to convey a fair notion of the
object and spirit of the class.--Translator]
* * * * *
MOTTO TO THE VOTIVE TABLETS.
What the God taught--what has befriended all
Life's ways, I place upon the Votive Wall.
* * * * *
THE GOOD AND THE BEAUTIFUL
The Good's the Flower to Earth already given--
The Beautiful, on Earth sows flowers from Heaven!
* * * * *
VALUE AND WORTH
If thou _hast_ something, bring thy goods--a fair return be thine;
If thou _art_ something, bring thy soul and interchange with mine.
* * * * *
To know _thyself_--in others self discern;
Wouldst thou know others? Read thyself--and learn!
* * * * *
THE DIVISION OF RANKS
Yes, in the moral world, as ours, we see
Divided grades--a Soul's Nobility;
By deeds their titles Commoners create--
The loftier order are by birthright great.
* * * * *
TO THE MYSTIC
Spreads Life's true mystery round us evermore,
Seen by no eye, it lies all eyes before.
* * * * *
WISDOM AND PRUDENCE
Wouldst thou the loftiest height of Wisdom gain?
On to the rashness, Prudence would disdain;
The purblind see but the receding shore,
Not that to which the bold wave wafts thee o'er!
* * * * *
Truth seek we both--Thou, in the life without thee and around;
I in the Heart within--by both can Truth alike be found;
The healthy eye can through the world the great Creator track--
The healthy heart is but the glass which gives creation back.
* * * * *
THE SCIENCE OF POLITICS
All that thou dost be right--to that alone confine thy view,
And halt within the certain rule--the All that's right to do!
True zeal _the what already is_ would sound and perfect see;
False zeal would sound and perfect make the something that's to be!
* * * * *
Of the Nebulae and planets do not babble so to me;
What! is Nature only mighty inasmuch as you can see?
Inasmuch as you can measure her immeasurable ways,
As she renders world on world, sun and system to your gaze?
Though through space your object be the Sublimest to embrace,
Never the Sublime abideth--where you vainly search--in space!
* * * * *
THE BEST GOVERNED STATE
How the best state to know?--It is found out,
Like the best women--that least talked about.
* * * * *
What thy religion? Those thou namest--none!
None! Why?--Because I have religion!
* * * * *
FRIEND AND FOE
Dear is my friend--yet from my foe, as from my friend, comes good;
My friend shows what I _can_ do, and my foe shows what I _should_.
* * * * *
LIGHT AND COLOR
Dwell, Light, beside the changeless God--God spoke and Light began;
Come, thou, the ever-changing one--come, Color, down to Man!
* * * * *
FORUM OF WOMEN
Woman--to judge man rightly--do not scan
Each separate act;--pass judgment on the Man!
* * * * *
Intellect can repeat what's been fulfill'd,
And, aping Nature, as she buildeth--build;
O'er Nature's base can haughty Reason dare
To pile its lofty castle--in the air.
But only thine, O Genius, is the charge,
In Nature's kingdom Nature to enlarge!
* * * * *
Good out of good--that art is known to all--
But Genius from the bad the good can call;
Then, Mimic, not from leading-strings escaped,
Work'st but the matter that's already shaped
The already-shaped a nobler hand awaits--
All matter asks a Spirit that _creates!_
* * * * *
The calm correctness, where no fault we see,
Attests Art's loftiest or its least degree;
Alike the smoothness of the surface shows
The Pool's dull stagner--the great Sea's repose.
* * * * *
The herd of scribes, by what they tell us,
Show all in which their wits excel us;
But the True Master we behold,
In what his art leaves--just untold.
* * * * *
EXPECTATION AND FULFILLMENT
O'er Ocean, with a thousand masts, sails forth the stripling bold--
One boat, hard rescued from the deep, draws into port the old!
* * * * *
THE PROSELYTE MAKER
"A little earth from out the Earth-and I
The Earth will move:" so spake the Sage divine.
Out of myself one little moment--try
Myself to take:--succeed, and I am thine!
* * * * *
THE CONNECTING MEDIUM
What to cement the lofty and the mean
Does Nature?--What?--Place vanity between?
* * * * *
THE MORAL POET
[This is an Epigram on Lavater's work, called "Pontius Pilatus, oder der
Mensch in Allen Gestalten," etc.--TRANSLATOR.]
"How poor a thing is man!" Alas, 'tis true
I'd half forgot it--when I chanced on you!
* * * * *
THE SUBLIME THEME
[Also on Lavater, and alluding to the "Jesus Messias, oder die Evangelien
und Apostelgeschichte in Gesaengen."--TRANSLATOR.]
How God compassionates Mankind, thy muse, my friend, rehearses--
Compassion for the sins of Man!--What comfort for thy verses!
* * * * *
To some she is the Goddess great, to some the milch-cow of the field;
Their care is but to calculate--what butter she will yield.
* * * * *
KANT AND HIS COMMENTATORS
How many starvelings one rich man can nourish!
When monarchs build, the rubbish-carriers flourish.
* * * * *
THE MAIDEN FROM AFAR (1796)
Within a vale, each infant year,
When earliest larks first carol free,
To humble shepherds doth appear
A wondrous maiden, fair to see.
Not born within that lowly place--
From whence she wander'd, none could tell;
Her parting footsteps left no trace,
When once the maiden bade farewell.
And blessed was her presence there--
Each heart, expanding, grew more gay;
Yet something loftier still than fair
Kept man's familiar looks away.
From fairy gardens, known to none,
She brought mysterious fruits and flowers--
The things of some serener sun--
Some Nature more benign than ours.
With each, her gifts the maiden shared--
To some the fruits, the flowers to some;
Alike the young, the aged fared;
Each bore a blessing back to home.
Though every guest was welcome there,
Yet some the maiden held more dear,
And cull'd her rarest sweets whene'er
She saw two hearts that loved draw near.
* * * * *
THE GLOVE (1797)
Before his lion-court,
To see the gruesome sport,
Sate the king;
Beside him group'd his princely peers;
And dames aloft, in circling tiers,
Wreath'd round their blooming ring.
King Francis, where he sate,
Raised a finger--yawn'd the gate,
And, slow from his repose,
A LION goes!
Dumbly he gazed around
The foe-encircled ground;
And, with a lazy gape,
He stretch'd his lordly shape,
And shook his careless mane,
And--laid him down again!
[Illustration: THE KNIGHT SCORNS CUNIGONDE Eugen Klimsch]
A finger raised the king--
And nimbly have the guard
A second gate unbarr'd;
Forth, with a rushing spring,
A TIGER sprung!
Wildly the wild one yell'd
When the lion he beheld;
And, bristling at the look,
With his tail his sides he strook,
And roll'd his rabid tongue;
In many a wary ring
He swept round the forest king,
With a fell and rattling sound;--
And laid him on the ground,
The king raised his finger; then
Leap'd two LEOPARDS from the den
With a bound;
And boldly bounded they
Where the crouching tiger lay
And he gripped the beasts in his deadly hold;
In the grim embrace they grappled and roll'd;
Rose the lion with a roar!
And stood the strife before;
And the wild-cats on the spot,
From the blood-thirst, wroth and hot,
Now from the balcony above,
A snowy hand let fall a glove:--
Midway between the beasts of prey,
Lion and tiger; there it lay,
The winsome lady's glove!
Fair Cunigonde said, with a lip of scorn,
To the knight DELORGES--"If the love you have sworn
Were as gallant and leal as you boast it to be,
I might ask you to bring back that glove to me!"
The knight left the place where the lady sate;
The knight he has pass'd thro' the fearful gate;
The lion and tiger he stoop'd above,
And his fingers have closed on the lady's glove!
All shuddering and stunn'd, they beheld him there--
The noble knights and the ladies fair;
But loud was the joy and the praise, the while
He bore back the glove with his tranquil smile!
With a tender look in her softening eyes,
That promised reward to his warmest sighs,
Fair Cunigonde rose her knight to grace;
He toss'd the glove in the lady's face!
"Nay, spare me the guerdon, at least," quoth he;
And he left forever that fair ladye!
* * * * *
[Illustration: THE DIVER CARL GEHRTS]
THE DIVER (1797)
[The original of the story on which Schiller has founded this ballad,
matchless perhaps for the power and grandeur of its descriptions, is
to be found in Kircher. According to the true principles of imitative
art, Schiller has preserved all that is striking in the legend, and
ennobled all that is common-place. The name of the Diver was Nicholas,
surnamed the Fish. The King appears, according to Hoffmeister's
probable conjectures, to have been either Frederic I. or Frederic II.,
of Sicily. Date from 1295 to 1377.]
"Oh, where is the knight or the squire so bold,
As to dive to the howling charybdis below?--
I cast in the whirlpool a goblet of gold,
And o'er it already the dark waters flow;
Whoever to me may the goblet bring,
Shall have for his guerdon that gift of his king."
He spoke, and the cup from the terrible steep,
That, rugged and hoary, hung over the verge
Of the endless and measureless world of the deep,
Swirl'd into the maelstrom that madden'd the surge.
"And where is the diver so stout to go--
I ask ye again--to the deep below?"
And the knights and the squires that gather'd around,
Stood silent--and fix'd on the ocean their eyes;
They look'd on the dismal and savage Profound,
And the peril chill'd back every thought of the prize.
And thrice spoke the monarch--"The cup to win,
Is there never a wight who will venture in?"
And all as before heard in silence the king--
Till a youth with an aspect unfearing but gentle,
'Mid the tremulous squires--stept out from the ring,
Unbuckling his girdle, and doffing his mantle;
And the murmuring crowd as they parted asunder,
On the stately boy cast their looks of wonder.
As he strode to the marge of the summit, and gave
One glance on the gulf of that merciless main;
Lo! the wave that forever devours the wave
Casts roaringly up the charybdis again;
And, as with the swell of the far thunder-boom,
Rushes foamingly forth from the heart of the gloom.
And it bubbles and seethes, and it hisses and roars,
As when fire is with water commix'd and contending,
And the spray of its wrath to the welkin up-soars,
And flood upon flood hurries on, never-ending.
And it never _will_ rest, nor from travail be free,
Like a sea that is laboring the birth of a sea.
Yet, at length, comes a lull O'er the mighty commotion,
As the whirlpool sucks into black smoothness the swell
Of the white-foaming breakers--and cleaves thro' the ocean
A path that seems winding in darkness to hell.
Round and round whirl'd the waves-deeper and deeper
Like a gorge thro' the mountainous main thunder-riven!
The youth gave his trust to his Maker! Before
That path through the riven abyss closed again--
Hark! a shriek from the crowd rang aloft from the shore,
And, behold! he is whirl'd in the grasp of the main!
And o'er him the breakers mysteriously roll'd,
And the giant-mouth closed on the swimmer so bold.
O'er the surface grim silence lay dark; but the crowd
Heard the wail from the deep murmur hollow and fell;
They hearken and shudder, lamenting aloud--
"Gallant youth-noble heart-fare-thee-well, fare-thee-well!"
More hollow and more wails the deep on the ear--
More dread and more dread grows suspense in its fear.
If thou should'st in those waters thy diadem fling,
And cry, "Who may find it shall win it and wear;"
God wot, though the prize were the crown of a king--
A crown at such hazard were valued too dear.
For never shall lips of the living reveal
What the deeps that howl yonder in terror conceal.
Oh, many a bark, to that breast grappled fast,
Has gone down to the fearful and fathomless grave;
Again, crash'd together the keel and the mast,
To be seen, toss'd aloft in the glee of the wave.
Like the growth of a storm, ever louder and clearer,
Grows the roar of the gulf rising nearer and nearer.
And it bubbles and seethes, and it hisses and roars,
As when fire is with water commix'd and contending;
And the spray of its wrath to the welkin up-soars,
And flood upon flood hurries on, never ending;
And as with the swell of the far thunder-boom
Rushes roaringly forth from the heart of the gloom.
And, lo! from the heart of that far-floating gloom,
What gleams on the darkness so swanlike and white?
Lo! an arm and a neck, glancing up from the tomb!--
They battle--the Man's with the Element's might.
It is he--it is he! In his left hand, behold!
As a sign!--as a joy!--shines the goblet of gold!
And he breathed deep, and he breathed long,
And he greeted the heavenly delight of the day.
They gaze on each other--they shout, as they throng--
"He lives--lo the ocean has render'd its prey!
And safe from the whirlpool and free from the grave,
Comes back to the daylight the soul of the brave!"
And he comes, with the crowd in their clamor and glee,
And the goblet his daring has won from the water,
He lifts to the king as he sinks on his knee;--
And the king from her maidens has beckon'd his daughter--
She pours to the boy the bright wine which they bring,
And thus spake the Diver--"Long life to the king!
"Happy they whom the rose-hues of daylight rejoice,
The air and the sky that to mortals are given!
May the horror below never more find a voice--
Nor Man stretch too far the wide mercy of Heaven!
Never more--never more may he lift from the sight
The veil which is woven with Terror and Night!
"Quick-brightening like lightning--it tore me along,
Down, down, till the gush of a torrent, at play
In the rocks of its wilderness, caught me--and strong
As the wings of an eagle, it whirl'd me away.
Vain, vain was my struggle--the circle had won me,
Round and round in its dance, the wild element spun me.
"And I call'd on my God, and my God heard my prayer
In the strength of my need, in the gasp of my breath--
And show'd me a crag that rose up from the lair,
And I clung to it, nimbly--and baffled the death!
And, safe in the perils around me, behold
On the spikes of the coral the goblet of gold!
"Below, at the foot of the precipice drear,
Spread the gloomy, and purple, and pathless Obscure!
A silence of Horror that slept on the ear,
That the eye more appall'd might the Horror endure!
Salamander--snake--dragon--vast reptiles that dwell
In the deep-coil'd about the grim jaws of their hell.
"Dark-crawl'd--glided dark the unspeakable swarms,
Clump'd together in masses, misshapen and vast--
Here clung and here bristled the fashionless forms--
Here the dark-moving bulk of the Hammer-fish pass'd--
And with teeth grinning white, and a menacing motion,
Went the terrible Shark--the Hyena of Ocean.
"There I hung, and the awe gather'd icily o'er me,
So far from the earth, where man's help there was none!
The One Human Thing, with the Goblins before me--
Alone--in a loneness so ghastly--ALONE!
Fathom-deep from man's eye in the speechless profound,
With the death of the Main and the Monsters around.
"Methought, as I gazed through the darkness, that now
IT saw--the dread hundred-limbed creature-its prey!
And darted--O God! from the far flaming-bough
Of the coral, I swept on the horrible way;
And it seized me, the wave with its wrath and its roar,
It seized me to save--King, the danger is o'er!"
On the youth gazed the monarch, and marvel'd; quoth he,
"Bold Diver, the goblet I promised is thine,
And this ring will I give, a fresh guerdon to thee,
Never jewels more precious shone up from the mine,
If thou'lt bring me fresh tidings, and venture again
To tell what lies hid in the _innermost_ main?"
Then outspake the daughter in tender emotion
"Ah! father, my father, what more can there rest?
Enough of this sport with the pitiless ocean--
He has served thee as none would, thyself has confest.
If nothing can slake thy wild thirst of desire,
Let thy knights put to shame the exploit of the squire!"
The king seized the goblet--he swung it on high,
And whirling, it fell in the roar of the tide:
"But bring back that goblet again to my eye,
And I'll hold thee the dearest that rides by my side;
And thine arms shall embrace, as thy bride, I decree,
The maiden whose pity now pleadeth for thee."
In his heart, as he listen'd, there leapt the wild joy--
And the hope and the love through his eyes spoke in fire,
On that bloom, on that blush, gazed delighted the boy;
The maiden-she faints at the feet of her sire!
Here the guerdon divine, there the danger beneath;
He resolves! To the strife with the life and the death!
They hear the loud surges sweep back in their swell,
Their coming the thunder-sound heralds along!
Fond eyes yet are tracking the spot where he fell:
They come, the wild waters, in tumult and throng,
Roaring up to the cliff--roaring back, as before,
But no wave ever brings the lost youth to the shore.
* * * *
THE CRANES OF IBYCUS (1797)
From Rhegium to the Isthmus, long
Hallow'd to steeds and glorious song,
Where, link'd awhile in holy peace,
Meet all the sons of martial Greece--
Wends Ibycus-whose lips the sweet
And ever-young Apollo fires;
The staff supports the wanderer's feet--
The God the Poet's soul inspires!
Soon from the mountain-ridges high,
The tower-crown'd Corinth greets his eye;
In Neptune's groves of darksome pine,
He treads with shuddering awe divine;
Nought lives around him, save a swarm
Of CRANES, that still pursued his way.
Lured by the South, they wheel and form
In ominous groups their wild array.
And "Hail! beloved Birds!" he cried;
"My comrades on the ocean tide,
Sure signs of good ye bode to me;
Our lots alike would seem to be;
From far, together borne, we greet
A shelter now from toil and danger;
And may the friendly hearts we meet
Preserve from every ill--the Stranger!"
His step more light, his heart more gay,
Along the mid-wood winds his way,
When, where the path the thickets close,
Burst sudden forth two ruffian foes;
Now strife to strife, and foot to foot!
Ah! weary sinks the gentle hand;
The gentle hand that wakes the lute
Has learn'd no lore that guides the brand.
He calls on men and Gods--in vain!
His cries no blest deliverer gain;
Feebler and fainter grows the sound,
And still the deaf life slumbers round--
"In the far land I fall forsaken,
Unwept and unregarded, here;
By death from caitiff hands o'ertaken,
Nor ev'n one late avenger near!"
Down to the earth the death-stroke bore him--
Hark, where the Cranes wheel dismal o'er him!
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