The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VIII

Part 8 out of 9

The little girl did not weep. After they had entered under the stone
roof where they could not only sit comfortably, but also stand and walk
about she seated herself close to him and kept very quiet.

"Mother will not be angry," said Conrad, "we shall tell her of the heavy
snow that has kept us, and she will say nothing; father will not,
either. And if we grow cold, why then we must slap our hands to our
bodies as the woodcutters did, and then we shall grow warm again."

"Yes, Conrad," said the girl.

Sanna was not at all so inconsolable because they could not run down the
mountain and get home as he might have thought; for the immense
exertion, of whose severity the children hardly had any conception, made
the very sitting down seem sweet to them, unspeakably sweet, and they
did not resist.

But now hunger asserted itself imperiously. Almost at the same time,
both took their pieces of bread from their pockets and began to eat.
They ate also the other things, such as little pieces of cake, almonds,
raisins, and other trifles, which grandmother had put into their

"Sanna, now we must clean the snow from our clothes," said the boy, "so
that we shall not become wet."

"Yes, Conrad," replied Sanna.

The children went before their little house. Conrad first brushed off
his little sister. He grasped the corners of her coat and shook them,
took off the hat he had put on her head, emptied it of snow and wiped
off the snow that remained in it. Then he rid himself as best he could
of the snow that lay on him.

At that time it had entirely stopped snowing. The children could not
feel one flake descending.

They returned into their stone-hut and sat down. Getting up had showed
them how tired they really were, and they were glad to sit down again.
Conrad laid down the calfskin bag which he had strapped on his
shoulders. He took out the cloth in which grandmother had wrapped a
pasteboard-box and several paper packages and put it about his
shoulders for greater warmth. He also took the two pieces of wheat-bread
out of his wallet and gave Sanna both. The child ate them most eagerly.
A part of them, however, she gave back to Conrad as she saw he was not
eating anything. He accepted it and ate it.

From that time on, the children merely sat and looked. As far as the eye
could reach in the twilight there was nothing but snow, whose minute
crystals began to scintillate in a strange manner as if they had
absorbed the light of day and were emitting it again now.

Night fell with the rapidity usual in high altitudes. Soon it was dark
all about, only the snow continued to glimmer faintly. Not only had it
stopped snowing but the clouds began to grow thin and to part, for the
children saw the gleam of a star. As the snow really emitted light, as
it were, and the clouds no longer hung down from the sky, they could see
from their cave how the snowy hillocks round about were sharply outlined
against the dark sky. The cave was warmer than it had been at any other
place during the day, and so the children rested, clinging closely to
each other and even forgot to be afraid of the darkness. Soon the stars
multiplied, they gleamed forth now here, now there, until it seemed that
there was not a single cloud left in the whole sky.

This was the moment when people in the valleys are accustomed to light
their candles. At first, only one is kindled, in order to make light in
the room; or, possibly, only a pine-splinter; or the fire is burning in
the hearth, and all windows of human habitations grow bright and shed
lustre into the snowy night; but all the more tonight, Christmas
evening, when many more lights were kindled, in order to shine full upon
the presents for the children which lay upon the tables or hung on the
trees--innumerable candles were lit; for in nearly every house, every
cot, every room, there were children for whom the Christ-child had
brought presents which had to be shown by the light of candles.

The boy had thought one could very quickly come down from the mountain
and yet, not a single one of the lights burning that night in the valley
shone up to them. They saw nothing but the pale snow and the dark sky,
all else was rendered invisible by the distance. At this hour, the
children in all valleys were receiving their Christmas presents. These
two alone sat up there by the edge of the glacier and the finest
presents meant for them on this day lay in little sealed packages in the
calfskin bag in the rear of the cave.

The snow-clouds had sunk below the mountains on all sides and a vault
entirely dark-blue, almost black, full of densely clustered burning
stars extended above the children; and through the midst of them was
woven a shimmering broad milky band which they had, indeed, seen also
below in the valley, but never so distinctly. The night was advancing.
The children did not know that the stars change their position and move
toward the west, else they might have recognized the hour of night by
their progress. New stars came and the old ones disappeared, but they
believed them to be always the same. It grew somewhat brighter about the
children by the radiance of the stars; but they saw no valley, no known
places, but everywhere white--only white. Only some dark peak, some dark
knob became visible looming up out of the shimmering waste. The moon was
nowhere to be seen in the heavens, perhaps it had set early with the
sun, or it had not yet risen.

After a long time the boy said: "Sanna, you must not sleep; for do you
remember what father said, that if one sleeps in the mountains one will
freeze to death, as the old hunter slept and sat four months dead on
that stone and no one had known where he was."

"No, I shall not sleep," said the little girl feebly. Conrad had shaken
her by a corner of her coat, in order to make her listen to his words.

Then there was silence again.

After a little while, the boy felt a soft pressure against his arm which
became ever heavier. Sanna had fallen asleep and had sunk over toward

"Sanna, don't sleep, please, don't sleep!" he said.

"No," she mumbled drowsily, "I shall not sleep."

He moved farther away from her, in order to make her move; she toppled
over and would have continued sleeping on the ground. He took hold of
her shoulder and shook her. As he moved a little more, he noticed that
he was feeling cold himself and that his arm had grown numb. He was
frightened and jumped up. He seized his sister, shook her more
vigorously and said, "Sanna, get up a little, we want to stand up a
little so that we shall feel better."

"I am not cold, Conrad," she answered.

"Yes indeed you are, Sanna, get up," he cried.

"My fur-jacket is warm," she said.

"I shall help you up," he said.

"No," she replied, and lay still.

Then something else occurred to the boy. Grandmother had said: "Just one
little mouthful of it will warm the stomach so that one's body will not
be cold on the coldest winter day."

He reached for his little calfskin knapsack, opened it, and groped
around in it until he found the little flask into which grandmother had
put the black coffee for mother. He took away the wrappings from the
bottle and with some exertion uncorked it. Then he bent down to Sanna
and said: "Here is the coffee that grandmother sends mother, taste a
little of it, it will make you feel warm. Mother would give it to us if
she knew what we needed it for."

The little girl, who was by nature inclined to be passive, answered, "I
am not cold."

"Just take a little," urged the boy, "and then you may go to sleep

This expectation tempted Sanna and she mastered herself so far that she
took a swallow of the liquor. Then the boy drank a little, too.

The exceedingly strong extract took effect at once and all the more
powerfully as the children had never in their life tasted coffee.
Instead of going to sleep, Sanna became more active and acknowledged
that she was cold, but that she felt nice and warm inside, and that the
warmth was already passing into her hands and feet. The children even
spoke a while together.

In this fashion they drank ever more of the liquor in spite of its
bitter taste as the effect of it began to die away and roused their
nerves to a fever heat which was able to counteract their utter

It had become midnight, meanwhile. As they still were so young, and
because on every Christmas eve in the excess of their joy they went to
bed very late and only after being overcome by sleep, they never had
heard the midnight tolling, and never the organ of the church when holy
mass was being celebrated, although they lived close by. At this moment
of the Holy Night, all bells were being rung, the bells of Millsdorf
were ringing, the bells of Gschaid were ringing, and behind the mountain
there was still another church whose three bells were pealing brightly.
In the distant lands outside the valley there were innumerable churches
and bells, and all of them were ringing at this moment, from village to
village the wave of sound traveled, from one village to another one
could hear the peal through the bare branches of the trees; but up to
the children there came not a sound, nothing was heard here, for nothing
was to be announced here. In the winding valleys, the lights of lanterns
gleamed along the mountain-slopes, and from many a farm came the sound
of the farm bell to rouse the hands. But far less could all this be seen
and heard up here. Only the stars gleamed and calmly twinkled and shone.

Even though Conrad kept before his mind the fate of the huntsman who was
frozen to death, and even though the children had almost emptied the
bottle of black coffee--which necessarily would bring on a corresponding
relaxation afterwards, they would not have been able to conquer their
desire for sleep, whose seductive sweetness outweighs all arguments
against it, had not nature itself in all its grandeur assisted them and
in its own depths awakened a force which was able to cope with sleep.

In the enormous stillness that reigned about them, a silence in which no
snow-crystal seemed to move, the children heard three times the bursting
of the ice. That which seems the most rigid of all things and yet is
most flexible and alive, the glacier, had produced these sounds. Thrice
they heard behind them a crash, terrific as if the earth were rent
asunder,--a sound that ramified through the ice in all directions and
seemed to penetrate all its veins. The children remained sitting
open-eyed and looked out upon the stars.

Their eyes also were kept busy. As the children sat there, a pale light
began to blossom forth on the sky before them among the stars and
extended a flat arc through them. It had a greenish tinge which
gradually worked downward. But the arc became ever brighter until the
stars paled in it. It sent a luminosity also into other regions of the
heavens which shed greenish beams softly and actively among the stars.
Then, sheaves of vari-colored light stood in burning radiance on the
height of the arc like the spikes of a crown. Mildly it flowed through
the neighboring regions of the heavens, it flashed and showered softly,
and in gentle vibrations extended through vast spaces. Whether now the
electric matter of the atmosphere had become so tense by the unexampled
fall of snow that it resulted in this silent, splendid efflorescence of
light, or whether some other cause of unfathomable nature may be
assigned as reason for the phenomenon--however that be: gradually the
light grew weaker and weaker, first the sheaves died down, until by
unnoticeable degrees it grew ever less and there was nothing in the
heavens but the thousands upon thousands of simple stars.

The children never exchanged a word, but remained sitting and gazed
open-eyed into the heavens.

Nothing particular happened afterward. The stars gleamed and shone and
twinkled, only an occasional shooting star traversed them.

At last, after the stars had shone alone for a long time, and nothing
had been seen of the moon, something else happened. The sky began to
grow brighter, slowly but recognizably brighter; its color became
visible, the faintest stars disappeared and the others were not
clustered so densely any longer. Finally, also the bigger stars faded
away, and the snow on the heights became more distinct. Now, one region
of the heavens grew yellow and a strip of cloud floating in it was
inflamed to a glowing line. All things became clearly visible and the
remote snow-hills assumed sharp outlines.

"Sanna, day is breaking," said the boy.

"Yes, Conrad," answered the girl.

"After it grows just a bit brighter we shall go out of the cave and run
down from the mountain."

It grew brighter, no star was visible any longer, and all things stood
out clear in the dawn.

"Well, then, let us go," said the boy.

"Yes, let us go," answered Sanna.

The children arose and tried their limbs which only now felt their
tiredness. Although they had not slept, the morning had reinvigorated
them. The boy slung the calfskin bag around his shoulder and fastened
Sanna's fur-jacket about her. Then he led her out of the cave.

As they had believed it would be an easy matter to run down from the
mountain they had not thought of eating and had not searched the bag, to
see whether it contained any wheat-bread or other eatables.

The sky being clear, Conrad had wanted to look down from the mountain
into the valleys in order to recognize the valley of Gschaid and descend
to it. But he saw no valleys whatever. He seemed not to stand on any
mountain from which one can look down, but in some strange, curious
country in which there were only unknown objects. Today they saw awful
rocks stand up out of the snow at some distance which they had not seen
the day before; they saw the glacier, they saw hummocks and slanting
snow-fields, and behind these, either the sky or the blue peak of some
very distant mountain above the edge of the snowy horizon.

At this moment the sun arose.

A gigantic, bloody red disk emerged above the white horizon and
immediately the snow about the children blushed as if it had been strewn
with millions of roses. The knobs and pinnacles of the mountain cast
very long and greenish shadows along the snow.

"Sanna, we shall go on here, until we come to the edge of the mountain
and can look down," said the boy.

They went farther into the snow. In the clear night, it had become still
drier and easily yielded to their steps. They waded stoutly on. Their
limbs became even more elastic and strong as they proceeded, but they
came to no edge and could not look down. Snowfield succeeded snowfield,
and at the end of each always shone the sky.

They continued nevertheless.

Before they knew it, they were on the glacier again. They did not know
how the ice had got there, but they felt the ground smooth underfoot,
and although there were not such awful boulders as in the moraine where
they had passed the night, yet they were aware of the glacier being
underneath them, they saw the blocks growing ever larger and coming ever
nearer, forcing them to clamber again.

Yet they kept on in the same direction.

Again they were clambering up some boulders; again they stood on the
glacier. Only today, in the bright sunlight, could they see what it was
like. It was enormously large, and beyond it, again, black rocks soared
aloft. Wave heaved behind wave, as it were, the snowy ice was crushed,
raised up, swollen as if it pressed onward and were flowing toward the
children. In the white of it they perceived innumerable advancing wavy
blue lines. Between those regions where the icy masses rose up, as if
shattered against each other, there were lines like paths, and these
were strips of firm ice or places where the blocks of ice had not been
screwed up very much. The children followed these paths as they intended
to cross part of the glacier, at least, in order to get to the edge of
the mountain and at last have a glimpse down. They said not a word. The
girl followed in the footsteps of the boy. The place where they had
meant to cross grew ever broader, it seemed. Giving up their direction,
they began, to retreat. Where they could not walk they broke with their
hands through the masses of snow which often gave way before their eyes,
revealing the intense blue of a crevasse where all had been pure white
before. But they did not mind this and labored on until they again
emerged from the ice somewhere.

"Sanna," said the boy, "we shall not go into the ice again at all,
because we cannot make our way in it. And because we cannot look down
into our valley, anyway, we want to go down from the mountain in a
straight line. We must come into some valley, and there we shall tell
people that we are from Gschaid and they will show us the way home."

"Yes, Conrad," said the girl.

So they began to descend on the snow in the direction which its slope
offered them. The boy led the little girl by her hand. However, after
having descended some distance, the slope no longer followed that
direction and the snowfield rose again. The children, therefore, changed
their direction and descended toward a shallow basin. But there they
struck ice again. So they climbed up along the side of the basin in
order to seek a way down in some other direction. A slope led them
downward, but that gradually became so steep that they could scarcely
keep a footing and feared lest they should slide down. So they retraced
their steps upward to find some other way down. After having clambered
up the snowfield a long time and then continuing along an even ridge,
they found it to be as before: either the snow sloped so steeply that
they would have fallen, or it ascended so that they feared it would lead
to the very peak of the mountain. And thus it continued to be.

Then they had the idea of finding the direction from which they had come
and of descending to the red post. As it is not snowing and the sky is
bright, thought the boy, they should be able, after all, to see the spot
where the post ought to be, and to descend down from it to Gschaid.

The boy told his little sister his thought and she followed him.

But the way down to the "neck" was not to be found.

However clear the sun shone, however beautifully the snowy heights stood
there, and the fields of snow lay there, yet they could not recognize
the places over which they had come the day before. Yesterday, all had
been veiled by the immense snowfall, so they had scarcely seen a couple
of feet ahead of them, and then all had been a mingled white and gray.
They had seen only the rocks along and between which they had passed;
but today also they had seen many rocks and they all resembled those
they had seen the day before. Today, they left fresh tracks behind them
in the snow; yesterday, all tracks had been obliterated by the falling
snow. Neither could they gather from the aspect of things which way they
had to return to the "neck," since all places looked alike. Snow and
snow again. But on they marched and hoped to succeed in the end. They
avoided the declivities and did not attempt to climb steep slopes.

Today also they frequently stood still to listen; but they heard
nothing, not the slightest sound. Neither was anything to be seen
excepting the dazzling snow from which emerged, here and there, black
peaks and ribs of rock.

At last the boy thought he saw a flame skipping over a far-away
snow-slope. It bobbed up and dipped down again. Now they saw it, and
then again they did not. They remained standing and steadfastly gazed in
that direction. The flame kept on skipping up and down and seemed to be
approaching, for they saw it grow bigger and skipping more plainly. It
did not disappear so often and for so long a time as before. After
awhile they heard in the still blue air faintly, very faintly, something
like the long note of a shepherd's horn. As if from instinct, both
children shouted aloud. A little while, and they heard the sound again.
They shouted again and remained standing on the same spot. The flame
also came nearer. The sound was heard for the third time, and this time
more plainly. The children answered again by shouting loudly. After some
time, they also recognized that it was no flame they had seen but a red
flag which was being swung. At the same time the shepherd's horn
resounded closer to them and the children made reply.

"Sanna," cried the boy, "there come people from Gschaid. I know the
flag, it is the red flag that the stranger gentleman planted on the
peak, when he had climbed the Gars with the young hunter, so that the
reverend father could see it with his spyglass, and that was to be the
sign that they had reached the top, and the stranger gentleman gave him
the flag afterward as a present. You were a real small child, then."

"Yes, Conrad."

After awhile the children could also see the people near the flag, like
little black dots that seemed to move. The call of the horn came again
and again, and ever nearer. Each time, the children made answer.

Finally they saw on the snow-slope opposite them several men with the
flag in their midst coast down on their Alpen-stocks. When they had
come closer the children recognized them. It was the shepherd Philip
with his horn, his two sons, the young hunter, and several men of

"God be blessed," cried Philip, "why here you are. The whole mountain is
full of people. Let one of you run down at once to the Sideralp chalet
and ring the bell, that they down below may hear that we have found
them; and one must climb the Krebsstein and plant the flag there so that
they in the valley may see it and fire off the mortars, so that the
people searching in the Millsdorf forest may hear it and that they may
kindle the smudge-fires in Gschaid, and all those on the mountain may
come down to the Sideralp chalet. This is a Christmas for you!"

"I shall climb down to the chalet," one said.

"And I shall carry the flag to the Krebsstein," said another.

"And we will get the children down to the Sideralp chalet as well as we
can, if God help us;" said Philip.

One of Philip's sons made his way downward, and the other went his way
with the flag.

The hunter took the little girl by her hand, and the shepherd Philip the
boy. The others helped as they could. Thus they started out. They turned
this way and that. Now they followed one direction, now they took the
opposite course, now they climbed up, now down, always through snow, and
the surroundings seemed to remain the same. On very steep inclines they
fastened climbing-irons to their feet and carried the children. Finally,
after a long time, they heard the ringing of a little bell that sounded
up to them soft and thin, which was the first sign the lower regions
sent to them again. They must really have descended quite far; for now
they saw a snowy bluish peak lift up its head to a great height above
them. The bell, however, which they had heard was that of the Sideralp
chalet which was being rung, because there the meeting was to be. As
they proceeded farther they also heard in the still atmosphere the faint
report of the mortars which were fired at the sight of the flag; and
still later they saw thin columns of smoke rising into the still air.

When they, after a little while, descended a gentle slope they caught
sight of the Sideralp chalet. They approached. In the hut a fire was
burning, the mother of the children was there, and with a terrible cry
she sank in the snow as she saw her children coming with the hunter.

Then she ran up, looked them all over, wanted to give them something to
eat, wanted to warm them, and bed them in the hay that was there; but
soon she convinced herself that the children were more stimulated by
their rescue than she had thought and only required some warm food and a
little rest, both of which they now obtained.

When, after some time of rest, another group of men descended the
snow-slope while the little bell continued tolling, the children
themselves ran out to see who they were. It was the shoemaker, the
former mountaineer, with Alpen-stock and climbing-irons, accompanied by
friends and comrades.

"Sebastian, here they are!" cried the woman.

He, however, remained speechless, shaking with emotion, and then ran up
to her. Then his lips moved as if he wanted to say something, but he
said nothing, caught the children in his embrace and held them long.
Thereupon he turned to his wife, embraced her and cried "Sanna, Sanna!"

After awhile he picked up his hat which had fallen on the snow and
stepped among the men as if to speak. But he only said: "Neighbors and
friends, I thank you!"

After waiting awhile, until the children had recovered from their
excitement, he said: "If we are all together we may start, in God's

"We are not all together yet, I believe," said the shepherd Philip, "but
those who are still missing will know from the smoke that we have found
the children and will go home when they find the chalet empty."

All got ready to depart.

The Sideralp chalet is not so very far from Gschaid, from whose windows
one can, in summer time, very well see the green pasture on which stands
the gray hut with its small belfry; but below it there is a
perpendicular wall with a descent of many fathoms which one could climb
in summer, with the help of climbing-irons, but which was not to be
scaled in winter. They were, therefore, compelled to go by way of the
"neck" in order to get down to Gschaid. On their way, they came to the
Sider meadow which is still nearer to Gschaid so that from it one could
see the windows in the village.

As they were crossing these meadows, the bell of the Gschaid church
sounded up to them bright and clear, announcing the Holy


On account of the general commotion that obtained in Gschaid that
morning, the celebration of the High-mass had been deferred, as the
priest thought the children would soon be found. Finally, however, as
still no news came, the holy mass had to be celebrated.

When they heard the bell announcing the Holy Transsubstantiation, all
those crossing the Sider meadow sank upon their knees in the snow and
prayed. When the tolling had ceased they arose and marched on.

The shoemaker was carrying his little girl for the most part and made
her tell him all.

When they were descending toward the forest of the "neck" they saw
tracks which, he declared, came not from shoes of his make.

The explanation came soon. Attracted probably by the many voices they
heard, another body of men joined them. It was the dyer--ash-gray in the
face from fright--descending at the head of his workmen, apprentices,
and several men of Millsdorf.

"They climbed over the glacier and the crevasses without knowing it,"
the shoemaker shouted to his father-in-law.

"There they are--there they are--praised be the Lord," answered the
dyer, "I knew already that they had been on the mountain when your
messenger came to us in the night, and we had searched through the whole
forest with lanterns and had not found anything--and then, when it
dawned, I observed that on the road which leads on the left up toward
the snow-mountain, on the spot where the post stands--that there some
twigs and stalks were broken off, as children like to do on their
way--and then I knew it, and then they could not get away, because they
walked in the hollow, and then between the rocks on to the ridge which
is so steep on either side that they could not get down. They just had
to ascend. After making this observation I sent a message to Gschaid,
but the wood-cutter Michael who carried it told us at his return, when
he joined us up there near the ice, that you had found them already,
and so we came down again."

"Yes," said Michael, "I told you so because the red flag is hung out on
the Krebsstein, and this was the sign agreed upon in Gschaid. And I told
you that they all would come down this way, as one cannot climb down the

"And kneel down and thank God on your knees, my son-in-law," continued
the dyer, "that there was no wind. A hundred years will pass before
there will be another such fall of snow that will come down straight
like wet cords hanging from a pole. If there had been any wind the
children would have perished."

"Yes, let us thank God, let us thank God," said the shoemaker.

The dyer who since the marriage of his daughter had never been in
Gschaid decided to accompany the men to the village.

When they approached the red post where the side-road began they saw the
sleigh waiting for them which the shoemaker had ordered there, whatever
the outcome. They let mother and children get into it, covered them well
up in the rugs and furs provided for them and let them ride ahead to

The others followed and arrived in Gschaid by afternoon. Those who still
were on the mountain and had only learned through the smoke that the
signal for returning had been given, gradually also found their way into
the valley. The last to appear in the evening was the son of the
shepherd Philip who had carried the red flag to the Krebsstein and
planted it there.

In Gschaid there was also grandmother waiting for them who had driven
across the "neck."

"Never, never," she cried, "will I permit the children to cross the
'neck' in winter!"

The children were confused by all this commotion. They received
something more to eat and were put to bed then. Late in the evening,
when they had recovered somewhat, and some neighbors and friends had
assembled in the living-room and were talking about the event, their
mother came into the sleeping-room. As she sat by Sanna's bed and
caressed her, the little girl said: "Mother, last night, when we sat on
the mountain, I saw the holy Christ-child."

"Oh, my dear, darling child," answered her mother, "he sent you some
presents, too, and you shall get them right soon."

The paste-board boxes had been unpacked and the candles lit, and now the
door into the living-room was opened, and from their bed the children
could behold their belated, brightly gleaming, friendly Christmas tree.
Notwithstanding their utter fatigue they wanted to be dressed partly, so
that they could go into the room. They received their presents, admired
them, and finally fell asleep over them.

In the inn at Gschaid it was more lively than ever, this evening. All
who had not been to church were there, and the others too. Each related
what he had seen and heard, what he had done or advised, and the
experiences and dangers he had gone through. Especial stress was laid on
how everything could have been done differently and better.

This occurrence made an epoch in the history of Gschaid. It furnished
material for conversation for a long time; and for many years to come
people will speak about it on bright days when the mountain is seen with
especial clearness, or when they tell strangers of the memorable events
connected with it.

Only from this day on the children were really felt to belong to the
village and were not any longer regarded as strangers in it but as
natives whom the people had fetched down to them from the mountain.

Their mother Sanna also now was a native of Gschaid.

The children, however, will not forget the mountain and will look up to
it more attentively, when they are in the garden; when, as in the past,
the sun is shining beautifully and the linden-tree is sending forth its
fragrance, when the bees are humming and the mountain looks down upon
them beautifully blue, like the soft sky.



Professor of the German Language and Literature, Washington University

Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl was born May 6, 1823, in Bieberich on the Rhine,
of parents so poor that after his father's early death his mother had to
deprive herself of every comfort in order to enable the lad to go to the
university. At Bonn he swerved from his theological bent--chiefly
through the influence of two of his professors, Ernst Moritz Arndt and
Ch. F. Dahlmann--and made up his mind to devote his studies henceforth
to the scientific as well as patriotic purpose of comprehending the
character and history of his own people. Even in the many articles
concerning popular ways and manners which he had already contributed to
periodicals he revealed a thorough firsthand acquaintance with the land
and the people, in particular the peasantry, as he had observed them in
the course of numerous holiday tramps.

Soon after leaving the university he drifted into professional
journalism. He held a number of responsible editorial positions, nor did
he wholly withdraw from such work when in 1859 he was called to the
newly created chair of the History of Civilization and of Statistics at
Munich. Both in his professional and publicistic capacity he wrote
prolifically to the very end of his life, November 16, 1897. His works
are classifiable, roughly, under three headings: History of Culture,
Sociology, and Fiction. Of the large number, the following,
chronologically enumerated, are considered the most important.


_The Natural History of the People, being the Elements of German Social
Politics_ (1851-1869), in four volumes; _Musical Character-Portraits
(1853); Culture-historical Stories (1856); The Palatine People (1857);
Studies in the History of Culture, from Three Centuries (1859); German
Work (1861); Tales of the Olden Time (1863); New Story-Book (1868); From
my Nook (1874); At Eventide (1880); Riddles of Life (1888); Religious
Studies of a Worldling (1892-1893); A Whole Man (1897)._

Riehl's position in the literature of Germany cannot be defined solely,
nor even mainly, on the basis of his imaginative writings. As a romancer
he falls far short of Gustav Freytag, whose _Pictures of the German
Past_ served Riehl obviously for a model, and of Jeremias Gotthelf, in
whose manner, though perhaps unconsciously, he likewise strove to write.
It is characteristic of his tales that they invariably play against a
native background, which, however, stretches across more than full ten
centuries, and that, while failing to prove any high poetic vocation for
their author, they demonstrate his singularly acute perception of
cultural tendencies and values. Equally keen is the appreciation shown
in these stories of the dominant national traits, whether commendable or
otherwise: German contentiousness, stubbornness, envy, jealousy and
_Schadenfreude_, i.e., the malicious joy over calamities that befall
others, are impartially balanced against German self-reliance,
sturdiness, love of truth, sense of duty, sincerity, unselfishness,
loyalty, and depth of feeling.

On the whole, the inclusion of Riehl among the most eminent German
writers of the nineteenth century is due far less to his works of
fiction than to a just recognition of his primacy among historians of
culture, on account of the extraordinary reach of his influence. This
influence he certainly owed as much to his rare art of popular
presentation as to his profound scholarship. Nevertheless the intrinsic
scientific worth of these more or less popular writings is vouched for
by the consensus of leading historians and other specially competent
judges who, regarding Riehl's work as epoch-making and in some essential
aspects fundamental, recognize him as one of the organizers of modern
historical science and in particular as the foremost pioneer in the
exploration of the widest area within the territory of human knowledge;
in fine, as the most efficient representative of the History of

_Kulturgeschichte_, as Riehl used the term, connoted a rather ideal
conception, namely, that of an interpretative record of the sum total of
human civilization. It required a high challenge like that to energize
and unify the requisite laborious research in so many different
directions art, letters, science, economics, politics, social life, and
what not. The History of Civilization, as understood by Riehl, embraces
the results gained in all the special branches of historical study,
political history included.

By a formulation so comprehensive and exacting, Riehl himself stood
committed to the investigation of the national life not only in the
breadth and variety of its general aspect, but also in its minuter
processes that had so far been left unheeded. But under his care even
the study of seemingly trite details quickened the approach to that
fixed ideal of a History of Civilization that should have for its
ultimate object nothing less than the revelation of the spirit of
history itself. The goal might never be attained, yet the quest for it
would at all events disclose "the laws under which racial civilizations
germinate, mature, bloom, and perish."

Personally Riehl applied the bulk of his labors to the two contiguous
fields of Folklore and Art History. Folklore (_Volkskunde_) is here
taken in his own definition, namely, as the science which uncovers the
recondite causal relations between all perceptible manifestations of a
nation's life and its physical and historical environment. Riehl never
lost sight, in any of his distinctions, of that inalienable affinity
between land and people; the solidarity of a nation, its very right of
existing as a political entity, he derived from homogeneity as to
origin, language, custom, habitat. The validity of this view is now
generally accepted in theory, while its practical application to
science must necessarily depend upon the growth of special knowledge. In
_The Palatine People_ Riehl presented a standard treatise upon one of
the ethnic types of the German race, an illustration as it were of his
own theorems.

Among Riehl's contributions to the History of Art, the larger number
concern the art of music. He was qualified for this work by a sure and
sound critical appreciation rooted in thorough technical knowledge. Here
again, following his keen scent for the distinguishing racial qualities,
he gave his attention mainly to the popular forms of composition; at the
same time his penetrating historic insight enabled him to account for
the distinctive artistic character of the great composers by a due
weighing of their individual attributes against the controlling
influences of their time. It is hardly necessary to add that in his
reflections music was never detached from its generic connection with
the fine arts, inclusive of industrial, decorative, and domestic art.

Like many another student and lover of the past Riehl was a man of
conservative habits of mind, without, however, deserving to be classed
as a confirmed reactionary. His anti-democratic tendency of thought
sprang plausibly enough from convictions and beliefs which owed their
existence, in some part at least, to strained and whimsical analogies.
His defense of a static order of society rested at bottom upon a sturdy
hatred of Socialism, then in the earliest stage of its rise. This
ingrained aversion to the new, suggested to him a rather curious sort of
rational or providential sanction for the old. He discerned, by an odd
whim of the fancy, in the physical as well as the spiritual constitution
of Germany a preeestablished principle of "trialism.". According to this
queer notion, Germany is in every respect divided _in partes tres_. The
territorial conformation itself, with its clean subdivision into
lowland, intermediate, and highland, demonstrates the natural
tri-partition to which a like "threeness" of climate, nationality, and
even of religion corresponds. Hence the tripartition of the population
into peasantry, bourgeoisie, and nobility should be upheld as an
inviolable, foreordained institution, and to this end the separate
traditions of the classes be piously conserved. Educational agencies
ought to subserve the specific needs of the different ranks of society
and be diversified accordingly. Riehl would even hark back to wholly
out-dated and discarded customs, provided they seemed to him clearly the
outflow of a vital class-consciousness. For instance, he would have
restored the trade corporations to their medieval status; inhibited the
free disposal of farming land, and governed the German aristocracy under
the English law of primogeniture.

Altogether, Riehl's propensity for spanning a fragile analogy between
concrete and abstract phenomena of life is apt to weaken the structural
strength of his argumentation. Yet even his boldest comparisons do not
lack in illuminative suggestiveness. Take, for example, the following
passage from _Field and Forest:_ "In the contrast between the forest and
the field is manifest the most simple and natural preparatory stage of
the multiformity and variety of German social life, that richness of
peculiar national characteristics in which lies concealed the tenacious
rejuvenating power of our nation." (See p. 418 of this volume.)

The predisposition to draw large inferences coupled with that pronounced
conservatism detract in a measure from the authenticity of Riehl's work
in the department of Social Science, which to him is fundamentally "the
doctrine of the natural inequality of mankind." (See p. 417 of this

That Riehl, despite his conservative bias, is not a reactionary out and
out has already been stated. He stands for evolutionary, not
revolutionary, social reform; in his opinion the social-economic order
can be bettered by means of the gradual self-improvement of society, and
in no other way. Unless, moreover, the improvement be effected without
the sacrifice of that basic subdivision of society, the needful social
stability is bound to be upset by the "proletariat"--namely, the entire
"fourth estate" reinforced by the ever increasing number of deserters,
renegades, and outcasts who have drifted away from their appointed
social level.

Notwithstanding this rather dogmatic attitude of which, among other
things, a sweeping rejection of "Woman Emancipation," was one corollary,
Riehl's organic theory of society as explicitly stated in his _Civic
Society_ has a great and permanent usefulness for our time because of
its thoroughgoing method and its clear-cut statement of problems and
issues. The leader of the most advanced school of modern historians,
Professor Karl Lamprecht, goes so far as to declare that the social
studies of W.H. Riehl constitute the very corner stone of scientific
Sociology. In this achievement, to which all of his scholarly endeavors
were tributary, Riehl's significance as a historian of culture may be
said to culminate.




The intimate connection between a country and its people may well start
with a superficial survey of the external aspects of a country. He sees
before him mountain and valley, field and forest--such familiar
contrasts that one scarcely notices them any longer; and yet they are
the explanation of many subtle and intimate traits in the life of the
people. A clever schoolmaster could string a whole system of folklore on
the thread of mountain and valley, field and forest. I will be content
to invite further meditation by some thoughts on field and forest, the
_tame_ and the _wild_ cultivation of our soil.

In Germany this contrast still exists in all its sharpness, as we still
have a real forest. England, on the contrary, has practically no really
free forest left--no forest which has any social significance. This, of
necessity, occasions at the very outset a number of the clearest
distinctions between German and English nationality.

In every decisive popular movement in Germany the forest is the first to
suffer. A large part of the peasants live in continual secret feud with
the masters of the forest and their privileges; no sooner is a spark of
revolution lighted, then, before everything else, there flares up among
these people "the war about the forest." The insurgent rural proletariat
can raise no barricades, can tear down no royal palaces, but, instead,
lay waste the woodland of their masters; for in their eyes this forest
is the fortress of the great lord in comparison with the little
unprotected plot of ground of the small farmer. As soon as the power of
the State has conquered the rebellious masses, the first thing it
proceeds to do is to restore the forest to its former condition and
again to put in force the forest charters which had been torn up. This
spectacle, modified in accordance with the spirit of the age, repeats
itself in every century of our history, and it will no doubt be of
constant recurrence, always in new forms, for centuries to come.

The preservation, the protection of the forest, guaranteed anew by
charter, is at present (1853) once again a question of the day, and in
German legislative assemblies in recent years weighty words have been
uttered in favor of the forest from the point of view of the political
economist. Thus it is again becoming popular to defend the poor
much-abused forest. The forest, however, has not only an economic, but
also a social-political value. He who from liberal political principles
denies the distinction between city and country should also, after the
English model, seek to do away with the distinction between the field
and the forest. Wherever common possession of the forest continues to
exist side by side with private possession of the field, there will
never be any real social equality among the people. In the cultivation
of the soil the forest represents the aristocracy; the field represents
the middle class.

The concessions made by the different governments in the matter of
forest-clearing, of the preservation of game, the free use of the
forest, etc., form a pretty exact instrument with which to measure the
triumphant advance of the aristocratic or the democratic spirit. In the
year 1848 many a vast tract of forest was sacrificed in order to
purchase therewith a small fraction of popularity. Every revolution does
harm to the forest, but, provided it does not wish to strangle itself,
it leaves the field untouched.

After December 2, 1851, the gathering of fallen leaves in the forest was
countenanced in Alsace in order to make the Napoleonic _coup d' etat_
popular. It was cleverly thought out; for the never-resting war about
the forest can be for a government a mighty lever of influence on a
class of the people which is, in general, hard enough to swing round.
The concession permitting the gathering of leaves, and manhood suffrage,
are one and the same act of shrewd Bonapartist policy, only aimed at
different classes. Thus social politics lurks even behind the
forest-trees and beneath the rustling red leaves of last autumn--a
strange circle of cause and effect! The immoderate cultivation of
potatoes contributes not a little to saddle the modern State with the
proletariat, but this same cultivation of potatoes, which deprives the
small peasant of straw, drives him into the forest to seek for withered
leaves in place of straw for his cattle, and thus places again in the
hands of the State authorities a means--based upon the strange historic
ruin of our forest-franchises--of curbing a powerful part of the

Popular sentiment in Germany considers the forest to be the one large
piece of property which has not yet been completely portioned off. In
contrast to field, meadow, and garden, every one has a certain right to
the forest, even if it consists merely in being able to run about in it
at pleasure. In the right, or the permission, to gather wood and dry
leaves and to pasture cattle, in the distribution of the so-called
"loose-wood" from the parish forests, and such acts, lie the historic
foundation of an almost communist tradition. Where else has anything of
the kind been perpetuated except in the case of the forest? The latter
is the root of truly German social conditions. In very truth the forest,
with us, has not yet been completely portioned off; therefore every
political agitator who wishes to pay out in advance to the people a
little bit of "prosperity" as earnest-money of the promised universal
prosperity, immediately lays hands upon the forest. By means of the
forest, and by no other, you can substantially preach communism to the
German peasant. It is well known that the idea of the forest as private
property was introduced at a late date and gained ground gradually among
the German people.

Forest, pasturage, water, are, in accordance with a primitive German
principle of jurisprudence, intended for the common use of all
inhabitants of the same district. The old alliteration "wood, wold and
water," has not yet been entirely forgotten by the people. Thus a dim
and feeble memory, a well-nigh forgotten legend, looking upon the common
claim to general use of the forest as a natural right which had been in
force since the beginning of time, confirms the conclusions of the
historian, according to whom community of possession of the forest was a
true old Germanic idea. Such a line of argument, however, could also
bring us to the further conclusion that this community of possession has
only once been fully realized--namely, by and in the primeval forest.

In times of excitement men have worked out on paper wonderful
arithmetical problems concerning the partition of the soil of the forest
into small plots of ground for the poor. Paper is very forbearing, and
it looks very idyllic and comfortable to see, carefully calculated
before our eyes, how many hundreds of dear little estates could be made
out of the meagre soil of the forest, on which the proletarian could
settle down to the contented patriarchal existence of a farmer.
Practical attempts along this line have not been wanting, but, instead
of diminishing the proletariat, such an increase of small farms only
served to augment it all the more; practice is ahead of theory. The
people should have thanked God that the forest, almost alone, had not
been parceled out; yet, instead, they were ready even to destroy the
forest in order to assist the small farmer! In many parts of Germany the
poor farmer would starve if the traditional free use of the forest did
not form a steady annuity for him. The forest helps in a hundred ways to
place the petty farms on a solid foundation; if, therefore, men destroy
the forests in order to increase the number of petty farms, they are
undermining firmly rooted existences in order, in their place, to plant
new ones upon the sand.

It is a source of great comfort for the social politician that, in
Germany, the contrast of forest and field yet remains so generally
established that we still have a whole group of regular forest lands. A
nation which still holds fast to the forest as a common public
possession along with the field that is divided off into private
property, has not only a present but also a future. Thus in Russia's
impenetrable forests, whose inner thickets are, in the words of the poet
Mickiewicz, such a deep mystery that they are as little known to the eye
of-the huntsman as the depths of the sea are known to the eve of the
fisherman--in these forests is hidden the future of the great Slav
Empire; while in the English and French provinces, where there is no
longer a genuine forest, we are confronted by an already partially
extinct national life. The United States of America whose society is
permeated with materialism, and whose strange national life is made up
of a mixture of youthful energy and of torpor, would rapidly hurry on to
their destruction if they did not have in the background the primeval
forest which is raising up a fresher, more vigorous, race to take the
place of the rapidly degenerating inhabitants of the coast-lands. The
wilderness is an immense dormant capital in ready cash, possessing which
as a basis the North Americans may, for a long time to come, risk the
most daring social and political stock-jobbing. But woe to them should
they consume the capital itself!

The German forest and the privileges and compulsory service connected
with it are a last surviving fragment of the Middle Ages. Nowhere are
the ruins of the feudal elements more plainly visible than in the forest
regulations; the forest alone assures the rural population--in true
medieval style--a subsidy for its existence, untouched by the fury of
competition and small-farming.

Therefore do the demagogues so often try to change the war "about" the
forest into a war "against" the forest; they know that the forest must
first be hewn down before the Middle Ages can be wiped out of Germany,
and, on that account, the forest always fares worse than anything else
in every popular uprising. For though in our rapidly moving century
there is an average interval of fifteen years allowed between one
revolution and another, yet a good forest tree requires a much longer
time to reach full growth. At least the incalculable loss suffered by
our forest property in the year 1848, through lavish waste, plundering,
and wanton ruination, has certainly, up to the present time, not been
made good by natural means.

In Anhalt-Dessau it was decided, in an ordinance of the year 1852, that
all oak-trees standing on private ground should, in accordance with
ancient custom, remain the property of the sovereign. In this conception
the contrast between forest and field is an absolutely ideal one; even
the separate forest tree is in itself still a forest and has
forest-rights, just as in localities where all the forests have been cut
down the peasants still frequently designate a single remaining tree by
the title of their "parish forest."

The political economists argue that the amount of wood which can be
supplied by our present forests is by no means too great for the
satisfaction of the demand--that, if anything, it is too small. Those,
however, whose enmity to the forest is based on political principles
detail to us the yearly increasing substitutes for wood, and point
triumphantly to the not far distant time when forests will no longer be
needed, when all forest land can be turned into cultivated land, so that
every glebe of earth in civilized Europe shall produce sufficient
nourishment for a man. This idea of seeing every little patch of earth
dug up by human hands strikes the imagination of every natural man as
something appallingly uncanny; it is especially repugnant to the German
spirit. When that comes to pass it will be high time for the day of
judgment to dawn. Emmanuel Geibel, in his poem _Mythus_, has symbolized
this natural aversion to the extreme measures of a civilization which
would absorb every form of wild nature. He creates a legend about the
demon of steam, who is chained and forced to do menial service. The
latter will break his bonds again and with his primitive titanic
strength, which has been slumbering in the heart of the world, he will
destroy the very earth itself when once the whole ball has been covered
with the magic network of the railroads. Before that time all the
forests will have been turned into cultivated land.

The advocates of the forest resort to a feeble method of defense when
they demand the preservation of the present moderate forest area solely
on economic grounds. The social-political reasons certainly weigh quite
as heavy. Hew down the forest and you will at the same time destroy the
historic _bourgeois_ society.--In the destruction of the contrast
between field and forest you are taking a vital element away from German
nationality. Man does not live by bread alone; even if we no longer
required any wood we should still demand the forest. The German people
need the forest as a man needs wine, although for our mere necessities
it might be quite sufficient if the apothecary alone stored away ten
gallons in his cellar. If we do not require any longer the dry wood to
warm our outer man, then all the more necessary will it be for the race
to have the green wood, standing in all its life and vigor, to warm the
inner man.

In our woodland villages--and whoever has wandered through the German
mountains knows that there are still many genuine woodland villages in
the German Fatherland--the remains of primitive civilization are still
preserved to our national life, not only in their shadiness but also in
their fresh and natural splendor. Not only the woodland, but likewise
the sand dunes, the moors, the heath, the tracts of rock and glacier,
all wildernesses and desert wastes, are a necessary supplement to the
cultivated field lands. Let us rejoice that there is still so much
wilderness left in Germany. In order for a nation to develop its power
it must embrace at the same time the most varied phases of evolution. A
nation over-refined by culture and satiated with prosperity is a dead
nation, for whom nothing remains but, like Sardanapalus, to burn itself
up together with all its magnificence. The _blase_ city man, the fat
farmer of the rich corn-land, may be the men of the present; but the
poverty-stricken peasant of the moors, the rough, hardy peasant of the
forests, the lonely, self-reliant Alpine shepherd, full of legends and
songs--these are the men of the future. Civil society is founded on the
doctrine of the natural inequality of mankind. Indeed, in this
inequality of talents and of callings is rooted the highest glory of
society, for it is the source of its inexhaustible vital energy. As the
sea preserves the vigor of the people of the coast-lands by keeping them
in a hardy natural state, so does the forest produce a similar effect on
the people of the interior. Therefore since Germany has such a large
expanse of interior country, it needs just that much more forest-land
than does England. The genuine woodland villagers, the foresters,
wood-cutters, and forest laborers are the strong, rude seamen among us
landlubbers. Uproot the forests, level the mountains, and shut out the
sea, if you want to equalize society in a closet-civilization where all
will have the same polish and all be of the same color. We have seen
that entire flourishing lands which have been robbed of the protecting
forests have fallen prey to the devastating floods of the mountain
streams and the scorching breath of the storms. A large part of Italy,
the paradise of Europe, is a land which has, ceased to live, because its
soil no longer bears any forests under the protection of which it might
become rejuvenated. And not only is the land exhausted, but the people
are, likewise. A nation must die off when it can no longer have recourse
to the back-woodsmen in order to gather from them the fresh strength of
a natural, hardy, national life. A nation without considerable
forest-property is worthy of the same consideration as a nation without
requisite sea-coast. We must preserve our forests not only so that our
stoves shall not be cold in winter, but also that the pulse of the
nation's life shall continue to throb on warmly and cheerfully--in
short, so that Germany shall remain German.

The inhabitants of the German woodland villages have almost always a far
fresher, more individual, mental stamp than the inhabitants of the
villages of the plain. In the latter we find more sleek prosperity side
by side with greater degeneracy of morals, than in the former. The
inhabitant of the woodland villages is often very poor, but the
discontented proletarian dwells far more frequently in the villages of
the plain. The latter is more important in an economic sense, the former
in a social-political one. The forest peasant is rougher, more
quarrelsome, but also merrier than the peasant of the field; the former
often turns out a genial rascal, when the dull peasant of the field in
like case would have turned into a heartless miser. The preservation or
the extinction of ancient popular customs and costumes does not depend
so much on the contrast between mountainous-country and flat-country as
on that between the woodland and the field, if one includes in the
former the heaths, moors, and other wild regions. The forest is the home
of national art; the forest peasant still continues through many
generations to sing his peculiar song along with the birds of the woods,
when the neighboring villager of the plain has long ago entirely
forgotten the folk-song. A village without woods is like a city without
historical buildings, without monuments, without art-collections,
without theatres and music--in short, without emotional or artistic
stimulation. The forest is the gymnasium of youth and often the
banqueting hall of the aged. Does not that weigh at least as heavy as
the economic question of the timber? In the contrast between the forest
and the field is manifest the most simple and natural preparatory stage
of the multiformity and variety of German social life, that richness of
peculiar national characteristics in which lies concealed the tenacious
rejuvenating power of our nation.

The century of the pig-tail possessed no eye for the forest and, in
consequence, no understanding of the natural life of the people.
Everywhere in the German provinces they removed the princely
pleasure-seats from the woody mountains to the woodless flat country.
But then, to be sure, the art of the pig-tail age was almost entirely
un-German. For the artists of the pig-tail the forest was too irregular
in design, too humpbacked in form, and too dark in color. It was shoved
into the background as a flat accessory of the landscape, while, on the
contrary, the landscape painters of the preceding great period of art
drew the inspiration for their forest pictures from the very depths of
the forest solitudes. No painter of Romance origin has ever painted the
forest as Ruysdael and Everdingen did; they in their best pictures place
themselves right in the midst of the deepest thickets. Poussin and
Claude Lorraine have made magnificent studies of the forest, but
Ruysdael knows the forest by heart from his childhood, as he knows the
Lord's Prayer.

The Frenchified lyric poets of the school of Hagedorn and Gleim sing
forest-songs, as though they longed after the forest from hearsay. Then,
with the resurrected folk-song and the resuscitated Shakespeare, who has
poetically explored deeper into the glory of the forest than all others,
the English art of gardening, an imitation of the free nature of the
forest, reaches Germany. At the same time, in German poetry, Goethe
again strikes the true forest-note which he has learned from the
folk-song; and from the moment that the forest no longer appears too
disorderly for the poets, the coarse, vigorous national life no longer
seems to them too dirty and rugged for artistic treatment. The most
recent and splendid revival of landscape painting is intimately
connected with the renewed absorption of the artist in the study of the
forest. We also find that, at the time when Goethe was writing his best
songs, Mozart and Haydn were, with equal enthusiasm, composing music for
the folk-song, as if they had "learned it listening to the birds" that
is to say, to the birds in the woods, not, like one of the new branch
schools of romantic miniature poets, to the birds singing their sickly
songs in gilded cages in a parlor.

The forest alone permits us civilized men to enjoy the dream of a
personal freedom undisturbed by the surveillance of the police. There at
least one can ramble about as one will, without being bound to keep to
the common patented high road. Yes, there a staid mature man can even
run, jump, climb to his heart's content, without being considered a fool
by that old stickler, Dame Propriety. These fragments of ancient
Germanic sylvan liberty have happily been preserved almost everywhere in
Germany. They no longer exist in neighboring lands which have greater
political freedom but where annoying fences very soon put an end to an
unfettered desire to roam at will. What good does the citizen of the
large North American cities get out of his lack of police surveillance
in the streets, if he cannot even run around at will in the woods of the
nearest suburb because the odious fences force him, more despotically
than a whole regiment of police, to keep to the road indicated by the
sign-post? What good do the Englishmen get out of their free laws, since
they have nothing but parks inclosed by chains, since they have scarcely
any free forest left? The constraint of customs and manners in England
and North America is insupportable to a German. As the English no longer
even know how to appreciate the free forest, it is no wonder that they
require a man to bring along a black dress-suit and a white cravat, in
addition to the ticket-money, in order to obtain entrance to the theatre
or a concert. Germany has a future of greater social liberty before her
than England, for she has preserved the free forest. They might perhaps
be able to root up the forests in Germany, but to close them to the
public would cause a revolution.


From this German sylvan liberty which peeps forth so strangely from
amidst our other modern conditions, flows a deeper influence upon the
manners and character of every class of the people than is dreamed of
by many a stay-at-home. On the other hand, in a thousand different
characteristics in the life of our great cities we perceive how far the
real forest has withdrawn from these cities, how alienated from the
forest their inhabitants have grown to be. One sees, of late, much more
green in our large German cities; walks on the ramparts and municipal
parks and public gardens have been laid out; open squares, too, have
been decorated with grass plots, bushes and flowers. In no former age
has the art of gardening done so much to enhance the picturesque charm
of our cities as at the present day. I do not by any means wish to
underestimate the high value of such public grounds, but they are
something entirely different from the free forest; they cannot possibly
form any equivalent for it, and the forest unhappily withdraws farther
and farther away from the city. Art and nature have both an equally just
claim upon us; but art can never make up to us for the loss of nature,
not even though it were an art which takes nature itself as the material
upon which to work, like the art of gardening.

The free forest and the free ocean have, with profound significance,
been called by poetry the _sacred_ forest and the _sacred_ ocean, and
nowhere does this sacredness of virgin nature produce a more intense
effect than when the forest rises directly out of the sea. The real,
sacred forest is where the roar of the breaking waves mingles with the
rustling of the tree-tops in one loud hymn; but it is also where, in the
hushed mid-day silence of the German mountain forests, the wanderer,
miles away from every human habitation, hears nothing but the beating of
his own heart in the church-like stillness of the wilderness.

Yet even in the free, sacred forest we find same splendid examples of
the humor of the police. On the Island of Ruegen, when one enters what is
celebrated throughout northern Germany as a sort of primeval
beech-forest of the Granitz,[12] from the trunk of a huge tree a
sign-board meets the wanderer's gaze, bearing an inscription stating
that in this forest one may go about only if accompanied by a
forest-keeper of His Highness, the Prince of Putbus, at five silver
groschen the hour. To enjoy the awe of a primeval forest in the company
of a member of the forest-police, at five silver groschen the hour--that
only a born Berliner is capable of!

It is owing to a strange confusion of ideas that many people consider
the uprooting of the forests in the Germany of the nineteenth century to
be still a reclaiming of the soil, an act of inner colonization, by
means of which the uprooted piece of ground is for the first time given
over to cultivation. For us the forest is no longer the wilderness out
of which we must force our way into cleared land, but it is a veritable
magnificent safeguard of our most characteristic national life.
Therefore it was that I called it the wild cultivation of the soil in
contrast to the tame cultivation of the field. In our day, to root out
the soil of the forest no longer means making it arable; it simply means
exchanging one form of cultivation for another. He who estimates the
value of the culture of the soil merely according to the percentage of
clear profit accruing from it, will wish to clear forest-land in order
to make it arable. We, however, do not estimate the various forms of
cultivation of the soil only by the standard of their money value, but
also by that of their ideal worth. The fact that our soil is cultivated
in so many various ways is one of the chief causes of our wealth of
individual social organizations, and therefore of the vitality of our
society itself.

The forest represents the aristocratic element in the cultivation of the
soil. Its value consists more in what it represents than in what it
produces and in the profit which it yields. The rich man alone can
afford to manage and cultivate a forest; indeed, often the richest is
not rich enough to do so, and therefore it is just that the State, as
the sum total of the country's wealth, should be the first and largest
forest proprietor. To cultivate the forest solely in the interest of the
contemporary generation is a wretched sort of copse-wood business;
large trees are raised for future generations. Therefore the forest is,
primarily, a subject of national economy and, secondarily, one of
domestic economy. In the forest the interests of the entire nation must
be considered; it must be, as far as possible, equally distributed over
the whole land, for its treasures interfere with the facilities of
traffic. These are thoughts which might make any genuine forest
proprietor proud of his own particular forest.

For the opponents of the conservation of large landed estates the forest
will always be the worst stumbling-block, for it will never be possible
to establish an even apparently successful forestry on a small scale.
Where agriculture is concerned, the advantage of small farming is open
to discussion; but he who would not see the pitifulness of forestry on a
small scale must hold his hands before both eyes. In proportion as
forestry is carried on in a small way, that is to say, in so far as it
shall be exclusively operated so as to obtain the largest possible
income out of the smallest possible capital and with the shortest
possible delay, the forest loses its historic stamp, its cultural
influence on the social and esthetic education of the nation, and on the
characteristic distinctions of society.

Germany is not separated into field and woodland in such a manner that
one part is dedicated almost exclusively to forestry and the other part
to agriculture. Rather does the contrast between field and forest exist
everywhere; it interferes with the natural division into mountainous and
flat country, and thus divides and subdivides the soil of the entire
German empire in a fashion of which no other country of Europe can
boast. In addition, agriculture and forestry are present in every
legitimate form possible. On German soil the whole scale is run through,
and we have the most variegated examples all the way from
spade-husbandry up to the largest private estates; in the forms of our
forest economy we are much more divided than in the forms of our
political economy. This unexampled multiplicity of ways of cultivating
the soil is not only typical of the wonderfully rich organization of
our social conditions, but it also furnishes the most natural basis for
the peculiar suppleness, many-sidedness, and receptivity of German
mental-culture and civilization.

Through the recently ever-increasing artificial conversion of the proud
beech and oak into short-lived pine-forests, which is due to necessity
or to a short-sighted financial policy, Germany has lost at least as
much of the peculiar character lent to it by its forests as through the
complete uprooting of tremendous tracts of woodland. In the old forest
ordinances especial weight is, with good reason, laid upon the
protection of the oak-trees. Even the German Reichstag, as early as the
sixteenth century, was occupied with the "art of economizing the woods."
There are a few kinds of forestry which, to a certain extent, permit the
parceling off of the forest--as, for example, there are localities where
forestry and agriculture are carried on, turn and turn about, on the
same land; or others where the practice prevails of stripping the bark
off the oak-trees, a process which yields a quick monetary return--these
few kinds of forestry, however, which are favorable to the parceling off
of the woodland into small estates, quite destroy the conception of the
forest as we understand it. An oak-forest like the above, which, as soon
as the trees begin to grow really strong and sturdy, stretches forth
toward the wanderer only slim, bark-stripped trunks with withered
remnants of leaves, interspersed with rank miserable meadow-trees, with
hazel-nut thickets and dog-rose bushes, a piece of woodland in which
husbandry and forestry are completely jumbled, is actually no longer a
real forest. The most valuable kind of timber furnished by the massive
trunks of the oaks and beeches and for which there is absolutely no
substitute elsewhere--this most specific treasure of the forest can be
obtained only when the forest is managed by a rich corporation which can
afford to wait a hundred years for the interest on its capital.

The olden times gauged correctly this aristocratic character of the
forest when they chose it as a privileged exercise-ground where princes
might take their amusement, and when they ennobled the chase; although,
seen by the light of a philosophic student's lamp, there is nothing very
noble about it when a court, shining with the smoothest polish that
civilization can give, withdraws from time to time into the barbarity of
the primeval forest, and in faithful imitation of the rude life of the
hunter spells out again, as it were, the first beginnings of
civilization. For no title did the German princes of the Empire struggle
more bitterly than for that of "Master of the Imperial Hunt." On
Frankish-German soil royalty put its centralizing power to the test
first and most decisively in the establishment of royal forest
preserves. The king's woods from that time on stood under a higher and
more efficient protection than the Common Law could have afforded. A
more strikingly aristocratic prerogative than that of the forest
preserves is inconceivable, and yet it is owing to this privilege that
Germany still looks so green, that our mountains are not bare of trees
like those of Italy, that country and people have not died off and dried
up, that, in fine, such vast magnificent tracts of forest could, as a
whole complete in itself, later pass over into the hands of the state.

This aristocratic love of the forest, however, went hand in hand with
the forest-tyranny of the Middle Ages. The forest-trees and the game
were treated with more consideration than the corn-fields and the
peasants. When a cruel master wished to punish a peasant sorely he
chased the game into his fields, and the hunt which was to slay the game
trampled down what the latter had not devoured. The war about the forest
violently forced upon the peasant the question as to whether or not the
ancient privileges of the aristocracy could be justified before God and
man. We possess a poem by G.A. Buerger which contrasts the naked rights
of labor with the historic rights of rank in so sharp a fashion that, if
it should be published today, it would undoubtedly be confiscated as
communist literature. This ancient specimen of modern social-democratic
poetry, characteristically, for those times, takes its theme from the
"War about the Forest;" it bears the title: _The Peasant to His Most
Serene Tyrants_. Because the princely huntsman has driven the peasant
through the latter's own down-trodden corn-field, followed by the halloo
of the hunt, the peasant in the poem suddenly hits upon the dangerous
question, "Who are you, Prince?"

The horrible punishments with which poachers and trespassers against the
forest were threatened in the Middle Ages can be explained only when we
see in them an outlet to the bitterness of two parties at war about the
forest. In this war martial law was declared. The poacher felt that he
was acting within his rights, like the pirate; neither of them wished to
be considered a common thief. Above, I compared the forest with the sea;
the former barbarous punishment of pirates likewise runs parallel with
the cruel chastisement of trespassers against the forest. The latter
still frequently thinks he is only getting back again by cunning and
force a proprietorship that was snatched from him by force. There are in
Germany whole villages, whole districts, where, even at the present day,
poaching and trespassing against the forest are sharply distinguished
from common crimes which disgrace the perpetrator. To catch a hare in
their traps is, for these peasants, no more dishonorable than it is for
a student to cudgel the night-watchman. Therein lurks the ancient hidden
thought of the "War about the Free Forest." In the forest the turbulent
country-folk in times of excitement can attack the state or the
individual large landholder in his most sensitive spot. We saw how, in
the year 1848, extensive tracts of forest were laid waste--not
plundered--in accordance with a well concocted plan. The trees were hewn
down and the trunks were intentionally left to lie and rot, or the
forest was burnt down in order, with each day's quota of burned forest,
to extort the concession of a new "popular demand." The old legend of
the "War about the Forest" had become, once more, really live history.

And this eternal trouble-maker, the forest, which, however, as we have
noticed, always gets the worst of it in every disturbance, is at the
same time a powerful safeguard for historic customs. Under its
protection not only an ancient nationality but also the oldest remains
of historic monuments have been preserved to us. Many of the most
remarkable old names have been retained for us in the appellations of
the forest districts. When German philology has finished investigating
the names of villages and cities, it will turn to the names of the
forest districts--which, for the most part, have changed far less than
those of the districts of the plain--as to a new and rich source of
knowledge. It is almost without exception under the shelter of the
forest-thickets that have been conserved until the present day the
town-walls of the nations which, in prehistoric times, occupied our
provinces, as well as the graves and sacrificial places of our
forefathers, which are our oldest monuments. And while, in the name of a
purely manufacturing civilization, it has been proposed to destroy our
German forests, they alone have guarded for us in their shade the
earliest speaking witnesses of national industry. In the
mountain-forests of the middle Rhine one often finds large dross-heaps
on sequestered hill tops, far from brooks and water courses. These are
the places where stood the primeval "forest smithies," whose forges were
perhaps worked with the hand or the foot, and of which our heroic
legends sing; these are the scenes of the first rude beginnings of our
iron industry which, since then, has developed so mightily. Thus the
oldest information that we possess on the subject of our German
manufacturing industry starts, like our entire civilization, in the

For centuries it was fitting that progress should advocate exclusively
the rights of the field; now, however, it is fitting that progress
should advocate the rights of the wilderness _together with_ the rights
of the cultivated land. And no matter how much the political economist
may oppose and rebel against this fact, the folk-lorist economist must
persevere, in spite of him, and fight also for the rights of the




In topographical books of the pigtail age one may read that cities like
Berlin, Leipzig, Augsburg, Darmstadt, Mannheim are situated in "an
exceedingly pretty and agreeable region," whereas the most picturesque
parts of the Black Forest, the Harz Mountains, and the Thuringian Forest
are described as being "exceedingly melancholy," desolate and
monotonous, or, at least, "not especially pleasing." That was by no
means merely the private opinion of the individual topographer but the
opinion of the age; for each century has not only its own peculiar
theory of life--it has also its own peculiar theory oL natural scenery.

Numberless country-seats were built a hundred years ago in barren
tedious plains, and the builders thought that by so doing they had
chosen the most beautiful situation imaginable; whereas the old baronial
castles, in the most charming mountainous regions, were allowed to decay
and go to ruin because they were not situated "delectably enough." The
Bavarian Electors at that time not only laid out splendid summer
residences and state gardens in the dreary woody and marshy plains of
Nymphenburg and Schleissheim, but Max Emanuel even went so far as to
have another artificial desert expressly constructed in the middle of
one of these gardens--whose walls are already surrounded by the natural
desert. Karl Theodor of the Palatinate built his Schwetzinger garden two
hours away from the magnificent dales of Heidelberg, in the midst of the
most monotonous kind of plain. Only let a region be fairly level and
treeless, and immediately men were bold enough to imagine that it would
be possible to conjure up there, the most delightful of landscapes.

Even fifty years ago the upper Rhine valley--which is by no means
without charm but is nevertheless monotonous in its flatness--was
considered a real paradise of natural scenic beauty, while the middle
course of the river from Ruedesheim to Coblenz, with its rich splendor
of gorges, rocks, castles and forests, was appreciated rather by way of
contrast. In the upper Rheingau at that time they strung out one villa
after another; these are now for the most part deserted, while on the
formerly neglected tracts of country confined between the mountains a
new summer castle is being stuck again on the summit of every rock, or
at least the ruins already, hanging there are being made habitable once
more. Our fathers, who thought the upper Rheingau the most beautiful
corner of Germany, decorated their rooms with engravings so much in
vogue at that time, similar to Claude Lorraine's broad, open landscapes
of far reaching perspective filled with peace and charm. From this
classical ideal of landscape we have come back again to the romantic,
and the cupolas of the high mountains have supplanted the leafy temples
of Claude's sacred groves with their background of the infinite sea
sparkling in the sunshine.

In the seventeenth century the watering-places situated in the narrow,
steep mountain valleys--many of which have now fallen into decay--were
considered, for the greater part, the most frequented and most
beautiful; in the eighteenth century the preference was given to those
lying more toward the plain; while in our day the watering-places in the
steepest mountains, as in the Black Forest, the Bohemian Mountains, and
the Alps, are being sought out on account of their situation. The court
physician of Hesse-Cassel, Weleker, in his description of Schlangenbad,
which appeared in 1721, describes the place as situated in a dreary,
desolate, forbidding region, in which nothing grows but "leaves and
grass," but he adds that by ingeniously planting straight rows and
circles of trees carefully pruned with the shears they had at least
imparted to the spot some sort of artistic _raison d'etre_. Today, on
the contrary, Schlangenbad is considered one of the mast beautifully
situated baths in Germany; the "dreariness" and "desolation" we now call
romantic and picturesque, and the fact that in this spot nothing grows
but "grass and leaves"--that is to say, that the fragrant meadow-land
starts right before the door, and that the green boughs of the forest
peep in everywhere at the windows--this perhaps attracts as many guests
at present as the efficacy of the mineral spring.

The artists of the Middle Ages thought that they could give no more
beautiful background to their historical paintings and half-length
portraits than by introducing mountains and rocks of as fantastic and
jagged a form as possible, although the latter often contrast strangely
enough beside a mild, calmly serene Madonna face, or even beside the
likeness of a prosaically respectable commonplace citizen of some free
Imperial town. At that time, therefore, savagely broken-up, barren
mountain scenery was considered the ideal type of natural scenic beauty,
while, a few centuries later, such forms were found much too unpolished
and irregular to be considered beautiful at all. Even old historical
painters of the Netherlands, who had perhaps never in their lives seen
such deeply fissured masses of rock, liked to make use of them in their
backgrounds. The rugged mountain-tops in many of the pictures of Memling
and Van Eyck certainly never grew in the vicinity of Bruges. This type
of natural beauty was therefore established by custom even in countries
where it was not indigenous. In a picture by a Low-German artist which
depicts the legend of the Eleven Thousand Virgins, the city of Cologne
is to be seen in the background surrounded by jagged clusters of rocks.
A portrayal, true to nature, of the flat country did not satisfy the
sense of beauty of the artist, who surely knew well enough that Cologne
does not lie at the foot of the Alps. On the contrary, if an historical
painter of the pigtail age had been obliged to paint the real Alps in
the background of an historical painting, he would have rounded them
off, leveled them, and smoothed them down as much as possible.

Is it a mere accident that, in the whole long period of landscape
painting from Ruysdael almost up to recent times, high mountains have so
very seldom formed the subject of important landscape compositions? The
eye for natural scenery at that period had turned away from the
conceptions of the Middle Ages, and satiated itself with the milder
forms of the hills and the plain. Even when an artist like Everdingen
presents to us the rocky chasms and waterfalls of Norway he moderates
the fantastic forms, and, as far as possible, tries to lend to the
northern Alpine world the character of the hills of middle Germany.
Joseph Koch, although he was a native of the high Tyrolese Mountains,
could not get along half so well with the portrayal of the Alpine world
as with that of the classicly proportioned regions of Italy which lay
within closer range of the eye for natural scenery of the age; and
Ludwig Hess would hardly have come upon his characteristic conception of
the Swiss mountains by studying Claude Lorraine and Poussin, if he had
not been obliged to climb up to the mountain pastures in order to
purchase the cattle to be killed in his father's shambles. On these
occasions he reckoned up on one page of his account-book the oxen
bought, and on the other side sketched them, together with the meadows,
mountains, and glaciers. It was also at this same time when the Romantic
School began to pave the way for itself with the historical painters in
Munich, that Johann Jakob Dorner abandoned the "heroic" style of
landscape, as it was then called, and went over to the "romantic." That
is to say, Dorner and his companions, who up to that time had imitated
the forms of Claude Lorraine[14] as the best possible model, now went
off into the high mountains of Bavaria and were the first to reveal once
more this wild magnificent nature to the eye for natural scenery of
their time, thus preparing the way gradually for a new canon of natural
scenic beauty which approached that of the Middle Ages, just as
everywhere the modern Romantic School went back to the Middle Ages for
inspiration. The Genevese Calame in his Alpine wildernesses typifies so
completely the eye for natural scenery of the present day that it is
impossible to imagine that these pictures belong to a former age. In the
startling contrasts of powerful, often rough, forms and extreme tones, a
species of natural beauty is created that has equally little in common
with the plastic dignity of a mountain prospect by Poussin or with the
quiet peacefulness of a forest thicket by Ruysdael. In what a very
different manner from that of Calame was this same Swiss scenery treated
by the numerous artists who painted Alpine views at the beginning of
this century! They tried almost everywhere to depress the high mountains
into hilly country, and they furnish a lanscape commentary to Gessner's
Idyls rather than to the gigantic scenery of the Alps as we conceive it
at present. Nature, however, has remained the same, and also the outer
eye of man; it is the inner eye which has changed.

The older masters, as well as those of today, liked to place themselves
below the landscape which they wished to construct, where all the
outlines stand out most clearly defined. It had almost grown to be a
rule that the foreground should be placed sharply in profile and often
so deep in shadow that it contrasted like a silhouette with the more
distant grounds. On the other hand, it is a favorite whim of the genuine
pigtail age to draw bird's-eye landscapes and views of cities, in which
every elevation of the earth seems flattened out as much as possible,
every distinct division of the separate grounds as much as possible

When Goethe was on his return trip from Messina to Naples he wrote at
the sight of Scylla and Charybdis: "These two natural curiosities,
standing so far apart in reality and placed so close together by the
poet, have furnished men with an opportunity to abuse the fables of the
bards, not remembering that the human imaginative faculty when it would
represent objects as important always imagines them to be higher than
they are broad, and thus lends more character, seriousness, and dignity
to the picture. I have heard complaints, a thousand times, that an
object known only from description no longer satisfies us when we come
face to face with it. The cause of this is always the same. Imagination
and reality bear the same relation to each other as poetry and prose:
The former conceives objects to be huge and precipitous, the latter
always thinks that they flatten themselves out. The landscape painters
of the sixteenth century, compared with those of our own day, furnish
the most striking example of this."

A number of the most pertinent aphorisms might be developed from this
short remark. For us this one will suffice: On account of their whole
fantastic-romantic ideal of art the medieval painters were forced to
make their landscapes steep and rugged and to crowd them within narrow
confines. The backgrounds of their landscapes--in the sense of the above
remark of Goethe--are composed like poetry rather than like a painting.
It is not the portrayal of the earthly, but an imaginary sacred
landscape, which stood everywhere so alpine-like before their spirit.
This, however, straightway became identified with the actual picture of
nature, and determined the eye for natural scenery of the age.

From the biblical poetry of the Hebrews the Christian world (and not
only the Germanic) had acquired an enthusiasm for the beauties of nature
which could never have been kindled by ancient art. With the deeper
Christian knowledge of God comes also deeper poetic perception of His
beautiful earth, and not until man felt with intense pain the
transitoriness of this beautiful earth did he begin to love it so
ardently. It is therefore a transparent anti-realistic lanscape
painting, like that of the Psalmist, which those pious painters give us;
it strives after elevated forms for the outer senses also, strives
upward, and seeks to gain an insight into an entire world, into a cosmos
of concentrated, natural life, the archetype of which--in spite of all
childish naturalism--it has seen in the paradise of fancy rather than in
reality. The tall luminous mountain peaks, attainable only by the eye,
not by the foot, of themselves half belong to heaven. The landscapes of
the seventeenth century, on the contrary, which are inspired by earthly
beauty pure and simple, have a tendency to flatness, just as in reality
all landscapes lie spread out in length and breadth before us. Classical
antiquity had just as uncultivated an eye for the beauty of the Alps as
the age of Renaissance and the Rococo which emulated it so ardently.
Humboldt mentions that not a single Roman author ever alludes to the
Alps from a descriptive point of view except to complain of their
impassableness and like qualities, and that Julius Caesar employed the
leisure hours of an Alpine journey to complete a dry grammatical
treatise, _De Analogia_.

In Bible vignettes of the eighteenth century, Paradise--which is the
archetype of the virgin splendor of nature--is depicted as a flat
tiresome garden entirely without elevations of any kind, in which the
dear God has already begun to correct his own handiwork, and with the
shears of a French gardener has carved out from the clumps of trees,
straight avenues, pyramids, and the like. In older wood-carvings, on the
other hand, Paradise is represented as a gradually rising wilderness
where Adam's path is blocked by overhanging masses of rock which
contrast strangely with the conception of natural life devoid of all
labor and danger. Our fathers often saw in a charming, rich, and
fertile region a picture of Paradise, whereas we are far more likely in
a primeval wilderness to exclaim with the medieval masters:

"The lofty works, uncomprehended,
Are bright as on the earliest day."

In the landscapes of medieval pictures one scarcely ever sees the woods
painted. Can the thin foliage of the trees of the old Italians, which
look as though the leaves on them had been counted, be entirely
explained by lack of technique? The generation of those days surely had
a very different archetype of the intact, uncontaminated splendor of the
forest than is possessed by us, for whom there remains scarcely anything
but a cultivated forest ravaged by the axe and inclosed within
boundaries fixed by rule and measure. The medieval poets felt deeply
enough the poetic beauty of the forest, but men saw it with the
appreciative eye of the artist only when they had gone away from the
forest, when they had become more unfamiliar with it, and the woods
themselves had begun to disappear. Thus the peasant in the folk-song
knows how to reveal poetically many a tender charm of the beauty of
nature; but, on the other hand, he very seldom has an eye for the
picturesque beauty of natural scenery. As regards the latter it is with
him as with the late Pastor Schmidt of Werneuchen who when describing in
hexameters the spectacle of a barley field to the Berliners, called it
"a marvelous view." When the forest was still the rule in Germany and
the field the exception, the uprooted parts of the forest, the oases of
cleared land, the free open spaces, undoubtedly passed for the most
attractive landscapes; whereas we, who have acquired too much of the
open, are more attracted by the oases of the forest shade.

Only he who takes this into consideration can understand for example,
how it is possible that the palace of Charlemagne at Ingelheim could
have passed for a perfect country-seat, situated in what must have been
considered in those days an extremely charming and picturesque spot.
Seen through modern eyes these plains of the left bank of the Rhine with
their fields, vineyards, sandy wastes and stunted pine-woods are
intensely uninteresting, and one fails to comprehend why an emperor
should have chosen Ingelheim as a country-seat, when he needed only to
cross the river, or to proceed down stream for a few hours in order to
build his palace in a region of imperishable natural beauty. If,
however, one takes one's stand on the ruined walls of the imperial abode
and looks out over the broad plains of the Rhine valley, which at that
time were already cleared land, while the chain of hills along the left
bank, which are so monotonous at present, were still covered with woods,
then one can estimate to some extent the delight caused by the view
spreading before the gaze of the emperor. His castle at the edge of the
wood, as it were on the borders of night and old barbarity, looked out
upon the open, and under the windows stretched the broad agricultural
land of the Rheingau, from whose virgin soil the first vines were just
beginning to sprout, adorned with new settlements and roads--surely a
royal spectacle for the eye of those days. It was, so to speak, the
symbol of the universal historical mission, not only of the emperor but
of the entire age--namely, to root up, to clear, to procure light. And
thus the same landscape which today is considered, if not exactly
commonplace, yet at the most idyllic, may have appeared imposing and
imperial to the people of a thousand years ago.

It is because of this varying eye for natural scenery--which is the eye
of generations succeeding one another in the course of history--that
landscape painting, which conveys to us the most trustworthy information
of this variation of vision, does not belong solely to the sphere of the
esthetician; the historian of civilization must also study this most
subjective of all plastic representations.

It is well known that even the most beautiful region is not in itself a
real work of art. Man alone creates artistically; nature does not. A
landscape such as meets our gaze out of doors is not beautiful in
itself, it only possesses, possibly, the capability of being
spiritualized and refined into beauty in the eye of the spectator. Only
in so far is it a work of art as Nature has furnished the raw material
for such, while each beholder first fashions it artistically and endows
it with a soul in the mirror of his eye. Nature is made beautiful only
by the self-deception of the spectator.

Therefore does the peasant ridicule the city man who deceives himself to
the extent of becoming enthusiastic over the beauties of a region which
leaves the other quite cool. For he who has not something of the artist
about him, who cannot paint beautiful landscapes in his head, will never
see any outside. Beautiful nature, this most subjective of all works of
art, which is painted on the retina of the eye instead of on wood or
canvas, will differ every time according to the mental viewpoint of the
onlooker; and as it is with individuals so it is with whole generations.
The comprehension of the artistically beautiful is not half so dependent
upon great cultural presuppositions as the comprehension of the
naturally beautiful. With every great evolution of civilization a new
"vision" is engendered for a different kind of natural beauty.

This goes so far that one might even be deceived into thinking that the
different ages had gazed upon the beauty of nature not only with
differing mental eyes but also with a different faculty of seeing. Most
of the old masters have painted their landscapes with the eyes of a
far-sighted person; we think, as a rule, that we can attain far greater
natural truth if we paint our pictures, as it were, from the angle of
vision of a near-sighted person. A far-sighted painter will usually be
more inclined to paint a plastic landscape, while a near-sighted one
would make a mood-picture out of the same scene. The very trees of the
old Italians, on which the leaves are numbered, may serve to exemplify
this comparison. The scenery of the landscapes of Van Eyck and his
pupils is quite often painted as though the artist had looked at the
background through a perspective glass and the foreground through a
magnifying one. Jan Breughel paints his charming little landscapes with
such detailed precision of outline, especially as regards foliage, he
draws in his swarming little figures with such sharp lines, that the
whole seems reflected in the eye of an eagle rather than in that of a
man. On the other hand we miss the unity and the differentiation of the
combined effect--the concentration of large groups, an eye for the
landscape as an organic whole. Claude Lorraine and Ruysdael are the
first who may be called epoch-making along these lines; they are also,
in this sense, the ancestors of modern landscape painting. Where the old
masters still counted the leaves, flowers, and blades of grass and
laboriously imitated them, we have now adopted broad, general, and, to a
certain extent, conventional forms of foliage, meadowland, and the like.

Taken separately, these are far less true to nature than the miniature
imitation of detail. Taken collectively, on the other hand, they are far
more profoundly true to nature and to art. Do we not at present
sometimes see artists who almost seem to consider it their whole life's
mission to paint landscapes which have scarcely any definite plastic
forms, pure mood-pictures, as, for example, Zwengauer, who is never
tired of portraying barren moorlands with some water in the foreground,
a shapeless tract of land in the centre, and above the fiery glow of the
sunset, which, with a considerable portion of atmosphere growing ever
darker and darker, fills up the largest part of the whole picture. It is
as though fire, water, air and earth, the four elements as such, were
demonstrated before us on the Dachauer moor and combined to form a
landscape harmony. For such pictures of mood, pure and simple, the old
masters had absolutely no eye. If a painter of the fifteenth or
sixteenth century should rise from his grave and gaze upon even our best
landscape paintings he would certainly take very little pleasure in
them; he would consider them daubs executed after a recipe according to
which one can obtain the most beautiful foliage by throwing a sponge
dipped in green paint against the wall.

It is not only the eye for natural scenery which has thus advanced in
the last three centuries from the perception of the individual parts to
the perception of the whole. We find the same phenomena in the case of
historical painters, and no less in that of the poets, musicians, and
scholars. A Bach suite, just like a Breughel landscape, has been, as it
were, worked out under the microscope, and nowadays it is easier to find
a hundred philosophers of history who are capable of constructing
history as a "work of art"--exceedingly well on the whole--than one
individual chronicler who would lose himself, with the dead
leaf-counting diligence of bygone centuries, in endless detail-work. We
look not only at landscapes but at the entire world more from the
viewpoint of the harmony of the whole than from that of the divergence
of the individual parts.

In helping us to gauge the eye for natural scenery of an age, the really
artistic portrayals are often far less accurate than the fashionable
articles manufactured, as it were, by the artistic handicraftsman, for
the latter best disclose to us the eye of the entire public. Hence, for
example, the popular passion for Rhine landscapes, Swiss pictures,
Italian views, etc., mechanically executed after a fixed model--which
periodically breaks forth only to vanish again--is more important for us
in this respect than the conception of many a leader of genius in the
art of landscape-painting, who may perhaps set the tone for the future
but seldom for the present. There exist special directions for making a
Rhine landscape and for infallibly bestowing upon it the genuine
coloring of the Rhine, which appeared in the book-market about a hundred
and fifty years ago, side by side with directions for preparing the best
vinegar, the best sealing-wax, etc.--I do not know whether it was also
sealed up as a secret recipe, as they were. By genuine Rhine coloring
was meant that sentimental, mistily indistinct tone in the dullest
possible half tints formerly so much in vogue. The fact that such a
booklet could be written and sold with profit affords us instructive
hints regarding the eye of the multitude for natural scenery in those
days, and the tone of that infallible Rhine coloring is, in its way,
also a color-tone of the age. Nowadays, when Alpine landscapes are
painted even on the rough stones from the Alpine rivers (for
paper-weights), it would be very easy to write out a recipe for genuine
mountain coloring. Mountain peaks, rugged as possible, painted in thick
Venetian white, must detach themselves from a sky of almost pure Berlin
blue; with these again contrasts a centre-ground partly composed of
clumps of dark green fir-trees and partly of a poisonous yellow-green
meadow; finally the rocks of the foreground must be painted in glaring
ochre tones, just as they are squeezed out of the paint tube. Such
factory goods are, for the historian of culture, just as necessary a
supplement to Zimmermann and Schirmer and Calame as that "genuine Rhine
coloring" is to Koch and Rheinhard, to Schuetz and Reinermann.

Let us linger a moment longer in the region of the Rhine, which was in
Germany, for nearly two centuries, the subject of the most salable
landscape fancy articles. In the seventeenth century it was already a
sort of industry to turn out mechanically so-called "Rhine rivers." In
the same way that we now reproduce Rhine scenes on plates, cups,
tin-ware and pocket-handkerchiefs, in those days folding-screens,
fire-places, bay-windows, even door-cases, but more especially the space
over the doorway (though the latter were executed in the fresco style of
the cooper), were decorated with "Rhine rivers." But these "Rhine
rivers" are totally unlike those which the manufacturers of views of the
Rhine furnish us with today. The eye revealed by the one is very
different from that which we find in the other; at the most they have
the water in common.

[Illustration: AT THE SICK BED actually a painting by BENJAMIN VAUTIER]

In the old "Rhine rivers" there are, for the most part, rounded-off
mountainous formations, whereas we now make the angularity of the
real Rhine mountains still more angular if possible; the castles, as
indicative of a too barbaric taste, are often omitted or changed into a
sort of Roman ruin; the portrayal is so free that it ceases to be a
portrait, and yet they believed that they had adhered all the more
strictly to the peculiar motive of Rhine scenery. The most lively
activity of men and animals, ships and rafts, and all sorts of land
conveyances, formed the principal ornament; there had to be a sort of
antlike swarming to and fro on a river Rhine of this description if it
was to be considered really beautiful. In Saftleewen's views of the
Rhine this fondness is already discernible. Although in his pictures
there is still evidence of a very clear eye for mountainous formation
and the architectonic adornment of the region, yet the monotonous,
unnaturally tender and misty coloring indicates the effort to soften and
equalize the contrast of forms, while life is introduced into the
landscape only by means of the immeasurably rich accessories which make
every rock, every valley, and especially the entire river, swarm with
people. These are, in truth, cultural landscapes, in which we perceive
the greatest charm of the region to lie in the pathway of human work,
just as the whole age in which they were painted longed to get away from
the devastation of the Thirty Years' War into the crowded activity of
work and festive pleasures, which, however, were far less apt to be
found on the real Rhine than on the painted "Rhine rivers" of the
seventeenth century. Johannes Griffier affords us an even clearer idea
than Saftleewen of the model pictures of the mechanical old "Rhine
rivers." Griffier paints from imagination an idyllic river valley,
adorned with Roman ruins such as never stood on the Rhine, animated by
all kinds of jolly people, such as it would have been hard, in that day,
to find gathered in our devastated provinces. That was then dubbed a
river Rhine. Griffier, however, certainly believed that he had beheld
the genuine scenery of the Rhine; he did not laboriously evolve his
pictures shut up in a room, but painted his imaginative pieces in a
skiff, direct from nature. And it really was the actual Rhine that he
saw, only he looked at it with the idealistic eye of the seventeenth

If one confronts productions of this kind with the later works of a
Schuetz or Reinermann which treat of the same subject, and then again
compares both with our modern views of the Rhine, one can often scarcely
comprehend how even the same character of scenery is supposed to be
reproduced in these widely differing conceptions, much less the
identically same landscape. While in Saftleewen, for example, we always
see the Rhine country veiled in a soft mist, seventy years ago it was
accounted as a merit of the elder Schuetz that he always gave his
pictures of the Rhine and the Main the clearest possible air, and that
there was never a trace of mist in the atmosphere! Let us now compare
both of these conceptions with the Rhine views executed in the modern
style of a steel engraving, with their heavy, tropically stormy sky,
dark masses of clouds, between which thick dazzling streams of light
break forth, and similar violent light-effects. One might think that
sun, air, and clouds, water and mountains and trees and rocks, had
altered in the course of the centuries, that nature itself had been
transformed, if we did not know only too well that it is the eye of man
alone which has altered in the mean time, that every generation _sees_
in a different style.

The masters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries looked at natural
scenery in a very much more objective manner than we do. Wherever there
is bright springtime or summer, wherever all the trees are green and the
flowers blooming, wherever the cloudless sky is glittering in deepest
blue, and all forms stand out detached from one another in the luminous
clearness of the full, joyous, midday sunlight--there for them is
genuinely beautiful natural scenery. It was not lack of technique that
prevented the artists of that period from painting faded yellow autumn
pictures, or thunder-storms and rain landscapes as we do. With regard to
more difficult points they were technically so far advanced that they
could surely have produced a gray sky instead of a blue, and yellow-red
trees instead of green, if they had seriously tried to do so. But with
their far brighter eyes they saw the landscape far brighter than we do,
and therefore, of necessity, they painted it so. Whoever compares
medieval lyrics, where the same sunny, springlike tone plays through all
the verses, with modern lyrics, will become more deeply conscious of
this necessity.

And as those men found their calm nature reflected in the midday
clearness of the most peaceful of spring days, so it is necessary for us
to seek the mirror of our own passionate agitation in the pathos of the
stormy, mournful, autumnally decaying, desolate, savage landscape. They
therefore really painted pictures of mood just as we do. Only they
strove, as it were, to preserve the most general elemental mood of
natural beauty, while we strain ourselves in depicting individual
changeable moods. Do we not actually see at present stage-scenery
painted like sentimental mood-pictures, trees in the foreground, for
example, on whose deformed greenish-brown foliage an elegiac
late-autumnal tinge rests? And these are shoved into position regularly
each evening for every dialogue scene, and every light comic
situation--a satire on the inner eye of our time. In a German metropolis
of art one can even see sign-boards of sausage manufacturers on which
sausages, hams, salted spare-ribs and swards are appetizingly painted
with brilliant technique; and they too are conceived like mood-pictures,
since that soft melancholy mist, with which our landscape painters are
so fond of coquetting, spreads likewise over these sausages and hams,
almost making them look as though they had all grown moldy. That is
another indication of the eye for natural scenery of our time.

Change of styles that great masters had made conventional, the
degeneration and progress of technique, etc., play a large part, to be
sure, in all these things, with and beside the changing eye. How much,
however, essentially depends upon the latter we can notice very plainly
when the question is one of architectural landscapes and, in general,
of the portrayal of old works of sculpture and architecture, which men
have seen very differently in different ages and represented
accordingly, while the originals have, in truth, remained the same
throughout the centuries.

The purest Gothic architecture portrayed in the pigtail age nearly
always has a pigtail look. The ornamentation of leaves and vines,
executed in accordance with the laws of organic necessity, becomes,
without the draughtsman being aware of it, an arbitrarily curved rococo
scroll; the proportions, which in reality soar upward, spread out in
width, so that one might think it possible for the eyesight to change
also, and yet in the building itself perhaps not a stone has been
disturbed since its erection; the pigtail surely did not transport
itself into the original--it existed only in the eye of the copyist. The
views of cities and buildings furnish the most striking examples of
this, for in them we can see how these additions have been made, in
woodcut, to the numerous topographical works of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Almost every medieval tower here bears the stamp
of the Renaissance, every pointed arch is, if possible, compressed into
a Roman arch, so firmly implanted were these new forms in the eye and
hand of the people of that time. For even in an external sense men no
longer possessed an organ for the old lines. Peter Neefs, the celebrated
architectural painter of this age, did indeed stand on such a high plane
of art and technique that he reproduced the perspectives of his Gothic
churches absolutely correctly. He had in this particular preserved the
objectivity of the artistic eye which is absolutely lacking in the
mechanical works mentioned above; nevertheless, even here, he shows
himself to be the child of his age. For example, he almost always paints
the interiors of his Gothic cathedrals on broad canvases of
insignificant height, which causes the pointed arches and vaulted
structures of the foreground to be cut off at the top. In spite of the
mathematically correct drawing the general plan of the picture
therefore reveals that the age of Peter Neefs no longer had a correct
eye for the principle, for the spirit, of the Gothic, otherwise the
master would not have cut off precisely the characteristic terminations
of the columns and vaultings by the arbitrary horizontal line of the
frame. Thus, in very truth, Neefs paints rigid Gothic, but in his
pictures we can recognize the seventeenth century which, at the most,
could see the medieval forms correctly with the outer but not with the
inner eye.

All the outlines of the ancient statues swell up under the pencil of the
draughtsman of that day, every muscle becomes coarser, fuller, more
fleshy, although the draughtsman undoubtedly believed he had reproduced
it with mathematical exactitude. The Grecian goddess no longer looks so
demure. She has grown to be a coquette; the Virgin has become a wife,
because the age lacked the virgin eye, because Rubens' full-bosomed
women's figures and Buonarotti's swelling play of the muscles obtruded
themselves everywhere, not only before the creative vision but also
before the inner receptive vision. Mignon, at that time, painted flowers
preferably in the stage of their most fully developed splendor, and
fruits succulently ripe to bursting; he despised closed buds. This is
something more than a mere fancy of this particular master; it is a
token of the eye of the whole generation, which was dull as regards the
beauty of buds, not only in the flower-piece but in all subjects of the
plastic arts.

This changing play of "vision" takes place everywhere that beauty meets
the gaze, but principally in the case of the beautiful in nature,
because this, as such, must first be conceived by the vision. The eye
for the beautiful in art remains more constant in comparison.

In youth one has a totally different eye for natural scenery than in old
age. This is the reason why we often feel greatly disappointed when we
behold a familiar region after a long time. There is no more thankless
task than to try to convince another of the beauty of natural scenery.

One tries, as it were, to implant in him one's own eye--an effort which
rarely succeeds. So it is, furthermore, the business of the landscape
painter to implant his own eye for natural scenery in every one who
looks upon his pictures, in such a manner that the latter shall get out
of the landscape the same beauties which the eye of the artist put into
it. If he succeeds in this, one must at least concede that he has worked
clearly, logically, and conscious of his effects.

The eye for natural scenery is never an absolute one, and if out of ten
generations each one finds the primitive canon of natural beauty in
something different, then none is entirely right and none entirely
wrong. This uncertainty of the eye for natural scenery might drive a
painter crazy if he should insist upon knowing definitely, once for all,
whether the succeeding century would not perhaps have just as good a
right to laugh at his ideal of the beautiful in nature as we have to
laugh at the preferences for natural scenery of the two preceding
generations. He might then, in consideration of the tremendous
fluctuations in the conception of the beautiful in nature, lose
confidence in his own eyes to such an extent that at last he would no
longer have any guarantee to assure him that the mountain which he is
drawing as a rounded knoll is not perhaps, in reality, pointed and
jagged, while the roundish outline merely holds his eyes captive, as it
did those of the painters of the pigtail.

If, however, the eye for natural scenery only sees _bona fide_, as the
jurists say, then it follows that it saw correctly for its age.


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