Obrázky stránek

gave him a yet higher place in the hearts of his countrymen. Insensibly the German states had been drawn nearer to Prussia during the great struggle. The fine military ability of the king stirred every one. Prussia won recognition as a great power. In fact, from Frederick's reign dates the grand political movement which about a century later issued in United Germany. That reign was an era of notable political development, and by the sheer force of his character the king brought his country safe out of the huge struggles in which it was engaged. We can easily understand that a monarch so determined, so sorely beset, yet rising so triumphantly from his difficulties, would stir to emulation the best minds about him. His people honored him for his energy and discernment; but particularly because be regarded himself as the “servant of the State," and " thought, lived and died like a king." His preference for the French language and literature precluded his feeling much interest in German poetry or prose, but his indirect influence thereon was very powerful; for the stimulation of such a strong personality extended to men of thought as well as to men of action, so that we find during the latter part of his reign a wonderful progress in literature. Indeed, the very fact of his indifference to German poets spurred them on to prove that they could excel in their craft.

The first writer to exemplify what has been said was FRIEDRICH GOTTLIEB KLOPSTOCK (1724–1803). He was educated at the Universities of Jena and Leipzig. His predilections were all in faror of poetry, and by an arrangement not unusual in those days, he was provided for. The King of Denmark and the Margrave of Baden granted him pensions, so that he was enabled to follow his natural bent. The work of his life was a great epic poem, the Messias. The first three cantos were published (1748) in the Bremer Beiträge, a literary journal of Leipzig. The work was not finished until 1773. The theme is the life of Christ, His sufferings and death, His resurrection and ascension. Milton served as Klopstock’s model; he wished to sing the Saviour's glory as the English poet had sung the Fall of Man. The Messias did not rise to the sublimity of Paradise Lost, but it was a grand poem and marked the beginning of the modern German literature, exerting an influence which was especially marked in the direction of style. Klopstock, it should be noted, gave impulse to the peculiar sentimentality which some years later broke forth strongly in books like Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther, which led to a deal of absurdity, but which ultimately had a good effect. Great service was rendered the language by this poet, who had an unbounded admiration for his native tongue. " Let no living tongue enter the lists with the German ! »

" As it was in the oldest times when Tacitus wrote of us, so it still remains—solitary, unmixed, and incomparable !"

he says.

Three distinct stories are skilfully blended : the adventures of Huon, a young knight; bis elopement with the daughter of the Sultan of Bagdad ; and the quarrel and reconciliation of Oberon and Titania, king and queen of Fairyland. Among Wieland's other works may be mentioned : Musarion (1768), The Story of Agathon (1766), and The Abderites (1774). The two latter are prose romances, The Abderites containing much amusing satire.

Herder was more a critic than anything else, and his influence was due not so much to original thought as to his power of animating other minds. German literature is highly indebted to his researches in literary history, particularly the Norse literature and mythology. His poems are not so much original as characterized by wealth of thought. The best known collection is the Popular Songs, 1778–9. Most interesting is the fact that Herder influenced Goethe at the most plastic stage of his life, freeing him from the tyranny of false sentiment and giving his energies a trend in the right direction,

All the preceding names will reappear in the course of what is to be said of Goethe. But, before we come to the master, we must mention some writers of a different nature. These writers are the first exponents of modern German philosophy-that marvellous growth which has overshadowed all lands. Now, a mere analysis of this great subject would fill a volume ; it is obvious that mention here must be absolutely superficial. In fact, we must confine ourselves to names and dates—a melancholy compromise. Yet the strong influence exercised by philosophers upon the mental development of the nation renders necessary a glance at their work, even in a survey like the present.

IMMANUEL Kant (1724–1804) was the foremost didactic author of his time. His three great works were, the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), the Critique of Practical Reason (1787) and the Critique of the Faculty of Judgment (1790). The last is the best example of his manner-a manner very difficult to comprehend. The publication of the Critique of Pure Reason was a very important event in the intellectual history of Germany. Kant sought to indicate the extent to which reason may inspire and interpenetrate moral law, and the inadequacy of mere reason as a basis for any system of ethics. He was followed by Johann GOTTLIEB FICHTE (17621814), who built upon his foundations. Fichte made his mark by A Critique of all Revelation (1792), and at a later day by his fiery patriotism. His system attracted attention, but it gave way to the new plan set forth by his disciple, FRIEDRICH SCHELLING (1775–1854). Among other doctrines Schelling taught that nature and mind are one ; thus giving philosopbic sanction to the “ pathetic fallacy” that enters so largely into our own poetry. GEORGE FRIEDRICH HEGEL (1770-1831) was also a disciple of Fichte. But he soon developed a system of his own

-a system which included not only nature but all spiritual life; which endeavored to find union throughout all the departments of knowledge, from the physical sciences to religion and ästhetics. The writings of Schelling and Hegel produced an immense effect wherever men read philosophy.

About the year 1773 an extraordinary intellectual movement began. This was the outburst which has since been known by the name of “Sturm und Drang”-Storm and Stress. The phrase originated from the title of a play that appeared in 1776. It was written by Friedrich von Klinger and was typical of the movement in its extravagance, its vigor, and its sins against good taste. Its author was one of the wildest among the circle of young poets who called themselves “ Originals.” The Originals claimed absolute freedom from all restraint-from restraint in life as well as in literature. They inclulged in every kind of license; they despised the conventionalities, and they believed their own productions to be the result of the highest inspiration—a belief rot uncommon among poets. There was a cry for the return to nature, and “ with the young, nature seemed to be a compound of volcanoes and moonlight; her force was explosion, her beauty sentiment. To be insurgent and sentimental, explosive and lachrymose, were the true signs of genius. Everything established was humdrum. Genius, abhorrent of humdrum, would neither spell correctly, nor write correctly, nor demean itself correctly. It would be

« PředchozíPokračovat »