Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

leave his father's house and force a living by robbery. Eventually he expiates his crimes by delivering himself to justice. The effect of the play was enormous—second only to that of Götz. The theme -freedom vs. tyranny-was the ideal one for the times. The Robbers, Schiller himself tells us, was inspired by his own rebellion against circumstances. In after years, however, his development led him to regard the work in its correct proportions. It became to his maturer vision “a monster .... the offspring which Genius in its union with Thraldom may give to the world.” This play was produced at Mannheim, a town near Stuttgart, in 1781. Through a very natural desire, the poet went to see the fate of this first heir of his invention. But bis incognito was not enough to conceal him ; he was seized and imprisoned for a week. And the Duke of Würtemberg cast bocling eyes in his direction. Therefore he determined to put an end to his long servitude, and in October, 1782, left Stuttgart for the wide world. Let it be remembered that the state of affairs in Germany was very different from vhat obtains at present; the liberty of the individ. ual was highly problematical in many of the small independent states. The Robbers was a blow struck for personal freedom. Hence Schiller ran a risk of severe punishment. But the publication of the play, which was his mental emancipation, led to his bodily emancipation as well, and decided his whole future destiny. He was now for the first time a free man. After some severe struggles, things became a little smoother. He was naturalized in another state, and thus had no further fear of danger from the Duke of Würtemberg. His growth in mind is marked by two plays—The Conspiracy of Fiesco and Intrigue and Love. In the former the principal character reaches out for the ducal crown of Genoa, but is overwhelmed in the moment of triumph; the latter “aims at exhibiting the conflict, the victorious conflict, of political manoeuvring, of cold worldly wisdom, with the pure impassioned movements of the young heart, as yet antarnished by the tarnish of everyday life.” Also it gives a merciless picture of the rottenness of the ancien régime. The two dramas embody the very essence of the storm and stress period.

In 1786 the play Don Carlos appeared. It showed a much greater maturity than its predecessors, and evinced the wide knowledge of men and things that his earliest dramas lacked. The motif is thorougbly dramatic—a prince condemned to death by his father. The scene is the court of Spain at the close of the sixteenth century; the principal characters are Philip II., the gloomy king, and Carlos his son, generous and ill-fated. It was a great success, for Schiller was becoming very popular.

He made his first visit to Weimar in 1787. Here he met Herder and Wieland, who--especially the latter-offered him the kinship of sympathy. It was not until a year later that he met Goethe. Even then Goethe's hostile prepossessions were not broken. The meeting-in presence of a large number of litterateurs and others—was interesting, but nothing more. Says Schiller: “This personal meeting has not all diminished the idea, great as it was, which I had previously formed of Goethe; but I doubt whether we shall ever come into any close communication with each other. Much that still interests me has already had its epoch with him. His whole nature is, from its very origin, otherwise constructed from mine.... From such a combination no secure, substantial intimacy can result. Time will try.” And Goethe wrote, many years later: “On my return from Italy, where I had been endeavoring to train myself to greater purity and precision in all departments of art, I found here some older and some more recent works of poetry, enjoying high esteem and wide circulation, while their character to me was utterly offensive. I shall only mention Heinse's Ardinghello and Schiller's Robbers. . . . I avoided Schiller, who was now at Weimar in my neighborhood ... the attempts of our common friends I resisted ; and thus we continued to go on our way apart.”

In 1788 Schiller came out in a new light by publishing The History of the United Netherlands. It was unfinished, no second volume following the first; but its care and force gave high promise. And it obtained for its author a very material advantage. Schiller was appointed Professor of His

tory at the University of Jena, a few miles from Weimar, and entered upon his duties in 1789. Shortly afterwards he married, and his cup of happiness was full.

His new position, naturally, turned his endeavors in the direction of history. An important work was printed in 1791. This was The History of the Thirty Years' War. It was—and still is—a work of great value, composed upon thoroughly philosophical lines and finely written. There is a melancholy interest in the fact that, though his plans for historical writing were wide and varied, The History of the Thirty Years' War was the last that he ever undertook. In the same year he was attacked with an illness that never left him. And thereafter his noble character rose to its height. Weak, suffering as he was, he nevertheless took his trouble by the throat and held it down for fourteen years while he achieved ever greater and truer poetic fame. Fortunately, not long after his first attack, a pension of 1,000 crowns came from two noblemen—a German and a Dane. This alleviated—though it could not curethe poet's sorrow.

Schiller was always closely identified with the journalism of the day. Some of his plays and poems appeared in such periodicals as then existed. Since 1785 he had been editing the Rheinische Thalia, a publication devoted to the furtherance of dramatic art. Now the standard of public taste was very low in things literary, and no one knew this better than Schiller. Therefore, he evolved a plan for its elevation. This was to be achieved by means of a journal called The Hours. His idea was to impress for contributors all the best writers in Germany, among them Goethe, Kant, Klopstock and Herder, thus forming a phalanx which would fight manfully against the false and crude in art. He essayed the plan ; but The Hours was not a success—it failed even to pay expenses. But indirectly it achieved one thing, which was the most important of all; it brought Schiller and Goethe together. In May, 1794, they met one day at Jena, returning from a lecture in Natural History. They fell into conversation and afterwards into a discussion, which revealed a marked difference in their modes of thought. Both, in fact, were more than ever convinced of the impracticability of any friendship. But they came together again, and soon arrived at the essential sameness of their ideas on important subjects. Thus began a friendship than which there are few nobler spectacles.

Upon both the effect of this union was the best influence possible. Goethe had become deeply interested in matters scientific; he was developing his intellect at the expense of his imagination. He had reached in his life a parting of the ways. One road led into the fair and golden region of poetry, the other to what he himself calls “the arid land of science." And it was Schiller who moved him to choose the former path. Schiller's influence was very

« PředchozíPokračovat »