Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

WOLFGANG MENZEL.

If a man were to write an account But they ought to be aware that no of a whale suddenly become human, man has a right to imagine new worlds and retaining in its new form the till he has exhausted the old ones. It feelings and propensities of its former is only in favour of Prospero and Mi. shape, with a multitude of such inci- randa that we make allowance for dents heaped together as might be Ariel and Caliban. See what effect supposed to result from this absurd those creations would have unless they combination, he would probably write were presented to us along with the a very stupid book, but it would be in deep human interests and delicate tensely German.

shadings of character which we trace All the admirers of that peculiar sort in the other persone of the Temof originality to which our neighbours pest.” Would a whole play of Cali

. lay exclusive claim, would break out bans and Ariels, or even a play in in a chorus of applause. The man which they were the principal figures, fish or the fish-man would be the beau and not the mere accessories and exideal of what can be produced by an crescences, impress us with such ideas exuberant imagination; his memory of of an author's imagination as if he had northern seas, and the delight he used called Hamlet into being, or clothed to experience in refreshing himself in the passion of innocent love in flesh hot weather, by rubbing his back and blood, and called it Juliet, or against an iceberg, would furnish awakened the horrors of conscience in ample scope for the grotesque, by Macbeth? The mistake of our Gothic bringing the two modes of existence cousins in believing that whatever is into juxtaposition ; and, in fact, we not in nature must be a proof of fancy, venture to insure the most complete is much the same as the very common success to any one who will take this

one among some of our youthful bards, as a subject, and work it out with the of considering that whatever is not necessary amount of horrors and in- prose must be poetry. A ring that congruities. This would be a novel makes its possessor invisible, a key of active life, where our sympathies that opens a terrestrial paradise filled would be enlisted on the side of the with Mahommedan Houris, an enchanliving and moving personages of the ter, a vampire, or a ghost-these are drama : but if the author wished to the great instruments with which to Germanize in another manner, he would concoct a national literature, unless, inhave nothing to do but to invest some deed, the author adopts the still easier inanimate object with thoughts and feel expedient of filling his three volumes ings, but without endowing it with vi- with all manner of inexplicable incisible life ; say, for example, a milestone, dents, and then loosing the knot he and let it love, fear, hate, reason, poet- has so artfully tied by exclaiming, like ize, or philosophize to the best of his good John Bunyan, at the end of all, ability. This style of writing appears « and I awoke, and behold it was a to a great number of people, who have dream.” For, depend on it, there is no never taken the trouble to analyse the deus ex machina equal to a nightcap. nature of it, to require a very high But this striving after the new is not degree of fancy in the author. But limited to the dealers in novels and rónever was such a mistake committed.

mances. It is the characteristic at this It is from a want of imagination, and moment, and for several years past, not from the excess of it, thatour neigh- of every effort of the German mind. bours have betaken themselves to their Their scholars give new views of his. mysticism and magic, to their double- tory, their theologians new views of gangers and Peter Schlemihls. A very divinity, their philosophers new views natural anxiety to escape from the im of man, his faculties and final destiny. putation which for centuries gods and But by new views, think not that old columns had caston German genius, that things are merely put in a new posiit was plodding, careful, mole-eyed, and tion, and fresh light poured on them unimaginative, has been the main in- from the naphtha lamps of those sages. ducement to the convulsive efforts they This would be a labour too low, too now make to astonish and perplex. poor, for their ambition.

The first

step they take in their search for no. any image more revolting than anvelty, like the diggers for fairy trea- other, it is that of a German Voltaire, sures among their own old castles, is with all his venom and audacity, and

to shake down the whole fabric by re not a particle of his wit. Their phiEl. moving the foundation on which it losophy, however, is protected by no Drested. Out of the ruins they con such sanctities; and we repeat that di trive to build up some fantastic tower the whole effort of their metaphysics itu according to their own taste, and try has been to strike out some new path lure to train the old ivy over it again, to to dazzle us with strange specula

give it the appearance of antiquity; tions, and puzzle us with unintelligible

But the ivy has been rooted up, and paradoxes. Let us not fall foul of only refuses to hide the modern masonry. Kant on this particular occasion; for 1.2 Oh, Romulus! Oh, Remus !-Oh that unpretending-looking syllable, biti sacred Capitol ! towards which had whether spelt with k or c, has power

marched so many triumphant heroes, ful patrons in these degenerate days, and over which hung such a glory that whose slumbering venom it might be

Rome was indeed the Eternal City dangerous to wake. Let us go to us while it rested under thy protection Herder himself, one of the greatest visi are ye all things that never were ? or names in German literature a poet, ths so different from what we have been a scholar, a philosopher; yet tainted Hai taught to think you, that you are, in so deeply with the spirit of his class & fact

, mere fancy pieces woven into and country, that his design is evii gossamer tapestry by Livy and the dently rather to astonish than to inif ancient chroniclers ?-or was Niebuhr struct. So irrepressible is genius, that

a dull, dreamy, fusty, old pedant, de. it cannot continue hidden even under isto nying all these, and fifty other things the mummy-like integuments in which

and incidents, which we had been a very undivine philosophy endeavours ready to swear to for fifteen hundred to envelope it-like light in a tomb, it years, merely to obtain a name for flashes out amid the most gloomy and himself? Tňe man was utterly unjus- unpromising scenes, and beautifies, tifiable, even if his discoveries were with its lustre, the uninviting objects true, in laying sacrilegious hands on on which it shines. Herder was unWhat had been so long believed that it doubtedly a man of genius-he shows had grown a truth; in depriving of life it in all his writings; but in them all and glory time-honoured Cincinnatus, there is no mistaking the great aim treating great Camillus as an impostor, we have alluded to-to startle, to deand slaughtering with a more intoler- light; but not to inform. We shall able slaughter the white-haired senate, take notice of but one passage in his seated on curule chairs, whose majesty Ideas on the Philosophy of the Hishad restrained for a season the enmity tory of Mankind,” because we propose and ferocity of the Gauls. For our

to go at greater length into a work of own part, we believe in all the early a follower of Herder, (and no unworhistory of Rome ; and have as yet had thy follower, of which we think our no sufficient proofs offered us of the readers will be glad to accompany us in existence of Niebuhr to convince us

the examination, as illustrative of the that he ever lived. We therefore are

present tendencies of the German spe. ready to make our solemn affirmation, culative philosophy ; we mean “ The that, to the best

of our knowledge and Spirit of History" of Wolfgang Menzel. belief

, Remus leapt over the walls The philosophers of Herder's day while they were yet only three feet had kindly taken the other planets high; and that the person or apparition into their charge, and entered into assuming the name of Niebuhr was a

laboured disquisitions on the state and

prospects of our neighbours in the Theology is too

sacred ground for Milky Way. In his admirable " Ideas” us to tread upon, farther than to re

he alludes to the vain dreams of Kirfuse to be guided first into labyrinths, cher and Schwedenborg on such subbible,) and then out of them, by such all the guesses and suppositions of misty guides as Tholuck, Baur, and Hugens, Lambert, and

Kant; but the even Neander. As to Strauss and

the temptation is too great. He guards other infidels, we name them not with himself, indeed, with the convenient

can conjure go-between “perhaps,” but propounds

[ocr errors]

phantom, and no man.

out disgust; for if fancy

66

the ingenious doctrine, “ that the pro- eloquent and popular at the same
portion that exists between the velo-' time; as a critic, he is distinguished
city and distance of the different pla- for sound judgment and clear discri.
nets, holds good also between the in- mination, joined to a fearlessness and
tellects and faculties of their inhabi- true-hearted disdain of the hollowness
tants.” The relation of our matter and affectation that reigned in the
to our spirit may be regulated by the most admired writings of the greatest
relative length of our days and nights authors of his land, that drew on bim
-the rapidity of our thoughts is in the the unmitigated hatred of the followers
proportion which the revolution of of Göthe and Voss. His two excellent 14 at vi kan!
our planet round itself and round the tales “Rubezahl” and“Narcissus,"are
sun bears to the quickness or slow. well known: and as a poet he has shown
ness of other stars--so that as Mer- much talent and a great deal of wit.
cury performs his daily revolution in It was accordingly with no slight an.
six hours, and his annual course in ticipation of enjoyment that we opened .
eighty-eight days, the inhabitants of a little pamphlet, published at Stut-
that favoured planet must be clever gard in 1835, entitled “ The Spirit of
beyond belief. On the other hand, History." Here, then, we thought, we
it is pleasing to reflect how the dulls shall have admirable writing and ex.
est of men would be looked up to tensive information. Here the great
among the dunderheads of Saturn, empires of the past will unfold their
who gropes his way almost in the buried majesty, and point with warning
dark round the sun, and takes no less finger to the present or the future.
than thirty years to perform the jour. Here shall we see the footmarks of
ney. Gods! what a poet would Providence traced amid the ruins of
be M'Henry !-how inconceivably crumbled monarchies. Here we

quick in the uptak” the late Lord shall-but a truce to our expectations.
Newton, who used to find out at We pulled the caridles closer to us,
breakfast the point of Harry Er. fixed our feet more resolutely on the
skine’s witticism of the previous day! fender, and turned to the preface:-
“ I hae ye noo, Harry!” would be “ The following sketch is intended
the proof of the most rapid compre- merely to show the impression which,

sion, though uttered at the end of in a long-continued study of history, a month. This, however, is suppo

the powerful spirit that lies in it has sing the possibility of a Henry Er- made on one not insensible soul. In skine in such a world; which is only this I do not scruple to let my heart admissible in consideration of the have its full play. The man whose extraordinary activity it displays in feelings are unmoved when he consispinning round itself, a feat which it ders the fortunes of his kind- whose performs in about seven hours. Per. inmost soul is not excited by

the

prehaps, after all, this wonderful speed sence of the spirit that animates the in one revolution may make up for its world, will never be able to comprehend dilatoriness in the other; and there them. The calmest enquiry, the most may be an Athens in Saturn as well dispassionate observation, enable us as in Scotland.

to discover truths, the knowledge of This, however, is only one of many which, nevertheless, leaves the deepest equally gratuitous exercises of the impression upon our hearts. And is fancy contained in Herder's work, history, then, something unconnected which, be it observed, having for its with us, to which we can continue insubject the philosophy of history, different? Are we not in the midst of should have been strictly limited to it ?-do we not fight the great fight an induction from facts. But inap- along with it? Is not each of us desplicable as such flights were in the tined to take a part in its tremendous midst of such a dissertation, what are drama: as hero fighting for some boly we to think of Wolfgang Menzel, object, or as base wight who helps to whose whole work is composed of no- bring about the tragic catastrophe ? thing else? Now, Wolfgang Men No one is so inconsiderable that he zel is not a man to be passed lightly cannot, by magnanimity or the reover in our estimate of German intel

verse, add to the number of the good lect. There is no higher name in or the bad in the world ; that he does the living literature of his country. not help to make the beautiful shine His

History of the Germans.” is more clearly or make the base more

If a

hateful. Moreover, knowledge is blem ; a Theological Problem ; a Mygiven to us not to destroy sentiment, thological Problem ; a Genealogical but to inspire it."

Problem, and an Historical Problem. Very good, said we; feeling is a very We shall give a short abstract of each, good thing ; and Wolfgang; we per- and aswe have no intention of detracting ceive, is going to give us the plain, in any way from the merits of Wolfunvarnished tale of the sentiments gang Menzel, we shall at once allow awakened by man's fate and destiny that many beauties of expression are in the mind of a man of talent and lost in our translation.

We merely sensibility. Proceed

profess to give the meaning as closely “ History is man’s life on earth con and literally as the two tongues will fined to a few thousand years, and to permit, begging the reader not to imone small planet. Beyond these limits, pute to the original the stiffness or however, are spread immeasurable baldness he may discover in our verspace and infinite time, and in them sion. reigns an inexhaustible world-life. “ ASTRONOMICAL PROBLEM. But in the same manner as our earth “Our earth is a planet, and belongs stands in close relationship to other to the small family of planets, eleven heavenly bodies, it is probable that in number, which circle round the our history is connected with the his sun, and receive from it their light, tory of all beings; our life with that their daily and annual seasons, and all great world-life. We find it impossi. existence which depends on light. ble either to restrain, or to satisfy the The astronomical relationship of the inelination to be informed on these other planets to our earth, justifies us points. It would appear that the mere in the supposition, that they are inhaanticipation of a higher existence is bited by beings resembling man, and fiited to have an animating effect on that these also are as near akin to each our present life; whereas a clear vi- other as the planets themselves. sion of those loftier things would de decision on such points were allow. stroy our earthly illusions, and tear able, we might conclude, that in the us away from the circle of existence in same way as our earth holds a middle which we are placed. The explana- rank among the other planets, in retion of the mode in which our earth gard to distance from the sun, size, is connected with the great world of &c., so we men probably hold a midstars, and how our temporal life is dle station between the beings of the connected with the eternal life of the different planets, and are therefore, a world, remains a problem, a riddle un more complete representative of the solved and unsolvable, and yet which whole species inhabiting our planetary must furnish us with employment.” system, than the inhabitants of MerWhy ?-we do not see the least ne cury or Uranus, who perhaps express cessity for troubling our heads about the two extremes of the human system, such unprofitable enquiries. We think, as their planets express thetwoextremes at the same time, we could suggest a of the planetary system. In the same book to our pliilosopher that would go manner, we cannot give up the notion some way towards appeasing his cu that all the inhabitants of our planetriosity. But we fear that a person ary system, however much they may who puzzles himself with finding out differ from each other, are still only our connexion with the eternal life of one species of beings, with several subthe world, would not attach much divisions, perhaps, as we ourselves are weight to the volume we refer to. divided into separate races.

In that It

appears, then, that a portion at case it would be particularly interest. least of our friend's employment will ing to discover what relation the inbe to guess at such high and won habitants of the planets bear to those drous mysteries ; and if it be really of the sun.. If there are other systems 80, we do not exactly see how any of planets which revolve round a sun strong sentiment or deep feelings can of their own, the idea occurs directly, be excited by such an occupation in that they stand on a parallel step with the most susceptible hearts." But let our planetary system. as go on, and see how he makes good however, appears to be one of the

lowest in the great ladder of existence. He divides his subject into five The relation of the planets to the sun " Problems ;" an Astronomical Pro. is that of slaves.

This step,

his case.

« On a higher step stand the double and her south pole, where she is defistars, of which many thousands are cient in land, to the southern quarter, already discovered, two suns, both which is deficient in stars. In this, self.lighted, which move at no great therefore, we recognise a law of the distance round each other, and by this earth, consonant with the law of the means express a relationship of free- whole visible starry world, and which dom and equality, of friendship and must be older than the law which voluntary connexion, which is of a far binds us to the sun; becauset he sun, : higher and nobler kind than the ser with his equatorial tendency east and vile relation of the planets to the sun. west, could only produce a preponderMust not, therefore, the inhabitants of ance of the equatorial force over the the double stars stand on a higher polar force, and a contrasting of east step than those of the planets ? But and west, but could not produce a prewe must now be allowed to assume, ponderance of the north pole over the that these little planetary systems and south pole, which are indeed equal, so double stars are again united to a lof- far as concerns the sun, and are intier whole, to a great group of stars; debted for the difference that exists and it is not improbable that the mul- between them to some higher cause. titude of stars surrounding us are only But that this cause is the same which a portion of the Milky Way to which heaped the stars in greater number on we jointly and separately belong ; and the north side of the heavens is clear; which again is separated, as one perfect and we .must accordingly seek the whole, from other milky ways and point of gravity of our visible world groups of stars, still farther removed in the direction of the north pole. from us.

And as it is said in the “ With the exception of this direction Bible, « In my father's house are of our earth's axis, and the corremany mansions ;' and space is infis pondent collection of dry land on the nite; the fancy has ample room north side, there remains little pecuwherein to imagine the milky ways liar on the earth which does not apas numerous and as diversified as pear either as a consequence of the possible.

influence of the sun, or as a recipro“ That the mind might not grow cating power with it. Over all adgiddy, some resting-place, some firm

a victorious sun-god, who centre amidst the infinite has been either chains up the old earth-gods as sought; but this it is impossible to ima. furious Titans, or rules the wife-like gine, without, at the same time, giving earth with the strong authority of a up the very idea of infinity. We have husband, and, as Eros, impregnates assumed a central sun, we have be- the maternal night with a beautiful lieved that the milky ways move in world of light. circles round each other, or that they “ All existence, therefore, upon earth touch, in parabolic paths, like a number depends upon the sun, and is its work. of cones with united points, &c.; but Even the metals, the embryo world in all this can, at the utmost, make only the deep womb of earth, bears the one great starry configuration in the image of its golden sire; for the meexpanse of heaven, but cannot repre tallic veins run parallel with the equa. sent that whole expanse itself, which, tor, and not with the earth's axis, and being absolutely immeasurable, can the noblest are found in considerable have no figure. But to descend from quantity only beneath the equator itthis height to our little earth again self. The same is the case with the my intention in this exposition has botanic and the animal worlds, whose been to show that, at all events, our most perfect types are found under the earth is but a very subordinate hea- equator. And as space is subject to venly body, and that what we call the solar progress, so also are times the history of the world is but a very and seasons; the growth of all orgasmall portion of universal existence. nization; the period of existence. To

“Although the earth, attracted by the this sun-service, man, the loftiest of sun, revolves around it, yet she always terrestrial beings, forms a remarkable turns her poles to the congenial quar- exception, and recurs to that primal ters of the heaven; that is to say, her earth-service, or rather star-service, north pole, round which most land is which is older than the sun.

Unlike collected, to the north side of the hea- the metals, plants, and animals, the vens, in which there are most stars ; human race follows not that confused

vances

« IndietroContinua »