Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

In 1788, he was the manager of the Holstenish bank of

Altona. Claudius died on the 21st of January 1815, at

Hamburgh, whilst with his son-in-law Perthes, the noted

bookseller of that city.

Claudius is a pleasant and entertaining writer; he provides instruction for the million; now addressing them in a vein of wit and humour, now in a tone of satire; then, in a philosophical mood, and next, in a religious one. Menzel, in his "Deutsche Literatur," observes:—" Der beriihmte 'Wandsbecker Bote' macht, wenn man ihn heute liest, einen seltsamen, mehr riihrenden als gefalligen Eindruck. Nicht als ob seine Schönheiten nicht noch immer schön, sein derber Hausverstand nicht noch immer verständig wäre, aber die Form, die Sprache gehören einer Zeitan, die längst gewesen ist."

Claudius is really an author for the people; who, in the high soaring of the end he has in view, in the simplicity of the means to attain that end, and even in the appeal he mates to the inmost soul, will hardly ever be equalled, much less surpassed. His poetical productions range between songs, elegies, romances, fables; he has also written prose papers of various characters upon miscellaneous subjects (" Das Schatzkästlein"—a selection of his works). They all espouse easy and current opinions, in a vein of language sometimes witty and droll, sometimes solemn, naive, and, what Germans call, " volksthiimlich," as if they were narrated by the "merry country messenger," whose chief object is to recommend the sentiments of honesty, charity, patriotism, etc., and to visit folly and vice with satire and dishonour.

Claudius's "Rheinweinlied: Bekränzt mit Laub den liebevollen Becher," will always be popular. The first two lines of a piece by him, entitled, " Urian's Reise":— "Wenn jemand eine Reise thut So kann er was erzählen," have grown into a proverb ; and his " Riese Goliath," " Wie 102 LEISEWICZ.

ist die Welt so stille"—" Rebecca mit den Kindern am Maimorgen"—"Der Mond ist aufgegangen"—"Ich danke Gott und freue mich," and many others, are popular in the extreme.

JOHANN ANTON LEISEWITZ (1752-1806) Was born on the 9th of May 1752, at Hanover. He studied at Gottingen Jura; and being found to be gifted with poetical talents, was speedily elected one of the Bardenbund. Leisewitz afterwards entered into the political service of the duchy of Brunswick, and was quickly promoted to the high office of councellor of justice in that dukedom. He died on the 10th of September 1806. A single tragedy, "Julias von Tarent," is all that we possess of this writer. Nevertheless, he has shewn that he knew how to unite sentiment with wit, and both with deep feeling, and to embody artistic conceptions in tragic stageeffect. The characters of the two brothers, who are rivals for the affections of a noble-minded girl, until, in the end, one becomes the murderer of the other, are very graphically and exquisitely delineated. If we examine critically the literary qualities of this production, we find that the ease of its dialogue, the vigour of its invention, and the passion and ascendancy which flash out of the evolution of its dramatic action, establish its reputation upon an immoveable basis, and stamp it as a standard performance. It may not be uninteresting to our readers to know, that "Julius von Tarent" was one of the favourite books of Schiller, when a young man.

SECTION II.

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE.

We have now to discourse of Germany's greatest poet, who, endowed with abilities of a cast most singular, nay, unlimited, we might nearly say, in their range of operation, exerts a master influence over the bardism and authorship, not only of the age in which he lived, but also (or we much mistake) over those of all succeeding times.

Germany, although eminently rich in the treasures of the olden metrical lore, had never, up to the era, at least, of Goethe's muse's life, completed the Palladium of its national poetry. Not but that, in the Morn of the Minnesingers, in the Day of Klopstock and Lessing, and in the Noon-blaze of the "Barden-Bund" (poets, excepted from their predecessors and contemporaries by many abroad feature of more stalwart excellence), a goodly cornerstone was applied thereunto. Yet, with all this, there was a peculiar narrowness in the general heart, a stiffness and formality in the prevalent poetical style, savouring but too strongly of an immoderate adhesion to antiquated mannerisms. It was reserved for the illustrious poet of Weimar to burst the bonds asunder, that had hitherto enthralled this elegant department of human genius.

Goethe asserted, in the happiest manner possible, all the rights and privileges of an ardent-tempered youth, the springs of whose life are fresh and unsophisticated. His works,—such, for instance, as " Werthers Leiden," "Goetz von Berlichingen," "Faust,"—and his poems, evince, but too plainly, how little he felt it necessary to conform to the current rules of composition. Yet, Goethe assuredly outstepped all others; he felt the force of genius quick and rushing in his soul, and soared, like an eagle, above all his contemporaries.

Now, as in the poet Schiller, nature is always set forth in 104 GOETHE.

her most finished graces, so in Goethe every thing is suffused with the depth of naturalities, his mind being (so to speak) grown together into one with the radices of nature. Again, surpassing beauty and loveliness of thought, great tenderness and delicacy of expression, and the entire poetical efficiency, are resident in Goethe. How inspiring are his poems, in which we recognize, at the first glance, the consummate master of lyrics! and how affluent is he in language and in ideas! There exists, in all the works of this writer, the most perfect specimen of realization, for he knew nature and all her peculiarities, and was too intimately acquainted with all her singularities, to be likely to err.

Goethe likewise acts as a Coryphaeus, in regard to a certain nobility and grandeur in the tones of his poetical colouring; in which particular, indeed, it appears to us that he may be most advantageously compared with the great Italian artist of the Venetian school,—Titian.

The poet and the painter possess, respectively, their rich and precious material, in accordance with which they mingle their glorious rays of colour, derived from the shores of the far east. No one, we feel confident, can help admiring a vestiture so truly splendid, although the eye of taste has necessarily the advantage in this case, inasmuch as it is not likely to be dazzled by the external aspect alone of the enwrapping vesture, like that of the majority of common observers, who, we know, are apt to be astonished and smitten by the mere outside tinsel and glitter of the subject before them,—and here an end. Now the class last alluded to—the men of taste—will inevitably look beyond the mere drapery of the poet's style ; it is their privilege to trace out numerous infinitely-delicate implications and connexions of human thought and feeling, until they fall, at last, into a rapture, upon discerning the consummate artisticism that reveals itself to their subtle inquiry.

Every personage in Goethe's narrative or dramatic compositions, at whatever progress of the story it may be introduced, and by whatever expedient it may be made to serve the general action of the plot, is treated, from first to last, exactly as if it were the leading character of the piece.

The "one-character play," as it has been sometimes called, was a class of authorship utterly unknown to Goethe. This blissful ignorance, this rare excellence, —to be found, no doubt, in the works of Homer and of Shakspeare,—exist abundantly in the interlocutory and representative productions of our author.

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE*

Was the son of a gentleman of fortune, and was born on the 28th of August 1749, in the city of Frankfort on the Maine, where his father had sought the tranquillity of private life, retiring with the title of "Kbniglicher Eath." The future bard—this promising bud of genius—enjoyed the inestimable advantage of receiving the elements of his education from paternal lips. Considerable quickness of apprehension seems to have been natural to him, and to have brought him into notice at an early age. Even at this time, the Frankfort boy discovered certain versifying tendencies; for whenever any little bit of fun, shrewd jest, or witty conceit, turned up at the family board, or around the cheerful hearth, the youngster would forthwith, in the happiest manner possible, convert it into rhyme, and then go and repeat the same to his young companions and play-fellows, to, it will readily be imagined, their infinite diversion and delight. In the year 1765, the university of Jena received our embryo poet, he having made such advances in his studies and general knowledge, as to render this step imperative. It was his father's particular wish that Goethe should study the science of jurisprudence, —a pursuit particularly repugnant to the tastes of the young poet, who, for his part, evinced a much greater

* Doring's Leben Goethes.

« ZurückWeiter »