תמונות בעמוד

theatre there. His last pieces were for the stage, "Mary Queen of Scots," " Joan of Arc," “ William Tell," and the “ Bride of Mesina." He expired in 1805 in the 46th year of his age of a malignant fever.

Schiller is accused of having given to his plays a romantic coarseness, which does not distinguish between the elegance of literature and of common life. But it inust be said of him, · that he represented nothing but great and noble characters,

that the dignity of his pieces is well sustained, without the immoral tendency of Goethe's writing, or the mysticism of Kotzebue ard Werner. Schiller was more popular with the lower classes, Goethe with the higher, because the first delineated the true German character from its originals, the latter only from an ideal perfection of aristocracy and fashion. The minor poetry of Schiller is also full of a youthful, energetic spirit, which purified and invigorated the taste of his fellow-countrymen. There are so many, and so good translations from his works, that it would be waste of space to give any of them here. They contain so much of the philosophy of life, that they work upon the consciences of men, opposing everything evil and commonplace. His ideal characters are particularly distinguished by their purity, nobleness, and the fire of passion which they contain. Schiller may be called the Euripides of the German drama. He is not so varied, so vast in his conceptions, or so striking in his characters as Goethe, but the generosity and nobleness of his own soul pervades all his productions, and engender an enthusiasm for virtue, liberty and greatness in his readers and audience.

During nearly a period of fifty years the popularity of these two great drainatists, Goethe and Schiller, was eclipsed by that of a much inferior writer Kotzebue. His merits were at one time most ridiculously exaggerated, and since have been as unjustly depreciated. Many of his pieces are certainly open to the charge of frivolity and tediousness, but it inust be also allowed that they possess several passages of great power and beauty. The greater number of ihern,“ The Two Brothers, “ Misanthropy and Repentance," “ The Hussites,” “ The Death of Rolla, or Pizarro," have been translated into English and other languages, so that it is unnecessary to do more than allude to them here. His greatest faults are these, a morbid sensibility and straining after effect, not sufficient attention to the morals, inanners, and national characters of bis personages,

but a lively interest pervades all his pieces, and has made then be very popular wherever they have been represented.

Romanticisin had a very powerful effect upon the drama, as well as apon lyric poetry in Germany. It tended to produce an exaggerated and absurd style of performance, full of strong and exciting incidents mixed up with mysterious and supernatural horrors scarcely fit for the stage. The principal authors of this style were Mullner, Werner, Grillparzer, and Kleist. The first began his career in an extraordinary manner, by rivalling his elder brother for the hand of a young lady, against the will of his own mother. It was not until the brother and mother died, that he obtained the accomplishment of his wishes. This however did not give him continued happiness. His wife was more inclined to dance, than to listen to his verses or enjoy his conversation, so that the union turned out to be anything but well assorted. In 1812 he brought out a dramatic poem, "Schuld,” (Crime,) in which there is great melody of verse and vivid imagery, but the extravagant idea of a presiding fate, or overpowering destiny, something like the "Deus ex Machina ” of the Greek tragedies, reigns throughout the action. The interest of the piece turns on the fulfilment of a feartul prophecy, by which the hero kills his brother; then torn with remorse destroys himself, which example the heroine imitates, producing a horrible fascination on the mind of the reader. The reputation of this drama was so great, that the Empress Elizabeth of Russia had it played before her, and presented the author with a diamond ring in token of her admiration. Müllner did not long survive the breach of his domestic happiness; he died rather suddenly in the year 1829.

After Schiller and Guethe, no man's plays have been so popular in Germany, as those of Weruer. "His life was one of extraordinary vicissitudes, beginning by the bed-side of his insave mother. He married three wives, the two first of which are altogether lost sight of; the third a Polish girl named Maria, was obliged to get a divorce from him on account of his extravagance and licentiousness, but strange to say, she and her second husband lived on terms of intimacy with him for a long period afterwards. He also was a companion of Mme. de Staël at Coppet, along with Schlegel, Chamisso, &c. Suddenly he went to Rome, joined the Roinan Catholic Church, studied 'Theology, was made priest at Aschaffenburg, and for a series of years preached to admiring audiences in Vienna, As an author he lias shown great boldness and richness of fancy, strong and abundant fluency of language, kindness of feeling, and appreciation of all that is excellent. He bas certainly some confusion of thought, mingling the romantic with the real, a coufusion of the offspring of inagination with the facts of everyday life. His drama “Luther,

Luther," was hailed through Germany with a burst of enthusiasm, although the characters are too ideal and fantastic.

“ Attila

is not so much darkened by mysticism, the personages approach nearer to those of actual history. It is founded on the tale of Hildegunda, Attila's last wife, whose father and brothers he had caused to be murdered. He then forced the maiden to become his wife, but the next morning the conqueror was found weltering in his blood, his bride seated beside his bed, bathed in tears and wrapt in her long veil. The “29th of February," the most

" striking and popular of Werner's dramas, is constructed from very simple but horrible materials. The scene is laid in an Alpine cottage between the cotter, bis wife, and his son. The old man had slain his father in his youth, and the curse of Cain followed him. His own son slew his young sister, then

. fled into foreign service, and now returns to his father's roof without being recognised. The father, who has made a practice of murdering strangers under his roof, stabs his son while asleep for some gold he carried about him, and learns from his dying lips the relationship which exists between them. The plot and incidents are of the most distressing character, heightened very much by the situation and mode of life of the personages who enact it.

Another member of the romantic school of a visionary, though powerful mind, was Kleist. He began his career in the army, then studied at Frankfort for a professorship, then -repaired to Berlin to endeavour to advance himself in life. He met successively with two young ladies, who returned his affection, but his wayward and extravagant procrastination and absurd ideas about domestic happiness, compelled them to give up their engagements with him. He met Wieland's sou in Switzerland, through whom he obtained an intimacy with the father, and afterwards with Goethe and Schiller. At Konigsberg where he settled for some time he composed several tales, and dramas, the "Schroffenstein Family," in which two fathers kill their own children, and a comedy, "The Broken Jug," on ac

count of the failure of which at Weimar he challenged Goethe, under whose direction it had been brought out. In 1807 he was arrested by the French at the gates of Berlin as a spy, and sent to Fort de Joux and afterwards to Chalons-sur-Seine. He afterwards settled at Dresden, where he produced his “ Katchen von Heilbunn," and “Prince of Homburg," the first a drama of the middle ages, the second dating in the 80 years war. The crowning tragedy of his life arose from his intimacy with a young lady, Henrietta who imagined that she had some incurable disease, which preyed on her mind. This produced a morbid melancholy, chiming in with the temper of the poet, and ending in the following dreadful scene as related by Mme. de Pontés :

Kleist was passionately fond of music, and Henrietta had a voice of unusual power and sweetness. One day when she had sung more enchantingly than usual, Kleist exclaimed: " That is beautiful enough to shoot one's self for." or Schön zum Tudtschiessen.” She looked at him earnestly, but made no reply. Some little time after. wards she enquired if he remembered a promise he had made to render her a great service if she desired it? He replied in the affirmative. “ Well then," she exclaimed impetuously,” fulfil it now. Kill me ; my sufferings render life insupportable. But no, you will not. There are no more men of honour on earth.” « You are mis. taken," replied Kleist, “I am a man of honour, and will do as I have said."

Everything was arranged between the unhappy pair with a calm. ness, a deliberation which would make us doubt the fact of the insanity which darkened the intellects of both, did we not know that madness, too, has its method. On the morning of the 20th November, 1811, they set off together from Berlin, without, it seems, attracting any particular attention, and drove for a while on the road to Potsdam. They stopped at a little country inn, where they spent the rest of the day and the following morn in apparent cheerfulness. Towards the afternoon they set out on foot for a walk, as they said, and proceeded towards a wood some little distance from the inn. A few hours later a forester heard two shots following each other with strange rapidity. He hastened to the spot whence they came, and found Henrietta lying lifeless beneath an old and blasted tree, her hands clasped on her bosom, whilst Kleist knelt before her_his head had fallen on his shoulder-he had shot himself through the temple. Such was the terrible end of this gifted and ill-fated man.

Grillparzer has become famous in Germauy by his play of the " Ahnfrau," or "Ancestress," more wild and extravagant in fancy and language than any of Werner's or the "Robbers" of Schiller. The plot consists in the heroine being compelled to wander over the earth, on account of an early crime, uutil the last scion of her race is extinct. This occurs by a robber chief stabbing his own father to the heart, and his sister and himself then immolating themselves. “Sappho," by the same author, is a poem of considerable lyric beauty, much adipired by Lord Byron, when translated into Italian.

Rauppach had endeavoured to produce on the stage some of the historical glories of the ancient rulers of Germany. The “Hohenstauffen" relates the principal eveuts in the career of that noble house. The “Nibelungen Hort," is a representation of the principal passages of the celebrated romance of that name. They are however sadly deficient in rapid action, distinctness of character, and harmony of arrangement. He spent the greater part of his life in soine of the most dreary parts of Russia, and died in 1829. Since that period bave arisen numerous dramatic authors, Grabbe, Kebbel, Mosen, &c., all of whom belong to the romantic school. Their productions, however, are such a mass of “extraordinary situations, exaggerated sentiments, or physiological curiosities,” that confusion alone is their distinguishing feature. The romantic school has now run into the wildest extreme, and requires a Lessing or Goethe to start up, in order to reduce it to some of the rules or order of classicality.

There reinaing to be considered a class of lyric poets of the romantic school, the varied subjects of whose muse were not confined to ancient classicality, or modern romanticisin. They brought out songs of sentiment, convivial, martial and patriotic lays, stirring the hearts of the German people, and making their authors almost the idols of the people. This phase deuotes the rise of the deinocratic element, not yet brought to its perfection, but ere long calculated to produce its full effect.

Hoelderlin was one of those poets who endeavoured to mingle the spirit of classicality with the fancy of romanticism, the rules of antiquity with the wild fancy of the middle ages. His life was one of mental misfortune, notwithstanding the great friendship which Schiller conceived for him on account of his amiable manners. He was a tutor in the family of Mme. von Kalb, with whom Schiller had been in the saine capacity, and afterwards in that of a wealthy banker at Frankfort. He was obliged however to leave this place on account of the jealousy of the husband, who was stimulated thereto by

« הקודםהמשך »