« הקודםהמשך »
On a Statue of Cupid.
On earth their iufluence from above,
Both good and evil, as of love.
Or for whatever pain we flout him,
Who knows not what to say about him.” M. P. 401. We have noticed several instances where, in our opinion, the sense of the original has been misconceived.
6 And thou,
conveys to the English reader no idea of the turn in the Greek.
λυχνε, συ δ' εν κολποις αυτον ορας έτερων.”
The idea in the last line of the following stanza is very poetical, but, in our conception, very different froin that conveyed by the original.
UNCERTAIN, 443, (444.) iii. 245.
Death the universal Lot. B.
Wine, fragrance, music's heavenly breath,
And slope the path that leads to death.
οξυτερης πεμπει την οδον εις ATδην.” Allusion has been made to the immortality of Cleombrotus, the Ambraciot, from the time of Cicero to that of Milton. The force of the celebrated epigram of Callimachus on this subject, is quite lost in the paraphrastic translation of the concluding line.
The desultory and miscellaneous nature of the notes which form so large a part of this volume, opens a wide field for remark,
but our extracts have been already so considerable, that we cannot venture upon them. Briefly, however, we may observe, that amidst much ingenious and amusing criticism, there are to be found in them a laborious trifling which occasionally fatigues us, and an effort altogether disproportioned to the effect meant to be produced. Were this part of the work reduced to half its present bulk, (and we hope that opportunities will not be wanting) we inight then expect to receive a volume of which the illustrations should not be unworthy of the text.
De L'Allemagne. Par Madame la Baronne de Stael-Holstein.
3 vol. 8vo.
[From the Edinburgh Review.]
Most of our readers know that this work was suppressed at Paris about three years ago, after having passed through a rigorous examination by censors. The history of the examination and suppression, and the letter from the minister of police, given in the preface, are extremely curious. They are characteristical of Napoleon's government, and documents for the general istory of tyranny over literature. But it is the smallest distinction of this work, that it is the first of suppressed books. On other occasions, the circumstances of the publication would be the most interesting part of the book ; but the intrinsic and permanent importance of Madame de Staël's work immediately brings us to the consideration of the subject.
Till the middle of the 18th century, Germany was, in one important respect, singular among the great nations of Christendom. She had attained a high rank in Europe by discoveries and inventions, by science, by abstract speculation as well as positive know. ledge, by the genius and the art of war, and, above all, by the theological revolution which unfettered the understanding in one part of Europe, and loosened its chains in the other. But she was without a national literature. The country of Guttenberg, of Copernicus, of Luther, of Kepler, and of Leibnitz, had no writer in her own language whose name was known to the neighbouring nations. German captains and statesmen, philosophers and scholars, were celebrated: but German writers were unknown. The nations of the south, indeed, seemed to slumber. Those of the Spanish peninsula formed the exact contrast to Germany. She had every mark of mental cultivation but a vernacular literature.
They, since the Reformation, had ceased to exercise their reason; and they retained only their poets, whom they were content to admire, without daring any longer to emulate. In Italy, Metastasio was the only renowned poet; and sensibility to the arts of design had survived genius. But the monuments of ancient times still kept alive the pursuits of antiquities and philology. The rivalship of small states, and the glory of former ages, preserved an interest in literary history. The national mind retained that tendency towards experimental science, which it perhaps principally owed to the fame of Galileo; and began, also, to take some part in those attempts to discover the means of bettering the human condition, by inquiries into the principles of legislation and political economy, which form the most honourable distinction of the 18th century. France and England abated nothing of their activity. Whatever may be thought of purity of taste, or soundness of opinion, in Montesquieu and Voltaire, Buffon and Rousseau, no man will dispute the vigour of their genius. The same period among us was not marked by the loss of any of our ancient titles to fame; and it was splendidly distinguished by the rise of the arts, of history, of oratory, and (shall we not add ?) of painting
But Germany remained a solitary example of a civilized, learned, and scientific nation, without a literature. The chivalrous ballads of the middle age, and the efforts of the Silesian poets in the beginning of the 17th century, were just sufficient to render the general defect more striking. French was the language of every court; and the number of courts in Germany rendered this circumstance almost equivalent to the exclusion of German from every society of rank. Philosophers employed a barbarous latin, as they had throughout all Europe, till the Reformation had given dignity to the vernacular tongues, by employing them in the service of religion; and till Montaigne, Galileo, and Bacon, broke down the barrier between the learned and the people, by philosophizing in a popular language. The German language continued to be the mere instrument of the most.vulgar intercourse of life; Germany had, therefore, no exclusive mental possession; for poetry and eloquence may, and in some measure must be, national; but knowledge, which is the common patrimony of civilized men, can be appropriated by no people.
A great revolution, however, at length began, which, in the course of half a century, terminated in bestowing on Germany a literature, perhaps the most characteristic possessed by a European nation. It had the important peculiarity of being the first which had its birth in an enlightened age. The imagination and sensibility of an infant poetry were singularly blended with the
refinements of philosophy. A studious and learned people, familiar in the poets of other nations, with the first simplicity of na ture and feeling, were too often tempted to pursue the singular, the excessive, and the monstrous. Their fancy was attracted towards the deformities and diseases of moral nature the wildness of an infant literature, combined with the eccentric and fearless speculations of a philosophical age. Some of the qualities of the childhood of art were united to others which usually attend its decline. German literature, various, rich, bold, and at length, by an inversion of the usual progress, working itself into originality, was tainted with the exaggeration natural to the imitator, and to all those who know the passions rather by study than by feeling
Another cause concurred to widen the chasm which separated the German writers from the inost polite nations of Europe.
hile England and France had almost relinquished those more abstruse speculations which had employed them in the age of Gassendi and Hobbes, and, with a confused mixture of contempt and despair, had tacitly abandoned questions which seemed alike inscrutable and unprofitable--a metaphysical passion arose in Germany, stronger and more extensive than had been known in Europe since the downfall of the scholastic philosophy, A sys. tem of metaphysics appeared, which, with the ambition natural to that science, aspired to dictate principles to every part of human knowledge. It was for a long time universally adopted. Other systems, derived from it, succeeded each other with the rapidity of fashions in dress. Metaphysical publications were multiplied almost to the same degree, as political tracts in the most factious period of a popular government. The subject was soon exhausted, and the metaphysical passion seems to be nearly extinguished--for the small circle of dispute respecting first principles, must be always rapidly described; and the speculator, who Thought his course infinite, finds himself almost instantaneously returned to the point from which he began. But the language of abstruse research has spread over the whole German style. Allusions to the most subtle speculations are common in popular writings. Bold metaphors, derived from their peculiar philosophy, are familiar in observations on literature and manners.
The style of Germany at length differed from that of France, and even of England, more as the literature of the east differs from that of the west, than as that of one European people from that of their neighbours.
Hence it partly arose, that while physical and political Germany was so familiar to foreigners, intellectual and literary Germany continued almost unknown. Thirty years ago there were prá
bably in London as many Persian as German scholars. Neither Goethe nor Schiller conquered the repugnance. Political confusions, a timid and exclusive taste, and the habitual neglect of foreign languages, excluded German literature from France. Temporary and permanent causes contributed to banish it, after a short period of success, from England. Dramas, more remarkable for theatrical effect than for dramatic genius, exhibited scenes and characters of a paradoxical morality, (on which no writer has animadverted with more philosophical and moral eloquence than Mad. de Staël,) unsafe even in the quiet of the schools, but peculiarily dangerous in the theatre, where it comes into contact with the inflammable passions of ignorant multitudes; and justly alarming to those who, with great reason, considered domestic virtue as one of the privileges and safeguards of the English pation. These moral paradoxes, which were chiefly found among the inferior poets of Germany, appeared at the same time with the political novelties of the French revolution, and underwent the same fate. German literature was branded as the accomplice of freethinking philosophy and revolutionary politics. It happened, rather whimsically, that we now began to throw out the same reproaches against other nations, which the French had directed against us in the beginning of the eighteenth century. We were then charged by our polite neighbours with the vulgarity and turbulence of rebellious upstarts, who held nothing sacred in religion, or stable in government; whom “ no king could govern, and no God could please ;” and whose coarse and barbarous literature could excite only the ridicule of cultivated nations. The political part of these charges we applied to America, which had retained as much as she could of our government and laws; and the literary part to Germany, where literature had either been formed on our models, or moved by a kindred impulse, even where it assumed somewhat of a different form. The same persons who applauded, the wit, and pardoned the shocking licentiousness of English comedy were loudest in their clamours against the immorality of the German theatre. In our zeal against a few scenes, dangerous only by over-refinement, we seemed to have forgotten the vulgar grossness which tainted the whole brilliant period from Fletcher to Congreve. Nor did we sufficiently remember, that the most daring and fantastical combinations of the German stage did not approach to that union of taste and sense in the thought and expression, with wildness and extravagance in the invention of monstrous character and horrible incident, to be found in some of our earlier dramas, which, for their energy and beauty, the public taste has lately recalled from oblivion.
The more permanent causes of the slow and small progress of