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therewith his interest in humanity as a whole. Peculiar admixture — this
preparation for 'The Life of Christ, represented according to German
investigations — the foundation of German regeneration.'

The ' manuscript,' the twenty-sixth chapter, which is absolutely
necessary as an organic part of the novel, is the storm center of criticism.
It has been attacked by hardshcllcd orthodoxy, higher criticism and atheism.
It has been received with misgivings and exultant joy. Witlial it is a natural
product of the religious reformation which is abroad in (jirmany. Thou-
sands of Germans have read this life of Christ as Hcinke Boje did. 'Fheir
thoughts have run to him of whom they have read, to the pure, vigorous



382 HILLIGENLEI

man, the most beaiititul ot the children of men. Their faith has dune as
a vine to his faith. Many good people have fallen away from the poet of
' Jorn Uhl.' And some who stood in awe before the eternal Son of God
have lost this fear and have entered upon evil ways. This chapter has left
a deep impression upon the minds of Germany and upon the religious
revolution.

It is a powerful chapter, full of the very life of Christ, full of Christ's
grand teachings. It leads us away from Slesvig-Holstein to the country
in which Christ lived, wandered and taught. We feel a faith, pure, strong
and good. We see the intense conflicts of that social revolution which has
left its impression on the development of humanity. We behold the simple
and grand life of Christ. We shudder at the strongly affecting death of
Christ. We are carried away in joy and compassion by this drama of life,
stripped of wonders and supernatural elements. It leads us to the footsteps
and back again to our own decade and to our own life.

The heart of the reader beats with the heart of the poet. But, we follow
the poet's own advice in ' Jorn Uhl,' read through Matthew and Mark to
see whether or not the poet has swallowed a goodly piece of the evangel and
misinterpreted another; to see whether the connecting links are not too
short. Involuntarily we are searching for the Holy.

When one looks upon the 'Life' as a whole, one naturally thinks of
Frenssen's criticism of the world's great philosophers and applies it to
himself: 'There is much "Dunkles und Kindlich-Wirres' in him.' When
one thinks of the poet's criticism of Paul, how under the inspiration of his
wonderful vision he made out of Christ a divine being, an eternal wonder-
man, one fears that Frenssen is likewise transported by his 'Marchen' of
nature and human life.

One wishes that Frenssen had rewritten his epitome of the history of
hundreds of thousands of years; that he had left to the reason of the reader
the firstly and secondly of the preacher and the eliminations of the debater;
that he had left to the future his exultant prophecy. If this faith is certain,
if this foundation is solid, school children, youih, artists, scholars, pastors,
state and Christianity will experience the joys prophesied.

Is the foundation which Frenssen gives certain and solid .? We fear
not. The writer himself was too uncertain. He was too 'grubelnd.' We
miss the inspiration of Paul, the certainty of the angry Luther, the insight
of the sceptical old philosopher of Weimar, the exactness of modern scholar-
ship, the fullness of life of a forceful man. But as we lay this novel aside,
so full of treasures for the future of the German people and literature, we
carry with us the encouraging assurance: 'Neues Korn spriesst auf. '



PEER GYNT— AN INTERPRETATION

By Jane Dransfield Stone

AFTER writing 'Brand, Ibsen went into southern Italy,
and threw himself into the composition of 'Peer Gynt.'
' It is wild and formless,' he writes of it ' and written without
regard to consequences.' Yet as with all his dramas,
it had lain a long time in embryo in the poet's mind. The
same mood of indignation against his countrymen, the
same criticism of the Norwegian character which had
resulted in 'Brand' gave birth also to 'Peer Gynt'; though Ibsen himself
scarcely realized this, and said in a letter to Hegel, that if 'the Norwegians
of the present day recognize themselves in the character of Peer Gynt, that
is the good people's own affair.'* The pure poetry of his creation appealed
to him more than its polemic, and he constantly pleaded for the book to
be enjoyed as a work of the imagination. He writes, 'I learn that the book
created much e.xcitement in Norway.' This does not trouble me in the
least; but both there and in Denmark they have discovered much more
satire in it than was intended by me. Why can they not read the book as
a poem ^ For as such I wrote it.'** The criticism of its art form he met
with a prophetic sense of its future justification. 'My book is poetry, and
if it is not, then it will be. The conception of poetry shall be made to con-
form to the book.'***

Thus it is not strange that two works of such seemingly diverse char-
acter should have been produced at the same period of development, and
at so short an interval. 'Brand' was published in March, 1866: Peer
Gynt' in November, 1867. Yet though similar in ethical bearing, the
atmosphere of the two poems is totally different. 'Brand' is deep: 'Peer
Gynt' is wide. 'Brand' is cold, clear-cut, and defined. The ice winds of
the north blow down through it, chilling us to the soul. 'Peer Gynt' is
warm, glowing with color, the strange flowering of a rich imagination.
The greatness of the work grows upon one. Upon first reading it, one mav
be carried away with the bewildering conceits, the play of wit, the droll
situations, the abandonment to the spirit of pure fantasy; but it is only
after study that the deeper meanings come to light, and the work is lifted

• 24th February, 1868. •• Ibid. ••• To Bjornson, 0th December, 1867.



384 PEER GYNT — AN INTERPRETATION

out of its provincial, or Scandinavian aspect to its position as the greatest
drama since 'Faust.' So Scandinavian in tone that Ibsen feared it would
not be understood out of Norway and Denwark, yet it has made its appeal to
all peoples through its deep searching into the human heart.

Who and what then is Peer Gynt ? The poem has its roots deep in
the folk-lore of the north. Ibsen describes his hero as 'one of those half-
mvthical, fanciful characters existing in the annals of the Norwegian
peasantry of mo J em times,' and again as a 'real person who lived in Gud-
brandsdal, probably at the end of the last, or the beginning of this century.
His name is still well-known among the peasants there: but of his exploits
not much more is known than is to be found in Asojornsen's 'Norwegian
Fairv-Tale Book,' in the section. 'Pictures from the mountains.' 'Thus
I have not had ver\' much to build upon, but so much the more liberty has
been left me.'* The man Peer Gynt, therefore, is so enshrouded in the
mists of oblivion that the character Peer Gynt is far more real and we feel
that in him Ibsen has added another to the great living fictitious personages
of all time.

Peer's character, as always in Ibsen, has marked inherited traits.
Descended from a formerly well-to-do family of the upper peasant class.
Peer and his mother live in a poverty lighted only by memories of former
magnificance. Ibsen says that there is much in the poem reminiscent of his
own youth, and consequently in the pictures of the feasts in the hall of the
rich old Jon Gynt the poet may be said to have harked back to the time
when his father was a wealthy merchant of Skein, and he lived in the midst
of a prodigal display. We have his own word, too, that his mother, with
necessary exaggerations, served as model for Ase. Perhaps this may account
for the kindly touch with which old 'Ase is drawn.' A foolish, fond, scold,
loving her son, but never disciplining him, abusing him roundly to his face,
but his staunchest ally in his absence, praying in the same breath that he
may be punished, and may be saved from punishment. She has impUcit
faith in his future and his own dreams of greatness.

'Thou art come of great things. Peer Gynt,
And great things shall come of thee.'

When we first see Peer, he is a strong young man of twenty, a roman-
cing, ragged braggadocio, with a lilt on his tongue, and a gleam in his eye, —
a good-for-nothing, who has never learned an honest trade, and cannot even
mend the broken window panes in his mother's house. He can tell you
a fine tale, however. Listen to that ride of his over Gendean Edge, and his

• To F. Hegel, 8th August, 1867.



JANE DRANSFIELD STONE 385

wild leap on the buck's back from the mountain-top down into the black
tarn so far below.

'Buck from over, buck from under,
In a moment clashed together.
Scattering foam-flecks all around.'

So potent is the spell he cast upon his auditors that you do not wonder
his mother believes him until suddenly it dawns upon her that her son's
wonderful experience is only the rehearsal of a folk tale she had told him
herself, in those days when she crooned fairy tales to him to drown their
sense of wretchedness and care.

And why does he tell this story ? To save himself a scolding, since for
six weeks, in the busiest season of the year, he has been lurking in the
mountains on a fruitless hunting trip, returning without gun, without game,
and with clothes torn, having lost meantime his chance to win a rich girl,
Ingrid of Hegstad, for his bride, since even now the wedding is going on.
Even so early in his career, he tries to elude the unpleasant consequences
of his own acts, a trait he inherits. 'It's a terrible thing to look fate in the
eyes,' says Ase and to her son it becomes constantly harder.

Throughout the first act, the picture of Peer is that of a pure romancer,
indulging in day-dreams of his own future greatness, when he shall have
become emperor of the whole world, exploiting his wonderful adventures
before his incredulous companions, reckless, heedless, and daring, but as
yet undebased. When Solveig comes in, with her modest downcast
glances, and her psalm-book wrapped in a handkerchief, her purity attracts
him irresistibly, and could he have been content to have won her gently,
he might have found in her then his 'kaiserdom,' might in her have become
great. But Solveig rejects his too swift advances. His companions laugh
at his tales, and their laughter bites. Scorn and rejection wound his pride,
forcing him to do some daring deed. Some of old Ase's tales had been of
bride-rape. The least hint is enough, and the act closes with Peer stealing
Ingrid from the store-house, shouldering her bodily, and running off with
her up the hill, old Ase left scolding below.

In the second act a subtle change for the worse comes over Peer. The
descent, however, is gradual. He tires of Ingrid, and deserts her, but
still remembers Solveig.

'Devil take the tribe of women
All but one.'

When he plunges into the low amours with the three saeter girls, it is
'Heavy of heart, and wanton of mind.
The eyes full of laughter, the throat of tears.'



386 PEER G^NT— AN INTERPRETATION

After his escapade with the Dovre king's daughter, however, the
Green Clad One, there is httle to hke in Peer except his very human nianoeu-
vering always to come out on the top. The Troll philosophy dominates
him, even though he repudiates the idea of complete subjection to troUdom.

It may be well to pause here, to consider the significance of the troll
element ot the play. The Dovre kingdom seems as funny a topsy-turvy
world as any creation of Lewis Carrol's, but with far more meaning. Trolls
are creatures of purely northern mythology, corresponding in their milder
aspects to the English brownies. But Ibsen uses them as the exponents
of absolute selfishness — that part of human nature which never rises above
itself, sees nothing but as it desires to see it, and has no will but self-will.
The Dovre king's motto, 'Troll to thyself be enough,' and the Boyg's
'roundabout' are the keynotes of their philosophy.

The Boyg is one of the most interesting and puzzling elements of the
play. Archer says that 'the idea of this vague, shapeless, ubiquitous,
inevitable, invulnerable thing was what chiefly fascinated the poet's imagi-
nation in the legend of Peer Gynt.' When it is killed it is still alive, un-
wounded when hurt, is both out and in, forward and back, conquers without
force. It is a lion and women in one, yet whatever it is, it is ever itself,
and is only vanquished, not by physical might, but troll-fashion, by the
power of the spirit, symbolized in the ringing of church bells, and the
prayers of women.

Recalling 'Brand,' Georg Brandes identifies this mysterious being
with the spirit of Compromise. Mr. Wicksteed, viewing it in the light of
Scene 12, Act IV, calls it the sphinx-riddle of life. One hesitates to cata-
gorize so vague a thing, and to each attentive reader the Boyg must make
a different appeal. To me it means St. Paul's carnal mind of man —
'mortal mind' — a Christian Scientist would say — that element in man
which is purely human, which baffles his best desires, which suggests that
he go 'roundabout' to escape his difficulties, rather than through them,
and which is only overcome through spirituality. It ever vaunts itself to be
a great /, a great myself, but is in reality nothing.

The third act shows further the deterioration in Peer's character, and
his inability to face the unpleasant. Banished to the woods as an outlaw
in consequence of the bride-rape, Peer has never been forgotten by Solveig,
who though rejecting his too swift advances has nevertheless established
in her soul an ideal of Peer, which she worships. Thinking it was the real
Peer she loves, she forsakes her dear father, mother, and sister, and comes
to him in the forest; Peer greets her with joy.

'Solveig! let me look at you — but not too near!
Only look at you! Oh, but you are bright and pure, —



JANE DRANSFIELD STONE 387

Let me lift you, — Oh, but you are fine and light.
Let me carry you Solveig — and I'll never be tired.'

But in the midst of his rejoicing, along comes the Green Clad One
with an ugly little boy, and tells him that this is his child, 'lame in his leg,
as Peer was lame in his soul,' begotten only of lustful thoughts and desires,
the way of generation in the Dovre kingdom. She tells Peer he may marry
Solveig if he will, but that she is his wife, and must have her seat by his side,
though Solveig be there too. In this predicament, what is Peer's course ?
Repentance t The word comes to him from long-forgotten years, and has
now no meaning. Expiation ? Why, it would take whole years to fight
his way through. The Boyg said, 'roundabout,' and the Boyg philosophy
conquers. Without a word of explanation, bidding her only wait his return.
Peer takes to his heels, leaving the woman who loves him to bear alone the
long years of life. Probably it was better for Solveig that he did, never-
theless that does not exonerate Peer.

Solveig is the beautiful element of the play. Every scene in which she
appears is lifted at once into the realm of pure poetry. She is so pure and
so good. As Agnes might have been Brand's salvation, bringing peace
to his restless soul, could he but have accepted her vision of life, so she,
who made it a holy day when one looked at her might have uplifted Peer
had he been capable of being true to her.

This third act contains another great scene — the death scene of Ase,
one of the strangest death scenes in all literature — fantastic, tender, weird,
yet infinitely pathetic and real. Poor ugly old Ase! Because her son has
been declared an outlaw, all her property, such as she had, has been taken
from her by the bailiff. Even the house is hers only until her death, and
now she lies on the little hard board bed Peer used as a child, moaning and
tossing, and longing to see Peer once more before she dies. Not a word of
reproach shall he have from her. It was not his fault. It was the drink
at the wedding feast that crazed his head. So Peer enters to look in upon
his mother for the last time, before embarking for some foreign land. He
sees his mother's condition, but death is horrible to him, as we see in Act V
in his interview with the Strange Passenger. He will listen to no word of
parting, ignores her request for the comfort of the prayer-book, will chat
only of 'this, and that,' and finally, seeing her great distress, mounts a chair,
and spirits her away on the 'fleet foot horses' to the world beyond.

'To the castle west of the moon and the castle east of the sun —
To Soria-lMoria Castle.'
where

'The King and the Prince give a feast.'



388 PEER G\NT-AN INTERPRETATION

Here, too. Peer is unable to face the unpleasant. Nevertheless, as he
bends over his mother, kissing her thanks for both 'beatings and lullabys,'
we rtnd him infinitely more human than Brand, cruelly deserting his mother
in her last hour, trom rigid devotion to principle.

Between acts three and four nearly thirty years elapse, and when next
we see Peer he is a handsome portly gentleman of fifty. AH the glamour
of the youthful Peer has vanished. He is still a romancer, but the touch
of poetry is gone. He still dreams of becoming 'kaiser' of the whole world,
but now on a basis of gold. He has become rich, selling slaves to America,
and idols to China. He has picked up learning, and a cosmopolitan dash
from every country of Europe. He has grown pious, too, keeping a sort
of debit and credit with God, so that for every export of idols to China in
the spring, he sent out missionaries in the fall.

'What could I do.'' To stop the trade

With China was impossible.

A plan I hit on — opened straightway

A new trade with the self-same land.

I shipped off idols every spring.

Each autumn sent forth missionaries.

Supplying them with all they needed,

As stockings. Bibles, rum, and rice.'
Mr. Cotton. —

'Yes, at a profit ? '
Peer. —

'Why, of course.

It prospered. Dauntlessly they toiled.

For every idol that was sold

They got a coolie well baptized,

So that the effect was neutralized.'
Vam and ridiculous as Peer has become, we laugh at him not with
him, as in a series of brilliant kaleidoscopic scenes, we seen him storming
on the Moroccan coast, because his sycophant friends have run off with
his gold: — treed by monkeys in the desert: — plucked by Anitra, his Ara-
bian amour;. — and finally crowned as 'kaiser' in a mad house in Cairo.
The Gyntish Self stands complete. Imagining himself master of every
situation, he is in reality but the merest will-of-the-wisp, drifting hither
and thither on every wind of chance. Yet he considers himself a success,
for has he not always been himself.?

This 'being one's self is the keynote of the poem. What does Ibsen
mean : That to him it was the paramount issue of life, there is little doubt.



JANE DRANSFIELD STONE 3^9

He writes to Bjornson — 'So to conduct one's life as to realize one's self —
this seems to me the highest attainment possible to a human being. lus
the task of one and all of us. but most of us bungle it.'* And again,— * I
believe that there is nothing else and nothing better for us all to do than
in spirit and in truth to realize our selves.'** And, 'The great thing is
to become honest and truthful in deaHng with one's self— not to determme
to do this or determine to do that, but to do what one must do because one

is one's self.'***

The character of Peer Gynt is the negative working out of this theme.
In Peer we see that 'being one's self is not. To Peer, to 'be himself
meant to carr)' out each momentary impulse: never to burn a bridge behind
him, but always to evade responsibility, to blame not himself for his failures,
but circumstances.

'To stand with choice-free foo';
Amid the treacherous snares of Hfe, —
To know that ever in the rear
A bridge for our retreat stands open
This theory has borne me on.
And given my w^hole career its color.'
More or less we are all of us Peer Gynts. Our lives are not determined
by a willed fidelity to an ideal, but like Peer we are tossed here and there
by fleeting ambitions and momentary desires. Ibsen has no sympathy
with his trifling attitude toward life. In his early plays, especially the
historical series, he talks much of fulfilling one's calling, of one's divine
mission in life. Is everyone, then, destined to a great career ? The poem
has two direct answers to this question. First, in the episode of the poor
peasant who cut off his finger, thereby incapacitating himself for military
service for which he was drafted, because he knew he was needed at home.
'No patriot was he. Both for church and state
A fruitless tree. But there, on the upland ridge.
In the small circle where he saw his calling.
There he was great, because he was himself.'
This is Goethe's 'In der Beschrankung zeigt sich erst der Meister'— and
Matthew Arnold's — 'In their own tasks all their powers pouring.'

Solveig's faith is also an answer. After the scene in which Peer is
fleeced, then deserted by Anitra, for an instant we are transported again
to the north, and look upon Solveig, now a middle-aged woman, sitting
before the door of the hut Peer had built in the forest and singing as she spins.

•8th August, 1882. •• To Theodor Carjiari, 27th June, 1884. »*• To Laura

Keller, 11th June, 1870,



390 PEER GYNT— AN INTERPRETATION

'Maybe hoth the winter and spring will pass by,
And the next summer too, and the whole of the year: —
But thou wilt come one day, that I know full well:
And I will await thee as I promised thee of old.

[Calls the goats, spins, and sings again.]
God strengthen thee, whereso thou goest in the world!
God sladden thee, if at his footstool thou stand!
Here will I await thee till thou comest agam:
And if thou wait up yonder, then there we'll meet, my friend.'
In her beautiful fidelity to the ideal Peer within her heart, lies Solveig's
greatness, and finall) Peer's salvation. So that we see that Ibsen's idea
is neither selfish idealism, as Brand's, nor selfish realism, as Peer Gynt's,
but the unselfish working out of the best in us: — the attainment of spiritual
liberty, and wholeness of life.

The fourth act is clever satire, the fifth pure and great poetry. So
slender are the threads, however, that bind it to earth, that the reader is
inclined to regard its events as merely symbolic. Such was not Ibsen's
intention. Even Mr. Clemens Petersen's statement that the Strange
Passenger symbolized terror aroused Isben's anger. 'He (Clemens Peter-
sen) says that the Strange Passenger is symbolic of terror. Supposing that
I had been about to be executed and that such an explanation would have
saved my life, it would never have occurred to me. I never thought of such
a thing. I stuck in the scene as a mere caprice. And tell me now, is Peer
Gynt himself not a personality complete and individual ? I know that
he is.'*

Briefly, the fifth act may be outlined as follows: Peer, now a miserly
old man, is returning to Norway. Just off the coast he is shipwrecked, and
saves his life by knocking the ship's cook off the little boat to which they
were both clinging. Peer escapes, and returns to his old home, where he
finds himself but a tradition. He seeks the forest, the scene of his outlawry,
where he comes upon Solveig still waiting for him, but he flees from her.
The Button-Moulder comes along with his casting-ladle, looking for one
Peer Gynt, whom his master has ordered him to melt up along with other
spoilt goods into something new. Peer resents this 'Gynt-cessation' with
all his heart. Either one of two things he must prove to save himself,
either that he has always been himself, or that he is an exceptional sinner.
Peer. —

One question only:
What is it, at bottom, this "being one's self".''

» To Bjornson, 9th December, 1867.



JANE DRANSFIELD STONE 391

The Button-Moulder. —

*To be one self is : to slay oneself.
But on you that answer is doubtless lost:
And therefore we'll say: to stand forth everywhere
With Master's intention displayed like a signboard.'
Peer can not claim he has been himself according to this standard:
nor can he prove himself a great sinner.
The Button-Moulder. —

'You're not one thing nor the other then, only so-so.
A sinner of really grandiose style
Is nowadays not to be met on the highways.
It wants much more than merely to wallow in mire.
For both vigor and earnestness go to a sin.'
Is there no one in heaven or hell, then, to save him ? In his terror he remem-
bers the one against whom he has really sinned. Surely Solveig will have
a sin-list for him, but when he throws himself before her to hear his doom,


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