Kuno Francke.

A history of German literature as determined by social forces online

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At last, with sobs and tears, she tells something like the
following :

" ' For the past three years my husband has not been able to
pay the taxes to the lord bishop. The first year the crops failed;
the second, the wild boars of the bishop ruined everything; and
the third year, the bishop's hunt went over our fields. Since
the bailiff was continually threatening my husband with eviction,
he was going to-day to drive a fattened calf and his last pair of
oxen to Frankfurt, to sell them in order to pay his taxes. As he
was driving out of the yard, the steward of the bishop came and
demanded the calf for the bishop's table. My husband repre-
sented to him his distress, and implored him to consider what a
cruelty it would be to force this calf from him for nothing, which
in Frankfurt he could sell for a good price. The steward asked
whether he did not know that a peasant was not allowed to trans-
port anything beyond the frontier which belonged to him, the
steward. While they were talking, the bailiff with his constables
appeared. Instead of taking my husband's part, he had the oxen
unhitched; the steward took the calf; the constables drove me
and the children from hearth and home; and my despairing
husband cut his throat in the barn. There! see him under this
sheet! We sit here to guard his body from the wild beasu; for
the priest is not willing to bury him.' She tore the white sheet
from the corpse, and sank to the ground. Faust started back at
the terrible sight. He cried, 'Mankind! mankind! is this thy
lot ? Did God allow this unfortunate man to be born, that a ser-
vant of his religion should drive him into suicide ? ' '*

Faust rides to the bishop's palace. The bishop, a * fat,
red, jovial prelate,' invites him to the table. During the
dinner Faust, still quivering with excitement, relates what
he has seen and heard in the morning. Nobody seems to
pay attention to it. Faust grows all the more earnest and
aggressive. The bishop, to divert the conversation, says to
the steward: * Steward, that's a nice calf's head there in the
centre of the table.' Steward : ' Why, that's the head of



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THE AGE OF THE REVOLUTION. 307

Hans Ruprecht's calf.' Bishop: ' Well, well ! All the bet-
ter! Let me carve it/ The steward places the platter
before the bishop. Faust whispers something into the
devil's ear, and at the moment when the bishop puts his
knife on the calf's head, it is changed into the head of
Ruprecht staring wild and bloody into the bishop's eyes.
The bishop drops the knife, and falls into a fainting fit, and
the whole company sit paralyzed and terror-stricken.*

Or, finally, listen to the fierce denunciation of princely
voluptuousness and avarice in Scbubartjs FiirsUngTuXt
(1781). " There they lie, the remnants of a
proud past, once the idols of a world, now the «?'* ^^
prey of worms and decay ! The hand which '*™*°©''*^
once threw a freeman into chains, because he spoke the
truth, has now shrivelled to a bone. Dried up are the
channels in which once wanton blood was boiling, poison-
ing virtue of soul and body. They who petted dogs and
horses and foreign wenches, and allowed genius and wis-
dom to starve, they are themselves now left alone and
friendless.

Weckt flie nur nicht mit eurem bangen Achzen,
Ibr Scharen, die sie arm gemacht,
Verscheucht die Raben, dass voa ihrem KrAchzea
Kein Wtitrich hier erwachtl

Hier klatsche nicht des armen Landmanns Peitsche,
Die nachts das Wild vom Acker scheuchtl
An diesem Gitter weile nicht der Deutsche, ,

Der siech vortlberkeuchtl

Hier heale nicht der bleiche Waisenknabe,
Dem ein Tyrann den Vater nahm;
Nie flache hier der Krdppel an dem Stabe*
Von fremdem Solde lahml

• Cf. Burger's Dtrwilde Jdger (DHL. LXXVIII. 831) and Vosi's
DU Leibeigenen (GtdUhU 1785,/. xi).
MZ>Arz.LXXXI,375ff.



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308 SOCIAL FORCES IN GERMAN LITERATURE.

Damit die Quftler nicht zu frtlh erwachen,
Seid menschlicher, erweckt sie nicht.
Ha! frah genng wird fiber ibnen krachen
Der Donner am Gericht!

Evidently there was plenty of inflaramable material in
lUfdvtloiiarT ^^^ ^^^^ ^^ serve as fuel for a revolution. And
■piiit. there was plenty of revolutionary spirit also to

kindle the latent fire into open conflagation.

Nur Freiheitsschwert ist Schwert fllr das Vaterlandl
Wer Freiheitsschwert hebt, flammt durch das Schlachtgewflhl
Wie Blitz des Nachtsturmsl Stttrzt PalOstel
Sttirze Tyrann, dem Verderber GottesI

O Namen, Namen festlich wie Siegsgesangt
Tell! Hermann! Klopstock! Brutus! Timoleonl
O ihr, wem f reie Seele Gott gab,
Flam mend ins eherne Herz gegraben!

It would be in vain to look in such eflfusions as these —
they are from Fritz von Stolbergfs famous Ode to >Ui<riy
(1775) " — it would be in vain to look here for any dis-
tinct political programme or for a serious plan of action of
any kind. These young champions of freedom were so
absorbed in their own feelings that they had no time or
strength left for practical exertion. Yet, that the very ex-
pression of sentiments like these pointed toward a coming
revolution, there can be no doubt. And what else but revo-
lutionary was that craving for Klopstockian originality, for
the Nature of Rousseau, for the weirdness and wildness
of Ossian, which again and again breaks out in the writ-
ings of these years ? What else but revolutionary were the
favourite heroes of this generation: Faust, the rebel against
tradition and accepted wisdom; Promet he us, the titanic
despiser of the Olympians, the champion of untrammelled

" Di€ FreikHt (1775); Ges. Werke 1, 19. Cf. Goethe's characteria^
Uon of the brothers Stolberg, DUhtg u. fVdJkrJL b. 18; Wirki XXIII,
53 ff.



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THE ACE OF THE REVOLUTION. 3O9

humanity ; and so many similar names of legend, history,
or fiction ?

In Klinger's drama 5/^rw und Dranjg (1776), the influ-
ence of which is demonstrated by the fact that it has given
the name to the whole movement, the principal
hero, from mere excess of vitality and an indefi- SJ^^^
nite craving for boundless activity, runs away to Drang,
take part in the American Revolution.

** I had to run away/' he says," ** to get out of this fearful
restlessness and uncertainty. Have been everything. Became
a day-labourer to be something. Lived on the Alps, pastured
goats, lay day and night under the boundless vault of the heavens,
cooled by the winds, burning with an inner fire. Nowhere rest,
nowhere repose. See, thus I am glutted by impulse and power,
and cannot work it out of me. I am going to take part in this
campaign as a volunteer; there I can expand my soul, and if they
do me the favour to shoot me down, — all the better."

In DicZmUitt&l (i776)> perhaps the most powerful of all
of Klinger's productions, Guelfo, the fratricide,
gives vent to his untamable passion in the fol- "•*^^^"^"«**
lowing manner":

" Has not everything a sting for revenge ? Does not the worm
under thy foot coil up and try to avenge itself ? I have hated
him from the cradle, hated him from the hour when his vanity
wanted to overreach me, hated him from his first childish babble.
Ha! Did he not once in sport call me ' little Guelfo ' ? Did I not
strike him down for it ? The clothes he wore I hated. Did he
wear a coat of the colour of mine, I would tear mine to pieces.
When all the boys had imitated my firm step, he also wanted to
copy it. But I worked at my knees and worked until my step
had changed. — It seems to me sometimes I hate Camilla, because
I saw her lips on his. And when I think what life is, how one, who

" Sturm u. Dran^ I, i; DNL, LXXIX, 68. Cf. Wagner's JCitt-
derm. IV, i : "Noch heut' macht' ich mich auf den Weg nach Ame-
rika, und hftlf fUr die FreUieit ttreiten."

" DuZwiUinj^ III, i; /. r. 40. 37. For the relation oi Klinger's
drama to Leistyritz's Julius von TarentcU Hettn«r/. c. III. i,/. 351 f.



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310 SOCIAL FORCES IN GERMAN LITERATURE.

has a powerful soul, lies on the ground, and another, a feeble,
vain, coaxing sycophant, steps over him and takes a high place!
I am only Guelfo, a man by bis deeds terrible alike to friend
and foe. And there, Ferdinando, a weak, miserable, toy mani-
kin, with a bit of a girl's heart, talking incessantly about senti-
ment. — I must, I must! Fate has spoken, I must! The angel
of Death flourishes his bloody sword over me and touches my
soul! I must, I must! "

Malex Mulkr, another of these young fire-eaters, prefaces
MalerM'dller'i ^^s drama Fausi'siZcbeAX^J^) ^* the follow-
PanBt. ing reflection ":

" Faust was one of the favourite heroes of my childhood,
because I early recognised him as a great fellow, a fellow who
feels all his power, feels the bridle which Fate has put upon him,
and tries to throw it off, who has the courage to hurl everything
down that steps in his way to check him. — Is it not in human
nature to lift one's self as high as possible, to be fully what one
feels he might be ? The grumbling, too, against Fate and the
world, which hold us down, which force our noble self, our inde-
pendent will into the yoke of conventions, is in human ilatnre.
Where is the lowly, long-suffering creature which never would
wish to soar upward, which would resign itself of its own accord,
which would delight in its own degradation ? I have no feeling
for such a creature; I should consider it a monstrosity which had
issued prematurely from the womb of nature and in which nature
has no part. — There are moments in life — who does not know
them? — when the heart overleaps itself, when the best, the
noblest fellow, in spite of justice and law» cannot help being
carried beyond himself."

Biiijj;jer'9 whole life and work was a continual rebellion
against accepted respectability and order. In his ballads —
^^^ Lenore (1773), Der IViide Jdger (1778), Dis

BiDger. Pfarrers Tochter von Taubenhain (i 781)," and

others — he displays a marvellous power of naturalistic ef-
fects. Irresistibly he forces the hearer into the wild dance

" Preface to Faust* s Leben ; DLD, nr. 3, /. 8.

» DNL. LXXVIII, 17a 231. 241. Cf. Er. Schmklt, Ckarakt. 1998:



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THE AGE OF THE REVOLUTION. 3II

of his feverish imagination. He revels in the gruesome
and the sensational. He makes the ghastly as ghastly as
possible, he makes the atrocities, especially those committed
by noblemen against the common people, as atrocious as
possible. In his lyric poems he reveals his stormy, unruly
heart without reserve or restriction. He is pursued by a
passionate love for his wife's sister. Far from suppressing
his desire, he speaks of it as a necessity, as a natural right **;
he glories in it, he surrounds it with all the halo of para-
disiac innocence and beauty." And when at last his poor,
devoted wife dies, and he is allowed to make Molly also
legally his own, the frenzied man breaks out into a trium-
phal song of praise and joy.**

yilhe lm H einse, in his ArdinghfiUo (1787), goes so far as
to preach unbridled license as the highest law of nature.
With him there is no attempt at palliating or
apologizing for things. Life is the self-mani- fj^^i^
festation of an elemental instinct. Passion,
lust, crime, are necessary forms of existence. Or rather,
there is no crime in the ordinary sense. The only real
crime' is weakness; the true virtue is power; the highest
good is beauty, the manifestation of power. Thus Ar-
dinghello rages through his life from seduction to murder,
from murder to seduction, ever remorseless, ever master
of himself, ever teeming with vitality, ever revelling in
voluptuous delights^ a Napoleon of sensuality. He him-
self says of Hannibal **:

^ Cf. the poem An die Menschengesichter; ib, 94 :

Ich habe was Liebes, das hab ich zu lieb ;
Was kann ich, was kann ich dafflr?
and the sonnet Naiurrecht; ib. lao.
" Cf. the poem Untreue Uber AlUs; ib. 238.

'* Das hohe Lied van der Einugen; ib, 122. It is not surprising that
Schiller shonld have had a natural aversion to BUrger. Cf. his essay
Ueber Burgers Gedichte (1791); Sdmmtl, Schr, VI, 314 ff.
»• ArdingJkeila b. V; DJ^TL. CLXXXVI, 131.



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312 SOCIAL FORCES IN GERMAN LITERATURE.

" Among all heroic expeditions none has impressed me so much
as that of Hannibal through Italy. From. his plunge over the
wild, swift streaming Rhone below Avignon, and the bold march
through the rapid torrents, the dark gorges, over the primeval
snow and ice of Alpine rocks, — in every one of his battles he
appears as an Olympian athlete. Everywhere with his well-
trained little troop he falls upon his big clumsy antagonist, strikes
him down, and beats his nose, ears, and jaws into one bleeding
mass. He understood the art of victory, as no one else. Before,
in the midst of, and after the battle he handled armies of hun-
dreds of thousands like a single man; at every spot, at every
moment, full of caution, alertness, courage, shrewdness, and
presence of mind. What a succession of exploits! Like an un-
tamable lion bent on revenge, he tears through the land,
destroying and devouring the herds of cattle and the bleeding
sheep. What are millions of men, who all their lives have had
not a single hour like this, compared with this one man ? **

At last Ardinghello founds a communistic state, the most
characteristic features of which are free love, woman suf-
frage, and the worship of the elements. In a parable which
may be taken as a motto of the whole novel, Heinse ex-
presses his view of life thus":

" A waxen house-god, left out of sight, stood by the side of
a fire in which beautiful Campanian vases were being hardened,
and began to melt. He bitterly complained to the flames.
' Look,' he said, ' how cruelly you treat me. To those vessels
yonder you lend durability, and me you destroy.' The fire
answered: ' Complain rather of your own nature. As to myself,
I am fire everywhere,' "

In a word, then, all German literature of those years
0*M«» wUoh seems to be aflame. A new order of things
S^uir«TD- Beems about to break forth from the brain of
J?^*^^ the nation. A political and social revolution
oentnry. seems imminent. Why did this revolution
not come ?

••Z>Arz. CLXXXVI, 58.



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THE AGE OF THE REVOLUTION. 313

A number of causes co-operated to prevent it. In the
first place, the revolution was, to a certain extent at least,
forestalled by reform measures, emanating from ^^1^,,^^,
the rulers themselves. Fredericjc A^ Gr<?^ was natingfrDm
by no means the only German Prince of the ♦^•P*w«"«
eighteenth century who understood the signs of the time.
However high he stands above- the emperor Joseph II.
(1765-90) in political discernment and in statesmanlike
appreciation of the difference between the desirable and
the attainable, — the youthful enthusiasm, the reformatory
zeal of the latter were none the less worthy of the admira-
tion bestowed upon them by the best men of his time; and if
he had accomplished nothing but the abolition of serfdom,
this alone would be sufficient to secure him a place among
the benefactors of humanity. Nor were these two great
princes alone in their lofty view of the tasks and duties of
rulers. Karl August of Sachsen- Weimar, Karl Friedrich of
Baden, Max Joseph of Baiem, Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand of
Braunschweig among the secular; Friedrich Franz von
FUrstenberg of Miinster, Emmerich Joseph of Mainz,
Franz Ludwig von Erthal of Wiirzburg-Bamberg among
the ecclesiastical princes, were shining examples of en-
lightened statesmanship. They were men who considered
themselves servants of the state, if not of the people ; and
by alleviating feudal burdens, by softening class distinctions
and enmities, by improving the judiciary, by fostering in-
stitutions of learning, by patronizing men of genius and
culture,** they did much toward reconciling even the bois-
terous spirits of the ' Sturm und Drang ' period to existing

^ Cf. L. Httusser, Deutsche GeschichU vom Tode FriedrUhs d, Gros*
sen Hs tur GrUndung d. deutschen Bundes I» 94 ff. 106 ff. — A typical
representative of this spirit of an enlightened and sober liberalism is
Georg Forster (1754-1794)* author of the Ansichien vom Niederrhein
(1791). Selected essays of Forster's DLD. nr, 46-47. About the
tragic fate which finally drove this man into the arms of the Jacobins
tf. Biederroann /. c. U, 3,/. 1 197 ff.



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314 SOCIAL FORCES IN GERM AH LITERATURE.

conditions. The days of an Augustus the Strong belonged
irrevocably to the past"; the German people as a rule
were right when they looked to their princes for reform
and progress.

Secondly. The dismemberment of the German empire
into an infinitude of little independent sovereignties, hurtful
Wholesome as it was politically, was at the same time not
"iW^ald** without its compensating social advantages*
oentraliMtion. The proverb " Under the crozier there is good
living " (Unter dem Krummstab ist gut wohnen) was true
of not a few among the ecclesiastical estates, and the same
might be said of a good many of the secular principalities,
the free cities, and the rural communities. No one reading
in Goethe's Dichtung und Wahrheii the description of
Frankfurt as it was in his childhood, can help being im-
pressed with the soundness and good sense, the thoughtful-
ness and culture, the integrity and liberal-mindedness of the
average Frankfurt citizen of that time. Nor was Goethe's
native town altogether an exception in this respect What
a happy, patriarchal life did the old Gleim lead in his
hospitable retreat at Halberstadt**; what an honoured posi-
tion did Klopstock occupy in Hamburg society; what a
homely charm there is spread over Kant's life at Kdnigs*
berg ! And when have domestic joys, rural simplicity, the
holiday pleasures and workaday affairs of a contented, com-
fortable, and respectable people been more pleasantly and
truthfully portrayed than in the sketches of Westphalian
yeomanry homes drawn by Justus Moeser, or the scenes
from Hannoverian and Holstein country life by Matthias
Claudius and Johann Heinrich Voss, of Swabian peasantry
life by Peter Hebel ? Such poems as Voss's Luise or The

** Even a tyrant like Karl Eugen of W(lrteioberg» notorious for his
shameful treatment of Schubart, felt the need of at least posing as a
benevolent patriarch. Cf. J. Minor, ScHUer I» 85 ff.

** Cf. Goethe's characterization of Glefan, Dkhigu, Wahrk, h. 10;
Wirke XXI, 171 f.



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THE AGE OF THE REVOLUTION. S^S

Seventieth Birthday; as Claudius's Rheinweinlied or Abend-
lied; as Hebel's Die Wiese or Sonntagsfriihe^ •* are classic
examples of the unspeakable charm which the faithful
representation of an existence hedged in by uncomipted
sentiment, simple decorum, and a chaste popular tradition
cannot fail to exert. A single one of Moeser's Patriotische
Phantasieen will be sufficient to mark the contrast between
these descriptions of the average life of the common herd
and the glaring pictures of aristocratic depravity as painted
by Klinger or Lenz. It is a humorous sketch purporting
to be a letter of a travelling Gascon to a Westphalian
schoolmaster, and runs in the main as follows '^

" You may say as much as you please in praise of your father-
land, I cannot help telling you that, although I have travelled a
good deal on land and sea, I have never seen a country where
there are fewer thoroughly original fools than in yours. I am,
as you know, a playwright by profession, and I visited your
country to find some material for comedies, as others go abroad
in quest of lions, monkeys, and other rare animals. But to tell
the truth, I have not found a single fool among your people who
was worth studying; which undoubtedly shows that there is no
genius among you.

" I will not dispute you the title of good, honest, industrious
people. But these are to be found everywhere, and when yon
have seen one, you have seen all. What I am after is the ex-
ceptional. That is the thing which pays nowadays.

" At first I thought this deplorable uniformity of your coun-
trymen might be confined to the common people. I hoped aftet
all among the nobility, or at least among the ladies, to find
something which I could use for my collection of rarities. But

^ Hebel, whose AUemannisehe Gtdicktt appeared in 1803, cannot of
course in any sense be called a contemporary of the Storm-and-Stress
writers. However, since his poetry is closely related to that of Voss
and was directly influenced by it, his name does not seem out of place
here.

•» Patriot, Phani. cd. R. ZSllner /. 82 ff. Cf., also. Die gute selige
Frau, ib. 16 ff. Der alte Rath, ib, 68 f. Sehniben dis Herm von H^
edition of 1778, I, 266 ff.



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3l6 SOCIAL FORCES IN GERMAN LITERATURE.

here also I was disappointed. I met a nobleman of high rank,
who treated his bondmen as rational beings; who felt their
wants, advised them, helped them in case o/ need, and took
a paternal interest in all their household afifairs. The lady of the
house left me in the midst of an interesting tale of mine, in order
to talk with a poor woman. And — what I thought almost original
— mademoiselle started for the cellar to give out the wine, while
I was making a sketch of the latest thing in fashions for her.
When, after dinner, we went into the garden, I noticed that there
was not even an orangery. Would you believe it, no orangery!
The master of the house told me that in the times of his grand-
father no nobleman's estate had been without one; but that now
they thought more of an oak tree than of a laurel. Oh, what
commonplace people!

" Well, I thought, in the country things are hopeless; but
perhaps in the cities there is more to be had. But no, here too,
with the exception of a few abortive copies, the originals of
which I had seen infinitely superior elsewhere, nothing but
healthy, contented, industrious people; not a single figure worthy
to be sketched or to be exhibited in a salon. A lady to whom I
expressed my astonishment about this promised to show me
something which I would hardly see in other countries. And
where did she take me ? To the nursery, where her husband
was endeavouring to teach their children the fundamentals of
Christianity; a task in which, after the first few civilities, he
quietly proceeded during my presence! The lady sat down by
the side of her daughter, and pressed her hand when she
answered her father correctly, and the girl was more charmed
with this approbation than with me, although I flatter myself
not to be an altogether ordinary person. I suppose these people
even go to church with the common rabble, and have never
dreamed of the fact that the ten commandments have been out of
fashion for more than a hundred years.

" In a country like this, in a country where, I suppose, hnt-
band and wife still sleep in one bed, it Is no wonder that from
mere ennui a great many children are begotten; I am only sur-
prised that there are not a million to the square mile. But the
only things of interest which ! have found there, and of which
I shall take specimens with me to put them on exhibition in
Paris, are raw ham and Pumpernickel.*'

Of the circumstances which prevented the * Storm and



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THE AGE OF THE REVOLUTION. 31/

Drang ' movement from plunging Germany into a political
revolution, we have thus far mentioned two. (i) The
social-reform policy entered upon by the most enlightened
of the German governments — tending, as it did, toward the
limitation of feudal privileges, the softening down of class
distinctions, the public recognition of the rights of man —
was, in part at least, a fulfilment of the very demands raised
by the leaders of the movement. (2) The political decen-
tralization of Germany — preventing, as it did, on the one
hand, the growth of a strong public opinion, and ensuring,
on the other, a considerable amount of local independence,
private comfort and happiness — served to make the middle
classes (the well-to-do peasant, the burgher, the scholar,
the professional man, the official) slow even to desire a
radical change of existing conditions.
This leads us to a third and final consideration. The

* Sturm und Drang * agitation, although teeming with social
catchwords and political phrases, was at bottom ^^ ^^^^_
an essentially intellectual movement. Its true tiaUy Intel-
aim — and here we see its close connection with 1**^ ^J"
the whole development of Geunan civilization stom-uid-



Online LibraryKuno FranckeA history of German literature as determined by social forces → online text (page 26 of 50)