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Imperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character online

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struggle, and enabled him l(j (organize his army and
join at last in the popular longing f(jr unity. It was
this trait in iiis character that enabled liim to feel
its echo in the liearts of the nation, and to build up the
national edifice.

But, while dwelling on the results achieved in iIk-
present clay, it is but just to refer to that hii;Ii minded-


Imperial Germany.

ness, even among German politicians of tlic past, tliat
An instance of did SO mucli to make what has come to i)ass possible.

(lernian . ....


Its jiresence in
great men.

In connection with this we wish to translate a letter
of General Gneisenau to his kino-, Frederick William
III., in the year i8i i :

hi my sayinj^ this, your Majesty will a_s:ain hold nic guilty of
poetry, and I will gladly own the impeaciiment. For religion,
prayer, the love for our sovereign, for our country, are nothing
but poetry ; no elevation of tlie heart without the sentiment of

He who acts according to cool calculation must become
a confirmed egotist.

The safety of the throne is based on poetry. How many of
us who look up with sadness to the tottering throne might find
a happy and peaceful position in modest retirement, some even
a life of luxury and ease, if, instead of feeling, he only wished to
calculate. Any master would suit him equally well, but the ties
of birth, of devotion, of gratitude, hatred against the foreign
invaders, attach him to his old master ; for his sake he will live
or die, for his sake he resigns his family happiness, for liis sake
he will sacrifice life and property unto the uncertainty of hope.

This is poetry ; yes, even of the truest kind. Under its
influence I will endeavor to buoy myself up as long as I live,
and I will look upon it as an honor to belong to that enthusias-
tic band ready to surrender everything in order to regain all for
your ]\hijesty. For truly sucii a resolve must be born of an en-
thusiasm that scorns every selfish consideration. Many are
there who think thus, and, conscious as I am of my incom-
petence in comparison, I will endeavor to act in their spirit.

Such is an instance of German poetic idealism. To it
we owe some of the most sympathetic traits of character
in modern German annals. It is notably present in
some of the well-known friendships of great men : in the
communion of minds, never so free from envy, of Luther
and Melanchthon, of Scharnhorst and Stein, of Bllicher
and Gneisenau ; in letters, in Goethe and Schiller, the
two Schlegels, the two Grimms ; and in science, the two

Intellectual Life. 55

Humboldts ; in our time, most glorious instance of all,
in the emperor William with his great paladins, Bis-
marck, Von Roon, and Moltke.

It is this ideal Germany that gained the admiration,
the enthusiasm, of Carlyle — the dreaminess of high-
souled poetry allied to the moral and nervous strength
for action.


If it be permissible to think that the English, by their
love of sport, of outdoor exercise and games, by their
cultivation of body generally, carry on the physical
traditions of ancient Greece, so we may say the Germans
in some measure represent the Greek element in an in-
tellectual as well as in an ethical sense.

An influence, if not directly derived from, vet dis- ,,., ,, ,

-' - I he (.reek

tinctly akin to that of Greece, is traceable, not onlv in ^lemcnt in
German thought, in literature, in the cultivation of the "'o"k1i'-
fine arts, but also in the general spiritual acceptation of
life. It is embodied in the ethical and aesthetic feeling
of the people. Even their language has many affinities
with that of the Greeks, as is proved by their happy
renderings (jf Momer, the Greek dramatists, etc. Hut
if they offer us these affinities to the countrymen of
Plato, the practical lesson of tlieir literature and phi-
losophy^self-rcnunciation in the delights of the ideal in
the one, and Kant's "categorical imperative" in the
other — will save them from the fate of the Greeks.

It is this culture — this trulv classic sentiment- -which . „

. . ' lis iimiK'nr'' on

IS renectefl in literature and manifests itself in every titrmiin life.
walk of German life. It oftin strikes vis as revealing
a relationship to an ethical creed of its own. It ti luls
to strengthen those feelings of veneratif)n for the best
and highest which are so large a part of every sense of


Imperial Germany

Ethical nature
of public

A noted
instance of

religion — the love of the beautiful of the Greeks allied
to the true ethical feeling of Christianity. Its result
is the so-called Gemiithslcben of the Germans, an un-
translatable term which signifies "the life of heart and
mind combined." In its manifestation it tells us that
whatever individual coarseness of manner and feeling is
to be found in the Fatherland — and there is enough of
this — there yet dwells a spirit in Germany the posses-
sion of which other nations might well envy.

The sentiment of piety which we are accustomed to
seek for only within the walls of churches we find
present in the every-day life of the nation. That which
finds no scope in dogmatic casuistry seeks an outlet in
events of public and private life.

The public festivals of the nation have something truly
ethical in their character. The celebrations of important
national events have a grace and dignity peculiar to
themselves ; the commemorations of great victories have
nothing boastful or vainglorious attached to them.'

When war was declared in 1870, the inhabitants of
Berlin in their thousands sang patriotic songs and
cheered in front of the palace of their king, who came
to the historical corner window again and again to ac-
knowledge their greetings. At last one of his ofificers
came out and said to the people, "Children, the king
must work with his staff right through the night, and
begs you will go home now, so that he may be undis-
turbed." And, as if by magic, the whole vast place
was deserted.

Then, again, who that had the good fortune to wit-

1 We have heard, though we cannot believe it, that it is the intention of the
present emperor to discountenance the further annual celebration of the vic-
tory of Sedan. All those who have witnessed the harmless, simple character
oi Kti^ Sedanfest — for it is mainly a school festival — could only regret such a

Intellechial Life.


ness in 1871 the triumphal return of the troops could June 16, 1871.
ever forget a scene as impressive as it was free from
every element of vaingloriousness and vulgarity ?

When the old emperor William I. died, and shortly
afterward his noble son, were not all, poor and rich

The Brandenburg Gatk, through which the Victorious Troofs
Entered Berlin in 1S71.

alike, admitted to look at them in death once more ?
And what a lesson their conduct conveyed !

Such incidents are instructive as showing us the in-
stincts of heart and mind of a people. In fact, it is
almost necessary for a foreigner to have seen some such
great national manifestation of feeling in order to under-
stand the spirit that dwells beneath the rough outer

Although some of the annual church festivals, such observance
as Easter, Whitsuntide, Christmas, no longer appeal in lUuvals.
their ecclesiastical character to the masses as of old, yet
they are kept either in the form of a family festival, such
as Christmas, or in the open air in their relationship to
the reawakening of nature, as in the case of Easter and
Whitsuntide. On these two great festivals the people


Imperial Gcnnaiiy.

for the dead.

Character of
the national

swarm out into the green fields, not to drink and run
riot, but instinctively to worship God in the contempla-
tion of his works, so beautifully described by Goethe in
the first part of "Faust." The Germans are lovers of
nature in a sense that is perhaps only met with among
the Japanese, who have special festivals all the year
round whenever certain flowers are in blossom — the
cherry, the plum, the iris, the chrysanthemum, and the
sacred lotus : it is part of their religion.

In the care the Germans bestow on the graves of
their dead, and in their affectionate reverence, they
stand preeminent, as is evidenced by the beautiful
monuments erected all over the Fatherland in memory
of their brethren fallen in battle. He who could gaze
on the monument on the Niederwald in commemoration
of 1870-71 without feeling a thrill of piety can possess
little Gemuth, little sense of the ideal, no matter to what
nation he belongs. The German words for cemetery—
Friedhof (The court of peace), Gottesacker (God's
acre) — breathe an ideal sentiment peculiar to the
German nation. Even in familiarly speaking of the
dead, the German word selig (resting in God) has a
peculiar charm of its own. In this, as in many other
ways, the Germans remind us of the ancient Greeks.

That eminent Scotch thinker, Fletcher of Saltoun,
once said, " If I may make the songs of a people, let
who will make the laws." And no wonder, for it is far
easier to promulgate fifty laws than to make one song
which shall reach the heart of the people and reflect its
best aspirations. The best instincts of the German
people are embodied in their songs. Their ideality,
their patriotism, their love of the beautiful, their intense
love of nature, and even indirectly their very history,
all are reflected in their Volkslieder — the harmonious

Intellectual Life. 59

blendino; of poetry and song. A Volkslicd, as distinct
from an evanescent popular ditty, is not made in the
ordinary meaning of the word ; it is created ; its origin
is^divine. It is di\ine in the sense that it owes its
origin to that supernatural instinct in us which belies
our meaner nature, and bids us feel that there is some-
thing higher, something spiritual, in store for us.


Germany is the country of the inimitable Voikslied,

,,...' . A German

the home or musicians and composers, and yet it was a criticism on


celebrated German author, Karl Gutzkow, who wrote
thus :

In fact, what is music to us, these matliematics of sound ?
In great musicians I have always found people who, although
conversant with keys, can solve nothing for us. If listening to
music influences me to believe in the immortality of the soul,
it may influence others at the same time Xo take an opposite
view. No ; music will cease to belong to the highest arts.
Does it not already in the opera approach more and more to
mere declamation?

The following sentences of Hermann Presber, the
novel-writer, are even more scathing :

Sound \_dei' Toji] is tlie \ibrating soul. 15ul vibrating souls

11 • . ,- ■ ,, ,, • • , ■ . ,. , .\ novelist's

are mostly devoid ol iiiUlicct. Musu- is the only art m which, opinion.

side by side with talent, stuiiidity gets on cheerfully, and may

even assert it.self witii arnjgance. Ves, yes ! Music is the

most social and sociable of the arts. It is only a ([Uestion

who is able to feel at home long in |)iirely musical society.

Only give an individual the high C and the low C, .and he, like

I'hili|) of Macedon's g<jld-laden ass, will soon penetrate every

town and every boudoir.

These are strange words to us who arc accustomed
to believe that a want of the a]jpreciati()n of music
betokens a want of heart. I'nt in some things we are
childlike enthusiasts compared to tiie (iermans, par-

6o Imperial Germany

ticularly as critics. l'\)r lhe_\', even when carried away,
are too likely to stoj) and inquire into the psychical
causes of their emotion.

Thus, not against nuisic itself, but against the e.xcoss

Excess of f . ... , , . '

musical ot its cultivation, to the exclusion oi more important

cultivation. , i • , • ,^ i i i

matters, many sober thinkers in Germany have been
raising their voices of late. They are of opinion that,
excellent as the influence of music undoubtedly is in
itself, its excess is often injurious, and is indulged in at
the expense of the development of reading, sound think-
ing, and, above all, of high-mindedness. They know
by daily experience that a man may be an excellent
musician, and yet, in every other particular, a fool.
More than that, they see that the kingdom of Saxony,
the home of music i)reeminently, is also the head-
quarters of the German Philistines and of their dread

anexampie"'*"^ spectcr social democracy. In Austria the music-gifted
Bohemians are on a very low level of morality and edu-
cation ; and in Vienna, where Beethoven and Schubert
lived and died, the cultivation of music has not, accord-
ing to all accounts, increased the logical powers or the
moral perceptions of its good inhabitants.

Music is of all arts the one that appeals most exclu-
sively to the senses, and, except in the case of its higher
walks, it can scarcely be said to be to the ethical advan-
tage of the community.

Its excess is distinctly baneful to the mental develop-

its effect on ment of a nation. In Hungary, for instance, the culti-

mental _ _ . .

development. vation of music goes hand in hand with the idleness for
which that pleasure-loving people are noted. Thus it is
not surprising to find that great and petty despots have
ever encouraged music, for it prevented their subjects

1 In France similar expressions of opinion are to be found, viz., " Centre la
Musique " (Against Music), by Victor de Laprade (1881).

Intellectual Life. 6 1

from thinking seriously. Music has ahvays been the
favorite art of oppressed nationahties. It may be a
civilizing element — a tamer of the savage breast — in a
low order of things ; but it is often cultivated in an
advanced community to the neglect of more important

The record of the lives of great musicians shows a
stranee medlev of eccentricity and of the dominant Pecuiiariues

re r ' , • t -I- r , ofRreat

effects or an undue excitability of the nervous system, musicians.
Also great composers, with few exceptions, are remark-
ably short-lived. Liszt, Verdi, and Rossini are the ex-
ceptions among a list that includes such instances of
short-lived men as Mozart, Schubert, Weber, Mendels-
sohn-Bartholdy, Chopin, and even Schumann, whose
life was one constant misery of nervous depression.

In (iermany to-day musicians are more or less a class
by themselves, and a very peculiar irritable tvpe they
often represent. For if e\ en creati\e musical genius
shows a sad record of mental peculiarity, it is not
surprising that mere executants are remarkable for many
petty manifestations of an ill-balanced nervous system.


Ciermany is now suffering from a plethora of music
and musicians,' and yet one of its noblest specialities,
the "oratorio,"* and one of the most complete musical
instruments, the organ, are much less cultivated than in
England. Against that, however, may well be ])ut the
beautiful church music of the Catholics and the impress- ciiunii music
ive vocal chorals of Protestant ( liiirches. The Volks-
lied, alsf)— that unitiue manifestation of the national lo\'e

1 AlthouK'i tliose instrumeiits of lorturt— street bands and firgatis — arc
fortunately prohibited.

2(iermany docs not possess any musical institutions liki' llie llaiidil Choir,
the Bristol Nfusical Festival Society, or those of Worcester ancl BirmlnKham.


Imperial Germany





for poetry and music conil^ined, to which reference has
already been made — may be classed as one of the
liiohest and most precious forms of music in Germany.
Next to these forms of music which touch the chord of
national life must be mentioned the splendid and cheap
orchestral concerts, of violin quartettes, male chorus
unions, for their excellence and wide diffusion are
beyond comparison with those of any other country.
Also, the operas of Richard Wagner have become

distinctly nation-
al, and as such
may well be said
to belong fittinoly
to the period of
national reawak-
ening in our time.
They strike a
strong patriotic
Teutonic key,
and thus their
continued per-
formance at Bay-
reuth is wisely
encouraged by
' ■ the emperor.

Wagner's stand-
ard operas fill the

Richard Wagner. theaters from

Stalls to gallery all over the country wherever operatic
music is heard.

It is not these noble forms of music themselves that
pique the critical pessimist — they are a precious heir-
loom of national genius ; it is the over-addiction of the
masses to fritter awav their time and to dull their

Intellectual Life. 63

energies for thouglit in running after every form of
music, and also the dreadful mania for pianoforte- playing mania,
playing which exists in Germany. It has been well
pointed out that the pleasure-loving south of Germany
(including Austria) has produced its great musicians,
whereas the North must be credited with its thinkers.'
The piano-playing mania, however, extends from the
North Sea down to the Alps ; it is universal and omni-

In Weimar it is forbidden to play the piano with the
window open, under a penalty of two marks. "^ And this
is no wonder, for in German towns every floor of a
house harbors at least one family and at least one piano,
not to mention stringed instruments of torture.

The excellent German musical academies {Musik-
conservatorien^ were originally designed to train mu-
sicians for the orchestra, piano-playing being looked
upon as a secondary branch of the. musical profession.
This intention has been partly frustrated of late, as we
find on comparing the numl)ers of students of the piano
with those of other instruments. Thus at the academy
in Vienna in the year 1880 there were 400 pupils in
piano-playing, and of these 350 were girls. It is this JiJ^^^ilX'."'
advent of tlie female element that has particularly con-
tributed to the present craze of piano-])laying. It has
conquered the profession of music in Germany, as in
England novel-writing has come to assert its sway.

Yet even in music, the art in which the mind leans
over to ungraspable sentiment and lentls expression to

1 It is strariRe toiuitL- tlit- Rrcat iiunilicr of lianl thinkers llial hail from tlic
northeast of Trussia — Iiu. Kant, and SLhopcnh.iui-r, also Copernicus :in<l
Kepler; wlicreas Oermany's Kfc-'ilfsl poets, except Heine, almost all hail
from the South. Srhiller, Goethe, ThlanH. Victor von SchelTel, wcrr Imiti in
the south of Germany.

» About fifty cents in rriii'-d SiatcH currency.


Imperial Germany.

Idealism a
motive power
in German


the emotions in greater measure tliaii to the intellectual
faculties, we have but to glance at the prose writings of
Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner in order to
note dissatisfaction with the whole method of musical
expression and aim of the time. We observe that rest-
less and yet ideal striving for something higher, some-

"■ 1


Wagner's Theater, Bayreuth.

thing truer, as the motive power that nerved the efforts
of these two monarchs of the realms of sound. Wag-
ner's theater at Bayreuth, built expressly for the per-
formance of his musical dramas, was the last and out-
ward embodiment of an instinct that led him to seek the
most congenial forms in the models of ancient Greece.
His genius ransacked the folk-lore of Scandinavia, the
history and the myths of the Middle Ages, only to find
its last spiritual expression in the legends of early
Christianity, "Parsifal."

The great past supplies us with a splendid record of
German ideal striving in music. From Bach's Passion
music to Handel's oratorios, the idealization of Christian-

Intellectual Life.


Are not the Cathedrals oermanys

great architects

ity is the golden thread that runs through German music.
Nor ought we in fairness to omit a short reference to
the distinction Germany has attained in the sister arts
of architecture and painting

of Strassburg and Cologne mighty testimonies to the and painters,
boldness of thought and conception of Germany's
imperial past ? Who but can recall the name of a
Holbein, an Albrecht Durcr? In the first half of this Durer
century, as if fitly
to herald in the
great events still
slumbering in the
womb of time, we
note Peter Cor-
nelius at work on
his colossal fres-
coes illustrating
the mythological
past of Germany ;
W i 1 h e 1 m von
Kaulbach, also a
jjroclaiming the
" Triumph <jf the
R e formation " ;
Adolf Menzel's
l^encil l)usy with
the congenial
task of bringing

l-rederick llie Great and his paladins back to life again ;
and, last but not least, artistic genius in Franz von Len- Lenbach
bach to hand down to posterity the speaking portraits
of the great men who ( .)ll;iboratcd in th<- imification of

Adolf Menzel.



conservators of


to Bismarck.


Now 'tis the spring, and weeds are sliallow rooted ;
Suffer them now, and they'll o'ergrow the garden,
And choke the herbs for want of husbandry.

— Shakespeare.


If the schools arc the cradle, the universities are the
training-ground of intellectual life, in Germany more
even than elsewhere. There the national ideals have
slumbered on through times of devastating war and
misery, in order to awake to new life with the returning
sunshine of peace.

The German universities have at all times cherished
the idea of national unity, and have kept it alive when it
had been lost sight of almost everywhere else. In fact,
they have supplied the impulse that has kept the current
of patriotism healthily circulating when without them
stagnation and indifference might have prevailed. This
great fact must be borne in mind as an offset against
some of the sad political pedantry of German professors.

Thus, Bismarck's partiality for the universities is only
natural ; when, on the occasion of his seventieth birth-
day, deputations from nineteen universities greeted him
with enthusiasm, he replied, " I will gladly die, now
that I see this flower of youth before me." And even
more recently still, when Bismarck celebrated his eigh-
tieth birthday, or, to be more correct, when the whole
of Germany, except a majority of the Reichstag, joined


Educational. 67

in the celebration of his birthday at Friedrichsruh, it
was the deputations from every uni\ersity and high
school throughout Germany — over five thousand strong,
with their rectors at their head — which lent most im-
pressiveness to the j^ational character of the scene.

The realization of the German Empire has given
an extraordinary impulse to university life, and to-day it Their growth,
can be said with more truth than ever that Germany
is the classic land of universities. Elsewhere may be
found special schools and academies which present ex-
ceptional features of excellence, but nowhere can uni-
\ersities be found similar to hers.

There are twenty-two universities in the German -i-heimumber
Empire, of which eleven fall to Prussia proper. These ^"'^ '"rtuence.
twenty-two universities are so many active centers of
knowledge, and include a staf? of two thousand profes-
sors and over thirty thousand students.

The following remarks on the spirit that pervades the rheir spirit as
German universities of to-day, made by a French Catho- prenchmLf
lie priest who studied at Leipzig in 1882, seem to carry
more weight than anything we could say, as they are
those of a witness not likely to be biased in their favor.'

In ordt-r to become acquainted willi the soul [/'difir — i/cr
Geisfl of Germany it is necessary to see that community in its
daily life- that is, attracted to the university — from every class
of the nation. Here they meet in absolute fraternal ecjuality.
Tiie common devotion to knowledfje, without destroyin<j tlie
distinction of birth and fortune, yet creates above tin ni a
higher unity, wliere tlie most intellij^rnt aiid laborious lake the
first place.

Then again :

It is only possible to imderstand tlu- iuj;h civili/iuL^ power of
the universities in (iermany wlien we have j^ained a full picture
of the curriruhmi of instruction followed (Hit there.

I "I-e» Allemands " (The Germans), hy I.e PiJre Dlih.ii. Taris, 1S84.

68 Imperial Germany

The course of instruction i-nibraces tlie universality of sci-
•n\c breadth of ence ; it extends to the limits of liunuui knowledge^ . . . The-

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Online LibrarySidney WhitmanImperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character → online text (page 4 of 23)