Imágenes de páginas

the riddles of history and the world. The following extract lets us into some of his pursuits in youth :

"My father was personally pretty comfortable. He was in good health, spent a great part of the day in my sister's instruction, wrote at the description of his travels, and was longer in tuning his lute than in playing on it. He concealed, moreover, as well as he could, his vexation at finding instead of a healthy, active son, who was now ready to take his degree and run through that course of life which had been prescribed for him, an invalid, whose mind seemed more out of order than his body. He did not conceal his wish that they should be expeditious with my cure; but I had to be specially on my guard in his presence against any expressions of hypochondria, for then he would become passionate and bitter.

"Under these circumstances, my mother, of a very lively and cheerful natural disposition, spent many tedious days. Her little housekeeping was soon taken care of. The mind of the good lady, secretly never unoccupied, wished to discover something of interest, and this she found in her religion, which she embraced the more fondly, as her most excellent female friends were humble, devoted Christians from education and from the heart. At the head of these stood the Fräulein von Klettenberg. She is the same person whose conversations and letters suggested the "Confessions of a Beautiful Soul," which are found incorporated in Wilhelm Meister. She was slenderly formed, and of the middle size; a hearty natural demeanor had been made still more pleasing by the manners of the world and the court. Her very neat dress reminded you of the costume of the Herrnhut ladies. Her serenity and peace of mind never left her. She looked upon her sickness as a necessary component part of her transitory earthly existence; she suffered with the greatest patience, and, in her painless intervals, was lively and communicative. Her favorite, indeed, perhaps her only topics of conversation, were the moral experiences which may be gained by a man who keeps watch over himself; in these, too, the religious sentiments were included, which, in a very pleasing and ingenious manner, she considered as divided into natural and supernatural. It scarcely needs more to call back to the remembrance of those who are fond of such representations, that complete delineation of Christian character which was perfected within her soul. Owing to the quite peculiar course which she had taken from her youth up, the distinguished rank in which she had been born and educated, and the quickness and originality of her mind, she did not agree very well with the other ladies who were travelling upon the same road to their eternal happiness. Frau Griesbach, the best of them, seemed too austere, too dry, too learned; she knew, thought, and comprehended more than the others, who contented themselves with the developement of their feelings, and she was therefore burdensome to them, since it was not every one who either could or would carry so great an apparatus with them on the road to bliss. But for this reason the most of them were somewhat monotonous, since they confined themselves to a certain terminology which might well have been compared to that of the latter enthusiasts. Fräulein von Klettenberg went on her way betwixt both extremes, and seemed, with some self-complacency, to reflect herself in the image of Count Zinzendorf, whose opinions and actions bore witness to a lofty birth and a distinguished rank. She found in me what she needed, a lively young creature, striving after an unknown happiness, who, although he could not think himself an extraordinary sinner, yet found himself in no comfortable condition, and was perfectly healthy neither in body nor mind. She was delighted with what Nature had given me, as well as with many things which I had given myself. And though she conceded to me many excellencies, this was by no means humiliating to her: for, in the first place, she never thought of emulating one of our sex; and secondly, she believed that in regard to religious culture, she was very much in advance of me. My unrest, my impatience, my strivings, my longings, my investigations, musings and vacillations, she interpreted in her own way, and did not conceal from me her conviction, but plainly assured me that all this proceeded from my not being at peace with God. Now, I had believed from youth up that I stood upon very good terms with my God. I even fancied to myself that, after my various trials, He might rather be in arrears to me; and I was daring enough to think that I might have some things to forgive Him. This presumption was grounded on my infinite good-will, to which, as it seemed to me, He should have given better

assistance. It may be imagined how often I and my friend fell into disputes on this subject, which were always carried on in the friendliest way, however, and, like my conversations with the old Rector, often ended with her saying: "that I was a fool of a fellow, for whom many allowances must be made."

"I was still sorely troubled with the tumour in my neck; and as the physician and surgeon thought good first to disperse this excrescence, afterwards, as they said, to draw it to a head, and at last to open it; so for a long time I had to endure rather inconvenience than pain, although towards the end of the cure, the continual touching with lunar caustic and other corrosive substances could not but give me very disagreeable prospects for every fresh day. The physician and surgeon both belonged to the Pious Separatists, although both were of highly different natural characters. The surgeon, a slender, well-built man, of easy and skilful hand, was unfortunately somewhat hectic-yet he endured his condition with truly Christian patience, and did not suffer his disease to interfere with the exercise of his profession. The physician, besides being abstruse, was an inexplicable, sly-looking, friendly-spoken man, who had gained himself a peculiar degree of confidence in our pious circle. His activity and attention were very consoling to the sick; but more than all, by this he extended his practice, by showing in secret some mysterious medicines prepared by himself, of whose efficacy no one could speak, since, with us, the physicians are strictly prohibited from putting up their own prescriptions. He was not so reserved with certain powders, which may have been some kind of tonic; but it was among the true believers alone that we heard of that powerful salt which could only be applied in cases of the greatest danger, although no one had yet seen it or experienced its effects. To excite and strengthen our faith in the possibility of such a universal remedy, the physician, wherever he found any susceptibility for such things, had recommended certain mystical books on chemical-alchemy to his patients, and given them to understand that only by studying these could any one proceed so far as to gain this treasure for his own; which was the more necessary, as the mode of its preparation could not be communicated for medical, but especially for moral reasons; and that in order to comprehend, produce and make use of this great result, one must know the secrets of Nature in connexion, as it was not a particular but an universal remedy, and might be produced under different forms and in different ways. My friend had listened to these enticing words. The health of the body was nearly allied to the health of the soul; and could a greater benefit, a greater mercy be shown towards others, than by making herself mistress of a remedy by which so many a pain might be assuaged, so many a danger averted? She had already secretly studied Welling's Opus mago-cabbalisticum, in which, however, as the author himself immediately darkens and removes the light he imparts, she was looking about for a friend who might bear her company in this alternation of glare and gloom. It needed small incitement to inoculate me also with this disease. I procured the work, which, like all writings of this kind, I could trace in a direct line up to its parent stock, the New-Platonic school. I took the greatest pains in this book to notice most precisely the obscure allusions by which the author refers from one place to another, and by which he gives promises of revealing what he conceals, and to mark down on the margin the number of the page where those passages were to be found which should explain each other. But even then the book still remained dark and unintelligible enough; except that at last one studied himself into a certain terminology, and according to his own fancy, contrived to get something out of it to talk about at least, if not to understand. The afore-mentioned work makes very honorable mention of its predecessors, and we were incited to investigate those original sources themselves. We turned to the works of Theophrastus Paracelsus and Basilius Valentinus; as well as of Helmont, Starkey, and others, whose doctrines and directions, resting more or less upon nature and imagination, we attempted to see into and follow out. We were particularly pleased with the Aurea Catena Homeri, in which, though perhaps in fantastical fashion, Nature is represented in a beautiful combination: and thus, sometimes together, sometimes by ourselves, we employed much time in those out-of-the-way subjects, and spent the evenings of a long winter, during which I was compelled to keep my chamber, very agreeably, since we three, my mother being closeted with us, were more delighted with these secrets, than we could have been at their elucidation."

Thus, whatever the matter in hand, his broad, mercurial, rich nature was formed to get at the bottom of it, to comprehend it, to make it entirely his own. No half-way tasting of existence, in any of its forms, was satisfactory to him; no manifestation of the great soul of humanity, be it a rural pastime or a great world-venerated intellectual system, could be uninteresting to him; he looked at mankind in all their likings and leavings with open eye, with a sunny, open heart. In the paraphrase of his own distich, "Life, his inheritance, broad and fair,

Earth was his seedfield, to time he was heir."

With such a nature, and such a developement of it, having met and overcome most of the trials of the more impulsive periods of life-a naturally strong, noble figure of a man, richly adorned and embroidered with all the graces that fortune, family, education and society can superadd, Goethe found a sphere for which he was peculiarly prepared, in the brilliant court of Karl August. The young Prince of Weimar, attaining his majority and his power just about the same time, was fortunately one who had a heart capable of love, as well as a head fit to rule. The sudden but lasting attachment which sprung up between himself and Goethe, was as honorable to both, as it appears to have been cordial and dignified. Thoughtless radicalism has imputed to Goethe that this, on his part, was devotion to the ruler rather than to the man; but the fact was, that this friendship was one of reciprocal respect and equal favor, where any social advantages conferred by the Arch-Duke were more than compensated by the celebrity conferred by the poet. The life of neither of these illustrious personages was made up of court parades or court intrigues, but of useful labor in their several spheres. Karl governed his little province with a manly sense of his duty. Goethe immortalised it by the best works of the best modern literature. Indeed, it was a rare and beautiful sight-this intimacy and good will, cemented in earliest youth, and carried on to late old age, between one worthily born of a race of kings, and another destined to become greater than any king. There was nothing in it to carp at-there was much in it to admire. Goethe it placed at once in a position where his majestic and graceful intellect could freely unfold; in a circle of cultivated friends, possessed of leisure and means for the pursuit of art, and capable of the most delicate appreciation of his own lofty endowments. An organization so fine, and yet so magnificent, found its genial atmosphere in the almost ideal refinement of a court. The simplicity of his manners could not be corrupted by it, while it nourished and enriched his imagination. True, Jean Paul has said that "under golden mountains many a spiritual giant lies buried," but had they been greater giants, they might, as Goethe did, have melted these mountains into images of beauty. His court life was valuable to him, however, not because of its glitter and show, but because it simply gave him freedom. 'Tis a mistake to suppose that genius always thrives best in loneliness and poverty; for life, in every sort, finds its most sure and healthful growth in a fitting and congenial medium. Burns, as a peasant, was no greater than he would have been as a prince. On the other hand, a larger nurture would have aided in a larger developement. Men of strong native force will, it is true, overcome obstacles of formidable compass, but the same force will exert itself all the more effectively where such obstacles are wanting, or are of another less oppressive magnitude. In the one case, we may get a rugged, monstrous upshoot-a very Polyphemus of savage energy. In the other, we are likely to have a mightier, self-poised, majestic Jupiter. True enough! "Gold mountains have buried many a spiritual giant," but there have been many more, we think, as this world has gone, lost in mud-holes and ditches.

Goethe, we have said, valued his prosperous condition for its freedom: it gave him opportunities for a rare and expansive culture; it gave him books, and it gave him the instruments of Art; it gave him access to all modes of life-to all classes of society, to noble and ennobling companions; and what was better than all, and so essential to his being, the means of a free communion with Nature, by observation and travel. That impartial judg ment of men and things which was one of the kindly traits of his character; that many-sided interest in all that relates to the minuter and grander destinies of Humanity in all its phases; his unceasing researches into the realms of science, and his miraculous activity in those of literature, are all to be more or less ascribed to the graceful comfort of his external circumstances. Had he been cramped and tortured by the pressure of indigence and obscurity, as poor dear Richter was, our noble, well-proportioned Goethe, the delight of all women and the admiration of all men, might have become a rude, double-fisted, burly iconoclast, battering away at established things with the fierce revenge of an oriental demon. It would have been a sight, truly, that-for men to look at and tremble-such sights, too, being necessary at times; but we are persuaded that Goethe has served us better in his place of the calm, creative Jove.

Let it not be thought, however, that Goethe's life at court was in any degree the life of a courtier. It was a life of universal activity, and of the broadest intercourse with men. No society can be conceived more elevated and desirable than the society of Weimar during Goethe's ascendancy. With a princely family at its head, whose taste diffused a love of art and letters, while its active beneficence cherished the best affections of the people; with the two most illustrious of poets to give tone to its opinions and provide its amusements; with the excellent Herder and kindred spirits for its preachers and models of virtue; visited all the year by Richters and Humboldts and De Staels; by the most eminent in rank and science, and virtue of all lands; the centre of thought and literary productiveness to cultivated Germany,-it was just the sphere for a Goethe. Yet he was not confined to it. He often sought the refreshment of more rural scenes; now wandering away into the sublimities of Switzerland, and then again losing himself amid the beauties of Italy. Who, indeed, can estimate the influences upon his spirit of these far journeyings? The record of them is in his works in those glorious conceptions of the All-Fair, which, filling his soul, overflowed into his poems. What must Italy, always so enrapturing to the northern imagination, have been to the fancy of Goethe! A land of wonder -of magic-of glory. Its monuments of the highest man has yet achieved in art; its statues, its pictures, its architecture and its music; its waters and its skies, so early longed after, so passionately enjoyed, as the lover longs for his mistress, and dissolves in the soft ecstacy of her embrace, translated him into a new and heavenly world. "This day," said he, referring to his first sight of the Paradise of Art-" this day I was born anew." Earth had no more to give him-the uses of Fame were fulfilled.

Thus, in endless studies-in the purest interchange of friendship-in the creation of immortal thoughts-in delicious visits to the most delicious climes, the hours of Goethe's manhood passed away. For eighty years and more he knew "no rest and no haste," like a star keeping on its "God-appointed way"-years of exalted worship, of calm victorious effort. When death came, it met him busy with the pen, the implement at once of his pleasure and his power; and he sunk, as a child, who, with the glow of the day's activity still on his cheek, looking forward to a morrow of hope and joy, folds himself to sleep. "Let the light enter," were his last words, echoed, we may well suppose, from a region where all is light.



It is a favorite, though we believe fallacious, theory of a class of geologists, that a correspondence exists between the rocks of America and those of Europe. If some of them are rightly understood, they are attempting to trace out the rocks of New-York among English formations. Now, either our geological theory is very much at fault, or else such attempts must prove, and should prove, altogether futile. We have no doubt but the synchronous rocks can be discovered and pointed out; and indeed this has been done to a considerable extent with our rocks. Lyell thinks that in point of age our rocks, up to and including the Clinton group, agree with the "lower silurean;" thence up to and including the Helderberg series, with the "upper silurean," and the remainder with the "Old Red," systems of England. But farther than this, we do not believe that any similarity is to be traced between the rocks of the two continents. We have reason to suppose that at the same periods of the earth's history, mainly the same genera of fauna existed upon the various parts of its surface, as is the case at present. But Mr. Lyell says, that of the strata corresponding in age in the two continents," while some species of the fossils agree, the majority of them are not identical." Those species, he says, which have been found identical in the two continents, are just those which have the greatest vertical range, and which thoroughly show themselves capable of surviving many changes upon the earth's surface, and thus enjoyed a wide geographical range. Synchronism may easily be believed to exist between strata of different countries, since it involves no absurdities; and if existing, would be likely to be shown by the fossils of the two countries. But not so with the lithological character and succession, and order of position of the rocks of countries so widely separated as England and New-York. Says Lyell :

"The horizontal silurean rocks of this region, (western New-York,) are in general extremely like those of corresponding age in Europe, consisting of mudstones and limestone, with similar corals and shells. But there is one remarkable exception-the occurrence, in the middle of the series, of a formation of red, green, and blueish grey marls, with beds of gypsum, and occasional salt-springs, the whole being from 800 to 1000 feet thick, and undistinguishable in mineral character, from parts of Upper New Red, or Lias, of Europe."-Travels, p. 44.

Now let those geologists, who so eagerly look for any farther resemblances between foreign and American rocks than those exhibited in their fossils, be reminded by this anomaly in their theory-not to be "wise above what is written," and not to attempt to force accidental analogies into real and necessary similarity. It is a fact, that rocks which exhibit hundreds of feet of thickness at the Hudson River, have disappeared at the Niagara, and that the very rocks on which the Niagara pours its ocean of waters, have scarcely a representative among the eastern rocks of New-York. It is a fact that the Hudson River group, composed for the most part of shale and slate, 500 feet thick in eastern and northern New-York, has no representative at all as far west as Cincinnati, unless it be a limestone, which also comprehends the Trenton limestone.

Suppose a rock, which its fossils prove of about the same age of any

The Wenlock

« AnteriorContinuar »