Imágenes de páginas

versity. In the spring of 1770, therefore, Goethe once more embarked on the uncertain sea of student life.

This time, however, the experiment was more successful, even from the father's standpoint. The young man had gained some steadiness of purpose and was already beginning to manifest the fine selfknowledge and self-control which afterwards became the leading marks of his disposition. Not that his life was limited by the strict requirements of any beaten path. As at Leipzig, his restless energies led him into all kinds of mental dissipation. But at Strasburg the strength of mind which had become his guarded him against any merely sensual gratification. The insatiable appetite of his imagination is shown by the note-book which he kept at this time. "On one page there is a passage from Thomas à Kempis, followed by a list of mystical works to be read; on another page sarcastic sentences from Voltaire and Rousseau...." But gradually his wandering thoughts crystallized, so that he left Strasburg a stronger man and with wider views upon the world about him. Three influences were prominent in bringing about this state of things: the Cathedral, Herder, and-Frederika Brion. “An exquisite woman, a noble thinker, and a splendid monument were his guides into the regions of Passion, Poetry and Art." The influence of the magnificent Gothic cathedral broadened his artistic tastes but did not long survive; that of Herder will

be touched on presently. A word as to his connection with Frederika Brion.

She was a clergyman's daughter, and lived at Sesenheim, a small hamlet near Strasburg. Goethe met her in the autumn of 1770. She was very beautiful, of a tender and lovable disposition. Some uncertainty exists as to the true relations of the young people. Sure it is that Goethe loved her with a love which he recalled with a sigh in after years, and that for a time they were practically betrothed. But something stepped in-call it the egoism of Genius, call it the tyranny of Ideas -to hold him back from marriage with the lady of his affection. About a year after their first meeting he wrote to break off their friendship. But her influence was extremely important, coming into his life when it did, and her sweet memory was long enshrined in the secret places of his heart. He immortalized her in the Marguerite of his Faust, the type of beautiful womanhood. What his influence was upon her may be gathered from the fact that she remained single all her life.

Herder resided at Strasburg during the whole winter of 1770-1, under medical treatment for an eye disease. It was then that Goethe made the acquaintance of the famous thinker; and the acquaintance ripened into warm friendship-though Herder at first seems to have occupied the position of guide and philosopher to his young companion, without much idea of the latter's genius. Goethe

imbibed a thoroughly German culture-especially in poetry, where Herder drew attention to the great monuments of national song. Homer and Shakespeare were also brought to Goethe's notice and became objects of his deepest love. He touched a new species of pleasure in Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield. More than this, Herder opened his eyes to the riches of romanticism.

Much to the delight of his father, the worthy Councillor, Goethe left Strasburg with the Doctor's degree in 1771. Still extravagant to an extent that called forth the laughing comments of his friends, he had gained enough interest in life to lead him (1772) to Wetzlar, thirty miles north of Frankfort, where he began to aim at acquiring some practical knowledge of his profession. There is an interesting description of him at this time, written by one who afterwards became his lifelong friend-Karl Kestner. "In the spring there came here a certain Goethe, by profession a Doctor Juris, twenty-three years old, only son of a very rich father; in order --this was his father's intention-that he might gain some experience in praxi, but according to his own intention that he might study Homer, Pindar, etc., and whatever else his genius, his manner of thinking, and his heart might suggest to him. He has a great deal of talent, is a true genius and a man of character; possesses an extraordinarily vivid imagination, and hence generally expresses himself in images and similes. . . He is ardent in all his

affections and yet has often great power over himself. His manner of thinking is noble: he is so free from prejudices that he acts as it seems good to him, without troubling whether it will please others, whether it is the fashion, whether conventionalism allows it. All constraint is odious to him." While engaged in his nominal studies at Wetzlar this ardent young Doctor of Laws met a fair maiden by the name of Charlotte Buff. She was betrothed to Kestner, but Goethe, with his fine disregard of the proprieties, fell violently in love with her. The hopelessness of the situation led to his leaving Wetzlar in the autumn of the year of his arrival. He embodied the whole episode in his novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, published in 1774.

During the next three years he lived at Frankfort, endeavoring to carry out his father's wishes in law, but gradually and inevitably gravitating towards literature. In the spring of 1773 appeared a play that was the greatest product of Sturm und Drang-Götz von Berlichingen. It had been written. during the winter of 1771-2, and in its earliest (and perhaps best) form was called The History of Gottfried von Berlichingen with the Iron Hand, Dramatized. It was originally published in a second form, and finally revised and adapted for stage purposes when Goethe and Schiller were trying to create a national German drama. The real Gottfried was one of the old feudal barons, "a bold, chivalrous spirit, struggling single-handed against the advanc


ing power of civilization. . . . and striving to perpetuate the feudal spirit." With this striking character as the centre, Goethe wrote a chronicledrama which was full of life and action, but which also partook of the sins of Sturm und Drang-bloodshed, overwrought sentiment and horror. Moreover, as is only natural, it shows traces of its author's youth. Yet, when all is said, it remains the powerful masterpiece of the Storm and Stress period, and it bears throughout marks of the greatest genius.

February, 1774, was a significant month for Goethe. He met the man who was to become his principal benefactor, enabling him, by the most practical friendship, to attain the height of his desire. The man was the young Karl August, Duke of SaxeWeimar, a small duchy not far from Frankfort. Their first meeting was brief; a few days later they had a longer conference; and within two years Goethe had taken up his residence at the court of this prince, there to reside for the rest of his life.

Götz was followed by an even greater successthe sentimental romance already mentioned, The Sorrows of Young Werther. This book was intimately bound up with Goethe's life; it was the history of his own experience. The story is told chiefly by letters from the hero Werther-somewhat in the same manner as the novels of our English RichardIt obtained an astonishing popularity and was translated into twenty-two foreign languages. It


« AnteriorContinuar »