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for representation, and humbly to request that he would himself undertake the part of Cicero.
My happiest efforts were commonly small poems, in which, feeling was the predominant feature, and even now I recollect with a soft and soothing pleasure, some verses I once made on my excellent mother's birth-day. Our music-master set them; my sister was to sing them to her harpsichord, I accompanying her with my flute, and our master with the bass. All this was arranged, the performance rehearsed in private, and on the morning of the appointed day we surprised my mother with our little cantata. Happy the man who can boast like scenes of love and innocence stored up in his memory ! They are medicines preserved in a small chest, which may remain long unopened, but when the soul is in a state of suffering, we apply to the precious drops, and find them a salutary balsam.
In that tender age when the mind, like a young tree, bends with every blast, whatever it produces is mere imitation. I am convinced indeed, that original idcas are scarcely to be expected from any man before he arrives at the age of maturity. For myself I can safely say, that all the productions of my early years were composed on hints taken from others, commonly from the last thing I had read.
At that time the dramas of Brandes were in considerable repute; for amid the barren waste of our dramatic literature it was consoling to meet with a single flower, even no more than a pale violet. I wrote a comedy, which I called 'All's Well that Ends Well," and which, unless I deceive myself, strongly resembled the 'Count von Olsbach. Madame Wattel, one of my principal characters, was formed on the exact model of madame Wandel. Goethe was then a frequent visitor at our house. He heard of my comedy, and was so condescending, or so polite, as to desire to read it. This gave my mother infinite delight, and perhaps the pleasing her was his principal view in making the request. Never have I since heard or seen anything of it, but it must have been no small tax upon his patience if he ever wasted any time in reading it.
This extraordinary man was however always extremely kind to me in my boyish years. He used to permit me to make snares for birds in his garden, as I was a no less ardent sportsman than poet. When I went thither by six in the morning, or indeed sometimes earlier, to see whether I had caught a fieldfare or a redbreast, he would come and talk to me with great affability, and exhort me to diligence in my studies. He perhaps has long ago forgotten so trifling a circumstance, but I can never forget it, since every word that fell from his lips was, in my opinion, deserving of the deepest attention, and made a much stronger impression on me than all the common-place admonitions of the mass of my school preceptors.
Goethe had at that time written his charming little dramatic piece, “The Brethren.' It was performed at a private theatre at Weimar, he himself playing William, and my sister, Mariana ; while to me-yes, to me! was allotted the important part of the postillion. My readers may easily imagine with what exultation I trod the stage, for the first time, before the mighty public itself. I enquired of everybody I saw, whether or not I had done justice to my character ?-The ungrateful wretches ! they scarcely remembered the appearance of such an insignificant being as the postillion.
It was about that period that I first read Goethe's Werther. I cannot find words to describe the overpowering emotions excited in my soul by this wonderful, philosophical romance.
From that moment I conceived so enthusiastic an attachment to its author, that at his request I would even readily have run my hands into the fire to seek for his lost shoe-buckle.
Another poet, whose works are replete with passion and animation, was also our frequent guest. 'This was Klinger. To a tine and manly figure, he united a certain honesty and ardour of temper that charmed me irresistibly. With him and Musæns I once made a pedestrian excursion to Gotha, to which I always recur with the greatest pleasure. This early and constant intercourse with such illustrious characters afforded opportunities for cultivating what talents I possessed, of which I should have been highly culpable not to have availed myself, for giving them all the polish the foundation would admit. They were advantages, indeed, of which few young authors can ever boast.
I was now removed into the highest class, in which the deceased Heinse first inspired me with a taste for the Latin language. In the other classes I had regarded the acquisition of this branch of learning as so much an affair of mere mechanism, that it was impossible it should communicate any pleasure to the mind. But in their leisure hours Heinse used to read Terence with the pupils, and in so masterly a manner, that no particle of the true attic poignancy was lost. This alone, of all our studies in the first class, afforded me any entertainment. The miserable logic we learned from an old scholastic, the dull lectures on Zopf's dry Universal History,' and many other things taught in the school-hours, gave me such an inveterate nausea, that I scarcely did anything all the time but slily read romances beneath my cloak.
At length the day arrived on which I was to become a student of the great academy at Jena. I was indeed scarcely sixteen years old when removed thither. For a while I was only a half scholar, since I did not attend at the college meals The study of the dead and living languages was my principal object during the first year. The high idea of the Latin tongue which I had conceived on becoming acquainted with Terence, was considerably increased as I proceeded in my studies at Jena. Weideberg, at that time one of the assistants there, but now professor at Helmstadt, read lectures in Horace for an hour immediately after
from my ch
dinner. I cannot say that this time was selected with particular judgment, since, in the summer months especially, nothing less than the high entertainment we received from the lectures could have prevented our frequently taking a nap. Weideberg entered with true philosophical taste into the spirit of the poet, and separated with the nicest discrimination the beauty of the thougnts from that of the diction. With the French language I had been a dabbler
pod, hut in Jena I made great proficiency in it. Boulet, the worthy old Boulet, was no common teacher of languages. Perfectly acquainted with the best authors of his century, from which he always extracted the finest passages, no one knew so well as himself how to introduce them in an appropriate manner. He had besides a most admirable talent at seasoning his instructions with wit and humour, and the happy turn to his thoughts was inexhaustible. My decided preference for the French language and French authors was acquired entirely from him. For, however strange the confession may appear from one who is not only himself a German, but even a German writer; yet I must own, that in the department of the belles-lettres, and particularly in the easy and concise manner in which their histori. cal and philosophical works are written, I think we are far behind the French. This perhaps is princi. pally to be ascribed to the heaviness and harshness of our language.
Yet it appears now extremely probable, that their revolution may make such a stagnation in literature, that time may be allowed us to get the start of them even in these departments, and that before France shall again produce such historians and philosophers as have been nurtured in her bosom, we may boast more than one Schiller in the former line, more than one Garve in the latter. Italian I learned of signor Valenti, and under his tuition first became acquainted with Ariosto.
Nor did my love for the drama remain entirely without gratification at Jena. At the time of my arrival I found a private theatre just instituted among the students there, and it very naturally became a primary object of my effort to procure admission as a member of it. The young ladies of the academies always declined performing with us at this theatre. In this I must confess that I think they were right, though the necessity that hence arose of dressing young lads in women's clothes, was very disadvantageous to the performance. Notwithstanding they might be yet without beards, and scarcely have attained to the manly countenance, it was impossible but they must make very awkward figures in this change of garment and character. On account of my youth, women's characters were frequently allotted to me, and I cannot now recollect without laughing, having been dressed in a large hoop to play madame von Schmerling, in Grossmann's Not more than Six Dishes. Many a swain have I had kneeling at my feet, as I supported the character of many a young and tender damsel.
Besides all my other pursuits, I still continued to forge rhymes, which I dignified with the name of poetry, and it so happened that within the first twelve months of my academical career, I met both with encouragement and humiliation in the
my Parnassian flights. The latter arose from my propensity to imitation not being yet extinguished.
Having for some time applied myself closely to studying Wieland's style of poetry, I began to think, that since his verses were so smooth and easy to read, they must consequently be very easy to compose. I therefore wrote, • A Winter's Tale' in two days, transcribed it over fair on the third, and on the fourth dispatched it by the post to Wieland, with an ostentatiously modest letter, soliciting with great contidence, a place for my offspring in the German Mercury.