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most entirely destitute of every thing which the authors of this improvement had already produced.
But now, my friend, I come to an event, which, though small in itself, was, in respect to my education, highly important, and rich in results. I had reached my thirteenth year, when
eldest sister was married to a young clergyman by the name of Schätzler. While on a visit to my father's, he discovered my inclination for poetry, and my lamentable destitution of good writers in this department, and presented me with the poems of Haller. It is in vain for me to attempt to express to you the joy and transport with which I read and devoured this poet. All at once the problem which had vexed me was solved. I now supposed myself to have found what I had sought for in my Brockes and Canitz, in vain. It was not long before I knew my Haller by heart. Of course, I imitated him ; and, as every thing that I found in my admired pattern, struck me as beautiful, I was pleased with his provincialisms among the rest; as even then I was able to discover them. Indeed, I employed them in my own verses, and, in the midst of the Upper Palatinate, wrote as though I was a native of Berne. *
What however was this small error, in comparison with the immense advantage which I derived from Haller ? His train of thought was rich and full of meaning, and every word of him took possession of my soul. I passed by nothing without the most careful examination, and dwelt with indescribable pleasure upon every line, always expecting to discover something more in it; and the numerous passages which I did not and could not understand, only served to exalt my reverence for the poet. They appeared to me to be divine expressions surrounded with a sacred obscurity, the meaning of which I thought would probably be unveiled to me at some future period. From this time onward, I became disgusted with every thing like prolixity, exuberance of language and tautology. How much soever pleasure other youths could
* [For notices of Haller, see Memoirs of Goethe, p. 325; Rees' Cyclopoedia; and Pinacotheca Scriptorum Nostra Ætate Literis Illustrium, etc., Augustæ Vindelicorum, 1741, in Decad. IV. where a likeness of him is also to be found. He was a native of Berne, noted for kis precocity, distinguished as a poet, and one of the most thorough and extensive scholars of his age.]
find in a certain fulness and luxuriancy of expression, and a play with brilliant images and well sounding phrases, in them I could find none. Haller made me so choice of my expressions, I may say, reduced me to such poverty in this respect, that, when there was no new thought to be uttered either different from the preceding or designed to render it more definite, I absolutely had not another word to say. When therefore, I reflect upon the influence exerted upon me by the poems of Haller, I am convinced, that my style derived its peculiarities particularly from them. That they made it too dry I am willing to admit. Haller naturally exerted a greater influence upon my reason than my imagination, and perhaps curbed the latter, far too much. About this time, I heard various strangers passing through the place, speak with great enthusiasm of Klopstock's Messiah, and praise various other German poets, particularly Hagedorn and Gellert ;* but, living as Í then was in a dark and wretched corner of Germany, for me to obtain any of these writers was a thing impossible. Consequently, Haller remained my all, until the death of my father entirely changed my future destination. of this however another time. Farewell.
L ET TER III.
Father dies—Goes to Regensburg-Gets hold of other poets—Notice of his
instructors-Account of his studies-Admires Cicero-Reads French and Italian works-Makes verses.
MY DEAR FRIEND
Under the guidance of my father, I had made considerable progress in the Latin language, and could express
* [For notices of Hagedorn and Gellert, as well as Klopstock, see the work already referred to, Memoirs of Goethe, pp. 313, 324, and 335.]
myself in it with some ease and correctness. In the Greek and in other things belonging to a preparation for an academical course of studies, I was quite deficient." This affected my father very deeply, and, as he had no more time to spare from the laborious duties of his office than he had hitherto devoted to me, which was always far too little, and he also readily acknowledged the superiority of a public education to a private one, he resolved to send me to the very same school where he had received his education, and of which he never spoke but in grateful terms,-to the Gymnasium poeticum at Regensburg. In so doing, he was certainly influenced by an obscure presentiment that he had not much longer to live; for he had been sick more or less for a year previous, and knew his condition too well not to feel that death was at hand. With all his zeal therefore, he immediately set about procuring a place for me at Regensburg. Only a few days before his exit, he was informed by letters, of the success of his efforts. Never shall I forget the indescribably serious look, modified indeed by a most heartfelt tenderness, with which he gave me the information, and fixed his eyes upon me for a long time in silence, prying as it were into my very heart, and uttering more than words could express. I was confounded, and finally stammered out the assurance, that I would do my utmost to equal his expectations. What expectations he had formed of me I knew full well. He did not conceal from me the fact, that he loved me in particular, and thought, as he used often to express himself, he could make something out of me. He received my assurance with books of satisfaction and happiness, dismissed me without saying another word, and a few days afterwards was laid upon the bier.
Accordingly, in the autumn of 1768, being in my 16th year, I set out for Regensburg. My mother, who died of grief at the loss of my father, had furnished me with a few guilders, her six months' privilege as a clergyman's widow, not having then expired. These I was carefully to husband in order to a supply of my most pressing necessities, for a long time to come. But scarcely had I taken up my abode in Regensburg, before I disposed of almost
all this money at a bookseller's shop for some German poets, particularly Klopstock’s Messiah,
of which only the ten first books were then published. The last attracted me with an irresistible power which operated equally strong upon my imagination and my heart. In it, I discovered the German language in a richness, strength, and, I may say, magnificence, of which I had previously had no conception. In regard to sentiment, sublimity, and train of thought, what a resemblance there was between Klopstock, and my Haller, and how welconie therefore must the former have been to one, whose feelings had been excited and moulded by the latter! Hence, I read my Messiah so often, and with such interest, that in a short time I knew it by heart as well as I did my Haller. I was not led astray by him, however, like many of my young friends, into a love of pompous phrases and poetical
From such an error had been carefully secured by Haller, and still more so by the study of the ancients, to which I now applied myself with all diligence.
And here with renewed gratitude I must make mention of a teacher. He is not honored indeed with a great name among the learned, nor has he written much; but yet he was thoroughly acquainted with philology, possessed of rare skill as a teacher, and a benevolence towards his pupils which gained for him every heart. I refer to Frederic Augustus Töpfer, who was then conrector of the Gymnasium, into whose class I was put, after having been examined by George Henry Martini, the rector. To this man I am particularly indebted for the influence which the reading of the ancients exerted upon my education, and entire mode of thinking, and the benefit they proved to me in regard to facility of expression. He was intimately acquainted with all the niceties of the Latin language, and labored to teach his scholars how to express themselves in it not only with correctness, but even with elegance. Having corrected the first exercise that I wrote in the class, he told me in a friendly way, that he saw I had some skill, but that I had not yet got my
stays on, and therefore must in future attend more implicitly to his instructions. His method, when he made us translate out of the German language into the Latin, was to select
for us the most excellent Latin phrases. These were the pure idioms of the language, which, being chosen with the greatest care furnished bim with an occasion to make us thoroughly acquainted with its genius; at the same time, he always carried us back to fundamental principles, and the reasons why a thing should be so and not otherwise, and in this way, not only accustomed us to grammatical correctness in both languages, but to a critical mode of thinking upon matters of this kind. This he accomplished to a still greater degree, when we read and translated the ancients; for in this case, he was careful to see, that the author translated was rendered as well as possible, and with taste. To show us how this was to be done, he put into our hands, not translations of the Latin and Greek authors, (for then we had none worthy of imitation.) but those German writers who had imitated the ancients with the greatest success.
To these he drew our attention, while he endeavored to show us what use we were to make of translating from the ancients. Accordingly, it was he who for this purpose, first put Wieland's writings into my hands, so far as they were then published, and Ramler's Odes; and happy was the result of this course and highly satisfactory the use we made of his instructions, in this respect, whenever we translated from the ancient Greek and Roman authors. For those of his scholars who obtained his particular confidence, (and I was soon so happy as to be of this nuniber,) there was in general free access to his library, which was quite extensive, well selected, and contained the best ancient and modern writers for philological purposes. Here we were not only furnished with an opportunity to collect together many items of information, but also enabled to obtain what was most adapted to our wants.
„The happy relation in which I stood to Töpfer, the conrector, lasted for the two years that I spent in the class of the rector. This was effected in part by Töpfer's being obliged to give weekly lessons to this class, so that he continued to be its teacher even after it had ceased to be his ; and in part, by the habit he was in of keeping up his connexion with those pupils whom he had once permitted to have free access to him, even though they were no longer