صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

CHAPTER III.

PROGRESS.

RETURNING to the narrative, we find Goethe in the beginning of 1779 very active in his new official duties. He has accepted the direction of the War Department, which suddenly assumes new importance, owing to the preparations for a war. He is constantly riding about the country, and doing his utmost to alleviate the condition of the people. "Misery,' he says, “becomes as prosaic and familiar to me as my own hearth, but nevertheless I do not let go my idea, and will wrestle with the unknown Angel, even should I halt upon my thigh. No man knows what I do, and with how many foes I fight to bring forth a little.'

Among the little things ' may be noted an organization of Firemen, then greatly wanted. Fires were not only numerous, but were rendered terrible by the want of any systematic service to subdue them. Goethe, who in Frankfurt had rushed into the bewildered crowd, and astonished spectators by his rapid peremptory disposition of their efforts into a certain system - who in Apolda and Ettersburg lent aid and command, till his eyebrows were singed and his feet were burned — naturally took it much to heart that no regular service was supplied, and he persuaded the Duke to institute one.

year enter

On this (his thirtieth) birthday the Duke, recognizing his official services, raised him to the place of Geheimrath. • It is strange and dreamlike,' writes the Frankfurt burgher in his new-made honor, that I in my

thirtieth the highest place which a German citizen can reach. On ne va jamais plus loin que quand on ne sait l'on va, said a great climber of this world. If he thought it strange, Weimar thought it scandalous. "The hatred of people here,' writes Wieland, ' against our Goethe, who has done no one any harm, has grown to such a pitch since he has been made Geheimrath, that it borders on fury.' But the Duke, if he heard these howls, paid no attention to them. He was more than ever with his friend. They started on the 12th of September on a little journey into Switzerland, in the strictest incognito, and with the lightest of travelling trunks. They touched at Frankfurt, and stayed in the old house in the Hirschgraben, where Rath Goethe had the honor of receiving not only his son as Geheimrath, but the Prince, his friend and master. Goethe's mother was, as may be imagined, in high spirits, - motherly pride and housewifely pride being equally stimulated by the presence of such guests.

From Frankfurt they went to Strasburg. There the recollection of Frederika irresistibly drew him to Sesenheim. In his letter to the Frau von Stein he says: “On the 25th I rode towards Sesenheim, and there found the family as I had left it eight years ago. I was welcomed in the most friendly manner. The second daughter loved me in those days better than I deserved, and more than others to whom I have given so much passion and faith. I was forced to leave her at a moment when it nearly cost her her life ; she passed lightly over that episode to tell me what traces still remained of the old illness, and behaved with such exquisite delicacy and generosity from

the moment that I stood before her unexpected on the threshold, that I felt quite relieved. I must do her the justice to say that she made not the slightest attempt to rekindle in my bosom the cinders of love. She led me into the arbor, and there we sat down. It was a lovely moonlight, and I inquired after every one and everything. Neighbors had spoken of me not a week ago. I found old songs which I had composed, and a carriage I had painted. We recalled many a pastime of those happy days, and I found myself as vividly conscious of all, as if I had been away only six months. The old people were frank and hearty, and thought me looking younger. I stayed the night there, and departed at dawn, leaving behind me friendly faces; so that I can now think once more of this corner of the world with comfort, and know that they are at peace

with me.' There is something very touching in this interview, and in his narrative of it, forwarded to the woman he now loves, and who does not repay him with a love like that of Frederika. Frederika here, as everywhere, shows a sweet and noble nature, worthy of a happier fate. Her whole life was one of sweet self-sacrifice. Lenz had fallen in love with her; others offered to marry her, but she refused all offers. "The heart that has once loved Goethe,' she exclaimed, can belong to no one else.'

On the 26th Goethe rejoined his party, and in the afternoon I called on Lili, and found the lovely Grasaffen* with a baby of seven weeks old, her mother standing by. There also I was received with admiration and pleasure. I made many inquiries, and to my great delight found the good creature happily married. Her husband, from what I could learn, seems a worthy sensible fellow, rich, well

*Grasaffen. i. e., a marmoset. It was a favorite term of endearment.

placed in the world ; in short, she has everything she needs. He was absent. I stayed dinner. After dinner went with the Duke to see the Cathedral, and in the evening saw Paisiello's beautiful opera, L’Infante di Zamora. Supped with Lili, and went away in the moonlight. The sweet emotions which accompanied me I cannot describe.'

Do you not feel in these two descriptions the difference of the two women, and the difference of his feeling for them? From Strasburg he went to Emmendingen, and there visited his sister's grave. Accompanied by such thoughts as these three visits must have called

up,

he entered Switzerland. His Briefe aus der Schweitz, mainly composed from the letters to the Frau von Stein, will inform the curious reader of the effect these scenes produced on him ; we cannot pause here in the narrative to quote from them. Enough if we mention that in Zurich he spent happy hours with Lavater, in communication of ideas and feelings; and that on his way home he composed the little opera of Jery und Bätely, full of Swiss inspiration. In Stuttgart the Duke took it into his head to visit the Court, and as no presentable costume was ready, tailors had to be set in activity to furnish the tourists with the necessary clothes. They assisted at the New Year festivities of the Military Academy, and here for the first time Schiller, then twenty years of age, with the Robbers in his head, saw the author of Götz and Werther.

On the 13th of January, 1780, after a four month's absence, they returned to Weimar. Both were considerably altered to their advantage. In his Diary Goethe writes : “I feel daily that I gain more and more the confidence of people ; and God grant that I may deserve it, not in the easy way, but in the way I wish. What I endure from myself and others, no one sees.

The best is

nber

i the 3 di

the deep stillness in which I live vis à ris to the world, and thus win what fire and sword cannot rob me of.' He was crystallizing slowly; slowly gaining the complete command over himself. "I will be lord over myself. No one who cannot master himself is worthy to rule, and only he can rule.' But with such a temperament this mastery was not easy ; wine and women's tears, he felt, were among his weaknesses :

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Ich könnte viel glücklicher seyn,
Gäb's nur keinen Wein
Und keine Weiberthränen.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

He could not entirely free himself from either. He was a Rhinelander, accustomed from boyhood upwards to the stimulus of wine; he was a poet, never free from the fascinations of woman. But just as he was never known to lose his head with wine, so also did he never lose him. self entirely to a woman : the stimulus never grew into intoxication.

One sees that his passion for the Frau von Stein continues ; but it is cooling. It was necessary for him to love some one, but he was loving here in vain, and he begins to settle into a calmer affection. He is also at this time thrown more and more with Corona Schröter; and his participation in the private theatricals is not only an agreeable relaxation from the heavy pressure of official duties, but is giving him materials for Wilhelm Meister, now in progress. · Theatricals,' he says,

remains one of the few things in which I still have the pleasure of a child and an artist. Herder, who had hitherto held somewhat aloof, now draws closer and closer to him, probably on account of the change which is coming over bis way of life. And this intimacy with Herder awakens in him the desire to see Lessing; the projected journey to Wolfenbüttel is

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »