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BOOK THE FIFTII.
The changes slowly operating the evolution of character, as from the lawlessness of Youth it passes into the clear stability of Manhood, resemble the evolution of harmony in the tuning of an orchestra, as from stormy discords wandering in pursuit of concord, all the instruments gradually subside into the true key : round a small centre the hurrying sounds revolve, one by one falling into that centre and increasing its circle, at first slowly, and afterwards with ever-accelerated velocity, till the victorious concord emerges from the tumult. Or they may be likened to the gathering splendor of the dawn, as at first slowly, and afterwards with silent velocity, it drives the sullen darkness to the rear, and with a tidal sweep of light takes tranquil possession of the sky. By images such as these we may express the dawn of a new epoch in Goethe's life. He is now entering a period when the wanderings of an excitable nature are gradually falling more and more within the circle of law ; when aims, before
vague, now become clear ; when in the recesses of his mind much that was fluent becomes crystallized by
earnestness which gives a definite purpose to life. All men of genius go through this change of crystallization. Their youths are disturbed by the turbulence of errors and of passions. But if they outlive these errors they turn them into advantages. Just as the sides of great mountain ridges are rent by fissures filled with molten rock, which fissures, when the lava cools, act like vast supporting ribs strengthening the mountain mass, so, in men of genius, passions first rend, and afterwards buttress Life. The diamond, it is said, can only be polished by its own dust ; is not this symbolical of the truth that only by its own fall-' ings-off can genius properly be taught ? And is not our very walk, as Goethe says, series of falls ?
. Men of genius,' says F. von Müller, are prone to wander beyond the boundaries of reality. In their endeavors to find new and stimulant food for the sensibility, they often disdain the narrow limits of social order; and devoted with one-sided exclusiveness to the ideal, neglect the study of the actual world and of the obligations it imposes. In Goethe, on the contrary, we find from his earliest youth two usually conflicting qualities intimately allied ; - a boundless productiveness of fancy and a childlike feeling for nature, which saw life in everything, and everywhere strove to take active part in life. This indestructible love of nature and practical action winds through the whole course of his life ; it sharpened his eye for every external phenomenon; led the often restless activity of his spirit to the Real; formed the counterpoise and the remedy of his passions ; and like a protecting genius preserved him amid perilous labyrinths from error, and amid romantic adventures from being mastered by a romantic temperament.'
He was now (1779) entering his thirtieth year. Life slowly emerged from the visionary mists through which
hitherto it had been seen; the solemn earnestness of Man. hood took the place of the vanishing thoughtlessness of Youth, and gave a more commanding unity to his exist
He had resolved to deal with Life no longer by halves, but to work it out in its totality, beauty and good
vom Halben zu entwöhnen und im Ganzen, Guten, Schönen resolut zu leben.' It is usually said that the residence in Italy was the cause of this change; but the cause lay in the necessary development of his genius. The slightest acquaintance with the period we are now considering, suffices to prove that long before he went to Italy the change had taken place. An entry in his Diary at this date is very significant. • Put my things in order, looked through my papers, and burnt all the old chips. Other times, other cares! Calm retrospect of Life, and the extravagances, impulses and eager desires of youth ; how they seek satisfaction in all directions. How I have found delight, especially in mysteries, in dark imaginative connections ; how I only half seized hold of Science, and then let it slip; how a sort of modest self-complacency runs through all I wrote ; how short-sighted I was in divine and human things; how many days wasted in sentiments and shadowy passions ; how little good I have drawn from them, and now the half of life is over, I find myself advanced no step on my way, but stand here as one who, escaped from the waves, begins to dry himself in the sun. The period in which I have mingled with the world since October 1775, I dare not yet trust myself to look at. God help me further, and give me light, that I may not so much stand in my own way, but see to do from morning till evening the work which lies before me, and obtain a clear conception of the order of things ; that I be not as those are who spend the day in complaining of headache, and
the night in drinking the wine which gives the headache !'
There is something quite solemn in those words. The same thought is expressed in a letter to Lavater : • The desire to raise the pyramid of my existence, the basis of which is already laid, as high as practicable in the air, absorbs every other desire and scarcely ever quits me. I dare not longer delay ; I am already advanced in life, and perhaps Fate will break in at the middle of my work, and leave the Babylonic tower incomplete. At least men shall say it was boldly schemed, and if I live, my powers shall, with God's aid, reach the completion.'
No better index of the change can be named than his Iphigenia auf Tauris, written at this period. The reader will learn with some surprise that this wonderful poem was originally written in prose ; not until the poet went to Italy did he turn it into verse. Prose was the fashion of the day. Götz, Egmont, Tasso and Iphigenia, no less than Schiller's Robbers, Fiesco, Kabbale und Liebe, were written in prose; and when Iphigenia assumed a poetic form, the Wiemar friends were disappointed -- they preferred the prose : a preference which to us seems as strange as if they admired the swan upon dry land more than when floating on the bosom of a lake.
This prose-mania was part of the mania for returning to Nature. Verse was pronounced unnatural; although, in truth, verse is not more unnatural than song.
Song is to speech what poetry is to prose ; it expresses a different mental condition from that expressed by speech. Impas. sioned prose approaches poetry in the rhythmical impulse of its movements, as impassioned speech in its varied cadences also approaches the intonations of music. The Arabs, under great emotional excitement, give their language a recognizable metre, and talk poetry as M. Jourdain