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INTRODUCTION.

I. GENERAL ESTIMATE.

a. PLACE OF THE WORK IN GOETHE'S LIFE.

Hermann und Dorothea belongs among the works of which it has been said, "the human race takes charge of them that they shall not perish." It represents the real Goethe at his best, having been written with full artistic earnestness and freedom, so that the poet expressed himself completely as a mature creative artist, and not tentatively or experimentally, as had been the case in some of his earlier productions. It possesses the breadth and elevation, and the genial humanity which were the fruits of Goethe's strenuous labor from his early days; it contains the fine product of the widest experiences and studies, often cast into golden sayings; it is intensely and affectionately German, and ennobled by a high moral dignity. To no other work did Goethe surrender himself so gladly while creating, for no other had he such a lifelong affection. He became more and more convinced, while working at the poem, how rich a treasure the subject-matter afforded him, and that he had "a theme, such as one might never happen upon a second time during one's life." (To Meyer, April, 1797.) It was written at a time when his artistic theories had settled down to the firm ground of conviction after unexampled experiments in the most varied fields.

In his younger publications there had been, along with much stress and ferment, and with the strong influence of Ossian, Shakespeare, Richardson, and Rousseau, the predominance of the sentimental, romantic, and passionate; the love of the revolutionary, varied, subjective, and individual. With life in Weimar, and the long sojourn in Italy, this richly-endowed side of Goethe's nature had been much tempered and restrained; there came a reaction towards the Greek ideal, with a tendency at times in the direction of a cold and rigid classicism. The love of the symmetrical, objective, and typical superseded the intense and passionate individualism of the younger man. "Clear

ness of vision," says Goethe,' "cheerfulness of acceptance, easy grace of expression, are the qualities which delight us; and now, when we affirm that we find all these in the genuine Grecian works, achieved in the noblest material, the best proportioned form, with certainty and completeness of execution, we shall always be understood if we refer to them as a basis and a standard. Let each one be a Grecian in his own way; but let him be one." After the return to the north had come the philosophical and æsthetic influence of close association with Schiller. The philosophy of Kant, particularly, had served to greatly modify the fine scorn of the German public which Goethe brought back from Italy, and to fix the ideal of practical service to the common weal as the solution of the riddle of human wellbeing. Both the deep emotional development and the pursuit of the serene ideals of classical beauty had served. to enrich the poet, and were in well-balanced harmony. His theories of antique art had now attained that maturity 1 Quoted by Professor Jebb, Atlantic Monthly, 72:552.

and completeness which were to characterize them throughout the remainder of his serene lifetime. Suggestive are the words of Goethe in his appreciation of Winckelmann (1805): "Man can accomplish much by the earnest use of particular powers; he can attain extraordinary results by the union of several capabilities; but the unique, the altogether unexpected, he only produces when all capacities are equally united in him. Such was the happy lot of the ancients, especially of the Greeks at the best period; we moderns are limited by Fate to the first two possibilities. When the sane nature of man operates as an entirety, when he feels himself to be in a world which is one great, beautiful, noble, and stately whole, when harmonious contentment bestows upon him a pure, free rapture, then would the entire Cosmos, if it could have sensation of its own self as having arrived at its goal, shout aloud for joy, and would be lost in wonder at the culmination of its own working and being." The work was not uninfluenced by the ideas embodied in Schiller's deep treatise On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry (1795), in which was maintained the thesis that the really beautiful must be in harmony, on the one side, with nature, and on the other side with the ideal, and in which Schiller took ground against the existence of a warfare between idealism and realism. In our appreciation of Goethe as the great Realist of his day, we

may fail to do justice to him as the great Idealist. The poem is naïve in its reproduction of actual scenes from the daily life of German people, in its descriptions of garden and vineyard, of familiar characters; in its close observa

1 Cf. Otto Harnack, Goethe in der Epoche seiner Vollendung,

Xxxviii ff.

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