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chorus. If Mr. Blackie is occasionally surpassed by others in the Agamemnon or the Prometheus, he may justly reply that he has done what they have not even attempted — he has produced a readable and spirited version of the Suppliants. It is, in fact, not against Symmons or Chapman that he ought to be weighed, but against Potter; and how much nearer he comes to his author than Potter, it would be a waste of time to show. If he should not enjoy all the reputation which Potter has enjoyed in his day—if he should not be republished in Family Classical Libraries, or stored up with Flaxman's Outlines in Popular English Specimens — the fault is not his own, but belongs to the change of circumstances. And even though the change of circumstances of which we have spoken is unfavourable to the popularity of a translator on the former scale, yet is his occupation only reduced, it will never be entirely gone. He stands on the same ground as the poet himself, giving expression to what others feel but cannot utter. The most ardent classical student, if he appreciate the poetry of his author, will represent it to himself through some English medium, for English it must be in order to be his personal thought and feeling; and to make this medium visible and palpable, – to digest the glorious chaos of images and musical sounds into a new and living creation, is an endeavour which, though it can be never more than partially successful, must be always gratefully received.
The love of Greek has been supposed to have died out in Scotland. The reproach is, we hope, exaggerated. If not, Professor Blackie and Colonel Mure must be great exceptions.
ART. VI. – 1. Das Göthefeier zu Berlin im Jahre 1849. Ber
lin : 1849. 2. Goethe in Berlin. Erinnerungs-Blätter zur Feier seines hun
dertjährigen Geburtsfestes. Berlin : 1849. 3. Zu Goethe's Jubelfeier. Studien zu Goethe's Werken. Von
HEINRICH DÜNZER. Elberfeld: 1849. 4. Goethe's Briefe an Frau von Stein. 2 vols. Weimar :
1848. ON n August 28. 1849, and the following days, Germany cele
brated the hundredth anniversary of the birth of her greatest writer. All the literary capitals of that land of literature vied with each other in inventing ceremonial observances for the national jubilee. In accordance with the prevailing musical tendencies of the people, operatic representations formed the lead
ing features of the several festivals. The dramatic chefs d'æuvre of the poet were produced with every accompaniment which modern skill in music and decoration could supply; his lyrics, – solemn, festive, and satirical, -were performed in the most brilliant manner by mixed chorusses of professionals and amateurs : Schumann, Mendelsohn Bartholdy, and the other living or recent composers of Germany, furnished their sweetest strains for the great occasion.
All the literary and philosophical celebrities of the day contributed their quota of odes, speeches, and sentiments. The veteran Alexander von Humboldt officiated as Coryphæus at Berlin, and led the way in an address full of his own brilliant generalisations, of which the most characteristic specimen that we can find is a comparison of the lives of men of genius to the appearance of those everlasting lights of celestial
space of which the greater orbs are sometimes dispersed like • sporadic existences in the measureless ocean, sometimes united
in brilliant groups. Nor were the proper attractions wanting for the inferior orders of the cultivated world. There were triumphal arches, fountains, scenic decorations, transparencies of Göthe surrounded by every attribute of allegory, — Göthe as • Dichterkind' on a griffin, Göthe as · Dichterjüngling' on a Pegasus,--dinners, polkas, illuminations, and fireworks.
Yet it seems that the celebration, everywhere alike, was regarded as a failure. No corresponding inspiration was kindled in the audiences by the laborious enthusiasm of the stagemanagers. They listened, dull, spiritless, and uninterested; or, at best, they applauded the music, and gazed on the show, as they might on any other occasion ; but without any notice of the peculiar significance of the day. The Fates themselves appeared to take a pleasure in mocking the solemnity. It was marred everywhere by cross accidents. At Berlin the contractor for the banquet miscalculated the number of his guests, and the assembled votaries had to endure four mortal hours of a dinner which was little better than nominal, the intervals between the speeches not being duly enlivened by courses of more substantial diet. At Weimar, so long the poet's residence, his own family refused to take any part in the business ; owing, it was said, to some quarrel with the municipality about the property in his relics. At Frankfort, his birthplace, the burghers were insolvent, and out of humour; the populace savage and sore from the recent chastisement of their neighbour radicals of Baden by the Prussian bayonets. They voted the whole affair a piece of aristocratic impertinence; and when the managers got up a nocturnal serenade in front of the old house of the Göthes, the mob interrupted it, and put the performers to flight with a chorus of Katzenmusik.'
No doubt the period at which the jubilee fell was an unfortunate one. Men's minds, reeking with political excitement, were little disposed to take interest in the payment of a somewhat pedantic homage to mere literary greatness. The failure of so many cherished schemes of German freedom and union had engendered among the more enthusiastic a spirit of fierce disappointment, which was ready enough to vent itself in bitterness against the memory of the idols of the last generation. The attacks of Börne and his school had, moreover, indisposed the sentiments of many of the younger class towards Göthe. The cherished author of the higher cultivated circles had been represented — with very little reason -- as opposed to the political rights of the lower orders; and — with a good deal more — as having laboured to repress that spirit of hopeful activity out of which alone political reforms could arise. His reputation, in short, had become a kind of battle-field between democrats and conservatives; and the former, although for the moment the defeated party, were as yet the loudest. But, beyond all these temporary obstacles to the success of the commemoration, it cannot be denied that a sense of unreality, a blank dissatisfaction, weighed on minds capable of calmer and more elevated judgment. The worship which was once paid, sincerely if blindly, to the living man, had become, they felt, mere conventional idolatry of the dead. Göthe was no longer what he had been, nor was his Germany the same. It was not the fame of the Artist’ which was in question: that was established. In that character, nothing could touch him farther ;' the Book of Fate had closed on the page which recorded his name. But Göthe had been much more than this to Germany. For many years he had been regarded as the first practical philosopher of his day — the Liberator of the age from prejudice and barbarism; -the great Teacher, from whom men were to learn how to direct their energies aright, how to achieve that perfect balance or harmony of the faculties and passions in which he placed the supreme good of his system. It was in this capacity that he had been reverenced with an enthusiasm unparalleled in modern days, and which nothing but its honesty preserved from absolute ridicule. Each of his greater works had been overlaid with multiplied gloss and commentary, in which critics vied with each other in extracting from their subject the greatest amount of recondite learning. Every trivial saying which he chose, after his half-solemn half-mystifying fashion, to propound as oracular, had been treasured and expanded as a relic of in
Influence of Göthe on his Age.
spiration. Where was all this glory now? Where was the vaunted world-philosophy of the accomplished Epicurean ? Had it not become as vain and wearisome as the systems of those former schools which it had been held to supersede? Was not there a painful suspicion that much of the weakness and degeneracy of the higher classes — much of their impotence to resist the torrent of those false principles and exaggerated sentiments in which they had long ceased to share -- was owing to the enervating influence of doctrines once admired as exalting man to the ethereal serenity of angelic natures ?
All these were unsettled questions at best. The world had not yet arrived at that point in its progress from which it might survey with judicial clearness the character of the mighty deceased; and his spirit, evoked untimely from its recent grave for this solemnity, was viewed by numbers as a spectre of questionable shape –a crowned phantom, the legitimacy of whose title was still under just debate.
The time has assuredly not arrived for a full appreciation of Göthe. The peculiar spirit of that age in which his mind was formed as yet clings too much to our generation, to render us truly competent and impartial judges. But the time has arrived, we think, when it behoves us to question ourselves as to the results of that long and brilliant career on modern society. It is time to examine what Göthe has done for us, what is the nature and tendency of the train of thought which he has left behind him, what school he has founded, what is the general bearing of his philosophy on those which preceded it and on those which are yet to come. These, no doubt, may seem questions of more immediate importance in Germany, and on the Continent generally, than for our solitary and self-sufficing society. But the contagion of a genius so searching as his, is to be kept out by no quarantine of English prejudices and indifference. The subject is not disposed of by the mere statement that English people read little of Göthe; if, indeed, the fact be so. They read him at second or third hand; they meet with some portion of his spirit alike in the abstruser speculations of modern religion and ethical philosophy, and in the common literature of the day. No one can well over-estimate the influence which a single mind, possessed of great original powers, and turning them in a popular direction, exercises in our day of rapid interchange of thought; or the speed with which that influence is conveyed, by a thousand ramifying channels, to the very extremities of the educated community.
And this must be the apology for foreigners, like ourselves, when we venture to pass criticisms on great names like his, apparently so far removed from our judgments by peculiarities of language and habits of thought. It is an apology, which conveys at the same time a far higher compliment than any which literary flattery could devise. When we are told that we cannot understand Göthe, our answer is, that he has made himself understood. Line upon line, precept upon precept, his writings have forced their way into our own literature, and he is as much one of the fathers of the present educated generation of Englishmen as our own Gibbon, or Johnson, or Wordsworth. We are not only entitled, but bound, to examine and to judge of him, and to say for ourselves, with whatever consciousness of uncertainty in our judgments, what is the nature and extent of this power which is at work among us, and how far its operation is for good or for evil.
And a similar apology is perhaps due to our readers, for calling their attention from topics of more immediate interest to some which may appear a little trite and inappropriate to the time. This journal has on various occasions, and when the subjects were more recent, taken part in critical controversies about Göthe's literary fame, and has sometimes incurred thereby the indignant animadversions of those who claimed for the object of their admiration the somewhat inconsistent honours, as they always appeared to us, of being at once the universal genius whom all the world was bound to worship, and the peculiar genius whom few could understand besides themselves. But we have no wish to go again over that beaten ground. It is less with Göthe as the mere author than as the moral philosopher that we are now concerned. For that Göthe’s writings do involve a peculiar view of life, its duties, and its objects, — that he has furnished mankind, not only with new subjects of thought, but with new ways of thinking and feeling, -is declared at once by his multitudinous admirers, and by the determined band of opponents who in later years have been raised up against him in his own country. And we must still farther trespass on our reader's indulgence for somewhat antiquated criticism, if, in order to estimate still more fully the position from which he started, the ground which he traversed, and the direction which he has given to those who are to continue the race, we go
still farther back, and concern ourselves awhile with celebrities still more out of date. For as three great names -Voltaire, Rousseau, and Göthe— represent, in succession, the different phases of the social philosophy of an entire century, so the three owners of the names are connected, not solely by the law of literary dependence, but by those of re-action and contrast. It is impossible in any degree to understand the functions exercised by