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INTRODUCTION.

No branch of modern German literature can boast of the same degree of originality as its lyrical poetry. The epic, didactic, and dramatic literature of modern Germany has, more or less, received the first impulse from ancient or modern foreign productions, and has been, in some measure, modelled aiter them ; but her lyrical poetry is the genuine outgrowth of her own genius. This circumstance alone will fully suffice to account for the excellence of German lyric poetry, and explain the high estimation in which it is held by all impartial critics of foreign countries.

The development of modern German lyric poetry dates from the sixteenth century. The impulse of the people to give expression to their sentiments found vent and nourishment in a number of poems and songs which, their authors being unknown, are designated by the collective title of Volkslieder. These were sung or recited by the people, but found little favour with the scholars of the age, and the learned adherents of Luther strove to supersede the Volkslied by the Kirchenlied. In order to do this more effectually, and partly, perhaps, because they could not rid themselves of the popular instinct, the authors of the Religious Hymns borrowed from the Volkslied the metrical form, the simplicity of expression, and frequently even the airs; and to this circumstance is owing, in some measure at least, the irresistible charm which pre-eminently distinguishes the German Kirchenlied from all other similar poetical productions. Martin Luther excelled herein, as in every other respect, all his countrymen of his time. He was not only a great theologian, but a poet and a musician withal, and his sonorous verse at once struck firm root in the hearts of the people. He is, therefore, rightly considered as the founder of the German Kirchenlied, which gives its principal stamp to the First Period of modern German lyrical poetry.

Martin Luther did not, however, disdain to give expression to secular lyrics, which were, of course, generally tinged with a religious colouring. Witness his beautiful poem, Frau

Musica, placed at the beginning of this volume. Some of his pratical contemporaries and immediate successors likewise cultivated both secular lyrical poetry and the Kirchenlied ; more particularly after the revival of German poetry through the efforts of Martin Opitz in the early part of the seventeenth century. It is true, most of the poetical performances were slavish imitations of ancient classical productions ; still many lyrical poems of those times breathe the genuine spirit of original poetical inspiration, and are distinguished by a most touching natural simplicity. The religious struggles, more particularly the Thirty Years' War, gave rise to a number of spirited patriotic effusions which proved, likewise, that the spirit of poetry bad not died out.

The unparalleled calamity of the 'Long War' had stifled the national life of Germany for more than a century. Scholarship was soon revived, and it flourished, but the poet's divine voice' was as rarely heard as the song of birds on a chilly autumn day. And this phenomenon is based on the laws of nature. As long as the gigantic struggle was raging the poets raised their voices to comfort the sufferers, or to encourage the combatants, but as soon as the contest was over a feeling of utter exhaustion was everywhere prevalent. The source of all original production seemed stopped, and the first dawn of a new intellectual life shone with a borrowed light. The Second Period of German lyrical poetry is therefore, although it extended over a considerable portion of the eighteenth century, not distinguished by a general character, and can hardly be judge das a whole. Gellert excelled greatly in the Kirchenlied; Hagedorn produced the most cheerful songs—it is true, chiefly in the Anacreontic style, but still with a considerable amount of genuine feeling-whilst the verses of Gleim were characterised by naïve good humour and a playful cheerfulness, which not unfrequently had the homely ring of the Volkslied. Still, that period had no decided stamp as regards lyrical poetry.

The Third Period of German lyrical poetry may be said to possess—paradoxial as it may sound-two distinct genera? characters. The one was chiefly represented by the famous Göttinger Hainbund, or Dichterbund, and the other by a single poet only, who, in his overtowering eminence stands, among all modern poets, quite alone as a Lyrist, in the came way as Shakespeare is unique as a dramatist. That that lyrio poet was Goethe is obvious.

The principal bards of the Göttinger Hainbund were : Claudius, Bürger, F. L. Stolberg, Hölty, and Voss, and the central

luminary round which they revolved as satellites, was Klopstock. The muse of the latter was just of a kind to fill with enthusiasm, warm-hearted young poets, whose war-cry was: Naturel and on whose banner was written the device : Religion, Friendship and Patriotism. Klopstock's Odes and Hymns, which are far superior-because more genuine—to his epic and dramatic productions, electrified the intelligent youth of Germany, and the admiration felt for him amounted to idolatry. It wouid be beyond the scope of the present brief sketch to give a full account of the romantic origin, the sentimental character and phantastic tendencies of the Göttinger Hainbund; for our purpose it will suffice to say that the best performances of that poetical confederacy were in the sphere of lyrical poetry, al. though many of them bore the stamp of affectation and of a maudlin coquetting with nature. The poetical repository of the Göttinger Dichterbund was the Musenalmanach founded by Boie in 1770. This periodical contributed greatly, to the cul. tivation and spread of lyrical poetry. It has, besides, the merit of having

given to the world some of the youthful effusions of Goethe, with whom the new era of German poetry-of modern poetry-really begins. In Goethe, then, we see the second representative of lyrical poetry in the Third Period, in which period falls, at the same time, his principal activity as a poet. Properly speaking, however, Goethe cannot be said to represent this or that period only, but he must be considered as the representative of modern lyrical poetry in general.

The chief distinguishing characteristic between Goethe and the host of all other modern poets, consists in the fact, that he never wrote a lyrical poem without being in a lyrical mood, as it were ; and that he was able to adapt closely the expression to his sentiments. Goethe's lyrical effusions were,

therefore, genuine productions of his heart, and not the forced outgrowth of an artificial inspiration. He might, in fact, exclaim like his Sänger :

Ich finge wie der Vogel singt

Der in den Zweigen wohnet. His songs were like the song of the bird : natura, and spontaneous. He would have scorned the idea of sitting down at his writing desk like an unfortunate poet, who has to furnish a poem for the next number of a fashionable magazine, with the firm determination : Now I will sing in sweet strains the happiness of love ! or Now I will express the wretchedness of un.

happy love in doleful tunes ! First must he entertain the feeling, and then only is he able, or rather he must give oxpression to it, and well might he say:

Immer hab' ich nur gefhrieben,
Wie ich fühle, wie ich's meine.

grace

*

Goethe's feelings were, however, so intense, and his mastery ov er the language so great, that when he did express an individual feeling of his own, say of longing or sadness, his verses did not seem to express his own sentiments only, but the feeling of longing or sadness in general. Truly therefore might Goethe's English biographer say with regard to his style: “It opens itself like a fower with unpretending

There is no ornament in it. The beauties which it reveals are organic, they form part and parcel of the very tissue of the poem, and are not alded as ornaments.

It was, therefore, that happy union of intense feeling with an almost unparalleled capacity of expression, which raised Goethe above all other lyrical poets, and which made it possible for him to fulfil, in an unusual degree, the two cardinal conditions he laid down for the quality of a poet : Lebendiges Gefühl der Zustände und Fähigkeit es auszudrüden macht ten Poeten.t

If there was any quality which could enhance the transcending merit of Goethe's poetry, it is the spirit of humanity by which it is pervaded. The humanistic tendency of his poems is also shared by Schiller (whose lyric muse is likewise represented in the Third Period), but who was partly too much of a philosopher and partly too much of a dramatist, to be a thorough lyrical poet. Goethe's activity was a prolonged ono and we meet with him also in the Fourth Period of German lyrical poetry. This period is singularly rich in lyric poets. The Deutsche Dichterwald resounds everywhere with songs and carols, and all the various topics which fall within the domain of lyrical poetry are represented in full luxurious bloom. I will not attempt to enumerate and define the various subjects which come under the head of lyrical poetry; but if we should wish to give anything like a complete answer to the poet's question :

* Life of Goethe by G. H. Lewes. Second Edition, p. 481. + Eckermann's Gespräche mit Goethe. Vol. i. p. 154.

Aus wie vielen Elementen
Soll ein ächtes Lied fich nähren,
Daß es Laien gern empfinden,
Meister es mit Freuden hören? *

- we should certainly have to mention more elements than love, wine, glory of arms, and hatred of evil.' There is, above all, the realm of nature with its varied manifestations, which offers to the poet an inexhaustible source, and the poets of Germany have at all times, like those of this country, taken great delight in giving expression to their enthusiastic admiration and sincere love of nature. Among the poets of the Fourth Period stand foremost in this respect Uhland and Wilhelm Müller. The Spring Songs of the former are distinguished by a matchless melodious tenderness and a refinement of expression ; whilst those of the latter appeal more directly to the heart through their freshness and simplicity which imprint upon them the stamp. the Volkslied. This popular character of Wilhelm Müller's songs was not borrowed from the Volkslied, but it came from the bottom of his own heart, and in the course of time his songs became, as it were, the property of the people; so that they are often sung and recited, without any mention being made of the poet, which is one of the characteristics of the Volkslied.t

Besides in Spring Songs, which form the universal domain of the poet, Wilhelm Müller excelled in Reise- und Wanderlieder which have been cultivated in no country with so much zest and success as in Germany. Uhland, and still more Eichendorff, were his great rivals in that branch, and some of the finest specimens of the German Wanderlied will be found among the songs of the latter in the present collection.

* See p. 209 in this volume.

+ Cf. p. viii. in the extremely interesting Introduction by Professor Max Müller, prefixed to the edition of his father's poems, which form the seventeenth volume of the Bibliothek der Deutschen Nationalliteratur. I cannot help recommending at the same time to all English readers of German, who are lovers of poetry, the poems of Wilhelm Müller, which deserve to be better known in this country.

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