« AnteriorContinuar »
the same-'with songs we pass into eternity. The swan may have striren with many a bitter
pang before he sings his chant of death; but with the first sound of that all pain has ceased ; and when we have arrived at this, 0 then all again is sweet and gentle, as you sup
We cannot resist one more quotation from this exquisite romance.
It is the death-song of Arnald :
As flows the stream with murmuring call
Lie lightly on thy minstrel son.'
At this point, as he says, his poetical life seems brought to a
close; his constitution was enfeebled to that degree, that it seemed impossible for him ever to engage in active pursuits of any kind; and though he so far recovered as to be able to return to Nennhausen, yet his doctor warned him that either his strength would leave him entirely, and he would gradually sink into the arms of death, or that, after a longer or shorter interval, he must prepare for a very severe attack, as the climax of his disorder; and four years afterwards this actually happened at Berlin. His attack seems to have been something like paralysis. At last, he lost, for a time, all consciousness; and so completely did his usually tenacious memory fail him, that even on recovering and betaking himself to his accustomed studies, he forgot entirely his writing of the day before, not even recognising it as his own, but criticising it as the work of an indifferent stranger. At length, however, first his body, then his mind, attained, the one partially, the other completely, strength and health. Previously to this crisis, he performed a vow which he had made before the battle of Lutzen, and peculiar enough it was. It was, if he should return with honour to Nennhausen, solemnly to consecrate his sword in the village church. With no small self-denial (for now the allies were crossing the Rhine), and kept to his purpose by the remembrance of King Clovis dedicating his white horse in the cathedral of Tours, he hung it up over a shield, with an inscription explanatory of the circumstance:-“Farewell
, then,' he says, thou noble sword ; remind the villagers of their old friend, Fouqué; and when years have passed away, join with him, their old minister, his old and cherished friend.'
While his health was thus, as it seemed, fading away at Nennhausen, his mind seems to have teemed with those gentle thoughts of which we have given a specimen in an extract from Minstrel Love. This, my weak health, continued to open . to me more and more the world of spirits; else, perhaps, had * earthly life become too dear to me, and scarcely had I freed 'myself from the world of laurels and flowers.' 'And now his life passed most smoothly on. His very weakly condition, brought on by loyal service to his country, naturally disarmed hostile criticism, while the striking and original thoughts put beautifully forward in his romances and dramas, made him well known to all Germany. Outwardly pleasant were these moments, but full of inward danger—the danger of good words from all the world.
And yet I wondered not at this. I meant well to all. Why should not all mean well of me? Indeed, in those days I 'wished earnestly for a skilful adversary, that I might measure ' myself with him, and then try the power given me by God.
Child of man, that belongs to the gifts which are wont to come ' to thee without thy seeking them.' Still,' he continues,
' amidst the happiness of being regarded well by all
, the mys‘terious warning of Scripture would rise in my mind—“Beware, ' when all speak well of you.” This word was ever knocking at 'the door of my heart; but therein dwelt too much vanity to o suffer it to enter.'
The last point in the Biography of Fouqué to which we would call the reader's attention is this—his position among the literary men of the day. This was, as we have shown, very peculiar. High sentiments were in Germany divorced from religion. Young poets thought it fine to talk of fatherland, as a sort of golden calf before which to fall down and worship, and run into all sorts of mad excesses. In the name of fatherland, i.e. their own, often selfish, view of freedom and sublimity, any sort of atrocity might be committed with impunity. A man could not, as they thought, love his country and God at once. And when Fouqué fought manfully, and wrote noble sentiments of freedom, his own friends were not prepared to find him also a thoroughly religious man. Thus it happened that, at a meeting of literary men, at the opening of which one of his songs had been sung with great applause, when he, in turn, proposed a toast, with the view of uniting all, a general uproar arose, and showed him a wasp's nest, on which, unawares, he had trodden. •People,' he says, ' have often asked me what was the subject of dissension.
I have always answered freely, and will now say willingly«“You all find fault with me for what each believing Christian · holds--for such I am-according as God gives me strength, ' and as He has placed me here below. And upon these princi• ples, and these alone, i. e. as men believe in God, and therefore are of Godlike mind, all real equality is based before Him. In this way, whether a man be peasant, burgher, noble, or king, priest or layman, it is all one and the same. This (of being Christian men together) is the unity, yea, the oneness which ‘now in the most various privileges and duties, if faithfully per
ceived and acknowledged, unfolds itself gloriously in blessed • harmony in a choral song, tuning itself for heaven. Men can, eternity cannot, deceive; the spirit of the times can, the Spirit of God revealed from eternity cannot, deceive. Here is my
open confession."And so again when, after the death of Kotzebue, he wrote some warning verses to young Germany, showing the full hideousness of the spirit of Voltaire, that fearful spirit of infidelity, and, we may add, poltroonery, which then began to run riot, he adds, in answer to the taunt, that he was behind the spirit of the age: “I admit it, good people; I admit
it freely. I do not recognise the spirit of the age for a fugle'man, whom in each step one is to follow, but for one of those spirits who must be tried by the word of God, whether they be
of God or no. Not treachery, not a lie, not murder, not hatred,
but heavenly and brotherly love, and truth, and faith, are from « God.'
But not only the infidel part of the community thought they had reason to find fault with the brave and manly poet, treating him as one who had wittingly played them false; who had talked of freedom, and yet felt bound, by obedience to God's laws; had written fine and high thoughts, yet was tame enough to own the Bible; but, somehow, he did not suit those who now began to claim him as their own, the “truly pious'* of the generation. • Many of those well-meaning persons began to consider and • declare, that any direction of the poetical gift towards what ' they called worldly matters was sinful. Many representations
came from this quarter to Fouqué, to devote his muse entirely 'to Religion; and when he declined this, anathema was hurled at
him by some openly in words, by others in withdrawal from • the now distasteful society of their brother.' The fact was, that Fouqué's mind was far removed from either of these-he was far more religious than either. He saw plainly that Religion was not to remove a man from the world, but to keep him unspotted in the world ; that poetry was a reality, and a practical duty of a Christian's every-day life; in fact, that man can make no greater mistake than to imagine that the gifts of God can be used so as to glorify Him only by putting them in what is called a strictly religious form. And when they accused him of lightmindedness, they erred beyond expression. Fouqué's mind was ' far too serious in matters of religion to throw aside considera‘tions of this sort by mere commonplace worldly sayings. He 'wrestled hard with the difficulty before the presence of God, ' and God alone knows of the struggles of his heart. Instead of 'casting away his worldly vocation as a poet, he acquired a
strengthening or elevation of his gift, and henceforth he let it • be heard much oftener than in earlier days, in spiritual expres
sions and songs. And is not this that which the great Master teaches ? • It has been His gracious purpose to turn all that is 'ours from evil to good ... . He purposed to save and to change ' us,—all that belongs to us--our reason, our affections, our pur‘suits, our relations in life, --He needs nothing put aside in His • disciples, but all sanctified. Every faculty of the mind, every
design, pursuit, subject of thought, is hallowed in its degree by 'the abiding vision of Christ, as Lord, Saviour, and Judge. All
* This puritanical bias of that age, which made the religious world, as it styles itself, look with suspicion on the revival of Tales of the Olden Time' by the Romantic school, is well shown up by Tieck in the • Betrothing,' a novel, which is not improbably the prototype of a similar class among ourselves. Those who have read the works of the author of “ The Fairy Bower" will know to what we allude.
• solemn, reverent, thankful, and devoted feelings, all that is noble, all that is choice in the regenerate soul, all that is selfdenying in conduct and zealous in action, is drawn forth and offered up by the Spirit as a living sacrifice to the Son of
God.' It needs not that the gift of poetry should be turned solely into one source, but that the whole stream, with all its tributaries, should be holy and pure. Poetry is Catholic, and has to do with the whole drama of life, not with the thoughts and feelings-often isolated and unintelligible-of one particular section. Its use is to point out the true, and to draw men's hearts to it, in whatever form it dwell. It is the overpowering emotion of the heart, ycarning to express the true and noble, whether found in chivalry and heroic deeds, the depths of the composition of the hearts of men, the mighty things hidden within the form of the natural world, or in the lights rapidly passing by, gleaming from another, which we call the invisible world. Wherever the true and holy lies, and in whatever shape, it is quite certain that some soul of man will be found to vibrate in unison with it. That vibration the world calls poetry. If Fouqué, at the suggestion of his friends, had given up that expression of the true and holy, which was natural to him, and betaken himself to what is popularly called religious poetry, the result would probably have been something like the small publications now so unhappily common among ourselves.
We have little to add to this sketch. Our object throughout has been to call the reader's attention to two points-first, the quality of poetry itself; and, secondly, the peculiar quality of that of Fouqué.' And in this view we have endeavoured to connect together the different portions and events of his life, being fully convinced that, in the true poet, hand and heart must surely go together. We do not deny that poets may be bad men; like all the gifts of God, the gift of poesy may be misapplied ; but their poetry, if they be true poets, will more or less, like that of Byron's, display the inherent badness of the man. But of those, who like Fouqué, show an instinctive appreciation of the true and beautiful, wherever to be found, how can we speak better than in the words of our great poet?
Sovereign masters of all hearts,
His hosannas here below,
Linger not with sin and woe.'