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He goes on—"I used to be delighted with a cer tain fact in the history of the thirteenth century where the Emperor Frederic II. being engaged against the Pope, all the north of Germany lay open to invaders. The Asiatic hordes advanced even into Silesia, where the Duke of Leignitz defeated them; they turned back to Moravia, where the Count Sternberg beat them. These gallant warriors have hitherto lived in my imagination as the saviours of the German nation. Now comes your historical critic, and he tells me that these heroes sacrificed themselves very unnecessarily, for that the Turkish army would doubtless have retired of itself-so is a grand patriotic deed lessened and maligned, and one is put horribly out of humor." It is plain that Goethe, like Johnson, did not like to have his fagot disturbed.
He adds, farther on, that in poetry this kind of skeptical criticism is not so mischievous.
“ Profes sor Wolf has destroyed Homer, but he could do nothing to the poem itself, for the Iliad is endued with the miraculous property of the heroes in the Valhalla, who, though hewed to pieces in the morning fight, always sit down to dinner with whole limbs.”
But there is no end to this—I must stop; yet this about Shakspeare is so beautiful I must have it down.
“ How inconceivably rich and great is Shakspeare! There is no motive * in human existence
* The meaning of the word motive, in German criticism should perhaps be explained. It is used to signify any cause out of which the action or consequence springs. They have the verb motiviren, and they say of a drama, or any fiction, tha it as well or ill motivirt.
which he has not represented and expressed, and with what ease and freedom! One cannot speak of Shakspeare, it is all insufficient. I have in the Wilhelm Meister groped about him, but it is mere trifling; he is no play-writer, he never thought of a stage, it was too narrow, too paltry a space for bis mighty spirit; yes, even the great visible universe itself was for him in space too narrow!
“Nay, he is too rich, too mighty. A productive poet should read but one piece of his in the year, or he will wreck himself in the vain attempt to reach the unreachable. I did well,” he adds, “ that in writing my “Götz' and my • Egmont,' I shook him off
excellent German poets have been destroyed through him and Calderon ? for Shakspeare,” he adds fancifully, “presents to us golden apples in cups of silver; through the study of his works we get hold of the cups of silver, but alas, we put potatoes into them.”
I close my book, and so good-night!
Where is he now, he who disappeared ar.d could not be lost ?--sitting with his Shakspeare and his Schiller up there among the stars in colloquy sublime? and Walter Scott standing by with love and thought upon his spacious brow-What a partie carrée !
March 15. This last paragraph, which I wrote last evening, sent me to lied with my head full of all manner of thoughts and memories and fancies; and not being in a studious mood this miserably cold night, I draw my writing-table close to the fire, and bestow all my tediousness on you, and if it were twice as much, and you were twice as far off, I would bestow it on you with all my heart-would you not accept the bargain ?
I have been much busied to-day with domestic matters, for we are preparing to change our residence for a new house never yet inhabited, and now I am alone in my room. I feel tired, and have fallen into a very dismal and fantastic mood.
Whence and what are we, " that things wbose sense we see not, fray us with things that be not ?" If I had the heart of that wondrous bird in the Persian tales, which being pressed upon a human heart, obliged that heart to utter truth through the lips, sleeping or waking, then I think I would inquire how far in each bosom exists the belief in the supernatural ? In many minds which I know, and otherwise strong minds, it certainly exists a hidden source of torment; in others, not stronger, it exists a source of absolute pleasure and excitement. I have known people most wittily ridicule, or gravely discɔuntenance, a belief in spectral appearances, and all the time I could see in their faces that once in their lives at least they had been frightened at their own shadow. The conventional cowardice,
the fear of ridicule, even the self-respect which prevents intelligent persons from revealing the exact truth of what passes through their own minds on this point, deprives us of a means to trace to its sources and develop an interesting branch of Psychology. Between vulgar credulity and exaggeration on the one hand, and the absolute skepticism and materialism of some would-be philosophers on the other, lies a vast space of debatable ground, a sort of twilight region or limbo, through which I do not see iny way distinctly. One of the most gifted and accomplished, as well as most rational and most praetical characters I ever met with, once said to me seriously, “I thank God I do not believe in the impossibility of any thing."
How far are our perceptions confined to our outward senses? Can any one tell ?--for that our perceptions are not wholly confined to impressions taken in by the outward senses seems the only one thing proved; and are such sensible impressions the only real ones? When any one asks me gayly the so common and commonplace question--common even in these our rational times—“ Do you now really believe in ghosts?” I generally answer as gayly-“I really don't know!” In the common, vulgar meaning of the words, I certainly do not ; but in the reality of many things termed imaginary I certainly do.
While I was staying at Weimar, in Goethe's house, a very pretty little soirée was arranged for me at Madame d’Alefeldt'&; there were no carda that evening; and seated round a table we becanie extremely talkative and confidential, and at last we took to relating ghost stories. It should seem that Germany is still like Ireland, the land of the supernatural, as well as the land of romance. There was something quite delightful in the good faith and the perfect sérieux of some of the narrators, as well as some of the listeners myself included.
Baron Sternberg gave us a story of an apparition at his sister's castle in Livonia ; -it was admirable, and most admirably told, though, truly, it seemed the last of all apparitions that one would have expected to haunt a castle in Livonia, for it was that of Voltaire.
Then the grand duke gave us the history of a certain Princess of Rudolstadt, whose picture is at Kochberg, and who, in the estimation of her family, had the gift of prophecy, of seeing visions, and dreaming dreams; but such visions and such dreams -50 wild, so poetical, and even so grotesqueshadowing forth the former and future destinies of her family! and, in truth, the whole story, and the description of the old castle of Rudolstadt, and the old court, and the three old superannuated princesses, like gothic figures woven into tapestry-so stately, and so stiff, and so ugly, and withal so tinged with the ideal and romantic, were given with so much liveliness of detail, and so much graphic spirit, that I was beyond measure amused and interested. I thought I saw them before me and methinks I see them now.