On Naive and Sentimental Poetry
By Friedrich Schiller
Translated by William F. Wertz, Jr.
There are moments in our life, when we dedicate a kind of love and touching respect to nature in its plants, minerals, animals, landscapes, just as to human nature in its children, in the morals of country folk and of the primeval world, not because it is pleasing to our senses, not even because it satisfies our understanding or taste (the opposite can often occur in respect to both), but rather merely because it is nature. Every fine man, who does not altogether lack feeling, experiences this, when he walks in the open, when he lives upon the land or tarries beside monuments of ancient times, in short, when he is surprised in artificial relations and situations with the sight of simple nature. It is interest, not seldom elevated to need, which lies at the foundation of many of our fancies for flowers and animals, for simple gardens, for walks, for the country and its inhabitants, for many products of remote antiquity, etc.; provided, that neither affectation nor an accidental interest in it be in play. This kind of interest in nature takes place, however, only under two conditions. First, it is entirely necessary, that the object which infuses us with the same, be nature or certainly be held by us therefor; second, that it (in the broadest meaning of the word) be naive, i.e., that nature stand in contrast with art and shame her. So soon as the last is added to the first, and not before, nature is changed into the naive.
Nature in this mode of contemplation is for us nothing other than voluntary existence, subsistence of things through themselves, existence according to its own unalterable laws.
This conception is absolutely necessary, if we should take interest in such phenomena. If one could give to an artificial flower by means of the most perfect deception, the appearance of nature, if one could carry the imitation of the naive in morals up to the highest illusion, so would the discovery, that it be imitation, completely destroy the feeling of which we are speaking.1 From this it is clear, that this kind of pleasure in regard to nature is not aesthetical, but rather moral; for it is produced by means of an idea, not immediately through contemplation; also, it by no means depends upon the beauty of forms. What would even a plain flower, a spring, a mossy stone, the chirping of birds, the buzzing of bees, etc., have in itself so charming for us? What could give it any claim upon our love? It is not these objects, it is an idea represented through them, which we love in them. We love in them the quietly working life, the calm effects from out itself, existence under its own laws, the inner necessity, the eternal unity with itself.
They are what we were; they are what we ought to become once more. We were nature as they, and our culture should lead us back to nature, upon the path of reason and freedom. They are therefore at the same time a representation of our lost childhood, which remains eternally most dear to us; hence, they fill us with a certain melancholy. At the same time, they are representations of our highest perfection in the ideal, hence, they transpose us into a sublime emotion.
But their perfection is not their merit, because it is not the work of its choice. They afford us, therefore, the entirely peculiar pleasure, that they, without shaming us, are our model. A constant divine appearance, they surround us, but more refreshingly than dazzlingly. What constitutes their character is precisely that which is lacking in ours to be complete; what distinguishes us from them is precisely that which is missing in them to be divine. We are free, and they are necessary; we change, they remain the same. But only when both are united with one anotherwhen the will freely obeys the law of necessity, and with all change of the imagination reason maintains its rule, does the divine or the ideal issue forth. We therefore perceive in them eternally that which is missing from us, but after which we are required to strive, and which, although we never attain it, we nevertheless may hope to approach in an infinite progress. We perceive in ourselves an advantage, which is wanting in them, but of which they can partake either never at all, such as those lacking in reason, or not other than if they go our way, such as in childhood. They provide us accordingly with the sweetest enjoyment of our human nature as idea, although they must necessarily humble us in regard to every determined state of our human nature.
Since this interest in nature is grounded upon an idea, so can it appear only in souls, which are susceptible to ideas, i.e., in moral ones. By far the majority of men merely affect it, and the universality of this sentimental taste to our times, which is expressed, especially since the appearance of certain writings, in sentimental journeys, such gardens, walks, and other fancies of this kind, is yet by no means proof of the universality of this manner of perception. Nevertheless, nature will always express something of this effect even on those most lacking in feeling, because the predisposition to morality, which is common to all men, is already sufficient thereto and we are all driven to it in the idea, irrespective of how great the distance of our own acts is from the simplicity and truth of nature. This sentimentality in respect to nature is especially strongly and most universally expressed at the instigation of such objects, which stand in a close connection with us and bring nearer to us the retrospective view of ourselves and the unnatural in us, as for example, with children or childlike nations. One errs, if one believes, that it be merely the conception of helplessness, which sees to it that we dwell on children with so much emotion in certain moments. That may perhaps be the case in respect to those, who in the face of weakness are accustomed never to feel something other than their own superiority. But the feeling of which I speak (it takes place only in quite peculiar moral dispositions and is not to be mistaken for that which the joyous activity of children arouses in us), is more humiliating than favorable to self-love; and if, indeed, an advantage comes thereby into view, so is this by no means on our side. Not because we look down upon the child from the height of our force and perfection, but rather because, from the limitation of our condition, which is inseparable from the determination, which we have once obtained, we look up to the boundless determinability in the child and to his pure innocence, we fall into emotion, and our feeling in such a moment is too evidently mixed with a certain melancholy than that this source of the same were mistaken. In the child, the predisposition and determination is represented, in us the fulfillment, which always remains infinitely far behind the former. Hence, the child is to us a vivid representation of the ideal, not indeed of the fulfilled, but of the commissioned, and it is therefore by no means the conception of its poverty and limits, it is quite to the contrary the conception of its pure and free force, its integrity, its infinity, which moves us. To the men of morality and feeling, a child will for that reason be a sacred object, an object namely, which through the greatness of an idea annihilates every greatness of experience; and which, whatever it may lose in the judgment of the understanding, gains again in the judgment of reason in ample measure.
Precisely from this contradiction between the judgment of reason and of understanding, issues forth the quite peculiar phenomenon of the mixed feeling, which the naive way of thinking excites in us. It combines the childlike simplicity with the childish; through the latter it exposes a vulnerable point to the understanding and calls forth that smile, whereby we make known our (theoretical) superiority. So soon, however, as we have reason to believe, that the childish simplicity be simultaneously a childlike one, that consequently the source thereof be not want of understanding, no incapacity, but rather a higher (practical) strength, a heart full of innocence and truth, which out of inner greatness disdains the help of art, so is the former triumph of the understanding past, and the mockery of simpleness passes over into admiration of simplicity. We feel ourselves compelled to esteem the object, at which we previously have smiled, and, whilst we at the same time cast a look into ourselves, to lament that we are not similar to the same. So arises the quite peculiar phenomenon of a feeling, in which joyous mockery, respect, and melancholy flow together.2 It is required of the naive, that nature bring forth the victory thereof over art,3 it do this either against the knowledge and will of the person or with complete consciousness of the same. In the first case, it is the naive of surprise and amuses; in the other, it is the naive of conviction and is moving.
With regard to the naive of surprise, the person must be morally capable of denying nature; with regard to the naive of conviction, he may not be, nevertheless, we may not think of him as physically incapable thereof, if it shall produce a naive impression upon us. Hence, the actions and conversations of children give us the pure impression of the naive only so long as we do not remember their inability for art, and in general, only consider the contrast between their naturalness and artificiality in us. The naive is a childlikeness, where it is no longer expected, and precisely for that reason, can not be attributed to real childhood in the strictest sense.
In both cases, however, with regard to the naive of surprise as with regard to that of conviction, nature must be right, art, however, wrong.
First, the concept of the naive is completed through this latter determination. Emotion is also nature, and the rule of decency is something artificial; yet the triumph of emotion over decency is by no means naive. On the contrary, should the same emotion triumph over affectation, over false decency, over dissimulation, so bear we no hesitation to call it naive.4 It is therefore required, that nature triumph over art, not through its blind violence as dynamical, but rather through its form as moral greatness, in short, not as need, but rather as inner necessity. Not the insufficiency, but rather the inadmissibility of the latter must procure the victory of the form; for the former is want, and nothing which originates from want can produce respect. Indeed, it is with regard to the naive of surprise, always the superiority of emotion and a want of reflection, which makes nature recognizable; but this want and that superiority still do not entirely constitute the naive, but rather merely provide the occasion, so that nature follows unhindered its moral nature, i.e., the law of harmony.
The naive of surprise can only fall to man, and indeed only to man, insofar as, in this moment, he is no longer pure and innocent nature. It supposes a will, which does not agree with that which nature does by its own hand. Such a person, if one brings him to his senses, will be alarmed about himself; the naively minded, on the contrary, will be surprised at the men and at their astonishment. Since, therefore, here not the personal and moral character, but rather merely the natural character set free by emotion confesses the truth, so we attribute to man no merit for this sincerity, and our laughter is well-deserved derision, which is held back through no personal high estimation of the same. Since, nevertheless, it is here still the sincerity of nature, which breaks through the veil of falsehood, so is contentment of a higher kind combined with the malicious enjoyment of having caught a man; for nature in contrast to affectation, and truth in contrast to deceit must excite respect every time. We therefore also feel in respect to the naive of surprise a really moral pleasure, although not in regard to a moral character.5
With regard to the naive of surprise, we indeed always respect nature, because we must respect the truth; with regard to the naive of conviction, we, on the contrary, respect the person and therefore enjoy not merely a moral pleasure, but also on account of a moral object. In the one as in the other case, nature is right, that it speaks the truth; but in the latter case, nature is not merely right, but rather the person has honor as well. In the first case, sincerity of nature always disgraces the person, because it is involuntary; in the second, it always redounds to the merit of the person, even supposing, that that which it declares, may bring him disgrace.
We ascribe a naive conviction to a man, if, in his judgment of things, he overlooks their artificial and affected relations and keeps merely to simple nature. Everything which can be judged thereof within healthy nature, we require of him and only release him absolutely from that which presupposes a removal from nature, be it either in thinking or feeling, at least knowledge of the same.
If a father relates to his child, that this or that man languishes in poverty, the child goes thence and carries his father's purse to the poor man, so is the action naive; for healthy nature would act out of the child, and in a world where healthy nature would rule, it would have been completely right so to proceed. It sees only the need and the nearest means to satisfy it; such an extension of the right of property, whereby a part of mankind can perish, is not grounded in mere nature. The action of the child is therefore a humiliation of the real world, and our heart confesses that also, through the pleasure which it feels over this action.
If a man without knowledge of the world, but otherwise of a good sense, confesses his secrets to another, who deceives him, but knows how to skillfully dissemble and lends him through his sincerity itself the means to injure him, so do we find that naive. We laugh at him, but can nevertheless not keep from esteeming him highly on that account. For his trust in others springs from the honesty of his own inner convictions; at least, he is only naive insofar as this is the case.
The naive way of thinking can accordingly never be a property of a corrupted man, but rather belongs only to children and childlike-minded men. These latter often act and think naively in the midst of the artificial relations of the great world; they forget out of their own beautiful human nature, that they have to do with a corrupt world, and conduct themselves even in the courts of kings with an ingenuousness and innocence as one finds only in the world of shepherds.
It is, besides, not at all so easy, to distinguish the childish innocence from the childlike always correctly, whilst there are actions, which hover on the outermost boundaries between both, and with which we are left absolutely in doubt, as to whether we should laugh at the simpleness or esteem highly the noble simplicity. A very noteworthy example of this kind one finds in the history of the government of Pope Adrian VI, which Mr. Schröckh has described for us with the thoroughness and pragmatic truth characteristic of him. This pope, a Netherlander by birth, administered the pontificate in one of the most critical moments for the hierarchy, when an embittered party laid bare the weak points of the Roman Church without any forbearance, and the opposite party was interested in the highest degree in concealing them. What the truly naive character, if indeed such an one strayed onto the chair of the holy Peter, had to do in this case, is not the question; but indeed, how far such a naivetè of conviction might be compatible with the role of a pope. It was, after all, this, which placed the predecessors and successors of Adrian in the least embarrassment. With uniformity, they followed the once-adopted Roman system, to concede nothing anywhere. But Adrian actually had the upright character of his nation and the innocence of his former position. From the narrow sphere of the learned he was elevated to his sublime post, and even in the height of his new honors, had not become untrue to that simple character. The abuses in the Church moved him, and he was much too honest, to dissimulate publicly, what he confessed in silence. In consequence of this way of thinking, he allowed himself in the instruction, which he gave to his legate in Germany, to be misled into confessions, which had hitherto been heard from no pope and ran directly contrary to the principles of this court: We know well, he said among other things, that for many years many abominations have taken place on this holy chair; no wonder, if the sick condition of the head has been handed down to the members, of the pope to the prelates. We all have deviated, and for a long time there has been none among us, who would have done something good, not even one. Again elsewhere, he orders the legates to explain in his name, that he, Adrian, may not be blamed for that which was done by the popes before him, and that such debaucheries, even when he had lived in a low station, had always displeased him, etc. One can easily conceive, how such a naivetè in the pope may have been received by the Roman clergy; the least of which he was considered guilty, was, that he had betrayed the Church to the heretics. This most imprudent step of the pope would, however, be worthy of our complete respect and admiration, if we could only convince ourselves, that it had really been naive, i.e., that it would have been wrested from him merely through the natural truth of his character, without any regard to the possible consequences, and that he would have done it no less, if he had understood the impropriety committed in its entire extent. But we have some reason to believe, that he did not regard this step as so impolitic at all, and in his innocence went so far as to hope to have won something very important to the advantage of his Church through his flexibility. He did not imagine merely having to take this step as an honest man, but rather, being able to take responsibility for it also as pope, and whilst he forgot, that the most artificial of structures could only be absolutely supported by a continued denial of the truth, he committed the unpardonable error of adhering to instructions applied in an entirely contrary situation, which would have been valid in a natural circumstance. To be sure, this alters our judgment very much; and although we can not renounce our respect for the honesty of the heart, from which this action flows, so is this latter not a little weakened by the reflection, that nature in art and the heart in the head would have had a too weak adversary.
Every true genius must be naive or it is not genius. Its naivetè alone makes it genius, and what it is in the intellectual and the aesthetical, it can not deny in the moral. Unaware of the rules, the crutches of weakness, the taskmaster of perversity, guided only by nature or instinct, its protecting angel, it walks calmly and safely through all the snares of false taste, in which, if it be not so prudent as to avoid it already from the distance, the non-genius will be unfailingly ensnared. It is only given to the genius, to be always at home outside the known and to enlarge nature, without going beyond it. Indeed, the latter sometimes happens to the great geniuses, but only because these have their fanciful moments, when protecting nature abandons them, because the power of example overpowers them, or the corrupted taste of their time leads them astray.
The most complicated problems the genius must solve with unpretentious simplicity and facility; the egg of Columbus holds good for judgment of genius. Thereby alone does it legitimize itself as genius, that it triumphs over complicated art through simplicity. It does not proceed according to known principles, but rather according to sudden ideas and feelings; but its sudden ideas are inspirations of a God (everything that healthy nature does is divine), its feelings are laws for all times and for all generations of men.
The childlike character, which the genius imprints on it works, it shows also in its private life and its morals. It is bashful, because nature is always so; but it is not decent, because only corruption is decent. It is intelligent, for nature can never be the opposite; but it is not cunning, for only art can be that. It is true to its character and its inclinations, but not so much because it has principles, as because nature, in all its oscillations, always returns to its last place, always brings back the old wants. It is modest, yes shy, because genius always remains a mystery to itself; but it is not anxious, because it does not know the dangers of the road on which it walks. We know little of the private life of the great geniuses; but even the little, which has been preserved for us, for example of Sophocles, of Archimedes, of Hippocrites, and in modern times of Ariosto, Dante, and Tasso, of Raphael, of Albrecht Dürer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, of Fielding, Sterne et al., confirms this assertion.
Yes, what seems to be still far more difficult, even the great statesman and general, so soon as they are great through their genius, will display a naive character. I wish to mention here among the ancients only Epaminondas and Julius Caesar, among the moderns only Henry IV of France, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and Czar Peter the Great. The Duke of Marlborough, Turenne, Vendome all show us this character. To the other sex, nature has assigned its greatest perfection in the naive character. After nothing does the womanly desire to please strive so much as after the appearance of the naive; sufficient proof, even if we were to have no other, that the greatest power of the sex reposes in this property. But, because the ruling principles in the education of woman lie in eternal strife with this character, so is it to the woman, in the moral, just as difficult as to the man, in the intellectual, to preserve this magnificent gift of nature with the advantages of a good education; and the woman, who ties this naivitè of manners with a skillful behavior in regard to the great world, is just as deserving of high respect as the learned man, who combines the freedom of thought characteristic of genius with all the strictness of the school.
From the naive way of thinking flows in a necessary manner also a naive expression, as much in words as movements, and it is the most important ingredient of grace. Genius expresses its most sublime and deepest thoughts with this naive grace; they are divine sayings from the mouth of a child. If the scholastic understanding, always anxious before error, nails its words like its concepts to the cross of grammar and logic, is hard and rigid, in order not to be indeterminate, uses few words, in order not to say too much, and prefers to take force and sharpness from the thoughts, that therewith it not cut the incautious, so does genius give to its own with a single happy stroke of the brush an eternally determined, firm, and yet entirely free outline. If there the sign remains eternally heterogenous and alien to the signified, so here, as through an inner necessity, the language springs forth from the thoughts and is so much one with the same, that even under the bodily envelope the spirit appears as denuded. Such a manner of expression, where the sign completely vanishes in the signified, and where the language, so to speak, leaves the thought which it expresses naked, since the other can never represent it, without simultaneously veiling it, is it, that one calls preferably ingenius and inspired in style.
Free and natural, like genius in its intellectual works, the innocence of the heart expresses itself in its living intercourse. As is known, in social life one has gotten away from the simplicity and rigorous truth of expression, in the same proportion as from the simplicity of inner convictions, and the easily wounded guilt, just like the easily seduced imaginative power, have made necessary an anxious decency. Without being false, one often speaks differently than one thinks; one must make circumlocutions, to say things; one can only cause pain to a sickly self-love, only bring danger to a corrupted imagination. An ignorance of these conventional laws, combined with natural sincerity, which despises any crookedness and any appearance of falsehood (not coarseness, which dispenses with them, because they are burdensome to it), produce in the intercourse a naive of expression, which consists therein, to name things, which one either may not signify at all or only artificially, with their right names and in the shortest way. The ordinary expressions of children are of this kind. They excite laughter through their contrast with manners, yet one will always confess in one's heart, that the child is right.
The naive of conviction can indeed, taken properly, be attributed also only to the man as a being not absolutely subject to nature, although only insofar as pure nature still acts out of him; but, through an effect of the poetizing, imaginative power, it is frequently transferred from that having reason to that devoid of reason. So we often attribute to an animal, a landscape, a structure, yes, to nature in general, a naive character, in contrast to the capricious and to the fanciful concepts of man. This, however, always demands, that we lend a will in our thoughts to that devoid of will, and take notice of the strict regulation of the same, according to the law of necessity. The discontentment over our own ill-employed moral freedom and over the moral harmony absent in our conduct, leads to such a frame of mind, in which we address that which is devoid of reason as a person and, as if it really would have had to struggle against the temptation to do the opposite, make its eternal uniformity into a merit, envy its peaceful behavior. It suits us well in such a moment, that we hold the prerogative of our reason to be a curse and an evil and, on account of the vivid feeling of the imperfection of our actual performance, ignore doing justice to our predisposition and destiny.
We see then in nature devoid of reason only a fortunate sister, who remained behind in the maternal home, out of which we stormed in the high spirits of our freedom into foreign parts. With painful desire we long to return thence, so soon as we've begun to experience the distress of culture and hear in the foreign country of art, the moving voice of the mother. So long as we were merely children of nature, we were happy and perfect; we have become free and have lost both. Therefrom originates a twofold and very unequal longing for nature, a longing for its happiness, a longing for its perfection. The sensuous man laments only the loss of the first; the moral one can mourn only for the loss of the other.
Therefore, ask thyself well, sentimental friend of nature, whether thy indolence yearns for its repose, whether thy offended morality for its harmony? Ask thyself well, when art is loathsome to thee and abuses in social life impel thee to inanimate nature in solitude, whether it is its deprivations, its burdens, its hardships, or whether it is its moral anarchy, its capriciousness, its disorder, which thou detestest in it? Into these thy spirit must plunge with joy, and thy compensation must be the freedom itself, from which they flow. Thou canst well assume for thyself the calm happiness of nature as thine aim in the distance, but only that which is the reward of thy dignity. Therefore, nothing of complaints about the aggravations of life, about the inequality of conditions, about the pressure of relations, about the insecurity of possession, about ingratitude, oppression, persecution; all the evils of culture must thou submit to with a free resignation, must respect them as the natural conditions of the only good; only the evil of the same must thou deplore, but not merely with careless tears. Rather take care, that thou actest pure thyself amidst these defilements, free amidst this slavery, constant amidst this ill-humored change, lawful amidst this anarchy. Fear not before the confusion outside of thee, but before the confusion in thee; strive for unity, but seek it not in uniformity; strive for repose, but not through equilibrium, not through a standstill of thy activity. This nature, which thou enviest in that which is devoid of reason, is worthy of no respect, of no longing. It lies behind thee, it must eternally lie behind thee. Abandoned by the ladder, which bore thee, no other choice is now still left to thee, than to seize the law with free consciousness and will or to fall without hope of rescue into a bottomless depth.
But when thou hast been consoled over the lost happiness of nature, so let its perfection serve thine heart as a model. Dost thou step out of thine artificial circle to it, does it stand before thee in its great repose, in its naive beauty, in its childlike innocence and simplicitythen tarry beside this image, cultivate this feeling, it is worthy of thy most glorious humanity. Let it no longer occur to thee, to want to exchange places with it, but take it into thyself and strive to wed its infinite advantage with thine own infinite prerogative and to produce the divine from both. Let it surround thee like a lovely idyl, in which, out of the confusion of art, thou always findest thyself once more, with which thou dost gather courage and new confidence in thy course and in thy heart dost kindle anew the flame of the ideal, which is extinguished so easily in the storms of life.
If one remembers the beautiful nature, which surrounded the ancient Greeks; if one reflects how intimately this people under its happy sky could live with free nature, how much closer its mode of conception, its manner of feeling, its morals lay to simple nature, and what a faithful impression of the same its poetic works are, so must the remark appear strange, that one meets among the same so few traces of the sentimental interest, which we moderns can take in natural scenes and in natural characters. The Greek is indeed in the highest degree exact, faithful, detailed in description of the same, but yet no more and with no more excellent interest of the heart, than he is also in description of a suit, a shield, armor, house furniture, or any mechanical product. He seems in his love for the object to make no distinction between that which is through itself, and that which is through art and through the human will. Nature seems more to interest his understanding and his curiosity than his moral feeling; he does not adhere to the same with intimacy, with sentimentality, with sweet melancholy as we moderns. Indeed, whilst he personifies and deifies it in its individual phenomena and represents its effects as actions of free being, he annuls the calm necessity in it, through which it is precisely so attractive to us. His impatient imagination leads him beyond it to the drama of human life. Only the living and free, only characters, actions, fates, and morals satisfy him, and if we can wish in certain moral dispositions, to give up the advantage of our freedom of the will, which exposes us to so much conflict with ourselves, so much disquiet and confusion, for the involuntary, but calm necessity of that which is devoid of reason, so, directly the opposite, is the imagination of the Greeks occupied with commencing human nature already in the inanimate world and there, where a blind necessity rules, giving influence to the will.
Whence indeed this different spirit? How comes it, that we, who in everything that nature is, are so infinitely far surpassed by the ancients, precisely here pay homage to nature in a higher degree, can adhere to it with intimacy and embrace even the lifeless world with the warmest feeling? Hence comes it, because nature with us has disappeared from humanity and we encounter it again in its truth only outside this, in the inanimate world. Not our greater conformity to nature, quite the opposite, the repulsiveness to nature of our relations, conditions, and morals impels us, to obtain a satisfaction in the physical world to the awakening instinct for truth and simplicity, which, like the moral predisposition, out of which it flows, lies incorruptible and ineradicable in all human hearts, which is not to be hoped for in the moral. For this reason is the feeling, wherewith we adhere to nature, so closely related to the feeling, wherewith we lament the age which has fled, of childhood and childlike innocence. Our childhood is the single unmutilated nature, which we still encounter in cultivated humanity, hence it is no wonder, when every footprint of nature out of us leads us back to our childhood.
Very much otherwise was it with the ancient Greeks.6 With these, culture did not degenerate so far, that nature was abandoned over it. The entire structure of social life was erected upon feelings, not upon a concoction of art; their mythology itself was the inspiration of a naive feeling, the birth of a joyful imaginative power, not of subtilizing reason, like the ecclesiastical beliefs of modern nations; since, therefore, the Greek had not lost nature in humanity, so could he also not be surprised by it outside of the latter and could have no such pressing need for objects, in which he found it again. At one with himself and happy in the feeling of his humanity, he had to stop with the latter as his maximum and take pains to make all else approach the same; while we, at variance with ourselves and unhappy in our experiences of humanity, have no more pressing interest, than to fly away from the same and to remove from our sight such an unsuccessful form.
The feeling, of which we are here speaking, is therefore not that which the ancients had; it is rather of the same kind as that which we have for the ancients. They felt naturally; we feel the natural. It was doubtless a totally different feeling, which filled Homer's soul, when he caused his divine sow-herd to entertain Ulysses, than what moved the soul of young Werther, when he read this song after a tedious social gathering. Our feeling for nature resembles the feeling of the sick for health.
Just as nature gradually begins to vanish from human life as experience and as the (acting and feeling) subject, so do we see it rise in the poetical world as idea and as object. That nation, which had simultaneously carried it the farthest in unnaturalness and in reflection upon it, first must needs have been moved the strongest by the phenomenon of the naive and given a name to the same. This nation, so far as I know, was the French. But the perception of the naive and the interest in the same is of course much older and dates already from the beginning of the moral and aesthetical corruption. This alteration in the manner of feeling is for example already extremely striking in Euripides, if one compares the latter with his predecessors, especially Aeschylus, and yet the former poet was the favorite of his time. The same revolution is also evidenced among the ancient historians. Horace, the poet of a cultivated and corrupt age, praises the calm happiness in his Tibur, and one could call him the true founder of this sentimental kind of poetry, just as he is in the same a not yet surpassed model. Also in Propertius, Virgil, et al., one finds traces of this manner of feeling, less with Ovid, in whom the fullness of heart is lacking for it and who painfully misses in his exile at Tomes the happiness, which Horace so gladly did without in his Tibur.
The poets are everywhere, according to their concept, the guardian of nature. Where they can no longer entirely be the latter and already experience in themselves the destructive influence of capricious and artificial forms, or indeed have had to struggle with the same, then will they appear as the witnesses and the avengers of nature. They will either be nature, or they will seek the lost nature. Therefrom arise two entirely different kinds of poetry, through which the entire province of poetry is exhausted and measured out. All poets, who are really such, will, according to the time in which they flourish, or as accidental circumstances have influence upon their general education and upon their passing dispositions of mind, belong either to the naive or to the sentimental.
The poet of a naive and spirited young world, as also he, who approaches nearest to him in the age of artificial culture, is austere and prudish, like the virginal Diana in her forests; without all intimacy he flees from the heart, which seeks him, from the desire, which wishes to embrace him. The dry truth, wherewith he treats his object, appears not seldom as insensibility. The object possesses him entirely, his heart lies not like a base metal directly under the surface, but rather wishes to be sought like gold in the depths. Like the deity behind the world edifice, so does he stand behind his work; he is the work, and the work is he; one must be no longer worthy, or not be master, or be tired of the first, in order even to inquire after him.
So appears, for example, Homer among the ancients and Shakespeare among the moderns: two most different natures, separated by the immeasurable distance of time, but just in this character trait perfectly one. When I, at a very early age, first became acquainted with the latter poet, his coldness revolted me, his insensibility, which allowed him to jest in the highest pathos, to disturb the heart-rending scene in Hamlet, in King Lear, in MacBeth, etc., through a fool, which allowed him now here to stop, where my feeling would hasten away, now there cold-heartedly to carry forth, where the heart would so gladly stand still. Through the acquaintance with modern poets misled, to seek at first in the work of the poet to encounter his heart, to reflect mutuallly with him on his object, in short, to see the object in the subject, it was unbearable to me, that the poet could never here be seized and would never converse with me. For some years, he had my full reverence and was my study, before I learned to take a liking to his individual. I was not yet able to understand nature at first hand. I could only bear it through the image reflected by the understanding and arranged by the rules, and for this reason the sentimental poets of the French and also the German, from the year 1750 to approximately 1780, were precisely the right subjects. After all, I am not ashamed of this child's judgment, since the aged critic passed a similar one and was naive enough to publish it to the world.
The same thing also occurred to me with Homer, with whom I became acquainted in a still later period. I remember now the remarkable passage in the sixth book of the Iliad, where Glaucus and Diomed strike at one another in combat and, after they are recognized as guest and host, give presents to one another. With this moving portrait of the piety, with which the laws of hospitality were observed even in war, can be compared a description of chivalrous generosity in Ariosto, where two knights and rivals, Ferragus and Finaldo, the latter a Christian, the former a Saracen, after a violent fight and covered with wounds, make peace and, to overtake the fugitive Angelica, mount the same horse. Both examples, however different they may otherwise be, are nearly the same as one another in regard to the effect on our heart, because both paint the beautiful triumph of morals over passion and move us through the naivetè of convictions. But how completely different do the poets undertake the description of this similar action. Ariosto, the citizen of a later world and one which has gotten away from the simplicity of morals, can not conceal his own astonishment, his emotion in his relating of this incident. The feeling of the distance of the former morals from those which characterize his age, overwhelms him. He all at once abandons the painting of the object and appears in his own person. One knows the beautiful stanza and has always admired it as excellent:
Not far has gone Rinaldo, when he sees
Before him leaping his fierce steed: Now still,
Baiardo mine, hold fast thy fleeing pace,
To be without thee does me too much ill.
But deaf to him, and quickening his race,
The steed flies from him further. Fit to kill,
Rinaldo follows, raging for his plight.
Now let's pursue Angelica in her flight.7
Orlando Furioso, canto i, stanza 32
And now the ancient Homer! Hardly does Diomed learn from Glaucus's, his adversary's, story, that the latter is, from the time of their fathers, the guest and host of his family, so he plants his lance in the earth, converses in a friendly manner with him and agrees with him, that they will in the future avoid one another in combat. But let us hear Homer himself:
Thus, then, I am for thee a faithful host in Argos,
and thou to me in Lycia, when I shall visit that country.
We shall, therefore, avoid our lances meeting in the
strife. Are there not for me other Trojans or brave allies
to kill when a god shall offer them to me and my steps
shall reach them? And for thee, Glaucus, are there not
enough Achaeans, that thou mayest immolate whom thou
wishest? But let us exchange our arms, in order that
others may also see that we boast of having been hosts and
guests at the time of our fathers. Thus they spoke, and,
rushing from their chariots, they seized each other's
hands, and swore friendship the one to the other. Alexander Pope's Iliad, vi 264-287
Hardly would a modern poet (at least hardly one, who is such in the moral sense of this word) even have waited as far as here, to attest to his joy in this action. We would pardon him all the more easily, since our heart also comes to a standstill in the reading of it, and willingly distances itself from the object, in order to look into itself. But no trace of all of this in Homer; as if he had been reporting something which occurs every day, indeed, as if he himself bore no heart in his bosom, he continues in his dry truthfulness:
Then the son of Saturn blinded Glaucus, who, exchanging his armor with Diomed, gave him golden arms of the value of one hecatomb, for brass arms only worth nine beeves.8 Pope's Iliad, vi 234-236
Poets of this naive kind are no longer in their proper place in an artificial age. They are also hardly possible any more in the same, at least in no other way possible, than if they run wild in their age and are saved by a favorable fate from the mutilating influence of the same. From society itself they can never and not at all come; but out of the same they appear sometimes, but more as strangers, at which one wonders, and as uneducated sons of nature, at whom one feels angry. However beneficent these phenomena are for the artist, who studies them, and for the genuine connoisseur, who understands how to appreciate them, so little do they thrive on the whole and in their century. The seal of the ruler rests upon their brow; we, on the contrary, want to be rocked and carried by the Muses. By the critics, the true constables of taste, they are hated as border-disturbers, whom one would rather oppress; for even Homer may have been merely indebted to the force of a more than thousand-year testimony, that these judges of taste allow him; also it becomes hard enough to them, to assert their rules against his example, and his authority against their rules.
The poet, I said, is either nature, or he will seek it. The former produces the naive, the latter the sentimental poet.
The poetic spirit is immortal and can not be lost from humanity; it can not otherwise be lost than simultaneously with the same and with the predisposition to it. For though man departs through the freedom of his imagination and his understanding from the simplicity, truth, and necessity of nature, so not only does the road to the same always stand open to him, but a more powerful and indestructible instinct, the moral, also drives him back incessantly to it, and precisely with this instinct does the poetical capacity stand in the closest relationship. Thus, the latter is also not lost simultaneously with the natural simplicity, but rather only works in another direction.
Even now, nature is the only flame, on which the poetic spirit feeds; from it alone it draws all its power, to it alone it speaks even in the artificial, in the man engaged in culture. To produce any other kind is foreign to the poetical spirit; hence, to speak parenthetically, all so-called works of wit are entirely falsely called poetic, although we for a long time, misled by the authority of French literature, have mixed them therewith. Nature, I say, is even now in the artificial state of culture, whereby the poetical spirit is powerful; only it now stands in an entirely different relation to the same.
So long as man is still pure, it is understood, not coarse nature, he acts as an undivided sensuous unity and as an harmonizing whole. Sense and reason, receptive and self-acting capacity, have not yet been separated in their operations, much less do they stand in contradiction with one another. His feelings are not the formless play of chance, his thoughts not the contentless play of conceptual power; from the law of necessity emerges the former, from reality emerges the latter. Be man encountered in the state of culture, and has art laid its hand upon him, so is this sensuous harmony annulled in him, and he can only express himself still as moral unity, i.e., as striving toward unity. The agreement between his feeling and thinking, which actually took place in the former state, exists now merely ideally; it is no longer in him, but rather outside of him, as a thought, which should first be realized, no longer as a fact of life. Should one now apply the concept of poetry, which is nothing other than to give humanity its most complete expression possible, to both of these states, so it ensues, that there in the state of natural simplicity, where man still acts with all his powers at one time, as an harmonious unity, where therefore all his nature expresses itself completely in reality, the poet must imitate the real as completely as possiblethat, on the contrary, here in the state of culture, where that harmonious cooperation of its entire nature is merely an idea, the poet must elevate reality to the ideal or, what amounts to the same, represent the ideal. And these are also the only two possible ways, in which the poetic genius can in general express itself. They are, as one sees, extremely different from one another, but there is a higher concept, which embraces both, and it should not be at all surprising, if this concept coincides with the idea of humanity.
Here is not the place to pursue further the thought, which only a separate exposition can place in its full light. Whoever, however, only knows how to make a comparison between ancient and modern poets9, according to the spirit and not merely according to accidental forms, will be easily convinced of the truth of the same. The former moves us through nature, through sensuous truth, through living presence; the latter move us through ideas.
The latter path, which the modern poets take, is after all the same, which man generally must pursue individually and as a whole. Nature makes him one with himself, art divides and disunites him, through the ideal he returns to unity. However, because the ideal is an infinity, which he never attains, so can the cultivated man never become perfect in his type, as the natural man can indeed become in his. He must needs, therefore, be infinitely inferior to the latter in respect to perfection, if attention is paid merely to the relation, in which both are to their type and to their maximum. Does one, on the contrary, compare the types themselves with one another, so it appears, that the end toward which man strives through culture, is infinitely superior to that which he attains through nature. The one receives its value, therefore, through absolute attainment of a finite, the other obtains it through the approach to an infinite greatness. However, because only the latter has degrees and makes progress, so is the relative value of man, who is engaged in culture, taken as a whole never determinable, although the same viewed individually is at a necessary disadvantage in respect to that, in which nature acts in its full perfection. However, insofar as the final end of humanity can not otherwise be attained than by this progress and the latter cannot otherwise progress, then whilst he is cultivated and consequently passes into the former, so is there no question, to which of the two the advantage is due in regard to this final end.
The same, which is said here of the two different forms of humanity, can also be applied to these two forms of poets, who correspond to them.
For this reason, one must needs have compared ancient and modernnaive and sentimentalpoets with one another either not at all or only under a common higher concept (there is really one such). For, of course, if one has first abstracted one-sidedly a specific notion of poetry from the ancient poets, so is nothing easier, but also nothing more trivial, than to belittle the moderns in regard to it. If one only calls poetry, that which acted uniformly in all times on simple nature, so can it not otherwise be, than that one will have to contest the name of poet in the modern poets precisely in their most peculiar and most sublime beauty, because precisely here they only speak to the pupil of art and have nothing to say to the simple nature.10 He whose disposition is not already prepared to go beyond reality into the realm of ideas, for him the richest content will be empty appearance and the highest poetic flight exaggeration. It can occur to no one of reason, to wish to place in that, wherein Homer is great, any of the moderns by his side, and it sounds laughable enough, when one sees a Milton or Klopstock honored with the name of a modern Homer. Just so little, however, will any of the ancient poets and least of all Homer, in that which characteristically distinguishes the modern poets, be able to be held in comparison with the same. The former, I would like to say, is powerful through the art of limitation; the latter is so through the art of the infinite.
And exactly therefrom, that the strength of the ancient artist (for what has been said here of the poet, can, under the restrictions which are self-evident, be in general also extended to the fine artist) consists in limitation, is explained the great advantage, which the plastic art of antiquity asserts over that of modern times, and in general the unequal proportion of value, in which modern poetry and modern plastic art stand in regard to both kinds of art in antiquity. A work for the eye finds its perfection only in the limitation; a work for the imaginative power can also attain it only through the unlimited. In plastic works, his superiority in ideas accordingly helps the modern little; here is he obliged to determine in space the image of his imaginative power with the greatest precision and, consequently, be measured with the ancient artist precisely in this property, wherein the latter has his incontestible advantage. In poetical works it is otherwise, and do the ancient poets triumph equally also here in the simplicity of forms and in that which is sensuously representable and corporeal, so can the moderns leave them behind again in the wealth of the matter, in which what is unrepresentable and unspeakable, in short, in that which one calls mind in works of art.
Since the naive poet merely follows simple nature and feeling and is confined merely to imitation of reality, so can he also only have a single relation to this object, and there is, in this regard, no choice of treatment for him. The different impression of naive poetry rests (provided that one disregards everything that belongs to the content and views that impression only as the pure work of the poetic treatment), rests, I say, merely in the different degree of one and the same mode of perception; even the difference in the external forms can make no alteration in the quality of that aesthetical impression. The form may be lyrical or epic, dramatic or descriptive: we can indeed be moved more weakly and more strongly, but (so soon as abstracted from the matter) never in a different way. Our feeling is universally the same, entirely from one element, so that we are able to distinguish nothing therein. Even the distinction of languages and age changes nothing here, for just this pure unity of their source and their effect is a characteristic of naive poetry.
It is entirely different with the sentimental poet. The latter reflects on the impression, which the objects make in him, and only on this reflection is the emotion grounded, in which he himself is moved and moves us. The object is here connected with an idea, and only in this connection does his poetical force rest. The sentimental poet is therefore always concerned with two conflicting conceptions and feelings, with reality as limit and with his idea as the infinite, and the mixed feeling, which he arouses, will always testify to this two-fold source.11 Therefore, since here a plurality of principles occurs, so does it depend upon which of the two is predominant in the feeling of the poet and in his representation, and consequently a difference in the treatment of it is possible. For now arises the question, whether he dwells more on the reality, or more on the ideal, or whether he wants to achieve the former as an object of aversion, or the latter as an object of inclination. His representation will therefore be either satirical or it will (in a broader sense of this word, which will be explained afterward) be elegiac; every sentimental poet will adhere to one of these two modes of feeling.
The poet is satirical, if he takes as his object the distance from nature and the contradiction of reality with the ideal (in the effect upon the soul, both result in the same). This he can, however, perform both earnestly and with passion as well as sportively and with cheerfulness, according as he dwells either in the domain of the will or in the domain of the understanding. The former occurs through the punishing or pathetic, the latter through sportive satire.
Taken strictly, the aim of the poet agrees neither with the tone of punishment nor that of amusement. The former is too serious for play, which poetry should always be; the latter is too frivolous for the earnestness, which should be the basis of all poetical play. Moral contradictions necessarily interest our heart and these deprive the soul of its freedom, and yet all personal interest, i.e., all reference to a need, should be banished from poetical emotions. Contradictions of the understanding, on the contrary, leave the heart indifferent, and nevertheless the poet deals with the highest desires of the heart, with nature and the ideal. It is hence no small problem for him, not to violate in pathetic satire the poetical form, which consists in the freedom of play, not to miss in the sportive satire the poetical contents, which must always be the infinite. This problem can only be solved in a single way. The punishing satire obtains poetical freedom, whilst it passes over into the sublime; the laughing satire receives poetical content, whilst it treats its theme with beauty.
In satire, the real as deficiency is placed in opposition to the ideal as the highest reality. It is after all not at all necessary, that the latter be expressed, if the poet only knows how to awaken it in the soul; but this must he do absolutely or he will not act poetically at all. The real is therefore here a necessary object of aversion; but, whereon everything here depends, this aversion itself must necessarily originate again from the opposing ideal. It could, that is, also have a merely sensuous source and be grounded solely on need, with which the real quarrels; and frequently enough, we believe we feel a moral indignation in respect to the world, when merely the antagonism of the same to our inclination embitters us. It is this material interest, which the common satirist brings into play, and because he does not at all fail to take this road, to move us in our emotion, so he believes he has our heart in his power and is master in the pathetic. But any pathos from this source is unworthy of poetry, which moves us only through ideas and may only take the road to our heart through reason. Also this impure and material pathos will always be apparent through a preponderance of passion, and through a painful preoccupation of the soul, since, on the contrary, true poetical pathos is recognizable in a preponderance of self-activity and in a mental freedom, which persists even in a state of emotion. Should the emotion originate, that is, from the ideal opposed to the real, so is any hemmed-in feeling lost in the sublimity of the ideal, and the greatness of the idea, by which we are filled, elevates us above all restrictions of experience. In the representation of revolting reality, everything depends accordingly thereon, that the necessary be the basis, upon which the poet or the narrator lays out the real, that he know how to dispose our mind for ideas. Should we but take an elevated position in judgment, so does it not matter at all, if the object remains deep and low beneath us. When the historian Tacitus describes to us the profound decay of the Romans of the first century, so is it a lofty spirit, who looks down on the low, and our frame of mind is truly poetic, because only the height, whereupon he himself stands and to which he knew to elevate us, renders his object low.
The pathetic satire must therefore flow at all times from a frame of mind, which is deeply permeated by the ideal. Only a ruling instinct toward harmony can and may produce that deep feeling of moral contradiction and that glowing indignation against moral perversity, which in a Juvenal, Swift, Rousseau, Haller, and others becomes enthusiasm. The same poets would and must needs have composed with the same success also in touching and tender types, if accidental reasons had not given their souls in early life this definite direction; they have partly also actually done it. All of those named here lived either in a degenerate age and had a dreadful experience of moral corruption before their eyes, or their own fates have strewn bitterness in their souls. Also, the philosophical mind, when it separates with unrelenting strictness the appearance from being and penetrates into the depths of things, inclines the soul to this severity and austerity, with which Rousseau, Haller, and others paint reality. But these external and accidental influences, which always act restrictively, may at most only determine the direction, never provide the content of the enthusiasm. The latter must on the whole be the same and, free of any external need, flow forth from a glowing instinct for the ideal, which is absolutely the only true calling to the satirical as in general to the sentimental poet.
If the pathetic satire suits only sublime souls, so can mocking satire only succeed in a beautiful heart. For the former is already preserved from frivolity by its earnest theme; but the latter, which may only treat a morally indifferent matter, would inevitably fall into it and lose any poetical dignity, if the treatment did not here ennoble the content and the subject of the poet were not to substitute for his object. But it is not bestowed on the beautiful heart, to impress a perfect image of itself independent of the object of its action on each of its expressions. The sublime character can make itself known only in individual victories over the resistance of the senses, only in certain moments of flight and of momentary exertion; in the beautiful soul, on the contrary, the ideal acts as nature, therefore uniformly, and can therefore appear also in a state of rest. The deep sea appears the most sublime in its movement, the clear brook the most beautiful in its calm course.
It has repeatedly been a matter of dispute, which of the two, tragedy or comedy, deserves to be ranked above the other. If the question is merely, which of the two treats the more important object, so is there no doubt, that the former has the advantage; however, should one want to know, which of the two requires the more important subject, so would the decision more likely prove to be for the latter.In tragedy, very much occurs already through the theme, in comedy, nothing occurs through the theme and everything through the poet. Now, since the matter never comes into consideration in the judgment of taste, so must of course the aesthetical value of these two kinds of art stand in inverse proportion to their material importance. The object carries the tragic poet, the comic, on the contrary, must support his in the aesthetical height through his subject. The former may take a flight, which is not exactly such a great matter; the other must remain the same, he must already be there and be at home there, whereto the other does not succeed without a vault. And that is precisely it, wherein the beautiful character is distinguished from the sublime. In the former, all greatness is already contained, it flows unconstrained and effortless from its nature, it is, according to its ability, an infinity in every point of its course; the other can be stretched and elevated to all greatness, it can through the force of its will be torn from every condition of limitation. The latter is therefore only free by fits and starts and only with effort, the former is so with ease and always.
To bring forth and to nourish in us this freedom of mind, is the beautiful task of comedy, just as tragedy is assigned, to help reestablish mental freedom on an aesthetical path, when it has been violently annulled by an emotion. In tragedy, mental freedom must therefore be annulled artificially and as an experiment, because it demonstrates its poetic force in the restoration of the same; in comedy, on the contrary, care must be taken, that it never come to this annulment of mental freedom. Therefore, the tragic poet always treats his theme practically, the comic poet his always theoretically, even when the former (as Lessing in his Nathan) would have the fancy to treat a theoretical, the latter, a practical matter. Not the domain from which the theme is taken, rather the forum, before which the poet brings it, makes the same tragic or comic. The tragedian must be on his guard against tranquil reasoning and always interest the heart; the comedian must guard against pathos and always entertain the understanding. The former, therefore, displays his art through constant excitement, the latter through constant prevention of passion; and this art is naturally in both cases so much the greater, the more the theme of the one is of an abstract nature and that of the other is inclined to the pathetic.12 If, therefore, tragedy sets out from a more important point, so must one concede, on the other hand, that comedy aims at a more important end, and it would, if it were to achieve it, make all tragedy superfluous and impossible. Its end is identical with the highest toward which man struggles, to be free of passion, always clearly, always calmly to look around himself and into himself, to find everywhere more accident than fate, and to laugh more at absurdity than to be angry at wickedness or to weep.
As in active life, so it also often occurs in poetic representations, that mere light-mindedness, agreeable talent, joyful good nature are mistaken for beauty of the soul, and since the common taste is in general never elevated above the agreeable, so is it to such elegant minds an easy thing, to usurp that glory, which is so difficult to deserve. But there is an infallible test, by means of which one can distinguish the facility of the natural from the facility of the ideal, just as the virtue of temperament from the true morality of character, and this is, when both are attempted in a difficult and great object. In such a case, the elegant genius falls infallibly into insipidity, just as the virtuous by temperament into the material; the true beautiful soul, on the contrary is just as certain to pass over into the sublime.
So long as Lucian merely chastises absurdity, as in the Wishes, in the Lapithas, in Jupiter Tragödus, etc., he remains a mocker and pleases us with his joyful humor; but an entirely different man emerges from him in many passages of his Nigrinus, his Timon, his Alexander, when his satire also strikes at moral depravity. Unhappy wretch, so he begins in his Nigrinus the revolting picture of Rome at that time, why forsakest thou the light of the sun, Greece, and that happy life of freedom and cam'st here to this turmoil of splendid subservience, of services and banquets, of sycophants, flatterers, poisoners, legacy-hunters and false friends? etc. On such and similar occasions must the lofty earnestness of feeling be evident, which must underlie all play, if it shall be poetical. Even through malicious jests, wherewith both Lucian as well as Aristophanes mistreated Socrates, a serious reason shines forth, which avenges the truth against the sophist and does combat for an ideal, which it merely does not always express. Also the first of the two has justified this character against all doubt in his Diogenes and Demonax; among the moderns, what great and beautiful character does Cervantes not express at every worthy occasion in his Don Quixote! What a glorious ideal must not have lived in the soul of the poet, who created a Tom Jones and a Sophonisba! How the laughter of Yorik, so soon as he wishes, can so greatly and so powerfully move our souls! Also in our Wieland I discern this earnestness of feeling; even the wanton play of his humor inspires and ennobles the grace of the heart; even in the rhythm of his song it imprints its stamp, and never does he lack the power to soar, as soon as it is wanted, to carry us aloft to the highest.
No such judgment can be made of the Voltairean satire. Indeed, it is also in the case of this author only the truth and simplicity of nature, whereby he sometimes moves us poetically, whether it be, that he actually attains it in a naive character, as many times in his Ingènu, or that he seeks and avenges it as in his Candide, etc. Where neither of the two is the case, he can indeed amuse us as a witty mind, but certainly not move us as a poet. But everywhere, too little earnestness underlies his mockery, and this makes his vocation as a poet justly suspect. We always encounter only his understanding, not his feeling. No ideal appears under his flimsy veil and hardly anything absolutely fixed in this eternal motion. His wonderful multiplicity of external forms, far from proving anything in behalf of the inner fullness of his spirit, rather bears critical witness thereagainst, for regardless of all these forms, he has not even found one, wherein he could have impressed a heart. One must therefore almost fear, it was in this rich genius only the poverty of heart, which determined his vocation as satire. Were it otherwise, so would he have had to step by chance on his long road out of this narrow rut. But in all the so-great variety of matter and of external form, we see this inner form return in eternal, needy monotony, and, despite his voluminous career, he has nevertheless not accomplished the circle of humanity in himself, which one finds passed through with joy in the above-mentioned satirists.
Should the poet so oppose nature to art and the ideal to the real, that the representation of the first predominates and the pleasure in the same becomes the ruling feeling, so do I call him elegiac. Also, this type has, like satire, two classes under it. Either is nature and the ideal an object of sadness, when the former is represented as lost, the latter as unattained, or both are an object of joy, whilst they are conceived as real. The first gives elegy in the narrower, the other the idyl in the broadest sense.13
Like indignation in the pathetic, and like mockery in sportive satire, so may sadness in elegy flow only from an enthusiasm awakened by the ideal. Thereby alone does the elegy receive poetical content, and every other source of the same is completely beneath the dignity of poetry. The elegiac poet seeks nature, but in its beauty, not merely in its agreeableness, in its agreement with ideas, not merely in its compliance to need. The sadness over lost joys, over the golden age which has disappeared from the world, over the happiness of youth, of love, etc., which has fled away, can only then become the matter for elegiac poetry, if those conditions of sensuous peace are conceived at the same time as objects of moral harmony. For this reason, I can not as a whole consider as a poetical work the mournful songs of Ovid, which he strikes up from his place of exile by the Black Sea, however moving they are, and however many passages they have of the poetical. There is much too little energy, much too little spirit and nobility in his pain. Need, not inspiration, pours forth those laments. There breathes therein, although no common soul, yet the common frame of mind of a noble spirit, which his fate trampled to the ground. Indeed, if we remember, that it is Rome and the Rome of Augustus, for which he mourns, so we pardon the son of joy his pain; but even glorious Rome with all of its blessings is, if the imaginative power does not first ennoble it, merely a finite greatness, therefore an unworthy object for poetry, which, elevated above all that reality erects, rightly mourns only for the sake of the infinite.
The content of the poetical lament can therefore never be an external, at all times only an internal ideal object; even when it mourns over a loss in reality, it must first transform it into an ideal. In this reduction of the limited to an infinite consists the true poetical treatment. The external matter is therefore always indifferent in itself, because poetry can never employ it, as it finds it, but rather it only gives it poetical dignity through that which it itself makes of it. The elegiac poet seeks nature, but as an idea and in a perfection, in which it has never existed, although he weeps over it as something that has existed and now is lost, when Ossian tells us of the days, which are no more, and of the heroes, who have disappeared, so has his poetical power transformed these pictures of his memory of long ago into the ideal, these heroes into gods. The experiences of a particular loss have become extended into the idea of universal transitoriness, and the deeply moved bard, whom the image of omnipresent ruin pursues, soars up to heaven, in order to find there in the course of the sun an emblem of the imperishable.14
I turn immediately to the modern poets of the elegiac type. Rousseau, as poet and as philosopher, has no other tendency than to either seek nature or to avenge it in art. According as his feeling dwells either on the one or the other, we find him now moved elegiacally, now inspired to Juvenalian satire, now as in his Julia, transported into the sphere of the idyl. His compositions have indisputable poetic merit, since they treat the ideal; only he does not know how to employ the same in a poetical manner. His earnest character, no doubt, lets him never descend into frivolity, but also does not permit him to be elevated up to poetic play. Now yoked by passion, now by abstraction, he seldom or never achieves aesthetical freedom, which the poet must maintain over against his matter, must communicate to his reader. Either it is his sickly sensibility, which rules over him and drives his feelings to the point of being painful; or it is the force of his thinking, which places fetters on his imagination and, through the strictness of the concept, annihilates the grace of the portrayal. Both properties, whose intimate reciprocity and union properly constitutes the poet, are found in this author in an unusually high degree and nothing is lacking, other than that they also manifest themselves actually united with one another, that his self-activity be joined more to his feeling, that his susceptibility be joined more to his thought. Therefore, even in the ideal, which he erects from human nature, too much regard is given to the limits of the same, too little to its capability and a want of physical repose is everywhere more visible therein than of moral harmony. It is owing to his passionate sensibility, that he, in order to be rid of that struggle in human nature as soon as possible, prefers to see the same led back to the spiritless uniformity of his initial condition, rather than to see that struggle ended in the spirited harmony of a completely accomplished education, that he prefers not to let art begin at all, rather than await its completion, that he prefers to place the goal lower and prefers to lower the ideal, in order to attain it the more quickly, in order to attain it more safely.
Among Germany's poets of this type I wish to mention here only Haller, Kleist, and Klopstock. The character of their poetry is sentimental; they move us through ideas, not through sensuous truth, not so much because they themselves are nature, as because they know how to enthuse us for nature. What, however, is true in general of the character of these, as well as of all sentimental poets, does not of course exclude in any way the capability to move us in particular through naive beauty: without this, they would not be poets overall. It is only not their proper and prevailing character, to receive with a calm, simple, and easy sense and to represent in the same manner, that which is received. Involuntarily, imagination anticipates the intuition, the thinking power the perception, and one closes eyes and ears, in order to sink contemplatively into oneself. The soul can endure no impression, without immediately paying attention to its own play and, through reflection, placing before and outside itself, what it has in itself. We receive in this way never the object, only what the reflecting understanding of the poet made from the object, and even then, if the poet himself is this object, if he wishes to represent his feelings, we do not experience his condition immediately and at first hand, but rather as the same is reflected in his soul, what he has thought about it as spectator of himself. When Haller mourned the death of his spouse (one knows the beautiful song) and begins as follows:
Soll ich von deinem Tode singen?
O Mariane, welch ein Lied!
Wann Seufzer mit Worten ringen
Und ein Begriff den andern flieht, u.s.f.
Must I needs of thy dying sing?
O Marian, what a refrain!
When sighs with words are struggling
And one idea the other flees, etc.
so do we find this description strictly true, but we also feel, that the poet does not properly communicate his feelings to us, but rather his thoughts about it. He also moves us for this reason far more weakly, because he himself must have already been very much cooled down, in order to be a spectator of his own emotion.
Already, the mostly supersensuous matter of Hallerian and also part of the Klopstockian compositions excludes them from the naive type; so soon, therefore, as this matter should be treated poetically, so must it, since it assumes no bodily nature and consequently can not be an object of the sensuous intuition, pass over into the infinite and be elevated to an object of the spiritual intuition. In general, only in this sense can didactic poetry be conceived without internal contradiction; for, to repeat it once more, poetry only possesses these two domains: either it must stay in the world of sense, or it must stay in the world of ideas, since it can absolutely not thrive in the realm of concepts or in the world of understanding. Yet, I confess, I know no poem of this kind, neither from ancient nor modern literature, which would have brought the concept, which it treats, either purely and completely down to the individual or up to the idea. The ordinary case, when it still goes happily, is that the two are alternated, such that the abstract concept dominates and that the imaginative power, which ought to govern in the poetical domain, is merely permitted to serve the understanding. The didactic poem, wherein the thought itself were poetic and it would also remain so, is still awaited.
What is said here in general of all didactic poems, is true also of the poems of Haller in particular. The thought itself is not a poetical thought, but the execution is so sometimes, now through the use of images, now through the flight towards the ideal. Only in the last quality do they belong here. Force and depth and a pathetical earnestness characterize this poet. His soul is enkindled by an ideal, and his glowing feeling for truth seeks, in the silent Alpine valleys, the innocence which has disappeared from the world. Deeply touching is his lament; with energetic, almost bitter satire, he draws the perplexities of the understanding and heart, and with love, the beautiful simplicity of nature. Only in this picture, the concept predominates overly much, just as in himself the understanding plays master over feeling. Therefore, he teaches generally more than he represents, and represents generally with more forceful than lovely strokes. He is great, daring, ardent, sublime; however, he is seldom or never elevated to beauty.
In idea content and in depth of mind, Kleist is far inferior to this poet; in grace he might excel him, if we did not otherwise impute to him, as sometimes occurs, a want on the one side as a strength on the other. Kleist's feeling soul delights most in the sight of country scenes and manners. He gladly flees the empty noise of society and finds in the bosom of inanimate nature the harmony and peace, which he misses in the moral world. How touching is his longing for peace!15 How true and feeling, when he sings:
Ja Welt, du bist des wahren Lebens Grab.
Oft reizet mich ein heißer Trieb zur Tugend'
Vor Wehmut rollt ein Bach die Wang' herab,
Das Beispiel siegt, und du, o Feu'r der Jugend.
Ihr trocknet bald die edlen Tränen ein.
Ein wahrer Mensch muß fern von Menschen sein.
Yes world, thou art the grave of the true life.
An ardent instinct charms me oft to virtue,
In sadness does a brook roll down my cheeks,
Example wins, and thou, O fire of youth.
You presently dry up these noble tears.
A man who's true must distant be from men.
But, if his poetic instinct has led him out of the confining circle of relations into the spirited solitude of nature, so do the anguished image of the age and also unfortunately its fetters pursue him even here. What he flees is in him, what he seeks is eternally outside of him; never can he overcome the evil influence of his century. Is his heart ardent, his imagination energetic enough, so as to animate the dead forms of the understanding through representation, so does cold thought once again kill the living creation of poetic force, and reflection disturb the secret work of sentiment. His poetry is indeed as colorful and resplendent as the spring, of which he sang, his imagination is lively and active; yet one would sooner call it variable than rich, sooner playful than creative, sooner restlessly progressive than concentrative and formative. Traits succeed traits quickly and exuberantly, but without concentrating into an individual, without becoming full with life and rounded into form. So long as he merely composes lyrically and merely dwells on scenic portraits, partly the greater freedom of the lyrical form, partly the more arbitrary nature of the matter lets us overlook this deficiency, whilst we here in general desire represented the feelings of the poet more than the object itself. But the defect becomes only all too noticeable, when he presumes, as in his Cisseis and Paches and in his Seneca, to represent men and human actions; because here the imaginative power sees itself enclosed between firm and necessary limits and the poetic effect can only issue forth from the object. Here he becomes poor, tedious, meager, and frosty to the point of being unendurable; a warning example for all, who without an inner vocation from the field of musical poetry lose their way climbing into the region of the plastic. In a related genius, Thomson, the same human mistake is made.
In the sentimental type and especially in the elegiac part of the same, few of the modern and still fewer of the ancient poets would be compared with our Klopstock. What is always to be attained only in the field of ideality, outside the limits of living form and outside the region of individuality, is performed by this musical poet.16 Indeed, one would do him a great injustice, if one wanted to entirely deny to him that individual truth and vitality, with which the naive poet describes his object. Many of his odes, many separate traits in his dramas and in his Messiah represent the object with striking truth and in beautiful enclosure; here especially, where the object is his own heart, has he demonstrated not seldom a great nature, a charming naivetè. Only his strength does not lie herein, only this property would not be sustained throughout the whole of his poetical sphere. Just as in the musical poetical view according to the above-given determination, the Messiah is a magnificent creation, so does it still leave much to be desired in the plastic poetical, where one expects determined forms and forms determined for the intuition. Perhaps in this poem the figures would be determined enough, but not for the intuition; only abstraction has created them, only abstraction can distinguish them. They are good examples as concepts, but not individuals, not living forms. It is left far too much to the imaginative power, which the poet ought to apply, and which he ought to command through the universal determination of his forms, in what manner it wishes to sensualize these men and angels, these gods and Satan, this heaven and this hell. There is an outline given, within which understanding must necessarily conceive them, but no firm limit is established, within which the imagination must necessarily represent them. What I say here of the characters, is true of everything, which in this poem is or ought to be life and action, and not only in this epic, but also in the dramatic poetry of our poet. For the understanding, all is excellently determined and bounded (I wish to recall here only his Judas, his Pilate, his Philo, his Solomon in the tragedy of this name), but it is much too formless for the imaginative power, and here, I confess it freely, I find this poet not in his sphere at all.
His sphere is always the realm of ideas, and he knows how to lead everything that he treats over into the infinite. One might say, from everything that he treats, he strips away the body, in order to turn it into spirit, just as other poets dress everything spiritual with a body. Almost every pleasure, which his compositions yield must be obtained through an exercise of the thinking power; all feelings, which he, and indeed so intimately and powerfully, knows how to arouse in us, stream forth from supersensuous sources. Hence, this earnestness, this force, this buoyancy, this depth, which characterize everything which comes from him; hence also the eternal tension of the mind, in which we are kept in reading the same. No poet (except perhaps Young, who demands more therein than he, but without compensating for it, as he does) could be less adapted to be the favorite and to be the companion through life than precisely Klopstock, who always only leads us out of life, always only calls the spirit to arms, without refreshing the senses with the calm presence of an object. Chaste, other-worldly, incorporeal, holy, like his religion, is his poetic muse, and one must confess with admiration, that, if he wanders sometimes into these heights, yet never has he sunk down therefrom. For this reason, I acknowledge without concealment, that I am somewhat anxious for the mind of the same, who can really and without affectation make this poet his favorite book, a book namely, in which one can harmonize with every situation, to which one can return from every situation; also, I would think, one would have seen in Germany enough fruits of his dangerous authority. Only in certain exalted dispositions of mind can he be sought and felt; for this reason he is also the idol of youth, although by far not their happiest choice. The youth, who always aspires beyond life, who flees all form and finds every limit too narrow, wanders about with love and delight into infinite spaces, which are opened to him by this poet. When then, the youth becomes a man and returns from the realm of ideas into the limits of experience, so is much lost, much of this enthusiastic love, but nothing of the respect, which one owes to such a unique phenomenon, to such an extraordinary genius, to such a greatly ennobled feeling, which the German in particular owes to such a high merit.
I called this poet great chiefly in the elegiac kind, and scarcely will it be necessary, to justify this judgment in particular further. Capable of every energy and master of the entire sphere of sentimental poetry, he can shake us now through the highest pathos, now rock us in heavenly sweet sensations; but to a lofty, spirited melancholy his heart is predominantly inclined, and however sublime his harp, his lyre may sound, so shall the melting tones of his lute always resound more truly and deeply and movingly. I refer to that purely disposed feeling, whether it would not give up everything bold and strong, all fictions, all magnificent descriptions, every model of oratorical eloquence in the Messiah, all glimmering comparisons, wherein our poet is so superbly excellent, in exchange for the tender sentiments, which are manifest in the elegy To Ebert, in the glorious poem Bardalus, The Tombs Opened Early, the Summer's Night, the Lake of Zurich, and many others of this kind. Thus is the Messiah dear to me as a treasure of elegiac feelings and ideal depictions, although it satisfies me less as representation of an action and as an epic work.
Perhaps I should, before I leave this area, also recall the merits of Uz, Denis, Gessner (in his Death of Abel), Jacobi, Gerstenberg, Höltz, De Göckingk, and several others of this kind, which all move us through ideas and, in the above-established sense of the word, have been composed sentimentally. But my goal is not to write a history of German poetry, but rather to make clear what was said above through some examples from our literature. I wanted to show the different roads, which ancient and modern, naive and sentimental poets take to the same goalthat, if the former move us through nature, individuality and lively sensuousness, the latter through ideas and a high spirituality demonstrate a just as great, although not so extensive power over our minds.
In the preceding examples, one has seen how the sentimental poetical spirit treats a natural subject matter; but one could also be interested to know, how the naive poetical spirit deals with a sentimental subject matter. This problem seems to be completely new and of an entirely special difficulty, since in the ancient and naive world, such a matter is not found, in the modern, however, the poet would be lacking thereto. Nevertheless, the genius has also set this task for himself and solved it in a wonderfully happy way. A character, who embraces an ideal with glowing feeling and flees reality, in order to strive for an infinite devoid of being, he, who incessantly seeks outside himself, what is in himself, to whom only his dreams are the real, his experiences are always only limits, who finally sees in his own existence only a limit and tears even this away, as stands to reason, in order to penetrate to true realitythis dangerous extreme of the sentimental character has become the subject matter of a poet, in whom nature acts more faithfully and more purely than in anyone else, and who is among the modern poets perhaps least removed from the sensuous truth of things.
It is interesting to see, with what a happy instinct all that gives nourishment to the sentimental character is pressed together in Werther: schwärmerish unhappy love, sensibility for nature, religious feeling, a spirit of philosophical contemplation, finally, in order to forget nothing, the dark, formless, melancholy Ossianic world. Does one add thereto, how little reality is presented pleasingly, rather on the contrary, how hostilely, and how everything unites from outside to drive the tormented man back into his ideal world, so does one see no possibility, how such a character could have been rescued from such a circle. In the Tasso of the same poet, the same contrast reappears, although in entirely different characters; even in his latest romance, as in his first, the poetic mind is opposed to the matter-of-fact common sense, the ideal to the real, the subjective manner of presentation to the objectivebut with what variety! Even in Faust we meet the same contrast again, admittedly, as even the subject matter required this, on both hands more coarsely and materialized; it is worthwhile to attempt a psychological explanation of this character, specified in four such different kinds.
It has been observed above, that the merely light and jovial disposition, if an inner fullness of ideas does not underlie it, does not at all serve as a vocation to sportive satire, though it is liberally taken therefor in ordinary judgment; just as little does mere tender soft-heartedness and melancholy provide a vocation for elegiac poetry. Both lack the energetic principle of true poetic talent, which must enliven the subject matter, in order to produce the truly beautiful. Products of this tender kind can accordingly only melt us and, without refreshing the heart and engaging the mind, can only flatter sensuousness. A continued propensity to this mode of feeling must necessarily eventually enervate the character and sink it into a state of passivity, from which no reality at all can issue, either for external or internal life. Accordingly, one has been quite right, to persecute with unrelenting mockery this evil of sentimentality17 and of whining character, which began to take the upper hand about eighteen years ago in Germany, through the misrepresentation and servile imitation of several excellent works, although the indulgence, which one is inclined to demonstrate toward the not much better copies of these elegiac caricatures, toward the facetious character, toward heartless satire and spiritless temper,18 displays clearly enough, that the zeal against it does not come from an entirely pure basis. Upon the balance of true taste the one weighs as little as the other, because both lack the aesthetic content, which is contained only in the intimate union of the spirit with the matter and in the united relation of a production to the capacity of feeling and to the capacity of ideas.
One has scoffed at Siegwart and his cloister story, and the Travels into Southern France are admired; yet both productions have an equally great claim to a certain degree of appreciation and an equally small one to unconditional praise. True, although excessive feeling gives value to the first romance, a light humor and a sharp fine intelligence gives value to the second; but just as the one totally lacks the sobriety of mind, which befits it, so does the other lack the aesthetical dignity. The first becomes, in the face of experience, a little ridiculous, the other becomes, in the face of the ideal, almost despicable. Now, since the truly beautiful must be in harmony, on the one hand, with nature and, on the other, with the ideal, so can the one as little as the other claim to be called a beautiful work. Nevertheless, it is natural and reasonable, and I know it from my own experience, that the romance of Thummel is read with great pleasure. Since it offends only such requirements, which originate from the ideal, which consequently have not been expressed by the greatest part of the readers at all and by the better not directly in such moments when one reads romances, but, on the contrary, fulfills other requirements of the mind and of the body to an unusual degree, so must and will it remain justly a favorite book of our and all times, when one writes aesthetical works only in order to please, and merely reads in order to obtain enjoyment.
But does not poetical literature exhibit even classical works, which seemed to offend the lofty purity of the ideal in a similar manner and seemed to be very much removed through the materiality of their contents from that spirituality, which is demanded here of every aesthetical work of art? Whatever the poet, the chaste apprentice of the Muses, may be permitted, should that not be allowed to the novelist, who is only his half-brother and still moves the world so much? I may all the less avoid this question, since there are masterpieces both in the elegiac as well as in the satirical division, which have the appearance of seeking and commending an entirely different nature, than that of which this essay speaks, and of defending the same, not so much against bad, as against good morals. Either, therefore, must these poetic works needs be rejected, or the concept delineated here of elegiac poetry be assured to be much too arbitrary.
Might not what the poet can be permitted, it is said, be overlooked in the prose narrator? The answer is already contained in the question: what is allowed the poet, can demonstrate nothing for him, who is not one. In the concept of the poet itself, and only in this, lies the basis of that freedom, which is a merely contemptible license, so soon as it can not be derived from the highest and most noble, which constitutes him.
The laws of decency are alien to innocent nature; only the experience of corruption has given rise to them. So soon, however, as that experience has once been undergone and natural innocence has disappeared from morals, so are they sacred laws, which a moral feeling may not infringe upon. They are held true in an artificial world with the same justice, as the laws of nature reign in the world of innocence. But precisely that, indeed, constitutes the poet, that he annuls everything in himself, that recalls an artificial world, that he knows how to establish nature once again in its original simplicity. Has he, however, done this, so is he emancipated by this alone from all laws, through which a seduced heart secures itself against itself. He is pure, he is innocent, and what is permitted to innocent nature, is also to him; and thou, thou who read'st or hear'st him, art no longer innocent, and canst thou not become so again even for a moment though his purifying presence, so is it thy misfortune and not his; thou forsakest him, he has not sung for thee.
Therefore, as to these kinds of freedoms, the following can be established.
Firstly: only nature can justify them. They may not, therefore, be a work of choice and of intentional imitation; for we never forgive the will, which is always directed according to moral laws, for showing favoritism to sensuousness. They must therefore be naivetè. In order, however, to be able to convince us, that they actually are this, we must see them supported and accompanied by everything else, which is likewise grounded in nature, because nature is to be known only by the strict consistency, unity, and uniformity of its effects. We only permit a heart, which abhors all kinds of artifice in general and therefore also there, where it is useful, to be emancipated from it there, where it is oppressed and curtailed; we permit only a heart, which submits to all fetters of nature, to make use of the freedoms of the same. All the other feelings of such a man must consequently bear the stamp of naturalness in itself; he must be true, simple, free, open, sensitive, straightforward; all dissembling, all cunning, all caprice, all petty self-seeking must be banished from his character, all traces thereof from his works.
Secondly: Only beautiful nature can justify freedoms of this kind. They, therefore, ought not to be a one-sided outbreak of the appetites; for everything which originates from mere poverty is contemptible. These sensuous energies must therefore issue forth from the totality and from the fullness of human nature. They must be humanity. But in order to be able to judge, that the totality of human nature, and not merely a one-sided and common want of sensuousness summons them, we must see the totality represented, of which they constitute a particular feature. In itself, the sensuous mode of feeling is something innocent and indifferent. It displeases us, therefore, only as a man, because it is animal and is evidence of a lack of truly perfect humanity in him: it offends us therefore as a poetic work, because such a work makes claim to please us, therefore deems us capable of such a lack. However, should we see in the man, who is surprised thereby, human nature act in all its other capacities, should we find in the work, wherein one has taken freedoms of this kind, all the realities of human nature expressed, so is this basis for our displeasure removed, and we can take pleasure with an embittered joy in the naive expression of true and beautiful nature. The sane poet, therefore, who dares allow himself, to make us accomplices in such base human feeling, must know, on the other hand, how to carry us aloft to everything, which is humanly great and beautiful and sublime.
And so would we have indeed found the measure, to which we can subject every poet with certainty, who takes some liberties against decency and drives his freedom in the representation of nature up to this limit. His production is common, base, objectionable without any exception, so soon as it is cold and so soon as it is empty, because this demonstrates a source of intention and of a common want and a desperate appeal to our appetities. It is, on the contrary, beautiful, noble, worthy of applause without regard to all objections of frigid decency, so soon as it is naive and unites intellect with heart.19
If one says to me that, under the measure given here, most French stories of this kind and the happiest imitations of the same in Germany would not succeedthat this might also in part be the case with many productions of our most graceful and most spirited poet, even his masterpieces not excepted, so would I have nothing to answer thereto. The verdict itself is by no means new, and I only bring forward here the grounds of a judgment, which long since has been pronounced by every delicate feeling on these matters. Precisely these principles, however, which seem perhaps all too rigorous in regard to the former writings, might, in regard to some other works, perhaps be found to be too liberal; for I do not deny, that the same grounds, upon which I hold to be completely inexcusable the seductive paintings of the Roman and German Ovid, just as those of a Crebillon, Voltaire, Marmontel (who is called a moral story-teller), Lacroix, and many others, reconcile me with the elegies of the Roman and German Propertus, indeed even with many of the decried productions of Diderot; for the former are only witty, only prosaic, only lascivious, the latter are poetic, human and naive.20
It remains for me to say some words about this third species of sentimental poetry, a few words only, for a detailed development of the same, which it preferably demands, remains reserved for another time.21
The poetical representation of an innocent and happy humanity is the universal concept of this kind of poetry. Because this innocence and this bliss seemed incompatible with the artificial relations of grand society and with a certain degree of education and refinement, so have the poets removed the scene of the idyl from the crowds of civic life to the simple pastoral state and given the same its place in the infancy of humanity before the beginning of culture. However, one understands well, that these determinations are merely accidental, that they do not come into view as the end of the idyl, but merely as the most natural means to the same. The end itself is everywhere, to represent man in the state of innocence, i.e., in a condition of harmony and of peace with himself and the outside.
But such a state occurs not merely before the beginning of culture, rather it is also that which culture, if only it shall have everywhere a determined tendency, intends as its final end. The idea alone of this state and the belief in the possible reality of the same can reconcile man with all the evils, to which he is subjected on the path of culture, and were it merely a chimera, so would the complaints of those, be perfectly well founded, who decry grand society and the cultivation of the understanding as merely an evil and pass off the abandoned state of nature for the true end of man. For the man who is engaged in culture, it is therefore of infinite importance to obtain sensuous confirmation of the practicability of this idea in the world of sense, of the possible reality of this state, and as real experience, far from nourishing this belief, rather refutes it constantly, so also here, as in so many other cases, the capacity for poetry comes to the aid of reason, in order to bring this idea into intuition and to realize it in a particular case.
Indeed, this innocence of the pastoral state is also a poetic conception, and the imaginative power had therefore to be proven creative also there; but outside of the fact that the problem there was far simpler and easier to solve, so the particular features were already to be found in experience itself, which it only needed to select and join in a whole. Under a happy sky, in the simple relations of the initial state, nature is easily satisfied with a limited knowledge, and man does not become brutal, until he is distressed by want. All peoples, who have a history, have a paradise, a state of innocence, a golden age; yes, every individual man has his paradise, his golden age, which he remembers with more or less enthusiasm, according as he has more or less of the poetic in his nature. The experience itself, therefore, offers sufficient traits to the picture of which the pastoral idyl treats. For this reason, however, the latter remains always a beautiful, an elevating fiction, and the poetic power has really worked in the representation of the same in behalf of the ideal. For to the man, who has once diverged from the simplicity of nature and has been delivered over to the dangerous guidance of his reason, it is of infinite importance, to contemplate once again the legislation of nature in a pure exemplar, to be able to be purified once again of the depravities of art in this faithful mirror. But there is a circumstance thereby, which very much reduces the aesthetic value of such compositions. Planted before the beginning of culture, they immediately exclude with prejudice all advantages of the same and according to their nature, find themselves in a necessary struggle with the same. They therefore lead us backward theoretically, whilst they lead us practically forward and ennoble us. Unfortunately, they place the goal behind us, toward which they should however lead us, and therefore can inspire us with the sad feeling of a loss, not with the joyous feeling of hope. Because they achieve their end only through annulment of all art and only through simplification of human nature, so do they have the highest merit for the heart, but all too little for the mind, and their uniform circle is brought to an end too quickly. Hence, we can only love them and seek them, when we are in need of calm, not when our powers strive after movement and activity. They can only give a cure to the infirm soul, but no nourishment to the healthy; they can not enliven, only assuage. All the art of poets has not been able to remedy this defect, grounded in the nature of the pastoral idyl. Indeed, this kind of poem does not lack in enthusiastic admirers, and there are sufficient readers, who are able to prefer an Amyntus and a Daphnis to the greatest masterpieces of the epic and dramatic muse; but in such readers, it is not so much the taste as the individual need, that passes judgment on works of art, and their judgment can consequently not come into consideration here. The reader of mind and feeling indeed does not fail to recognize the value of such compositions, but he feels himself infrequently drawn to the same and is satiated earlier by them. In the precise moment of need, they act all the more powerfully therefor; but the truly beautiful should never need to wait for such a moment, but rather should produce it.
What I here criticize in the pastoral idyl, is after all true only of the sentimental; for the naive can never be lacking in merit, since it is already contained in the form itself. That is, every kind of poetry must have an infinite merit, by which alone it is poetry; but it can realize this requirement in two different ways. It can be an infinite, as to form, if it represents its object with all its limits, if it individualizes it; it can be an infinite, as to matter, if it removes all limits from its object, if it idealizes it; therefore, either through an absolute representation or through representation of an absolute. The naive poet takes the first road, the sentimental the second. The former can therefore not miss his value, so soon as he merely keeps faithful to nature, which is always completely limited, i.e., is infinite as to form. To the latter, on the contrary, nature stands in the way with its universal limitation, when he would place an absolute value in the object. The sentimental poet does not, therefore, understand his interest well, if he borrows his objects from the naive poet, which are in themselves completely indifferent and become poetic only through the treatment. He thereby imposes on himself quite unnecessarily limits identical with the former, without, however, being able to carry out the limitation completely and to compete with the same in the absolute determination of the representation; he ought rather, therefore, to depart from the naive poet precisely in the object, because he can only through the object win again from the latter, what the same has over him in respect to form.
In applying this to the pastoral idyls of the sentimental poet, so is it now made clear, why these compositions, with every display of genius and art, are completely satisfying neither to the heart nor to the mind. They have achieved an ideal and yet keep to the narrow, impoverished pastoral world, when they should have by all means selected either another world for the ideal, or another representation for the pastoral world. They are just so ideal, that the representation loses individual truth thereby, and are again just so individual, that the ideal value suffers therefrom. A shepherd of Gessner, for example, can not charm us as nature, not through the truth of imitation, for he is too ideal a being for that; just as little can he satisfy us as an ideal through the infinity of thought, for he is much too impoverished a creature for that. He will therefore please up to a certain point all classes of readers without exception, because he strives to unite the naive with the sentimental and consequently gives satisfaction to a certain degree to the two opposite demands, which can be made of a poem; however, because the poet, in the effort to unite both, does not do full justice to either one, is neither wholly nature nor wholly ideal, so can he just for this reason not entirely stand up to a stringent taste, which is not able to pardon anything half-complete in aesthetical matters. It is strange, that this halfness extends as far as the language of the named poet, which wavers undecided between poetry and prose, as if the poet feared to depart too far from actual nature in metrical language, and to lose the poetical flight in the unmetrical. Milton's magnificent representation of the first human pair and of the state of innocence in paradise affords a higher satisfaction; the most beautiful idyl known to me of the sentimental kind. Here is nature noble, spirited, simultaneously full of breadth and full of depth; the highest value of mankind is clothed in the most graceful form.
Therefore, even here in the idyl, as in all other poetical kinds, one must once and for all make a choice between individuality and the ideal; for to desire to satisfy both requirements at once, is, so long as one has not attained the end of perfection, the surest way to miss both at once. Should the modern feel the Greek spirit enough, to wrestle with the Greeks despite all the obstinacy of his matter, on their own field, namely in the field of naive poetry, so may he do it entirely and do it exclusively and place himself apart from any requirement of the sentimental taste of his age. He would indeed attain his models with difficulty; between the original and happiest imitation will always remain a notable distance, but he is nevertheless certain on this road, to produce a truly poetic work.22 On the contrary, should the sentimental poetic instinct carry him to the ideal, so would he pursue also this fully, in complete purity, and not stand still before reaching the highest, without looking behind him, to see if reality might also follow him. He would disdain the unworthy expedient of impairing the value of the ideal, in order to adapt it to human need, and to exclude the mind, in order to play more easily with the heart. He would not lead us backwards to our childhood, to make us buy with the most precious acquisition of the understanding a repose, which can last no longer than the slumber of our mental powers, but rather would lead us forward to our majority, in order to give us the higher harmony to feel, which rewards the combatant, which blesses the conqueror. He would take as his task an idyl, which realizes that pastoral innocence even in the subjects of culture and among all conditions of the most active, most ardent life, of the most extensive thought, of the most refined art, of the highest social refinement, which, in a word, leads the man, who can now no longer return to Arcadia, up to Elysium.
The concept of this idyl is the concept of a fully resolved struggle, both in the individual man as well as in society, of a free union of inclinations with the law, of a nature purified up to its highest moral dignity, in short, it is none other than the ideal of beauty, applied to real life. Its character consists therefore therein, that all contradiction of reality with the ideal, which would have furnished the matter for satirical and elegiac poetry, would be completely annulled and all strife of the feelings with the same would also cease. Repose were therefore the dominant impression of this kind of poetry, but the repose of perfection, not of laziness; a repose, which flows from the equilibrium, not from the standstill of powers, which flows from fullness, not from emptiness and is accompanied by the feeling of an infinite capacity.
But precisely because all resistance collapses, so will it become incomparably more difficult than in the two previous kinds of poetry to engender movement, without which no poetic effect can be conceived at all. There must be the highest unity, but it may take nothing from multiplicity; the soul must be satisfied, but without aspiration stopping on that account. The resolution of this question is properly what the theory of the idyl has to accomplish.
In regard to the relation of both kinds of poetry to one another and to the poetic ideal, the following has been established.
Nature has shown favor to the naive poet, to act always as an undivided unity, to be in every moment a self-reliant and perfect whole and to represent men in reality, according to their full value. To the sentimental one it has lent the power, or rather imprinted a living instinct, to reestablish out of himself that unity, which has been annulled in him by abstraction, to complete humanity in himself and to pass from a limited state to an infinite.23 To give human nature its full expression, is, however, the common task of both, and without that, they would not be able to be called poets at all; but the naive poet has always the advantage of sensuous reality over the sentimental, whilst he achieves that as a real fact, which the other only strives to attain. And that is also what everyone experiences for himself, if he examines himself in the enjoyment of naive poetry. He feels all the powers of his humanity active in such a moment, he requires nothing, he is whole in himself; without distinguishing anything in his feeling, he enjoys simultaneously his spiritual activity and his sensuous life. It is an entirely different disposition of mind, in which the sentimental poet puts him. Here he feels merely a living instinct, to produce harmony in himself, which there he really felt, to make a totality out of himself, to bring humanity in himself to a perfect expression. Hence, the mind is here in movement, it is stretched, it oscillates between contending feelings, while it is there calm, relaxed, one with itself and completely satisfied.
But if the naive poet has it over the sentimental on the one side as to reality and brings that into actual existence, for which the latter can only awaken a living instinct, so has the latter in return the great advantage over the former, that he is able to give the instinct a greater object than the former has provided and could provide. All reality, we know, remains behind the ideal; everything existing has its limits, but thought is unlimited. Through this limitation, to which everything sensuous is subjected, the naive poet also therefore suffers, while, on the contrary, the unconditioned freedom of the capacity for ideas is advantageous to the sentimental. The former, therefore, indeed realizes his task, but the task itself is something limited; the latter, indeed, does not entirely realize his, but the task is infinite. Also, everyone can be instructed on this by his own experience. From the naive poet, one turns with ease and pleasure to the living presence; the sentimental will always put us out of tune, for a few moments, as regards real life. That is because our mind has here been expanded, so to speak, by the infinite idea beyond its natural measure, so that nothing existing can fill it any longer. We prefer to sink contemplatively into ourselves, where we find nourishment for the aroused instinct within the world of ideas, while there we instead strive forth from ourselves after sensuous objects. Sentimental poetry is the offspring of abstractedness and silence, and it also invites thereto; the naive is the child of life, and it also leads back into life.
I have called naive poetry a favor of nature, in order to observe that reflection has no share in it. It is a happy toss, in need of no improvement, if it succeeds, but also capable of none, if it fails. The entire work of the naive genius is completed in feeling; here lies its strength and its limit. If he therefore has not felt at once poetical, i.e., not at once completely human, so can this lack be remedied no longer by art. Criticism can help him only to an examination of the defect, but it can place no beauty in its stead. Through its nature must the naive genius do everything; through its freedom it is able to do little; and it will fulfill its concept, only so soon as nature acts in him by an inner necessity. Now everything is indeed necessary, which occurs by nature, and so is any even abortive product of naive genius, from which nothing is more distant than arbitrariness; but constraint of the moment is one thing, the inner necessity of the whole another. Considered as a whole, nature is self-reliant and infinite; in each particular effect, it is, on the contrary, needy and limited. This holds good accordingly also in respect to the nature of the poet. Even the happiest moment, in which the same may be found, is dependent upon a preceding one; hence, only a conditional necessity can be attributed to him. But now the task falls to the poet, to make an individual state similar to the human whole, consequently to ground it absolutely and necessarily upon itself. From the moment of inspiration, every trace of a temporal need must therefore remain distant, and the object itself, as limited as it may be, should not limit the poet. One understands well, that this is possible only insofar as the poet already brings to the object an absolute freedom and fullness of capacity, and as he is able through practice, to embrace everything with all his humanity. However, he can obtain this practice only through the world in which he lives and by which he is immediately affected. Thus, the naive genius stands in a state of dependence on experience, which the sentimental does not know. The latter, we know, first begins his operation there, where the former concludes his; his strength consists therein, to complete a defective object out of himself and to transport himself by his own power from a limited state to a state of freedom. The naive poetical genius, therefore, needs assistance from the outside, while the sentimental nourishes and purifies himself from within himself; he must perceive a nature rich in forms, a poetical world, a naive humanity around himself, since he has to complete his work in the sensuous frame of mind. Now should this assistance from the outside fail him, should he see himself surrounded by a spiritless matter, so can only one of two things happen. Either, if the species is predominant in him, he steps out of his particular class and becomes sentimental, in order to be only poetic, or, if his specific character gains predominance, he steps out of his species and becomes common nature, in order to remain only nature. The first might be the case with the most eminent sentimental poets in the ancient Roman world and in modern times. Born in another age, transplanted under another sky, they, who move us now through ideas, would have enchanted us through individual truth and naive beauty. From the second, a poet would be able to be completely defended with difficulty, who in a common world can not abandon nature.
Actual nature, that is; but true nature, which is the subject of naive compositions, can not be carefully enough distinguished from this. Actual nature exists everywhere, but true nature is all the more seldom, for an inner necessity of existence belongs thereto. Actual nature is an even common eruption of passion, it may even be true nature, but it is not a truly human nature; for this requires a share of the self-reliant capacity in every manifestation, the expression of which is every time dignity. Actual human nature is all moral baseness, but true human nature is hopefully not such; for the latter can never be other than noble. It is not to be overlooked, to what absurdities this confusion of actual nature with true human nature has led in criticism as in practice: what trivialities does one allow in poetry, yes extol, because they unfortunately(!) are actual nature: how one rejoices to see caricatures, which already cause one alarm in the actual world, carefully preserved in the poetic, and portrayed according to life. Of course, the poet may also imitate depraved nature, and this indeed brings with itself already the concept of the satirical; but in this case, his own beautiful nature must carry over into the object and the common subject matter not drag the imitator with it to the ground. Be he only, at least at the moment when he paints, himself true human nature, so does it not matter what he paints for us; but we can endure a faithful painting of reality absolutely only from such an one. Woe to us readers, if the caricature is reflected in the caricature, if the scourge of satire falls into the hands of those, whom nature determined to wield a much more earnest whip, if men, who, stripped of all that one calls poetic spirit, possess the ape's talent for common imitation, exercise it heinously and frightfully at the expense of our taste!
But even for the true naive poet, I said, common nature can become dangerous; for ultimately that beautiful harmony between feeling and thinking, which constitutes the character of the same, is only an idea, which is never completely attained in reality; and even in the happiest geniuses of this class, receptivity will always predominate somewhat over self-activity. Receptivity, however, is always more or less dependent upon the external impression, and only a continuous activity of the productive capacity, which is not expected of human nature, could prevent matter from not sometimes exercising a blind violence over receptivity. So often, however, as this is the case, a common feeling emerges from a poetical one.24
No genius from the naive class, from Homer down to Bodmer, has entirely avoided this reef; but, of course, it is the most dangerous to those who have to ward off a common nature from the outside, or who are savage through lack of discipline from inside. It is owing to the former, that even cultivated authors do not always remain free of platitudes and this already prevented many a splended talent from occupying the place to which nature had summoned him. The comic poet, whose genius lives mostly on real life, is just for that reason most exposed to platitude, as also the example of Aristophanes and Plautus and almost all of the later poets shows, who have followed in the footsteps of the same. How deeply does not even the sublime Shakespeare sometimes let us sink, with what trivialities do not Lope De Vega, Molière, Regnard, Goldoni torment us, into what mire does not Holberg drag us down? Schlegel, one of the most spirited poets of our fatherland, in whose genius it does not lay, that he not shine among the first of this species, Gellert, a truly naive poet, just like also Rabener, Lessing himself, if I may name him differently here, Lessing, the cultivated pupil of criticism and such a watchful judge of his own selfhow do they not suffer, more or less, for the spiritless character of nature, which they chose as the subject matter of their satire. Of the most recent authors of this kind I name none, since I can except none of them.
And not enough, that the naive poetic spirit is in danger of coming all too near to common realitythrough the ease, with which it is expressed, and through just this greater approximation to real life, it encourages the common imitator, to try his hand in the poetical field. Sentimental poetry, though from another side dangerous enough, as I will hereafter show, at least keeps this crew at a distance, because it is not everyone's concern to rise to ideas; but naive poetry brings them to the belief, that mere feeling, mere humor, mere imitation of actual nature would constitute the poet. But nothing is more perverse, than when the insipid character considers trying to be lovable and naivethat which ought to hide itself in all the veils of art, in order to conceal its repulsive nature. Hence then also the unspeakable platitudes, which the Germans let be sung under the title of naive and sportive songs, and with which they are accustomed to assure themselves quite endlessly around a well-occupied table. Under the permit of good humor, of feeling, one tolerates these paltry concernsbut a humor, a feeling, which one can not carefully enough banish. The muses of the Pleisse in particular form a peculiarly pitiful chorus here, and they are answered by the muses of the Seine and the Elbe in no better harmony.25 So insipid are these jests, so pitiful is the passion heard on our tragic stage, which, instead of imitating true nature, achieves only the spiritless and ignoble expression of the real, so that after such a banquet of tears we feel precisely as if we had paid a visit to hospitals or had read Saltzmann's Human Misery. It is yet much worse in satirical poetry and in comic romance in particular, which already in their nature lie so close to common life and hence it stands to reason, like every frontier post, should be just in the best hands. In truth, he has the least vocation, to become the painter of his time, who is the creature and the caricature of the same; but as it is something so easy, to hunt up some comical character, were it also only a fat man, among his acquaintances and to sketch a caricature with a coarse pen on paper, so sometimes the sworn enemies of all poetic genius also feel the tickling, to bungle in this province and to amuse a circle of worthy friends with a beautiful offspring. A purely disposed feeling will of course never be in danger of confusing these productions of a common nature with the spirited fruits of naive genius; but it is just this pure disposition of feeling which is lacking and, in most cases, one merely wants to have a need satisfied without the mind making a claim. The concept, as falsely understood as it is in itself true, that one refreshes oneself in works of beautiful spirit, contributes its best to this indulgence, if one can indeed call it indulgence, when nothing higher is divined and the reader as well as the writer find their profit in the same manner. Common nature, that is, if it has been stretched, can be refreshed only in inanity, and even a higher degree of understanding, if it be not supported by a proportional culture of the feelings, rests from its business only in a spiritless sensuous enjoyment.
If the poetic genius must be able to rise with a free self-activity above all accidental limits, which are inseparable from every fixed condition, in order to attain human nature in its absolute capacity, so may it not, on the other hand, pass beyond the necessary limits, which the concept of human nature brings with it; for the absolute, but only within humanity, is his task and his sphere. We have seen, that the naive genius is indeed not in danger of overstepping this sphere, but rather not to realize it completely, if it gives too much room to an external necessity or the accidental need of the moment at the expense of inner necessity. The sentimental genius, on the contrary, is exposed to danger, on account of the endeavor to remove all limits from it, to annul human nature altogether and not merely, as it may and should, to rise and to idealize, beyond every fixed and limited reality up to absolute possibility, but rather to pass even beyond possibility or to schwärm. This fault of overstretching is grounded precisely on the specific peculiarity of his behavior, as the opposite of slackness is on the peculiar mode of operation of the naive. The naive genius, that is, lets nature govern in itself without restriction, and since nature is always dependent and in need in its particular temporal expressions, so will the naive feeling not always remain exalted enough, to be able to resist the accidental determinations of the moment. The sentimental genius, on the contrary, abandons reality, in order to ascend to ideas, to command his subject matter with free self-activity; since, however, reason according to its law always aspires to the unconditional, so will the sentimental genius not always remain sober enough, to keep itself uninterruptedly and uniformly within the conditions, which the concept of human nature carries with itself, and to which reason must here always remain bound even in its freest acts. This could occur only through a proportionate degree of receptivity, which is just as much overweighed in the sentimental poetical spirit by self-activity, as it overweighs self-activity in the naive. Hence, if one sometimes misses mind in the creations of naive genius, so will one often in the offspring of the sentimental inquire in vain after the object. Both, therefore, will fall, although in completely opposite ways, into the fault of inanity; for an object without spirit and a spiritual play without object are both a nothing in the aesthetical judgment.
All poets who draw their subject matter too one-sidedly from the world of thought and are driven to poetical images more by an inner fullness of ideas than by the urgency of feeling, are more or less in danger of going thus astray. Reason takes into consideration much too little the limits of the sensuous world in their creations, and thought is always driven further, than experience can follow it. Be it, however, driven so far, that not only can no definite experience any longer correspond to it (for up to there the beautiful ideal may and must go), but rather that it runs counter to the conditions of all possible experience in general, and that consequently, in order to make it real, human nature would have to be altogether abandoned, then is it no longer a poetical, but rather an exaggerated thoughtprovided namely, that it has proclaimed itself to be representable and poetical; for if it has not done this, so is it already enough, if it only not contradict itself. Should it contradict itself, so is it no longer exaggeration, but rather nonsense; for what does not exist at all, that can also not exceed its measure. However, should it not at all proclaim itself to be an object for the imaginative power, so is it just as little an exaggeration; for mere thinking is limitless and what has no limit, can also not exceed. Therefore, only that can be called exaggerated, which wounds indeed not the logical, but rather the sensuous truth and nevertheless claims to be the latter. Hence, if a poet has the unhappy sudden thought, to select natures as the subject matter of his description, which are merely superhuman and may not be conceived otherwise, so can he be protected against exaggeration, only if he gives up the poetic and does not undertake again, to accomplish his object through the imaginative power. For were he to do this, so would either the latter confer its limits upon the object and make a limited human object out of an absolute one (what, for example, all Greek gods are and also ought to be), or the object would take its limits away from the imaginative power, i.e., it would annul it, wherein precisely lies exaggeration.
One must distinguish the exaggerated feeling from exaggeration in the representation; the discussion here is only of the first. The object of the feeling can be unnatural, but the feeling itself is nature and must accordingly lead also to the language of the same. If, therefore, the exaggerated in the feeling can flow from warmth of heart and a truly poetic predisposition, so the exaggerated in the representation is always proof of a cold heart and very often a poetical incapacity. It is therefore no fault, against which the sentimental poetical genius must be cautioned, but rather threatens only the mere imitator, who has no vocation to the same, hence, he in no way disdains the company of the insipid, spiritless, even the base. The exaggerated feeling is not totally without truth, and, as real feeling, it must also necessarily have a real object. Because it is nature, it therefore also admits of a simple expression and, coming from the heart, will also not miss the heart. However, since its object is not drawn from nature, but rather is brought forth one-sidedly and artificially through the understanding, so has it also only a logical reality, and the feeling is therefore not purely human. It is no delusion, that Heloise feels for Abelard, Petrarch for his Laura, Saint Preux for his Julia, Werther for his Charlotte, and that Agathon, Phanias, Peregrinus Proteus (I mean in Wieland) felt for their ideals; the feeling is true, only the object is artificial and lies outside of human nature. Had their feeling kept merely to the sensuous truth of the objects, so would it not have been able to take this flight; on the contrary, a merely capricious play of imagination without all inner value would not have been able to move the heart, for the heart is moved only by reason. This exaggeration, therefore, deserves reproof, not contempt, and who makes it, would do well to examine if he is not perhaps so clever out of heartlessness, so intelligent out of want of reason. Thus is also the exaggerated tenderness in respect to gallantry and honor, which characterizes the chivalrous romances, especially of Spain, thus is the unscrupulous delicacy, pushed to the point of preciousness, of the French and English sentimental romances (of the best kind) not only subjectively true, but also not without value viewed objectively; they are genuine sentiments, which really have a moral source and which are therefore only abominable, because they overstep the limits of human truth. Without this moral realityhow were it possible, that they could be imparted with such strength and intimacy, as experience however teaches? The same also holds true of moral and religious schwärmerei and of the exalted love of freedom and fatherland. Since the objects of these sentiments are always ideas and do not appear in external experience (for what, for example, moves the political enthusiast, is not what he sees, but rather what he thinks), so has the self-active imaginative power a dangerous freedom and can not, as in other cases, be sent back to its limits through the sensuous presence of its object. But neither man in general nor the poet in particular can withdraw from the legislation of nature, other than to place himself under the opposite legislation of reason; he may forsake reality only for the ideal, for freedom must be secured to one of these two anchors. But the road of experience to the ideal is so far and between them lies imagination with its unbridled caprice. It is hence unavoidable, that man in general, like the poet in particular, if he withdraws through the freedom of his understanding from the dominion of feeling, without being driven to it by the laws of reason, i.e., if he abandons nature out of mere freedom, so long as he is without law, is therefore given up as a prey to fancy.
Experience teaches, that both entire peoples as well as individual men, who have withdrawn from the safe guidance of nature, are actually in this condition, and just this also produces examples enough of a similar confusion in poetry. Because the genuine sentimental poetic instinct, in order to be elevated to the ideal, must go beyond the limits of actual nature, so the non-geniune goes beyond every limit in general and persuades itself, as if the wild play of the imagination already constituted poetical inspiration. To the true poetic genius, who abandons reality only for the sake of the idea, this can never occur or only in moments when he has lost himself; then on the contrary, he can be led astray by his nature itself to an exaggerated mode of perception. He can, however, through his example lead others astray into fancy, because readers of lively imagination and weak understanding have in view only the liberties in him, which he takes with actual nature, without being able to follow him up to his lofty inner necessity. It happens to the sentimental genius here, as we have seen in respect to the naive. Because the latter carries out everything that it does, through his nature, so the common imitator does not wish to consider his own nature a worse guide. Masterpieces of the naive kind accordingly will ordinarily have as their followers the most insipid and most dirty copies of common nature, and the principal works of the sentimental a numerous army of fanciful productions, as this is easily verified in the literature of every people.
There are in regard to poetry two principles in use, which are completely correct in themselves, but in the sense, wherein one customarily takes them, directly annul one another. Of the first, that poetry serve as a means of enjoyment and recreation, it has already been stated above, that it would be not a little favorable to inanity and platitudes in poetical representations; through the other principle, that it serve the moral ennoblement of man, the exaggerated is taken under protection. It is not superfluous to examine somewhat more closely both principles, of which one so frequently speaks, so often entirely incorrectly lays out and so awkwardly applies.
We call recreation the transition from a violent condition to that which is natural to us. Everything here, therefore, depends on where we locate our natural condition, and what we understand as a violent one. If we locate the former solely in an unbounded play of our physical powers and in an emancipation from every constraint, so is every activity of reason, because it carries on a resistance against sensuousness, a violence, which occurs to us, and a mental repose, combined with sensuous movement, is the true ideal of recreation. If we, on the contrary, locate our natural condition in an unlimited capacity for every human expression and in the capability, to be able to dispose of all our powers with equal freedom, so is every separation and isolation of these powers a violent condition, and the ideal of recreation is the reestablishment of our natural totality after one-sided tensions. The first ideal is imposed solely through the want of sensuous nature, the second is through the independence of human nature. Which of these two kinds of recreation may and must poetry afford, should indeed not be a question in theory; for no one would want it to appear, as if he could be tempted to place the ideal of humanity after the ideal of animality. Nevertheless, the demands, which one is wont to make in real life on poetical works, are taken chiefly from the sensuous ideal, and in most casesindeed, the esteem is not determined, which one shows these works, but rather the inclination decided and the favorite chosen according to the latter. The state of mind of the majority of men is, on the one side, straining and exhausting work, on the other, relaxing enjoyment. The former, however, we know, creates the sensuous need for mental rest and for a standstill of activity incomparably more pressing than the moral need for harmony and for an absolute freedom of activity, for above all things, nature must first be satisfied, before the mind can make a demand; the latter binds and cripples the moral instincts themselves, which had to express the former demand. Accordingly, nothing is more disadvantageous to the receptivity for the truly beautiful than these two only all too usual dispositions of mind among men, and this explains why so few of even the best have a correct judgment in aesthetical matters. Beauty is the production of harmony between mind and sense; it speaks to all the capacities of man at the same time and hence can be felt and appreciated only under the supposition of a complete and free use of all his powers. One must bring to it an open sense, an enlarged heart, a fresh and delicate spirit, one must have one's entire nature together, which is in no way the case with those, who are divided in themselves through abstract thinking, narrowed by small business formulas, enervated by straining attention. These indeed long for a sensuous matter, but not in order to pursue therein the play of their thinking power, but rather to suspend it. They would be free, but only from a burden, which fatigued their indolence, not from a limit, which curbed their activity.
Can one therefore still be astonished at the success of mediocrity and vacuity in aesthetical matters and at the revenge of weak spirits on the truly and energetically beautiful? They reckoned on recreation in the latter, but on a recreation for their need and for their poor concept, and they discover with annoyance, that an expression of power is now first demanded of them, to which even in their best moment, the capacity would be lacking to them. There, on the contrary, are they welcome, as they are; for as little power as they bring with them, so do they need still much less, to drain the spirit of its author. They are relieved here at once of the burden of thinking and their unyoked nature can indulge itself in the blessed enjoyment of nothingness on the soft pillow of platitude. In the temple of Thalia and Melpomene, just as it is with us, the beloved goddess is enthroned, receives the stupid learned man and the exhausted business man on her broad bosom and rocks the spirit in a magnetic sleep, whilst she warms the benumbed senses and swings the imaginative power in a sweet motion.
And why would one not overlook in common minds, what often enough is wont to befall even the best. The relaxation, which nature requires after any continuous strain and receives even when unrequested (and one is wont to save the enjoyment of beautiful works only for such moments), is so little favorable to the aesthetic power of judgment, that among the truly busy classes, there will be only extremely few, who can judge in matters of taste with certainty and, whereupon so much here depends, with uniformity. Nothing is more commonplace, than that learned men, in contrast to cultured men of the world, expose themselves as ridiculous in regard to the judgment of beauty, and that especially the art critics by profession are the laughing stock of all connoisseurs. Their neglected, now exaggerated, now crude feeling leads them falsely in the majority of cases, and even if in defense of the same they have apprehended something in theory, so can they form from it only technical (concerning the purposiveness of a work) but not aesthetical judgments, which must always embrace the whole and in respect to which, the feeling must therefore decide. If ultimately they would voluntarily renounce only the last and leave it be at the first, so might they always still be useful enough, since the poet in his inspiration and the feeling reader in the moment of enjoyment easily neglect the details. An all the more ridiculous spectacle is it, however, when these crude natures, which with all the painful labor in themselves lead at most to the education of a particular skill, set up their needy individualities as representative of universal feeling and in the sweat of their browpass judgment on the beautiful.
As we have seen, much too narrow limits are usually applied to the concept of recreation, because one is wont to refer it too one-sidedly to the mere want of sensuousness. On the contrary, a much too broad scope is usually given to the concept of ennoblement, which the poet should have in view, because one determines it too one-sidedly according to the mere idea.
According to the idea, the ennoblement goes on, that is, always to infinity, because reason is not bound in its requirements to the necessary limits of the world of sense and does not stand still sooner than in absolute perfection. Nothing, beyond which still something higher can be conceived, can give it pleasure; before its stern judgment, no want of finite nature is excused: it recognized no other limits than of thought, and of the latter we know, that it ascends beyond all limits of time and space. Such an ideal of ennoblement, which reason delineates in its pure legislation, the poet can propose just as little to himself as his end, as that vulgar ideal of recreation, which sensuousness produces, since he should indeed set human nature free from all accidental limits, but without annulling its concept and displacing its necessary limits. What he ventures beyond these lines, is exaggeration, and he is seduced to the latter all too easily only through a falsely understood concept of ennoblement. But it is bad, that he can not indeed elevate himself to the true ideal of human ennoblement, without taking still a few steps beyond the same. In order, that is, to reach these, he must abandon reality, for he can, like any ideal, draw only from inner and moral sources. Not in the world which surrounds him, and in the turmoil of active life, only in his heart does he encounter it and only in the stillness of solitary contemplation does he find his heart. But this abstractedness from life will remove from sight not always only the accidentalit will remove more often even the necessary and unconquerable limits of human nature, and whilst he seeks the pure form, he will be in danger of losing all value. Reason will make its business much too insulated from experience, and what the contemplative mind has discovered on the calm path of thought, the active man will not be able to bring to fulfillment on the distressful path of life. So just that usually produces the schwärmer, which alone was able to fashion a wise man, and the advantage of the latter might indeed subsist less therein, that he has not become the former, than therein, that he has not remained one.
Since it can neither be left to the working part of men to determine the concept of recreation according to their need, nor to the contemplative part, to determine the concept according to their speculations, if the former concept shall not turn out too physical and the poetry too unworthy, the latter not too hyperphysical and the poetry too extravagantbut these two concepts, as experience teaches, shall govern the universal judgment on poetry and poetical works, so must we, in order to be able to lay them out, look around for a class of men, which, without working, is active and can idealize without schwärming; which unites in itself all realities of life with the least possible limits of the same and is carried by the stream of events without becoming the prey of the same. Only such a class can preserve the beautiful totality of human nature, which is momentarily disturbed by any work and constantly by a working life and in all that is purely human, can give laws to the universal judgment through its feelings. Whether such a class really exists, or rather whether that, which really exists under similar external relations, corresponds to this concept also in the internal, is another question, with which I am not here concerned. Should it not correspond to the same, so has it only itself to blame, since the opposite working class is least satisfied, to be looked upon as a victim of its vocation. In such a class of people (which I propose here, however, only as an idea and wish in no way to denote as a fact) would the naive character therefore be united with the sentimental, so that each would keep the other from its extreme and, whilst the first would protect the soul from exaggeration, the other would secure it from relaxation. For ultimately, we must indeed confess, that neither the naive nor the sentimental character, considered alone in themselves, entirely exhausts the ideal of beautiful humanity, that can issue forth only from the inner union of both.
Indeed, so long as one exalts both characters to the poetical, as we have also previously considered them, much is lost of the limits adhering to them and also their opposition always becomes less noticeable, in an ever higher degree they become poetical; for the poetical disposition is a self-reliant whole, in which all distinctions and all deficiencies disappear. But, precisely because it is only the concept of the poetical, in which both modes of feeling can coincide, so does their mutual difference and need become more noticeable in the same degree, as they put off the poetical character; and this is the case in common life. The more deeply they descend to this, the more they lose of their generic character, which brings them closer to one another, until finally in their caricatures only the specific character is left remaining, which sets them against one another.
This leads me to a very remarkable psychological antagonism among men in a self-cultivating century: an antagonism, which, because it is grounded radically and in the inner mental form, brings about a worse separation among men, than the accidental conflict of interests ever could bring forth; which deprives the artist and the poet of all hope to universally please and move, which however is his task; which makes it impossible for the philosopher, even if he has done everything, to universally convince, which, however, the concept of philosophy entails; which will never allow man in practical life to see his mode of action universally approvedin short, a contradiction, which is due to the fact, that no work of the mind and no action of the heart in one class can decisively thrive without precisely thereby incurring a verdict of condemnation in the other. This contradiction is without doubt so old as the beginning of culture and might hardly be settled before the end of the same, other than in particular rare subjects, which it is to be hoped there always were and will always be; but although this is also one of its effects, that it makes vain every attempt at its settlement, because no part will succeed in admitting a deficiency on its side and a reality on the other, so is it still always advantageous enough, to pursue such an important separation unto its final source and thereby to bring the true point of the conflict at least to a simpler formula.
One best attains the true concept of this contradiction, if one, as I just observed, abstracts from both the naive as well as from the sentimental character, what both have that is poetical. There is nothing left remaining of the first, in regard to the theoretical, other than a sober spirit of observation and a firm devotion to the testimony of the senses, in regard to the practical, a resigned submission to the necessity (but not to the blind compulsion) of nature: an acquiescence, therefore, to that which is and which must be. There is nothing left remaining of the sentimental character other than (in the theoretical) a restless spirit of speculation, which presses to the unconditioned in all knowledge, in the practical a moral rigor, which persists in the unconditioned in actions of the will. Whoever is reckoned in the first class, can be called a realist, and whoever in the other, an idealist, by which names, however, one may be mentioned neither in the good nor in the bad sense, which one associates with metaphysics.26
Since the realist is defined by the necessity of nature, the idealist is determined by the necessity of reason, so must the same relation occur between both, which is encountered between the effects of nature and the actions of reason. We know nature, although an infinite greatness in the whole, appears dependent and needy in every individual effect; only in the totality of its phenomena does it express an independent great character. All individuality in it is only because of something else; nothing springs forth from itself, everything only from the preceding moment, in order to lead to a following one. But just this reciprocal relation of phenomena to one another secures the existence of each one through the existence of the other, and the constancy and necessity of the same is inseparable from the dependency of their effects. Nothing is free in nature, but also nothing is arbitrary in the same.
And the realist appears precisely so, both in his knowledge as well as in his conduct. To everything which exists conditionally, the circle of his knowledge and action extends; but he never brings it farther than to conditioned knowledge, and the rules, which he forms for himself from particular experiences, taken in all their strictness, are also valid only once; does he elevate the rules of the moment to a universal law, so will he plunge unfailingly into error. Hence, should the realist want to attain something unconditioned in his knowledge, so must he attempt it upon the same road, upon which nature becomes an infinite, namely upon the road of the whole and in the totality of experience. However, since the sum of experience is never fully accomplished, so is a comparative universality the highest that the realist achieves in his knowledge. In returning to similar cases, he builds his insight and hence will judge correctly in all that is in order; on the contrary, in all that is represented for the first time, his wisdom returns to its beginning.
What holds true of the knowledge of the realist, that also holds true of his moral action. His character has morality, but this lies, according to its pure concept, in no particular deed, only in the entire sum of his life. In any particular case, he will be determined by external causes and by external aims; only that those causes are not accidental, those aims not momentary, but rather flow subjectively from the natural whole and are related objectively to the same. The impulses of his will are therefore indeed in the rigorous sense neither free enough nor morally pure enough, because they have something other than the mere will as their cause and something other than the mere law as their object; but they are just as little blind and materialistic impulses, because this other is the absolute totality of nature, consequently something independent and necessary. So does the common human understanding, the superior portion of the realist, appear universally in the thinking and in the behavior. From the particular case he draws the rule of his judgment, from an inner feeling the rule of his action; but with happy instinct he knows how to separate from both everything momentary and accidental. With this method he proceeds excellently on the whole and will scarcely have to be reproached for a significant mistake; only he might not be able to make a claim to greatness and dignity in any particular case. The latter is only the prize of independence and freedom and thereof we see too few traces in his particular actions.
It is entirely different with the idealist, who takes his knowledge and motive from himself and from mere reason. If nature appears in its particular effects always dependent and limited, so reason places the character of independence and perfection at once in every particular action. It draws everything from itself and it relates everything to itself. What occurs through it, occurs only for its own sake; is every concept which it proposes, and every decision which it determines, an absolute greatness. And just so does the idealist also appear, so far as he correctly carries this name, in his knowledge as in his action. Not content with knowledge, which is valid under certain presuppositions, he seeks to press as far as truths, which presuppose nothing more and are the presupposition of all others. The philosophical insight only satisfies him, which leads back all conditioned knowledge to an unconditioned and secures all experience to the necessary in the human mind; the things, to which the realist submits his thinking, must be submitted to this thinking capacity. And he acts herein with complete authority, for if the laws of the human mind were not also at the same time the laws of the world, if reason ultimately were to stand also beneath experience, so would also no experience be possible.
However, he can not have brought it up to the absolute truths and yet be not benefitted much thereby in his knowledge. For everything of course stands ultimately under necessary and universal laws, but every particular is governed according to accidental and particular rules; and in nature everything is particular. He can therefore rule the whole with his philosophical knowledge and have gained nothing thereby for the particular, for the execution: yes, whilst he presses everywhere to the highest grounds, through which everything becomes possible, he can easily neglect the nearest grounds, through which everything becomes real; whilst he directs his attention everywhere to the universal, which makes the most different cases like to one another, he can easily neglect the particular, whereby they are distinguished from one another. He will therefore be able to embrace very much with his knowledge and, perhaps precisely for this reason, grasp little and often lose in insight, what he gains in overview. Hence is it that, if the speculative understanding despises the common for the sake of its limitations, the common understanding derides the speculative on account of its vacuity; for knowledge always loses in definite intrinsic value, what it gains in extent.
In the moral judgment, one will find in the idealist a purer morality in the particular, but far less moral uniformity in the whole. Since he is only an idealist insofar as he takes his ground of determination from pure reason, but reason is absolutely demonstrated in each of its expressions, so do his particular actions, so soon as they are in general only moral, bear the entire character of moral independence and freedom; and be there in general only in real life a truly moral deed, which would also remain so before a rigorous judgment, so can it be executed only by the idealist. But the purer the morality of his particular actions is, the more accidental is it also; for constancy and necessity is indeed the character of nature, but not of freedom. Not indeed, as if idealism could come into conflict with morality, which is contradictory, but rather because human nature is not at all capable of a consistent idealism. If the realist, even in his moral action, is calmly and uniformly subordinated to a physical necessity, so must the idealist soar, he must instantaneously exalt his nature, and he is able to do nothing, except insofar as he is inspired. Then, of course, he is also all the more able, and his behavior will show a character of loftiness and grandeur, which one seeks in vain in the actions of the realist. But real life is in no way prepared to awaken this inspiration in him, and still much less to nourish it uniformly. Compared with the absolutely great, from which he every time proceeds, the absolutely small of the particular case, upon which he has to apply it, causes entirely too large an interruption. Because his will is always directed according to the form towards the whole, so does he not want to direct it, according to the material, towards the fragment, and yet it is many times only insignificant effects, whereby he can demonstrate his moral conviction. So it happens then not seldom, that on account of the limitless ideal, he overlooks the limited case of application and, fulfilled by a maximum, neglects the minimum from which alone, however, everything great in reality arises.
Should one wish therefore to give the realist his due, so must one judge him according to the entire coherence of his life; should one wish to give the idealist his, so must one contain oneself to the particular expressions of the same, but one must first select from these. The common judgment, which so gladly decides according to the particular, will hence be indifferently silent about the realist, because his particular life actions provide just as little material for praise as for rebuke; about the idealist, on the contrary, it will always give rise to parties and be divided between rejection and admiration, because in the particular lies his deficiency and his strength.
It is unavoidable, that with such a great deviation in principles, both parties are in their judgment often directly opposed to one another and, even if they were to agree in the objects and results, shall be separated in their reasons. The realist will ask for what purpose an object be good and know to appraise the things according to what they are worth; the idealist will ask whether they be good, and appraise the things according to what they are worthy of. The realist does not know and think much of that, which has its worth and purpose in itself (the whole, however, always excepted); in matters of taste, he will speak in favor of enjoyment, in matters of morality, he will speak in favor of felicity, if he does not make this at once the condition of moral action; even in his religion, he does not willingly forget his advantage, only that he ennobles and sanctifies the same in the ideal of the highest good. What he loves, he will seek to bless, the idealist will seek to ennoble it. If accordingly, the realist aims at prosperity in his political tendencies, supposing that it should take something from the moral independence of the people, so will the idealist make freedom his aim at the risk of prosperity. The independence of his condition is to the former, independence from his condition is to the latter the highest goal, and this characteristic distinction is pursued through their mutual thinking and acting. Hence will the realist always demonstrate his liking thereby, that he gives, the idealist thereby, that he receives; through that which he sacrifices in his generosity, each discloses, what he treasures most. The idealist will requite the deficiency of his system with his individual and his temporal condition, but he does not esteem this sacrifice; the realist atones for the deficiency of his with his personal dignity, but he experiences nothing of this sacrifice. His system holds true to everything of which he has intelligence and towards which he feels a needof what concern are goods to him, for which he has no presentiment and in which he has no belief? Enough for him, that he is in possession, the earth is his and there is light in his understanding, and contentment dwells in his breast. The idealist does not have quite so good a fate. Not enough, that he often falls out with fortune, because he neglects to make the moment into his friend, he falls out even with himself; neither his knowledge nor his action can give him satisfaction. What he demands from himself, is an infinite; but everything is limited that he does. This severity, which he shows toward himself, he does not even renounce in his conduct toward others. He is indeed generous, because he remembers less his own individual as opposed to others, but he is often unjust, because he just as easily overlooks the individual in another. The realist, on the contrary, is less generous, but he is more just, since he judges all things more in their limitation. The common, indeed even the base in thinking and acting he can pardon, only the capricious and the eccentric can he not; the idealist, on the contrary, is a sworn foe of all pettiness and insipidity and will reconcile himself with the extravagant and the enormous, if it only demonstrate a great capacity. The former shows himself as man's friend without even having a very high concept of man and of humanity; the latter thinks of humanity so highly, that he is in danger of despising man.
The realist for himself alone would never enlarge the circle of humanity beyond the limits of the world of sense, would never have made known the human spirit with its independent greatness and freedom; everything absolute in humanity is to him only a beautiful chimera and the belief therein not much better than a schwärmerei, because he perceives man never in his pure capacity, always only in a determined and therefore limited operation. But the idealist for himself alone would just as little have cultivated the sensuous powers and have developed man as a natural being, which is, however, an equally essential part of his destination and the condition of all moral ennoblement. The striving of the idealist goes much too far beyond the sensuous life and beyond the present; only for the whole, for eternity does he wish to sow and plant and forgets, that the whole is only the perfected circle of the individual, that eternity is only a sum of moments. The world, as the realist would like to constitute it round about himself and really does constitute it, is a well laid-out garden, wherein everything is of use, everything deserves its place and what does not bear fruit, is banished; the world in the hands of the idealist is a less useful nature, but one carried out in a greater character. To the former it does not occur, that man could still be here for something different, than to live well and contentedly, and that to this end, he must only send out roots, in order to force his stem into the heights. The latter does not reflect thereon, that he must first of all live well, in order to think uniformly well and nobly, and that the stem is also done for, if the roots fail.
If in a system something is left out, for which, however, an urgent and not to be avoided need is found in nature, so is nature satisfied only through an inconsistency in the system. Also, here both sides are due to such an inconsistency, and they demonstrate at once, if up to now it could be left still doubtful, the one-sidedness of both systems and the rich content of human nature. Of the idealist, I do not in particular need to first prove, that he must necessarily step out of his system, so soon as he aims at a definite effect; for all determined existence stands under temporal conditions and takes place according to empirical laws. In regard to the realist, on the contrary, it could appear doubtful, if he can not even by this time within his sytem satisfy all the necessary requirements of humanity. If one asks the realist: why dost thou what is right, and sufferest what is necessary? So will he in the spirit of his sytem answer thereto: because nature requires it so, because it must be so. But the question is still in no way answered therewith, for the discussion is not about what nature requires, but rather what man wills, for he can indeed also not will, what must be. One can also ask him again: why then willst thou, what must be? Why is thy free will subjected to this natural necessity, since it could just as well be opposed to it (although without result, which is also not the discussion here at all) and really is opposed to the same in millions of thy brothers? Thou canst not say, because all other natural beings are subjected to the same, for thou alone hast a will, indeed thou feelest, that thy subjection should be a voluntary one. Thou dost subject thyself therefore, if it occurs voluntarily, not to natural necessity itself, but rather to the idea of the same; for the former compels thee merely blindly, as it compels the worm; however, it can gain no hold upon thy will, since thou, though crushed by it, canst have another will. Whence dost thou, however, bring up this idea of natural necessity? Indeed not from the experience, which provides thee with only particular natural effects, but not with nature (as a whole), and only particular realities, but not with necessity. Thou goest therefore beyond nature and dost determine thyself idealistic, so often as thou willst either act morally or only not suffer blindly. It is therefore apparent, that the realist acts more worthily, than he grants according to his theory, just as the idealist thinks more sublimely, than he acts. Without admitting it to themselves, the former demonstrates, through the entire conduct of his life, the independence, the latter, through particular actions, the poverty of human nature.
To an attentive and impartial reader I will not first need to prove according to the picture given here (whose truth he can also acknowledge, who does not accept the result), that the ideal of human nature is distributed under both, but is attained fully by neither. Experience and reason both have their own rights, and neither one can encroach upon the domain of the other, without causing a bad consequence either for the internal or for the external conditions of man. Experience alone can teach us, what under certain conditions is, what under certain suppositions ensues, what must happen for definite purposes. Reason alone can, on the contrary, teach us what holds true without all conditions and what must necessarily be. Should we now presume to be able to decide something about the external existence of things with our mere reason, so do we merely engage in an empty game, and the result will lead to nothing; for all existence stands under conditions and reason determines unconditionally. However, let us determine an accidental event in respect to that which already involves the mere concept of our own being, so do we make ourselves into an empty game of chance, and our personality will lead to nothing. In the first case, it has therefore to do with the worth (the temporal value) of our life, in the second, with the dignity (the moral value) of our life.
Indeed, we have granted in the previous description a moral worth to the realist and to the idealist an experiential value, but merely insofar as both are not entirely consistent and the nature in them acts more powerfully than the system. Although, however, both do not entirely correspond to the ideal of perfect humanity, so is nevertheless the important distinction between the two, that the realist indeed satisfies the concept of reason in humanity in no particular case, however, also never contradicts the concept of understanding in the same, the idealist, on the contrary, comes nearer indeed in particular cases to the highest concept of humanity, however, not seldom remains under the lowest concept of the same. Now it depends, however, in the practice of life far more thereon, that the whole be uniformly humanly good, than that the particular be accidentally divineand if, therefore, the idealist is a fit subject, to awaken a great concept in us of that which is possible for humanity and to inspire respect for its destiny, so can only the realist achieve it with constancy in experience and preserve the species in its eternal limits. The former is indeed a nobler, but a much less perfect being; the latter appears indeed universally less noble, but is on the other hand the more perfect; for the nobleness lies already in the demonstration of a great capacity, but the perfection lies in the conduct of the whole and in the actual deed.
What is true of both characters in their best meaning, that becomes yet more noticeable in their reciprocal caricatures. The true realism is more beneficent in its effects and less noble only in its source; the false is despicable in its source and in its effects somewhat less pernicious. The true realist, that is, submits indeed to nature and its necessitybut to nature as a whole, but to its eternal and absolute necessity, not to its blind and instantaneous compulsion. With freedom, he embraces and obeys its law, and he will always subordinate the individual to the universal; hence it can also not fail, that he will come to agree with the true idealist in the final result, however different is the road, which both take thereto. The common empiricist, on the contrary, submits to nature as to a power and with involuntary blind submission. His judgments, his endeavors are limited to the particular; he believes and understands only what he touches; he treasures only what improves him sensuously. He is accordingly also nothing further, than what the external impressions accidentally want to make out of him; his self-hood is oppressed, and as a man he has absolutely no worth and no dignity. But as an object he is still always something, he can still always be good for something. Even nature, to which he is delivered blindly, does not entirely let him sink; its eternal limits protect him, its inexhaustible assistance rescues him, so soon as he only gives up his freedom without all reservation. Although in this condition he knows of no laws, so do these nevertheless rule unrecognized over him, and however much his particular endeavors may lie in conflict with the whole, so will the latter know unerringly how to assert itself thereagainst. There are men enough, indeed entire peoples, which live in this despicable condition, which exist merely through the grace of natural law, without all self-hood, and hence are also only good for something; but that they also only live and exist, proves, that this condition is not entirely valueless.
If, on the other hand, the true idealism is already unsafe and often dangerous in its effects, so is the false frightful in its. The true idealist abandons nature and experience only because he does not find here the unchangeable and unconditionally necessary, for which reason bids him to strive nevertheless; the visionary abandons nature out of mere caprice, in order to all the more unboundedly indulge in the obstinacy of desire and the whims of imaginative power. Not in the independence from physical, in the release from moral compulsion he places his freedom. The visionary renounces, therefore, not merely the humanhe renounces all character, he is fully without law, he is therefore nothing at all, and is of no use at all. But, precisely because fancy is no extravagance of nature, but rather of freedom, and therefore originates out of a predisposition in itself worthy of respect, which is perfectible into infinity, so does it also lead to an infinite fall into a bottomless depth and can terminate only in a complete destruction.
1. Kant, to my knowledge the first, who has begun to reflect expressly on this phenomenon, observes, that if we were to find the warbling of the nightingale imitated by a man to the highest deception and gave ourselves over to the impression of the same with complete emotion, all our delight would disappear with the destruction of this illusion. One should look at the chapter of intellectual interest on the beautiful in the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. Whoever has learned to admire the author only as a great thinker, will joy, to encounter here a trace of his heart and be convinced through this discovery of the high philosophical vocation of this man (which absolutely requires both capacities combined).
2. Kant also distinguishes these three kinds of ingredients in the feeling of the naive in a comment in the Analytic of the Sublime (Critique of the Aesthetic Judgment, p. 225 of the first edition), but he gives another explanation of it. Some combination of both (the animal feeling of pleasure and the mental feeling of respect) is found in naivetè, which is the breaking out of the sincerity originally natural to humanity in opposition to the art of dissimulation, which has become another nature. One laughs at the simplicity, which does not yet understand how to dissemble, and yet one is delighted with the simplicity of nature, which here thwarts that art. One expects the ordinary manner of utterance, which is artificial and devised carefully to make a beautiful show, and behold, it is the unspoiled innocent nature, which one does not expect to find and which, he who displays it, also did not think of disclosing. That the beautiful, but false show, which ordinarily has so much influence on our judgment, is here suddenly transformed into nothing, so that, as it were, the rogue in us is laid bare, produces the movement of the mind in two opposite directions, which at the same time shakes the body wholesomely. However, that something, that is infinitely better than all assumed manner, the purity of disposition (at least the tendency thereto), is not quite extinguished yet in human nature, mixes earnestness and high esteem with this play of the judgment. But because it is only a transitory phenomenon and the cover of the art of dissimulation is soon drawn over again, so there is mingled therewith a comparison, which is an emotion of tenderness, which, as play, quite readily can be combined with such a good-hearted laugh, and ordinarily is actually combined therewith, at the same time is wont to compensate him, who supplies the material therefor, for the embarrassment which results from not being wise after the manner of men. I admit, that this mode of explanation does not entirely satisfy me, and indeed does not chiefly, because it asserts something about the naive in general, that is most true of one species of the same, the naive of surprise, of which I will speak later on. To be sure, it provokes laughter, if someone exposes himself through naivetè, and in many cases, this laughter may flow from a preceding expectation, which is dissolved into nothing. However, also the naive of the noblest kind, the naive of conviction, always provokes a smile, which, however, hardly has an expectation dissolved into nothing as its basis, but rather is only explained in general from the contrast of a certain behavior with the forms once accepted and expected. Also, I doubt whether the pity, which is mixed in the naive of the last type in our feeling, is meant for the naive person, and not rather for ourselves or rather for humanity in general, of whose decline we are reminded in such an occasion. It is too obviously a moral grief, which must have a nobler object, than the physical evil, by which uprightness is threatened in the ordinary course of the world, and this object cannot indeed be other than the loss of the truth and simplicity of humanity.
3. I should perhaps say quite briefly: the truth over dissimulation, but the concept of the naive appears to me to include still something more, whilst simplicity in general, which prevails over affectation, and natural freedom, which prevails over stiffness, arouse a similar feeling in us.
4. A child is uneducated, if it acts in opposition to the precepts of a good education out of desire, frivolity, impetuosity, but it is naive, if it is exempt from the mannerisms of an education devoid of reason, from the stiff postures of the dance master and the like, out of a free and healthy nature. The same also occurs in the naive in a quite figurative sense, which arises through the passage from man to the senseless. No one will find the view naive, if in a garden, which is attended badly, the weeds gain the upper hand, but it has something naive, to be sure, if the free growth of the aspiring branches annuls the toilsome work of the shears in a French garden. So is it not at all naive, if a trained horse performs his lesson poorly out of natural clumsiness, but it has something of the naive, if it forgets the same out of natural freedom.
5. Since the naive depends merely on the form, in which something is done or said, so does this property disappear from our eyes, so soon as the thing itself makes a predominate or quite contradictory impression through its causes or through its consequences. Through a naivetè of this type, a crime can also be discovered, but then we have neither the peace nor time, to direct our attention to the form of the discovery, and the horror over the personal character devours the pleasure in the natural. Just as the indignant feeling deprives us of the moral joy in the uprightness of nature, so soon as we experience a crime through a naivetè; just so does the aroused compassion suppress our malicious joy, so soon as we see someone placed in danger through his naivetè.
6. However, also only with the Greeks; for it requires just such an active motion and such a rich fullness of human life, as surrounded the Greeks, to put life in the lifeless and to pursue the image of humanity with this eagerness. Ossian's human world, for example, was poor and monotonous; the lifelessness round about him was great, colossal, powerful, therefore intruded and asserted its rights even over men. In the songs of this poet, lifeless nature (in contrast to men) therefore steps forth much more as object of the feeling. While Ossian already also laments the decline of humanity, and, however small the circle of culture and its depravities was among his people, so the experience thereof was, however, just vivid and urgent enough, in order to frighten the sensitive moral singer back to the lifeless and, on account of his songs, to pour forth that elegiac tone, which makes them so moving and attractive for us.
7. The raving Roland. First song. Stanza 32.
8. From the classic English translation of Homer's Iliad, by Alexander Pope (1688-1744).
9. It is perhaps not superfluous to recall, that, if the modern poets are contrasted here to the ancients, not only the distinction of time but also the distinction of style is to be understood. We have also in the modern, indeed even in the most modern times, naive compositions in all classes, although no longer the entirely pure type, and among the ancient Latin, indeed even Greek poets, sentimental compositions are not lacking. Not only in the same poet, also in the same work one frequently comes across both species combined; as, for example, in The Sorrows of Young Werther, and such productions will always be more effective.
10. Molière as naive poet permitted it to depend on the verdict of his Maid, what should remain and be suppressed in his comedies; also, it were to have been wished, that the masters of the French Cothurn had now and then made this test with their tragedies. But I did not want to advise, that a similar test be ordained with the Klopstockian odes, with the most beautiful passages in the Messiah, in Paradise Lost, in Nathan the Wise, and many other pieces. Yet what am I saying? This test is actually ordained, and the Molièrian Maid argues the length and breadth indeed in our critical libraries, philosophical and literary annals and travel journals concerning poetry, art and the like, only, as is fair, on German soil a little more tastelessly than on the French, and as is fit for the servant's hall of German literature.
11. Who pays attention in himself to the impression, which naive compositions make on him, and is able to abstract therefrom the share, which is due thereby to the contents, will find this impression, also even in very pathetic objects, always joyful, always pure, always calm; in sentimental objects it will always be somewhat earnest and tense. That is, because in naive representations, regardless of what they would treat, we always rejoice at the truth, at the living presence of the object in our imaginative power and also seek nothing more than these, in sentimental representations; on the contrary, we have to unite the conception of the imaginative power with an idea of reason and therefore fall into vacillation between two different conditions.
12. In Nathan the Wise, this has not occurred, here the frigid nature of the matter has cooled the entire work of art. But Lessing even knew, that he wrote no tragedy, and in a human manner, only forgot in his own endeavor the precept established in the Dramaturgy, that the poet be not authorized, to apply the tragic form to another end than a tragic one. Without very substantial alterations, it would hardly have been possible, to create this dramatic poem anew in a good tragedy; but with merely accidental alterations it might have supplied a good comedy. That is, the pathetic would have had to have been sacrificed to the last end, the argumentative to the first, and there is indeed no question, upon which of the two the beauty of this poem most depends.
13. That I employ the appellations satire, elegy and idyl in a broader sense than usually occurs, I shall hardly need to answer for with readers, who press deeply into the matter. My intention thereby is in no way, to disturb the boundaries, which the preceding observance has with good reason placed on satire and elegy as well as the idyl; I merely look at the mode of perception prevailing in these types of poetry, and it is indeed sufficiently known, that this can in no way be enclosed in those narrow boundaries. We are not moved elegiacally merely by the elegy, which is exclusively so called; also the dramatic and epic poets can move us in an elegiac manner. In the Messiah, in Thomson's Seasons, in Paradise Lost, in Jerusalem Emancipated we find several pictures, which are otherwise properly only idyl, elegy, satire. Just so, more or less, almost in every pathetic poem. That I, however, ascribe the idyl itself to the elegiac species, appears rather to require a justification. One remembers, however, that the discussion here is only about that idyl, which is a species of sentimental poetry, to whose essence it belongs, that nature is opposed to art and the ideal to reality. Even be this not done expressly by the poet and he places the picture of uncorrupted nature or of fulfilled ideals pure and independent before our eyes, so is this opposition nonetheless in his heart and it is betrayed without his willing in every stroke of the brush. Indeed, were this not so, would the language, no doubt, of which he must avail himself because it bears the spirit of the time in itself and would experience the influence of art, remind us of reality with its limits, culture with its affectation; indeed, our own heart would contrast the experience of corruption to the image of pure nature and would thus make the mode of perception in us elegiac, even if the poet had not aimed therat. This latter is so unavoidable, that even the highest enjoyment, which the most beautiful works of the naive kind from ancient and modern times afford the cultivated man, do not remain pure long, but rather sooner or later will be accompanied by an elegiac feeling. Finally, I observe further, that the division attempted here, precisely because it is grounded merely on the distinction in the mode of perception, should determine nothing at all in the division of the poems themselves and the derivation of poetical types; for since the poet, even in the same work, is in no way bound to this mode of perception, so can this division not be drawn therefrom, but rather must be drawn from the form of the representation.
14. Let one read, for example, the excellent poem entitled Carthon.
15. Let one look at the poem of this name in his works.
16. I say musical, in order to recollect here the double relationship of poetry with the musical art and with the plastic art. That is, according as poetry either imitates a definite object, as the plastic arts do, or according as it brings forth, as musical art, merely a definite condition of mind, without having need of a definite object therefore, can it be called plastic or musical. The latter expression refers therefore not merely to that, which in the poetry is music, actually and according to the material, but rather in general to all those effects of the same, which it is able to bring forth, without controlling the imaginative power through a definite object; and in this sense, I call Klopstock chiefly a musical poet.
17. The propensity, as Mr. Adelung defines it, for moving, gentle feelings without rational intention and beyond due measure. Mr. Adelung is very fortunate, that he feels only from intention and entirely only from rational intention.
18. One should indeed not spoil the paltry pleasure of certain readers and ultimately what is it to the critic, if there are people, who can be edified and made merry by the smutty wit of Mr. Blumauer. But judges of art should at least refrain from speaking of productions, with a certain respect, whose existence should justly remain a secret to good taste. Indeed, neither talent nor humor is to be mistakenly recognized therein, but it is all the more lamentable, that both are no longer purified. I say nothing of our German comedy; the poets paint the time in which they live.
19. With heart; for the merely sensuous glow of the picture and the luxuriant glow of the imaginative power still do not quite constitute it. Hence Ardinghello remains with all the sensuous energy and all the fire of Kolorit always only a sensuous caricature, without truth and without aesthetical dignity. Yet this curious production will always remain noteworthy as an example of the nearly poetical flight, which the mere desire is capable of taking.
20. If I name the immortal author of Agathon, Oberon, etc. in this company, so must I expressly explain, that I in no way want to have mistaken him for the same. His descriptions, even the most thoughtful from this side, have no material tendency (as a modern, somewhat thoughtless critic recently permitted himself to say); the author of Love for Love and of so many other naive and genial works, in all of which a beautiful and noble soul is described with unmistakeable features, can not have such a tendency at all. But he appears to me to be pursued by the entirely peculiar misfortune, that such descriptions are made necessary by the plan of the poetry. The cold understanding, which devises the plan, demanded them from him, and his feeling seems to me so far removed from favoring them with preference, that Iin the execution itself believe the cold understanding can still always be recognized. And precisely this coldness in the representation is prejudicial to them in the judgment, because only the naive feeling can justify such descriptions both aesthetically as well as morally. However, whether it is permitted to the poet, to expose himself in the devising of the plan to such a danger in the execution, and whether in general a plan can be poetical, which, I wish just to admit this, can not be executed, without revolting the chaste feeling of the poet as well as of his reader and without making both dwell on the objects, from which an ennobled feeling so willingly distances itselfthis is that which I doubt and concerning which I would gladly like to hear an intelligent judgment.
21. I must observe once more, that satire, elegy, and the idyl, just as they are laid down here as the only three possible types of sentimental poetry, have nothing in common with the three types of poetry, which one knows by these names, but the mode of perception, which is characteristic of the former as well as the latter. That there could be, however, outside the boundaries of naive poetry, this threefold mode of perception and mode of poetry, consequently the field of sentimental poetry be measured completely through this dimension, can easily be deduced from the concept of the latter.
Sentimental poetry, that is, is distinguished from the naive, in that it refers the real condition, in which the latter remains, to ideas and applies the ideas to the reality. It therefore always has to do, as has already been observed above, simultaneously with two conflicting objects, namely with the ideal and with experience, between which neither more nor less than just the three following relations can be conceived. Either it is the contradiction of the real conditions, or it is the agreement of the same with the ideal, which chiefly occupies the mind; or the latter is divided between both. In the first case, it is satisfied through the power of inner strife, through the energetic movement; in the other it is satisfied through the harmony of the inner life, through the energetic rest; in the third, strife changes places with harmony, rest changes places with movement. This threefold condition of perception gives rise to three different types of poetry, to which the employed appellations satire, idyl, elegy are completely suitable, as soon as one only recalls the frame of mind, to which the types of poetry occurring under this name move the mind, and abstracts from the means, whereby they effect the same.
Hence, whoever could still here question, in which of the three species I reckon the epic, the romance, the tragedy and others besides, would not have understood me at all. For the concept of these latter, as of particular types of poetry, is determined either not at all or not alone through the mode of perception; rather one knows, that such can be achieved in more than one mode of perception, consequently in several of the types of poetry laid down by me.
Finally, I observe here further, that if one is inclined to deem sentimental poetry, as is reasonable, to be a genuine type (not merely a variety) and an enlargement of true poetic art, in the determination of the poetic types, just as in general in all poetical legislation, which is still grounded always one-sidedly in the observance of ancient and modern poets, some regard must also be paid to it. The sentimental poet departs from the naive in respects too essential for the forms, which the latter introduced, to be able to suit him everywhere without compulsion. Of course, it is here difficult to always correctly distinguish the exceptions, which the distinction of types requires, from the evasions which impotence permits itself, but so much does experience nevertheless teach, that in the hands of the sentimental poet (also of the most excellent), no single type of poetry has remained entirely that which it has been in the ancient, and that very often modern species have been achieved under the ancient name.
22. With such a work Mr. Voss has recently in his Louise not merely enriched, but also truly enlarged our German literature. This idyl, although not thoroughly free of sentimental influences, belongs entirely to the naive species and strives through individual truth and genuine nature toward the best Greek models with remarkable success. Hence it can be compared with no modern poem from its division, which contributes to its high renown, but rather must be compared with Greek models, with which it shares the so remarkable advantage, to afford us a pure, definite and always equal pleasure.
23. For the scientifically examining reader I observe, that both modes of perception, considered in their highest concept, are related to one another as the first and the third categories, in that the latter always arises thereby, that one unites the first with its direct opposite. The opposite of naive perception, namely, is the reflecting understanding, and the sentimental frame of mind is the result of the endeavor, even under the conditions of reflection, to recover the naive perception according to the contents. This would occur through the fulfilled ideal, in which art encounters nature again. Should one pass through those three concepts according to the categories, so will one meet nature and the naive frame of mind corresponding to it always in the first, art as annulment of nature through the freely working understanding always in the second, finally the ideal, in which perfected art returns to nature in the third category.
24. How much the naive poet depends on his object, and how much, indeed like everything, depends on his feeling, the ancient poetic art can give us the best illustrations. So far as nature is beautiful in them and outside them, they are the compositions of the ancients; on the other hand, should nature become common, so has the mind also dropped away from their compositions. Every reader of refined feeling must, for example, feel in their descriptions of feminine nature, of relations between both sexes and in particular of love a certain emptiness and satiety, which all truth and naivetè can not banish in the representation. Without discussing the word schwärmerei, which of course does not ennoble nature, but rather forsakes it, one will be permitted hopefully to presume, that nature in regard to that relation of the sexes and the emotion of love is capable of a nobler character, than the ancients have given it; also one knows the accidental circumstances, which stood in the way of the ennobling of those perceptions in them. That it was weakness, not inner necessity, that kept the ancients herein at a lower level, the example of more modern poets teaches, who have gone so much further than their predecessors, without however trespassing against nature. The discussion here is not of that which sentimental poets have known to make of this object, for these go beyond nature into the ideal, and their example can therefore prove nothing against the ancients; the discussion is merely about, how the same object is treated by truly naive poets, how it is treated for example in Sakontala, in the minnesingers, in many courtly romances and courtly epics, how it is treated by Shakespeare, by Fielding and many others, even German poets. Here would the case for the ancients now have been, to spiritualize from inside out, through the subject, a matter from the outside too rough, to retrieve through reflection the poetic value, which has been lacking to the external perception, to complete nature through the idea, in a word, through a sentimental operation to make out of a limited object an infinite one. But they were naive, not sentimental poetic geniuses; their work was therefore concluded with the external perception.
25. These good friends have taken very badly, what a reviewer has criticized in the A.L.Z. some years ago in Bürger's poetry, and the concealed rage, with which they rebel against the prickle, seems to make known that they believe they are defending their own poetry with their concern for that poet. However, they are very much mistaken therein. The censure could be valid merely for a true poetic genius, who had been richly endowed by nature, but had neglected to develop that rare gift through his own culture. One may and must place such an individual under the highest standard of art, because he would have power enough in himself, to do the same, as soon as he earnestly wished to; but it were ludicrous and simultaneously cruel, to deal with people in a similar manner, of whom nature has not thought and who with every production that they bring to market, exhibit a perfectly valid testimony of poverty.
26. I observe, in order to prevent any misconstruction, that in this division I have not at all intended a choice between the two, consequently to cause support for the one to the exclusion of the other. Precisely this exclusion, which is found in experience, I oppose; and the result of the present reflections will be the proof, that only through the completely equal inclusion of both can the rational concept of humanity be satisfied. Besides, I take both in their most worthy sense and in the entire fullness of their concept, which can only always subsist with the purity of the same and with retention of their specific distinctions. Also it will appear, that a high degree of human truth is consistent with both and their deviations from one another cause a change indeed in the particular, but not in the whole, indeed according to the form, but not to the contents.