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MODERN POETS OF GERMANY.*
In presenting the modern and most popular Poets of Germany to the notice of our English readers, we can scarcely introduce them better than through the medium of the criticisms of their own countrymen. The high reputation which reviewers in general, in Germany, and those of Leipsig in particular, have obtained all over Europe, render little apology necessary for presenting their sentiments and observations to our friends in an English dress. Of the three first poets who are the subjects of the following observations, Pape enjoyed the highest reputation, as will readily be imagined from the circumstance of the Baron de la Motte Fouque's condescending to become his editor and biographer;' he was, however, an unfortunate man struggling against poverty and various calamities, which, combined with disease, brought him to the grave in 1817. The brilliant nobleman who is the author of the Lyrical Leaves, is a richer, a happier man; hiscompositionsentitlehimtobeconsideredthe 'Mooreof Germany.' Heine is an author of great promise, and in a different style no less popular. —The following extracts respecting the several works of these writers are from the ' Leipziger Literatur Zeitung,' for Feb. 1823, the most important and best conducted periodical upon the continent.
EXTRACTS FROM GERMAN CRITICISMS.
Pape's poems are all of them (for the very few exceptions are scarcely worth a particular notice) imbued with a spirit of melancholy which pervades even the lightest of his compositions. Of these, the trifles entitled 'The Gay World,' are unquestionably the best, and their popularity does honor to the simplicity and spirit of the national taste. Of the more important, and indeed of his poems in general, the character cannot better be described than by the following extracts from his 'Letters to Sidonia,' which, above all his other works, present a most faithful and impressive picture of the real disposition of the poet, condemned as he was to a dull and monotonous life, and bowed down to the earth by the pressure of overwhelming calamity :—
The stream of life, however pure it flow,
Is onward swept by sorrow's ocean wave.
So, on this earth the holiest joy we know
Is mixed with bitter pain—a foretaste of the grave.
And Fancy !—when the bright and distant scenes
Of thy creative powers nearer steal,
How few retain their smiles! Ah flattering dreams,
But half fulfilled how bitterly we feel;—
Yet thou art happy !—thou, to whose rich mind
The boon of calm content is kindly given;
Thou, who to all earth's agonies resigned,
Look'st but from these to raise thine eye to Heaven.
The dark and gloomy tint thrown by compelling circumstances over his view of life, colours equally his elegies, his songs, and even his romances. However widely we may differ from him in opinion, yet we cannot but allow that there is something in such feelings sadly interesting to ours, and, in
* Poems by Samuel Chris. Pape, with a Biographical Introduction, by the Baron de la Motte Fouqu£, Osiander, Tubingen, 1821; Lyrical Leaves, by Count Augustus von Platen Hallermundc, Leipsig, 1821; Poems by H. Heine, Maurer, Berlin, 1822.
this instance at least, there is so much that is real, so much that is good, that we cannot be insensible to the value of poetry which appears to speak the language, and receive its existence from the very inmost recesses of the heart. There is something very beautiful, and indeed even original, in the strong expression of that vacancy of soul, that aspiration of heart, that insufficiency of human gratification, that 'longing after immortality,' in short, of which every man (whose mind is not entirely absorbed by human pursuits) must, at some period or other, have been sensible, and which he himself so pathetically describes in his 'Warning.' Even love, in its most exalted and happiest state, is insufficient to satisfy the human craving for something yet more exalted, something approaching still nearer to felicity. Of the graver poems, the ' Paradise' is the most graceful and pathetic ;—it describes the exiles expelled from Eden, wearied with toil and travel, and heart-broken by the consciousness of their guilt and loneliness, resigning themselves to sleep, and recovering in a blissful dream the felicity they had lost. Then follows the 'Address to the Loved One snatched from him by Death,' which is exceedingly tender and beautiful; so is the 'Last Evening.' 'To Sidonia Dying,' and the 'Answer,' the 'Elegy,' and 'Retrospection.' Of the ballads and romances, the best are 'Dear Mary,' the 'Girl of Italy,' the 'Mourner,' and the 'Songstress,' who was the poet's mistress; * Homesick' we give entire as the best specimen of the minor poems of our author:—
Home ! home, thou blessed land of peace,
Oh ! art thou but a phantom shade!
Where must I seek tby rest sweet home?
Thy airs, in the still midnight hour,
Waft an eternal fragrance round me;
And everlasting blossoms shower
Sweets on the chain, which here hath bound me.
And melodies, sweet home, of thee
The 'Lyrical Leaves' of the Count von Platen are in a much bolderstyle, and areeasierand smootherin theirversification. He himself appears to place a considerable value upon some few, which he distinguishes by a particular title, and to the singular style of which the ear soon becomes accustomed. His anxiety to take the very highest flights of fancy, displays itself in bold i and beautiful images, which have all the luxuriance and passion of the oriental writers. We give one of the very simplest of his poems as a specimen:—
When in joy of the bright golden goblet I sip,
With the fire of the spirit—the frenzy of wine!
Oh! spirit of glory! possessed by thy sway,
No night ever clouds me, eternally day
I revel in brightness—cold prudence hath vanished,
And earth with its dullness and grossness is banished.
Woe ! woe, to the wretch who hath never resigned
To thee, sovereign of rapture, his soul, and his mind!
We are particularly pleased by the generality of these poems. They are all good, but some possess all the magic of the most musicial versifications, and are very beautiful and original. The author has not succeeded equally well in his romances; his imitations of the old Spanish romances have many faults, and contain besides, some very tedious digressions, neither is 'El buen Conde,' properly translated, by ' good Count.' Buen here means noble. We hope, however, this poet will fulfil the promise which he mates in his 'Epilogue to Friends;' but in the mean time, we cannot possibly agree with him in the opinion which he expresses, that poetry is only valuable when it disposes the mind to piety; this idea, beautiful and sublime as it may appear, is in reality, partial, and circumscribed; according to this doctrine, all the glowing and magnificent poetry of India and Persia, possesses no true poetical value (at best only historical value); and a pious spiritual song of the 19th century, must exceed in merit all the productions of Homer, and Sophocles! to what mistaken judgments such ideas may lead us, we have lately in Pustkuchen's opinions of Goethe, been furnished with a most lamentable proof.
The poems of H. Heine, are distinguished by a more forceful energy; the outbreakings of the fire, and vehemence of a youthful and vigorous spirit, struggling to give vent to its feelings, in that strong yet natural mode of expression which is at present so much to the popular taste. Vigorous as his genius undoubtedly is, it can bend gracefully to the trammels of the sonnet, without losing any of the originality of its own manner. His favourite subject is the infidelity of his mistress, over which he pours the most stormy complaints, and recurs to it in all possible modes and shapes. The ' Images of Sleep,' the amatory songs, and the romances have all the same idea. The volume contains many pathetic and impassioned poems, more particularly the 'Bridal Night,' and the 'Church-yard,' the style of which, however, is a little too exuberant. The * Images of Sleep,' have a dark northern colouring; the romances have much originality both in form and invention. In some few of the livelier, satire and wit are very happily blended, the best is the humourous song of the ' Ducats.' Of the sonnets, the following, we give entire as a specimen of the ease, with which the author trifles with this kind of writing :—
THE DRAGON ROCK.
Stormed was the castle in the midnight hour,
When, as to Germany we drank around,
Lo! on the ruins stood a spectre pale
And armed shades, thin plumed heads round him vail
And women shaped of mist, swept by our ranks and frowned.
And loud the north storm howled and furious came,
Annexed are some translations from Lord Byron's works. The first scene of Manfred is so beautifully rendered that we earnestly hope he will finish the whole poem in the same splendid manner.
POETRY FROM WOODSTOCK.
BY THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLEY.
Just as we were closing up our pages, we were favoured with a peep into the Author of Waverley's New Novel; from which we extract the following verses:
AN HOUR WITH THEE.
An Hour with Thee! when earliest day
An Hour with Thee.
One Hour with Thee! when burning June
One Hour with Thee.
One Hour with Thee! when the sun is set,
Oh, what can teach me to forget;
The thankless labours of the day;
The hopes, the wishes flung away;
The increasing wants, and lessening gains,
The master's pride, who scorns my pains?
One Hour with Thee.
GLEE FOR KING CHARLES.
Bring the bowl which you boast,
Fill it up to the brim! "Tis to him we love most,
And to all who lore him. Brave gallants, stand up,
And avaunt ye base carles! Were there death in the cup
Here's a health to King Charles!
Though he wanders through danger,
Unaided, unknown, Dependent "on strangers,
Estranged from his own; Though 'tis under our breath
Amidst forfeits and perils, Here's to honour and faith,
And a health to King Charles!
Let Such honours abound
As the time can afford; The knee in the ground,
And the hand on the sword; But the time shall come round
When mid Lords, Dukes, and Earls, The loud trumpet shall sound
Here's a health to King Charles!