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- Hyperion - 10/43 -


In all climates Spring is beautiful. In the South it is intoxicating, and sets a poet beside himself. The birds begin to sing;--they utter a few rapturous notes, and then wait for an answer in the silent woods. Those green-coated musicians, the frogs, make holiday in the neighbouring marshes. They, too, belong to the orchestra of Nature; whose vast theatre is again opened, though the doors have been so long bolted with icicles, and the scenery hung with snow and frost, like cobwebs. This is the prelude, which announces the rising of the broad green curtain. Already the grass shoots forth. The waters leap with thrilling pulse through the veins of the earth; the sap through the veins of the plants and trees; and the blood through the veins of man. What a thrill of delight in spring-time! What a joy in being and moving! Men are at work in gardens; and in the air there is an odor of the fresh earth. The leaf-buds begin to swell and blush. The white blossoms of the cherry hang upon the boughs like snow-flakes; and ere long our next-door neighbours will be completely hidden from us by the dense green foliage. The May-flowers open their soft blue eyes. Children are let loose in the fields and gardens. They hold butter-cups under each others' chins, to see if they love butter. And the little girls adorn themselves with chains and curls of dandelions; pull out the yellow leaves to see if the schoolboy loves them, and blow the down from the leafless stalk, to find out if their mothers want them at home.

And at night so cloudless and so still! Not a voice of living thing,--not a whisper of leaf or waving bough,--not a breath of wind,--not a sound upon the earth nor in the air! And overhead bends the blue sky, dewy and soft, and radiant with innumerable stars, like the inverted bellof some blue flower, sprinkled with golden dust, and breathing fragrance. Or if the heavens are overcast, it is no wild storm of wind and rain; but clouds that melt and fall in showers. One does not wish to sleep; but lies awake to hear the pleasant sound of the dropping rain.

It was thus the Spring began in Heidelberg.

CHAPTER II. A COLLOQUY.

"And what think you of Tiedge's Urania," said the Baron smiling, as Paul Flemming closed the book, and laid it upon the table.

"I think," said Flemming, "that it is very much like Jean Paul's grandfather,--in the highest degree poor and pious."

"Bravo!" exclaimed the Baron. "That is the best criticism I have heard upon the book. For my part, I dislike the thing as much as Goethe did. It was once very popular, and lay about in every parlour and bed-room. This annoyed the old gentleman exceedingly; and I do not wonder at it. He complains, that at one time nothing was sung or said but this Urania. He believed in Immortality; but wished to cherish his belief inquietness. He once told a friend of his, that he had, however, learned one thing from all this talk about Tiedge and his Urania; which was, that the saints, as well as the nobility, constitute an aristocracy. He said he found stupid women, who were proud because they believed in Immortality with Tiedge, and had to submit himself to not a few mysterious catechizings and tea-table lectures on this point; and that he cut them short by saying, that he had no objection whatever to enter into another state of existence hereafter, but prayed only that he might be spared the honor of meeting any of those there, who had believed in it here; for, if he did, the saints would flock around him on all sides, exclaiming, Were we not in the right? Did we not tell you so? Has it not all turned out just as we said? And, with such a conceited clatter in his ears, he thought that, before the end of six months, he might die of ennui in Heaven itself."

"How shocked the good old ladies must have been," said Flemming.

"No doubt, their nerves suffered a little; but the young ladies loved him all the better for being witty and wicked; and thought if they could only marry him, how they would reform him."

"Bettina Brentano, for instance."

"O no! That happened long afterwards. Goethe was then a silver-haired old man of sixty. She had never seen him, and knew him only by his writings; a romantic girl of seventeen."

"And yet much in love with the Sexagenarian. And surely a more wild, fantastic, and, excuse me, German passion never sprang up in woman's breast. She was a flower, that worshipped the sun."

"She afterwards married Achim von Arnim, and is now a widow. And not the least singular part of the affair, is, that, having grown older, and I hope colder, she should herself publish the letters which passed between her and Goethe."

"Particularly the letter in which she describes her first visit to Weimar, and her interview with the hitherto invisible divinity of her dreams. The old gentleman took her upon his knees, and she fell asleep with her head upon his shoulder. It reminds me of Titania and Nick Bottom, begging your pardon, always, for comparing your All-sided-One to Nick Bottom. Oberon must have touched her eyes with the juice of Love-in-idleness. However, this book of Goethe's Correspondence with a Child is a very singular and valuable revelation of the feelings, which he excited in female hearts. You say she afterwards married Achim von Arnim?"

"Yes; and he and her brother, Clemens Brentano, published that wondrous book, the Boy's Wonder-Horn."

"The Boy's Wonder-Horn!" said Flemming, after a short pause, for the name seemed to have thrown him into a reverie;--"I know the book almost by heart. Of all your German books it is the one which produces upon my imagination the most wild and magic influence. I have a passion for ballads!"

"And who has not?" said the Baron with asmile. "They are the gypsy-children of song, born under green hedgerows, in the leafy lanes and by-paths of literature,--in the genial summer-time."

"Why do you say summer-time and not summer?" inquired Flemming. "The expression reminds me of your old Minnesingers;--of Heinrich von Ofterdingen, and Walter von der Vogelweide, and Count Kraft von Toggenburg, and your own ancestor, I dare say, Burkhart von Hohenfels. They were always singing of the gentle summer-time. They seem to have lived poetry, as well as sung it; like the birds who make their marriage beds in the voluptuous trees."

"Is that from Shakspere?"

"No; from Lope de Vega."

"You are deeply read in the lore of antiquity, and the Aubades and Watch-Songs of the old Minnesingers. What do you think of the shoe-maker poets that came after them,--with their guilds and singing-schools? It makes me laugh to think how the great German Helicon, shrunk toa rivulet, goes bubbling and gurgling over the pebbly names of Zwinger, Wurgendrussel, Buchenlin, Hellfire, Old Stoll, Young Stoll, Strong Bopp, Dang Brotscheim, Batt Spiegel, Peter Pfort, and Martin Gumpel. And then the Corporation of the Twelve Wise Masters, with their stumpfereime and klingende-reime, and their Hans Tindeisen's rosemary-weise; and Joseph Schmierer's flowery-paradise-weise, and Frauenlob's yellow-weise, and blue-weise, and frog-weise, and looking-glass-weise!"

"O, I entreat you," exclaimed Flemming, laughing, "do not call those men poets! You transport me to quaint old Nuremberg, and I see Hans Sachs making shoes, and Hans Folz shaving the burgomaster."

"By the way," interrupted the Baron, "did you ever read Hoffmann's beautiful story of Master Martin, the Cooper of Nuremberg? I will read it to you this very night. It is the most delightful picture of that age, which you can conceive. But look! the sun has already set behindthe Alsatian hills. Let us go up to the castle and look for the ghost in Prince Ruprecht's tower. O, what a glorious sunset!"

Flemming looked at the evening sky, and a shade of sadness stole over his countenance. He told not to his friend the sorrow, with which his heart was heavy; but kept it for himself alone. He knew that the time, which comes to all men,--the time to suffer and be silent,--had come to him likewise; and he spake no word. O well has it been said, that there is no grief like the grief which does not speak.

CHAPTER III. OWL-TOWERS.

"There sits the old Frau Himmelhahn, perched up in her owl-tower," said the Baron to Flemming, as they passed along the Hauptstrasse. "She looks down through her round-eyed spectacles from her nest up there, and watches every one that goes by. I wonder what mischief she is hatching now? Do you know she has nearly ruined your character in town? She says you have a rakish look, because you carry a cane, and your hair curls. Your gloves, also, are a shade too light for a strictly virtuous man."

"It is very kind in her to take such good care of my character, particularly as I am a stranger in town. She is doubtless learned in the Clothes-Philosophy."

"And ignorant of every thing else. She asked a friend of mine the other day, whether Christ was a Catholic or a Protestant."

"That is really too absurd!"

"Not too absurd to be true. And, ignorant as she is, she contrives to do a good deal of mischief in the course of the year. Why, the ladies already call you Wilhelm Meister."

"They are at liberty to call me what they please. But you, who know me better, know that I am something more than they would imply by the name."

"She says, moreover, that the American ladies sit with their feet out of the window, and have no pocket-handkerchiefs."


Hyperion - 10/43

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