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resumed his seat in the post-chaise, the poor horses had to make up the time lost in dreams on the mountain. This is far oftener the case, than most people imagine. One half of the world has to sweat and groan, that the other half may dream. It would have been a difficult task for the traveller or his postilion to persuade the horses, that these dreams were all for their good.
The next stopping-place was the little tavern of the Star, an out-of-the-way corner in the town of Salzig. It stands on the banks of the Rhine; and, directly in front of it, sheer from the water's edge, rise the mountains of Liebenstein and Sternenfels, each with its ruined castle. These are the Brothers of the old tradition, still gazing at each other face to face; and beneath them in the valley stands a cloister,--meek emblem of that orphan child, they both so passionately loved.
In a small, flat-bottomed boat did the landlady's daughter row Flemming "over the Rhine-stream, rapid and roaring wide." She was a beautiful girl of sixteen; with black hair, and dark, lovely eyes, and a face that had a story to tell. How different faces are in this particular! Some of them speak not. They are books in which not a line is written, save perhaps a date. Others are great family bibles, with all the Old and New Testament written in them. Others are Mother Goose and nursery tales;--others bad tragedies or pickle-herring farces; and others, like that of the landlady's daughter at the Star, sweet love-anthologies, and songs of the affections. It was on that account, that Flemming said to her, as they glided out into the swift stream;
"My dear child! do you know the story of the Liebenstein?"
"The story of the Liebenstein," she answered, "I got by heart, when I was a little child."
And here her large, dark, passionate eyes looked into Flemming's, and he doubted not, that she had learned the story far too soon, and far too well. That story he longed to hear, as if it were unknown to him; for he knew that the girl, who had got it by heart when a child, would tell it as it should be told. So he begged her to repeat the story, which she was but too glad to do; for she loved and believed it, as if it had all been written in the Bible. But before she began, she rested a moment on her oars, and taking the crucifix, which hung suspended from her neck, kissed it, and then let it sink down into her bosom, as if it were an anchor she was letting down into her heart. Meanwhile her moist, dark eyes were turned to heaven. Perhaps her soul was walking with the souls of Cunizza, and Rahab, and Mary Magdalen. Or perhaps she was thinking of that Nun, of whom St. Gregory says, in his Dialogues, that, having greedily eaten a lettuce in a garden, without making the sign of the cross, she found herself soon after possessed with a devil.
The probability, however, is, that she was looking up to the ruined castles only, and not to heaven, for she soon began her story, and told Flemming how, a great, great many years ago, an old man lived in the Liebenstein with his two sons; and how both the young men loved the Lady Geraldine, an orphan, under their father's care; and how the elder brother went away in despair, and the younger was betrothed to the Lady Geraldine; and how they were as happy as Aschenputtel and the Prince. And then the holy Saint Bernard came and carried away all the young men to the war, just as Napoleon did afterwards; and the young lord went to the Holy Land, and the Lady Geraldine sat in her tower and wept, and waited for her lover's return, while the old father built the Sternenfels for them to live in when they were married. And when it was finished, the old man died; and the elder brother came back and lived in the Liebenstein, and took care of the gentle Lady. Ere long there came news from the Holy Land, that the war was over; and the heart of the gentle Lady beat with joy, till she heard that her faithless lover was coming back with a Greek wife,--the wicked man! and then she went into a convent and became a holy nun. So the young lord of Sternenfels came home, and lived in his castle in great splendor with the Greek woman, who was a wicked woman, and did what she ought not to do. But the elder brother was angry for the wrong done the gentle Lady, and challenged the lord of Sternenfels to single combat. And, while they were fighting with their great swords in the valley of Bornhofen behind the castle, the convent bells began to ring, and the Lady Geraldine came forth with a train of nuns alldressed in white, and made the brothers friends again, and told them she was the bride of Heaven, and happier in her convent than she could have been in the Liebenstein or the Sternenfels. And when the brothers returned, they found that the false Greek wife had gone away with another knight. So they lived together in peace, and were never married. And when they died--"
"Lisbeth! Lisbeth!" cried a sharp voice from the shore, "Lisbeth! Where are you taking the gentleman?"
This recalled the poor girl to her senses; and she saw how fast they were floating down stream. For in telling the story she had forgotten every thing else, and the swift current had swept them down to the tall walnut trees of Kamp. They landed in front of the Capucin Monastery. Lisbeth led the way through the little village, and turning to the right pointed up the romantic, lonely valley which leads to the Liebenstein, and even offered to go up. But Flemming patted her cheek and shook his head. He went up the valley alone.
CHAPTER V. JEAN PAUL, THE ONLY-ONE.
The man in the play, who wished for `some forty pounds of lovely beef, placed in a Mediterranean sea of brewis,' might have seen his ample desires almost realized at the table d'hôte of the Rheinischen Hof, in Mayence, where Flemming dined that day. At the head of the table sat a gentleman, with a smooth, broad forehead, and large, intelligent eyes. He was from Baireuth in Franconia; and talked about poetry and Jean Paul, to a pale, romantic-looking lady on his right. There was music all dinner-time, at the other end of the hall; a harp and a horn and a voice; so that a great part of the fat gentleman's conversation with the pale lady was lost to Flemming, who sat opposite to her, and could look right into her large, melancholy eyes. But what heheard, so much interested him,--indeed, the very name of the beloved Jean Paul would have been enough for this,--that he ventured to join in the conversation, and asked the German if he had known the poet personally.
"Yes; I knew him well," replied the stranger. "I am a native of Baireuth, where he passed the best years of his life. In my mind the man and the author are closely united. I never read a page of his writings without hearing his voice, and seeing his form before me. There he sits, with his majestic, mountainous forehead, his mild blue eyes, and finely cut nose and mouth; his massive frame clad loosely and carelessly in an old green frock, from the pockets of which the corners of books project, and perhaps the end of a loaf of bread, and the nose of a bottle;--a straw hat, lined with green, lying near him; a huge walking-stick in his hand, and at his feet a white poodle, with pink eyes and a string round his neck. You would sooner have taken him for a master-carpenter than for a poet. Is he a favorite author of yours?"
Flemming answered in the affirmative.
"But a foreigner must find it exceedingly difficult to understand him," said the gentleman. "It is by no means an easy task for us Germans."
"I have always observed," replied Flemming, "that the true understanding and appreciation of a poet depend more upon individual, than upon national character. If there be a sympathy between the minds of writer and reader, the bounds and barriers of a foreign tongue are soon overleaped. If you once understand an author's character, the comprehension of his writings becomes easy."
"Very true," replied the German, "and the character of Richter is too marked to be easily misunderstood. Its prominent traits are tenderness and manliness,--qualities, which are seldom found united in so high a degree as in him. Over all he sees, over all he writes, are spread the sunbeams of a cheerful spirit,--the light of inexhaustible human love. Every sound of human joy and of human sorrow finds a deep-resoundingecho in his bosom. In every man, he loves his humanity only, not his superiority. The avowed object of all his literary labors was to raise up again the down-sunken faith in God, virtue, and immortality; and, in an egotistical, revolutionary age, to warm again our human sympathies, which have now grown cold. And not less boundless is his love for nature,--for this outward, beautiful world. He embraces it all in his arms."
"Yes," answered Flemming, almost taking the words out of the stranger's mouth, "for in his mind all things become idealized. He seems to describe himself when he describes the hero of his Titan, as a child, rocking in a high wind upon the branches of a full-blossomed apple-tree, and, as its summit, blown abroad by the wind, now sunk him in deep green, and now tossed him aloft in deep blue and glancing sunshine,--in his imagination stood that tree gigantic;--it grew alone in the universe, as if it were the tree of eternal life; its roots struck down into the abyss; the white and red clouds hung as blossoms upon it; the moon asfruit; the little stars sparkled like dew, and Albano reposed in its measureless summit; and a storm swayed the summit out of Day into Night, and out of Night into Day."
"Yet the spirit of love," interrupted the Franconian, "was not weakness, but strength. It was united in him with great manliness. The sword of his spirit had been forged and beaten by poverty. Its temper had been tried by a thirty years' war. It was not broken, not even blunted; but rather strengthened and sharpened by the blows it gave and received. And, possessing this noble spirit of humanity, endurance, and self-denial, he made literature his profession; as if he had been divinely commissioned to write. He seems to have cared for nothing else, to have thought of nothing else, than living quietly and making books. He says, that he felt it his duty, not to enjoy, nor to acquire, but to write; and boasted, that he had made as many books as he had lived years."
"And what do you Germans consider the prominent characteristics of his genius?"
"Most undoubtedly his wild imagination and his playfulness. He throws over all things a strange and magic coloring. You are startled at the boldness and beauty of his figures and illustrations, which are scattered everywhere with a reckless prodigality;--multitudinous, like the blossoms of early summer,--and as fragrant and beautiful. With a thousand extravagances are mingled ten thousand beauties of thought and expression, which kindle the
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