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ST. CECILIA ; but he did not seem familiar with our writers. He wished to know the distinctions between our d amatic and epic blank verse. He recommended me to read his HERMANN before I read either THE MESSIAH or the odes. He flattered himself that some time or other his dramatic poems would be known in England. He had not heard of Cowper He thought that Voss in his translation of The Iliad had do ae violence to the idiom of the Germans, and had sacrificed it to the Greeks, not remembering sufficiently that each language has its particular spirit and genius.' He said Lessing was the first of their
J. B. Rousseau was born in 1669, began his career at tine close of the age of Louis Quatorze, died at Brussels, March 17, 1741. He had been banished from France, by an intrigue, on a false charge, as now seems clear, of having composed and distributed defamatory verses, in 1712; and it was engraved upon his tomb that he was “ thirty years an object of envy and thirty of compassion.” Belonging to the classical school of the 17th century, of which he was the last survivor, he came somewhat into conflict with the spirit of the 18th, which was preparing a new vintage, and would have none but new wine in new bottles. Rousseau, however, was a very finished writer in his way, and has been compared to Pindar, Horace, Anacreon, and Malherbe. His ode to M. le Comte de Luc is as fine an example as I know of the modern classical style. This is quite different from that which is exemplified in Mr. Wordsworth's Laodamia and Serjeant Tal. jourd's Ion; for in them the subjects only are ancient, while both the form and spirit are modern ; whereas in the odes of Rousseau a modern subject is treated, as far as difference of times and lai guage will allow, in the manner and tone of the Ancients. Samson Agoı istes and Goethe's Iphigenia in Tauris are conformed. to ancient modes of thought, but in them the subject also is taken from antiquity. Rousseau's works consist of Odes, Epistles in verse, Cantatas, Epigrams, &c., &c. He wrote for the stage at the beginning of his literary life, but with no great success. S. C)
6 (Voss, who lived from Feb. 20, 1751, to March, 1826, was author of the Luise, a rural epopæa of simple structure divided into three idyls, which relate the betrothment and marriage of the heroine.” This is a pleasing and very peculiar poem, composed in hexameter verse. • The charm of the narrative,” says Mr. T., “cons sts in the minute description of the local domestic manners of the personages.” The charm consists, I think, in the blending of these manners with the beauty of nature, and the ease and suitability of the versification. Voss's translation of the Odyssey is praised for being so perfect an imitation of the original. The Greek has been rendered, “ with a fidelity and imitative harinony so admi. rable, that it suggests to the scholar the original wording, and reflects, as from a mirror, every beauty and every blemish of the ancient poem.” Hist Survey, pp. 61-63. S. C.]
dramatic writers. I complained of Nathan as tedious. He said there was not enough of action in it; but that Lessing was the most chaste of their writers. He spoke favorably of Goethe; but said that his SORROWS OF WERTER was his best work, better than of his dramas : he preferred the first written to the rest of Goethe's dramas. Schiller's ROBBERS he found so extrava. gant, that he could not read it. I spoke of the scene of the setting sun.' He did not know it. He said Schiller could not live. He thought Don Carlos the best of his dramas; but said that the plot was inextricable. It was evident he knew little of Schiller's works : indeed, he said, he could not read them. Bürger, he said, was a true poet, and would live; that Schil. ler, on the contrary, must soon be forgotten; that he gave himself up to the imitation of Shakspeare, who often was extravagant, but that Schiller was ten thousand times more so. He
? [Act III., Sc. 2. The night scene, which is the 5th of Act iv., is fine too in a frantic way. The songs it contains are very spirited. That sung by the Robbers is worthy of a Thug: it goes beyond our notions of any European bandit, and transports us to the land of Jaggernat. S. C.)
8 [The works of Bürger, who was born on the first day of 1748, died June 8, 1794, consist of Poems (2 vols.), Macbeth altered from Shakspeare (prònounced by Taylor,—no good judge of Shakspeare,-in some respects superior to the original), Munch aäsen's Travels; Translations (of the six first books of the Iliad, and some others) ; Papers philological and political. His fame rests chiefly on three ballads, The Wild Hunter, The Parson's Daughter, and Lenore. The powerful diction and admirable harmony,rhythm, sound, rhyme of these compositions, Mr. Taylor describes as the result of laborious art; it strikes me, from the outline which he has given of Bürger's history, that the violent feelings, the life-like expression of which constitutes their power and value, may have been partly the reflex of the poet's own mind. His seems to have been a life of mismanagement from youth till middle age. Like Milton, he lost a beloved second wife by childbed in the first year of marriage ; like him, he married a third time, but without his special necessity-blindness and unkind daughters. He wedded a lady who had fallen in love with his poetry, or perhaps his poetical reputation : an union, founded, as it appears; in vanity, ended in vexation of spirit: and as Death, which had deprived him of two wives, did not release him from a third, he obtained his freedom, at the end of little more than three years, from a court of justice. Why did Klopstock undervalue, by preference of such a poet, the lofty-minded Schiller-the dearest to England of all German bards? Perhaps because the author of Wallenstein was a philosopher, and had many things in his philosophy which the author of The Messiah could not find in his heaven and earth. S. C.]
spoke very slightingly of Kotzebue, as an immoral author in the first place, and next, as deficient in power. At Vienna, said he, they are transported with him; but we do not reckon the people of Vienna either the wisest or the wittiest people of Germany. He said Wieland was a charming author, and a sovereign master of his own language : that in this respect Goethe could not be compared to him, nor indeed could anybody else. He said that his fault was to be fertile to exuberance. I told him the OBERON had just been translated into English. He asked me if I was not delighted with the poem. I answered, that I thought the story began to fiag about the seventh or eighth book; and observed, that it was unworthy of a man of genius to make the interest of a long poem turn entirely upon animal gratification. He seemed at first disposed to excuse this by saying, that there are different subjects for poetry, and that poets are not willing to be restricted in their choice. I answered, that I thought the passion of love as well suited to the purposes of poetry» as any other passion ; but that it was a cheap way of pleasing to fix the attention of the reader through a long poem on the mere appetile. Well ! but, said he, you see, that such poemos please every body. I answered, that it was the province of a great poet to raise people up to his own level, not to descend to theirs. He agreed, and confessed, that on no account whatsoever would he have written a work like the Oberon. He spoke in raptures of Wie. land's style, and pointed out the passage where Retzia is deli. vered of her child, as exquisitely beautiful." I said that I did
3 [Oberon, canto viii., stanzas 69–80. The little touch about the newborn babe's returning its mother's kiss is very romantic: though put modestly in the form of a query:
-Und scheint nicht jeden Kuss
The word entsaugen (suck off) is expressive-it very naturally characterizes the kiss of an infant five minutes of age. Wieland had great nursery experience. “My sweetest hours,” says he, in a letter quoted in the Survey, are those in which I see about me, in all their glee of childhood, my whole posse of little half-way things between apes and angels."
Mr. Sotheby's translation of the Oberon made the poem popular in this country. The original first appeared in 1780. S. C.]
not perceive any very striking passages; but that I made allow. ance for the imperfections of a translation. Of the thefts of Wieland, he said, they were so exquisitely managed, that the greatest writers might be proud to steal as he did. He consi. dered the books and fables of old romance writers in the light of the ancient mythology, as a sort of common property, from which a man was free to take whatever he could make a good use of. An Englishman had presented him with the odes of Collins, which he had read with pleasure. He knew little or nothing of Gray, except his Elegy written in a country CHURCH-YARD. He complained of the fool in LEAR. I observed that he seemed to give a terrible wildness to the distress; but still he complained. He asked whether it was not allowed, that Pope had written rhymed poetry with more skill than any of our writers—I said I preferred Dryden, because his couplets had greater variety in their movement. He thought my reason a good one ; but asked whether the rhyme of Pope were not more exact. tion I understood as applying to the final terminations, and observed to him that I believed it was the case; but that I thought it was easy to excuse some inaccuracy in the final sounds, if the general sweep of the verse was superior. I told him that we were not so exact with regard to the final endings of lines as the French. He did not seem to know that we made no distinction between masculine and feminine (i. e. single or double) rhymes : at least he put inquiries to me on this subject. He seeined to think, that no language could be so far formed as that it might not be enriched by idioms borrowed from another tongue. 'I said this was a very dangerous practice; and added, that I thought Milton had often injured both his prose and verse by taking this liberty too frequently. I recommended to him the prose works of Dryden as models of pure and native English. I was treading upon tender ground, as I have reason to suppose that he has himself liberally indulged in the practice.
The same day I dined at Mr. Klopstock’s, where I had the pleasure of a third interview with the poet. We talked princi
a pally about indifferent things. I asked him what he thought of Kant. He said that his reputation was much on the decline in Germany. That for his own part he was not surprised to find it
so, as the works of Kant were to him utterly incomprehensible —that he had often been pestered by the Kanteans; but was rarely in the practice of arguing with them. His custom was to produce the book, open it and point to a passage, and beg they would explain it. This they ordinarily attempted to do by substituting their own ideas. I do not want, I say, an explanation of your own ideas, but of the passage which is before us. In this way I generally bring the dispute to an immediate conclusion. He spoke of Wolfe as the first Metaphysician they had in Germany. Wolfe had followers; but they could hardly be called a sect, and luckily, till the appearance of Kant, about fifteen years ago, Germany had not been pestered by any sect of philosophers whatsoever ; but that each man had separately pursued bis inquiries uncontrolled by the dogmas of a master. Kant had appeared ambitious to be the founder of a sect; that he had succeeded: but that the Germans were now coming to their senses again. That Nicolai and Engel had in different ways contributed to disenchant the nation ;'' but above all the incomprehensibility of the philosopher and his philosophy. He seemed pleased to hear, that as yet Kant's doctrines had not met with many admirers in England—did not doubt but that we had too much wisdom to be duped by a writer who set at defiance the common sense and common understandings of men. We talked of tragedy. He seemed to rate highly the power of exciting tears—I said that nothing was more easy than to deluge an audi. ence, that it was done every day by the meanest writers.
I must remind you, my friend, first, that these notes are not intended as specimens of Klopstock’s intellectual power, or even “ colloquial prowess,” to judge of which by an accidental conversation, and this with strangers, and those too foreigners, would be not only unreasonable, but calumnious. Secondly, I attribute little other interest to the remarks than what is derived from the celebrity of the person who made them. Lastly, if you ask me, whether I have read The Messiah, and what I think of it? I answer—as yet the first four books only: and as to my opinion (the reasons of which hereafter)-you may guess it from what
10 (See note at the end of the letter. S. C.]