« 이전계속 »
von Berlichingen;" it was the diseased and disordered fancy among his own Teutonic kin that he portrayed with such searching insight and power in the " Sorrows of Werther." And the storm of acclamation which swept Germany showed how powerfully the chords of racial feeling had been struck and how clear was Goethe's insight into the German nature. It seemed as if a straight and easy road to fame and popularity lay before him; for he had only to hold to Germanic subjects and to the broad, free, Romantic manner to deepen and confirm his hold upon a people who, although become both prosaic and sentimental, had not lost the German feeling, and understood a note struck out of chords long silent, but which had not lost the power of vibration. To Goethe, however, with his extraordinary breadth of view and his steadily deepening insight into the nature and functions of art, the situation was not so simple; it was, indeed, highly complex. He felt the loneliness of a man superior in gift and vision, not only to his contemporaries, but to his predecessors in his own field. Lessing had much to teach him in the way of clarification of sight; Herder opened up life on all sides by those luminous glances of his into the heart of things; and without the education which he had from Winkelmann he could never have understood Italy and discerned the secret of antique art as he did in the impressionable years of his famous visit. Nevertheless, to a man of Goethe's power, there was the consciousness of creative possibilities as yet unrealized in the native literature, either past or present. If he had been a dramatist by the structure of his mind, there would have been successors to "Gotz" and "Egmont;" but Goethe was a dramatist by intention rather than by nature. He was drawn away, by the immense range of his mind, from the definiteness and concreteness of the dramatic representation of life. He used the dramatic form many times, and with very great success; but, except in the portrayal of two or three women, he does not convey the impression of being compelled to use that form; and in this connection we must recall his own words: "Talent may do what it will; genius does what it must." He could not find expression for the ideas that thronged about in
a repetition of his earlier successes. When he came, however, to the question of other and ampler forms of expression, he was confronted by the fact that he must create or introduce them. Neither the German language nor the German literature furnished them ready to his hand. Style in the true sense of the word was almost unknown in Germany. It was not until the publication of " Tasso" that Goethe's own style in its distinction and perfection was discerned; not until the appearance of "Hermann and Dorothea" that the rhythmic possibilities of the German language were revealed. Klopstock, Hermann Grimm tells us, was the creator of modern German prosody; he wrote the first true German odes, the first real German hexameters; but he became a mannerist, and he never was, at any period, a great writer. When " Hermann and Dorothea" appeared, Gleim declared that the lovely pastoral was a " sin against his holy Voss." The famous translation of Homer was a masterpiece, indeed, and delivered the German hexameter from its academic precision and artificiality, and gave it the freedom and movement of living speech. It was Goethe, however, who first touched this verse, so readily made sluggish and prosaic, with complete ease and skill, and made it so completely at home in German that it seems the native form of one of the most charming pastorals in any mod em speech.
All this and much more Goethe had to do to free his own mind and to effect that enlargement of German literature which lay within his power. "Egmont," ,; Tasso," "Iphigenia," "Faust," were thronging about him in the early Weimar days; they filled his imagination, but he seemed incapable of working them out. A richer atmosphere was necessary; another stage in his development was inevitable. Out of the Germany of 1786, with its poverty of literary art and its defective artistic instinct, Goethe passed into Italy, and came under the full power of that great art to which he had long been drawn and with which he had so much in common. Then came what has so often been regarded as the break with his past; as if the continuity of a life were to be sought in its works rather than in itself! Whether wisely or unwisely it is unnecessary to discuss here, the writer of the romantic temper and methods became a writer of classical temper and methods. To " Gotz" and "Werther" succeeded " Iphigenia," "Tasso," and the " Roman Elegies;" and to the storm of applause which greeted the earlier pieces succeeded the silence of indifference or the murmurs of criticism. Goethe lost his audience, and did not completely regain it until the publication of the first part of " Faust " in 1808. He had not only discarded old forms and employed new ones, but he had wholly changed his attitude towards his work; he not only modeled his work freely on classical models, but he attempted to detach himself from it and remove it as definitely from all relation to his life as the works of Sophocles were freed from all trace of connection, except the inevita
THE GARDEN OF GOETHE'S HOUSE
ble local color and individual touch, with the dramatist's personal experience. From '• Iphigenia," "T^sso," the " Roman Elegies," and from a number of shorter poems like " The Bride of Corinth " and "Alexis and Dora," Goethe endeavored to detach himself entirely and to give his work an objectivity as definite and complete as that of a Greek statue. He did not succeed, because his works are one and all rooted in his experience, and because the effort was out of d.ite; no modern man can do perfectly what Goethe attempted to do. "Iphigenia " is a very noble work, but when we search for the essential Goethe we do not look into "Iphigenia" or "Tasso;" we look into the first part of "Faust "—the " Faust " of the romantic, not the " Faust" of the classical, period. Thus there appears in the maturity of Goethe's years and genius a transformation, which was regarded at the time and is now regarded by many as a complete revolution of his aims r.nd methods, indeed of his very nature; for it was not until his return to Weimar, after the two momentous years in Italy, that the charge of coldness began to be heard.
From any point of view the change is striking and of farreaching influence, and could have been possible only in a man to whom his own country and time did not furnish all the means of expression he craved, and who was in the habit of a constant and connected meditation on his art and his life. A man of Goethe's years, intelligence, and selfcommand does not sever himself ftom his artistic past, break with his audience, and essay entirely new methods of creation without deep and prolonged thought. Goethe's conversion was rapidly accomplished in the genial Italian air, but it had been long in preparation. It is probable that no great writer ever searched his own nature more rigorously or reflected on the
"Tasso," "Iphigenia," and "Egmont" were written out in forms which were afterwards very largely or wholly discarded. So far as "Faust" was concerned, it was a kind of running commentary begun when the poet was a student and completed in his eighty-second year! Evidently here was a singer whose gifts were from heaven but whose methods of work were as deliberately thought out and his processes of creation as consciously ordered as if he had been a child of Mercury rather than of the Muses. In studying Goethe's genius one is constantly reminded of the free, spontaneous, and buoyant temper of his mother; in studying his methods one is reminded of his precise, orderly, and prosaic father.
There was a distinct vein of philosophic inquiry running through Goethe's intellectual life, and there was a strong critical tendency in his nature. He was never an orderly thinker, but he was always striving to arrive at the unity of things and to discover those central points at which the arts and sciences disclosed the identity of their laws and the harmony of their methods. He studied both Spinoza and Kant, not exhaustively, but intelligently; and while he resolutely confined his speculations within the horizons of time and space, he habitually concerned himself with the deeper relations of things, and especially with their relations of interdependence. He cared little for phenomena in themselves, although his attachment to the concrete in nature was so intense as seriously to impair the value of his methods of observation; but he cared greatly for phenomena as they hinted at that interior unity which made them all manifestations of one force. His discovery of the intermaxillary bone and of the typical plant disclose the bent of his mind toward a comprehension of nature as a living whole. In spite of the large place which generalization holds in his work, Goethe was a poet with a philosophic bent rather than a philosopher with a poetic temper. In his old age the didactic mood predominated over the purely artistic, but even in the " Elective Affinities " there are passages of passionate intensity and power.
The critical faculty, when it deals mainly with principles, as in Goethe's case, contains a distinct philosophical
element; but its chief characteristic is its power to discern artistic values and to judge artistic processes. It is allied, therefore, with the creative rather than with the purely philosophic mind. Goethe is, on the whole, the greatest of literary critics; indeed, his criticism has such insight and range that he may be called the greatest of art critics. No man has said so many and such luminous things about the artist and the creative mind and mood. A complete philosophy of art, in the widest sense of a much-abused word, lies in his work; a philosophy not like that of Hegel, worked out from the historical standpoint and with constant reference to its relations with the Absolute; nor like that of Taine, elaborated from the psycho-physiological point of view; but slowly distilled from a prolonged artistic activity, and from first-hand acquaintance with the artistic nature. In this field, as in others, Goethe is fragmentary and defective in logical arrangement; because his conclusions were reached, not as steps in a formal process of thought, but as generalizations from a growing experience. He does not discuss art with speculative interest; he speaks as one having authority, because he discerns the vital processes and relations of artistic production to the artist and to life. He values technical skill, and knows the secrets of craftsmanship; but he is concerned constantly with art in its fundamental relations with civilization and with individual experience, and he is in constant contact with the sources of its power and freshness. The distinctly judicial activity of the critical faculty is, nevertheless, always going on in him, and constantly betrays its presence. So clearly, indeed, does he recognize the influence of the critical spirit in his own life that he has more than once given it objective form, and Mephistopheles remains the greatest literary representative of the critical spirit divorced from the creative spirit and become, therefore, entirely negative and destructive.
There is still another characteristic of Goethe which must be emphasized in connection with the rationalizing side of his nature, and that is the extraordinary intimacy of connection between his works and his experience. All the greater works of Goethe, even those which, like " Iphigenia " and " Tasso," seem most detached