Manual Try hard to love me / Versuch doch, mich zu lieben (German Edition)

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Even with Karl, the success is incomplete: with the other personages it is far more so. Franz von Moor, the villain of the Piece, is an amplified copy of Iago and Richard; but the copy is distorted as well as amplified. There is no air of reality in Franz: he is a villain of theory, who studies to accomplish his object by the most diabolical expedients, and soothes his conscience by arguing with the priest in favour of atheism and materialism; not the genuine villain of Shakspeare and Nature, who employs his reasoning powers in creating new schemes and devising new means, and conquers remorse by avoiding it,—by fixing his hopes and fears on the more pressing emergencies of worldly business.

So reflective a miscreant as Franz could not exist: his calculations would lead him to honesty, if merely because it was the best policy. Amelia, the only female in the piece, is a beautiful creation; but as imaginary as her persecutor Franz. Still and exalted in her warm enthusiasm, devoted in her love to Moor, she moves before us as the inhabitant of a higher and simpler world than ours. Seas, and hills, and horizons, are between us; but souls escape from their clay prisons, and meet in the paradise of love!

Similar defects are visible in almost all the other characters.

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Moor, the father, is a weak and fond old man, who could have arrived at gray hairs in such a state of ignorance nowhere but in a work of fiction. The inferior banditti are painted with greater vigour, yet still in rugged and ill-shapen forms; their individuality is kept up by an extravagant exaggeration of their several peculiarities. Schiller himself pronounced a severe but not unfounded censure, when he said of this work, in a maturer age, that his chief fault was in 'presuming to delineate men two years before he had met one.

His skill in the art of composition surpassed his knowledge of the world; but that too was far from perfection.

Schiller's style in the Robbers is partly of a kind with the incidents and feelings which it represents; strong and astonishing, and sometimes wildly grand; but likewise inartificial, coarse, and grotesque. His sentences, in their rude emphasis, come down like the club of Hercules; the stroke is often of a crushing force, but its sweep is irregular and awkward. When Moor is involved in the deepest intricacies of the old question, necessity and free will, and has convinced himself that he is but an engine in the hands of some dark and irresistible power, he cries out: "Why has my Perillus made of me a brazen bull to roast men in my glowing belly?

Schiller has admitted these faults, and explained their origin, in strong and sincere language, in a passage of which we have already quoted the conclusion. Any disposition to poetry did violence to the laws of the institution where I was educated, and contradicted the plan of its founder. For eight years my enthusiasm struggled with military discipline; but the passion for poetry is vehement and fiery as a first love.

What discipline was meant to extinguish, it blew into a flame. To escape from arrangements that tortured me, my heart sought refuge in the world of ideas, when as yet I was unacquainted with the world of realities, from which iron bars excluded me. I was unacquainted with men; for the four hundred that lived with me were but repetitions of the same creature, true casts of one single mould, and of that very mould which plastic nature solemnly disclaimed.

In attempting it, my pencil necessarily brought out a monster, for which by good fortune the world had no original, and which I would not wish to be immortal, except to perpetuate an example of the offspring which Genius in its unnatural union with Thraldom may give to the world. I allude to the Robbers. Yet with all these excrescences and defects, the unbounded popularity of the Robbers is not difficult to account for.

To every reader, the excitement of emotion must be a chief consideration; to the mass of readers it is the sole one: and the grand secret of moving others is, that the poet be himself moved. We have seen how well Schiller's temper and [23] circumstances qualified him to fulfil this condition: treatment, not of his choosing, had raised his own mind into something like a Pythian frenzy; and his genius, untrained as it was, sufficed to communicate abundance of the feeling to others.

Perhaps more than abundance: to judge from our individual impression, the perusal of the Robbers produces an effect powerful even to pain; we are absolutely wounded by the catastrophe; our minds are darkened and distressed, as if we had witnessed the execution of a criminal. It is in vain that we rebel against the inconsistencies and crudities of the work: its faults are redeemed by the living energy that pervades it.

We may exclaim against the blind madness of the hero; but there is a towering grandeur about him, a whirlwind force of passion and of will, which catches our hearts, and puts the scruples of criticism to silence. The most delirious of enterprises is that of Moor, but the vastness of his mind renders even that interesting. We see him leagued with desperadoes directing their savage strength to actions more and more audacious; he is in arms against the conventions of men and the everlasting laws of Fate: yet we follow him with anxiety through the forests and desert places, where he wanders, encompassed with peril, inspired with lofty daring, and torn by unceasing remorse; and we wait with awe for the doom which he has merited and cannot avoid.

Nor amid all his frightful aberrations do we ever cease to love him: he is an 'archangel though in ruins;' and the strong agony with which he feels the present, the certainty of that stern future which awaits him, which his own eye never loses sight of, makes us lenient to his crimes. When he pours forth his wild recollections, or still wilder forebodings, there is a terrible vehemence in his expressions, which overpowers us, in spite both of his and their extravagance.

The scene on the [24] hills beside the Danube, where he looks at the setting sun, and thinks of old hopes, and times 'when he could not sleep if his evening prayer had been forgotten,' is one, with all its improprieties, that ever clings to the memory.

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That all should be so happy, all so married together by the spirit of peace! The whole world one family, its Father above; that Father not mine! I alone the castaway, I alone struck out from the company of the just; not for me the sweet name of child, never for me the languishing look of one whom I love; never, never, the embracing of a bosom friend!

Encircled with murderers; serpents hissing around me; riveted to vice with iron bonds; leaning on the bending reed of vice over the gulf of perdition; amid the flowers of the glad world, a howling Abaddon! Oh, that I might return into my mother's womb;—that I might be born a beggar!

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I would never more—O Heaven, that I could be as one of these day-labourers! Oh, I would toil till the blood ran down from my temples, to buy myself the pleasure of one noontide sleep, the blessing of a single tear. There was a time too, when I could weep—O ye days of peace, thou castle of my father, ye green lovely valleys! Mourn with me, Nature!

They will never come again, never cool my burning bosom with their balmy sighing. They are gone! No less strange is the soliloquy where Moor, with the instrument of self-destruction in his hands, the 'dread key that is to shut behind him the prison of life, and to unbolt [25] before him the dwelling of eternal night,'—meditates on the gloomy enigmas of his future destiny. Soliloquies on this subject are numerous,—from the time of Hamlet, of Cato, and downwards.

Perhaps the worst of them has more ingenuity, perhaps the best of them has less awfulness than the present. Dominick himself might shudder at such a question, with such an answer as this: "What if thou shouldst send me companionless to some burnt and blasted circle of the universe; which thou hast banished from thy sight; where the lone darkness and the motionless desert were my prospects—forever?

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I would people the silent wilderness with my fantasies; I should have Eternity for leisure to examine the perplexed image of the universal woe. Strength, wild impassioned strength, is the distinguishing quality of Moor. All his history shows it; and his death is of a piece with the fierce splendour of his life. Having finished the bloody work of crime, and magnanimity, and horror, he thinks that, for himself, suicide would be too easy an exit.

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  • He has noticed a poor man toiling by the wayside, for eleven children; a great reward has been promised for the head of the Robber; the gold will nourish that poor drudge and his boys, and Moor goes forth to give it them. We part with him in pity and sorrow; looking less at his misdeeds than at their frightful expiation. The subordinate personages, though diminished in extent and varied in their forms, are of a similar quality with the hero; a strange mixture of extravagance and true energy. In perusing the work which represents their characters and fates, we are alternately shocked and inspired; there is a perpetual conflict between our understanding and our feelings.

    Yet the latter on the whole come off victorious. The Robbers is a tragedy that will long find readers to astonish, and, with all its faults, to move. It stands, in our imagi [26] nation, like some ancient rugged pile of a barbarous age; irregular, fantastic, useless; but grand in its height and massiveness and black frowning strength. It will long remain a singular monument of the early genius and early fortune of its author. The publication of such a work as this naturally produced an extraordinary feeling in the literary world. Translations of the Robbers soon appeared in almost all the languages of Europe, and were read in all of them with a deep interest, compounded of admiration and aversion, according to the relative proportions of sensibility and judgment in the various minds which contemplated the subject.

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    In Germany, the enthusiasm which the Robbers excited was extreme. The young author had burst upon the world like a meteor; and surprise, for a time, suspended the power of cool and rational criticism. In the ferment produced by the universal discussion of this single topic, the poet was magnified above his natural dimensions, great as they were: and though the general sentence was loudly in his favour, yet he found detractors as well as praisers, and both equally beyond the limits of moderation.

    One charge brought against him must have damped the joy of literary glory, and stung Schiller's pure and virtuous mind more deeply than any other. He was accused of having injured the cause of morality by his work; of having set up to the impetuous and fiery temperament of youth a model of imitation which the young were too likely to pursue with eagerness, and which could only lead them from the safe and beaten tracks of duty into error and destruction.

    It has even been stated, and often been repeated since, that a practical exemplification of this doctrine occurred, about this time, in Germany.

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    A young nobleman, it was said, of the fairest gifts and prospects, had cast away all these ad [27] vantages; betaken himself to the forests, and, copying Moor, had begun a course of active operations,—which, also copying Moor, but less willingly, he had ended by a shameful death. It can now be hardly necessary to contradict these theories; or to show that none but a candidate for Bedlam as well as Tyburn could be seduced from the substantial comforts of existence, to seek destruction and disgrace, for the sake of such imaginary grandeur.

    The German nobleman of the fairest gifts and prospects turns out, on investigation, to have been a German blackguard, whom debauchery and riotous extravagance had reduced to want; who took to the highway, when he could take to nothing else,—not allured by an ebullient enthusiasm, or any heroical and misdirected appetite for sublime actions, but driven by the more palpable stimulus of importunate duns, an empty purse, and five craving senses. Perhaps in his later days, this philosopher may have referred to Schiller's tragedy, as the source from which he drew his theory of life: but if so, we believe he was mistaken.

    For characters like him, the great attraction was the charms of revelry, and the great restraint, the gallows,—before the period of Karl von Moor, just as they have been since, and will be to the end of time.