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Old Fritz and the New Era By L. Muhlbach Characters: 7677

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02

"What is the matter, my dear Wolf?" cried the duke, as Goethe returned from his visits. "What mean those shadows upon your brow? Have the cursed beaux-esprits in Berlin annoyed and tortured you?"

"No, duke, I-" and suddenly stopping, he burst into a loud ringing laugh, and sprang about the room, bounding up and down, shouting, "Hurrah! hurrah! Long live the philosophers, vivat the philosophers!"

"They shall live-live-live,'' shouted the duke!

"Vivat the philosophers! hurrah! To the May-sports upon the Blockberg they ride upon a little ass with golden horns-with Pharisaical mien, praying with their eyes, 'I thank Thee, O Lord, that I am a philosopher, that I am not as the world's children, vain, proud, and arrogant.' Hey, good Carl Augustus, today a great revelation has been made known to me by a philosopher. Wisdom flowed from his mouth. All the spiders in their gray, self-woven nets, whispered and sang in his corridor, 'We weave at the fountain of life, we spin the web of time.' The little mice crept out from the corners, whispering, Hallelujah! Here lives the great philosopher Moses, who has devoured wisdom, and is unknowing of earthly vanities. Oh! the mice and the spiders waltz together upon the threshold of the great philosopher. Hey, ha! a waltz we will dance!"

Goethe caught the duke with both arms around the waist, and tore around in a giddy whirl, both laughing, both shrieking. Wolfshund, the duke's dog, asleep in the corner, sprang up howling and barking at their wild bounds and goat-like springs, and joined the dancers. As Goethe felt the ribbon which confined his cue give way, he shook wildly his curly, powdered hair and it fell in mad confusion. Both he and the duke now sank exhausted to the floor, panting and laughing.

"Heaven be praised, Wolf," said the duke, "the must has once more fermented, and sprung a few of the hoops of dignity?"

"Yes," answered Goethe, who suddenly assumed a grave, serious mien, "the must has fermented, and I trust a fine wine will clear itself from it."

"Can you not set off, Wolf?" asked the duke, springing up. "Have you had sufficient of the Berliners?"

"I have done with them," replied Goethe, "not only with the Berliners, but it may be with all the rest of humanity. I feel, my duke, that the bloom of confidence, candor, and self-sacrificing love fades daily; only for you, and the friend whom I love, is there still attraction and flagrancy. Oh! you dear ones, be charitable, and do not consent that they fade for you. Let the goodness which I read in your eyes, my dear Carl, and the sunny rays of friendship strengthen the poor little blossom, that it does not entirely fade and wither away!" With passionate earnestness he threw his arms around the duke, pressing him to his bosom.

"Oh! Wolf, my dear Wolf, you have a child's heart and a poet's soul. Are you faint-hearted and dispirited? Do you not know that you are the sun which brings forth the flowers for us, and shines for us all? Let no clouds overshadow you, Wolf! Let your fresh, youthful vigor, and divine brilliancy, penetrate them. In the thick, sandy atmosphere of Berlin I confess the sun itself loses its force and brightness! Come! let us be off. Our steeds stamp with impatience." The duke drew his friend from the room and joyfully they sprang down the stairs to the carriage, the great dog following, howling and barking after them. "Forward, then, forward! Blow, postilion, blow! A gay little air! Let it peal through the streets, a farewell song! Blow, postilion, blow! and I will moisten your throat at the gates with the thin, white stuff, which you have the boldness to call beer." The postilion laughed for joy, and the German song resounded in quivering tones-"Three riders rode out of the gate." He blew so long and loudly, that the dog set up a mou

rnful howl, and amid the peals of the postilion, and the distressed cry of Wolfshund, they drove through the long, hot streets of Berlin, through the Leipsic Gate, and the suburbs with their small, low houses. The wagon-wheels sank to the spokes in the loose, yellow sand of the hill they soon mounted, and, arriving at the top of which, the postilion stopped to let his horses take breath, and turned to remind his aristocratic passengers that this was their last view of the city.

"And will be seen no more," repeated the duke. "Come, let us take a farewell look at Berlin, Wolf!" and away they sprang without waiting for the footman to descend, and waded through the sand to a rising in the fallow fields. There they stood, arm in arm, and viewed the town with its towers and chimneys, houses, barracks, and palaces stretched at their feet. A thick, gray, cloud of vapor and smoke hovered over it, and veiled the horizon in dust and fog. "Farewell, Berlin, you city of arrogance and conceit!" cried the duke, joyfully. "I shake your dust from my feet, and strew the sand of your fields over every souvenir of you in memory," and suiting the action to his words, he tossed a handful of it in the air.

"Farewell, Muses and Graces of sand and dust!" cried Goethe, as his fiery eye flashed far out over the fog-enveloped roofs. "Farewell, Berlin, void of nature and without verdure! the abode of poetic art, but not of poesy. You Babylon of wisdom and philosophy, I have seen you with your painted cheeks and coquettish smile, your voluptuous form and seductive charms. You shall never ensnare me with your deceitful beauty, and suck the marrow from my bones, or the consciousness of pure humanity from my soul. Beautiful may you be to enslaved intellects, but to the free, they turn their backs to you and thrice strew ashes on your head. Farewell, Berlin, may I never see you again!" [Goethe, in fact, never visited Berlin again, though he was often invited there, particularly when the new theatre was opened, with a poetic prologue written by himself. They inaugurated the festivity with Goethe's "Iphigenia," the first representation, and Prince Radzwill urgently invited the poet, through Count Bruhl, to visit Berlin at this time, and reside in his palace. But Goethe refused; he was seventy-two years old (1826), and excused himself on account of his age.] Goethe stooped and threw a handful of sand in the air.

The postilion, tired of standing in the burning sun, blew loudly the air of the soldier's song: "Now, adieu, Louisa, wipe your face, every ball does not hit." Mournfully the melody sounded in the stillness, like accusing spirits who wept the insult of the prince and the poet.

"Now, on to our dear Weimar, Wolf!" The carriage rolled down the sandy hill, and Berlin disappeared to the travellers, lost in dreamy thought. Slowly they advanced, in spite of relays and fresh horses at every station. Night spread out her starry mantle over the world, and the sleepers who rested from the burdens and cares of the day. Goethe alone was wakeful and vigilant. With his beautiful eyes, as brilliant as fallen stars, uplifted to heaven, to God, his manly bosom heaving with noble thoughts and glorious aspirations, he reviewed the past, and recalled with joy that he had accomplished much and well. He peered into the future, and promised himself to do more and better. "Yes, I will," whispered he softly, pointing to the stars; "so high as possible shall the pyramid of my being rise. To that I will constantly bend my thoughts, never forgetting it, for I dare not tarry; with the years already on my head, fate may arrest my steps, and the tower of Babylon remain unfinished. At least they must acknowledge the edifice was boldly designed, and if I live, God willing, it shall rise."


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