Page images

ated with a grace and truth worthy of a poet's discriminating estimate of woman. The character of Lorenzo Juranitsch is doubtless Körner's own ideal; and the plot of the drama, in a striking manner, typifies his destiny. Indeed, the most emphatic passages of the tragedy are identical with the views, feelings, and purposes, he cherished, as uttered in familiar conversation and letters. In a literary point of view, the distinct characterization, the fine contrast between the oriental scenes and those in the Hungarian fortress, the powerful and consistent tone of self-devotion maintained by Zriny and his followers, the intense coëxistence of love and duty, are traits so happily manifest as to have seized at once on the popular feeling.

The play may be justly considered as an exposition of heroism, and what gives it a permanent interest is the fact that it embodies the habitual state of mind, foreshadows the sacrifice and glows with the very soul of the author. It also not inadequately represents the prevalent sentiment of Germany at the period. The flames of Moscow had kindled the dormant valor of northern Europe; deep indignation against her conqueror now found vent in action, and the love of country was thoroughly awakened; a spirit of self-consecration and a holy as well as martial zeal, such as the poet so well describes as nerving the Hungarian patriots of the tragedy, pervaded all hearts; so that "Zriny" may be regarded as vividly reflecting, not only the individual consciousness of the poet, but the public sentiment of his country. An impressive proof of the harmony between Körner's expressed and acted sentiments, between his cliaracter and writings, is the coincidence in tone and feeling of the letter he addressed his father after his valorous resolve, and some expressions that fall from the chief actors in Zriny: "

"I would depart but as a hero should,

In the full splendor of my boldest love."

"What is there for us higher in this world
That's left untasted in our hallowed wishes?
Can life afford a moment of more bliss?
Here happiness is transient as the day,
On high eternal as the love of God."

[blocks in formation]

"I write to you respecting an event which I feel assured will neither surprise nor shock you. I lately gave you a hint of my purpose, which has now arrived at maturity. Germany rises; the Prussian eagle, by the beating of her mighty wings, awakes in all true hearts the great hope of German freedom. My poetic art sympathizes for my country; let me prove myself her worthy son! Yes, dearest father, I will join the army, will cheerfully throw aside the happy, joyous life which I have here enjoyed, in order with my blood to assist in the deliverance of my country. Call it not impetuosity, levity, rashness. Two years since, it is true, I should have termed it thus myself; but now that I know what happiness can ripen for me in this life; now that the star of fortune sheds on me its most cheering influence; now is it, by

Heaven, a sacred feeling which inspires me, a conviction that no sacrifice can be too great to insure our country's freedom. Possibly your fond paternal heart may say, 'Theodore is meant for better things; in another field he might have accomplished objects more worthy and important; he owes as yet a weighty obligation to mankind.' But, father, my conviction is, that for the death-offering for the freedom and honor of our country no one is too good, though many are too base. If the Almighty have, indeed, inspired me with a more than common mind, which has been taught and formed by thy care and affection, where is the moment when I can better exert it than now? A great age requires great souls, and I feel that I may prove a rock amid this concussion of the nations. I must forth and oppose my daring breast to the waves of the storm.


"Shall I be content to celebrate in poetry the success of my brethren while they fight and conquer? Shall I write entertainments for the comic theatre, when I feel within me the courage and the strength to take part in the great and serious drama of life? I am aware that you will suffer much; my mother too will weep! May God be her comfort; I cannot spare you this trial. I have ever deemed myself the favorite of Fortune; she will not forsake me now. That I simply venture my life, is but of little import; but that I offer it, crowned as it is with all the flowery wreaths of love, of friendship, that I cast away the sweet sensation which lived in the conviction that I should never cause you inquietude or sorrow, this is, indeed, a sacrifice which can only be opposed to such a prize prize our country's freedom. Either on Saturday or Monday I depart, probably accompanied by friends, or possibly II. may despatch me as a courier. At Breslau, my place of destination, I meet the free sons of Prussia, who have enthusiastically collected there, under the banner of their king. I have scarcely decided, as yet, whether I join the cavalry or infantry; this may depend upon the sum of money which may be at my disposal. As to my present appointment here, I know, as yet, nothing certain; possibly the prince will give me leave of absence; if not, there is no seniority in art, and should I return to Vienna, I have the assurance of Count Palfy that still greater advantages of a pecuniary nature await. Anto

nia has, on this occasion, proved the great, the noble character of her soul. She weeps, it is true, but the termination of the campaign will dry her tears. My mother must forgive me the tears I cause her; whoever loves me will not censure me; and you, father, will find me worthy of you.


At the very outset of their march, after joining his regiment, they bivouacked in a graveyard; one of the mounds was his pillow, and over another his horse stumbled, and it was regarded by the superstitious observers as ominous. When his sister, who was possessed of much artistic skill, and whose grief for his loss wore away her life, was painting his likeness, she suddenly wept, declaring that she saw his head bleeding. He wrote to a friend on the eve of his departure, "If I shall never again be in Meadows, perhaps I shall soon be on the green, and quite peaceful, quite still!" Indeed, even the most thoughtless of the students who, with all the ardor of youth, threw themselves into the impending struggle, were aware of the truth of Körner's declaration, "Every second man of us must die." With him this self-devotion was no sudden fit of martial enthusiasm, but the cherished purpose of years; many allusions in his letters and familiar talk afterwards became clear to his friends. He had felt deeply the misfortunes of his country, and pondered on the duty of a citizen, until it was his firm resolve to embrace the first occasion to fight, and, if needful, to die for his native land. The summons came when the goblet of life sparkled to the brim, when his mind and heart, his affections and his intellect, were thoroughly and genially absorbed; yet he hesitated not a moment, but enrolled himself in Lutzow's corps.

Few episodes in literary history, or rather in the biography of genius, have a more complete and harmonious moral beauty than the whole life of Theodore Körner. There is no wonderful precocity suddenly eclipsed by decay; no finale of insanity turning the sweetest melody into horrible discord; no sad compromise between the dreams of youth and the calculations of interest; all is sustained, noble, and consistent; a childhood enriched with high acquisitions and refined by domestic love;

[ocr errors]

a youth developed with freedom in an atmosphere of truth; genuine relations with nature and humanity; cheerfulness, intelligence, fortitude, and self-devotion; a unity of being that presents a remarkable contrast to the fragmentary, baffled, and too often incongruous experience of the gifted and the brave. It is affecting, and, at the same time, sublime to recall the happy life of the young poet at Vienna, environed by the delights of social and literary fame, the cordialities of hospitality, the consolations of friendship, the sweet communion of love, and then behold it suddenly yet calmly exchanged for hardship, peril, and death. Amid the pleasurable excitements of the gay capital, instead of being enervated, he was nerved.

It was his custom to retire to the neighboring village of Doblinger to write. "I always work in the garden," he says, "where I am now writing this letter. A thicket of chestnut trees spreads its cooling shade around me, and my guitar, which hangs behind me on the next tree, employs me in those moments when I cease to write." Antonia, his betrothed, appears to have united the most charming domestic feelings with that heroic spirit that endeared her to her lover. He used to visit her after his morning's labor, quit her presence to dine with Humboldt, or some other genial savan, pass the evening either at a party or the theatre, and return home to prosecute his literary task, his correspondence, or his studies. Love and art exclusively reigned in his soul. Yet, in accordance with that law by which the reäction of enthusiasm is inevitably melancholy, Körner often turned from the external sunshine of his lot to realize a gloom within. He had a distinct presentiment of early death, although with characteristic heroism it seldom found other than playful expression. When he was digging the foundation of a temporary hut, his comrades said to him, "You dig like a grave-digger;" and he replied, "We ought to practise the trade, for we shall doubtless have to render, each for the other, that labor of love."

These noble volunteers, comprising the flower of the German youth, were consecrated to the high office they had espoused, at the village church of Breslau; and the muse of their gallant comrade gave utterance to their religious zeal as well as to their patriotic sentiment. The popularity and influence of his martial

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »