Puslapio vaizdai

advanced no further than the title. One fine afternoon he wandered along the banks of the Sihl, recalling all the classical memories that hung around them, and hoping for inspiration there; instead, the more prosaic observation would force itself upon him that Zurich must consume a great deal of firewood, to judge by the quantity of timber that floated down the stream, and he began a rough calculation as to costs and profits. His godfather undertook to prove to him how such forced attempts are not originality, how a good original is only a person who deserves to be imitated, and such a one is any person who carries out thoroughly whatever he undertakes to do, even though this something be nothing specially extraordinary. And to do this is so rare that those who achieve it are therefore original, and stand forth from among their fellows. Is this a note of warning from Keller to his townsfolk, who still arrogate to themselves learned airs because once upon a time their city was a center of learning, and whose present hard-headed manufacturing proclivities are not compatible therewith, and hence produce a mongrel and far from pleasant type of character?

As a type of excellence the first stories introduce us to the old Zurich family of Manesse, and we follow their fortunes from the end of the thirteenth to the middle of the fifteenth century. Till quite recently there stood in Zurich an old tower, the last remnant of the town-house of the Manesse family, of whom one at least, Rüdiger von Manesse, erected to himself a less perishable monument. For to him we owe the "Manesse Codex," preserved at Paris, the most important MS. collection of Minnesinger songs on record. This was made at Rüdiger's instigation by Hadlaub, the son of a free Zurich peasant, and who became known as an early German poet. He is the hero of the story, which consists of a series of episodes, and is somewhat rambling and discursive. As is the case with all Keller's stories, its charm lies in the telling. There are no stirring incidents, but there is much naïveté and many pretty scenes. Medieval Zurich is conjured before us; we live among its worldly bishops and nuns, its knights and ladies, and share their intellectual pleasure when Hadlaub discovers a forgotten poem of Walter von der Vogelweide, or timidly brings forward one of his own. The occupation with poetry has made him a poet too, who by his songs and his charms wins the hand of Fides, the lovely daughter of the Bishop of Constance. The love-story, which runs like a golden thread through the narrative, beginning unconsciously when the two are children, is told in Keller's happiest and most delicate vein. No less finely drawn, and absolutely natural, is the last of the race, Ital Manesse, a gifted and agree

able man, who, wanting in all powers of endurance, sprang restlessly from one occupation to another, came to no good, and missed everywhere the blessings and joys that life could afford him. There was still one Manesse, a degenerate scion, who was known as the Fool, and inhabited the ruined family castle until it was burned down over his head. This man's one aim in life was to pass off as something different from what he was, and over this endeavor his character warped and his brain gave way. Now it was his desire to impress the landfolk with the conviction that he was a learned prelate, again he wished to appear a valiant warrior. Distinction at all hazards was his craving, but when the moment came to prove the reality of his boasts his courage evaporated like Falstaff's. He is a grotesque and ludicrous figure, conceived and delineated with power and psychological insight.

So far the symbolical has been uppermost in these stories, and there is less of the humorous element than usual. This comes forward again in the next, "The Landvogt of Greifensee," a story that misses excellence from its prolixity, but which would be delicious if tersely told. The fundamental idea is sufficiently humorous, and we are assured that it is founded on fact. The hero is Salomon Landolt, who created the corps of Zurich sharp-shooters. He was not happy in his love-affairs: four fair ones jilted him, and a fifth refused to marry him, although she loved him truly, on account of madness in her family. After many years, when all but this one were married, to give himself a happy day and to banish all irritation for ever, Landolt invited his five former loves to spend a day with him at his official residence, not informing any one that she was to meet the others. The denouement is highly absurd, and the whole ends merrily and well. These five ancient flames furnish vignettes of various types of Swiss women, of whom the brightest and most charming is the unmarried Figura Leu. The background is formed of pictures from the life of eighteenthcentury Zurich, with its sumptuary laws, its strict Calvinism, its æsthetic coquetries. It was the period of the literary controversies between Switzerland and Leipsic, and Bodmer is introduced as he walks on the ramparts, surrounded by admiring disciples, to whom he is dictatorially expounding his views on poetry, or telling them news of what is going on in the world, as, for example, that the magistrates of Dantsic have resolved in council that the young burghers of their town shall be forbidden to employ the hexameter measure in their poetic flights, on account of the improper and revolutionary character of this form of rhythm. We are transported back into a

wind-still period, where life did not tear along so fast, where love endured, where feuds were hotly waged and not soon forgotten, where hurry and speed were words unknown. It is perhaps because he realized this too vividly that Keller has spun out this story unduly.

This censure does not apply to "Ursula." Here in a condensed narrative is brought before us with bold and powerful strokes the Zurich of Zwingli's day, introducing the religious and political changes wrought by this Reformer. Keller's story deals chiefly with the Anabaptist movement, which he regards as one of the inevitable ugly excrescences produced by every great revolution, and he reproduces with horrible fidelity the delirious speeches and deeds of this misguided faction. In this story the plot is nothing, the accessories are everything. "The Flag of the Seven Upright Ones" is perfect all round, and a worthy pendant to the "Romeo and Juliet of the Village." Plot, treatment, mise en scène, all are original and equally excellent, and give full scope to Keller's peculiar talents. His best quips and quirks, his best vein of drollery, his gentle satire, his tenderness, are all represented here. In the "Romeo and Juliet" the father's hatred separated the children: here the fathers were the best of friends, but they did not wish the young people to marry because the one was rich and the other poor. For the father of Karl Hediger was only a tailor, while Hermine Frymann's was a master carpenter, who owned a stately house and yard on the lake, and could afford to give his daughter a dowry. The two had known each other since childhood, and it was hard that they should suddenly be forbidden to meet. But so it had been resolved at the last meeting of the Club of the Seven Upright Ones. This club consisted of seven worthy friends who met twice a week alternately at the house of two of their number who were innkeepers. They were all tradesmen, ardent politicians, patriots, lovers of freedom, and stern home despots. Born in the last century, they had witnessed as children the downfall of the old times and the birth-throes of the new, and had held together manfully during the agitated period of Swiss history, when aristocrats and Jesuits threatened the unity and good fellowship of the little state, until in 1848, after the eighteen days' war with the Sonderbund, Switzerland broke for ever with the Jesuits and revived to new strength and unity. Some of these men came from the former subject states of the Confederacy, and remembered how as children they had to kneel down by the roadside when a coachful of dignitaries passed; others had been related to imprisoned or executed revolutionists, and all were filled with a burning hatred of aristocracy and priesthood. They formed this

club as a bulwark against such enemies, and they were ever true to their cause, asked for no reward for their exertions, and placed all individual advantages in the background if these came into conflict with their consciences. But now that since 1848 the new constitution seemed to have guaranteed all they had struggled for, there were fewer political matters to discuss, and hence domestic troubles were also brought forward and talked over with great impartiality at their meetings. On the night that the story opens, the subject under discussion was a visit the club as a body proposed to pay to the next shooting fête at Aarau, the first held since the new constitution came into force. It was the evening of the club's political life—how could they close it more worthily than by such a demonstration ? A member proposed that they should march to Aarau with a flag of their own, another that they should present a handsome prize at the fête. Both proposals were accepted, and the details hotly discussed. The design of the flag did not occupy them long, but what was the gift to be? The seven stanch friends, whose friendship all political agitations and divergences had not shaken, nearly fell out over this deliberation. For, while seeking to do an honor to their country, they also sought to do a little stroke of business for themselves. Kuser, the silversmith, proposed they should present a silver cup that he had had by him for years, and which he would sell them cheap for the glory of the Fatherland. Syfrig, the blacksmith, recommended an ornamental plow which he had exhibited at the last agricultural show. Bürgi, the cabinet-maker, offered a fourpost bedstead he had made for a couple whose wedding never took place. This last proposition, however, raised only ridicule. Then followed Pfister, one of the innkeepers, with a warm commendation of his red Schweizerblut of '34; and Erismann, the farmer, proposed a young cow of pure breed, but who was known to be a kicker. At last a cup was decided upon, but it was to be made and designed for the occasion. This matter settled, Frymann brought forward his grievance, that Hediger's son was courting his daughter, and he explained to him how he could not do with a poor son-in-law. Hediger by no means took his friend's frankness amiss; they were quite agreed that the match was undesirable. They would not become relations; they reiterated they would remain friends-no more and no less. The other members twitted them gently with their resolve, and asked them if they were so very sure that young love could be checked by convention, and were willing to bet that Cupid's wiles would prove too strong for the fathers. Not so; they persisted-were they not of the number of the upright and firm, and would they

not be so still? But the young couple were resolved not to be parted thus easily. July and the shooting-festival approached, the cup and flag were ready, when it dawned on the club that their gift must be introduced by a speech. But who should hold this? All hung back, none would undertake the task. At last by lot it fell to Frymann. For days beforehand he was miserable, could think of nothing to say but fierce and inappropriate invectives against the Jesuits. The great day arrived, the little faithful band drove to Aarau in a four-horse omnibus, they marched in procession, Frymann carrying the flag with a face as though he were going to execution. They neared the confederate tent, and at the last moment his courage failed him, and he declared he could not speak and so this glorious and patriotic expedition seemed likely to end in failure. But Hermine had foreseen some such catastrophe when she bade Karl be sure to come to Aarau for the fête. He now volunteered to be spokesman for the band, and Frymann himself was the first to assent, and hand him over the flag. Karl then pronounced an admirable discourse, in which he explained with tender humor the aims and purposes of these seven gray-headed men, and offered their gift to the Fatherland. Applause greeted his words; the seven marched away from the tent, pleased with themselves and him. The friends seconded Frymann's proposal to give his daughter to this worthy youth; and at last, not without difficulty, the proud and sternly radical Hediger also gave his consent, on the condition that Frymann should allow the pair

no more money than was good for them. The story, of which this is the bald outline, is full of freshness and beauty. It is easy to see that what Keller describes here is a reflection of the men and scenes among which he moves, and the picture of Swiss life as here presented will be new to most readers who know little or nothing of the distinctive feelings and modes of life of this little people. It also contains strongly emphasized a distinctive feature of Keller's genius. This is the genial nature of his humor. He makes us smile at his characters without injury to their dignity. While we are amused at the weaknesses of poor humanity, we never lose our respect for the persons in whom these weaknesses are embodied. We smile gently over the heads of the seven upright veterans, while at the same time their creator forces us to bow down with respect for their integrity and high-minded purposes.

We must still say a word about Keller's manner, which is no less his own than his matter. He handles the German language with rare skill; no conventional phrases, no rhetorical flourishes, no affectations or mannerisms disfigure his pages. His style is simple and unadorned, and hence perfectly in keeping with the homely republican nature of his characters; yet withal so pithy, piquant, quaint, that the most ordinary expressions acquire a new force under his pen, and the whole effect is far removed from commonplace. Not the least of Keller's charms lies in his style, his happy mode of narration. Such, briefly, is the Swiss writer whose remarkable originality we have tried faintly to indicate.

HELEN ZIMMERN (Fraser's Magazine).


PEOPLE need be very wide awake to find less man has been led by a dream to think of

a rational explanation of dreams. Like their father Sleep, they are still wrapped in mystery; and science has yet to lay bare the secret which has puzzled many a patient thinker. The subject concerns every one, especially if we believe what Shakespeare says, "Thoughts are but dreams till their effects be tried." In olden times, before the written revelation of the Divine will was given to men, dreams were frequently made the medium of communication with humankind. Of this we have abundant evidence in the Bible. By means of dreams, God taught his people that they had spiritual faculties, and that there was a spiritual universe beyond the material one. Over the uneducated mind, dreams have a great influence even to this day; and many a thought

higher and more serious things.

The opinions of learned men of all ages on this topic are widely divergent; and this divergence by no means arises from a flippant or superficial consideration of the subject, for some of the ancients spent a great portion of their lives in trying to reduce dreams to a science, or to embody them in songs and poems. The language of Homer is singularly rich in expressions for the visions of fancy which float before the dreamer. The sorely tried Ulysses, buffeted and tossed by the angry waves after leaving Calypso's isle, makes his bed of gathered leaves :

"And golden dreams (the gift of sweet repose)

Lulled all his cares, and banished all his woes."

Indeed, so impressed is Homer's imagination with the supernatural character of dreams, that he is careful to distinguish between the visions occurring during sound sleep and those between sleeping and waking. The dreams most pregnant with consequences occurred after midnight, "about the time when the cows were milked." Thus, in that beautiful dream so full of sweetest poetry, which is recorded at the end of the fourth book of the "Odyssey," Penelope, heart-wounded and weary with the pertinacity of her suitors, retires to rest "without refection due," and dreams at midnight that her "phantom-sister," Iphthimia, appears and prophesies:

"Thy son the gods propitious will restore, And bid thee cease his absence to deplore."

Penelope has been informed that the suitors intend to destroy Telemachus on his way home; and therefore this comforting dream at so fortunate an hour is needed to allay her maternal fears. Philosophers at the present day would probably say that the fact of going to bed foodless, and torn with distracting thoughts, was quite enough to account for her dream without

the intervention of Pallas.

Heraclitus, the Ephesian philosopher, who flourished about B. C. 500, ought to have been a good judge of dreams, for much of his life was spent in solitude. What does this "mourner" say? "All men while they are awake are in one common world, but each of them when he is asleep is in a world of his own." Addison, in commenting on this passage, says, "There is something in this consideration which intimates to us a natural grandeur and perfection of soul which is rather to be admired than explained."

Setting aside the imagery of the Greek poets and the opinions of their merely speculative philosophers, we find that dreams were considered of such importance in the common life of the Greeks that one of the learned professions was that of oneirocritics, or interpreters of dreams. A Greek would probably consult one of these men as naturally as he would a lawyer or doctor, and no doubt oftener; for the oneirocritics were very badly paid at Athens, and there was no heavy fee "to open the eyes" of the dreamer. Thus we are told of a man who dreamed that he saw an egg hanging from the tester of his bed. Being sorely exercised at the unwonted vision he repaired to the oneirocritic, who informed him, as a wise and ready interpreter, that there was a treasure under his bed. He immediately set about digging, and, to his great joy, found some gold set round with silver. He gave the oneirocritic some silver in payment for his information; but the sage asked: "Was there no gold? If not, what meant the yolk of the egg?" Artemi

dorus, another Ephesian, seems to have spent the best of his days in reducing dreams to the obedience of exact rules, but with little success. He said that all true dreams foretold some good or evil; that to dream of a chain meant a wife or hindrance, and to dream of the "belly" meant children, for they cry for meat.

Coming to Latin writers of the later days of the republic and the empire, we find that the skepticism which pervaded their ideas of the gods and religion extended itself to dreams; and Ennius, who was often quoted by Cicero, is by no means prepossessed in their favor, or in that of the oneirocritic:

'Augurs and soothsayers, astrologers,
Diviners, and interpreters of dreams,

I ne'er consult, and heartily despise. . .
Wanderers themselves, they guide another's steps,
And for poor sixpence promise countless wealth:
Let them, if they expect to be believed,
Deduct the sixpence, and bestow the rest."

-Addison's Translation.

Epictetus, whose opinions were so highly valued by the Emperor Antoninus, seemed to have a thorough appreciation of Roman skepticism, for one of his rules of conduct was, "Never tell thy dream, for though thou thyself mayst take a pleasure in telling thy dream, another will take no pleasure in hearing it"; from which we may infer that oneirocritics had a worse time of it at Rome than at Athens. The acute and learned Tertullian, converted from paganism to the doctrines of Christianity, naturally took the opposite extreme, and attached great importance to the soul's power of divining in dreams. By some connection with the disembodied state, he boldly asserts that the soul is able to see into futurity-a view which has been vindicated by many authors, both ancient and modern, who can not certainly be charged with enthusiasm or superstition.

Passing on to the middle ages, and to the darker days of the Church, the interpretation of dreams became in the hands of unscrupulous priests a most dangerous power, and bore much bitter fruit. Dreams of fire and plagues were sure indications of consignment to eternal flames and everlasting agonies, unless the miserable and ignorant dreamers should place themselves unreservedly in the hands of mother Church, or rather in those of an abandoned priesthood. The tales of Boccaccio bear abundant evidence of such moral and religious depravity. The Mohammedans, too, were very superstitious about dreams. With them the most fortunate dream a man could have was to see his wife's tongue cut off at the root. It would be curious to inquire how far this feeling has developed since the intro

duction of well-stocked harems. To dream of one's teeth signified that something good or evil was about to happen to the relations of the dreamer. The Caliph Almanzor dreamed that all his teeth fell out. He immediately sought an interpreter, who told him that all his relations would die. Not relishing such a construction put upon his dream, he cursed the interpreter's evil mouth, and sought another. The second sage told him that he should outlive all his relatives. This explanation suiting the Caliph better, he gave this prophet his blessing and ten thousand drachms of gold.

Chaucer is very severe on dreamers and dreams; and his contempt for both is effectively set forth in the following lines, polished by the masterly hand of Dryden :

"Dreams are but interludes which fancy makes:
When monarch reason sleeps, this mimic wakes;
Compounds a medley of disjointed things,
A court of cobblers, and a mob of kings,
Light fumes are merry, grosser fumes are sad:
Both are the reasonable soul run mad;
And many monstrous forms in sleep we see,
That neither were, or are, or e'er can be.
In short, the farce of dreams is of a piece
In chimeras all; and more absurd or less."

[ocr errors]

Shakespeare's frequent references to dreams will occur to the mind of every reader; and we need only revert to that horrible vision of Clarence in "Richard III.," the vivid imagery of which is enough to make the flesh creep as we read it. It is interesting, too, as being one of those dreams which are represented as "coming true," and of which so many people, whose veracity is unquestionable, can furnish examples within their own experience.

Lord Bacon, in his essay on "Prophecies," relates some curious instances of dreams, which, however, crumble to pieces under the application of his keen intellect. "The daughter of Polycrates," he relates, "dreamed that Jupiter bathed her father, and Apollo anointed him; and it came to pass that he was crucified in an open place, where the sun made his body run with sweat, and the rain washed it. . . . Domitian dreamed, the night before he was slain, that a golden head was growing out of the nape of his neck; and, indeed, the succession that followed him, for many years, made golden times." He looks upon Cleon's dream as a jest; for Cleon dreamed that he was devoured by a long dragon, and it was expounded as referring to a maker of sausages who troubled him greatly. Bacon's judgment of dreams is closely identical with that of Chaucer. He says, "They ought to be despised, and to serve but for winter talk by the fireside"; and he thinks the publication of

He then ex

them has done much mischief. plains why they are often credited-an explanation which is sufficient to account for some coincidences, but quite inapplicable to special cases. He maintains that 'men mark when they hit, and never mark when they miss, as they generally do, and also in dreams." There can be no doubt that this incisive remark exposes one of the commonest fallacies in life. A chance coincidence is immediately seized upon and noted, while the numerous cases in which the prediction fails is passed over or neglected. popular superstitions are undoubtedly attributable to this fallacy.


Sir Thomas Browne, a traveler and a physician, author of that charming book, the "Religio Medici," has some quaint and interesting remarks on dreams, which he had best relate in his own inimitable way, and which are by no means so skeptical as those of Bacon. He says: "We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleeps, and the slumber of the body seems to be but the waking of the soul. It is the ligation of sense, but the liberty of reason; and our waking conceptions do not match the fancies of our sleep. I was born in the planetary hour of Saturn, and I think I have a piece of that leaden planet in me. I am in no way facetious, nor disposed for the mirth and galliardise of company; yet in one dream I can compose a whole comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests, and laugh myself awake at the conceits thereof. Were my memory as faithful as my reason is then fruitful, I would never study but in my dreams. . . . Thus it is observed that men sometimes in the hour of their departure do speak and reason above themselves; for then the soul, beginning to be freed from the ligaments of the body, begins to reason like herself, and to discourse in a strain above mortality." In another part of the "Religio" he expresses his belief in the supernatural with great fervor and point, and thinks those narrow-minded who refuse to grant that the soul in slumber may hold converse with disembodied beings. "We do surely," he says, owe the knowledge of many secrets to the discovery of good and bad angels . . . and the ominous prognostics which forerun the ruin of states, princes, and private persons, are the charitable premonitions of good angels." He would much rather believe too much than too little; and in this respect is the exact opposite of the cautious, suspicious, logical Bacon.

[ocr errors]

Coming nearer to our own times, we find Addison, in his grave and elegant way, discoursing on dreams. His opinions are always the results of much observation and experience. He discusses the subject philosophically, and propounds several questions which can not fail to set his readers reflecting, The cardinal point round

« AnkstesnisTęsti »