Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

hot-house plants. We were scarcely mother, retained some traces of the seated before Rückert made his appear fresh, rosy beauty of her younger days; ance, having laid aside his blouse, and and it was pleasant to see the watchful, put on a coat. After a moment of hesi- tender interest upon her face, whentation, he asked me, “Where have you ever she turned towards the poet. Bebeen travelling ?”, “I come from the fore I left, she whispered to me, “ I am Orient," I answered. He looked up always very glad when my husband has with a keen light in his eyes. “From an opportunity to talk about the Orient: the Orient !” he exclaimed. “Where ? nothing refreshes him so much.” let me know where you have been, and But we must not lose sight of Rückwhat you have seen!” From that mo- ert's poetical biography. His first volment he was self-possessed, full of life, ume, entitled “German Poems, by enthusiasm, fancy, and humor.

Freimund Raimar," was published at He was then in his sixty-fifth year, Heidelberg in the year 1814. It conbut still enjoyed the ripe maturity of tained, among other things, his famous his powers. A man of more striking Geharnischte Sonette (Sonnets in Arpersonal appearance I have seldom mor), which are still read and admired seen. Over six feet in height, and as masterpieces of that form of verse. somewhat gaunt of body, the first im- Preserving the Petrarchan model, even pression of an absence of physical grace to the feminine. rhymes of the Italian vanished as soon as one looked upon tongue, he has nevertheless succeeded his countenance. His face was long, in concealing the extraordinary art by and every feature strongly marked, — which the difficult task was accomthe brow high and massive, the nose plished. Thus early the German lanstrong and slightly aquiline, the mouth guage acquired its unsuspected power wide and firm, and the jaw broad, of flexibility in his hands. It is very square, and projecting. His thick sil- evident to me that his peculiar characver hair, parted in the middle of his teristics as a poet sprang not so much forehead, fell in wavy masses upon his from his Oriental studies as from a rare shoulders. His eyes were deep-set, native faculty of mind. bluish-gray, and burned with a deep, These “Sonnets in Armor," although lustrous fire as he became animated in they may sound but gravely beside the conversation. At times they had a Tyrtæan strains of Arndt and Körner, mystic, rapt expression, as if the far are nevertheless full of stately and inEast, of which he spoke, were actually spiring music. They remind one of visible to his brain. I thought of an Wordsworth's phrase, Arab sheikh, looking towards Mecca,

“In Milton's hand, at the hour of prayer.

The thing became a trumpet," I regret that I made no notes of the and must have had their share in stimconversation, in which, as may be ulating that national sentiment which guessed, I took but little part. It was overturned the Napoleonic rule, and rather a monologue on the subject of for three or four years flourished so Arabic poetry, full of the clearest and greenly upon its ruins. richest knowledge, and sparkling with Shortly afterwards, Rückert published those evanescent felicities of diction “Napoleon, a Political Comedy,” which which can so rarely be recalled. I was did not increase his fame. His next charmed out of all sense of time, and was important contribution to general literastonished to find, when tea appeared, ature was the “Orienta' Roses,” which that more than two hours had elapsed. appeared in 1822. Three years before, The student had magnanimously left me Goethe had published his Westöstlicher to the poet, devoting himself to the good Divan, and the younger poet dedicated Frau Rückert, the “ Luise" of het hus- his first venture in the same field to his band's Liebesfrühling (Spring-time of venerable predecessor, in stanzas whieh Love). She still, although now a grand- express the most delicate, and at the same time the most generous homage. I mind. We are not to infer that he did scarcely know where to look for a more not move joyously, and, after a time, graceful dedication in verse. It is said easily, within the limitations which, to that Goethe never acknowledged the most authors, would have been intolercompliment, - an omission which some able fetters. German authors attribute to the latter's In 1826 appeared his translation of distaste at being surpassed on his lat- the Makamât of Hariri. The old silkest and (at that time) favorite field. No merchant of Bosrah never could have one familiar with Goethe's life and anticipated such an immortality. The works will accept this conjecture. word Makamåt means “sessions,”

It is quite impossible to translate (probably the Italian conversazione best this poem literally, in the original translates it,) but is applied to a series metre: the rhymes are exclusively of short narratives, or rather anecdotes, feminine. I am aware that I shall told alternately in verse and rhymed shock ears familiar with the original prose, with all the brilliance of rhetoric, by substituting masculine rhymes in the richness of alliteration, antithesis, the two stanzas which I present; but and imitative sound, and the endless there is really no alternative.

grammatical subtilties of which the “ Would you taste

Arabic language is capable. The work Purest East,

of Hariri is considered the unapproachHence depart, and seek the selfsame man

able model of this style of narrative Who our West Gave the best

throughout all the East. Rückert Wine that ever flowed from Poet's can: called his translation “ The MetamorWhen the Western flavors ended,

phoses of Abou-Seyd of Serudi,” - the He the Orient's vintage spended, Yonder dreams he on his own divan!

name of the hero of the story. In this

work he has shown the capacity of one “ Sunset-red

language to reproduce the very spirit Goethe led Star to be of all the sunset-land:

of another with which it has the least Now the higher

affinity. Like the original, the translaMorning-fire

tion can never be surpassed: it is Makes him lord of all the morning-land ! Where the two, together turning,

unique in literature. Jeet, the rounded heaven is burning

As the acrobat who has mastered Rosy-bright in one celestial brand !”

every branch of his art, from the spiI have not the original edition of the dery contortions of the India-rubber " Oriental Roses," but I believe the man to the double somersault and the volume contained the greater portion flying trapeze, is to the well-developed of Ruckert's marvellous “Ghazels.” individual of ordinary muscular habits, Count Platen, it is true, had preceded so is the language of Rückert in this him by one year, but his adaptation of work to the language of all other Gerthe Persian metre to German poetry man authors. It is one perpetual gym- light and graceful and melodious nastic show of grammar, rhythm, and as he succeeded in making it — falls fancy. Moods, tenses, antecedents, apfar short of Rückert's infinite richness positions, whirl and flash around you, and skill. One of the latter's “Gha- to the sound of some strange, barbaric zels” contains twenty-six variations of music. Closer and more rapidly they the same rhyme, yet so subtly man- link, chassez, and “cross hands,”. until, aged, so colored with the finest re- when you anticipate a hopeless tangle, fiected tints of Eastern rhetoric and some bold, bright word leaps unexpectfancy, that the immense art implied in edly into the throng, and resolves it to its construction is nowhere unpleas- instant harmony. One's breath is taken antly apparent. In fact, one dare not away, and his brain made dizzy, by any say that these poems are all art. In half-dozen of the “Metamorphoses.” the Oriental measures the poet found In this respect the translation has bethe garment which best fitted his own come a representative work. The Ara

Better much another man

Make I which no other can."

bic title, misunderstood, has given birth fore withheld from translating any one to a German word. Daring and difficult of them, in illustration. rhymes are now frequently termed Ma Few of Goethe's minor songs are kamen in German literary society. more beautiful than his serenade, O

Rückert's studies were not confined gib vom weichen Pfühle, where the to the Arabic and Persian languages; interlinked repetitions are a perpetual he also devoted many years to the surprise and charm; yet Rückert has Sanskrit. In 1828 appeared his trans written a score of more artfully conlation of “ Nal and Damayanti,” and structed and equally melodious songs. some years later, “ Hamasa, or the old- His collection of amatory poems entiest Arabian Poetry," and " Amrilkaïs, tled Liebesfrühling contains some of Poet and King.” In addition to these the sunniest idyls in any language. translations, he published, between the That his genius was lyrical and not years 1835 and 1840, the following origi- epic, was not a fault ; that it delighted nal poems, or collections of poems, on in varied and unusual metres, was an Oriental themes, -“ Legends of the exceptional — perhaps in his case a Morning-Land” (2 vols.), “ Rustem and phenomenal — form of development; Sohrab," and “Brahminical Stories." but I do not think it was any the less These poems are so bathed in the at- instinctively naturale One of his quamosphere of his studies, that it is very trains runs : difficult to say which are his own inde

“Much I make as make the others; pendent conceptions, and which the suggestions of Eastern poets. Where

Makes than I ; but much, moreover, he has borrowed images or phrases, (as sometimes from the Koran,) they are His poetical comment on the translawoven, without any discernible seam, tion of Hariri is given in prose: - "He into the texture of his own brain. who, like myself, unfortunate man ! is

Some of Rückert's critics have as- philologist and poet in the same perserted that his extraordinary mastery son, cannot do better than to translate of all the resources of language oper

as I do.

My Hariri has illustrated ated to the detriment of his poetical how philology and poetry are compefaculty, — that the feeling to be ex tent to stimulate and to complete each pressed became subordinate to the skill other. If thou, reader, wilt look upon displayed by expressing it in an unusu this hybrid production neither too philal form. They claim, moreover, that he ologically nor over-poetically, it may produced a mass of sparkling fragments, delight and instruct thee. That which rather than any single great work. I is false in philology thou wilt attribute am convinced, however, that the first to poetic license, and where the poetry charge is unfounded, basing my opinion is deficient, thou wilt give the blame to upon my knowledge of the poet's sim- philology." ple, true, tender nature, which I learned The critics who charge Rückert with to appreciate during my later visits to never having produced “a whole,” his home. After the death of his wife, have certainly forgotten one of his the daughter who thereafter assumed works, —“The Wisdom of the Brahher mother's place in the household min, a Didactic Poem, in Fragwrote me frequent accounts of her fa- ments.” The title somewhat describes ther's grief and loneliness, enclosing its character. The “ fragments manuscript copies of the poems in which couplets, in iambic hexameter, each he expressed his sorrow. These poems one generally complete in itself, yet are exceedingly sweet and touching; grouped in sections by some connectyet they are all marked by the same ing thought, after the manner of the flexile use of difficult rhythms and un

stanzas of Tennyson's “In Memoriprecedented rhymes. They have nev

am." There are more than six thouer yet been published, and I am there- sand couplets, in all, divided into twen

are

more.

ty books, – the whole forming a mass Was 't mine he captured ? of poetic wisdom, coupled with such

Or his I raptured ?

Half-way both met, in bliss and wonder! amazing wealth of illustration, that this one volume, if sufficiently diluted, would " He came to meet me make several thousand “Proverbial Phi

In rain and thunder :

Spring-blessings greet me losophies.” It is not a book to read

Spring-blossoms under. continuously, but one which, I should What though he leave me? imagine, no educated German could

No partings grieve me, – live without possessing. I never open

No path can lead our hearts asunder !" its pages without the certainty of re- The Irish poet, James Clarence Manfreshment. Its tone is quietistic, as gan, (whose translations from the Germight readily be conjectured, but it is man comprise both the best and the the calm of serene reflection, not of in- worst specimens I have yet found,) difference. No work which Rückert has been successful in rendering one ever wrote so strongly illustrates the of Rückert's ghazels. I am specially incessant activity of his mind. Half of tempted to quote it, on account of the these six thousand couplets are terse curious general resemblance (accidental, and pithy enough for proverbs, and no doubt) which Poe's “ Lenore ” bears their construction would have sufficed to it. for the lifetime of many poets.

"I saw her once, a little while, and then no more : With the exception of “ Kaiser Bar

'T was Eden's light on earth awhile, and then no barossa,” and two or three other ballads, the amatory poems of Rückert have Amid the throng she passed along the meadowattained the widest popularity among

floor;

Spring seemed to smile on earth awhile, and then his countrymen. Many of the love- no more, songs have been set to music by Men- But whence she came, which way she went, what

garb she wore, delssohn and other composers. Their

I noted not; I gazed awhile, and then no more. melody is of that subtile, delicate quality which excites a musician's fancy,

“I saw her once, a little while, and then no more :

'Twas Paradise on earth awhile, and then no suggesting the tones to which the words should be wedded. Precisely for this Ah ! what avail my vigils pale, my magic lore? reason they are most difficult to trans

She shone before mine eyes awhile, and then no late. The first stanza may, in most The shallop of my peace is wrecked on Beauty's cases, be tolerably reproduced ; but as shore; it usually contains a refrain, which is

Near Hope's fair isle it rode awhile, and then no repeated to a constantly varied rhyme, throughout the whole song or poem, “I saw her once, a little while, and then no more : the labor at first becomes desperate,

Earth looked like Heaven a little while, and then and then impossible. An example (the Her presence thrilled and lighted to its inmost original of which I possess, in the author's manuscript) will best illustrate

My desert breast a little while, and then no more.

So may, perchance, a meteor glance at midnight this particular difficulty. Here the metre and the order of rhyme have been Some ruined pile a little while, and then no more. strictly preserved, except in the first

“I saw her once, a little while, and then no more : and third lines.

The earth was Eden-land awhile, and then no "He came to meet me In rain and thunder ;

O, might I see but once again, as once before, My heart 'gan beating

Through chance or wile, that shape awhile, and In timid wonder :

then no more! Could I guess whether

Death soon would heal my grief : this heart, now Thenceforth together

sad and sore, Our paths should run, so long asunder? Would beat anew, a little while, and then no

more !”
"He came to meet me

In rain and thunder,
With guile to cheat me,

Here, nevertheless, something is sac-
My heart to plunder.

rificed. The translation is by no means

more.

more.

more.

no more.

core

o'er

more.

[graphic]

literal, and lacks the crispness and fresh- of its qualities. He admitted that its ness of Oriental antithesis. Rückert, I chances for becoming the dominant fear, will never be as fortunate as Ha- tongue of the world were greater than riri of Bosrah.

those of any other. Much that he said When, in 1856, I again visited Ger- upon this subject interested me greatly many, I received a friendly message at the time, but the substance of it has from the old poet, with a kind invitation escaped me. to visit him. Late in November I found When I left, that evening, I looked him, apparently unchanged in body and upon his cheerful, faithful wife for the spirit, --simple, enthusiastic, and, in last time. Five years elapsed before I spite of his seclusion, awake to all the visited Coburg again, and she died in movements of the world. One of his mar- the interval. In the summer of 1861 ried sons was then visiting him, so that I had an hour's conversation with him, the household was larger and livelier chiefly on American affairs, in which than usual ; but, as he sat, during the. he expressed the keenest interest. He evening, in his favorite arm-chair, with had read much, and had a very correct pipe and beer, he fell into the same bril- understanding of the nature of the strugliant, wise strain of talk, undisturbed by gle. He was buried in his studies, in a all the cheerful young voices around small house outside of the village, where him.

he spent half of every day alone, and inThe conversation gradually wandered accessible to every one ; but his young. away from the Orient to the modern est daughter ventured to summon him languages of Europe. I remarked the away from his books. special capacity of the German for de- Two years later (in June, 1863) I paid scriptions of forest scenery, — of the my last visit to Neuses. He had then feeling and sentiment of deep, dark passed his seventy-fifth birthday; his woods, and woodland solitudes. frame was still unbent, but the waves

* May not that be," said he, “be- of gray hair on his shoulders were thincause the race lived for centuries in ner, and his step showed the increasing forests? A language is always richest feebleness of age. The fire of his eye in its epithets for those things with was softened, not dimmed, and the long which the people who speak it are most and happy life that lay behind him had familiar. Look at the many terms for given his face a peaceful, serene expreshorse' and 'sword' in Arabic.” sion, prophetic of a gentle translation

“But the old Britons lived also in into the other life that was drawing forests,” I suggested.

near. So I shall always remember him, " I suspect,” he answered, “while the scholar and poet, strong with the best English language was taking shape, the strength of a man, yet trustful and acpeople knew quite as much of the sea cessible to joy.as a child. as of the woods. You ought, therefore, Nothwithstanding the great amount to surpass us in describing coast and of Rückert's contributions to literature sea-scenery, winds and storms, and the during his life, he has left behind him motion of waves."

a mass of poems and philological papers The idea had not occurred to me be- (the latter said to be of great interest fore, but I found it to be correct. and value) which his accomplished son,

Though not speaking English, Rück- Professor Rückert of the University of ext had a thorough critical knowledge Breslau, is now preparing for publicaof the language, and a great admiration tion.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »