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Of a thousand joyous hours,
Without thee, what should I have been :
And I, for all his thousand gifts,
Ripens to fruit of Paradise. These poems are selected as expressing the transition to a state of perfect faith, and not on account of their superiority to the rest of the “ Geistliche Lieder.” They are, however, fair specimens, as all
the songs are much in the same strain. They all are pure expressions of feeling. with little or no aid from the imagination; indeed, scarcely an image is to be found throughout. No poems could be more purely Christian; the love of the poet for Christ speaks forth entirely unadorned. It is worthy of observation that these poems leave scarcely any trace on the memory; the reader may take them up without being able to separate those he has read from those he has not. This illustrates a remark of Coleridge, that mere feelings are not objects for the memory. The unimaginative character of these poems is the more singular, as the imagination of Novalis was most boundless; exceeding, perhaps, that of Shelley; and so very rapid in its operations that one image destroys another. An instance of this may be seen in the extract from the Hymn to Night, in the first number of this Magazine; it will be perceived that the ima. gination of the poet has not paused for a moment to complete any single image they are altogether in one confused mass, broken, glittering, and fantastic, like the bits of glass in a kaleidoscope, when viewed apart from the reflectors. A still stranger instance of this wildness of imagination may be found in the tale which concludes the first part of his romance, “ Heinrich von Ofterdingen," when it becomes even licentious. But of this romance more hereafter. Novalis, finding his imagination so unruly an instrument, rather carrying him on than allowing itself to be directed, has therefore in his “ Geistliche Lieder," which he designed as the expression of the simple Christian child-like feeling, forsworn its aid altogether. Had he once dropped this mere feeling tone-had he once allowed his imagination the least play, it would have borne him along through the whole sphere of his knowledge; he would have dashed through history, mathematics, chemistry, mythology, logic, “ Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre," and a hundred to one but he had ended by hymning Vishnu, or chanting the praises of a Bayadere.
The works of Novalis must not be read by those who would take no interest in the man. Their great value is the complete picture they present of an individual mind, as acted on by the various literary and philosophical circumstances of a period. There is no writer, who, without the aid of “ Confessions,” or an Autobiography, brings himself more completely before the reader than Novalis. We may follow him through his studies in physics and metaphysics
-observe the effects of the Fichtean philosophy, which was at its height at the time Novalis lived, combined with the strong religious feelings which he had imbibed from his education, and to which his connection with the romantic school gave a Catholic tendency. In him we do not find a war between religion and philosophy; he seeks to unite them, or rather dever seems to have regarded them as separate. His editors, Tieck and Friedrich Schlegel, felt so much that his history was contained in his works, that in the first edition they refrained from giving a biography of their lamented young friend. In the third edition, they felt that a biography would be acceptable, and they wrote one accordingly. And what was the biography when it appeared ? Why, it merely told the world, that Novalis' father, Baron Hardenberg, was a Herrnhuter; that he went through the usual studies of a German youth, being particularly attached to mathematics, physics, and the Neo-platonists, became acquainted with the Schlegels, Tieck, and Fichte ; lost his first betrothed and a beloved brother; and died himself of a consumption in 1801, before he had completed his twenty-ninth year, and just as he was about to be united to a second love. The fact is, Novalis had no practical life at all, and this biography merely served as collateral evidence to convictions which any one might have drawn from his writings; in short, though he does not ostensibly mention himself from the beginning to the end of his works, I have no doubt but an ingenious reader might, after an attentive perusal, sketch out an imaginary biography, which should correspond as closely as possible to the real one, and which, by a little attention to the period when certain influences had the greatest effect, might be pretty correct, even with respect to dates.
One passage in the biography is, however, worth extracting, as enunciative of a peculiar mental state. “At this time (after the death of his mistress), Novalis only lived for his sorrow; it was natural for him to consider the visible and the invisible world as one only, and to distinguish life and death merely by the desire for the latter. At the same time, however, his life was enlightened, and his whole being flowed away as in a bright conscious dream of a higher state of existence. By the sanctity of sorrow, of inmost love, and a pious longing for death, may his peculiar state of being and all his thoughts be explained; indeed, it is possible that the deep melancholy of this period planted in him the germs of death, unless it were always his destiny to be torn from us so soon." This remark illustrates the death-like position I observed he took in his * Hymns to Night.”
One of the earliest publications of Fichte,* a short pamphlet some sixty pages long, set forth in plain and scientific terms the great idea that all science was but one, and that the different particular sciences were but ramifications of this one. The works of Novalis are an admirable picture of the effect such a doctrine would have on a young, enthusiastic, and poetic mind. We observe throughout, the strong universal spirit, the grasping at the most varied objects to draw them to one point: the quantity of Aphorisms he has left are extremely valuable to all who would study the time and the philosophy of the time. He could never, I am convinced, have written any regular philosophical treatise; logical connection he had not: hence his philosophical thoughts were necessarily expressed in detached sentences, or, if treated at length, were presented in an allegorical form; and hence all his works relating to philosophy are romances and aphorisms.
Of the romance form, Novalis intended to make great use, designing to render it the vehicle for all his thoughts. He had in contemplation the writing of seven romances, which were severally to contain his views of poetry, natural science, civic life, com
merce, history, politics and love. Of these, only two fragments were written.“ Heinrich von Ofterdingen," and « The Pupils at Sais ;" the former relating to poetry ; the latter to physical science. Heinrich von Ofterdingen, was a poet of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; whom some learned men have supposed to be author of the celebrated “ Nibelungenleid," and Novalis who had discovered the story of this poet in an old chronicle, selected him for his hero. The reader must not look for an interesting story in romances of this sort; they are peculiar to a German soil, and are the mere form for conveying the author's ideas. Hence, Novalis confines himself to no series of adventures, but throws in the whole mass of his knowledge to whatever time or place it might relate. Though the romance is incomplete, there are notes of the author's design for the remaining parts, which shew it would have been one of the wildest combinations of heterogeneous materials that ever was beheld. He considered poetry as “the spirit which animates all things;" and hence his romance was to contain all things viewed on their poetical side.
The first part, which is complete, is comparatively regular and historical. Heinrich has a dream of a blue flower which inspires him with a great longing, and which symbolizes the spiritual tendency of the whole; he is a youth wholly unacquainted with the world, living in a obscure town, and is first made acquainted with it by a journey of his mother and himself to Augsburg. On the way, he becomes acquainted with an Eastern lady, who is prisoner in a crusader's castle, with a miner, a solitary, and an experienced poet, who gives him advice; and all these characters are made the vehicles of the most singular and original thoughts. The advice of the poet is the more remarkable, as it contains a doctrine Novalis never followed, and is a striking instance of the opposition of the critic and the poet in one person.
“ Can an object,” said Heinrich,“ be too exalted for poetry?" “ Certainly; or rather strictly speaking, we should say not for poetry but for our terrestrial means and instruments. If there is for a single poet his peculiar domain only within which he must remain, that he may not lose all breath and power of containing himself, so there is also for the sum total of human powers, a determined limit to their capability of representation, beyond which what they represent will lack the necessary substance and form, and become an empty fallacious nothing. As a pupil in poetry, one cannot be too much on one's guard against such extravagancies; since a lively phantasy will but too readily rush at once to their limits, and presumptuously attempt to grasp and express the non-sensual, and incomprehensible. By maturer experience we first learn to shun that disproportion of objects, and to leave to philosophy the search for the most high and most simple. The older poet rises no higher than he feels necessary, to exhibit his various stores in a comprehensible order, and takes the greatest care not to leave this variety, which offers him matter enough and even the necessary points of coinparison; I may almost say that the chaos must in every poem peer through the regular veil of its arrangement. Only a