Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

a

known song. What is the German's Fatherland,' may be said not only to have asked of History a question, but to have dictated to her its answer, which now, after more than half a century, she echoes through the countless throats of the triumphant German race. For, though Arndt was never a

. minister or a statesman; though history gives, as it should give (as Arndt himself gave in all generous sincerity), the glory of the great liberation to Von Stein and the other mighty leaders of that glorious time, still it was Arndt, and Arndt alone, to whom the true instinct of the race has given the proudest of all titles for a patriotic man. Others might be called guardians, defenders, saviours of their country, but his title was higher than these, since to every German heart the name of · Father Arndt' for many a year was as familiar as it was honoured and welcomed.

In ordinary circumstances it might be called a misnomer, for the man who was known at his death as “ der Deutschester • Deutsche,' was Swedish born. His birth occurred at Schoritz, in the Island of Rügen,* on the 26th of December, 1769, in the same year with the Corsican,' Napoleon I., whose might he helped at last to overthrow. He gives us in his · Recollec* tions,' a charming picture of his boyhood's home, of his relatives and intimates, his growth and adventures. He recalls what all men can feel, while so few can describe—the touching influences of the early home, looked back upon, after a lapse of sixty or seventy years, with more pleasure and distinctness than things within his closer gaze. In the genial simplicity which was part of his nature, he interests his readers in the strict, manly, honest father, who brought his boys up to ‘rough it’ in life, and the gentle, praying, pious mother, whose sweet influence never faded from the soul of her famous son. With so much unconscious skill does he lead us into that simple country life, that we pass with a certain feeling of regret to the part of his history where the young home life ends and the struggles of the world begin. With him they began early, and were, in some sense, self-imposed. Filled with an

unusual instinct of manliness, and in some sort, as we shall see, fore-conscious of the part he should have to play, he exercised himself whilst still a child in every sort of hardship and discipline, physical as well as moral. Many of his verses refer to this period of his life with a very striking and simple truth

a

It

may be well to remind our readers that the Island of Riigen, with that part of Pomerania including Greifswald and Stralsund, though Prussian since 1815, was Swedish territory from 1720 till that date.

fulness. Having, like many another clever boy, read very much more than his friends supposed, we find that even the perusal of Rousseau's works, so far from corrupting, actually fortified his mind against many temptations to evil, and strengthened him in his determination to become, with the aid of his self-imposed discipline, a man in the truest sense of the word. Sent to Stralsund to the upper school at seventeen, we find him, while zealous in his work and hearty in his play, yet persistently taking hours from his sleep to weary and harden his frame with long solitary walks of many miles at a time. An extract from his · Recollections' will not be here out of place :

* Every spot of wood and copse and seashore within a dozen miles of Stralsund was often pressed by my wandering feet; the hours I spent thus and in the company of friends were taken from the night. Thank God! I never needed very much sleep; perhaps I should have wanted more but for my principle of keeping under my body, and bringing it into subjection by hard discipline and constant weariness. And so the years 1787, 1788, and 1789 saw me constantly pursuing this lonely course, and quoting to myself continually the words of Horace, which many a time since have proved to me a true motto: “Hoc tibi proderit “ olim.”

In his twentieth year, this young Christian philosopher-for so he might be called, though his faith lay in what is nowa-days called the muscular form of Christianity-finding his strength to resist temptation too small, took a great step, consistent with the principles he had laid down for his life-guidance. He was brave enough to run away from Stralsund altogether, and, with only a few shillings in his pocket, to wander beyond Demmin, seeking for employment as a clerk or farm-bailiff. An old officer to whom he applied took him in, treated him kindly, and promised to employ him, provided he obtained his father's consent; a kindly way of bringing the lad again into communication with his friends. In due time a reply came from his father, wisely leaving him a free choice as to his future course, but at the same time pointing out that if he wished to be a farmer he could have no better opportunities for the purpose than by remaining at home. So he returned to his father's house at Löbnitz, where he remained nearly two years, pursuing his studies and his bodily discipline with undiminished energy; he says of this time :

• These nobler pursuits, however (intellectual study), did not prevent my continuing my system of toil and endurance. I would sleep constantly on bare boards like a guard bed, or on faygots; sometimes in the open air, under a haystack or a tree, wrapped up only in a cloak;

a

or I would stretch off on long walks many miles in all directions, often starting after the rest of the household were in bed ; and all to keep my frame hardy and under subjection. It greatly surprised and troubled my parents, whom I often saw shaking their heads over my oddities, but as they saw that in other points I behaved rationally, and did what I had to do like a man in his senses, they wisely let me go my own gait.

When twenty-two years of age, he went to the University of Greifswald to study divinity, and then spent a year in that of Jena for the same purpose; and while a candidat, or, as we should say, while waiting for a title to orders, was invited by

, Kosegarten, the pastor of Altenkirchen, to undertake the post of tutor in his family. As is customary in Germany, a candidat, if licensed, is permitted to preach before ordination, as Arndt frequently did, and, as it appears, with great success. And yet it was during his stay here that he came to the decision of not seeking ordination. He admits his reason to have been the unsettled state of his religious convictions, disturbed, like those of many others, by the events and ideas of the period (1796). That he was a conscientious and practical Christian then, even though not feeling fitted for a clerical life, is unquestionable, as is the fact that in after-years he was a truly pious, faithful believer, as we may gather from his many hymns, and his famous Catechism for the German Army and · Landwehr,' to which we shall have occasion to refer further on as one of the most influential and most characteristic of his many writings.

Thus he arrived at twenty-eight years of age, a man with all his energies active, of more than average reading, and of exceptional talent in various directions, but without any settled course of life—the sort of man over whom, in ordinary circumstances, even the wisest and most experienced are apt to hold up their hands and shake their heads, and say,

Alas, poor fellow, he has wasted his life.' Arndt, even here, followed the usual course of such tardy, often too tardy, choosers of a career.

He resolved to travel. His father, before the ruinous wars of Napoleon had devastated Germany and beggared its people, was a man very well to do in a worldly sense, deriving his income from the profits of a very extensive and prosperous farm; and he seems to have acted throughout with true wisdom and kindness towards his son. He supplied him with the necessary means for his support during his travels. But we must not suppose Arndt to have merely undertaken this course for idleness sake. He was one of those men who are conscious that they ripen late, because they are

6

less ready to call themselves ripe than others. But the sort of unsettled instinct which for so many years had accustomed him to wander, sent him, as it were, on the grand tour' as a sort of finish to the preparation of his life-work. As his · Recol• lections' tell us, his walking habit, begun as a corporeal discipline, was continued as the best means possible for the study of mankind, which became with him a sort of zoological passion.

So he travelled for the best part of two years (1798 and 1799), spending three months in Vienna, traversing Hungary and crossing the Alps into Italy. When in Tuscany the fresh outbreak of war changed his plans, and compelled him to leave Rome and Sicily unvisited. “As the war advanced he betook himself to Nice, thence to Marseilles and Paris, where he spent the whole summer of 1799, making his way slowly home in the autumn by Brussels, Cologne, Frankfort, and Berlin. We mention these particulars of his journey, as showing how his sojourn among these various nationalities gradually, without his own consciousness, was fitting him for the part he was to play in the history of his country. His pedestrian mode of travel was that best fitted, in conjunction with his own peculiar geniality of temper and address, to supply him with a thorough knowledge of the various peoples whom he visited, and to remove many prejudices which, in those days of difficult communication, might have warped his judgment and restricted his usefulness.

He next settled as a Privat-Docent or tutor, at his first university-Greifswald. This is the position generally first taken by a German scholar who is ambitious of becoming a professor. To this course Arndt was led by the motive so strong in most men at some time or other. He had fallen in love while studying at Greifswald, and, as the young lady was the daughter of a professor there, he found his establishment easy. He married, was soon made a deputy-professor, and finally, in 1805, professor-extraordinary, with a salary of 500 thalers. Yet, as if to show that at that period of his life and of the history of his country Arndt was to be unembarrassed by family ties, his young wife died in childbed within a year of her marriage.

To this period of his life we may assign his first political activity, and we shall abridge from his own words the account he gives of his political views and their history, describing, as he felt them to do, the kindred growth of sentiment and opinion in millions of his fellow-men :-

• Although,' he says, the outbreak of the French Revolution of 1789 VOL. CXXXII. NO. CCLXX.

FF

[ocr errors]

be regarded, and, to a great extent, justly, as the great transition period of German feeling, still even in my boyhood, many strange and onesided notions had taken root in my mind, which even now, when my hair is white, will not altogether yield their place to more far-sighted views. As a little news-reader between nine and twelve years old, I had my political prejudices and prepossessions. From my earliest remembrance I was a sturdy, perhaps an extravagant, royalist, probably unconsciously made so by my daily surroundings. My father was no politician, but my two uncles, on the other hand, the one in his views a thorough Swede and a worshipper of Gustav Adolf, the other a Prussian to the backbone and an upholder of the fame of Frederic the Great ; each taught me to regard a king, such as they exalted, as infinitely superior to any republic. As might be supposed, holding such strong opinions in favour of monarchy, I always took the side of England against her revolted American colonies, when that subject gave occasion to debate.

And with regard to the French ? While still a child, and at the time when my parents' means had been insufficient to afford me such educational opportunities as I afterwards enjoyed, I had spent much of my time in reading such old chronicles and histories as came in my way. Such works, for instance, as those of Puffendorf and others, descriptive of the Thirty Years' War, of the ambitious intrigues and the atrocious deeds of Louis XIV. And these had filled me with dislike, almost with detestation, of the people whom he ruled. And so it was that I rejoiced at every French reverse I heard of, and was quite a little Englishman in my hatred of the race.

• Then in my young manhood came the Great Revolution, and its course gave rise to many discussions at home. Nor could I deny the truth of many of the accusations made against the government of Louis XVI., or dispute the justice of many of the principles laid down at the time by the revolutionary leaders, however desecrated and perverted those principles may have been in the course of after events. But still I mourned over every reverse experienced by the Germans and their allies, without being bound in any way to regard myself as one of them ; living, as I did, a Swedish subject by the Baltic, far from the scene of conflict, and at heart far less a German than a Swede. Then came my years of travel, and I saw the French nation for myself; I learned to admire its amiability and gaiety, but also to measure its falsehood and deceit. I had lingered on my homeward journey at Aachen, Köln, Koblentz, and Mainz, and seen everywhere the remains of Germany's ancient glory trampled and desecrated by the insulting conqueror. I experienced a certain vexation and impatience, but nothing yet like wrath. At Frankfort and Höchst I found myself in the midst of battle; yet all this was but a spectacle for me, though I should have rejoiced had an angel of God, as in the days of Sennacherib, left the Frenchmen's camp filled with dead men in a night. But my patriotic wrath had still to waken, and it did not tarry long. It came at last; that wrath which, however little joy-foreboding, was destined to support me through many a weary day, and give me gladness in the hardest of them all.

Napoleon's return from Egypt took place within a few days of my

a

« VorigeDoorgaan »