[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

nothing in itself, but it is interwoven 1.

closely with that of some others whose AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.

personality seems to me well worthy

of record. WHEN, in the year 1787, I entered, I was the eldest son of the pastor at the age of nineteen, the university

of the little village of Waldreich in of the kingly city of Wenigstaat, I the wooded mountains of Bavaria. was, no doubt, a very foolish young Though my father had a large family, man, but I am perfectly certain that and his cure was only a village one, he I was not a fool. I suffered not only

was not so poor as most of his order, from that necessary disease which for he had a little private income from the very nature of existence it is derived from houses in Bayreuth : my impossible for a young man to escape, mother had also some little money the regarding of life from his own

of her own.

My father was a man of standpoint, as a man on first coming a singular patience and quietude of into a brilliantly lighted and crowded

conduct. He divided his time between room must of necessity, for a few cultivating his little garden and moments, be conscious of the varied orchard and preparing his sermons scene only as it strikes himself; but I with elaborate care. When, in after was also to some extent subject to years, I became possessed of many of that fatuity which haunts some young these beautifully written discourses, I men, the forming of opinions and the was amazed at the patience, care, giving audible expression to them. and scholarship expended upon these Notwithstanding all this, I was, at addresses to a few peasants, most of the same time conscious of such

whom fell asleep during the time of crowd of ideas, actuated by such ideas, hearing. I believe that


father's and stirred to the depths of my being sole relaxation and indulgence conby the emotions and results which sisted in poring over

an old folio these ideas wrought upon me, that Terence which he possessed, and looking back with the impartiality which, shielded amidst the mysteries which the lapse of thirty years gives of a dead language, he could read in even to the review of one's self, I feel perfect security, without fear of perfectly confident that I was not a scandalising his flock. Indeed it is fool. I shall, I fear, have to describe possible that they regarded it as at some length how I came to be what work of deep theology, and perhaps I was, but I will be as short as I they were right. can. My history would be worth The little village of Waldreich lies

No. 337.-VOL. LVII.





immediately at the foot of the fascination this sight had for me, not wooded hills. We ascended from the only when the yellow flowers mingled garden and croft of the pastor's house with the green stately leaves, but at straight into the fir-woods and the other times of the year when I listened oak - dingles that led up into the hour after hour to the whispering mysterious and wild heights above murmur through the innumerable into the mists and cloud-shadows-into lances of the reeds. But to reach a land of green mountain-woods rising this meadow it was necessary to pass against blue skies—a land of mist and a row of vast, lofty, straggling trees (I rain-showers, of the tints of rainbows suppose some species of poplar), and no spanning the village, and of coloured words can describe the terror which prisms of light stealing down crag the same wind, which delighted me so and forest-dingle—a land of rushing much in the gentle murmur of its reedstreams and still, solemn, dark lakes music, inspired me with when heard land of castles upon distant peaks and through these lofty swaying branches. of the faint smoke of charcoal-burners I often, even in those early days, on the hill-sides. Through all the wondered why the music of the wind varied changes of the day in this through the green rushes on the romantic land, from the cheerful dawn water's edge, should have thrilled me loud with the song of birds and the with cheerfulness and joy, while the lowing of cattle, to the solemn evening same wind wailing through the branches stillness, I passed the first few years of the great trees high above my head of my life. The scenes around him crushed me with an unspeakable horror penetrated into the boy's being and and dread. Doubtless in this latter formed his nature ; but I have no wish was the sense of vastness and unapto become wearisome in describing all proachable height, infinite as it seemed these influences and these results to a little child—the touch, even, of minutely. There is one influence, the infinite must ever be appalling however, which must be dwelt upon

if to man. the story is to be told at all, for it was It was in this way and by these the leading influence of my life—the experimental methods that I began so influence of sound. From a very little early to recognise the mysterious conchild I was profoundly impressed by nection that exists between sound and the sounds of nature : the rushing human feeling. water, the rustling oaks, the sighing Down the long winding oak-dingles, and moaning wind down the mountain between the high cliffs and the wooded valleys spoke to with distinct slopes of the hills, there came to me as utterance, and with a sense of mean a little child whispers and murmurs of ing and even of speech. These sounds dreams and stories of which at that were more even than this : they be time I knew nothing, and to which I came a passion, a fascination, a haunt could give in those early days no intelliing presence, and even a dread. gent voice or meaning. But, as I grew

I can give one instance of this. in years and listened to the talk of Below the village and parsonage nurse and peasant, and of village lads house, where we lived, was a beau and children, and heard from them tiful meadow on the banks of the the legends of elf-kings and maidens swift winding river. This meadow and wild hunters of the forest, weird was my greatest delight as a little and fantastic indeed, yet still strangely child. At the lower end was a mill, instinct with human wants and hopes, and a mill-pool and race; and around | began to connect such sympathy, the edges of the pool beds of rushes felt then as it seemed for the first had planted themselves for ages, form time, with human life in all its ing a thick phalanx of waving pointed varied aspects, and the stories of leaves. Nothing could exceed the human loves and joys and terrors



with these sounds of Nature, the Whereas if


head down sweeping wind through wood.

in the meadow by the river on the long I use these last words advisedly grass,

there came

to you in the because, even in those earliest days, it whispering wind something like the seemed to me that all sound that was sea-murmurs that live within the of spiritual import was in some hidden shell-tidings of a delicate life, news sense the product of the wind and of of a world beyond the thought of wood. There was a wailing of the those who merely haunt the palaces of wind at night through the crevices of earth. the high-pitched roof and the panelled These two, the murmur of the wind walls of the old parsonage, that through grass and the whisper within thrilled me as with a message from the shell, are perhaps the most delicate on high, but this was still wind and sounds that Nature can produce : was it wood. But where the wind had no possible that I should find in art somepart, where it was not sound so much thing more perfect still ? In this as noise, in the clanging of metal passion for sound, in which I lived as upon metal, in the inarticulate in a paradise, it may be asked where screaming of senseless creatures, the did music find a place ? The music terror that I had felt in the wailing that I heard in my childhood was not wood—that terror that had still some of the best class ; and perhaps this thing in it of the higher life and hope, might be the reason that musical —was turned into the mere panic of sound rather than music seemed to despair.

haunt those hours of childhood, for I distinctly remember that I had

the untutored sounds of Nature these feelings as a child; but, since there are, now and again, musical those days, I have pleased myself in notes of surpassing beauty. Among finding that the great Goethe shared the wailing sounds of the wind that with me my dislike to the continuous haunted the high-pitched roof above barking of a dog. “ Annihilation,” the boarded ceiling of our bedroom, he said one day, in conversation with

there was

one perfect and regular the Legationsrath Falk, “is utterly note. It never varied, except in out of the question; but the possi loudness according to the force of bility of being caught on the way by the wind. This note, in its monotony, some more powerful, and yet baser had an enthralling effect upon my monas, and subordinated to it-that imagination. I had once associated is unquestionably a

certain thoughts with its message : consideration ; and I, for my part, no doubt the continued association of have never been able entirely to ideas of recollected imagery would divest myself of the fear of it." explain the rest. At this moment, a dog was heard The wandering musicians that repeatedly barking in the street. played in the courtyard on summer Goethe sprang hastily to the window evenings upon hautboys and fiddles no and called out to it: “Take what form doubt reached me with a strange you will, vile larva, you shall not message from afar, especially in the subjugate me." A gallant boast but shrill high notes; and on Sunday in an ineffectual one! Noise, especially the village - church, the organist if continued on one note, deadens and thundered out fugues and fantasias, destroys the soul, the life of the mind but it was the final cadences only that within the brain. The constant re touched

somehow the organ iteration of one note will drive a man seemed wanting in that supreme mad, just as the continual fall of a searching power of wind and wood. drop of water upon the same spot of But one day, it was the head will cause madness and death. evening, there came into the courtyard You may prove this on the violin. four zither-players from the south. I

very serious



say zither players, but their instru pipe, or over strings of violin or ments were more like the old Italian flute or grassy hill, spoke to the spirit lutes for size and the number of and to the spirit-born, and to such strings. They were regulated each at only, with a sufficient and adequate a certain interval of pitch, probably in voice. This conception came to me a few octaves in the middle region of like a message from above. It raised the scale. They played a singular my thoughts of Nature and harmonised rapid music with little tune, but her voices with the needs and desires with a perfect relation of time and of my own soul. I pondered over it pitch. It was like a rippling menad day and night; but before long an dance : apparently reckless and un event occurred which was in the end trained, yet in reality perfectly regulat the means of leading me beyond this ed in step and figure, every note true half truth, and of more fully opening to its corresponding note in the higher to me the gates of the mystical city of or lower octave, and now and again, sound, of which this organ-text had all united in one sudden note of already given me some fairy glimpses, uniform pitch, by which the wild law and of revealing to me at last the true less music vindicated its perception of music which is not only heard by the unison and the moral perfection of spirit-born but is born of the spirit pure sound; but even in this there itself. seemed to me nothing that spoke in My father went once every month just the same voice as did the gentle on a kind of supernatural mission, as whisper of that teaching wind through it seemed to us children, to an ungrass and wood.

known and dimly conceived mansion On the organ in the parish church, or mountain-palace in the hills. That written in faded gold letters, were the is, he was chaplain to the old Graffinn words from Luther's Bible : “ The wind von Wetstein, and once a month he bloweth where it will, and thou preached before her on Sundays. hearest the sound of it well, so is Sometimes, on special occasions, an every one that is of the spirit born." ornamental or state-coach was sent for When, as a child, I sat during long the pastor, who thus seemed rapt as in sermons in the little grated seat a celestial chariot from his family and of the pastor's children, I pondered the ordinary village folk. over these words, and for a long time One surprising day when the lad could find no reason or congruity in was between fourteen and fifteen the them. What had the wind blowing father said to him : “Put on thy best where it listeth to do with the birth clothes, for to-morrow thou shalt go of the spirit? But on one hot summer with me to the Graffinn." afternoon, when I had fallen asleep It may well be imagined that there during my father's discourse, I was was not much sleep for the boy that suddenly aroused by the cessation of night. the preacher's voice and by the mur It would take too long to tell of the muring fall of harmony, for the organ wonders of that journey in the stateist probably had been asleep too, and coach, of the foolish, but perhaps was playing unconsciously such simple natural pride of sitting there above notes as came first to hand. I say, I the common folk, and observing awoke suddenly into life and sense, through the windows the respect and saw the vich mellow tints of the paid by all to the magnificent and organ-wood, and these mystic letters symbolic vehicle, if not to those who all lighted up with the gilding rays; sat therein. and an inward consciousness came like When we reached the schloss, which a flash of lightning from heaven into stood high up on the hills amid woodthe child's mind that the wandering, land meadows and cow-pastures, then seeking wind through reed or organ indeed the boy's expectation and ex

citement grew too painiul almost to be future career. The boy led mostly borne. He passed through the gardens, a wild life, for his interviews with his with terraces and urns and statues, patroness took place at odd times and and the cascades of water tbat came hours, but be had some lessons from a down from great ponds, formed in the resident cleric who superintended the summits of the hills by building high household, and had other teachers more stone walls and dams across the tban perhaps any one knew. ravines. Later on he was even pre My father had often told his sented to the Graffinn, who, herself listening family of the great nobles a wizened, faded old woman, stood who would from time to time stay at beneath the portraits of her ancestors, the schloss, and how he would be by a great window in the gallery of invited, being of a witty and converthe schloss, overlooking the valleys sational babit, derived probably from and the champaign country beyond. his reading in Terence, to dine with

For some unknown reason this old them. Some of these great noblemen woman, who scarcely spoke to any one I also saw at a distance in the garden and seemed to take no interest in the or elsewhere; but on one occasion a present world, looking, as it were, con young Graf came to stay some days with stantly out of the high windows into bis great-aunt, having returned quite the driving cloudland, as though she lately from the Italian tour with his saw there all her past life and the tutor. This tutor, an Italian, per figures of all those who had alone made formed wonderfully, it was said, on it dear to her, and who were them the violin. He was invited to play selves all gone into the cloudland of before the Graffinn, and the boy was the Infinite Unseen,—this old woman, admitted among the domestics of the not at the first interview, but at the schloss. second or third, in the fresh mornings Then, on a sudden, was revealed over the early coffee, took a strange to him the secret which had escaped liking for the little village lad. As him so long, the consciousness of the this ill-assorted pair sat at the open existence of which had haunted him window on the quiet summer evenings, in the wind-swept meadow and amid far above the distant woodland and the awful, swaying branches of the the forest-meadows, face to face with lofty trees. the long streaks of solemn light along I am not going to describe this playthe horizon, an almost impercept. ing. Attempts have been sometimes ible murmur, so soft and gentle was made to describe violin-playing in it, passed up through the branches words, but rarely, I think, with much of the sycamore and chestnut trees success. I shall only say that almost and of the lower growing pines, and, as soon as he began to play, what mingling with the distant Ranz des seemed to then a singularly Vaches, brought up as it seemed the strange idea occurred to me. This life and struggles and sorrows of the man, I thought, is not playing on plain and of the people into the ears of his instrument : he is playing on my this worn out old feeble aristocrat of brain. His violin is only as it were the bills. She would say to the boy : the bow, or rather, every note of his “And what do you do, you children, in violin vibrates with the according note the winter nights, when you steal back of the brain-fibre. I do not


that in your night-dresses to the great fire, I put the thought exactly into these and the father is reading Terence ? words; but these are the words into Tell it to me all again.”

which, at the present time, I put the Finally, she insisted upon my stay recollection of my thought. I need ing with her for weeks at a time, and not point out how my ignorance erred she bound herself to the pastor, by a in detail, how the brain has no exwritten paper, to provide for my tended strings corresponding to the


« VorigeDoorgaan »