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Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

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UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF WALES. .-J"v- .r_r.r.f"J'o. GERMAN LITERATURE IX THE EIGHTEENTH AND NINETEENTH CENTURIES. BY PROFESSOR HERJIANX KTHU, PH.D. f Continued.) Having given you short sketches and specimens from the poems of a number of minor authors who followed Klopstuck—Gleim, Peter C z, Ewald von Kleist, Ramler, and George Jaeobi—I will now proceed to the last three poets of that school, three fable-writers,—Gellert, Lichtwer, and Pfeffcl. Gellert, born 1715, died 1769, was one of the most amiable and popular authors of the eighteenth cen- tury, who, although much inferior to Klopstock, and even to Wieland, exercised a very wholesome influence on the higher moral education of his contemporaries by his fables, his humorous little tales, and his still to-day highly appreciated hymns, most of which form an essential part of our prayer-books. He was the only poet of his time who was greatly esteemed by Frederick the Great, who called him one of the most rational and reasonable of Ger- man professors. His greatest merit is that he wrote in very clear and correct language, in a style not so over- flowing with art and grace as that of Wieland not so high-tuned or so sentimental as that of Klopstock not so grave and full of deep thoughts as that of Leasing but plain, intelligible for every one, even a man of the lowest rank in society, and imbuing all his readers with a real interest in their own idiom and their own literature. He was a pious, straightforward, modest, gentle, and kind man, full of the most tender feelings, never hurting any- one by his writings, as Wieland's sarcasm very often did, but still unrelenting in disclosing men's follies and absur- dities, and criticising them in the heartiest manner. He was no genius, not even a first-rate talent, and yet he was a very valuable, estimable, and useful author. I will give you as specimens of his style and his way of writing, two of his charming little tales, replete with good humour and good didactic purport. The first is entitled "The Dying ILIather"- "There was a father with two sons and heirs, The prudent Christoph and the stupid George. And when his end came near and he was dying, He looked about for Christoph in deep sorrow And cried My son, me pains a grievous thought You are so prudent-are so reasonable, How will you ever prosper in the world? Now, listen, in the drawer there, a box With jewels lies. They all are thine, 0, take them But never give thy brother any one.' The son was quite perplexed and startled. 'Father,' He cried, when I receive so much from you, How will my brother in the world succeed ?' Your brother George you mean ? 0 never mind, Through life he'll make quite surely, I dare say, By his stupidity alone, his way The other tale is called, "The Good Advice." It runs thus :—■ "There was a youth who wished to take a wife, And as so many were to him proposed. He asked an old and well-experienced man For good advice, which sort of wife would suit him. 'My dear young friend, I really don't know,' The old man said, however will you choose, You may be after all deceived. But listen If you for pleasure only seek a wife, You better choose a handsome, lovely face But if you like a solid income better Than mere amusement—well, select a rich one If, on the other hand, you in the world Aspire to higher rank—forget at once That there perhaps are many prettier girl., And choose the daughter of a man in place, In high position, caring not a bit, If nice she looks or how she looks at all! And is it your intention to select A wife more proper for the mind and soul Than for the heart, the eye, and other senses, I only can advise you, take a learned And clever lady, an accomplished scholar.' So said the old experienced man and smiled. That I don't want to know at all, dear sir,' Replied the youth, I simply asked and ask, Which wife I have to choose, if I desire To live in peace and to my heart's content; If I, without the slightest grief whatever'— 'Oh, if you want to lead a tranquil life,' The old man said, you'd better take no wife.' Gellert's life, to say a few words about that, was a very simple one. Born as the son of a poor clergyman in the Saxon mountains, lie entered at first the classical school of Meissen, where he became an intimate friend of Rabener and afterwards, in the year 1734, the university of Leipzic. In 1743 he was appointed lecturer on rhetorical art, moral philosophy and poetry, and in 1751 ordinary professor in the same department. There has seldom been a professor in Leipzic so popular and influ- ential as Gellert. His lecture room was gen- erally filled with more than 400 students. He died in Leipzic in 1769, and whoever passes through that famous commercial and academical town may pay a short visit to Gellert' monument, erected in the charming park near Leipzic, called the "Rosenthal," or valley of the roses, one of the most beautiful promenades any town can boast of. Another poet of fables and little comical narratives is Lichtwer, born 1719 and died 1783. Like Gellert he was a native of Saxony, like him a student in Leipzig, and like him devoting his poetical talent especially to didactic writing, and making imagination subservient to utility. His fables are divided into four books, each one introduced by a rhymed preface, in which the author explains what a fable is and how to write a fable. Although imitating Gellert and the other fable-writers of the time, as well as the French Lafontaine, he is nevertheless often original in his poetical invention, full of wit, and very brisk and lively in his descriptions. "The Father ana his three Sons" is a specimen of his writing- A father, old in years and rich, Divided all his wealth and fortune, Acquired with many cares and troubles, In equal shares among three sons. 'A diamond ring alone I keep,' The father said, for him among you, Who by a noble action proves To me that he deserves it best.' In all directions spreading now The three sons are-three months pass by, At last the sons appear again. The eldest of the three began Into my trust a stranger gave, Without the slightest bond from me, All he possessed on earth-and I Restored it faithfully to him. Say, was not that a noble action ?' 'You simply did,' replied the father, As we should all and always do. Whoever acts in different manner Must be ashamed for duty teaches Us faithfulness and honesty. Good was your action, noble not.' Now, said the second, Whilst I travelled, I saw a little child just falling Through carelessness into a lake. I rescued it and saved its life, And all the village was my witness.' 'You simply did," replied the father, What we are bound as men to do.' Now spake the youngest of the three I found asleep my bitter foe Quite near the brink of dark abysses, And in my hand I held his life, But waking him, I drew him back.' Oh cried, with gentle look, the father, 'Thine is the ring. 0 noble courage, To save the foe—to do him good The third writer of fables in the manner of Gellert, Licht- wer, Hagedorn, and other poets of the Prussian and Saxon Schools was Pfeffel, born in 1736 at Colmar in the Alsace, that old German province, re-conquered six years ago. He died as President of the Consistory in his native town, in the year 1809. Pfeffel is the more interesting, as he, like many others, proved clearly by his writings that although his country had been nearly one hundred years snatched away from the German Empire by the brutal force and the cunning fraud of the French, the population was still throughout German in feelings and in language. In lan- guage, at least, the Alsatians are still to-day Germans. Even to-day the greater part of the population, especially the rural portion, and that of all the smaller towns, talks nothing else but a German dialect. The higher classes only in the larger cities understand and speak French. The following two little fables will give you an idea of Pfeffel's poetical peculiarity. You will see at once that he is much more satirical and sarcastic than Gellert or Lichwer, and more in the line of Wieland, Liscow, and Rabener. 'Go away, out of my way To the honest dromedary, In a very narrow lane, Once the camel said. 'What! give way to thee ? And why?' Was the dromedary' reply. Do you think,' the camel cried, That a man of my position Ever would belong to thy Miserable cast ? Only a single hump have you I, the lord, behold have two The second fable I will give you is styled" Gradation," and runs as follows :— "A cunning sparrow once had caught A little gnat. '0 let me go.' It cried, be merciful on me, Have pity on my youth, great lord No,' said the murderer, not at all, For I am large and thou art small.' The sparrow just devoured his prey. When by the sparrowhawk surprised And caught he was. 0 let me free,' The sparrow cried, What have I done ?' I No,'said the murderer, 'not at all, For I am large and thou art small.' An eagle saw the greedy hawk, And pounced on him and tore his back In pieces soon. '0, let me loose, My lord and king, half killed I am.' 'No,' said the murderer, 'not at all, For I am large, and thou art small.' That very moment hissing came An arrow from the hunter's bow, And pierced the eagle's breast. He fell. 10 spare me, spare me, lord,' he cried. 'No,' said the murderer, 'not at all,' For thou art short, and I am tall. (To be continued.)

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