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ANTHOLOGIA GERMANICA.-NO. XV.-WETZEL'S POEMS.*
WHEN one enthusiast takes up the cudgels for another, men witness more than usually apt instance of the zeal that lacks discretion. Herr Zachariah Funck, we venture to predict, will not redeem the reputation of his late friend, Frederick Conrad Wetzel, from the oblivion into which it is fast falling, by taking upon himself the editorship of his poems. People may sometimes bear to be lectured into the belief that madness is inspiration, but certainly never where the lecturer is himself a madman. Paine was patronised rather to the detriment of his own celebrity by Cobbett. Hunt's glowing eulogies of Shelley have not tended to dissipate the cloud that rests upon the latter's character. We do, therefore, apprehend that the sober-minded Germans will continue to discountenance the poetical and political extravagances of Wetzel, notwithstanding Editor Funck's tempestuous vindication of both, and the scalding hot tide of invective in which his indignation finds vent against all who happen to be prosaic and apathetic enough to feel no sympathy with either.
But with this We have nothing to do. The sole regret that the publisher's choice has caused us is occasioned by the absence from the volume before us of any biographical details respecting the poet. The verbose rhapsody that does the duty of preface to it talks of culmination-points," "halls of immortality," "paracentric aesthetics," "objectivity," and so forth, and denounces the age in a dialect that illustrates the vast advantage of having a dictionary at one's elbow; but it does not tell us where, when, why, or how it came to pass that Wetzel was so unfortunate as
die as we understand was the case-a neglected poet and a brokenhearted man. On these points we wanted to gain as much information as we possibly could; and on these points Editor F. has given us as little information as he possibly could, viz. none whatever. He talks instead-being obliged to talk of something-of the sigus of the times, and the melancholy
prevalence of an anti-mystic materialism in modern poetry. We desire facts, and he treats us to disquisitions, as "germane to the matter" in hand as an air by Neukomm might be to a problem in algebra. His mode of establishing his protégé's claim to the title of poet strikes us also as rather inconclusive. "Dasz Wetzel," he demands, "ein rechter Dichter war, wer vermag das zu bestreiten ?" "Who will dare to dispute that Wetzel was a genuine poet?" No argument is attempted; no evidence is tendered; the interrogatory is put, Who will dare, &c.; and so the matter is decided. One might, however, tolerate any little deficiency his logic exhibits for the sake of its brevity: the shortest follies are the best. But, alas, for his interminable metaphysics! their only recommendation is the strong probability that, as they are wholly and hopelessly incomprehensible, they must, after the first glance given to them, perforce compel the reader to pass them over altogether: the cloud that envelopes them is in fact the densest we have come into contact with since our first acquaintanceship with Kant, and as completely veils the writer's meaning from ordinary apprehension as the volume of smoke which filled the room while, pipe in mouth, he went through with his task, shrouded the characters he scrawled from his own eyes.
His favourite theme of panegyric is the poet's soul, which, nevertheless, he describes as loaded with rubbishsomewhat like his own meerschaumand the poet's spirit. in reference to which we have a vivid picture of a Bedlamite escaping from his keepers. Hear him blow the trumpet. "Die mannichfaltigsten Fesseln lähmender Erdgewalten, Schutt and Staub der erbärmlichsten Prosa, legten wie Berge sich auf seine Seele, und doch vermochten sie nicht seine Dichterkraft niederzubeugen, geschweige seinen Genius zu begraben. Sein junger, freier und kräftiger Geist durchbrach jeder äuszern Zwang, machte sich Platz mit seinen gewaltigen Adler
* F. C. Wetzel's gesammelte Gedichte und Nachlasz. Herausgegeben von Z. Funck. Leipzig: Brockhaus.
F. C. Wetzel's Poems and Remains, complete. Edited by Z. Funck. Leipsic : Brockhaus. 1839.
schwingen, entfloh der niedern Erde, reinigte mit raschem Flügelschlage die verpestete Luft und flog, dem ewigen Phönix gleich, dem Lande seiner Geburt, der Sonne, zu!" The most multitudinous and multifarious manacles of the crippling and shackling earthauthorities, the rubbish and dust of the paltriest prose, cast themselves like mountains upon his soul, and yet prevailed not to bow down his poet's might, far less to sepulchre his genius. His young, chainless, and powerful spirit broke through every external barrier, made room for itself with its stupendous eagle-pinions, soared above this base earth, purified with the rapid rushing of its wings the pestilential atmosphere, and flew, like the eternal Phoenix, to its native clime-the sun!" If this be true, "that other great traveller," Munchausen, is left far behind, for he visited only the moon-the account of the voyage to the dog-star being now generally admitted by the learned to be spurious. Poor Wetzel! the coolness of his reception upon earth was indeed such as might naturally enough have induced in him a wish to exchange his habitation for warmer quarters. While, however, we lament his destiny, we do not go the length of blaming the world for it. No: Wetzel was a man of mere middling genius-and one fate alone awaits such men. Themselves are unsought, their books unbought; so was it always; so will it continue; it must be thus; there is no remedy for it. People somehow will not purchase an inferior article when they can have a superior one as cheap. If Herr Funck and a few like him mistake crockery for porcelain and potatoes for peaches, they have no right to fall foul of others for being better-sighted.
Nay, even supposing the public in the wrong, these are still the best judges of what pleases themselves. This is a truth so obvious as to force itself upon the commonest minds; and they who abuse the public because of their taste or want of taste prove themselves either very splenetic or very irrational. We pity a man of talent, like Wetzel, for his sufferings in conscience we can afford to do no more. If we thought his deserts to be such as to have made the treatment he received unjustifiable we should perhaps be almost as indignant as Orator Funck himself. He is dead; the grave has closed over him; and, whatever his defects may have been, we can have no wish to quarrel either with his memory or his executors-even though he gained little fame, and made less money, and has got an editor to edit him who assumes that the secret of his want of success lay in the paramount sublimity of his genius-that is to say, that he was so magnificent and so fascinating a writer-and so grandiloquent and so up-soaring," and so down-diving" a thinker that-nobody cared to read him.
We believe it were as well, to preclude any misconception with reference to the point, if we at once gave the reader a few samples of the poems. None of them are certainly of a worse order than any we have hitherto published; and some of them may perhaps be of a better. Our own anti-poetical modes of thought and tendencies of mind, indeed, license the likelihood that we see in them blemishes which to those better qualified for understanding them may be invisible. give one dozen of specimens ; not extracting at random, but selecting the best that offer.
Du herrlichsten von Allen,
O, my own mother-city,
I could laud thee day and night,
Thy river keeps a-flowing
And to-day thy roofs are glowing
In the noon like yellow gold,
There's thy New town and Old one,
I can well compare the two;
No hateful walls begird thee-
To ally herself with Art :-
Here winds a marble alley ; ·
With his blue sword in hand!
And oh! the lighted altars
Of thy Church, beneath whose dome
The piety that falters
May revive as though at Rome !-
Throng the long aisle beyond,
Then a gay population,
But withal rather stout,
O, were I a musician,
I would spend a many days
Henry II. Emperor of Germany, and founder of Bamberg, who, although married, lived in celibacy to the time of his death. His Empress was deservedly canonized for her sanctity and virtues.
Morn and Eve a star invites me,
To a lovely Orient land,
Where the sun at morning early
Rises fresh, and young, and glowing,
In the desert Deep afar,
Yet, unknowing and undreaming
Why I go, or How, or Whither,*
Save that one imploring star,
Woos me, lures me, lights me thither!
Some German poets are singularly fond of trying to pass themselves off as persons who ought to be shut up in desarts and transported to desolate islands. Scattered through their books we encounter occasional mysterious allusions to certain dark incidents in their lives-much meeting the eye aud more being meant for the mind. Now
this is disgusting affectation. It is a claptrap unworthy of intellectual men. Byron tried it and got credit for sincerity from some half dozen persons, of whom Goethe, poor old man, was one. Yet Byron's was a wild life, and he might have done something to" plunge his years in fatal penitence.' Where he failed to pass for worse than
* Weisz nicht auch Wohin und Wie: I know neither whither nor how the wohin here is of course used in reference to the geographical position of the island.
he could be, who is likely to succeed? With that silvery voice, those courtly manners, does Tieck stand any chance of being regarded as a villain at heart? Can a man so brimful of the milk and water of human kindness as Kerner have poisoned his mother-in-law and set the Spree on fire? Who will believe that the delicate lemonhued handshoe of Klingen is assumed only to hide such an accusing stain as might "the multitudinous sea incarnadine ?" These follies, however, are peculiar to a few. Our friend Wetzel does not pretend to be a very mauvais sujet:
† Noted weapons, en passant, with "all the tribe."
Perhaps (it occurs to us as we write) some rascally bookseller in Hamburgh
may have been at the time pirating one of his works.