« VorigeDoorgaan »
previous night, but, as the day advanced, the white covering on peak and crest was growing visibly less under the warm sunshine. Huge masses of dazzlingly white cumulus cloud hung apparently motionless above the mountains, on which they threw shadows of the deepest blue; while the sunlit ridges and green slopes above the upper half of the lake gleamed with an almost prismatic radiance, that recalled the sheen of the finest Limoges enamel. The surface of the lake lay absolutely smooth and still, save when ruffled here and there into streaks and patches of darker azure by fitful gusts of air from above. Every mountain within sight was reflected on this bright mirror. It seemed as if Nature were in deep sleep, and unlikely to be roused for many hours to come. But eventually some ominous dark clouds were seen to be gathering in the north-east, whence an occasional muttering of distant thunder could be heard. These sombre masses of vapour spread over the sky with a rapidity which was in striking contrast to the immobility of the huge white clouds that seemed still asleep on the more distant western mountains. Large drops of rain and then pellets of hail began to fall, as if shot from catapults, into the oil-like surface of the water. As the storm quickly approached, the thunder grew louder and more frequent, the lightning more startlingly vivid, until the full majesty was revealed of such a tempest as can only be witnessed in a mountainous region with multitudinous echoes. The rain now fell in one continuous torrent. Flash rapidly succeeded flash, with increasing brilliance, followed and even accompanied by crashing peals, which, reverberating from the many cloud-capped ridges of the chain, gathered into one sustained roar.
From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
Leaps the live thunder! Not from one lone cloud,
It was a memorable experience to have been on the Lago di Garda under such different aspects in the course of a single day. Doubtless Catullus must often have witnessed a similar tempest during his sojournings by the lake; and, although he may not have appreciated, as
Lucretius could, the elemental grandeur of such displays of Nature's energy, his sensitive and imaginative temperament would not remain unmoved by their impressive magnificence.
But there was one portion of the scene to which he seems to have been blind. The panorama of mountains to be seen from the southern end of the Lago di Garda is always the feature of that marvellous landscape which first arrests the attention of modern visitors, and to which the eye most often and admiringly turns. Even when we bear in mind the horror of the antique world for the wildness and the dangers of mountains, it is impossible to escape a feeling of surprise that such a keeneyed poet as Catullus should have found words in praise of the lake, but none for its great mountain-girdle. Only once does he refer to the Alps; and then it is merely to express his conviction that his comrades Furius and Aurelius would be ready to go with him anywhere, even should he decide to tramp across the lofty Alps in order to behold the monuments of Cæsar's rule, the Gaulish Rhine, and the dreadful Britons at the end of the world (xi, 1-12). The passes through the western part of the chain had come in his day to be continually traversed by soldiers and traders; but there is no evidence in his poems that, even in the times of his deepest dejection, though he may have planned a journey, he ever tured to distract his thoughts by visiting trans-alpine countries, or even penetrated into any of the glens of the chain which were almost visible from his home. That, living face to face with such a mountain landscape yet far away from any of its dangers, he should not only express no appreciation of it but even make no allusion to its existence, seems to us one of the most striking proofs in literature of how insensible cultivated men still were to the grander types of scenery. Seventeen centuries had to pass after his time before the glories of the mountain-world began to be discovered, and a hundred years more before they were generally appreciated in all civilised communities.
There appears to be good reason to believe that Catullus wrote some of his best poetry at Sirmio. Certainly two of the most delightful of his joyous lyrics had their birth here. His rapturous address to Sirmio
and the lake, on his return from the East, drew its inspiration from the very place itself; and the poem in which he recounts his homeward voyage was penned with the favourite yacht resting near him by the shores of his lake. Probably also he composed here the touching verses in which he conveys his sympathy to his friend Manlius, who in his deep sorrow was like a shipwrecked man cast up by the foaming waves of the deep'; while at the same time the poet himself, by the death of his beloved brother, had been 'plunged into the waves of misfortune,' and had lost all joy in life. His longer and more elaborate poems are with probability referred to his later years. In these the numerous allusions to the sea, to seafaring and to shipwreck suggest that, although they may have been planned or even begun in the East, they were mainly written after his return, and were carefully elaborated and corrected in such uninterrupted leisure and with such inspiring surroundings as he could best secure on the shores of Benacus. Amid the fever and fret, the joys and sorrows of his short but crowded life, it was to this much-loved spot that his thoughts fondly turned, as a haven of peace and rest amid all that is beautiful in Nature. It is here too that, after the lapse of so many centuries, readers in whose hearts he still awakens a tender sympathy by the frankness, brightness and affection of his character, and in whose ears the music of his verse ever lingers, feel themselves to be specially drawn towards him in admiration of his genius, and in pity for the brief and troubled career of so rare and lovable a spirit. To the end of time this little islet of Sirmione will remain the fitting shrine consecrated to the memory of Catullus.
Art. 3.-THE GERMAN SPIRIT.
THE present war is a conflict, which admits no truce or reconciliation, between two conceptions and ideals of life. Liberty, democracy, and the moral law, are ranged in battle order against physical force, militarism, and the claims for universal domination.
The German spirit, once idealistic and humanitarian, has developed into the opposite of itself. Heine could reasonably describe the Germans as 'a speculative people, Ideologues, thinking backwards and forwards, dreamers who only live in the past or the future, and have no present.' But no longer do they willingly see in Hamlet, the dreamer who would be a man of action if only he could cease to think and ponder, their own national type and image. The successful wars of 1864, 1866, and 1870-1, and the notable expansion of German commerce, have intervened. Faust, however, still remains the acknowledged symbol and mirror of their mind and character.
Two souls, alas! reside within my breast, and each withdraws from, and repels, its brother.' It is the purpose of the following pages to show that Germany, instead of harmonising its divergent tendencies, as is sometimes claimed, has made an unholy alliance between its idealism and its realism. The ideals of the Germans have come to be brutal and material; their lust of practical power is based upon those vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires, blown up with high conceits, engendering pride,' which, according to Milton, are the motives of the apostate angel.
The conspicuous institutions of Germany are the school and the barrack. The one is the complement of the other. From the universities proceed that love of country and firm belief in its future destiny, which have permeated all classes. The professor, and above all the professor of history, enjoys an influence to a degree unknown elsewhere. Niebuhr already, and Ranke, had advocated the claims of Prussia to the hegemony of the German-speaking states. After 1850, Sybel, Mommsen, Häusser, Droysen, Giesebrecht, all writing from the Prussian point of view, fostered patriotism to the height. And they were self-proclaimed realists, applying to
history and politics the methods of natural science. They anticipated Darwin in promulgating the doctrines of the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest; or rather, they accepted as supreme those laws of nature which Darwin himself subordinated to the play of moral qualities in the human sphere.
Of these historians, Treitschke was the last and most notorious. Germany is the work of Prussia; Prussia of its army; and its army of its kings. That was his theme. Ruskin indeed, studying the history of these kings in Carlyle's account of the predecessors of Frederick the Great, was troubled by 'continually increasing doubt how far the machinery and discipline of war, under which they learnt the art of government, was essential for such lesson.' Even so far back as 1645, at the Conference of Münster, the Swedish ambassador felt constrained to describe with bitter and accurate irony the philosophy of the Hohenzollern family. 'God speaks no longer to princes by prophets and dreams; there is a divine calling wherever there is a favourable opportunity to attack a neighbour and extend one's own frontiers.' But Treitschke, misapplying his Darwinism, is spared all scruple. The historical rôle of Prussia began in the days when this Power incorporated, one after the other, the German states for which the hour of death had sounded.' He was ever ready with his triumphant chant of Vae Victis: woe to the weak, unfitted to survive. 'Pure and impartial history could never suit a proud and warlike nation.' And his voice, if of the loudest, was but one among many. David Friedrich Strauss, politician, Hegelian, author of the 'Leben Jesu,' declared that Prussia never made any but 'holy' wars-holy, since the unity of Germany was due to them. The war of 1870 was 'a work of public salubrity accomplished by Germany, France being rotten to the marrow.' All nations are rotten to the marrow who stand in the way of Prussia, or cast a shadow upon Germany's rightful 'place in the sun.'
Jena and Sedan, the crushing defeat or the crowning victory-Prussian history pivots on these. But for the disaster of Jena, Prussia could not have achieved the triumph of Sedan, could not have stood forth the appointed instrument to fulfil the historical mission' of Germanism. To further this mission, Prussian hegemony