The reason I cannot really say that I positively enjoy nature is that I do not quite realize what it is that I enjoy. A work of art, on the other hand, I can grasp. I can — if I may put it this way — find that Archimedian point, and as soon as I have found it, everything is readily clear for me. Then I am able to pursue this one main idea and see how all the details serve to illuminate it. I see the author's whole individuality as if it were the sea, in which every single detail is reflected. The author's spirit is kindred to me; he is very probably far superior to me, I am sure, but yet he is limited as I am. The works of the deity are too great for me; I always get lost in the details. This is the reason, too, why people's exclamations on observing nature: It's lovely, tremendous, etc. — are so frivolous. They are all too anthropomorphic; they come to a stop with the external; they are unable to express inwardness, depth. In this connection, also, it seems most remarkable to me that the great geniuses among the poets (such as Ossian and Homer) are represented as blind. Of course, it makes no difference to me whether they actually were blind or not. I only make a point of the fact that people have imagined them to be blind, for this would seem to indicate that what they saw when they sang the beauty of nature was not seen with the external eye but was revealed to their inward intuition. How remarkable that one of the best, yes, the very best writer about bees was blind from early youth. It seems to indicate that however much one believes in the importance of the observation of externals, he had found that [Archimedian] point and now by a purely spiritual activity had deduced from this all the details and had reconstructed them analogously to nature.
I am amazed that (as far as I know) no one has ever treated the idea of a "master-thief," an idea that certainly would lend itself very well to dramatic treatment. We cannot help noting that almost every country has had the idea of such a thief, that an ideal of a thief has hovered before all of them; and we also see that however different Fra Diavolo may be from Peer Mikkelsen or Morten Frederiksen, they still have certain features in common. Thus many of the stories circulating about thieves are attributed by some to Peer Mikkelsen, by others to Morten Frederiksen, by others to someone else, etc., although it is impossible to decide definitely to which of them they really belong. This shows that men have imagined a certain ideal of a thief with some broad general features which have then been attributed to this or that actual thief. We must especially bear in mind that wickedness, a propensity for stealing, etc. were not considered to be the one and only core of the idea. On the contrary, the master-thief has also been thought of as one endowed with natural goodness, kindness, charitableness, together with extraordinary bearing, cunning, ingenuity, one who really does not steal just to steal, that is, in order to get hold of another person's possessions, but for some other reason. Frequently we may think of him as someone who is displeased with the established order and who now expresses his grievance by violating the rights of others, seeking thereby an occasion to mystify and affront the authorities. In this respect it is noteworthy that he is thought of as stealing from the rich to help the poor (as is told of Peer Mikkelsen), which does indeed indicate magnanimity, and that he never steals for his own advantage. In addition, we could very well imagine him to have a warm affection for the opposite sex, for example Forster (Feuerbach, part II), something that on the one hand indicates a bright spot in his character and on the other gives him and his life a romantic quality which is required in order to distinguish him from the simple thief — whether he steals in order to provide, if possible, a better future in his beloved's arms (like Forster) or whether in his activity as a thief he is conscious of being an opponent of the established order or an avenger against the authorities of some injustice perhaps committed by them against him. His girl walks by his side like a guardian angel and helps him in his troubles while the authorities are in pursuit to capture him, and the populace, on the other hand, regards him suspiciously as one who is, after all, a thief, although perhaps an inner voice sometimes speaks in his defense, and at the same time he finds no encouragement and comfort among the other thieves since they are far inferior to him and are dominated by viciousness. The only possible association he can have with them is solely for the purpose of using them to achieve his aims; otherwise he must despise them.
Such a master-thief (Kagerup, for example) will also boldly and candidly confess his crime and suffer punishment for it as a man who is conscious of having lived for an idea, and precisely thereby he acknowledges the reality [Realitet] of the state and does not, as one might say, disavow it in his life; he opposes only its abuses. We could also imagine him as one who would make fools of a court, but we must regard this as a kind of jest about the whole thing and an expression in deed of a vanity entirely consistent with his idea. He will never abandon candour, and he will come with his own confession as soon as he has demonstrated how he could hoodwink a court.
We must, of course, imagine him [the master-thief] well-equipped with a very good sense of humor,* which can very well be reconciled with his discontent, which is precisely what will make him satirical and — even though he must not be thought of as always being discontented — can still be readily reconciled with his lowly origin at the grassroot level of the nation. In some cases he will resemble an Eulenspiegel.
*I cite as an example a Peer Mikkelsen who informs the authority concerned that he wants to leave town. Or that such a fellow, when a policeman encountering him for the second time observed: I think we know each other, would answer: Yes, we have taken a walk together (the first time the policeman had been obliged to chase after him way out to Vibenshuus). Or that a Cartouche appears in person to get the reward placed on his head.
He [the master-thief] is not a man who tries to lead others astray; on the contrary, he dissuades them from leading such a life. He has tasted its bitterness, and he endures it only because he lives for an idea. He scorns base thieves, and yet fate always drives him together with them. The one who is closest to him, his true friend in life and in death, is no thief, loves him, and will sacrifice everything for him. He is eager to lead him away from the wrong path he has taken, but knowing his vehemence, he does not dare to speak to him about it. Frequently the master-thief also feels extremely unhappy about his position, about his being regarded by many as branded; he feels misunderstood (tragically).
I would prefer to think of such a master-thief as someone who had lost his father early in life and now has only an old mother whom he loves dearly and she him. While the mother is shocked by her son's errant ways, however, his beloved completely overlooks his bad side, happy to possess his love, although she perhaps scarcely dares talk about his love lest she betray him. I would want to emphasize particularly this relationship to his mother and to his beloved in order to indicate his geniality.
For one scene I could imagine him [the master-thief] in a wooded area with the moon shining. He addresses the moon: "Thanks, moon, you silent witness to the lovers' rendezvous, the robber's lurking, the miser's anxiety, the policeman's drowsiness — yet you are especially partial to the thief, you who are a thief yourself and steal your light from the sun!"
Perhaps my comment on the policeman's insignia could appropriately be put in his mouth. See the appended slip [i.e. I A 17].
I could also imagine him encountering in a tavern a tramp (an unsuccessful government clerk or perhaps a title-bearing secretary who also tried to cut a figure with his title and his education — all in all, a low comedy character) who tried to incite the peasants by talking about the deficiencies of the management etc., and who would thus be a sharp contrast to the master-thief's earnest discontent with much of the system.
Attached to previous:
Probably the reason the police use an insignia picturing a hand with an eye in the center is to indicate thereby that they have an eye in every finger, but the fact that this eye does not extend to the thumb as well indicates that they also have a finger to put over the eye, if necessary.
If we compare the master-thief with the Italian robber, we see an essential difference in that the social element is dominant in the latter. We cannot very well imagine him except as the head of a robber band in whose midst, when the dangers and difficulties of plundering are passed, he gives himself over to reveling; whereas in the master-thief something far deeper is operative, a touch of melancholy, an encapsulation within himself, a dim view of life-relationships, an inner dissatisfaction.
Christ's whole life in all its aspects must supply the norm for the life of the following Christian and thus for the life of the whole Church. One has to take every particular aspect of Christ's life straight from his baptism to his resurrection and show correspondence in the Church. — Moreover, it is natural that with regard to the view that Christ existed simply to act (a view which, after all, I naturally do not insist upon, and all the less so since the preaching of the Word continues in the Church and consequently must be regarded as corresponding to Christ's teaching), it is, I say, natural that a great many people should object considerably — in part those who believe that Christ really was sent to communicate a perfect morality to mankind, in part the Catholics, for example, who believe that they still are able to fulfill the law. In spite of all this I believe that his activity was the principal thing, because that life which he enjoins (Matt. 5) cannot blossom forth before generation; consequently this is the conditio sine qua non; and, on the other hand, this life must necessarily unfold in him who is truly regenerated.
1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 5:2; Romans 3:25.
The difference between an author who picks up his material everywhere but does not work it up into an organic whole and one who does that is, it seems to me, like the difference between mock turtle and real turtle. The meat from some parts of the real turtle tastes like veal, from other parts like chicken, but it is all together in one organism. All these various kinds of meat are found in mock turtle, but that which binds the separate parts is a sauce, which still is often more nourishing than the jargon which takes its place in a lot of writing.
Doubtless the most sublime tragedy consists in being misunderstood. For this reason the life of Christ is supreme tragedy, misunderstood as he was by the people, the Pharisees, the disciples, in short, by everybody, and this in spite of the most exalted ideas which he wished to communicate. This is why Job's life is tragic; surrounded by misunderstanding friends, by a ridiculing wife, he suffers. The situation of the wife in The Riquebourg Family is moving precisely because her love for her husband's nephew compels her to conceal herself, and therefore her apparent coolness. This is why the scene in Goethe's Egmont (Act V, Scene 1) is so genuinely tragic. Clara is wholly misunderstood by the citizens. No doubt it is for this reason that several of Holberg's comic characters have a tragic effect. Take, for example the busybody. He sees himself encumbered with an enormous mass of concerns; everyone else smiles at him and sees nothing. The tragedy in the hypochondriac's life also stems from this — and also the tragedy in the character who is seized with a longing for something higher and who then encounters people who do not understand him.
Insofar as the Catholics require (Möhler, Clausen, and Hohlenberg, Tidsskrift, II, 1, p. 182) fulfillment of the moral law, they apparently attribute only subordinate value to the Pauline development of man's relationship to the law — that it is impossible for sinful, unregenerate man to fulfill it — and do not realize the far deeper meaning. For, as I see it, either the law must stand before man as something external — and then there is from the outset the implicit impossibility of fulfilling it — or it must have passed over into man completely and have been embodied as a principle; but then it is no longer law.
It seems that the part of the watchman's song for ten o'clock that says "Be wise and clever," in contrast to what follows: "Tend your light and fire," must be said to thieves, for cleverness and wisdom ought to be recommended to those who are awake rather than to those who are sleeping.
One frequently sees examples of how the magnetized come to the knowledge, with respect to man's condition after death, that everything centers in Christ, that one who has not thoroughly believed according to the gospel is given up to external torment etc. — ; in this connection it could be very interesting, as Tutti Frutti mentions somewhere (vol. III), to make a magnetic experiment with a person of the Mohammedan religion and see if the same result is achieved.
Eulenspiegel seems to represent the satyr-like in Northerners.
What the Jews and many others later demanded of Christ, that he should prove his divinity, is unreasonable, for if he really were God's son, proving it would be a farce, just as ridiculous as if a human being were to prove his existence [Tilvæ], since in this case Christ's existence [Tilværen] and his divinity [Gudværen] are the same — and if he were a fraud, he most certainly would have been able to play the role well enough to perceive that just when he proved his divinity he would contradict himself.
It appears to me that on the whole the great mass of interpreters damage the understanding of the New Testament more than they benefit an understanding of it. It becomes necessary to do as one does at a play, where a profusion of spectators and spotlights seeks to prevent, as it were, our enjoyment of the play itself and instead treat us to little incidents — one has to overlook them, if possible, or manage to enter by a passage which is not yet blocked.
Following the path of the commentators is often like traveling to London; true, the road leads to London, but if one wants to get there, he has to turn around.
Some Observations on Grundtvig's Theory of the Church
- Grundtvig believes that the Church is based on the sacraments and that whoever changes them changes the Church and has eo ipso withdrawn from it. But in this connection I beg to remark: In his attack why did not Grundtvig emphasize the Lord's Supper as something already instituted rather than baptism, something that was still to come, for, after all, it had not yet been introduced into the Church. — (No change in the words of institution. — Commentary — the opposition party insists upon only the evil — dilemma: either both are heretics or both are Christians.) —
- Nevertheless, something has always been regarded as essentially Christian, something as less essentially Christian, and in this respect the belief has been that the Bible contains the essentially Christian — in what, then is Grundtvig's theory different from the others? The others let it be less definite, whereas Grundtvig believes that he has found an expression that once and for all decides what is Christian faith and what is not. This he is now obliged to maintain as essential and, of course, must most stringently insist on it, which Lindberg has also done very consistently; he must insist on every letter, yes, every thousandth part of a jot, for otherwise the door is immediately opened for determinations from man's side as to what is Christian and what is not, and in that case he must reasonably grant the same right to every other man, and in that case his theory comes to be on the same level as the others. — But if we look now at the expression of Christian faith upon which he believes the Church to be based, we must admit that viewed in and of itself it is impossible for an idea to find completely adequate expression in words — even if Deity himself spoke the words, there would always be a little snag as soon as man set about to understand them. Here I would concede something that I am temporarily willing to concede — that it was given by inspired men — but if we insist on the idea of inspiration in this way, as we are obliged to do here according to Lindberg's theory, then we must also certainly limit this activity to the language in which it was originally given, but at present all the churches that have essentially the same creed have it in translation, and it is precisely the Greek Church that differs in its creed from the others (which is why Grundtvig declares somewhere in Theologisk Maanedsskrift that it is like a withered branch). But must we now concede a miracle with respect to the translation? Nothing warrants our doing that. (If it is assumed, then what was mentioned above holds true.) — But, of course, with translation many more snags arise etc. — consequently the more consistently that theory is maintained, the more it diverges from the truth, but if it is not consistently maintained, then we are just where we started, and Grundtvig's theory has no significance whatsoever. —
In which capacity did the Apostles give this creed — (over — under — heretics — belonged itself to the Church).
To me it appears far more natural to think that the Lord's Supper as the originally true center in the Church has been kept genuinely alive, and that out from this center the external outlines have gradually been drawn. Which is why Christianity is far more detailed in the institution of the Lord's Supper as described in the New Testament than in baptism.* (Mystery for both the gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians.)
*and if there should be reason for concealment anywhere, it would much more likely be here than in baptism.
Grundtvig has been asked to prove that the present creed was the original one, but on that point the Magister [Lindberg] held that it was up to the others to prove that it was not the original. In a sense this cannot be denied, for Grundtvig can always appeal to the fact that we have it now and he does not know how it was previously; so it is up to the others to make their proof. Meanwhile the whole matter gets to be awkward for Grundtvig, for he himself has said that it does not depend on the dead letter (that is, books) but on the Living Word, and it is not particularly reasonable to think that we can now muster up a Living Word from 1800 years ago; thus it appears that Grundtvig invites refutation of his theory but at the same time says that you had better not do that, for by my very theory I have deprived you of every possibility of proof. — But not so with the Magister [Lindberg], for in order to make something out of the Altar Book he has called attention to the fact that 300 years ago it did not exist; consequently he has gotten himself involved in arguing on the basis of dead letters, and thus we could demand, if not legally at least with a certain fairness, that he prove that this creed was the original one.
The opposition has pointed out that the creed is not found in the N.T. (to what extent is it proper in principle to attack him in that manner??). To that Lindberg and Grundtvig etc. answered: (1) Well, it was natural, for he [Paul] was writing to Christians, and they knew the creed so well that he did not need to quote it. But it is still an awkward matter, for the Christians also knew the Lord's Supper as well, and yet Paul quotes the words of institution in 1 Corinthians 11. Now it cannot be denied that the Christians often transgressed against the articles in the Apostles' Creed — why then do the Apostles never quote it, if not in its entirety then at least in part. But please note, with the weight attributed to the words of institution as a confession of faith, as he specifically says in 1 Corinthians 11: εγω παρελαβον απó τον κυρìον, ο καí παρεδωκα υ μιν etc. (2) On the point that it is not found in the oldest Church Fathers, Magister Lindberg observed that they kept it secret. But suppose that it was so — that would still not be reason enough to keep the Apostles from quoting it, since, after all, there was far more reason for a person to have considered the Lord's Supper as something of a mystery (which in fact they did), and this is discussed completely in 1 Corinthians 11. But suppose it was the case, this much is certain — that we do find it recorded from about the fourth century, and although it is not quite like ours, we can say that here (with reference to Lindberg, who argues from the dead letter) we do have something which we know exists; how it was previously we do not know, but we assumed that it had been just like this and quite consistently claim that if you believe the opposite the burden of proof lies with you. But inasmuch as the present creed and that of the fourth century are not exactly the same, since, on the contrary, the fourth century creed lacks certain articles and yet, if you want to be consistent, you must acknowledge that according to your train of thought I can say that the one is just as original as the other, then you must acknowledge that we do not have the original. This conclusion is unsatisfactory only for you who believe that if we do not have it, then the Church is sunk — then the Covenant is broken and no happiness can come to man, but this conclusion is not unsatisfactory for us who believe that the Church essentially expresses itself at the concrete moment in its confessions, and that they consequently are to be regarded as mileposts on the way of Christian development.
Grundtvig also believed that this theory should be of theological assistance in determining what is Christian and what is not. He believed that the Bible was deaf and dumb, that it could be interpreted every which way, but he believed that these words were so simple that no one could misunderstand them. But in the first place it is, properly speaking, ridiculous to maintain that an exposition such as we find in the Bible, drafted by the same Apostles, should be confusing, as if the clarity of a matter were lessened by being illuminated from many sides, especially by the same men. The next thing to note is that nowadays the Bible is continually under attack, but — suppose now that this theory about the creed was just as universally accepted as the view of the Bible — I would still like to know if an opponent would find it more difficult to attack just the single phrase — the forgiveness of sins — than the entire teaching in the Bible, as if the single phrase did not involve far greater possibilities for interpretation than the complete exposition, where the individual expression is illuminated within the whole.
N.B. It seems to me that Clausen has erred in this controversy by going into an investigation of whether or not there was an essential change, because from Grundtvig's position there can be no question of that, for the theory has been advanced (see above) precisely to prevent human determinations as to what is Christian or not. — But on the other hand Grundtvig, Lindberg, Engelbrecht, etc. have also erred, of course, by replying as to the authenticity of it, for in all consistency they ought to have utterly repudiated the investigation.
Addition to previous:
The misunderstanding in the theory of the "λòγος" as carried over to the word, since no matter how living the Living Word is, it still is not creative in that sense, for the very reason that it is not absolutely creative, does not come forth in its fullness, and therefore there is no absolute difference between the living and the written Word.
The same objections could be made against the creed as they themselves make against the Bible — the whole external way in which conclusions are reached — an introductory science made into the creed — the altered Lord's Supper.
It seems to me that Grundtvig regards the development of Christian knowledge as advancing not along a difficult road but on a railroad track like a steam engine, with steam fired up by the Apostles; consequently one comes to Christian knowledge in closed machines.
During my stay here at Gilleleie I have visited Esrom, Fredensborg, Frederiksværk, Tidsvilde. The last village is known chiefly for its [St.] Helen-Spring (see Thiele, Danske Folkesagn, Samling I, pp 29 ff.), to which the whole countryside goes on pilgrimage around Midsummer's Eve. Just outside the village one's attention is immediately drawn to a fairly tall three-cornered column with the inscription that shifting sand once devastated this locality and buried the whole village of Tibirke under its drifts, but that it was checked by the tireless efforts of our excellent government. After being informed about the nature of the terrain by the inscription on the column and the lush buckwheat growing on both sides, if one looks down from this high point into the valley where Tidsvilde lies, his eyes meet a friendly, smiling nature: the small but very neat houses lie separately, surrounded by fresh greenery (if I may put it this way, it is like individuals reaching a friendly hand to each other in a smiling totality and not like larger cities which, when we approach, impress upon us the sharp outlines of the whole mass of buildings), for the whole area where the sand drifted most is now planted with fine trees — so one is almost tempted to believe that the whole thing was fiction, a strange fiction: that right here where people come to seek their health so many have found their graves. In the twilight the whole thing looks like an illustrated legend, a kind of Job's story in which Tibirke Church plays the main part. Alone on a great sandy hill, it stands like a gravestone over the unfortunate village but also as an example of a church built on a rock over which storm and sand cannot prevail, but since the church held its own, a forest sprang up there where the drifting sand had been. — Upon entering the village one is distressed to find — instead of peaceful rural tranquility, perhaps mixed with a little melancholy here because of the circumstances — boisterous noise, tents and tables, where, strangely enough, almost all the vendors are German, just as if to say that only foreigners could conduct themselves in such a manner here, that only a foreign tongue could profane the place in this way. On leaving the village one comes to a field, where the grave of [St.] Helen lies. There it stands — quiet, simple, surrounded by a fence of granite boulders; the gate leading to the slightly elevated grave stands open. But here, too — in order that every solemn impression may be disturbed — right beside it a tent has been set up; a bunch of men have chosen this as their place for boozing and making a racket and for mocking those who come to visit it [the grave]. A strange sort of discourse is going on here. Since these men are from this vicinity, they have imbibed with their mother's milk a considerable awe for this grave and the cures to which it is presumed to have contributed.*
*The cure employed consists of sleeping on the grave every St. John's Eve three years in a row and of providing oneself with some earth from the grave, for which purpose there was a special scoop. In addition one must not forget the poor, for whose benefit a money box has been placed in the village.
These they cannot completely deny, but now they want to convince themselves and others that they can disregard them and choose this way of jeering at the whole thing. There is a curious contrast to their behavior in the conversation and behavior of a man who functions as a kind of caretaker and carries a key to the wooden shed that contains the springs (there are, in fact, three, which is why they do not say locally: go to the spring, but to the springs), whereby he earns a little money. He declares that he has been there twenty years now and has seen many who have been cured. One soon detects that he, too, does not put much trust in the whole thing but for his own good eulogizes the place. Just as I, upon my arrival, did not need to fear becoming an object of their derision — for they would expect a man dressed in modern clothes, wearing spectacles, and smoking a cigar to be just as loftily enlightened as they themselves rather than someone coming there with pure intentions — so also the keeper of the key just mentioned was disconcerted, for he was afraid that his interest might possibly clash with the impression his remarks would make upon me. He therefore snatched at the expedient commonly used, as I have noticed — namely, that those concerned had been healed through these means "by the help of God." It is quite characteristic of such folk to come to that conclusion, for where they are unable to explain the cure by way of these means, they shift over to something more remote to dispose of the whole thing, but precisely in this way they make the whole matter remarkable, for after all it would be remarkable that the help of God would have linked itself to this channel. To be consistent with their rational position, they either had to deny the whole thing and insist upon a perfectly evident fact or, if they were more modest, postpone the explanation indefinitely.
Upon entering the site of the burial mound, a certain melancholy mood comes over one, evoked by the strange mysteriousness, by the dark side that superstition carries with it, elusive to the observer and nevertheless suggestive of a whole system or nexus. One sees himself surrounded by hanks of hair, rags, crutches, hears the shrieks of the suffering, their prayers to heaven, hears the individual's desperate laments at not being able to fall asleep (on the whole it seems a beautiful thought that it is made a condition that one must sleep in this holy place, as if to signify the quiet, devoted-to-God peacefulness), and all this at midnight on a burial mound, surrounded by nothing but small pieces of wood in the form of mementos placed on graves and bearing testimony to the happily cured sufferings of the healed. And now day is breaking, dawn with its strangely animate mobility and clammy dampness disappears; the sun in its majesty illuminates the landscape and perhaps hears the jubilant hymns of the healed. — Some of the boards mentioned give briefly and simply the name and birthplace of the healed and their gratitude to God — for example: "Johanne Anders' Daughter, 1834, suffered much with headaches, Miracle June 23, 1834"; "Sidse Anders' Daughter, sola gloria." — A few are much larger and more detailed; some have not written their names in full; some have written in the first person; others tell about the person concerned — for example, "Such and such a girl was cured here"* On the whole it is noteworthy that the majority are women. In the middle of the site is the grave proper, with a stone, or more correctly, a piece of stone, lying upon it; the inscription is not legible; the springs, in a wooden shed, are right on the beach a short distance away. The land slopes quite steeply to this point. Charles W. Schröder has composed a report memorializing Crown Prince Frederick's visit here.+ — Down on the beach there is a stone upon which Helen is supposed to have come sailing; it is said to be visible at low tide. The legend has it that when they were going to carry her body to the graveyard they were unable to go beyond the place where her burial mound is now, and at the same time three springs gushed forth from the earth.
*It is also interesting to read the many names on the markers in Normandsdalen in Fredensborg; each one combines to tell a whole history.
+ "Anno 1774, June 18. The honor and the favor bestowed on [St.] Helen-Spring by being paid a gracious visit by Crown Prince Frederik when he was shown the great work in this region, for which his great father will be eternally praised. The spring indeed pleased him, but what impressed him more was that the district is now free from the disturbance of shifting sand. What can the kingdom not expect in time from him in his youthful years wants to find out for himself what can be to the benefit and interest of his state, his people and country. — Erected most humbly by the present caretaker at the sand dunes.Chr. Wilhelm Schröder"
On July 5 I visited Gurre Castle, where excavation of the ruins is now in progress. The castle itself (see Thiele, Danske Folkesagn, Samling I, pp. 90 ff. — Another one at Vordingborg? built by Valdemar Atterdag, destroyed in the Feud of the Counts? "God may keep paradise if I may keep Gurre Castle"; his wild hunt in the air on the white horse, the black hen with the black chicks) has had a beautiful location, surrounded on all sides by forest. A very large area [of forest] still remains, and the region indicates that at one time there was more. In addition, there is Lake Gurre, which is fairly long and relatively narrow and has a forest of good-sized beech trees on one side and a forest of smaller, stunted trees on the other. The lake itself is overgrown with rushes in many places. When one views this landscape in the afternoon light, when the sun is still high enough to give the friendly landscape the necessary sharp contours, like a melodious voice that is sharply enough accented not to lisp, the whole environment seems to whisper: It is good to be here. It is the kind of cozy, intimate impression a lake surrounded by forest (large enough to separate and unite at the same time) can produce, but the sea cannot. A special feature of this view is the waving rushes along the beach. While the sighing of the trees makes us hear King Valdemar's hunt, the sound of the horns, and the baying of the hounds, the rushes seem to exhale applause — the blonde maidens admiring the knights' swift riding and noble poise. How different in this respect the view around Lake Søborg! The mighty canes also bow before the wind, but their rustling proclaims struggle and power. The sea, which like a mighty spirit is always in motion, still gives intimations of intense mental suffering even when it is most quiet. Here around Lake Gurre there rests a quiet melancholy; the region lives, so to speak, more in the past. This is also why it is overgrown. The sea, on the other hand, captures the land — they face each other like two hostile powers. The coastline is barren and sandy; the land rises as if to make vigorous resistance. The sea is greatest when the storm strikes up its bass, when its distinctive deep roar is pierced by heaven's thunder and the whole scene is illuminated by lightning. Lake Gurre is most beautiful when a soft breeze ruffles its blue surface and the song of birds accompanies the soughing of the reeds; the sea is accompanied only by the horase shrieking of the solitary seagull. The former (the sea) is like a Mozart recitative; the latter like a melody by Weber. — From here the road goes to Hellebæk. The last mile goes through a lovely woods offering views of a different kind. The woods itself is fairly large and wild, and only the rut (not a road) reminds us that we still have any connection with the human world. Here and there leaps up a wild animal which has been hiding in the shadow of the bushes from the rays of the midday sun. The birds fly up screeching. The countryside is quite hilly and forms many ponds in the forest. The slope of the land and the darkness created by the leaves convey the impression that the ponds are very deep. In contrast to their dark mirrors, one single flower grows and blooms on the surface of the water, a nymphaea alba (white waterlily), swimming around with its great broad green leaf; pure, white, and innocent, it has bobbed up out of the depths of the sea. Not far from Hellebæk lies Odin's Hill, where Schimmelmann is buried. The view has been praised and talked about so much that it, regrettably, is not very impressive. People still do not grow weary of gadding about busily pointing out the romantic settings (for example, K— at Fredensborg). From there the road goes to Esrom and then to Gilleleie.
On July 8 I made an excursion to Esrom. The road along the lake from Esrom to Nøddebo is one of the loveliest I have seen for a long time. On the left side [is] Solyst, which is built almost on the lake, and farther along Fredensborg. On the right is a continuous forest, alternately beech and spruce. Here and there are beautiful tracts of three- and four-year old spruce trees. A thunderstorm overtook me along the way. I rejoiced to see such a storm come up over Lake Esrom and Grib Skov, but it turned out to be just rain. Meanwhile it was interesting to see the preliminaries to such a drama. I have seen the sea on such an occasion turn blue-gray and become agitated, and I have watched the gusts of wind that announced the approach of the storm swirl the grass and sand upward along the coast, but I have never seen a performance in which not only the grass but a whole forest is set in motion by these gusts of wind (these trumpet calls that announce the judgment). However, since it turned out to be nothing but rain, I decided it was best to turn in somewhere. Such a place came into sight. Although I searched for a long time for a roadway, I found none. Seeing a figure in the window, I waved, but she probably did not see fit to take the trouble of going out in such a rain, and as is generally the case with farmers, opening the window was out of the question. Consequently I was obliged to stop the carriage under some trees that leaned over the road as if to give me shelter. Clad in my enormous overcoat, I entered the front roam and found myself in the presence of three persons about to eat their supper. The furniture included, of course, the great long table at which farmers like to eat and a towering four-poster [Himmelseng, heaven-bed] in the literal sense of the word, for I imagine that in order to get into bed one would have to climb up to the loft and fall in — a fall of some distance, as is the habit of farmers. The next room, to which the door stood open, was a storeroom for linen, duck, damask, and the like, in great disorder, prompting one to think that this was a little band of thieves, an idea that seemed to be supported by the location of the place (Lake Esrom on one side and Grib Skov on the other and no house within a mile) and the appearance of the people. Let us now look at them a bit. At the farther end of the long table just mentioned sat the man, with his sandwiches and bottle of aquavit. He listened impassively to the tale of my sad fate, taking an occasional sip from his glass, something the cubic volume of his nose seemed to indicate he did quite frequently. Yet the frequent indulgence had in no way diminished its pleasure, and I am certain that he still drank his schnapps with the same relish as one who has just resigned from the Temperance Society. The woman was not very tall and had a broad face with an ugly upturned nose and crafty eyes.With regard to their way of making a living (custom bleaching), she maintained that one had to earn his morsel some way. There was also a little round-shouldered girl, the same person who had appeared at the window and whom I had taken for a child.
Soon the rain stopped, and I hastened on. But this was only the beginning, and when I entered Grib Skov it really began to storm. Now the lightning and thunder began in earnest. We were soon drenched with rain and had no need to hurry as far as that was concerned; but the lad (Rudolph) who was with me was thoroughly frightened. There I sat soaked to the skin amid thunder and lightning and pouring rain in the heart of Grib Skov, and beside me sat a boy who trembled at the lightning. At full trot we finally reached a house where we took shelter, wretched and dilapidated. Poor people. Housewifely woman. Sat and spun. Snuffling husband. The first thing I noticed upon entering was a sort of door to a closet; it was made of an old slab on which was painted a girl in simple rural costume and the following inscription: "My fields feed me, my sheep clothe me; here I take my nourishment as the house is able to provide." I asked for a little bread for my horse, which they were not very willing to give as they had only half a loaf. But they were persuaded, and when I paid them quite well the woman answered that she could not take that much, but she consented to accept it when I said I could spare it and she needed it.
After a considerable walk through the forest, where I became acquainted with several of the little lakes I am so fond of, I came to Hestehaven and Lake Carl. Here is one of the most beautiful regions I have every seen. The countryside is somewhat isolated and slopes steeply down to the lake, but with the beech forests growing on either side, it is not barren. A growth of rushes forms the background and the lake itself the foreground; a fairly large part of the lake is clear, but a still larger part is overgrown with the large green leaves of the water lily, under which the fish seemingly try to hide but now and then peek out and flounder about on the surface in order to bathe in sunshine. The land rises on the opposite side, a great beech forest, and in the morning light the lighted areas make a marvelous contrast to the shadowed areas. The church bells call to prayer, but not in a temple made by human hands. If the birds do not need to be reminded to praise God, then ought men not be moved to prayer outside of the church, in the true house of God, where heaven's arch forms the ceiling of the church, where the roar of the storm and the light breezes take the place of the organ's bass and treble, where the singing of the birds make up the congregational hymns of praise, where echo does not repeat the pastor's voice as in the arch of the stone church, but where everything resolves itself in an endless antiphony — ?
On July 27 and 28, together with the cousin of Pastor Lyngbye,* I went over to Sweden to Mølleleie. At Krabberup manor [we] visited Baron von Gyldenstjerne and saw his fish collection, climbed the highest points, Östra Högkull and Vestra Högkull, drove through a not so little beech forest (small lakes), even up to Jullan to the lighthouse, made a little botanical excursion on Kullan, and Pastor Lyngbye was so kind as to give me a few plants collected there — dried and wrapped in paper.
* N.B. "Young Inger swings to Askelund's peak," — "Wind, waft gently!"
July 29. As one walks from the inn over Sortebro (so-called because at one time the bubonic plague is supposed to have been checked here) to the bare fields along the beach, about a mile north one comes to the highest point around here — Gilbjerg. This spot has always been one of my favourite places. One quiet evening as I stood there listening to the deep but quietly earnest song of the sea, seeing not a sail on the enormous expanse of water but only the sea enclosing the sky and the sky the sea, while on the other side the busy hum of life became silent and the birds sang their evening prayers — then the few dear departed ones rose from the grave before me, or, more correctly, it seemed as if they were not dead. I was very much at ease in their midst, I rested in their embrace, and I felt as if transported out of my body and floating about with them in a higher ether — but then the seagull's harsh screech reminded me that I stood alone, and everything vanished before my eyes, and I turned back with a heavy heart to mingle with the world's crowds — without, however, forgetting such blessed moments. — I have often stood there and pondered my past life and the various influences that have been so important to me, and the pettiness that so often creates animosity in life, the many misunderstandings that so often separate persons of various temperaments, who, if they really understood one another, would be knit together with indissoluble bonds, vanished before my eyes. When the whole, looked at in perspective this way, displayed only the larger, more vivid outlines, and I did not lose myself in the detail as I often do but saw the whole in its totality, I was empowered to perceive things differently, to understand how often I had made mistakes, and to forgive others. — As I stood there, free from the depression and despondency that would make me see myself as an enclitic of the men who usually surround me, or free of the pride that would make me the constituting principle of a little circle — as I stood there alone and forsaken and the brute force of the sea and the battle of the elements reminded me of my nothingness, and on the other hand the sure flight of the birds reminded me of Christ's words: "Not a sparrow will fall to the earth without your heavenly Father's will," I felt at one and the same time how great and how insignificant I am; then those two great forces, pride and humility, joined compatibly. Fortunate is the man for whom this is possible at all times in his life, in whose breast these two factors have not only come to terms with each other but have reached out a hand to each other and have been married — a marriage that is neither a marriage of convenience nor a marriage of misfits, but a truly quiet marriage, performed in a person's heart of hearts, in the holy of holies, with not many witnesses present, but where everything takes place alone before the eyes of him who was the only one who attended the first wedding in the Garden of Eden and blessed the pair — a marriage that will not be barren but will have blessed fruits visible in the world to the eye of the experienced observer, for these fruits are like cryptograms in the plant world: they avoid the attention of the masses and only the solitary searcher discovers them and rejoices in his find. His life will flow on calmly and quietly, and he will drain neither the intoxicating glass of pride nor the bitter cup of despair. He has found what the great philosopher — who by his calculations was able to destroy the enemy's implements of war — desired but did not find: that Archimedean point from which he can lift the whole world, that point which precisely for that reason must lie outside the world, outside the restrictions of time and space.
From this spot I have seen the sea rippled by a soft breeze, seen it play with pebbles; from here I have seen its surface transformed into a massive snow cloud and heard the low bass of the storm begin to sing falsetto; here I have seen, so to speak, the emergence of the world and its destruction — a sight that truly calls for silence. But what is the meaning of this expression, which is so often profaned? How often do we not meet sentimental blondes who, like nymphs in white gowns, with armed eyes* watch such phenomena in order to break out in "silent admiration"? How different from the wholesome, exuberant natural girl who watches such things in manifest innocence. Furthermore, she remains silent and like the Virgin Mary of old hides it deep in her heart.
*Something Gynther said on a different occasion holds true of them: "People who come with armed eyes but also with armed hearts."
In order to learn true humility (I use this expression to describe the state of mind under discussion), it is good for a person to withdraw from the turmoil of the world (we see that Christ withdrew when the people wanted to proclaim him king as well as when he had to walk the thorny path), for in life either the depressing or the elevating impression is too dominant for a true balance to come about. Here, of course, individuality is very decisive, for just as almost every philosopher believes he has found the truth, just as almost every poet believes he has reached Mount Parnassus, just so we find on the other hand many who link their lives entirely to another, like a parasite to a plant, live in him, die in him (for example, the Frenchman in relation to Napoleon). But in the heart of nature, where a person, free from life's often nauseating air, breathes more freely, here the soul opens willingly to every noble impression. Here one comes out as nature's master, but he also feels that something higher is manifested in nature, something he must bow down before; he feels a need to surrender to this power that rules it all. (I, of course, would rather not speak of those who see nothing higher in nature than substance — people who really regard heaven as a cheese-dish cover and men as maggots who live inside it.) Here he feels himself great and small at one and the same time, and feels it without going so far as the Fichtean remark (in his Die Bestimmung des Menschen) about a grain of sand constituting the world, a statement not far removed from madness.
The fourth of August I visited Pastor Lyngbye in his parsonage and took an excursion out on Lake Søborg. This previously immense lake is now about to disappear. We worked our way through the outlet of the lake with much difficulty; the water is so shallow and silted that like a whale among herring we pushed mud ahead of us. But apart from this the nature round about us was very interesting; the heavy growth of six-foot rushes and the lush vegetation of all kinds of lake plants led us to indulge in the fantasy that we were in an utterly different climate. Eventually we came out on the lake itself. Here, too, the water is scarcely a foot deep and overgrown with seaweed, which Lyngbye gathered for the mollusks. The loud clamoring of wild ducks, sea gulls, cranes, etc., and the floating islands made a pleasant impression.
I also inspected the ruins of the castle but did not see anything new (Becker covers just about everything in his description of Danish castles). — The three rows of closed pews clearly indicate that this is no ordinary country church. On the wall up near the altar is a register of the pastors since the Reformation, and it was really awe-inspiring to reflect on these men — they were court chaplains — who according to the information often had remained thirty to forty years (yes, one even forty-eight years) in the same call, in the same congregation. — In the graveyard Lyngbye had found a tombstone, now sent to Copenhagen to be placed in the Round Tower, on which was written "Ave Maria" in intertwined runic letters. He believed that it could be an epitaph for Queen Helvig, who is known to have lived here.
As a fishing hamlet and the northernmost point in Sjælland, and for that reason somewhat isolated from the surrounding countryside, Gilleleie is unique. This is apparent, for example, in the inhabitants' "Gable Assemblies" and in the "repast," as it is called, shared by all the men after every catch, a dinner for which every man puts in his two cents worth. Furthermore, they are almost all related to each other and are like one big family. Therefore, during my stay, when a boat on its scheduled run to the Island of Hessel was somewhat overdue in rather stormy weather, there was universal anxiety in the village and they frequently hurried to Gilbjerg to see if the boat was visible.
Among the farmers here in this region I have met one who really stands out — Jens Andersen of Fjellenstrup. He is well read not only in the Bible but also in historical works — for example, in Saxo, Snorre, and the Icelandic sagas published by the Old Norse Society (he had borrowed them from the pastor). He discussed them very intelligently — yes, I could almost say unctuously — but unfortunately he had the defect of drinking, and then I will not deny that his conversation was disgusting, for he carried on the same as when he was sober.
You know how very enthusiastically I listened to you in the past, how interested I was in your description of your stay in Brazil, although not so much in the mass of detailed observations you made, enriching yourself and your scholarship, as in your first impressions of those natural wonders, your paradisiacal joy and happiness. Something like this always appeals to any man of warmth and feelings, even if he intends to find his satisfaction and work in an entirely different field; it is especially appealing to the young, who as yet only dream about their destiny. Our early youth is like a flower at dawn, cupping a lovely dewdrop, reflecting pensively and harmoniously its surroundings. But soon the sun rises over the horizon and the dewdrop evaporates; with it vanish life's dreams, and now the question is (to use once again a flower metaphor) whether one is able, like the oleander, to produce by his own effort a drop that can stand as the fruit of his life. This requires, above all, that a person find the soil where he really belongs, but that is not always so easy to discover. In this respect there are fortunate temperaments so decisively oriented in a particular direction that they go steadily along the path once assigned to them without ever entertaining the thought that perhaps they should really be taking another path. There are others who let themselves be so completely directed by their environment that they never become clear about what they are really working toward. Just as the former class has its internal categorical imperative, so the latter has an external categorical imperative. But how few there are in the former class, and to the latter I do not wish to belong. The majority will get to try out in life what the Hegelian dialectic really means. Incidentally, it is altogether proper that wine ferments before it becomes clear; nevertheless the particular aspects of this condition are often unpleasant, although regarded in its totality, of course, it has its own pleasantness, inasmuch as it still has its relative results in the context of the universal doubt. It is especially significant for the person who through this comes to realize his destiny, not only because of the contrasting tranquillity that follows the preceding storm but also because then life has an entirely different meaning than previously. This is the Faustian element that for a time asserts itself more or less in every intellectual development, which is why I have always been of the opinion that world-significance ought to be attributed to the idea of Faust. Just as our forefathers had a goddess of longing, so, in my opinion, Faust is no doubt personified. More he should not be, and it certainly is a sin against the idea when Goethe allows Faust to be converted in the same way as Mèrimèe lets Don Juan be converted. Do not raise the objection that the moment Faust addressed himself to the devil he made a positive step, for right here, it seems to me, is one of the most profound elements in the Faust legend. He approached the devil for the express purpose of becoming enlightened on things about which he was previously unenlightened, and precisely because he addressed himself to the devil, his doubt increased (just as a sick man falling into the hands of a quack is likely to get even worse.) Admittedly Mephistopheles let him look through his spectacles into the hidden secrets of man and the world, but Faust could still not avoid having doubts about him, for he could never enlighten him about the most profound intellectual matters. In accordance with his idea he could never turn to God, for once he did that, he would have to say to himself that here was the true enlightenment, and at the same moment he would, in fact, deny his character as a doubter.
But this kind of doubt can also show itself in other spheres. Even if a man has come to terms with himself on several such main issues, there are still other important questions in life. Naturally every man desires to be active in the world according to his own aptitudes, but this again means that he wishes to develop his aptitudes in a particular direction, namely, in the direction best suited to his individuality. But which direction is that? Here I stand before a big question mark. Here I stand like Hercules, but not at the crossroads — no, here there are a good many more roads to take and thus it is much more difficult to choose the right one. It is perhaps my misfortune that I am interested in far too much and not decisively in any one thing; my interests are not subordinated to one but instead all stand coordinate.
I will try to indicate how things look to me.
- The natural sciences. If I look first of all at this whole movement (including in this classification all those who seek to clarify and interpret the runic inscriptions of nature: from those who calculate the course of the stars and, so to speak, stop them in order to inspect them more closely, to those who describe the physiology of a particular animal; from those who survey the countryside from the heights of the mountains to those who descend to the depths of the abyss; from those who follow the development of the human body through its countless nuances to those who examine intestinal worms, I would of course see examples along this road, as on every other road (but principally on this one), of people who have made a name for themselves in the literature by their enormous assiduousness in collecting. They know a great many details and have discovered many new ones, but nothing more. They have merely provided a substratum for others to think about and work up. These men are satisfied with their details, and yet to me they are like the rich farmer in the gospel: they have collected a great deal in the barn, but science can say to them: "Tomorrow I will demand your life," insofar as that is what decides the significance each separate finding is to have in the whole picture. To the extent that there is a kind of unconscious life in such a man's knowledge, to that extent the sciences can be said to demand his life; to the extent that this is not the case, his activity is like that of the man who contributes to the upkeep of the earth by the decomposition of his dead body. This, of course, is not the case in other instances, with the kind of scientific researches who through their reflection have found or are trying to find that Archimedean point which is nowhere in the world and from that point have surveyed the whole and have seen the details in their proper light. As far as they are concerned, I do not deny that they have had a very salutary effect on me. One rarely finds tranquility, harmony, and joy such as theirs. Here in Copenhagen we have three worthy representatives: An Ørstead, whose face to me has always resembled a Chladni figure that nature has touched in the right way; a Schouw, who provides a study for an artist wanting to paint Adam giving names to all the animals; and finally a Hornemann, who, intimate with every plant, stands like a patriarch in nature. In this respect I also remember with joy the impression you made upon me, you who stood as the representative of a great nature that also should have its voice in parliament. I have been enthusiastic about the natural sciences and still am, but I do not think that I will make them my principal study. The life by virtue of reason [Fornuft] and freedom has always interested me most, and it has always been my desire to clarify and solve the riddle of life. The forty years in the wilderness before I reach the promised land of natural sciences seem too costly to me, all the more since I believe that nature can also be observed from a side that does not involve insight into the secrets of science. What difference does it make whether I view the whole world in a single flower or listen to the many hints that nature offers about human life, whether I admire the bold freehand sketches in the firmament or the nature-sounds in Ceylon remind me of those sounds in the spiritual world or the departure of the migratory birds reminds me of the deeper longings in man's breast.
- Theology. This seems to be my most immediate choice, but here also there are great difficulties. Christianity itself has such great contradictions that a clear view is hindered, to say the least. As you well know, I grew up in orthodoxy, so to speak, but as soon as I began to think for myself the enormous colossus gradually began to totter. I call it an enormous colossus deliberately, for taken as a whole it actually is very consistent and through the many centuries the separate parts have fused together so tightly that it is difficult to get at it. Now I could very well accept particular parts of it, but then these would prove comparable to the seedlings often found in rock fissures. On the other hand, I could probably also see the distortions in many separate points, but for a time I was obliged to let the main foundation stand in dubio. The moment that was changed, the whole thing took on an entirely different cast, and thus my attention was drawn to another phenomenon: rationalism, which on the whole looks rather second-rate. As long as reason [Fornuften] consistently follows its own nature and, by analyzing the relation between God and the world, again comes to look at man in his deepest and most inward relation to God and in this respect also from its own viewpoint considers Christianity to be that which has satisfied man's deepest needs for many centuries, as long as this is the case, there is nothing objectionable, but then it is no longer rationalism, for rationalism acquires its own special coloring from Christianity and consequently is in a completely different sphere from Christianity and does not construct a system but a Noah's ark (to use an expression Professor Heiberg used on another occasion) in which the clean and the unclean animals lie down side by side. It creates just about the same impression our National Guard of the old days would make alongside the Potsdam Guard. That is why it virtually tries to attach itself to Christianity, bases its formulations on scripture, and sends a legion of Bible passages in advance of every single point, but the formulation itself is not penetrated by it. They conduct themselves like Cambyses, who in his campaign against Egypt sent the sacred chickens and cats ahead, but they are also prepared, like the Roman consul, to throw the sacred chickens overboard if they will not eat. The fallacy is that they use scripture as a basis when they agree with it but otherwise not, and thus they rest on two alien positions.
— As far as little annoyances are concerned, I will say only that I am starting to study for the theological examination, a pursuit that does not interest me in the least and that therefore does not get done very fast. I have always preferred free, perhaps therefore also indefinite, studying to the boarding house where one knows beforehand who the guests will be and what food will be served each day of the week. Since it is, however, a requirement, and one scarcely gets permission to enter into the scholarly pastures without being branded, and since in view of my present state of mind I regard it as advantageous, plus the fact that I know that by going through with it I can make my father happy (he thinks that the real land of Canaan lies on the other side of the theological diploma, but in addition, like Moses of old, ascends Mount Tabor and declares that I will never get in — yet I hope that it will not be fulfilled this time), so I had better dig in. How lucky you are to have found an enormous field of investigation in Brazil, where every step offers something new, where the screaming of the rest of the Republic of Scholars does not disturb your peace. To me the scholarly theological world is like Strandveien on Sunday afternoon during the Dyrehaug season* — they dash by each other, yelling and shouting, laugh and make fools of each other, drive their horses to death, tip over and are run over, and when they finally come — covered with dust and out of breath — to Bakken — well, they just look at each other, turn around, and go home.
As far as your coming back is concerned, it would be childish of me to hasten it, just as childish as Achilles' mother trying to hide him to avoid a quick, honorable death. — Best wishes!
*In margin of previous:
There is something strangely ironic in Copenhagener's excursions to Dyrehaug. They are trying to shake off the bourgeois dust of the city, flee from themselves — and find themselves again at Bakken.January 14, 1837
How confusing the contemplation of life often is when it appears to us in all its abundance, when we see with amazement the differences in abilities and attitudes, from the person who inwardly has lived so close to the divine that, like John of old, he can be said to rest on God's breast — to the person who with bestial brutality misunderstands and wants to misunderstand every profounder movement in human life; from the person who pierces the course of history with the eyes of a lynx and almost dares to set its hour hand, to the person for whom even the simplest thing is difficult. Or we notice the inequality in rank and position and now enviously feel deprived of what others have been given, and then again with grateful sadness see how much has been given us which is denied to others — and now a cold philosophy will explain the whole thing from preexistence and does not see it as the endless panorama of life with its varied colorfulness and its innumerable nuances.
As I have tried to show in the preceding pages, this is how things actually looked to me. But when I try to get clear about my life, everything looks different. Just as it takes a long time for a child to learn to distinguish itself from objects and an equally long time to disengage itself from its surroundings, with the result that it stresses the objective side and says, for example, "me hit the horse," so the same phenomenon is repeated in a higher spiritual sphere. I therefore believed that I would possibly achieve more tranquility by taking another line of study, by directing my energies toward another goal. I might have succeeded for a time in banishing a certain restlessness, but it probably would have to come back more intense, like a fever after drinking cold water.
What I really need is to get clear about what I must do,* not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me,+ to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.
* How often, when a person believes that he has the best grip on himself, it turns out that he has embraced a cloud instead of Juno.
+ Only then does one have an inner experience, but how many experience life's different impressions the way the sea sketches figures in the sand and then promptly erases them without a trace.
Of what use would it be to me to discover a so-called objective truth, to work through the philosophical systems so that I could, if asked, make critical judgments about them, could point out the fallacies in each system; of what use would it be to me to be able to develop a theory of the state, getting details from various sources and combining them into a whole, and constructing a world I did not live in but merely held up for others to see; of what use would it be to me to be able to formulate the meaning of Christianity, to be able to explain many specific points — if it had no deeper meaning for me and for my life? And the better I was at it, the more I saw others appropriate the creations of my mind, the more tragic my situation would be, not unlike that of parents who in their poverty are forced to send their children out into the world and turn them over to the care of others. Of what use would it be to me for truth to stand before me, cold and naked, not caring whether or not I acknowledged it, making me uneasy rather than trustingly receptive. I certainly do not deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge and that through it men may be influenced, but then it must come alive in me, and this is what I now recognize as the most important of all. This is what my soul thirsts for as the African deserts thirst for water. This is what is lacking, and this is why I am like a man who has collected furniture, rented an apartment, but as yet has not found the beloved to share life's ups and downs with him. But in order to find that idea — or, to put it more correctly — to find myself, it does no good to plunge still farther into the world. That was just what I did before. The reason I thought it would be good to throw myself into law was that I believed I could develop my keenness of mind in the many muddles and messes of life. Here, too, was offered a whole mass of details in which I could lose myself; here, perhaps, with the given facts, I could construct a totality, an organic view of criminal life, pursue it in all its dark aspects (here, too, a certain fraternity of spirit is very evident). I also wanted to become a lawyer so that by putting myself in another's role I could, so to speak, find a substitute for my own life and by means of this external change find some diversion. This is what I needed to lead a completely human life and not merely one of knowledge,* so that I could base the development of my thought not on — yes, not on something called objective — something which in any case in not my own, but upon something which is bound up with the deepest roots+ of my existence [Existents], through which I am, so to speak, grafted into the divine, to which I cling fast even though the whole world may collapse. This is what I need, and this is what I strive for.
* [See I A 76]
+How close men, despite all their knowledge, usually live to madness? What is truth but to live for an idea? When all is said and done, everything is based on a postulate; but not until it no longer stands on the outside, not until one lives in it, does it cease to be a postulate. (Dialectic - Dispute)
I find joy and refreshment in contemplating the great men who have found that precious stone for which they sell all, even their lives,* whether I see them becoming vigorously engaged in life, confidently proceeding on their chosen course without vacillating, or discover them off the beaten path, absorbed in themselves and in working toward their high goal. I even honor and respect the by-path which lies so close by. It is this inward action of man, this God-side of man, which is decisive, not a mass of data, for the latter will no doubt follow and will not then appear as accidental aggregates or as a succession of details, one after the other, without a system, without a focal point. I, too, have certainly looked for this focal point. I have vainly sought an anchor in the boundless sea of pleasure as well as in the depths of knowledge. I have felt the almost irresistable power with which one pleasure reaches a hand to the next; I have felt the counterfeit enthusiasm it is capable of producing. I have also felt the boredom, the shattering, which follows on its heels. I have tasted the fruits of the tree of knowledge and time and again have delighted in their savoriness. But this joy was only in the moment of cognition and did not leave a deeper mark on me. It seems to me that I have not drunk from the cup of wisdom but have fallen into it. I have sought to find the principle for my life through resignation [Resignation], by supposing that since everything proceeds according to inscrutable laws it could not be otherwise, by blunting my ambitions and the antennae of my vanity. Because I could not get everything to suit me, I abdicated with a consciousness of my own competence, somewhat the way decrepit clergymen resign with pension. What did I find? Not my self [Jeg], which is what I did seek to find in that way (I imagined my soul, if I may say so, as shut up in a box with a spring lock, which external surroundings would release by pressing the spring). — Consequently the seeking and finding of the Kingdom of Heaven was the first thing to be resolved. But it is just as useless for a man to want first of all to decide the externals and after that the fundamentals as it is for a cosmic body, thinking to form itself, first of all to decide the nature of its surface, to what bodies it should turn its light, to which its dark side, without first letting the harmony of centrifugal and centripetal forces realize [realisere] its existence [Existents] and letting the rest come of itself.
*Thus it will be easy for us the first time we receive that ball of yarn from Ariadne (love) and then go through all the mazes of the labyrinth (life) and kill the monster. But how many there are who plunge into life (the labyrinth) without taking that precaution (the young girls and the little boys who are sacrificed every year to Minotaurus) — ?
On must first learn to know himself before knowing anything else (γνωθι ρεαυτòν). Not until a man has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he is to take does his life gain peace and meaning; only then is he free of that irksome, sinister traveling companion — that irony of life^% which manifests itself in the sphere of knowledge and invites true knowing to begin with a not-knowing (Socrates),++ just as God created the world from nothing. But in the waters of morality it is especially at home to those who still have not entered the tradewinds of virtue. Here it tumbles a person about in a horrible way, for a time lets him feel happy and content in his resolve to go ahead along the right path, then hurls him into the abyss of despair. Often it lulls a man to sleep with the thought, "After all, things cannot be otherwise," only to awaken him suddenly to a rigorous interrogation. Frequently it seems to let a veil of forgetfulness fall over the past, only to make every single trifle appear in a strong light again. When he struggles along the right path, rejoicing in having overcome temptation's power, there may come at almost the same time, right on the heels of perfect victory, an apparently insignificant external circumstance which pushes him down, like Sisyphys, from the height of the crag. Often when a person has concentrated on something, a minor external circumstance arises which destroys everything. (As in the case of a man who, weary of life, is about to throw himself into the Thames and at the crucial moment is halted by the sting of a mosquito.) Frequently a person feels his very best# when the illness is the worst, as in tuberculosis. In vain he tries to resist it but he has not sufficient strength, and it is no help to him that he has gone through the same thing many times; the kind of practice acquired in this way does not apply here.
^ [See I A 79.]
%It may very well in a certain sense remain, but he is able to bear the squalls of this life, for the more a man lives for an idea, the more easily he comes to sit on the "I wonder" seat before the whole world. — Frequently, when one is most convinced that he understands himself, he is assaulted by the uneasy feeling that he has really only learned someone else's life by rote.
++There is also a proverb which says: "One hears the truth from children and the insane." Here it is certainly not a question of having truth according to premises and conclusions, but how often have not the words of a child or an insane person thundered at the man who would not listen to an intellectual genius?
##[See I A 80.]
Just as no one who has been taught a great deal about swimming is able to keep afloat in a storm, but only the man who is intensely convinced and has experienced that he is actually lighter than water, so a person who lacks this inward point of poise is unable to keep afloat in life's storms. — Only when a man has understood himself in this way is he able to maintain an independent existence and thus avoid surrendering his own I. How often we see (in a period when we extol that Greek historian because he knows how to appropriate an unfamiliar style so delusively like the original author's, instead of censuring him, since the first prize always goes to an author for having his own style — that is, a mode of expression and presentation qualified by his own individuality) — how often we see people who either out of mental-spiritual laziness live on the crumbs that fall from another's table or for more egotistical reasons seek to identify themselves with others, until eventually they believe it all, just like the liar through frequent repetition of his stories. Although I am still far from this kind of interior understanding of myself, with profound respect for its significance I have sought to preserve my individuality — worshipped the unknown God. With a premature anxiety I have tried to avoid coming in close contact with those things whose force of attraction might be too powerful for me. I have sought to appropriate much from them, studied their distinctive characteristics and meaning in human life, but at the same time guarded against coming, like the moth, too close to the flame. I have had little to win or to lose in association with the ordinary run of men, partly because what they do — so-called practical life* —does not interest me much, partly because their coldness and indifference to the spiritual and deeper currents in man alienate me even more from them. With few exceptions my companions have had no special influence on me. A life that has not arrived at clarity about itself must necessarily exhibit an uneven side-surface; confronted with certain facts [Facta] and their apparent disharmony, they simply halted there, for, as I see it, they did not have sufficient interest to see a resolution in a higher harmony or to recognize the necessity of it. Their opinion of me was always one-sided, and I have vacillated between putting too much or too little weight on what they said. I have now withdrawn from their influence and the potential variations of my life's compass resulting from it. Thus I am again standing at the point where I must begin again in another way. I shall now calmly attempt to look at myself and begin to initiate inner action; for only thus will I be able, like a child calling itself "I" in its first consciously undertaken act, be able to call myself "I" in a profounder sense.
*This life, which is fairly prevalent in the whole era, is manifest also in big things; whereas the past ages built works before which the observer must stand in silence, now they build a tunnel under the Thames (utility and advantage). Yes, almost before a child gets time to admire the beauty of a plant or some animal, it asks: Of what use is it?
But that takes stamina, and it is not possible to harvest immediately what one has sown. I will remember that philosopher's method of having his disciples keep silent for three years; then I dare say it will come. Just as one does not begin a feast at sunrise but at sundown, just so in the spiritual world one must work forward for some time before the sun really shines for us and rises in all its glory; for although it is true as it says that God lets his sun shine upon the good and the evil and lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust, it is not so in the spiritual world. So let the die be cast — I am crossing the Rubicon! No doubt this road takes me into battle, but I will not renounce it. I will not lament the past — why lament? I will work energetically and not waste time in regrets, like the person stuck in a bog and first calculating how far he has sunk without recognizing that during the time he spends on that he is sinking still deeper. I will hurry along the path I have found and shout to everyone I meet: Do not look back as Lot's wife did, but remember that we are struggling up a hill.
In margin of I A 75 [5100, p. 35]:
* This explains a not uncommon phenomenon, a certain avarice+ concerning ideas. Precisely because life is not healthy [when] knowledge is too dominant, ideas are not regarded as the natural flowers on the tree of life, are not adhered to as such and as having significance only if they are that — but are regarded as separate flashes of illumination, as if life became richer because of a crowd, so to speak, of such external ideas (sit venia verbo — aphoristically). They forget that the same thing happens to ideas as to Thor's hammer — it returns to the point from which it was thrown, although in a modified form.
+ A similar phenomenon is the erroneous view of knowledge and its results in regarding the objective results and forgetting that the genuine philosopher is to the highest degree sub-objective. I need only mention Fichte. Wit is treated the same way; it is not regarded as Minerva, essentially springing from the author's whole individuality and environment, therefore in a sense something lyrical,# but as flowers one can pick and keep for his own use. (The forget-me-not has its place in the field, hidden and humble, but looks drab in a park).#And this also accounts for the blushing which usually accompanies a certain kind of witticism, suggesting that it came forth naturally, new-born.September 20, 1836
Addition to I A 75 [5100, p. 37]:
^ A curious kind of irony is also to be found in an Arabian tale "Morad the Hunchback" (in Moden Zeitung, "Bilder Magazin," no. 40, 1835). A man comes into possession of a ring which provides everything he wishes but always with a "but" attached — for example, when he wishes for security he finds himself in prison etc. (this story is found in Riises Bibliothek for Ungdommen, II, 6, 1836, p. 453). I have also heard or read some place about a man who, standing outside a theater, heard a soprano voice so beautiful and enchanting that he promptly fell in love with the voice; he hurries into the theater and meets a thick, fat man who, upon being asked who it was who sang so beautifully, answered: "It was I" — he was a castrato.
Addition to I A 75 [5100, p. 37]:
## "Es ist, wie mit den anmuthigen Morgentraümen, aus deren einschläferndem Wirbel man nur mit Gewalt sich herausziehen kann, wenn man nicht in immer drückender Müdigkeit gerathen, und so in krankhafter Erschöpfung nachher den ganzen Tag hinschleppen will." Novalis, Schriften. Berlin: 1826. I, p. 107.
It occurs to me that artists go forward by going backward, something which I have nothing against intrinsically when it is a reproduced retreat — as is the case with the better artists. But it does not seem right that they stop with the historical themes already given and, so to speak, think that only these are suitable for poetic treatment, because these particular themes, which intrinsically are no more poetic than others, are now again animated and inspirited by a great poetic nature. In this case the artists advance by marching on the spot. — Why are modern heroes and the like not just as poetic? Is it because there is so much emphasis on clothing the content in order that the formal aspect can be all the more finished?
often resembles an impenetrable virgin forest, where one can find a few places where one can ask the way and a family who professes to know the roads in the neighboring province but possess this information by tradition rather than through personal experience. In this literary virgin forest there also live swarms of wild animals (literary critics), which one must keep at bay with all sorts of noise-makers, for example, by falling into step with other critics. The very best, perhaps, would be if one could do with critics as is done with rats: train one to bite the other.
There is a contrast of primary significance between Augustine and Pelagius. The former crushes everything in order to rebuild it again. The other addresses himself to man as he is. The first system, therefore, in respect to Christianity, falls into three stages: creation — the fall and a consequent condition of death and impotence; a new creation — whereby man is placed in a position where he can choose; and then, if he chooses — Christianity. — The other system addresses itself to man as he is (Christianity fits into the world). From this is seen the significance of the theory of inspiration for the first system; from this also is seen the relationship between the synergistic and the semipelagian conflict. It is the same question, only that the synergistic struggle has its presupposition in the new creation of the Augustinian system.
The philosopher can also acknowledge his deficiency in comprehension, but the question remains whether he shall then acknowledge the basis of it to be in his limitation (someone who sits on the periphery of a circle one million miles in diameter will most certainly be able to survey a great expanse, but it does not follow from this that he is marvelously endowed with abilities) or shall he assume that it is rooted in man himself and his sinfulness.
The beautiful thing about Lemming's playing (he is a Danish musician; I heard him at the Student Union) was that he stroked the guitar. The vibrations became almost visible, just as waves become almost audible when the moon shines on the surface of the sea.
There are authors who, like beggars trying to arouse pity by exposing the defects and deformities of their body, strive to make a sensation by exposing the shattered condition of their hearts.
There are critics who, completely lacking an eye for the individual, try to regard everything from a universal point of view. Consequently, in order to become as universal as possible, they climb as high as possible until they see essentially nothing at all but a wide horizon — precisely because their viewing-point lies too high.
We often deceive ourselves by embracing as our own many an idea and observation which at the moment either springs forth vividly out of a time when we read it or lies in the consciousness of the whole age — yes, even now as I write this observation — this, too, perhaps, is a fruit of the experience of the age.
Truly, there often is something sad and depressing about someone wanting to communicate something in his lifetime and seeing at the very last that he has communicated nothing at all — but that the person concerned stubbornly continues in his view. But on the other hand there is something great in the fact that the other one and every individual is a world to himself and has his holy of holies where no alien hand can force itself in.
Often when reading a good poem or some other work that bears the mark of genius, I have thought that it was good that I myself was not its author, for then I would not be allowed to express my joy without the fear of being accused of vanity.
It should be noted that a riddle a person must solve was one of the characteristic ways in which the dialectic of life was conceived of in an earlier age (see another scrap of paper [i.e. I A 113] which may be found in my desk). See for example, Erzählungen und Märchen, by F. H. von der Hagen. II, pp. 167, etc.
People understand me so little that they do not even understand my laments over their not understanding me.
All of human life could well be conceived as a great discourse in which different people come to represent the different parts of speech (this might also be applicable to nations in relation to each other). How many people are merely adjectives, interjections, conjunctions, adverbs; how few are nouns, action words, etc.; how many are copulas.
People in relation to each other are like the irregular verbs in various languages — almost all the verbs are irregular.
Schiller has properly drawn a boundary between the naive and the sentimental by declaring that the former stirs and moves us by its naturalness, its sensuous objective truth, its living presence. The sentimental, on the other hand, which is generated by reflection upon the impression which the poet himself receives from his object, moves only by reproducing the same reflection in others.
See Molbech, Forelæsninger, II, p. 234.
Classical antiquity is the division of the ideal into the actual without a remainder; romanticism always yields a fraction.
The classical is present tense; the romantic is aorist.
The Catholic Church is the contrast to Judaism — there it was God in his majesty who came down to earth and wanted to be clung to in his majesty (thundering on Sinai), and therefore that historical moment, when heaven was upon earth, is kept from reflection; whereas on the other side it was held to as tightly as possible; and just as God is in his majesty, so also the entire practice of worship has, along with the humility arising from the feeling of being nothing before the Lord, this very majesty outwardly — in the Church it is man who gradually ascends, lifted up and raised up by God — God begins with his abasement — Christ took upon himself the form of a servant and the pope still calls himself servus servorum. Judaism brings God down from heaven; Christianity brings man up to heaven.
[The following paragraph is also identified by 'I A 138' by the Hongs, so I have included it here: - KJ.]
The difference between the person who goes to his death out of devotion to an idea and the mimic who seeks a martyrdom is that whereas the first person lives most fully in his idea of death, the second person delights in the curiously bitter feelings which result from being worsted; the former rejoices in the victory, the latter in his suffering.
The historical aspect of stones and trolls.
Since it was, after all, reasonable, I am not at all surprised that that great era might be affected in an essential way by every external circumstance, that even something like a huge stone might be an influence. This perhaps accounts for the belief that the trolls lived under stones, and in order to extort some gift from a troll it was only a matter of getting in between when the troll wanted to go down under. But the really remarkable thing is the nemesis that was likely to follow when someone became involved with them, for how often we hear of someone's having gotten the good sword, the bow, the arrow, etc., he asked for, and yet there usually was a little "but" that went with it in that he often thereby became an instrument in the hands of fate to wipe out his own family etc., how many tragic consequences resulted from the minor circumstance that this sword once drawn cannot be put in its sheath unless it has been dipped in warm human blood.
It would be really interesting to make a comparison between our Danish heroic ballads and the kind of drinking songs current here a half century ago; simply because both have the essential color of folk life, it could be very important in order to discern the musical tone rooted in the people. (Beranger.)
It is the tragedy of not having anyone to whom one can make himself intelligible, which is so beautifully expressed in Genesis, where Adam gives all the animals names but finds none for himself.
When I notice that my head is beginning to act up. — The poet should have what the Northmen expected in Valhalla — a pig from which a piece can always be cut and which always restores itself.
Shoot a bullet in the head: three, two, one, now my tale is done; eight, nine, ten, now another can begin.
I have just now come from a gathering where I was the life of the party; witticisms flowed out of my mouth; everybody laughed, admired me — but I left, yes, the dash ought to be as long as the radii of the earth's orbit _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
and wanted to shoot myself.
Blast it all, I can abstract from everything but not from myself; I cannot even forget myself when I sleep.
Conversation with J. Jürgensen, April 18, 1836.
He was drunk, as was noticeable primarily by watching the corners of his mouth. He was of the opinion that poetry is actually of minor importance, a superfluous development, and he praised philosophy. He praised memory, envied me my youth, talked about the falling of leaves, about the whistling and gusting of the wind. "Half of life is for living, the other half for repenting, and I am fast entering the second half." "In youth one is able to make a lot of very bad mistakes and make them good again." — I have lived a very active life, have been connected with everything that is worth anything nowadays, have a "Du" relationship with all the gifted people — just ask me about them." —
A wandering musician played the minuet from Don Juan on a sort of reed pipe (since he was in another courtyard, I could not see what it was), a pharmacist pounded his medicine, and the maid scrubbed in the court* etc., and they did not notice a thing, and perhaps the flutist did not either, and I felt so wonderful.
* And the groom currying his horse knocked the currycomb against a stone, and from another part of the city came the voice of the shrimp seller.
The wonderful releasing power that children have.
12 [June, 1836]. A wonderful assurance, like the wind — no one knows whence it comes or where it goes.—
All-encompassing — powerlessness — benediction (Serbian folk legend.) Stillness, silence, God's side (Mohammed, Pythagoras, Christianity). Strange vibrations quickly round off the past for me in a poetic intuition, and it then seems most interesting to me — soon I feel the unhappiness in it, precisely because (to use a line from Guldkorset) the impression is not from anybody else but from myself.
A strange apprehensiveness — every time I woke up in the morning after having drunk too much, what it was about eventually came true.
Someone who went insane because he was constantly aware that the earth was going around.
Don Juan by Hoffmann. (The melancholy as soon as the theater lights are extinguished — sensitive — ) —
Children who remember their mother —
Letter from Wilhelm.
My situation when I borrowed money from Rask and Monrad came.
P. E. Lind.
Someone wants to make a confession of the utmost importance, but the one to whom he wants to open up does not come right away, and then he tells something quite different.
Why do we prefer to read comedy in society and tragedy in solitude?
There are human beings who are always tens in contrast to the common ordinary ones.
Grundtvig regards the Apostle's Creed as the countersign* which Christ whispered in man's ear and which he wants to hear again from the last one on Judgment Day.
*Password (also related to the fact, as Grundtvig so often relates, that in the earliest Church they did not dare say it aloud; one person whispered it in the ear of another and so on.)
Two individuals, each of whom conceitedly relates to the other a brilliant incident from his own life, but neither of whom pays any attention to what the other says; yet at the end each makes the same observation about the other — that he was boring, for he always wanted to talk about himself.
Action without interest in an idea is like dialectic without interest in knowledge — sophistry — therefore it is extremely interesting that contemporary with the greatest Sophists (in the area of knowledge) lived the greatest Sophists in the area of action, namely, those who practised abstinence through self-torture.
I also think that one might be able to present entirely a priori a proof of Christ's actual death, for it surely must be accepted as belonging to his truly human development.
What a προτúπος for individual human life lies in a fact that we always see a nation's poetic development begin with the epic and only then does the lyrical follow.
The conflict between the orthodox and the rationalists can be interpreted as a conflict between the old and the new soap-cellars, which in common with religious conflicts develops a considerable terminology, resulting in: (1) The Old Soap-Cellar, where the New Soap-Cellar folk live (the rationalists who have bought the building from under the Old Soap-Cellar people, that is, taken over the Church); (2) the New Soap-Cellar, where the Old Soap-Cellar people live (the orthodox, who are progressive (Grundtvig), abandon Luther, etc.).
Heyne's (Romantische Schule) potent criticism of W. Schlegel's curious practice of always using an earlier work as his standard, and with the result that he continually regresses, is completely true, but Heyne himself and his consorts have gone to the opposite extreme and judge everything by the duodecimo standard which the very earliest contemporaries supply, and here again in this brief span they always have a work one year or a half year older to use for comparison.
The thesis that it cannot be true that Christ was born of a virgin because something similar is said of Hercules, etc., and in Indian mythology, etc., which is not true, is rather curious, since in a certain respect the opposite conclusion seems more correct: precisely because they say this about so many other great men for whom it was not true — for this very reason it must be true of Christ, for the fact that it has been said so often points to man's need for it. If, with regard to a new direction which would manifest itself and which people at times declared had emerged, without its being therefore true, if someone concluded from this that it would never take place, might he not come to an erroneous conclusion, and might not someone who now expected it be more right?
In an age when it is the order of the day for one author to plunder another, it is nevertheless pleasant at times to stumble upon men whose individuality so molds and stamps every word with their portrait that it must compel everyone who meets it in a strange place to say to those concerned: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's."
Everything ends with hearing — the rules of grammar end with hearing — the command of the law with hearing — the figured bass ends with hearing — the philosophical system ends with hearing — therefore the next life is also represented as pure music, as a great harmony — would that the dissonance of my life would soon be resolved in it.
What actually is the source of the comic that can be produced simply by clothing the same idea in other dress? For example, I believe it is in Claras Skriftemaal (from Hverdagsforfatterens Historier) that a woman is described as so ethereal that she, as it says, does not walk but floats, with every step at the point of rising from the earth; she was formed of the mists of the mountain — one thinks of Hoffmann's tailor who was given balloon gas and who then began to rise toward the ceiling of the drugstore, but stopped there, descended again, etc. Or, instead of saying: Like the reaper with his scythe going over the field, one says: Like the barber with his razor going over the heavily bearded cheek.
It is truly remarkable that no one, as far as I know, has had the idea of summoning authors from their graves and having them attend an auction of their immortal works.
Crazy Peter in Kallundborg, when warned not to stand too close to the fire: "Isn't a piece of fine rye bread with roast beef on it better than a dry piece of rye bread?" (From A. Lund)
It cannot be denied that the picture of Faust's life in Auerbach's basement, where he is sitting at the table with the students (see Raumer, Historisches Taschenbuch, V, opposite the title page) is very reminiscent of Don Juan, as is the big goblet he is holding.
"My God, my God.....
The bestial sniggering.....
The bourgeois mentality. Hoffmann's Meister Floh. The story of the tailor who got a dose of balloon gas. This in itself is not at all humorous; but when it is told that he had squeezed so much out of his customers that his wife had gotten a new dress, when it is related that every Sunday upon coming home from church he was allowed to go to the pharmacy, in short, when this commensurable finiteness in all conditions in life is placed in relation to anything so extraordinary and when Hoffmann with the painstaking profundity of a scientist then tells how he first of all ascended to the ceiling and plunged down again and finally was abruptly carried out the window by a breeze — the humor emerges.
Is there not something of parody in the overwhelming predominance of prose? It is very interesting to see how metrical form and everything pertaining to it gradually disappear. With the troubadours the romance was in verse, and to my knowledge only the novel was in prose (a contribution to clear up the concept of the novel); most of the books popular today were originally written in verse.
The bourgeois mentality or philistinism is essentially the inability to rise above the absolute reality of time and space and as such can therefore devote itself to the most exalted objects — for example, prayer at certain times and with certain words. This is what Hoffmann has always known how to emphasize so splendidly.
What are the limitations of opera? Our opera, that is, as we give it here, is close to vaudeville.
An encounter on November 30, when The Two Days was presented, with an unfamiliar but beautiful woman (she spoke German) — she was alone in the orchestra section with a little brother — she understood the music.
The opposite of bourgeois mentality is really Quakerism (in its most abstract sense) — the way in which it encompasses the uncertainty and accidentality found in most lives, on the whole an annihilation of historical development.
Just as there is an a priori certainty in comparison with which every empirical fact is ephemeral, just so faith (according to Protestant doctrine) is the a priori certainty before which all the empiricism of works vanishes.
It is remarkable, however, in this regard that it is the Catholics who teach that one can have faith although he is in mortal sin; whereas the Protestants deny it (see Apology for the Augsburg Confession).
It is really remarkable that Christ came to be precisely 33 years old, the number of years which according to general reckoning denotes a generation, so that here too there is something normal, in that whatever goes over this number is accidental.
At the moment the greatest fear is of the total bankruptcy toward which all Europe seems to be moving and men forget the far greater danger, a seemingly unavoidable bankruptcy in an intellectual-spiritual sense, a confusion of language far more dangerous than that (typical) Babylonian confusion, than the confusion of dialects and national languages following that Babylonian attempt of the Middle Ages — that is, a confusion in the languages themselves, a mutiny, the most dangerous of all, of the words themselves, which, wrenched out of man's control, would despair, as it were, and crash in upon one another, and out of this chaos a person would snatch, as from a grab-bag, the handiest word to express his presumed thoughts.*
*One would speak according to the association of ideas (the words Selbstsucht).
In vain do individual great men seek to mint new concepts and to set them in circulation — it is pointless. They are used for only a moment, and not by many, either, and they merely contribute to making the confusion even worse, for one idea seems to have become the fixed idea of the age: to get the better of one's superior. If the past may be charged with a certain indolent self-satisfaction in rejoicing over what it had, it would indeed be a shame to make the same charge against the present age (the minuet of the past and the galop of the present). Under a curious delusion, the one cries out incessantly that he has surpassed the other, just as the Copenhageners, with philosophic visage, go out to Dyrehausen "in order to see and observe," without remembering that they themselves become objects for the others, who have also gone out simply to see and observe. Thus there is the continuous leap-frogging of one over the other — "on the basis of the immanent negativity of the concept", as I heard a Hegelian say recently, when he pressed my hand and made a run preliminary to jumping. — When I see someone energetically walking along the street, I am certain that his joyous shout, "I am coming over," is to me — but unfortunately I did not hear who was called (this actually happened); I will leave a blank for the name, so everyone can fill in an appropriate name.+
+ Just as some people, with an instinctive vehemence, rub writing paper to flatten it, so too there are those who, having heard a name, promptly forget it.
If older critics have been charged with always seeking in their retrogression an older writer whom they could use as a model in order to censure later writers, it would be wrong to charge contemporaries with this, for now when the critic sets about to write there is hardly a writer left to provide the ideal, and instead of this the publisher who is supposed to promote the critic's work sees in amazement a counter-criticism of the criticism not yet written.++
++ [See I A 329.]
Most systems and viewpoints also date from yesterday, and the conclusion is arrived at as easily as falling in love is accomplished in a novel where it says: To see her and to love her were synonymous* — and it is through curious circumstances that philosophy has acquired such a long historical tail from Descartes to Hegel, a tail, however, which is very meager in comparison with that once used from the creation of the world and perhaps is more comparable to the tail that man has, according to the natural scientists.
*[See I A 330.]
Thus the talk that suicide is cowardice is for most men nothing but a leap over a stage — those shrewd and proud fellows who have never known that it requires courage! Only he who has had the courage to commit suicide can say that it was cowardly to have done it.
But when one sees how necessary it has become in a later age to begin every philosophical work with the sentence: "There once was a man named Descartes," one is tempted to compare it with the monks' well-known practice. But now if only a few gifted men can more or less save themselves, it seems all the more dangerous for those who must be dependent on others for their living. They must clutch at the drifting terminology rushing by them, with the result that their expression becomes so mixed and motley (a kind of Blumenlese) that, just as in French a foreignor may say something with a double meaning, they say the same thing throughout a whole book, but with different expressions from different systems. As a result of this, a phenomenon+ has arisen that is quite similar to the famous dispute between a Catholic and a Protestant who convinced each other, inasmuch as men can very easily convince one another because of the vague and indefinite meanings of the words.
+Which, together with barenecked Danish bluffness, has made the polemic equally useless and nauseating.
But in this wild hunt for ideas, it is still very interesting to observe the felicitous moment when one of these new systems achieves supremacy.++
++ The result presumably is that philosophy is put up for auction; at the moment there really seem to be no buyers.
Addition: Because of this rush, the generation does not get much solid content; in spite of all its efforts it becomes a kind of Schattenspiel an der Wand and thereby it becomes a myth, yes, not even criticism, as Görres rightly observes (see Die christliche Mystik, I, preface, p. vii, bottom — the passage should be quoted). — Finally the theater becomes actuality and actuality comedy.
Now everything is set in motion, and usually this also involves making the system popular — per systema influxus physici it lays hold of all men. How Kant was treated in his time is well known, and therefore I need only mention the infinite mass of lexicons, summaries, popular presentations, and explanations for everyman, etc. And how did Hegel fare later, Hegel, the most modern philosopher, who because of his rigorous form would most likely command silence? Has not the logical trinity been advanced in the most ludicrous way? And therefore it did not astound me that my shoemaker had found that it could also be applied to the development of boots, since, as he observes, the dialectic, which is always the first stage in life, finds expression even here, however insignificant this may seem, in the squeaking, which surely has not escaped the attention of some more profound research psychologist. Unity, however, appears only later, in which respect his shoes far surpass all others, which usually disintegrate in the dialectic, a unity which reached the highest level in that pair of boots Carl XII wore on his famous ride, and since he as an orthodox shoemaker proceeded from the thesis that the immediate (feet without shoes — shoes without feet) is a pure abstraction and took it [the dialectical] as the first stage in the development. And now our modern politicians! By veritably taking up Hegel, they have given a striking example of the way one can serve two masters, in that their revolutionary striving is paired with a life-outlook which is a remedy for it, an excellent remedy for lifting part of the illusion which is necessary for encouraging their fantastic striving. And the actuality of the phenomenon will surely not be denied if one recalls that the words "immediate or spontaneous unity" occur just as necessarily in every scientific-scholarly treatise as a brunette or a blonde in every well-ordered romantic household. At the happy moment everyone received a copy of Holy Scriptures, in which there was one book which was almost always too brief and sometimes almost invisible, and this was, I regret — the Acts of the Apostles. And how curious it is to note that the present age, whose social striving is trumpeted quite enough, is ashamed of the monks and nuns of the Middle Ages, when at the same time, to confine ourselves to our own native land, a society has been formed here which seems to embrace almost the entire kingdom and in which a speaker began thus: Dear Brothers and Sisters. How remarkable to see them censure the Jesuitry of the Middle Ages, since precisely the liberal development, as does every one-sided enthusiasm, has led and must lead to that. And now Christianity — how has it been treated? I share entirely your disapproval of the way every Christian concept has become so volatilized, so completely dissolved in a mass of fog, that it is beyond all recognition. To the concepts of faith, incarnation, tradition, inspiration, which in the Christian sphere are to lead to a particular historical fact, the philosophers choose to give an entirely different, ordinary meaning, whereby faith has become the immediate consciousness, which essentially is nothing other than the vitale Fluidum of mental life, its atmosphere, and tradition has become the content of a certain experience of the world, while inspiration has become nothing more than God's breathing of the life-spirit into man, and incarnation no more than the presence of one or another idea in one or more individuals. — And I still have not mentioned the concept that has not only been volatilized, like the others, but even profaned: the concept of redemption, a concept which journalism in particular has taken up with a certain partiality and now uses for every one, from the greatest hero of freedom to the baker or butcher who redeems his quarter of the city by selling his wares a penny cheaper than the others. And now what is to be done about this? Undoubtedly it would be best if one could get the carillon-clock of time to be silent for an hour, but since this presumably will not be achieved, we shall at least join with our banking people and cry out to them: Savings, hefty and sweeping economies. Of course, to over-bid one's predecessors can be of no help, and instead of following the novelist who, in his indignation that a full facial blush of a girl in a novel was not a sign of her being a decent girl, swore that every girl in his novels should blush far down her back — instead of following him in making such an attempt, we wish rather to bring to mind a happier phenomenon: the move from cursing to simple statements. — We would also wish that powerfully equipped men might emerge who would restore the lost power and meaning of words, just as Luther restored the concept of faith for his age. In everything there is the trace of the invention so characteristic of the period: the speed-press, even in the curious reflection the age has gotten into, with the result that the age, continually limiting its expression by reflection, actually never manages to say anything. This curious prolixity has also crowded out time-and-talking-saving pithy aphorisms and in their place has allowed the appearance of a certain oratorical jabbering which has taken over even our mealtimes. Only when this economizing, together with the restoration of the language's prodigal sons, has been introduced, can there be hope for better times. And here it occurs to me, to touch again upon your letter, that there really is merit in Grundtvig's attempt to vivify the old Church-language and to advance his theory of the Living Word, although I still cannot omit reminding you that just as we use the word "scribbling" to designate bungled writing, we also have a particularly good expression to characterize muddled speaking: "hot air" — and that this should really be more effective than writing. I do not maintain, despite Pastor Grundtvig's claim that the written word is powerless and dead, despite the court judgment confirming his theories by a strange irony of fate: that his (written) words were dead and powerless — I still do believe I dare maintain that.
Sorrow has come to me since I last wrote to you. You will note this from the black sealing wax I am obliged to use — although as a rule I hate such external symbols — since there is nothing else to be had in this tragic family. Yes, my brother is dead, but oddly enough I am not actually grieving over him; my sorrow is much more over my brother who died several years ago. On the whole I have become aware that my sorrow is not momentary but increases with time, and I am sure that when I get old I will come to think rightly of the dead, not — as it says in the rhetoric of consolation — to rejoice over the thought of meeting them yonder, but properly to feel that I have lost them. As far as my brother is concerned, I am sure it will take a long time for my grief to awaken. — At first there are so many ridiculous situations that I find it impossible not to laugh. For example, today my [brother's] brother-in-law, the business agent — I have spoken of him before and will describe him in more detail some day — makes a visit to console his sister. In his aristocratic, strangely grating voice, a superb parody of the gentlemanly, he tries to ingratiate himself by his formalities and bursts out: Ja! Was ist der Mensch? A clarinet, I answered; whereupon he immediately fell out of his role and tried to explain to me that the proper gentleman does not have a voice like a bear but a sonorous and melodious voice. All this time he stood before the mirror and smoothed his hair or plucked out the occasional hair that had become a little gray or reminded him a bit too much of its original color — red — and for this he had a special instrument, a pair of tweezers, on his dressing table — and I really believe that it can truthfully be said of the hairs of his head what the gospel says of all hair, that they are numbered. The undertaker then came to inquire if they wished to have more than ham, salami, and Edam cheese to be served, and offered to make all the arrangements; my brother-in-law the business agent declined, explaining that it would be good for his broken-hearted sister to have something to think about so as to forget the emptiness and stillness prevailing around her now that her "sainted husband" was gone. (It is terrible how quickly people learn to say that, that is, the husband who is sainted no longer needs me, and it naturally follows that I do not need him either. I always notice how speedily people begin to say "my sainted husband, my sainted wife". Similarly, the quicker a woman is to scold, the less modesty she has. Consider how in the beginning children respond to the question "What does the child want?" (one of the questions put to every child in the concise epitome of knowledge inflicted upon them) by saying "Da-Da," and with such melancholy observations the child's first and yet most innocent period begins — and yet people deny original sin!
Since it was, in fact, moving time, he advised her to move to another place and the sooner the better, in order "to avoid sorrowful memories"! That fits the pronouncement in the newspaper that "We have lost everything." — Not so, for the memories of one who has lost everything are precious, gratifying, for he can never, after all, live more happily than in the past. One thing is sure, that on such an occasion what most people lose is memory. — I shall pass over the intervening days. Then came the day of the funeral. Great quantities of the already mentioned cheese, sausage, and ham are served; there is no lack of a variety of wine and cakes — No one is seen eating anything — alas, so great is the grief! Here the rule of the book "about good manners" — that no one is to begin to eat before his neighbour — is carried out literally. God help us, what if it were carried out literally at every meal! In the old days the natural association of ideas led one on such occasions to recall the true dictum that without beer [Øl] and food the hero is nothing, and therefore there was a funeral feast [Gravøl], but nowadays this has become a gravediggers' feast [Graverøl], for the funeral director, the pallbearers, the gravediggers, etc., are the ones who eat for all of us. On such occasions I always develop a fearful appetite and despite good manners I begin first — but no one follows my example anyway.
On the wedding day came a letter from her brother; he was a captain in the Brazilian army. It was handed to her, and since we were eager to hear from him, I read it aloud:
"Dear Sister! What he was to you I will not speak of; you yourself know it too well. I will just say that although over here I see 100 die daily, I nevertheless truly feel that death is a universal fate, but also that I have had only one brother-in-law, just as you no doubt also feel that he was your first and last love.
Excuse the short reply: you no doubt have had to put up with enough tedious talk, and I have just received orders to battle and must take off. Take care of yourself and remember that the short time was the visible pole and thank God that it lasted as long as it did; as is the visible pole, so is the quotient of the true.
I will no longer converse with the world at all; I will try to forget that I ever did. I read of a man who lay abed for 50 years, never speaking to anyone; like Queen Gudrun after she had quarreled with O——, I shall go to bed after quarreling with the world. Or I will run away to a place where no one knows, no one understands my language, or I theirs, where, like a Caspar Hauser the Second, I can stand in the middle of a Nürnberg street without really knowing how it all happened.
The trouble is that as soon as one has thought up something, he becomes that himself. The other day I told you about an idea for a Faust, but now I feel that it was myself I described; I barely read or think about an illness before I have it.
Every time I want to say something, someone else says it at the same time. It is just as if I were a double-thinker and my other I continually anticipates me, or while I stand and talk everyone believes it is someone else, so that I may justifiably raise the question the bookseller Soldin put to his wife: Rebecca, is it I who is speaking? — I will run away from the world, not to the monastery — I still have vigor — but in order to find myself (every other babbler says the same thing), in order to forget myself, but not over there where a babbling brook meanders through the grassy glen. — I do not know if this verse is by some poet, but I wish some sentimental poet or other would be compelled by inexorable irony to write it, but in such a way that he himself would always read something else. Or the echo — yes, Echo, you grand-master of irony, you who in yourself parody the loftiest and the most profound on earth: the word that created the world, since you give only the outline, not the fullness — yes, Echo, away with all the sentimental rubbish that hides in woods and fields, in churches and theaters, and that every once in a while breaks away from there and drowns out everything for me. I do not hear the trees in the forest tell old legends and the like — no, they whisper to me about all the stuff and nonsense they have witnessed so long, beseech me in God's name to chop them down and free them from the babbling of those nature worshippers. — Would that all those muddled heads sat on one neck; like Caligula, I know what I would have to do. I see that you are beginning to fear that I will end on the scaffold. No, mark well, the muddle-head (I mean the one who embraces them all) would certainly like to have brought me there, but you forgot that such a wish does no actual harm in the world. Yes, Echo — you whom I once heard chastise an admirer of nature when he burst out: Listen to that infatuated nightingale singing its solitary flute-like notes in the light of the moon — and you answered — — oon—loon—lunatic (revenge, yes, you took revenge) — you are the man!
No, I will not leave the world — I will go to an insane asylum, and I will see if the profundity of insanity will unravel the riddle of life. Fool, why didn't I do it long ago, why has it taken me so long to understand what it means when the Indians honor the insane, step aside for them. Yes, into an insane asylum — do you not believe that I will end up there?
— However, it is fortunate that language has a section of expressions for chitchat and nonsense. If it did not, I would go mad, for what would it prove except that everything said is nonsense. It is lucky that language is so equipped, for now one can still hope to hear rational discourse sometimes.
It is called a tragedy when the hero gives his whole life to an idea — folly! (Then I commend the Christians for calling the day the martyrs died their birthdays, because in this way they anathematize the festive notion men usually have about birthdays.) — No, a misunderstanding! On the contrary, I grieve when a child is born and wish that at least it may not live to be confirmed! I weep when I see or read Erasmus Montanus; he is right and succumbs to the masses. Yes, that is the trouble. When every confirmed glutton is entitled to vote, when the majority decides the matter — is this not succumbing to the masses, to fatheads? — Yes, the giants, did they not also succumb to the masses? And yet — and this is the only comfort remaining! — and yet every once in awhile they terrify the Hottentots trotting over them by drawing in their breath and giving vent to a flaming sigh — not to complain — no, all condolences declined — but to frighten.
I want — no, I don't want anything at all. Amen!
And when one meets at twentieth-hand and more an idea that has sprung fresh and alive from an individual's head — how much truth remains? At most one can reply with the old saying: "But at least it does taste like fowl," said the old crone who had made soup out of a branch on which a crow had sat.
This is the road we all must walk — over the Bridge of Sighs into eternity.
It is these trifling annoyances that so often spoil life. I can cheerfully struggle against a storm until I almost burst a blood vessel, but the wind blowing a speck of dust into my eye can irritate me so much that I stamp my foot.
These small annoyances — they are like flies — just when a person is about to carry out a great work, a tremendous task, crucially important to his own life and the life of many others — a fly lands on his nose.
One thought succeeds another; just as it is thought and I want to write it down, there is a new one — hold it, seize it — madness — dementia!
If there is anything I hate it is these smatterers — often when I go to a party I deliberately sit down to talk with some old spinster who lives on telling news of the family, and I listen most earnestly to everything on which she can hold forth.
I prefer to talk with old women who chatter about their families, next with demented people — and least of all with very sensible people.
How very unfortunate we human beings are, how few the things that give us enduring and solid pleasures. I had hoped by this time through my perseverance to have come into "possession of the virgin" — O, excellent Holberg! How delightful to see a phraseologist like S. T. Leander parody himself with a single phrase — his solid pleasures — his — "possession of the virgin"!