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ERNST, HERZOG VON SCHWABEN,
BIOGRAPHICAL AND HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION,
H. J. WOLSTENHOLME, B.A. (LOND.)
LECTURER IN GERMAN AT NEWNHAM COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
EDITED FOR THE SYNDICS OF THE UNIVERSIT
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.
London: CAMBRIDGE WAREHOUSE, 17, PATERNOSTER Row.
Leipzig: F. A. BROCKHAUS.
[All Rights reserved.]
THOSE persons who take up a modern language with the immediately practical purpose of using it in conversation and correspondence, or in the perusal of technical works, will of course confine their attention to modern prose, and will rather avoid poetry as of little use for their purpose, and as tending to interfere with their acquisition of a correct prose style. The school or college however, as an institution for education and culture, cannot so restrict itself; and probably few private students of German will be willing to exclude themselves from the enjoyment of its fine poetical literature. If it be granted then that modern languages are to be learnt with an aim that includes along with practical knowledge and mental training also an acquaintance with literature, it is obviously necessary that the learner should be taught to distinguish current modern prose from what has become obsolete, and especially from a diction that is peculiar to poetry or the style soutenu, which with its licences and archaisms must otherwise tend to give to his own prose style an incorrect and often grotesque character. This principle has long been
recognised with regard to Latin and Greek; as applied to German and French it only receives added weight from the fact that these are languages still written and spoken. It may be said, that the student should learn his prose style only from prose writers, and be warned not to imitate what he meets with in poetry. But in every work that is really studied, a considerable mass of material must deposit itself in the student's mind, and suggest itself to him in his own composition. In this there can be nothing but gain, provided only there be that careful discrimination of style which is also necessary to the full appreciation of what is read.
A foreign language learnt at home can be thoroughly acquired only by a process of analytical examination, and a constant attention to principles reached by systematic generalisation, which it is not necessary to apply to the same extent in acquiring a mastery of the native language. This method of study must be applied even to the poetical literature; although we shall naturally choose, where it is possible, to delay the study of the great authors until the learner is so far advanced that he does not need to be unduly drawn away from the appreciation of them as literature by elementary work upon the structure and idiom of the language.
In preparing the present edition of a German poetical drama, an endeavour has been made to supply an introduction into German poetical literature which may meet the wants, so far as it is possible to do this by books, and in the narrow limits of a commentary
on a single work, of those who have as yet read only prose. It will however probably contain but little that is superfluous even to such as may already have read, but without close study, one or two poetical dramas, or a selection of shorter poems. The notes. are intended for the student, and it has been endeavoured so to frame them, that he may be induced by their help to pursue that close analytical study, and comparison of passage with passage, which alone can lead to exact knowledge. It is hoped however at the same time, that with the omission of the notes or parts of notes which are addressed to those who are already somewhat versed in the study of language, it may be found to render suitable help to younger pupils, and to readers whose time does not admit of, or whose purpose does not require, a close and deliberate study.
Mere "translation notes" have been but sparingly given, from a conviction that they are apt to do more harm than good. The aim of the notes is to place the student in a position to work out for himself the exact meaning of what he reads, and to understand it in the original. He will then in ordinary cases find it to be no more than good practice in the exercise of his own resources to make out for himself the translation which, if given to him ready made, would be very likely to prove an inducement to him to deal too superficially with the original.
This little volume may be regarded as a continuation of the attempt, explained in the preface to the edition of Gutzkow's Zopf und Schwert, which formed