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BLACKWOOD'S

EDINBURGH MAGAZINE,

No. LXXII.

JANUARY, 1823.

HORE GERMANICE.

No. XIV.

THE LIGHT-TOWER. A TRAGEDY, IN TWO ACTS.

By Ernst von Houvald.

If a proof were desired of the variety and energy of German literature, we know not that a better could be found than in the example afforded by our own pages; for, in choosing out fragments for translation, (which, hasty and imperfect as they were, have always been received by our poetical readers with approbation,) we have uniformly, except in one instance (that of "Faust") left the works of the greater and more classical authors untouched. We have, as it were, gleaned only scattered flowers on the outskirts of the Thuringian forests, and our readers have drank but of their humbler streams; for, metaphor apart, Müllner and Grill parzer, eminent as they are, would reject with disdain the injudicious compliment which should place them on a footing of equality with the more distinguished models, and established worthies, from whom they have drawn their inspiration. If, then, by that method which we have followed, an impression has been made, how much more might have been done by a careful selection! The works even of Schiller remain, except by name, as much unknown to us as if they did not exist. We have, indeed, two translations of Don Carlos, (by no means his best,) but these are, as far as we remember, VOL. XIII.

VOL. XIII.

both in prose. Coleridge is the only individual who has made a powerful effort in their favour, and had not some hopes remained that he might yet finish the last acts of "Wallenstein,” we should possibly have been tempted to give an article (prepared, of course, with more care than our preceding sketches) on the third and concluding part of that admirable "Trilogie," in order that in this country it might not remain longer in utter oblivion.

On the present occasion, however, we shall still follow our old method, having chosen for notice a minor production of a young nobleman, by name Ernst von Houvald, who, as far as wo remember, has not yet been introduced to our readers. Several years ago, when this author published his first attempt-a frightful sketch, of which the scene was laid in a charnel-house,

we predicted that he would rise to eminence; and whether our conjecture was right or not, he has since that time, both in prose and verse, continued to improve: and there is a degree of interest and suspense attached to the story in this little piece, the "LightTower," on which account it is very frequently performed. It certainly follows not, that because a young author is bold and imprudent enough to fix on a bad

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subject, that he will be found wanting in genius to adorn a good one; but the besetting error of Houvald, no doubt, has been his choice of frightful and repelling subjects in the first instance, and of plots rather overstrained and improbable afterwards. Of this last objection, however, the validity is less; for so long as an author keeps within the bounds of possibility, he is not likely to insist on greater improbabilities than the influences of "chance and change" have at one time or another actually brought forward in the world.

The story of the "Light-Tower," then, is a kind of winter night's dream, such as one might be visited by, in a lonely German Schloss, if he came forth at midnight on the altan, and listened to the roaring of the wind through the leafless beeches and poplars, and with the Trauerweiden waving their long tresses around him. The chief interest of the plot may be described as follows: Through the arts of a seducer, a wife has been separated from her husband, who afterwards hears, that while under the care of her betrayer, she has perished at sea. He (the hus

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ULRIC HORT,

COUNT VON HOLM,
WALTER,

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band,) becomes insane; and she being ignorant of his fate, yet haunted by the bitterest repentance, at last leaves America for Europe in search of him, in order to implore his forgiveness. She is shipwrecked on the shore of the "Light-Tower," and finally, by a fatal combination of circumstances, those who have been through life separated, are in death united-a favourite idea of Houvald's, which he has already three or four times poetized. There is a complex underplot, which it would be tedious to analyze. The preceding is probably enough to render, as usual, our extracts intelligible.

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Some of the most laboured writing in the " Light-Tower," (which is in Calderon's rhymed measure) occurs in the first scene. This would not answer on our stage, where the opening speeches are invariably lost; but besides that, in the German theatre, no noise or disturbance is at any time allowed, the "Light-Tower" is generally preceded by a short Comedy or Opera. In a word, it is employed as an After-piece. The characters are

Watcher of the Light-Tower.
His daughter.

His elder brother.

Adoptive son of the Count.

The first Scene represents a round Chamber in the Light-house. Above, the wooden beams of the roof are partly seen, through which afterwards falls the gleam of the lamps when kindled. In the room is an harp, a speakingtrumpet, &c.-Caspar and Dorothea are discovered, the latter sitting at work, the former looking out of the window.

Caspar. How darkly are the skies with clouds o'ercast!
How foam the breakers on the rocky shore,

While the vexed ocean with upheaving waves,
Groans in her combat with the storm!

Dorothea.
Think'st thou
The tempest yet will rage? Oftimes by night,
Are lull'd fierce winds of day.

Casp.
Oftimes; but now
It is not so. Beneath the reign of night
The conflict will be fiercer. In the west
At evening lurid clouds obscured the sky,
Like furrows on an angry brow, portending
That wrath, long cherished, will break forth-and now,
It will be fearful.-Screaming through the air,
Already flock the timorous sea-birds home;
And on the shore, to-morrow's dawn perchance
Will many a trace of wreck and woe reveal.

Dor. Poor mariners, that on a realm so waste
And lawless build your homes!

Casp.
Nay, say not so !—
Thereon, by statutes old, from age to age

One self-same empress rules. When thus the storm
Draws on, and the loud sea receives her guest-
When lightnings on their fiery wings descend-
No self-will, no caprice is here-Around
The throne of Nature wait the Elements,
And but obey her mandate when they labour.-
Yet in their zeal, their power and influences,
Man sees but wild contention, since to him
They bring oft times on his vain plans destruction.
But man remembers not that in himself,
In his own breast, dwells wilder anarchy:
Therein, desire's fierce flame, the hurricane
Of angry passions, and of selfishness
The ice-cold sea, contend, as with the earth,
With his own heart-which is of dust!

Dor.

Are, then, Poor mortals all of warfare thus the prey? Father, when on thy bosom I recline, Methinks I mark therein no tumults wildNo!-still thy mind, so wise and calm, reveals But the pure azure of a summer sky!

Casp. Dear child, we both are now by storms unmoved. As when, with steps invisible, the dawn

In spring-tide o'er the flowery hills comes on,
The glassy seas are hush'd, and o'er their depths
White swans are borne, like morning dreams along;
So now, my child, so calm and sun-illumed,
Smiles life before thee-while, on the horizon far,
Gleam the bright sails of hope.-My heart the while
Is like the sea, when iron winter rules:

Clear are its waters, too, and angry storms
May beat thereon in vain-The ice-cold wastes

Are frozen and waveless now.

Dor.

No, no-Thy heart Has never thus been chill'd. Thence on my life Beams forth, even like the sun, with light and warmth, Paternal love; and hence, too, seems this world, With all its interchange of hill and dale, Lake, sea, and woodland, to my youthful sight So beauteous and so hopeful.

Casp.

Yet this light
Will perish soon-Then, in the world alone,
Wilt thou be left, of aid all destitute!
Hast thou not seen, on this our rocky shore,
By morning's light, the melancholy wreck
Of many a stately ship? Did never then
The prayer within thy shuddering heart arise,—
"Oh shield me ever, ye firm walls, whereon
The wild waves beat in vain!"

Dor.

Truly our lives
Are better here protected. Yet the ships
Gain most times, too, their destined port securely.
Father, let me confess, when I behold
The gay flags waving on the distant sky,
Deep longing draws me hence; when mariners
Beneath the cannon's roar, so proudly take
Departure from our harbour, then methinks
How gladly would I dwell, too, in the ship
That sails to foreign lands!

Casp.
Thou foolish child!
Come, look now on the sea:-In the grey light,
Even like a monster, how he toils and heaves,
From his dark bosom stretching foamy arms,

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