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INTRODUCTION.

The epic poem of HERMANN AND DOROTHEA was composed in the years 1796 and 1797. When he had made up his mind to write it, Goethe removed to the university town of Jena, in order to be away from the bustling and restless life of the Weimar court, and to enjoy the society, and avail himself of the advice of his friend Schiller, then professor of history at the university. The poet felt certain that he had discovered an excellent subject for a narrative poem ; this subject was now discussed by the two friends, and the first part of the work itself was at once commenced and written down. On Oct. 17, 1796, Goethe told Jacobi that his whole attention was concentrated upon epic poetry, and on Oct. 28 Schiller wrote to his friend Koerner that four cantos of the new work had been read to him by the author. Schiller's words are as follows: “Goethe is now busy with a new poem, the greater part of which has already been completed. It is a kind of bürgerliches Idyll, not directly in imitation of Voss's Luise, but recently called into existence through it. It is, however, in a manner quite peculiar to Goethe, i.e. quite contrary to Voss. The whole has been planned with an extraordinary intellectual power, and carried out in the true epic style.... The execution, which I may say went on under my eyes, has taken place with inconceivable rapidity and facility, inasmuch as he wrote above 150 hexameters a day for nine days successively." But when Goethe returned to Weimar, his work came to a standstill. On Nov. 15, we hear that the first three cantos had been revised and copied, and on Dec. 5 Goethe himself writes that he has not finished more than two-thirds of the six cantos then contemplated, and that he hopes to get into the proper frame of mind for the completion of his work after the new year. He adds a sketch of his intentions which should be borne in mind in forming a critical opinion of the merit of his poem. “I have attempted to free the merely human elements of the life of a small German town in the crucible of epic poetry from the dross connected with it, and, at the same time, I wished to reflect the important commotions and commutations of the theatre of the world from a small mirror. The time of the action is about the August of last year (1796), and I may say that I did not become aware of the boldness of my enterprise until the most difficult part had been achieved. With respect to the poetical as well as prosodiacal arrangement of the whole work, I have always kept before my eyes, what has lately been more than once discussed relative to Voss's works, and I have endeavoured to settle several points at issue; at least, I cannot express my conviction in a better way than this.” During a journey to Leipzig, between Dec. 28 and Jan. 10, 1797, the scheme of the second part of the poem was completely drawn out. On Jan. 29 the agreement as to the publication of the new work had been concluded with the firm of Vieweg, at Berlin; but the poem was as yet precisely in the same state as three months before. About the end of February, Goethe came again to Jena, and now he applied himself in good earnest to the completion of his poem.

On Apr. 8, W. von Humboldt came to assist Goethe in revising the prosody and metre, and on Apr. 28 the poet informed his friend Meyer of the final completion of his work. But even then it did not quite satisfy him. In May he returned to Jena, and not before June 3 did Schiller receive the conclusion of the poem. In September the whole appeared in the Almanack for the year 1798 published by Vieweg at Berlin. Goethe had originally intended to divide the work into six cantos, but he subsequently expanded it to nine.

The tale on which Goethe founded his poem was first pointed out in 1809 in the Morgenblatt no. 138. It is an episode of the expulsion of the Salzburg Protestants in 1731, and is contained in a pamphlet entitled Das liebthätige Gera gegen die falzburgischen Emigranten (1732, 8vo). We subjoin the whole account in the original German :

In Alt-Mühl, einer Stadt im Dettingischen gelegen, hatte ein gar feiner und vermogender Bürger einen Sohn, welchen er oft zum Heiraten angemahnet, ihn aber dazu nicht bewegen können. Als nun die Salzburger Emigranten auch durch dieses Städtchen passiren, findet sich unter ihnen eine Person, welche diesem Menschen gefällt, dabei er in seinem Herzen den Schluß fasset, wenn es angehen wolle, dieselbe zu heiraten; erfundigte sich dahero bei den andern Salzburgern nach dieses Mädchens Aufführung und Familie und erhält zur Antwort, sie wäre von guten, redlichen Leuten und hätte sich jederzeit wohl verhalten, wäre aber von ihren Eltern um der Religion willen geschieden und hätte felche zurückgelassen. Hierauf gehet dieser Mensch zu seinem Vater und vermeldet ihm, weil er ihn so oft sich zu verehelichen vermahnet, so hätte er sich nunmehro eine Person ausgelesen, wenn ihm nun selche der Vater zu nehmen erlauben wolle. Als nun der Vater gerne wissen will, wer sie sei, sagt er ihm, es wäre eine Salzburgerin, die gefalle ihm, und wo er ihm diese nicht lassen wolle, würde er niemalen heiraten. Der Vater erschrickt hierüber und will es ihm ausreden, er läßt auch einige seiner Freunde und einen Prediger rufen, um etwa den Sohn durch ihre Vermittlung auf andere Gedanken zu bringen; allein Alles vergebens. Daher der Prediger endlich gemeint, es könne Gott seine sonderbare Schidung darunter haben, daß es sowohl dem Sohne als auch der Emigrantin zum Besten gereichen könne, worauf sie endlich ihre Einwilligung geben und es dem Sohne in seinen Gefallen stellen. Dieser geht sofort zu seiner Salzburgerin und fragt sie, wie es ihr hier im Lande gefalle? Sie antwortet: Herr, ganz wohl! Er verseket weiter : Ob sie wohl bei seinem Vater dienen wolle? Sie sagt: gar gerne ; wenn er sie annehmen wolle, gedenfe sie ihm treu und fleißig zu dienen, und erzählet ihm darauf alle ihre Künste, wie sie das Vieh füttern, die Ruh melken, das Feld bestellen, Heu machen, und dergleichen mehr verrichten könne. Worauf sie der Sohn mit sich nimmet und seinem Vater präsentiret. Dieser fragt das Mädchen, ob ihr denn sein Sohn gefalle und sie ihn heiraten wolle? Sie aber, Nichts von dieser Sache wissend, meinet, man wolle sie veriren, und antwortet: Ei, man solle sie nur nicht foppen, sein Sohn hätte vor seinen Vater eine Magd verlangt, und wenn er sie haben wolle, gedächte sie ihm treu zu dienen und ihr Brot wohl zu erwerben. Da aber der Vater darauf beharret und auch der Sohn sein ernstliches Verlangen nach ihr bezeiget, erklärt sie sich: Wenn es denn Ernst sein sollte, so wäre sie es gar wohl zufrieden und

H.

sie wollte ihn halten wie ihr Aug’ im Kopf. Da nun hierauf ihr der Sohn ein Eherfand reichet, greifet sie in den Busen und sagt: Sie müsse ihm doch auch wohl einen Malschaß geben ; womit sie ihm ein Beutelchen überreichet, in welchem sich 200 Stück Ducaten befanden.

It may be useful to add a translation of this narrative, as some of the quaint expressions employed in it may offer difficulties to English readers 1.

*At Altmühl, a town in the Oettingen territory, an honest and well-to-do citizen had a son, whom he had often urged to marry, but had never been able to persuade. Well, when the Salzburg emigrants are passing through this little town, there is among them a maiden to whom the youth takes a fancy, whence he comes in his heart to the resolution to marry her, if possible. He therefore went and gathered information from the other Salzburgers as to this maiden's conduct and family, and hears that she is the child of good honest people, and has always conducted herself very well, but had left her parents on account of her religion. Thereupon this youth goeth to his father and informs him, as he had so often urged him to marry, he had now found a maiden, if his father would allow him to take her. And when his father wanted to know who she was, he tells him that she was a Salzburg maiden, and that he liked her, and if he would not let him have her, he would never get married at all. At this the father is frightened, and attempts to reason him out of his plan, and he also calls in some of his friends and a pastor, to see whether they could get his son into a different mode of thinking; but all in vain. From all this, the pastor thought at last that it might be God's special providence, and that it might be for the good of the son as well as the emigrant girl, whereupon they finally yield their consent, and let the son act as he likes. He straightway goes to his Salzburg maiden, and asks her, how she likes being here in the country? She answers: Sir, quite well. He asks further: Whether she would serve in his father's house? She says: right willingly; if

1 Mr Lewes has given an abridgment of it in his Life of Gocthe, Book the Sixth, ch. IV. But it appears to us to be of some importance to know

ole as it is, as even some expressions of the original reappear in

Goethe's poem,

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