This world, which unfolded here in the boyish sense, which he soon astonished, now acting or suffering, took his share in it, wanted to be and signify what it seemed. In it one lived directly. But there was another world that wanted to mean something different, and the more powerful the imagination and the emotion aroused. This was the world of the Brethren. In the father lived something of the art sense of the old master craftsmen. Like those Nurembergers, he found pleasure in the colorful world which poetry reveals, in jest and earnestness in bound and unrestrained speech, and in its presentation on the brethren. How could such a fondness of the father not have had an effect on the son in whom Phantasus still half-dreamily stirred his wings, and whispered his fairy tales in his ear.
The memories of scenographic representations go back to Ludwig’s earliest childhood. Once the father had taken the child with him to the booth of a puppeteer. He also loved the same harmless folk-pleasing art pleasures. Hanswurst began his jokes, he appeared as a shepherd, who hoped to make his fortune in the sale of wool in the city. Then a splendidly dressed prince appeared. With the wildest gestures of despair he repeatedly shouted: “O Cupido! Cupid! What a tyrant you are! “In the sadness of unhappy love, the wooden doll overturned in angular, stiff, strange movements, that rattled arms and legs against each other. The grotesque behavior of this prince made a terrible impression on the child’s imagination. It burst into loud weeping, and so as not to disturb the seriousness of the game, the father left with the child. It was only when it was carried through the dark, quiet streets, and when that colorful, yet so terrible world suddenly closed, that it found itself again.
Later, when this horror of the strange was overcome, the briskest pleasure in the world of the Brethren took the place of the first horror. Ludwig was six years old, it was in the summer of 1779, when he was first led into the great Berlin theater. With splendor, an opera, “The New Arsene” by Favart, was played for the first time. But already the criticism stirred. The singing seemed to him wrong and boring, he wanted action.
Ludwig was introduced to a new world; he had received a tremendous stimulus, which remained alive through repeated visits to the theater. The desire to try such representations in some way began to stir inexorably. First, he reached for the tools closest to the childish age. The tin soldiers, the father’s German playing cards, had to speak and act. The most beautiful material was provided by his beloved “Götz,” which he finally proclaimed from memory. Then it came to paper dolls, which corresponded to the characters more. The children did not rest until they had made a complete puppet show. Frederick tried his hand at paintings and decorations, Ludwig designed small dramas, and he also began to write down them when his impatience to see things finished, gave him time.
Finally the last step was done. What if you took the place of the dolls instead of letting them represent themselves? Ludwig again became leader of the younger siblings. The knowledge of dramatic poetry had widened; What the children of the species had either seen or read, they at once tried to reproduce fresh deeds. Victorious led the imagination beyond all difficulties. Either the teenage actors read one or more passages from the book with oratory, or some angle became the stage on which they performed in adventurous plasters that the father’s or mother’s wardrobe had to supply. Mostly the darkest and most remote corners were chosen for the Schaubühne. Only in the deepest silence and loneliness could one fully enjoy these pleasures. Nothing disturbed the magic more than when the sober daylight lit these heroes, or their play was interrupted by critical or doubtful remarks.
Ludwig once thought he had found a hiding place that surpassed all others in silence and safety. One Sunday, having had to attend St. Peter’s Church following his father’s orders, he roamed the unoccupied parts of the church in a boyish manner, idle and bored. Such streaks usually revealed something strange, which seemed far more important than the sermon. He came to a distant, gloomy corner of the choir, where no devout sat because it was impossible to understand the words of the preacher; they faded away in the distance, and even the singing and the organ sounded muffled. Here seemed to be deep silence. At the same time Ludwig, who had only his comedy play in his head, had the adventurous idea that here was the safest place for it. Full of jubilation, he announced his discovery to the siblings, and it was immediately decided to try the new venue next Sunday. Of course, one could not perform with all the scenical accessories in the church, that is why they wanted to be satisfied with dramatic reading, and of all the decorational pieces the children took only the most innocent, the large family umbrella, which was also intended to serve as cover. In the choice of the piece this time they did not fall on the “Götz”, but a younger, no less powerful man got the advantage, Karl Moor. It was the time when Schiller’s “robbers” shook all minds. Even Ludwig’s imagination was carried away by the overwhelming power of colossal poetry. He relished these impressions all the more so as all the horrors and horrors of the terrible arose to an extent different from those of the “Gotz.” 32] were tied up. Now he only dreamed of Karl Moor and his robbers.
Everything was found on the spot, as he had said. What could be more inviting than this forgotten angle of dust and drooping cobwebs? From afar, the words of the preacher could be heard. It was the Provost plate that preached on that Sunday; his voice was vague anyway. In the feeling of complete security, the umbrella was stretched; the children cowered under it, and the tragedy began. Impatiently you opened the favorite spots right away. With all his might of tragic wrath, Louis agreed to Karl Moor’s desperate curses from the first Act: “O people, people! hypocritical crocodile brood! “Hardly had the first words uttered when the children were afraid of the effects of their tragedy to sink into the earth. Like rolling thunder, Karl Moor’s words echoed from every corner of the church. But the church was seized by no less horror. The preacher paused, and the church attendants went back and forth in dismay to investigate the cause of this dreadful noise. The children were still recovering quickly enough from their terror to flee as quickly as possible. As if chased by the evil enemy, they rushed down the stairs, out into the square, and in full running across the street. Still they thought they heard the kicks of the pursuing church servants behind them. Only at the threshold of her father’s dwelling did they venture to breathe again. They crept fearfully into the most secret corner of the living room; only here did they keep themselves secure.
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But how did her horror grow, when half an hour there appeared a respectable friend of his, who had also been in the church, and began, with a shake of the head, with a worrisome face, to tell the astonished father: “My neighbor, something very strange has happened in the church today.” – He reported the sermon was interrupted by an unusual roar, thunder-like tones that no one could explain. He spoke of signs and wonders; whether it was a visitation, an earthquake, or whatever it was, no one would be able to say it. The enlightened father tried to reassure the anxious neighbor, although even in this dark case he lacked any enlightenment. Only the children knew her; but they kept quiet as a mouse, and laughed with all their fear at the excitement of the fun.
In the meantime Ludwig, as a Tertian, had become self-sufficient enough to allow him to visit the play once in a while. Beside much indifferent and passer-bys one saw Lessing’s dramas, Goethe’s and Schiller’s first poems with the freshest, fullest sympathy in the theater. Every now and then people began to work on and depict Shakspeare’s tragedies. Under the pressure of particularly unfavorable conditions, the German spectacle had worked its up in Berlin, in the struggle against the favored French and Italian stages, against the prejudice of the higher classes. But just this strengthened his strength. One wanted to show that one also has a popular poetry and stage. With equal enthusiasm, actors and spectators greeted the young poets who promised to transform the stage. Dobbelin, the founder of the German drama in Berlin, was himself filled with German meaning and a sincere pursuit of his art. Only everything appeared even in the most modest dress. The theater was in the back building of a house on Behrenstrasse. The entrance led over a yard. The spaces of the stage itself were tight, small, and simply furnished. But here a kind, youth-fresh spirit moved; The great time of the German stage began to prepare itself here.
How native Ludwig was soon in this poor art temple! As often as he could, he immediately exchanged the school bench with the audience bank. With irresistible magic, the world of Brethren attracted him. Everything connected with it was wonderful and awe-inspiring. What bliss, when he sat as one of the first spectators in the empty, half-dark house, and fought hope and impatience in him! How gradually the gusts of mysterious expectation increased, when one pallid star in the night, one tallow after the other rose, when the musicians began strumming their violins, when the curtain, which silently concealed the miracles, moved in the draft moved again. At last they revealed themselves, and how all the notes of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain, indeed of horror and horror, sounded in the young breast.
But even then nobody made a greater impression on him among the actors than Fleck, who had been a member of Döbbelin’s society since 1783, when he included Othello or Shylock, Karl Moor, Otto von Wittelsbach or Duke Albrecht in “Agnes Bernauerin “Played.
All the money which Louis received from his father, he now devoted to the theater without fear of his anger. At last the miracle seemed to leave the Brethren and to enter the real world. Ludwig himself was the favorite of a secret power, which benevolently protected his thirst for theater.
Due to an inattentiveness of the lodge-keeper, the slip of paper that opened the doors of the consecrated rooms was once in his hands. What a happy chance to see a second performance afterwards! In the highest tension, hovering between desire and inner fear, he entered the next day, his ticket in hand, at the entrance to the auditorium. And indeed, not only did it open the entrance for him, but it was not demanded for him this time either. So for a third, a fourth time and more often, the lodge-keeper always overlooked him. Like Fortunat’s hat, the billet seemed to have the power to make it invisible, and it would scarcely have been the greater treasure. Like a ridiculous talisman, he now treasured his dear note, and tried his secret powers more and more confidently.
Soon, however, the veil of miracle was to be lifted by the prosaic enlightenment. One evening, when Ludwig had already taken his place, another boy, with the help of natural insolence, attempted a similar miracle; Hiding his hat under his coat, as though he had just left the parterre, he pushed past the lodge-keeper in the midst of other spectators. But he noticed him. “Stop, musje! Where to? “He shouted to him. The intruder was stunned. “You do not want to make a fool of an old man,” snapped the turnkey and drove him out of the temple. Trembling, Ludwig had looked at this strange event from his seat, when suddenly he was horrified to his dread. 36] himself was involved. Unexpectedly, the turnkey turned to him. “You, Musje,” he said, “allow me to enter without billet; for I see you are a quiet and kind child who enjoys the theater. “Ludwig had fallen from all his skies. No miracle, no secret talisman had given him the free entrance, but the quite human usual favor of a Logenschließers. The secret had disappeared, and with it a great part of the charm. The eerie feeling that he was sitting here wrongly was bothering him. At last he urged his billet back up to the closer, and was glad to step back into the ranks of ordinary spectators.
But the disappointment also approached from another angle. He began to sense the wretchedness of the theater world. Despite his contempt for the comedians, the father had nevertheless continued to communicate with them, indeed he even made the protector. He was often visited by a young actor, named Heinzius, who was looking for a job at the Berlin theater, and was starving for the time being with his wife and children. Compassionately, the art-loving craftsman invited him to his lunch table so that he could eat his fill now and then. Then the artist came to appear worthy before his patron, with a pure ruff, which he had previously whitewashed with Schlemmkreide. While he bravely endorsed the crudely home-cooking, he used to tell all sorts of funny stories that most of the time confirmed his father’s unfavorable opinion of the comedians. After many years Ludwig saw this Heinzius again. In grief-stricken form, the guitar on the belt over his shoulder, he roamed as an improviser the tabagias and amusement gardens of Berlin.
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If Ludwig’s joy in the theater was already stimulated by the mystery which he sought to unfold, a very special charm, there was another string whose innermost movement escaped the eyes even more. If he sought to act as an actor, it was by no means just a childish lust for a farcical mummery; it was the poet who stirred in him, and resorted to this first, most direct tool. But how indifferent and cumbersome these remedies were, how pale these colors were in comparison with the brilliant pictures which the childishly playing, yet restless, working-up phantasy brought up! How did every heaviness of the material sink to the ground, how did time and space deviate, how free did the boy in this pictorial world surround him, where he went and stood, in which the ordinary appeared in the splendor of the miraculous and the extraordinary. Here every school and teaching compulsion was silent, here he was his own master. The first effervescence of those ecstasies in which creative power and enjoyment combined, swept through his soul. The genius began to beat stronger and stronger.
For the moment he spoke out in a childish way. Early on Ludwig had begun to play verses in rhyme and tone. Of course, that did not escape the eye of the father. He silently let it go, and seemed to take it as something ordinary. But Ludwig soon enough appeared publicly as a poet. When his dreaded school principal married in 1784, the pupils expressed their sympathy in congratulatory speeches. Ludwig also had to make some verses for the celebration. A young man who used to talk in his father’s house had literally curtailed her; he himself spoke to the director and his young wife. Some kisses and a piece of wedding cake were the first poetry he won; and the schoolmates only marveled at him for such arts and achievements.
These attempts came more boldly in connection with the dramatic play which incessantly led to plans and explanations. There was also no lack of other exercises in different sizes, especially since the increasing acquaintance with old and new poets, even at school, led to it. The deepest impression had the “Odyssey” made on him. In the clearest poetic forms he felt the magic of the mythical world on him. This alternation of the most illustrious figures, the colorful adventures in a fabulous and wonderful nature, the victorious power of human wit in the struggle with all the horrors of the elements and the magic, this fulness of the imagination, all this exerted an infinite charm. He could not read these sounding verses often enough. In his own way he sought to get closer to the material. Twice he translated the “Odyssey” in writing, once in prose, then in hexameters.
If Ludwig believed he had done something special in such exercises, he gave it to his father, who as a rule accepted these surprising testimonies of precocity with an indifferent air. His praise was usually confined to the dry remark, “Well, it is important.” On the other hand, he gripped the childish nakedness with sharp reproaches and used it to humble the young confidence and make it ridiculous to himself.
Once Ludwig Huber’s French translation of Kleist’s “Spring” had fallen into his hands. He liked the descriptions of nature in the poem. He began playfully translating it back into rhyming verses. He gave one of these to his father, who gave it to him with a laconic but ambiguous “Hm! So! “Returned. Without being led astray, he had almost completed his retranslation when he met the poem no less by accident. He did not doubt for a moment that this was a German translation, and that Huber’s translation, which he had previously come to know, was the original. He could not suppress his astonishment at the strange verses, and hastened to the father with his finds. “Look, dear father,” he shouted to him, “the stupid man here who has translated the French poem in such verses!” With an ironic dryness, the father replied: “You are and you remain a stupid boy! I did not want to disturb you in your Thorenwerk; you did not even look at the title of your book, otherwise you would have had to notice it immediately. This one, Kleist’s ‘Spring’, is the original poem, and that one French translation. You have been stupid enough to translate a German book into German. “Embarrassed, the young writer stood before the stern critic. Nothing could be said against such a conclusive proof. Silently, he withdrew with his verses, which he had no small value back.
No less embarrassment he learned on another occasion. Not far from St. Peter’s, he had once met a slender young man of stately bearing. Seriously, it seemed, he was deep in thought, stepping dignifiedly along; unconsciously he let his dainty spanish pipe drop rhythmically onto the pavement of the road. Where had Ludwig seen that pale face, that arched forehead, that nose? These noble features, in which seemed so much strength and grace, but also so much painful experience? His soul flashed like a flash of lightning: “It is Goethe!” How often had not he looked with admiration on Goethe’s silhouette in Lavater’s “Physiognomik” and stamped this noble, high countenance on his memory! They were the same moves. Yes, that could only be Goethe! Drunk on his fortune to have seen the greatest poet, he hurried home.
But how did he increase his delight when he soon met the same young man again when he discovered that he lived near St. Peter’s. Now he completely ambushed to see Goethe pass by. Soon he was walking at a distance from him, or he was trying to meet him. He deepened in his features, the Gotz, he discovered the Werther in it. “Oh, how must such a great poet be to courage!” He sighed longingly to himself. At last he could no longer bear the joy of his heart alone. He communicated the great mystery to his father, to his friends. One smiled in disbelief; One saw the Goethe, who was to live near the Petrikirche, they made inquiries. But what disappointment was there too! Not Goethe was the pale enigma, but the Kammergerichtsassessor Kircheisen, the son of the Berlin city president. The mocking rebuke of the father was not lacking, and for a long time Ludwig suffered because of his Goethe dream, the teasing of siblings and companions.
On the other hand, if the counter-observations of the father were based on such striking facts, nothing could be said. the less convincing for Ludwig were his poetic judgments. Not only his own genius of poets aroused, but he also began to suspect the understanding of others, whose acknowledgment he gradually became the necessities of life. But the father did not seem to recognize many as they deserved. Often he was harsh in his judgments, and offending in his reckless mockery. Ludwig’s convictions grew out of a deep, undeniable feeling. As clear as the day, as sure as his own existence was many before him, and yet he should be wrong? Not without self-confidence he therefore defended his views against his father. He even ventured sometimes to thwart him in what he had learned as the result of his life experience. With such contradictions, the whole anger of the father would abruptly erupt.
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Soon there was a contrast of spirits that seemed difficult to balance. The son was full of imagination and inclined to the emotional and emotional life; Irrespective of this, his father was sober and sensible to his poetic love. This difference became more and more common. Thus Louis had greatly fondled the mother’s old hymn-book with his songs, and vivaciously protected her if the father scolded it. These simple and deep sounds seized him tremendously. As picturesque as touching, in that evening song of Paul Gerhard’s seemed the deep, silent silence of the woods, the sacred stillness which covers the whole world with its veil. He offered all his eloquence to convince his father of the beauty of these ancient songs. Why should not such feelings express themselves? Where does one take the right to condemn? As a rule, such attempts had no other consequence than that the father dismissed with increasing reluctance. “You can handle a lot of silly faxing,” he said, “and you do not see things the way they are.”
However, Louis went on his way without being led astray, and only more so when he found at this time a poetical guide and friend who was to accompany him through life. This was Shakspeare.
His theatrical appetite was perhaps surpassed only by his reading pleasure. The father’s small collection of books had long been exhausted. No book that came into the house was safe from him. The lending library, from which some were borrowed for the evening lectures, hardly sufficed. Then came the more or less abundant books of school children’s turn. With the insatiability of ravenous hunger, he pursued everything written in dramatic or dialogic form. Where he sensed some unknown book, he did not rest until he had taken possession of him and devoured it.
One day a part of Eschenburg’s “Shakspare” fell into his hands with an otherwise rather indifferent schoolmate. It was “Hamlet”. Immediately he hurried home with his prey. Full of anticipation and anxious expectation, he could no longer curb his impatience. His path led him through the Lustgarten through one of the rows of poplar trees that surrounded it at that time. It was a foggy evening in late autumn; a fine, pervasive drizzle just started to fall. Under the trees gleamed a few miserable oil lanterns. Ludwig joined. In the faint, uncertain shimmer he wanted to at least look at the directories. No sooner had he looked into the book than he felt tied up. The nocturnal scene, the first speeches of the guards, which He of the spirit, everything filled him with magical horror and yet with infinite delight. He did not feel anything of the autumn winds that drove him down the rain, not that he had to unconsciously keep his umbrella and book in balance, not that he was standing on a damp bower. He only saw and heard Hamlet. He read and read; he did not stop until the death march. Drenched, frozen by hands and feet, he found himself again. He was not to Helsingor; but from the depths of the past a spirit had come back to him, larger and more powerful than the majesty of murdered Denmark, who had spoken to him; He had heard the call of the Spirit at noon. Now he finally hurried home, not without an idea of an earthly fatherly correction. But what were all his fears in comparison with the appearance he had had today!