The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 02 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 618 pages of information about The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 02.

“Rome is a place where all antiquity is concentrated into a unity for our inspection.  What we have felt with the ancient poets, concerning ancient forms of government, we believe more than ever to feel, even to see, in Rome.  As Homer cannot be compared with other poets, so Rome can be compared with no other city, the Roman country with no other landscape.  Most of this impression is no doubt due, it is true, to ourselves, and not to the subject; but it is not only the sentimental thought of standing where this or that great man has stood, it is an irresistible attraction toward what we regard as—­although it may be through a necessary deception—­a noble and sublime past; a power which even he who wished to cannot resist, because the desolation in which the present inhabitants leave the land and the incredible masses of ruins themselves attract and convince the eye.  And as this past appears to the mind in a grandeur which excludes all envy, in which one is more than happy to take part, if only with the imagination (indeed, no other participation is conceivable); and as the senses too are charmed by the beauty of form, the grandeur and simplicity of the figures, the richness of the vegetation (though not luxuriant like that of a more southern region), the precision of the outlines in the clear air and the beauty of the colors in their transparency—­so the enjoyment of nature is here a purely artistic one, free from everything distracting.  Everywhere else the ideas of contrast appear and the enjoyment of nature is elegiac or satiric.  It is true that these sentiments exist only for us.  To Horace, Tibur seemed more modern than does Tivoli to us, as is proved by his ‘Beatus ille qui procul negotiis,’ but it is only an illusion to imagine that we ourselves would like to be inhabitants of Athens or Rome.  Only in the distance, separated from everything common, only as a thing of the past, must antiquity appear to us.  This is the sentiment of a friend and myself, at least, in regard to the ruins; we are always incensed when a half sunken ruin is excavated; for this can only be a gain for scholarship at the expense of the imagination.  There are only two things which inspire me with an equal horror:  that the Campagna di Roma should be built up, and that Rome should become a well policed city, in which no man any longer carried a knife.  Should such an order-loving Pope appear—­which may the seventy-two cardinals prevent—­shall move away.  Only if such divine anarchy and such a heavenly wilderness remain in Rome, is there place for the shadows, one of which is worth more than the whole present race.”


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The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 02 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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