The soul that has such dreams in sleep continues to have them even when it is awake. It feels itself entwined by the blossoms of love, it takes care not to destroy the loose wreaths; it gladly gives itself up a prisoner, consecrates itself to the fantasy, and willingly allows itself to be ruled by the child, which rewards all maternal cares by its sweet playfulness.
Then a fresh breath of the bloom of youth and a halo of child-like ecstasy comes over the whole of life. The man deifies his Beloved, the mother her child, and all men everlasting humanity.
Now the soul understands the wail of the nightingale and the smile of the new-born babe; the significance of the flowers and the mysterious hieroglyphics of the starry sky; the holy import of life as well as the beautiful language of Nature. All things speak to it, and everywhere it sees the lovely spirit through the delicate envelope.
On this gaily decorated floor it glides through the light dance of life, innocent, and concerned only to follow the rhythm of sociability and friendship, and not to disturb the harmony of love. And during it all an eternal song, of which it catches now and then a few words which adumbrate still higher wonders.
Ever more beautifully this magic circle encompasses the charmed soul, and that which it forms or speaks sounds like a wonderful romance of childhood’s beautiful and mysterious divinities—a romantic tale, accompanied by the bewitching music of the feelings, and adorned with the fairest flowers of lovely life.
By FRIEDRICH SCHLEGEL
From the Lyceum and the Athenaeum (1797-1800)
Perfect understanding of a classic work should never be possible; but those who are cultivated and who are still striving after further culture, must always desire to learn more from it.
If an author is to be able to write well upon a theme, he must no longer feel interest in it; the thought which is to be soberly expressed must already be entirely past and must no longer personally concern the writer. So long as the artist invents and is inspired, he is in an unfavorable situation, at least for communicating his concepts. He will then wish to say everything—a false tendency of young geniuses, or an instinctively correct prejudice of old bunglers. In this way he mistakes the value and the dignity of self-restraint, although for the artist, as for the man, this is the first and the last, the most needful and the highest.
We should never appeal to the spirit of antiquity as an authority. There is this peculiarity about spirits: they cannot be grasped with the hands and be held up before others. Spirits reveal themselves only to spirits. Here, too, the briefest and most concise course would doubtless be to prove, through good works, our possession of the faith which alone gives salvation.