Canst thou divine the thrills that shook me when the trees poured down their fragrance and their blossoms upon me? For I thought and felt and firmly believed that it was thy caressing of nature, thy enjoyment of her beauty, that it was her yearning, her surrender to thee, that loosened these blossoms from their trembling boughs and sent them gently whirling into my lap.
BY MARTIN SCHUeTZE, PH.D. Associate Professor of German Literature, University of Chicago
Karl Lebrecht Immermann was born in Magdeburg, in April, 1796. His father, who held a good position in the Civil Service, was a very severe and domineering man; his mother, imaginative and over-indulgent. Karl’s childhood and early youth were uneventful. After passing through the regular course of preparatory education in a “Gymnasium,” he entered, in 1813, the University of Halle. During his first year there, Germany rose up to throw off the yoke of Napoleon, and the King of Prussia issued a proclamation calling the nation to arms, to which the people responded with unprecedented unanimity and enthusiasm. Schoolboys and bearded men, laborers and professional men, merchants and soldiers, united in one patriotic purpose. The regular army was everywhere supplemented by volunteer organizations. An epoch began which in its enthusiasm, its idealism, the force and richness of its inspiration, and its overwhelming impetus deserved, more than any other in modern history, its title: “The Spring of Nations.”
Immermann’s sensitive and responsive nature thrilled with the general impulse, and he asked his father to let him join the army, but was told, peremptorily, not to interrupt the first year of his studies. He submitted, and plunged into the study of the literature of the Romanticists, which, in its remoteness from actuality, offered distraction from his disappointment. During this time he fell ill of typhoid fever, from which he did not fully recover until the campaign had victoriously ended in the battle of Leipzig. He joined, however, after Napoleon’s escape from Elba, the second campaign, in which he took part in two battles. At the end of the war, having retired as an officer of the reserves, he returned to Halle to finish his study of the law.
He found a new spirit dominant among the students. This spirit, characterized by a strongly democratic desire for national unity, pride of race, and impatience with external and conventional restraints, had a rich network of roots in the immediate past: in the individualism and the humanism of the Storm and Stress Movement and the Classic Era of the eighteenth century; in the subjective idealism of the Romantic school; in the nationalism of Klopstock, Herder, Schiller, and Fichte, and in the self-reliant transcendentalism of Kant’s philosophy and Schleiermacher’s