I crave your forgiveness Your Majesty—I am still drunk with joy.
Forgiveness? For your speech, my son? If that which you have said shall one day be written into the book of history, then my old heart is quite content, and has but the wish that they might add: “With his Sword he would be King, but with his Pigtail—merely the first citizen of his State.”
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GERMAN LYRIC POETRY FROM 1830 to 1848
BY JOHN S. NOLLEN, PH.D.
President of Lake Forest College
The years from 1830 to 1848 were distinctively revolutionary years in Germany, which until then had remained strongly conservative. The spirit of political and social reformation, which had caused the great upheaval of the French Revolution late in the eighteenth century, had made itself felt much more slowly across the Rhine. Even the generous enthusiasm that animated the German people in the War of Liberation against Napoleon in 1813 had ebbed away into disappointment and lethargy when the German princes forgot their pledges of internal reform. The policy of the German and Austrian rulers was dominated by the reactionary Austrian Prime Minister, Prince Metternich, a consistent champion of aristocratic ideas and of the “divine right of Kings.” The “Revolution of July,” 1830, however, which overthrew the Bourbon dynasty in France, had its counterpart in popular movements that forced the granting of constitutions or other liberal concessions in several German states; and, though the policy of Metternich still remained dominant, the liberal sentiment grew in power until the February revolution of 1848 in Paris inspired similar upheavals in all Germany. Metternich himself was now compelled to retire, Frederick William IV. of Prussia granted his people a constitution, and the other German states seethed with revolt; but the great liberal plan to unify Germany under the leadership of Prussia was nullified by Frederick William’s refusal to accept the imperial crown from a democratic assembly.
The lyric poetry of Germany in these years inevitably reflected the liberal sentiment of the time; it is always the radical emotion of any revolutionary period that finds the most effective lyric expression, the conservative state of mind being more characteristically prosaic. For the group of ardent spirits who made themselves the heralds of the new day, one of their number, the novelist and dramatist Karl Gutzkow, found the name “Young Germany.” Just as the “Storm and Stress” of 1770 to 1780, and the Romantic movement of the opening nineteenth century, represented a spirit of sharp revolt against the then dominant pseudo-classicism and rationalism, so “Young Germany” reacted passionately against the moonlight sentimentality of the popular romantic poets, as well as against the stupid political conservatism of the time. The aim of the Young