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among the people recollections of antiquity, which else had undoubtedly perished; and called forth that patriarcho-biblical spirit, which rendered so venerable the burgher families, and artisans of the cities of Germany; nay more, universalised the high German idiom, and made it the language of the people. In the midst of its many curious arrangements, and fantastical and useless formalities, it had the peculiar merit to become the guardian of its native tongue, and transmit it pure through the deflux of barbarous ages.
In this state, without being cultivated by any individual of a genius prominently poetical, the Magistral Song continued down to the times of Luther : but at that period there arose a poet, who may challenge a comparison with the happiest of modern bards.
It is a singular circumstance, that in this century two German shoeniakers, JOAN Sachs and Jacob BÆHMEN- the one in poetry, the other in philosophy-should have been able to impart to their native language à pliability and fulness of expression, which even to this day may serve as models.
Our poet was born on the fifth of November, 1494, in a time of great sickness. His father, who was a tailor, a man of virtuous and simple manners, from an apprehension of the prevailing epidemic, had him baptised on the day of his* birth, and gave him the name of John* He lived, however, and at seven years of age, he was sent to the Latin schools. Of his early boyhood little certain appears to be known, beyond the accidental interruption of his studies by a malignant fever, from which he soon recovered. In his fifteenth year he was removed from the schools, to be instructed in the trade of shoemaking: a business, which, even to this day, has more than once been dignified by such a casualty. The important æra in his life,--that which was to influence all his future destinies, -was now not far distant. He was about seventeen years of age, when the Mastersinger, Leonard Nunnenbeck, a weaver by profession, apprenticed him in the delightful art of song: and in this he became immediately so distinguished, not only for his compositions, but for the fine voice in which he recited them, that no common excellence began to be augured for him. Thus initiated in song, he abandoned his paternal dwelling, and set forward on that probationary tour, which was then, and is still customary among the artisans of Germany, in all the common handicraft, to perfect himself in its charming mysteries. Ratisbon, Passow, Saltzburg, Halle, Monaco, Frank
* In the German, Hans.
fort, and Wurtzburg, successfully allured, and gratified his enquiring mind : and crossing the Rhine, be sojourned severally at Coblentz, Cologne, and other famous cities. Throughout all these peregrinations, wherever there happened to be mastersingers, he sought them eagerly: whenever he could, to learn from them some ancient song, or melody-but, oftener far, to teach them some new composition of his own. At one period of his travels, the better to familiarise himself with the manners of a court, he procured himself to be appointed huntsman to the Emperor Maximilian. In no place did he abandon himself to idleness, play, or other vices : on the contrary, by his conver, sation and life, he dissuaded his friends from them also; and his habits were pure and innocent. His first essay in poetry was a hymn to the divinity. Moving about in this agreeable manner, 'till the year 1516, he visited Leipsig, Lubeck, Osnabrook, Vienna, Erfurt, and other cities, as he himself tells us. And thus, perfecting himself at once in the gentle crafts of poetry and shoe-making, he would have continued much longer his desultory and errant pilgrimage, had not a desire to revisit his native town too strongly seconded the wishes of his parents, and hurried him home. On his return to Nuremberg, in his twenty-second year, he was received a master.shoemaker; and, in the year 1519, married Cunegunda Kreutzer, a hale and handsome young woman of the district. They lived together for a long period in great domestic harmony and happiness, blest with five sons and two daughters. After this marriage, he became quite domiciliated at Nuremberg, and applied himself zealously to poetry, and the labours of his vocation. He studied indefatigably the works of the ancient German poets, and the great Italian authors, particularly Petrarch and Boccacio: but above all, he devoted himself passionately to the Bible, and the works of Luther, whose reform he embraced, and materially assisted with his writings. In the sixty-sixth year of his age he was deprived of his faithful partner, and, before her, of all his sons : but he did not continue long a widower, for we find him re-married in a year. His second wife, whose name was Barbara Harscher, was a woman of great loveliness and beauty; and with her he led the residue of his long life in uninterrupted felicity. Not many years after their union, this eminent poet almost entirely lost his hearing. From that period society became irksome to him, and he began to withdraw himself into his own house. There, at his little table, while the calm sunset of his existence wore gradually away, he would sit reading and writing all day, with his white beard and locks of snow, never speaking to any one but his wife. And in this manner he reached, on the nineteenth of January, 1578, that final moment which awaits us all.
The companions, with whom he had often sung, carried his earthly remains to the tomb.*
In his own age, the poetry of Sachs was rinboundedly popular: the master singers were all astonished, and the people received it with raptures. His portrait, engraved in wood, was universal in the coffee-rooms of Germany. But, in the succeeding century, a rage for foreign literature had corrupted the national taste, and the works of Sachs were thrown aside, and left to be rotted by the moths. Time, however, which vindicates all things, has preserved the memory of this original, fertile, and refreshing poet: and it is enough to remark in his praise, that the master genius of his country's literature, Goethe, has imitated Hans Sachs in the most celebrated of his compositions- Faust. In fact, it three requisites are to be looked for in poetry-invention, expression, and enthusiasmwe shall find all these blended in Sachs. He is an inventor of forms, and of things: his allegories are lively, poetical, fresh, and brilliant; his expression rich; his language choice, harmonious, and teeming with new phraseologies, full of character, and point, and beauty. But what especially enhances the interest of his compositions, is the fidelity of colouring with which he exhibits the characters, and the times which he paints. And yet, all this would be nothing, if his enthusiasm were not directed by one predominant and absorbing idea, for which all the forms of poetry do but furnish so many vehicles to embody
* His works, collected in five volumes folio, were printed first at Nuremberg, in 1576-1579; and reprinted at Kempten, in 1616, in five volumes quarto. They contain two hundred and twelve pieces of profane poetry, one hundred and sixteen sacred allegories, and one hundred and ninety-seven dramas. These editions are now no longer to be had; but there is in the market a selection from his works, edited by John Büsching, in six volumes, and printed at Nuremberg.
+ Goethe has besides composed a small legendary tale, which he has entitled, In the manner of Hans Sachs. In this poem he has related with a humour which never encroaches on the respect due to the character introduced in his fable, how when Jesus was walking with his disciples, he saw a horse-shoe, and pointed to Peter to pick it up. Peter, “who was dreaming of the government of the world, or some such matter,” affected not to observe his master, and walked on. Jesus stooped-sold it for a penny, and bought cherries. It was a hot day, and on their walk the party were suffering from heat. On this, Jesus dropped from his sleeve the cherries, one by one, which Peter was very glad to stoop for: and at the end he receives a lecture from his master. This is an admirable specimen of the tone of the great master-singer, and of the simplicity of the age, which took no offence at such mixture of the sacred and profane.
it in every possible variety. This governing idea, so omnipresent in his thoughts, was Protestantism. But Protestantism, in Sachs, was not a frozen formalism, nor a dull affectation; no!-but it was the spirit of the dignity of man's nature, that, illuminated by revelation, made war against the abuses of the priesthood, the domination of the Popes, and the corruption of the clergy: and, spurning the fetters imposed upon the human intellect, discovered to his fellow-countrymen the true path to salvation. Secondary to this idea, but inseparable from it, was his impression that a politico-moral regeneration awaited his native country. In this, all the works of Hans Sachs—whether from the double allegory employed in them, at once religious and political, or the undisguised frankness with which he attacks the vices of the priests, and of his contemporaries, without distinction of sect; or whether we consider the novelty of his expressions, and the originality of his inventions-assimilate remarkably with the writings of Dante Alighieri. Of all the German poets, not even Goethe excepted, he is the only one who has truly comprehended the genius of his country's poetry, and preserved it pure, without encumbering it with foreign forms. And it is quite inconceivable how Frederick Schlegel, in his hypercatholic zeal, could have been transported to such a pitch, as to affirm of Sachs, that he was an artisan even in poetry.
Hans Sachs is the inventor of German tragedy and comedy. In tragedy, his subjects are all taken either from the ancient Nordic legends, or the inythology of the Round Table; and sometimes, but rarely, from the sacred writings. With a concise and clear prologue, he transports the audience at once into the middle of the action, which, without any artificial intricacies, is continued through five, or seven very short acts. His comedies, entitled Schwanke, consist but of a single act, and are lively and satirical pictures of the corruption of his times : It must be confessed, that sometimes his colouring is a little high, and his words grate harshly upon the delicate ears of a modern audience ; for such is the morbid sensibility at which we have arrived, that the most nefarious atrocities must have the demulceat of a pious phraseology. But Luther, Hutten, and Sachs, did not think in this canting manner; and with frank and round expressions, called things by their proper names. Aristophanes himself, who lived in the most polished city of the world, was by no means so delicate in his choice of terms; and Dante, in his Inferno, rebukes the vices of popes and kings, and Pisans and Florentines, in language of no studied sweetness. Certainly, Sachs did not give the last perfection to German dra. matic poetry, but in this he only resembled Æschylus : and if poets of different ages and countries may have some points of comparison in common, it may be said, that, as Sophocles improved into harmony and standard elegance the invented tragedy of Æschylus, so Goethe, in his Faust, imparted to the drama of our poet the last polish of which it was susceptible. All the remainder of Goethe's pieces are but so many expe. riments, to transplant into the German soil the dramatic forms either of the English, or the ancients. Nor was Goethe, on this subject, ungrateful towards the inventor of the German drama : for, in the Poetic Mission of Hans Sachs, he has given him his proper praise, and keenly vituperates those who refuse to acknowledge him for a master.
“In Froschpfuhl all' das Volk verbannt,
Das Seinen Meister je verkannt."
The only defect which can at all be imputed to Sachs, is an occasional prolixity of moral diatribe. But this prolixity ought rather to be imputed to the nation, and to the times in which he lived, than to the poet. Goethe himself, who is the most classical and finished of his country's poets, is any thing but free from such a censure. And who does not discover this vice in the Don Carlos and Wallenstein of Schiller, and in the eternal exclamations of Klopstock, much more abundantly than in Hans Sachs! Surely not for a defect like this, ought we to disparage the poet of the people, the child of genius, and of nature !
ART. IX.--Argalus and Parthenia ; as it hath been acted at the
Court before their Majesties, and at the Private House in Drury Lane, by their Majesties' Servants. By Henry Glapthorne. 4to. London, 1639. The Tragedy of Albertus Wallenstein, late Duke of Fridland,
and General to the Emperor Ferdinand the Second. Written by Henry Glapthorne.
· Cedant carminibus reges regumque triumphi. Tyre- scene Egers; and acted with good allowance at the Globe, on the Bankside, by this Majesties' Servants. 4to. London, 1600. The Hollander, a Comedy; written 1635. The author, Henry
Glapthorne ; and now printed as it was then acted at the Cock