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Through hanging clouds, from craggy height to height,
THE Land we from our fathers had in trust,
ALAS! what boots the long laborious quest
With weapons in the fearless hand
Or pains abstruse--to elevate the will,
See the note by Alois Brandl appended to this series of sonnets. Wordsworth had probably no means of knowing anything of Fichte's “Addresses to the German Nation" delivered weekly in Berlin, from December 1807 to March 1808. (See Fichte, by Professor Robert Adamson, pp. 84-91.) ED.
ON THE FINAL SUBMISSION OF THE TYROLESE.
It was a moral end for which they fought;
Of awful prudence, keep the unvanquished soul :
The martial courage of a day is vain,
I append to this series of sonnets on the Tyrol and the Tyrolese the translation of a paper contributed by Alois Brandl, a Tyrolean, to the Neue Freie Presse of October 22, 1880. Herr Brandl was for some time in England investigating the traces of a German literary influence on Coleridge, Wordsworth, and their contemporaries.
“It was in the year 1809 ; Napoleon was at the height of his career of victory; and England alone of all his opponents held the supremacy at sea. For years the English were the only representatives of freedom in Europe. At last it seemed that two fortunate allies arose to join their causethe insurgents in Spain and in the little land of Tyrol. No wonder then that now British poets sympathised with the victors at the hill of Isel, and praised their courage and their leaders, and at last, when they
were overcome by superior forces, laid the laurel wreath of tragic heroism on their graves.
“Thirty or forty years before, English poets would scarcely have shown such a lively interest in a war of independence in a foreign country. They stood under the curse of narrow-mindedness and onesidedness both in politics and in art, so that their smooth-running verses neither sought nor found a response even in the hearts of their own fellow-countrymen. The poets who appeared before the public in the year 1798 with the famous “Lyrical Ballads” were the first to strike out a new path. Although differing considerably from one another in other respects, they agreed in their opposition to the conventionality of the old school.
“Wordsworth lived in a simple little house on the romantic lake of Grasmere, in the heart of the mountains of Westmoreland. He studied more in his walks over heath and field than in books, and entered with interest into the questions affecting the good of the country people around him. All this of necessity impelled him to take a warm interest in the herdsmen of the Alps.
“But the Tyrolese inspired him with still greater interest on political grounds. Like all the lake poets, he was an enthusiastic admirer not of the French revolution but of the republic, as long as it seemed to desire the realization of the ideas of Liberty, Fraternity, Equality, and the rest of Rousseau's Arcadian notions; and it was a bitter disillusion for him, as well as for Klopstock, when this much-praised home of the free rights of man resolved itself into the empire of Napoleon. From this moment he took his place on the side of the enemies of France, and particularly on the side of the Tyrolese, since they had never lost the natural simplicity of their habits, and had regained the hereditary freedom, of which they had been deprived with the sword. Thus arose the curious paradox, that a republican poet glorified spontaneously the cause of an exceedingly monarchical and conservative country.
“Wordsworth gave vent to his enthusiasm in six sonnets, which, as far as power of language and vigour of thought are concerned, form interesting companion-pieces to the poems of the contemporary Tyrolese poet Alois Weissenbach. In the first three sonnets the splendour of the Alpine world, which he knew from his journeys in Switzerland, forms the background of the picture. In the foreground he sees a band of brave and daring men, in whose hearts he thought he could find all his own moral pathos. Many of the features which he has introduced certainly show more ideal fancy than knowledge of detail ; but it was not his purpose to compose a correct report of the war, but to give an exciting description of the heroes of this struggle for independence, in order that, even though they themselves should be overpowered, their spirit might arise again among his own fellow-countrymen. In the fourth sonnet, in his enthusiasm for the Tyrolese, he has treated the
German universities with unnecessary severity ; but this does not prove any intentional want of fairness on his part, for at that time our universities stood under general discredit in England as the hotbeds of the wildest metaphysics and political dreams. The events of the year 1813 would probably induce Wordsworth to view them in a more favourable light. Similarly the sixth sonnet is not quite just to Austria ; in particular Wordsworth has made decidedly too little allowance for the fact that the Emperor Franz I. ceded the Tyrol quite against his own will under the pressure of circumstances. But in this case we must not simply impute all the blame to the poet ; for as we see from the diary of his friend Southey, his information as to the doings of Austria was of a most vague and unfavourable character. We, however, cannot have any wish to impute to Austria the sins of ill-advised diplomacy."
The following are Herr Brandl's German translations of Wordsworth's sonnets :
Von Sterblichen geboren sei der Held,
Der den Tirolern todesfühn gebeut?
Ist etwa Tell's Geist aus der Ewigkeit
Er kommt wie Phöbus aus dem Morgenzelt,
Wenn sich die Finsterniß der Nacht zerstreut,
Und doch, wie Sólicht! Ein Falkenschweif nur dreut,
O Freiheit! Wie der Feind erbebt in Rüden
Und Front und gerne flöh' in einer Fluth,
Gewälzt von dieses Kämpferd Göttermuth!
Freiheit, ersteig aus deinem Heimatsland
Tirol! du Mädchen ernst und unzähmbar
Und lieblich doch, der Berge Kind fürwahr!
1 Sonette 2, 4 und 6 sind unbetitelt.