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of Peace,' and declares that peace is dependent on his preservation. The bourgeoisie domination, which he formerly thought more ignoble than that of the mistresses of Louis XIV., he now accepts, if not with satisfaction, at least as something inevitable, and he trusts to that alone to delay the arrival of that communistic rule which is to give the future law to the world. He even beheld with aversion the cabals and combinations of the so-called conservative deputies which have for aim the imposition on the bourgeoisie of ministers of their own choice; being, however, quite contradictory to himself in this view, for he regards the stability of the ministry of M. Guizot, which was sustained alone by the corrupt collusion of these conservative deputies, as a present means of salvation for France. Singular, too, is the fashion in which he terminates his last political letter-the relation of the anecdote about Lafayette, and his evident scepticism as to the value to be placed on declarations of the rights of man. Although there is manifest contradiction to be observed in all this political disbelief, in all these gloomy views of the future of humanity on the one side, and in his vague continuing faith in progress and in the democratisation of freedom,' when the spirit of liberty shall pass into the masses themselves, into the lowest classes of society, and become people on the other, few politicians, even by profession, can triumph over Heine on account of such contradictions, for indeed contradiction among the articles of faith of the professors of political opinions is rather the rule than the exception, and Heine was strangely right in some of his forecasts, if wrong-headed in others.
"ATTA TROLL' AND THE TENDENCY POETS.
Out of the poetical inactivity of the last sad years, Heine aroused himself to write the first of the two longest of connected compositions which he ever undertook—the satirical poem “Atta Troll,' in twenty seven chapters, and filling one hundred and twelve pages of his works.
It would, we fear, be taxing too much the patience of an English reader to explain minutely the political and literary condition of Germany which gave rise to the production of this singular satire, and assuredly it will be necessary even for the Germans themselves of future ages to have as many scholia attached to it as there are to the Satires of Juvenal and Perseus to make it wholly intelligible.
Let us first take Heine's own account of the origin of the poem published in 1846, premising that the poem first appeared before the world in fragmentary fashion in the pages of the Elegante Welt’in 1842, the journal then conducted by his friend Laube.
66 Atta Troll,” says Heine,' was born in the autumn of 1841, at a time when the great émeute, which foes of the most different colours had got up against me, had not yet stormed itself out. It was a very great émeute, and I never imagined that Germany could produce so many rotten apples as were pitched at my head. Our Vaterland is a blessed country; no citrons and no golden oranges grow there, and the laurel itself only thrives painfully in our soil in a creeping way; but rotten apples thrive in the most delightful abundance, and all our great poets have had a song to sing of them. In this émeute, which aimed at depriving me of my crown and my head, I lost neither, and the absurd charges wherewith the mob were excited against me have since that time come to a pitiful end, without any need of my having to refute them. I once undertook my justification, and even the various German governments, whose attentions I must carefully acknowledge, have in this respect deserved my thanks. The warrants of arrest which waited longingly for the return home of the poet at every frontier post, were always carefully renewed every year about the holy season of Christmas, when the cheerful lamps are sparkling on the Christmas trees. On account of such insecurity attending my passage, it has been made very difficult for me to travel into German districts, and on this account I pass my Christmases in a foreign land, and shall probably also finish my days in a foreign land, in exile. The valiant champions for light and truth who accused me of inconstancy and of servility, are meanwhile walking securely about in the Vaterland, either as well-stalled state servants, or as office-holders in some corporation or other, or as habitués of a club where of an evening they pathetically refresh themselves with the grapejuice of Vater Rhine, and with the oysters of SchleswigHolstein meerumschlungen.
'I have stated the period at which “Atta Troll” was composed for special reasons, for at that time the so-styled political poetry was in full bloom. The Opposition, as Ruge says, sold off its leather and took to poetry. The Muses received the strongest warning thenceforward not to conduct themselves with such insolence and with such levity, but to enter into Vaterland-ish service—to become something in the way of sutler-wenches to Liberty or washerwomen to Christiano-German nationality. Then arose among the German bards that vague barren pathos, that useless vapour of enthusiasm, which set death at defiance and plunged into
an ocean of common places, and which always put me in mind of the American sailor who was so extravagantly enthusiastic about General Jackson that he at last jumped from the top of a mast into the sea crying out “I die for General Jackson.” In truth, although we Germans had no fleet as yet, we had already many sailors who died for General Jackson in verse and in prose. Talent was esteemed then a very suspicious endowment, since it brought one into suspicion of being without character. Manger-dogged impotence had at last, after a thousand years of cogitation, discovered her great weapon against genius ; it had discovered the antithesis of talent and character. It was personally flattering for the common crowd to hear it asserted : respectable people are truly generally very bad musicians, but then good musicians are generally anything else but good people, and respectability is the chief thing in the world, and not music. The empty head pointed with emphasis at his full heart, and good intentions were trumps. I remember a writer of that time who claimed it as especially meritorious that he could not write, and for his wooden style he got a silver cup of honour.
"By the eternal gods! there was need then of some defence of the inalienable right of the spirit, and that in poetry. And such a defence has been the great business of my life, therefore especially in the present poem have I had it in view, and the tone of it, as well as the subject matter, was a protest against the plebiscite of the tribunes of the day.'
The reader will now understand Heine's position as regards the tendency-poets who had a short-lived popularity in those years—those artists, as he described them, who took freedom and the work of liberation as the subject of their verse, and were mostly limited fettered spirits, borné natures, Philistines, who wore pigtails under the red cap of Liberty;' for, he adds, “truly great poets have always comprehended the interests of their time otherwise than in rhymed newspaper articles.
Of his own ‘Atta Troll’he thus writes to Campe: 'It is a politico-romantic poem, and will presumably give the death blow to the prosaic bombastic tendency-poetry. You know I am not in the habit of boasting, but I am this time certain that I have composed a work which will make more furore than the most popular brochure, and will yet have a permanent value as a work of classic poetry? And in fact the very first fragments which were printed of “Atta Troll” excited the gall of the character-heroes, of my Romans, who accused me not only of being a literary but also a social reactionnaire, yea, even of insulting the holiest ideas of humanity. As for the aesthetic value of my poem, I never thought of defending it, nor do I now: I wrote it for my own pleasure and delight, in the capricious dreamy fashion of the romantic school in which I passed my most pleasant years, and at last flogged the schoolmaster. In this respect my poem admits of censure. But thou liest, Brutus—thou liest, Cassius—and thou, too, liest, Asinius, when you assert that my mockery touched those ideas which are a costly acquisition of humanity, and for which I myself have struggled and suffered so much. No, even because those ideas continually hover before the mind of the poet in the most sublime clearness and grandeur, so much the more does irresistible laughter seize him when he sees how coarsely and clumsily those ideas can be conceived by the narrow-minded fellows of his age. He aims his jokes then, as it were, at the temporary bears' hides in which such ideas are enveloped. There are mirrors which are polished so badly that Apollo himself would appear therein as a caricature, and excite our laughter. But we laugh then at the distorted image, and not at the god.'
The reader of this passage of Heine's, written in his inimitably caustic and witty style, will find in it sufficient