Imagens das páginas

His History.


young nephew full opportunity to pursue his favourite studies. He remained six years in Soerst, where he made himself acquainted with the English, French, and Italian languages; and how thoroughly he mastered the first two at least, is manifested in his numerous poetical translations, all of them excellent, and some of them perfect prodigies in their way.

From Soerst he removed, in 1831, to Amsterdam, where he was employed until 1836, as clerk, in a considerable mercantile house. Now, however uncongenial the air and soil of Holland may generally be to the growth of poetry, it did not prove so in Freiligrath's case. His mind had already taken its decided bent, and not all the prosaic details of the wharf and the countinghouse could smother the fire of genius within him: on the contrary, his vigorous imagination throve well upon such food as would have killed a weaker one of indigestion. Invoices of sugar and whale-oil are not, perhaps, the sort of reading best fitted, in all instances, to nourish and develop the poetic faculty; but in every tub of oil, Freiligrath had bodily before him the life of the hardy whaler, its perils, hardships, and bursts of intense, joyous excitement; every cask of sugar spoke to him of tropic skies and tropic vegetation, of tornadoes and earthquakes, of pirates and slavers, and negroes toiling under the whiteman's lash, who, in their own wild land, had fought victoriously with the lion and rhinoceros for their spoils. The sights and sounds of the sea, which the great bulk of his countrymen know only by report, became for him visible and audible realities; he mingled with travellers and seafaring men, for his muse was not of that squeamish sort that 'loves not the savour of tar and pitch;' and many a band of emigrants, from his own Germany, did he see departing for the New World, and he talked with them of the untried homes they were seeking, and of that dear land they were never again to visit but in dreams. Thus his mind accumulated a vast store of images, not isolated or partial, but concrete and entire; he could say of himself,

'My eyes make pictures when they're shut,'

pictures which he projected into his verses, glowing with the vivid colours of the most intense life.

His poems, which he began to publish in 1830, in various periodicals, were first issued in a collected form in 1838, and they have now, in six reached as many years, editions. The causes of his extraordinary success are simple and obvious. In the first place, it was thoroughly deserved; the book was a genuine and original book, not faultless certainly, but possessing incontestible merits of no ordinary kind. And then, in addition to its intrinsic worth,

it had the incalculable advantage of being well timed. The voices of all the great poets of Germany were mute; the public ear was wearied and disgusted with the endless monotony of their thousand and one imitators, and prepared to receive, with passionate delight, the first manly utterance that should break in upon the falsetto chorus. Then it was that Freiligrath stood forth among his countrymen as the first adventurer in a new field of lyric poetry, new at least, in Germany. Every thing about him wore the impress of individuality; nothing was borrowed, nothing conventional; his thoughts, his diction, were his own; and, above all, the stuff he wrought in was honest, substantial stuff, immeasureably different from the moonshine which his brethren delighted to spin. His poems were pictures, startling portraitures of real things; theirs were pictures of nothing.


It has been repeatedly remarked, that the very titles of Freiligrath's pieces betoken the peculiar bent of his imagination; many of them might figure appropriately in the catalogue of a gallery of paintings: e. g. The Emigrants,' The Skating Negro,'The Awakener in the Desert,' The Burial of the Bandit,' 'The Bivouac,' 'The Picture Bible,' Henry the Seafarer,' "The Steppes,' 'The Lion's Ride,' The Traveller's Vision,' 'Under the Palms,'' Leviathan, &c., &c. The most celebrated of all his productions is The Lion's Ride,' a poem of great vigour, though we do not subscribe to the common opinion that it is the author's master-piece.





The Lion is the desert's king; through his domain so wide
Right swiftly and right royally this night he means to ride.

By the sedgy brink, where the wild herds drink, close crouches the grim chief;

The trembling sycamore above whispers with every leaf.

At evening on the Table Mount when ye can see no more

The changeful play of signals gay; when the gloom is speckled o'er With kraal fires; when the Caffre wends home through the lone karroo ; When the boshbok in the thicket sleeps, and by the stream the gnu;

Then bend your gaze across the waste: what see ye? The giraffe
Majestic stalks towards the lagoon, the turbid lymph to quaff;
With outstreched neck and tongue adust, he kneels him down to cool
His hot thirst with a welcome draught from the foul and brackish pool.

A rustling sound-a roar—a bound-the lion sits astride
Upon his giant courser's back. Did ever king so ride?
Had ever king a steed so rare, caparisons of state
To match the dappled skin whereon that rider sits elate?

The Lion's Ride.

In the muscles of the neck his teeth are plunged with ravenous greed;
His tawny mane is tossing round the withers of the steed.
Upleaping with a hollow yell of anguish and surprise,
Away, away, in wild dismay, the camel-leopard flies.

His feet have wings; see how he springs across the moonlit plain!
As from their sockets they would burst his glaring eyeballs strain;
In thick black streams of purling blood full fast his life is fleeting;
The stillness of the desert hears his heart's tumultuous beating.

Like the cloud that through the wilderness the path of Israel traced,
Like an airy phantom dull and wan, a spirit of the waste,
From the sandy sea uprising, as the waterspout from ocean,
A whirling cloud of dust keeps pace with the courser's fiery motion.

Croaking companion of their flight the vulture whirs on high;
Below, the terror of the fold, the panther fierce and sly,
And hyenas foul, round graves that prowl, join in the horrid race;
By the footprints wet with gore and sweat their monarch's course they


They see him on his living throne, and quake with fear, the while
With claws of steel he tears piecemeal his cushion's painted pile.
On! on! no pause, no rest, giraffe, while life and strength remain;
The steed by such a rider backed, may madly plunge in vain!


Reeling upon
the desert's verge he falls and breathes his last ;
The courser, stained with dust and foam, is the rider's fell repast.
O'er Madagascar, eastward far, a faint flush is descried :-
Thus nightly o'er his broad domain the king of beasts doth ride.


The last rhyme of the second stanza-karroo, gnu-is an instance of an artifice much used by Freiligrath, and often with excellent effect. He is fond of proper names, and foreign or local terms, particularly in his rhymes, where they strike more sharply on the ear; his purpose being, by the aid of these foreign accessories, to attune the reader's mind to that precise pitch which shall best harmonise with the poet's strain. Milton abounds with passages in which proper names are found to exercise an indescribable charm over the imagination: for instance-Satan's shield—

"The broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening from the top of Fesolé,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great admiral, were but a wand." &c.

And the celebrated simile in Book IV.

"As when to them who sail
Beyond the Cape of Hope and now are past
Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow
Sabean odours from the spicy shore

Of Araby the blest; with such delay

Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league
Cheered with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles."

The remarkable identity of subject between 'The Lion's Ride' and a poem by our lamented countryman, Pringle, has led to the very plausible conjecture that the former was borrowed from the latter. Freiligrath, however, positively assured Nodnagel that he had never seen Pringle's lines, but had founded his own on a brief remark by some traveller. In truth, the story of the lion lying in ambush for the giraffe, and being carried away on the back of that magnificent creature, is not the invention of either the German or the Englishman. The fact does actually occur, or, at least, its occurrence is matter of very general belief among the people of South Africa; it was related to Pringle by old Teysho, a Bechuana chief. As the reader may be curious to compare the two poems-with all due allowance for the disadvantage at which one of them is placed by the process of translation-we beg to refer him to the note.†

The following pretty and ingenious lines exhibit the author's fancy in one of its lighter and more sportive moods.

* Deutsche Dichter der Gegenwart.' Darmstadt, 1842: erster Heft.


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DIE AMPHITRITE, Mai, 1832. Siehst du vor Anker dort Die Amphitrite liegen? Festlich erglänzt der Bord, Die rothen Wimpel fliegen. Es hangen aufgehisst Die Segel an den Stangen; Der graue Meergott küsst Schäumend der Gattin Wangen.

Sie ist zurückgekehrt
Aus fernen Morgenlanden,
Hat sich im Sturm bewährt,
Und Linienglut bestanden.

Der Schiffer steht am Mast, Die Lenden roth umgürtet; Er weiss nicht, welchen Gast Sein räumig Schiff bewirthet.

Das ist der junge Mai, Der südliche Geselle;

Den trug das Prachtgebäu Durch die tiefblaue Welle.

The Amphitrite.

Er lag in India

Am Rand des schattigen, dichten Bananienhains, und sah

Das Schiff die Anker lichten.

Da sprang er auf vom Sand,
Zu schnüren die Sandale,
Zu ordnen das Gewand,
Und die reichen, weichen Sch awle.

Da flog er hin an's Meer,
Und warf sich in das graue,
Und rastete nicht eh'r,
Bis an der Schiffes Taue.

Mit leichten Füssen, keck,
Vom Schiffsvolk ungesehen,
Schwang er sich auf das Deck,
Und liess den Landwind wehen.

Und nun die Brigg allhier
Im Hafen angekommen,
Ist er mit bunter Zier
Sofort ans Land geschwommen.

Es flattern vor ihm her
Die Störche als Propheten;
Ein Zauberer, ein Jongleur
Hat er den Strand betreten.
Nackte Bäume macht er grün,
Und blumig kahle Stätten;
Bunte Tulpen lässt er blühn,
Hyacinthen und Tazetten.

Die Erde wunderbar,
Schmückt er mit färbigem Schimmer.
Dank, rüstiger Laskar !
Willkommen, lockiger Schwimmer !-


THE AMPHITRITE, May, 1832. Yonder at anchor see

The Amphitrite lying,
With gaily painted sides,
And crimson streamers flying.
Her snowy wings are furled;
The seagod on his breast
Lulls her with kisses soft,

And whispers her to rest.
From eastern coasts afar

The good ship is returned; She hath braved the storm that blew, And the tropic sun that burned.

In girdle red, against

The mast the skipper leaneth; And what a guest doth grace

His craft he little weeneth.

A southern wight that guest,

The young and lusty May; He hath crossed the deep blue waves, He is here with us this day. On Indian verdure lapped,

Beneath the odorous shade Of the banyan thicket's verge, He saw the anchor weighed. Up leaping then he bound

His sandals on in haste, Closer his mantle drew,

And the rich shawl round his waist.

Into the sea he dashed,

Bravely the surge he breasted, And till a rope he clutched

Ne'er faltered he or rested. He swung him light on deck, Unseen by all the crew; Straightway at his behest

A pleasant landwind blew. And now arrived in port,

Quickly the shore he sought; Marvellous goodly things

This new comer hath brought. The storks, his heralds, fly,

Proclaiming through the land, "A wondrous guest is ours,

A wizard treads our strand !" Bare trees he clothes in green, Bare spots with blossoms fills, Bright tulips, violets dim,

Hairbells and daffodils.

The earth arrayed most fair

With thousand hues doth glimmer. Thanks blithe and hale Lascar !

Right welcome, lusty swimmer!

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