Three Contemporary German Dramatists

THE movement in contemporary German literature is in many ways similar to the Storm and Stress period of the seventh and eighth decades of the last century. Out of that movement was evolved the great classic period of German literature, with Goethe and Schiller as its leaders. Out of the present movement there bids fair to come a second period of rare literary productiveness, in which, according to all present indications, Wildenbruch, Sudermann, and Hauptmann will take first rank. Whatever position posterity may assign to these three writers in the literature of their country, their position in contemporary literature, at least, is assured ; for in the drama, wherein they have achieved their greatest successes, they stand head and shoulders above all competitors. Sated as we have been with the cheap “dramas’’ of the day, we have almost accustomed ourselves to look askance at the drama, and to consider it a form of literary expression singularly ill adapted to the spirit of the age. For a time Ibsen roused to new hope and a certain qualified enthusiasm those who see in the drama one of the highest forms of literary art. But his provincial narrowness, his lack of ideals, his pessimism, nay, his cynicism, finally destroyed the hope wherewith he was hailed. It is therefore with increased pleasure that the lover of good literature sees the younger generation in Germany fulfilling the hopes to which Ibsen gave rise.

In a general way, it may be said that Ernst von Wildenbruch, Hermann Sudermann, and Gerhart Hauptmann represent in their works three phases of individualism : Wildenbruch sees and depicts the individual primarily in his struggle against the physical forces of life ; Sudermann sounds in the first instance the individual’s protest against formal and arbitrary moral ideals ; Hauptmann has achieved his greatest success in expressing the longing of the individual for freedom from the fetters that hinder his spiritual development. All three start as “ realists,” Sudermann and Hauptmann even as “naturalists,” but in temperament all three are “ idealists ; ” and I suspect we shall find in a certain realistic idealism the clue for the interest that the dramas of these writers have aroused and continue to arouse. What Ibsen offered us was — so far as the non-Scandinavian world was concerned — the struggle between the modern spirit and the spirit of the past; what Wildenbruch, Sudermann, and Hauptmann depict — often, of course, unconsciously — is the struggle between the modern spirit and the spirit of the future. In this sense their works are prophetic, and therefore individualistic.

Wildenbruch’s latest drama, Henry and Henry’s Race, at once his most extensive and most artistic work, bears emphatically the stamp of the individualistic temperament. A tragedy “ in two evenings,” it attempts to crowd into the limits of a drama the eventful life of Henry IV. of Germany. Without discussing the merits of the enthusiastic and likewise fierce criticism that this piece has evoked, let us glance over the plot.

In the prologue, Child Henry, the poet has expended his art in creating the character of the youthful king. Wholly affectionate, yearning to love and to be loved in turn, noble-hearted and generous, with a natural hatred of injustice and oppression, courageous and even defiant to a degree, the royal boy is seen in all his youthful impetuosity amid the magic charm of childhood. With such consummate art has the poet brought out and impressed upon us these various traits that we never once forget this early scene, and in the later scenes, even where the king and emperor appears at his worst, we look back to these boyhood days, and we pity and almost forgive him. At his father’s death, the young prince, much against his will, is placed in care of Archbishop Anno of Cologne, who endeavors to break the boy’s independent spirit. Hardly twenty years old, Henry escapes from his guardian, and has himself crowned king of Germany. His heart is filled with bitterness against the princes who have destroyed or suppressed (through Anno) the generous enthusiasm of his youth, and his first step, as king, is to crush the Saxon nobility. A further result of Anno’s methods has been to destroy Henry’s faith in the Church. He inveighs against the Pope and his emissaries, and sends to the former his royal message of defiance. Gregory is sitting in judgment when the king’s messenger arrives. The Pope has attained to the sublime act of self-effacement ; his own personality is merged in the lofty conception of his office as spiritual guardian of the world. The ban is pronounced over Henry IV. as the result of his message.

Forsaken now by all except his once despised wife and the lowly burghers of Worms, Henry lives in solitude near the faithful city. Christmas Eve has come, and with it a new light bursts in upon the heart of the king, — a light that has been kindled partly by the devotion of his wife, partly by the simple presents of the burghers. Peace for his country becomes his first aim, and, filled with a great love for his subjects, he sets out afoot to cross the Alps in midwinter and humble himself before the Pope, in order that he may secure this peace. But worldly victory over the king has in turn proved too great a temptation for Gregory. Three days and nights Henry waits before the gates of Canossa, and is finally admitted only at the pleading of his mother — the pious zealot — and of the abbot Hugo. The Pope, however, demands the temporal power over Germany’s king as well as the spiritual, and Henry, finding all his hopes disappointed and his faith betrayed, makes common cause with the rebellious cities of northern Italy, defeats the papal forces, and besieges the Pope in Rome. In the last act of the first part the two opponents meet. Henry, in disguise, has penetrated to the apartments of Gregory in the citadel of Rome, resolved to make one last effort at reconciliation before taking the final step of deposing the Pope. But Gregory insists upon a recognition of the principle of temporal power in the Holy See. Henry cannot grant this, and the final scene wrings from him words of despairing defiance as he rushes from the chamber to lead his soldiery to the final charge, and then to proclaim a new Pope. Forsaken now in turn, the dying Gregory bequeaths his legacy to the young zealot remaining at his side, and we hear his last ominous words, “ And the future yet is mine.”

At the close of the first night Henry IV. is victorious. But only apparently. His victory over circumstances, physical conditions, — which are represented by the Pope and the Saxon nobility, — has been purchased dearly. Belief in God and the lofty ideal of kingship, “ what kings owe to their people — peace,” both have been sacrificed.

The second night of the drama opens at a later period of the king’s life. Wars have disrupted the empire, the Pope has pronounced the ban, and everywhere the king’s personal followers begin to forsake him. Even his best beloved son Konrad joins the crusaders, and his second wife, the choice of his heart, goes over to the enemy. In the king’s soul the old ideal of that Christmas Eve at Worms begins to stir anew. Beautifully pathetic are his words to the departing Konrad. His heavy trials open Henry’s heart to the humble people. “ God’s Peace ” is declared throughout the land ; the peasant is protected, and the burgher is raised to independence and self-determinism. Henry is hailed and worshiped by all, except princes and nobles, as the father of his country ; and for a brief space he enjoys the blessings of unselfish labor. Then the clouds gather. Prince Henry, his remaining son, is won over to the nobility ; and at the very hour when the peace jubilee is celebrated by the burghers he rebels and overpowers them. Broken-hearted the old king flees, hotly pursued by son and nobles. In a cloister he meets his repentant wife, Praxédis, and the tragedy of this life finds its final expression in the words: “ See here all my youth, all my hope of happiness and joy of life ! Farewell, youth, that didst bring me no fruition! Farewell, hope, that wast followed by no reality ; life, that didst lift me to mountain heights only to dash me, broken and crushed, into the depths! Thus I kiss myself loose from thee ! ” He bends down, and, kissing Praxédis on the brow, expires just as Prince Henry rushes into the chamber.

The drama might well have closed here. But the poet has attempted to make the truth he wished to exemplify still more impressive by showing us the cynic Henry V. as a king who overcomes his adversaries because he suppresses all claims of the heart. In the final act, where the. victorious son has his nobler yet unsuccessful father buried with pomp and ceremony in hallowed ground, the full light of the poet’s moral conception illumines the darkness. Weeping and wailing the people crowd around the coffin, calling aloud for their emperor, and cursing his destroyer. Pale as death the successful king grasps his throne.

“ Who has lied to me, that I was emperor ?
This dead one here, he is the Germans’ king’.”

Thus the key-note of Henry and Henry’s Race is the tragedy of the individual, the tragedy that is founded upon the fact “that the Great and the Good flees always for refuge to the heart of the individual, whilst over it and away tramps the multitude with careless feet.”

Three times we have Henry IV. at his best: as a noble-hearted, affectionate boy, when the sweetness in his nature is turned to bitterness through the enforced discipline of Archbishop Anno; as a repentant, self-sacrificing mail, when the new hope and light bursting into life within him are rudely darkened by the treachery and selfishness of the Pope; as the ideal ruler, when his one great and final purpose is ruthlessly frustrated. Henry is nobler than his day, and because he is nobler one of two things must happen : he must adapt his individual longings to the character of his surroundings, or he must perish. In either case the individual as such is defeated. Whenever Henry IV. sacrifices his own individuality, he is materially successful; whenever he seeks to maintain it. misfortune trails in his path. As if to make the tragedy all the more impressive, Henry V. succeeds where his greater father failed ; for he knows how to utilize the forces that encompass him, not by opposing to them his own individuality, but rather by absorbing them into his being, and thus sacrificing the best and truest of his own personality.

It is the great tragedy of life that speaks to us in this historic drama; “high tragedy, " to be sure, but. it comes home to us with the conviction of a general truth. So skillfully and forcibly has Wildenbruch pictured the opposing forces, so true are the lines of conflict he has drawn, that we almost tremble at its realism ; yet so wholly has he won our sympathy, so carefully has he mingled his lights and shadows, that when, amid passion and strife, cunning and deceit, blind submission and plotting intrigue, one bright ray pierces the dark and glorifies the dead features of the one who has been true to himself, we feel and acknowledge at once the existence of something yet to be achieved, a reality beyond this reality, an ideal that was holy to the poet, and has now become holy to us. Thus, beyond the real he has lifted us into the ideal, and from a mere exponent of a dead past or a living present the dramatist has become the prophet of a nobler future.

Wildenbruch’s dramas approach life from its dark side. Stern and absolute indifference, consistent disregard of all consequences, alone can assure individual success. Life, as Wildenbruch sees it, justifies this view, but does not justify a pessimistic philosophy based on it. In his best novel, The Master of Tanagra, — a novel, by the way, touching closely upon the idealistic philosophy of Hauptmann’s The Submerged Bell, —the reason for the success of Praxiteles and the failure of Myrtolaos must be sought in the possession and lack of this utter unscrupulousness. “ Speechless and almost terrified, Myrtolaos gazed upon this man who sat there at his work like a tiger crouching over his prey. Thus unsparing, then, of himself and others must he be who would create works like those of Praxiteles. A presentiment came over him of the terrible nature of Art, so kindly in her aims, yet so cruel in her pursuit of them ; he felt that his own tender heart did not possess this temper of steel.” To be sure, Wildenbruch offers a solution of the plot that does not accord with this view. But though Praxiteles himself may exclaim, “ And should this city vanish from the face of the earth, then over its ruins will hover like a sweet dream of the past the spirit of him who created these works, the spirit of the Master of Tanagra,” yet we cannot agree with him ; for the art of Myrtolaos is not of the grandeur of that of Praxiteles. These little figures are but playthings,— not a Hermes or an Aphrodite. Wildenbruch is untrue to himself, not in giving us the idyllic conclusion, but in attempting to pass off upon us the works of his hero as the highest expression of the sculptor’s art. The compromise is both inartistic and impossible upon the premises given.

It is a fact worthy of notice, in the study of the individualistic movement in literature, that all three writers — Wildenbruch, Sudermann, and Hauptmann — pass through a period of compromise between personal inclinations and literary consistency: Wildenbruch in The Master of Tanagra (1880), Sudermann in Honor (1889), and Hauptmann in Professor Crampton (1892). In his dramas, however, Wildenbruch has the courage of his convictions. In these there is no trifling. But if they are therefore tragic, yet the tragic truth — if truth it be — becomes, not a truth that depresses, but a truth that inspires, urging on the individual to remain true to himself though material success may not attend his efforts.

Wildenbruch’s literary fame came to him comparatively late in life. Born February 3, 1845, in Beirut, Syria, the son of the Prussian consul at that place, he spent his childhood abroad, a fact which in a large measure accounts for his enthusiastic patriotism. His parents had chosen the military career for the young man ; but he soon resigned his commission, and turned to the study of the law. After the Franco-Prussian war, in which he participated, he again devoted himself to the legal profession, but in 1887 he became connected with the foreign service. Enthusiastic as he was, Wildenbruch chafed under the inability of German literature to free itself from French influence, and in his heart there was roused something of a fierce resentment that the glorious achievements of the war should go unsung. To this feeling we owe his two “heroic songs,” Vionville (1874) and Sedan (1875), and probably the increasing interest be took in poetry. These two songs were quickly followed by his dramas, The Carolingians, The Mennonite. Fathers and Sons ; but so powerful was the French influence upon the German stage that not until 1881 was the first of these produced. The 6th of March, 1881, when the celebrated Meininger company played The Carolingians at the court theatre in Weimar, marked a new epoch in the history of modern German literature. Not only does Wildenbruch’s fame, together with a growing productiveness, date from that day, but a new impetus was given to literary activity throughout Germany, especially in the drama. Conventional restrictions, narrow views, were gradually cast aside, and the young generation entered with enthusiasm into the new strife that he had heralded.

Amid the revolutionary, often hasty and inconsiderate clamor of the youthful “ naturalists,” Wildenbruch for a long time held fast to his own ideal, the historic drama as interpreting the great truths of human progress: thus in Harold (1882),Christopher Marlowe(1884), The New Commandment (1885), The Prince of Verona (1886), The Quitzows (1888), The Lieutenant-General (1889), The New Lord (1891). In the last three of these dramas the influence of the naturalistic movement is clearly traceable, and we are hardly astonished to find Wildenbruch still more under its sway in The Crested Lark (1892). But in Henry and Henry’s Race (1895) the poet returns to his old ideal. We have already considered this drama. In many respects it has well been called a " monumental work.”

Hermann Sudermann’s dramas go a step farther than those of Wildenbruch. His fight is not against physical authority or the suppression of the individual by his physical surroundings, but against authority in the domain of morals. Morality is not an absolute, but a relative term. Since moral ideas shift with the age that conceived them, the individual is not immoral if his ideas are ahead of his time; and he is therefore under no obligation to remain within its restricted limits. But moral standards are just as tyrannical as physical authority, and the individual who is bold enough to rise above them will soon find himself involved in a struggle that will threaten his whole moral life. This tyranny of conventional ideas, and the duty of the individual to free himself from them, is the theme of such dramas as Honor, Home (known in English translation as Magda), Happiness in Retreat, and The War of Butterflies. Honor established Sudermann’s fame, and rightly so; for whatever may be said against the play in some of its detail, — for example, the introduction of Count Trast, a species of deus ex machine or of the good fairy in the popular tale, — the drama as a whole is full of force, The hero, by his education and his intercourse with different social strata. becomes a stranger to the sphere from which he sprang, and from which he has long been absent. Upon his return home, the ideals of his family and relatives seem low and sordid, and his own ideals are just as far removed from any sympathetic understanding on their part. Here we have the first clash of ideals. The second clash comes in the soul of Robert. His individuality struggles in vain against his conventional ideal of honor. He feels that he has been dishonored by the acts of his family, and at the same time be feels that only he can dishonor himself. That the hero is saved from the tragic end of this conflict through the intervention of Trast, who removes him from his surroundings, is the weakest point in the drama. The poet has not the courage of his convictions, for he fears to present to us the only logical conclusion of the situation he has pictured. To allow this noble character to perish because of its very nobility would require a heart of steel, and as yet Sudermann has not acquired this disregard of feeling.

In Home Sudermann rises above the weakness that manifests itself in Honor. Here we have the full tragedy of the situation. It is the " gospel of selfrespect,” touched upon in Honor, that Sudermann preaches here,—a gospel that colors so many of his works, for instance the novels It Was and The Cat’s Trail.

Home expresses a twofold struggle of the individual: one against the accepted rules of conduct, the other between individual self-respect and the conventional ideal of absolute contrition and self-abasement for sins committed. When Leo von Halewitz, in It Was, strengthens his faltering courage with “ Nonsense ! Regret nothing! ” we hear the tragic note that vibrates through Home.

Magda Schwartz frets under the constant restraint and discipline of a home where conventional ideals permit no development of her personality. At last her suppressed individuality bursts its fetters: she leaves her home, and seeks independence in the capital. In the first flush of liberty, freedom degenerates into license ; but soon she finds her truer self, and when, after years of earnest, patient effort, she again enters the home of her girlhood days, it is as the great artist who has risen above prejudice and stands secure in the knowledge of her own worth and independence. The two types of modern life struggle for reconciliation. Her father, the embodiment of conventional prejudices and conventional moral standards, cannot make concessions. Magda, the embodiment of personal freedom and individual moral assertion, cannot be untrue to herself and bow beneath the old yoke of restraint. For a brief moment there is an apparent reconciliation, based upon a delusion that is fostered by the mutual love of father and daughter. The father seems to take it for granted that his daughter has decided to give up her free life as an artist. In his philosophy, womanly purity is not compatible with independence of living. He insists all the more upon this view because his moral philosophy demands an absolute contrition and self-abasement as the only pathway from sin to virtue, and the clash soon becomes inevitable. Magda sees the insuperable obstacles that separate her from her father. Had she returned penitent, loathing herself for her sins, humbly seeking forgiveness, then indeed there might be some hope. But her self-respect will not permit this. “ I don’t wish to play the part of the lost son. Were I to return as a daughter, a lost daughter, then I could not stand here thus, with head erect; then indeed I should be forced to grovel in the dust at your feet in the consciousness of my sins ” (with growing excitement), “ and that — no, that I will not —— that I cannot ” (with nobility) ; “ for I am I, and must not, should not lose myself ” (painfully) ; “ and therefore I have no longer a home, therefore I must away, therefore ” —

All the efforts of the family are in vain. Keller, the time-server and aspirant for political honors, unwittingly betrays himself, in the presence of Schwartz, as the father of Magda’s child. Marriage with his daughter is the only thing that will remove the stigma from the family name and satisfy the father’s injured honor. This marriage or death is the only alternative for the man whose prejudices are so deeprooted that he could not live without his “ honor.” Magda recognizes the intensity of her father’s feelings. For his sake she will make the concession, and unite herself to the man she despises. But when the prejudices of Keller demand the sacrifice not only of her career as a singer, but also of her motherlove, then she rises in her strength. Rather than this, let the tragedy come, let the heavens burst asunder and the lightning descend. And Sudermann does not hesitate to present the only logical outcome. Frenzied by the refusal of his daughter, Schwartz is about to take his life, when a paralytic stroke lays him low. In vain Magda implores forgiveness of the dying father; in vain she pleads for one sign of reconciliation ; in vain she makes a last frantic effort to assure him that she is pure now, noble and true, and that because she is all this she cannot act otherwise. Stolidly he turns his weary head away, and expires. Alone, misunderstood, without a word of comfort, she stands there, condemned by all.

To the average German mind, Magda is lost; but to those who view the struggle from a point of vantage that rises above the conventionalities of German life, Magda should — and in the greater freedom of American life would — conquer. Yet the overwhelming tragedy of the heart that longed to be loved and understood, but failed of attaining its desires because the mind could not debase itself and permit the individual to sacrifice freedom and self-respect, this tragedy is felt in all its power even by us.

To Sudermann we might apply what in The Cat’s Trail he says of Boleslav: “ And as he pondered, lost in thought, it seemed to him as if the mists that separate the reality of human existence from human consciousness were lifted, and as if his gaze penetrated a little deeper than that of the ordinary mortal into the depths of the unconscious. That which is called the ‘ good ’ and the ‘ bad ’ surged aimlessly among the mists of the surface ; beneath, its energies, rapt in silent reverie, rested, — the natural.”

All of Sudermann’s dramas are full of this individualistic striving, this revolt of the individual against conventional ideals. Happiness in Retreat, The War of Butterflies, Sodom’s End, are under its influence: in the first nothing but the sadness of resignation, in the second the untruth of a compromise, in the third utter ruin, both moral and physical.

Of course it must not for a moment be supposed that each of the three poets confines himself to an expression of only one of the three phases of the individualistic movement that I have pointed out as typical of the modern German drama and novel. For instance, in Wildenbruch’s Harold it is the superstitious awe of the Saxons that destroys Harold after arousing in his soul the tragic conflict. He has violated his oath to save his country. But an oath is holy, and though he knew not its hidden meaning, yet a sense of guilt crushes him to his knees.

“ Here now I lie before Thee, Mighty God,
Creator, Thou, of man and human frailty;
Freely I strip from me, and consciously,
What my proud manhood once adorned ;
But ere from my sin-burdened nakedness
Thou turn’st with loathing, hear, oh hear me, God ! ”

Are we not face to face with one of the most tragic problems in life, — the individual struggling against the moral ideas of his time ?

In Hauptmann’s fearfully realistic drama Before Sunrise, Helene, the innocent peasant girl of Silesia, momentarily saved by the foresight of a dying mother, but now surrounded by all the vicious influences of a depraved home, is deprived of her last hope of salvation by the scientific spirit of the day. Selfdestruction is all that remains to her. This tragic element, which is always present when the individual revolts against his surroundings, may also be found in other dramas of Hauptmann, as in Professor Crampton, The Peace Jubilee, Lonely People, above all in The Weavers. The old man Hilse, in the last drama, will not join the striking and revolting weavers.

“ I ? Not if all of you go daft! Here the
Heavenly Father has placed me. Ay, mother ?
Here we 'll sit and do our duty though all the snow takes fire. (Begins to weave.)

But a volley of musketry, a stray ball, and the old man falls dead over his loom, a tragedy within a tragedy. There is no leading character in the drama, except as the community of oppressed and downtrodden Silesian weavers, half - starved and goaded to frenzy, supersede the individual. In so far, therefore, as they stand for an individual effort opposing itself to established order, their doom is sealed. The victory over the soldiery is but temporary, and must quickly culminate in disastrous defeat. Nevertheless, our sympathies are with them, because the poet’s are with them, and because they represent the eternal longing for larger individual freedom.

These are not merely problems of the day, but problems that are eternally pressing, and that touch upon the most hidden chords of the human life. The writers are not content with the ideals of the past that have become realities in the present, but they impress us — or rather oppress us — with a sense of something truer and nobler that is to be. Forcibly at times, at times but dimly, new ideals seem to rise before us, and vistas are opened into a future that shall satisfy the longing for greater moral freedom.

Of the three writers, Gerhart Hauptmann is the most complex. An exponent of extreme realism in his first drama, Before Sunrise (1889), he remains such in his succeeding dramas: The Peace Jubilee (1890), Lonely People (1891), Professor Crampton (1892), The Weavers (1892), Marianne (1893), The Beaver Coat(1893),Florian Geyer(1895). Suddenly he appears before the public with a drama, The Submerged Bell (1896), that not only disregards, but openly violates the cherished theories of the realistic school. If Goethe’s Faust — philosophically speaking — is humanity’s travail at the birth of the new spirit of science, Hauptmann’s Submerged Bell might perhaps be called humanity’s travail at the birth of the new spirit of intuition. There is something romantic, something mystical, in the drama, yet something withal so weirdly beautiful that we are strangely fascinated, and gently but surely withdrawn from the external realities of life. Wildenbruch and Sudermann, to be sure, have utilized psychological problems in building up their dramas, and in doing so have again and again penetrated to the mysterious realms of a common human longing. But Hauptmann attempts far more than this. He reconstructs a world whose phenomena lie wholly beyond the investigations of pure science, or what I should like to call conscious experience. The milieu of his drama is not the outer life, but the inner, and, moreover, that of the whole race, and not merely of an individual. To him this life is just as real as any external, sensuous existence ; and peopling it, as he does, with the plastic creations of his imagination, he makes it very real to us. Consequently, when the necessities of his plot call for a contact with the actualities of every-day life, his descriptions and characterizations seem to be of a purpose vague and lacking in all distinguishing traits of individuality. The drama is therefore purely idealistic ; tragic in a sense, because, by comparison with actual realities, we are forced to admit that its ideal is beyond our reach — yet no tragedy. There is an atmosphere of quiet hope which rests upon a delusion. We forget that above us is a mighty mass of restless waters, and deep down in this underworld we see its reality alone. Hence, judged according to conventional standards, The Submerged Bell lacks the dramatic element. Henry’s death is no tragedy.

The action of the piece is quickly traced. Henry, a bell-caster, strives for an expression of his artistic ideal. Finally he seems to succeed. The new bell is to be hung in a chapel high up in the mountains. But its sound is out of harmony with nature, and her forces conspire to cast it over the mountain side as it is being dragged to its destination. Henry endeavors to save his work, and in doing so is carried down in its fall. The bell sinks to the bottom of the mountain lake, whilst Henry, sorely wounded and in despair at his loss, creeps to a hut near by. Here he is found by Rautendelein, a child of nature, and the natural affinity of their souls asserts itself. In Henry’s soul a new light reveals the full nature of his artistic longings, whilst in Rautendelein the longing for a new life is awakened. The village pastor comes with help; Henry is carried home, to the wife who has heretofore encouraged and assisted him. He believes that he is dying, and curses life that has prevented him from recognizing his true self. Rautendelein seeks out Henry’s home, drawn by some irresistible force to this human being. In the absence of the wife, she cures him more by her mere presence than by the draught she administers. In the following act we find that Henry has deserted his home and family, and is living in solitary mountain regions with Rautendelein, who has won for him and his new work all the forces of nature : elves and fairies, sprites and dwarfs, labor in his behalf, and the striving of his soul for expression seems about to be realized. But the pastor finds him out, and pleads with him to return to the valley and to human life. Henry refuses.

“ I’m guarded amply well against your arrow,
And just as likely is’t to scratch my skin
As yonder bell — hark you, that old one there,
Which, hung’ring for the chasm, downward crashed,
And now rests in the sea — shall ring again ! ”
The pastor’s parting answer is prophetic :
“ Again ’t will ring for you! Remember me! ”

A disturbing element has entered into Henry’s life, and his work will not prosper. The complete harmony with nature has been destroyed. One evening the villagers endeavor to storm the height where the artist is rearing his temple. But in his fierce strength he drives them backward and down the hillside to the valley. Then as, heated by the glow of victory, he is refreshed by Rautendelein, a far distant note reaches his ear, a restlessness takes possession of him, and his two little children appear, clambering slowly and sorrowfully up the mountain side, carrying a cruet. They are not visible to Rautendelein.

There follows a scene full of simple yet infinite pathos : —

First Child. Papa! Henry. Yes, child. First Child. Dear mother sends her greeting to you Henry. I thank you, little one. And is she well ? First Child (slowly and sadly). Yes, well. (A low bell note from the depths.) Henry. What have you there, my children ? Second Child. A cruet. Henry. And for me ? Second Child. Yes, father dear. Henry. What have you in the cruet, little Second Child. Something salty. First Child. Something bitter. Second Child. Mother’s tears. Henry. Good God in heaveu! . . . And where is mother ? Speak ! Second Child. With the water-lilies.

And then Henry hears the bell sounding from the depths of the sea, where it is tolled by his dead wife’s hands. Fiercely be thrusts Rautendelein aside, as she seeks to quiet him, and rushes wildly down the hillside, down again into human life.

In the final act, Rautendelein — who has at last agreed to a union with the water - sprite, Nickelman — is about to descend into his old well. It is night. Broken and crushed, the semblance of a man totters to the hut by the well. It is Henry. The world has brought him only disappointment, and now he returns again to nature. His pleading voice reaches Rautendelein, and she hands him the last of the three cups poured out for him by Wittichen, the old crone, two of which he has already drained. The night closes in around him ; but Rautendelein flees to his aid as he sinks back dying ; and then the night is turned to dawn.

“ Aloft: the sun-bells’ ringing song !
The sun . . . the sun is here ! — The night is long! ”

Thus the piece closes with an exultant pæan of hope. For a moment only Henry has returned to the realities of life, which to him are no longer realities, and now he departs to that fairyland of the unconscious where the individual is free to fulfill the promise of his being.

If not a drama in the conventional sense, yet The Submerged Bell is poetry, — poetry that inspires and uplifts; that not only touches upon, but dares to reveal the wondrous beauties hidden deep in the spiritual life of man. Comparisons are odious, and yet a Goethe would recognize the spiritual brotherhood of Hauptmann in such lines as these : — “Should blind I deem myself

Now when with hymnic purity of soul,
Upon a cloud of morning’s dawn reclining,
I drink in heaven depths with freedom’s eye,
Then I ’d deserve that God’s fierce wrath should strike
Me with eternal darkness.”

In so far as The Submerged Bell appears to be a conscious effort to reveal a far distant ideal, we hail it as a source of inspiration in itself. It is perhaps well that the poet does not attempt to bridge the chasm in the dual nature of man. The inner possibilities — for our own humanity makes them possibilities to us — inspire the hope and the longing for the expanding of the spirit life, and the greater and truer freedom it will bring.

Critics are astonished at the success of Hauptmann’s latest production, and wonder why it is that The Submerged Bell has stirred the German people unlike any other drama of the day. According to literary canons, it lacks the dramatic element and should fall flat. Yet its success has been enduring, and cannot be explained as we would explain that of a sensational play. I suspect that the solution of this apparent riddle will be found in the following fact: the poet makes the spectator or reader an element in the play. The dramatic force is therefore more intense because we ourselves furnish a part thereof. Hauptmann touches a sympathetic chord in every human breast, and elicits a “ harmony ” that has slumbered there. Then, with the genius of a master, he develops this harmony into a symphony, in which we feel ourselves participating, yet outside of which we know that we stand. It is real to us, yet unreal ; possible of comprehension in part, yet impossible to he comprehended as a whole, within the restrictions at present placed upon our nature. And thus the tragedy lies in us. because an ideal is awakened toward which the best of us goes out in longing, but which we cannot attain.

The struggle for a new ethical ideal — which would seem to be the central idea of The Submerged Bell — naturally leads into paths and byways upon which we cannot unreservedly follow the poet; but the deep truth that underlies the production strives everywhere to gain a concrete form in the lines of the poem. The drama, if so we may call it, fascinates us by this very quality, often more felt than seen.

It would be unjust to the poet to close this all too brief review without at least calling attention to the superb beauty of the character he has created in the nature child Rautendelein. She is beyond any doubt a new creation in German literature, one which, by reason of the dainty charm of its being, the sweet innocence of childish womanhood, the concentrated earnestness of simple longing, seeks its equal in any literature. An almost impossible figure, Rautendelein is, under Hauptmann’s treatment, a living, breathing reality, pulsing with life in every fibre, touching our hearts with the irresistible force of romantic realism. Idealistic in temper, strongly realistic in execution, The Submerged Bell expresses a protest against the materialism of the day and its conventional fetters. We gladly welcome in it the bright promise it holds out for the drama of Germany, and we are encouraged to hope that the present period of genuine dramatic revival in that country will exert in the end a wholesome influence upon the stage of England and America.

J. Firman Coar.